Best State and National Parks in Utah

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Within the “Big Five” most popular national parks located in the state of Utah, visitors can explore natural arches, breathtaking canyons, and a host of other unique landscapes.

Utah also manages a collection of state parks, all with stunning geography, and endless opportunities to make your next trip to the Beehive State one incredible outdoor adventure.

Zion National Park

A lush, green landscape sit in a valley of towering cliffs at Zion National Park

Nearest City: Springdale, Orderville, Cedar City, Utah

Best known for the 15-mile long Zion Canyon, which is made up of reddish Navajo Sandstone, Zion National Park has quite a bit to offer its visitors.

Other notable features include a slot canyon named The Subway, as well as Mount Carmel.

Several hiking trails meander throughout the canyons and other geographical features, such as the Kolob Arch.

Additionally, several areas are designated for rock climbing and mountain biking. Climbers should definitely check out the Spaceshot, Moonlight Buttress, Prodigal Son, and Touchstone.

The Zion Lodge and three nearby campgrounds allow visitors overnight stays. Visitation in the park reaches its peak during the summer months of May, June, and July.

 

Canyonlands National Park

A long road runs through a valley of massive red cliffs at Canyonlands National Park

Nearest City: Moab, Utah

Filled with canyons, mesas, and buttes, the 337,598 diverse acres of Canyonlands National Park are divided into four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Colorado and Green Rivers.

Recreation throughout these four regions is varied, and guarantees adventure. Visitors commonly embark on float trips via kayaks and rafts, on the Green and Colorado Rivers.

However, hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking across the other three regions of the park are just as popular.

Island in the Sky is the most visited district, while the Needles—with its array of impressive rock formations—is the second most visited.

 

Arches National Park

A red rock formation in the form of an arch is depicted in the foreground at Arches National Park

Nearest City: Moab, Utah

Arches National Park is most well-known for—you guessed it—the series of arch formations present throughout its landscape.

In total, Arches national Park contains more than 2,000 arches. The most notable of these is the Delicate Arch, which is highlighted by a backdrop of the La Sal Mountains.

While the Delicate Arch is breathtaking, visitors can also enjoy backpacking, rock climbing, and even canyoneering—using rock climbing equipment to descend, and explore, a canyon.

Due to its dark skies, Arches National Park is also popular for astronomers and novice stargazers alike.

 

Capitol Reef National Park

Deer grazing on a grassy plain in front of a large, red cliff at Capitol Reef National Park

Nearest City: Torrey, Utah

Somewhat of a combination of Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park contains a number of unique rock formations, slot canyons, and natural bridges.

However, the park is best known for the Waterpocket Fold which, indirectly, grants the park its name.

The Waterpocket Fold is a rocky spine that extends throughout the park, and is very hard to traverse. “Capitol Reef” comes from the dome-shaped formations that protrude along the Fold.

Recreation in Capitol Reef National Park includes several auto-tours, hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities for photography and sightseeing.

The park also manages the Fruita Campground, where visitors may stay overnight.

 

Dead Horse Point State Park

A river runs through the deep valley that is created from the towering red rock cliff faces at Dead Horse Point National Park

Nearest City: San Juan County, Utah

Dead Horse Point State Park contains some of the most dramatic overlooks of the Colorado River in all of Utah.

From the park, visitors can also take in Canyonlands National Park and its surrounding landscape.

The most notable hiking trails in Dead Horse Point State Park are the East and West Rim Trails.

Together, these two trails span eight miles. They feature a number of loops and off-shoots, where visitors can explore the park’s environment.

The park also maintains and manages 17 miles of single-track mountain biking trails. These trails vary in difficulty and range from easy to expert.

You may be lucky enough to spot several unique wildlife species here: the park is home to the Gray Fox, Gambel’s Quail, River Otters, and a slew of other species.

 

Utah is Waiting

Sweeping rocky mountainous views covered in a light snow on a mostly cloudy day
The state and national parks of Utah provide endless views and unique formations to explore, whether you prefer the calm of a guided tour, or the thrill of rock climbing.  What’s more, its outdoor community is strong and inclusive.

For more travel recommendations, check out the best state and national parks in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, or Florida.