About The Authors:
Lauren and Jesse Stuart, a travel blogging couple, discuss some of the amazing things to see and experience when visiting Utah’s national parks.
Utah is home to not one, but five amazing national parks. Scattered throughout the state from Arches National Park in eastern Utah to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah, making a point to see all five of Utah’s national parks should be on everyone’s list. There are so many things to do when visiting these parks. From hiking to scenic park roads to endless viewpoints, you’ll soon see why Utah’s national parks are among the most visited parks in the United States.
So what is the best way to see all of Utah’s national parks? A road trip of course. Perfect for families, couples, or a friend's getaway, you should plan to spend anywhere from 10-14 days road-tripping and enjoying Utah’s national parks.
When planning your visit to Utah’s national parks, understand Utah is a year-round destination. The winter, while cold, will provide fewer crowds and some roads and services in the parks may be closed. Spring and fall are great times to visit the parks whereas summer months will not only bring the heat but the crowds, so planning and making reservations ahead of time for a summer trip is highly recommended.
Whichever season you choose to visit, one thing is for sure: Utah’s national parks will leave you far from disappointed.Travel with HomeExchange
Where To Start?
Really, you have two options on where to start 1) Arches National Park or 2) Zion National Park. Both parks bookend the other national parks, so it's up to you and what works best for your route on which park you want to visit first.
If you start at Arches, your route will look like this: Arches -> Canyonlands -> Capitol Reef -> Bryce Canyon -> Zion
If you plan to start at Zion, your route will look like this: Zion -> Bryce Canyon -> Capitol Reef -> Canyonlands -> Arches
If you are starting in Arches National Park, Salt Lake City will be your closest airport to fly into. Whereas if you are starting at Zion National Park, Las Vegas is your closest airport to fly into.
Things To Do In Arches National Park
Arches National Park is located a few miles outside of the town of Moab. It is here, in Moab, where you should book your accommodation for the next few days. We recommend spending at least 2 days exploring Arches National Park before making your way to your next Utah National Park.
Some of the best things to do in Arches National Park are:
- Drive Arches National Park scenic drive
- Stop at Park Avenue viewpoint
- Visit Balanced Rock
- Hike to the Window Arch and Turret Arch
- Visit Double Arch
- Hike Devil’s Garden Trail Primitive Loop to see Landscape Arch
- Book a ranger-guided tour to Fiery Furnace
- See Skyline Arch
- Watch the sunset from Delicate Arch
Things To Do In Canyonlands National Park
Conveniently located about 30-40 minutes away from Arches National Park is Canyonlands National Park. Like Arches National Park, you should plan to book your accommodation in Moab for Canyonlands too. For your visit to Canyonlands, we recommend a full day for your visit.
When visiting Canyonlands, understand there are three sections to the park: 1) Island in The Sky 2) Needles 2) The Maze. Island in The Sky is the most visited and accessible area of the park when compared to the other two sections.
Some of the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park (Island In The Sky) are:
- Watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch
- Visitor Center Viewpoint
- Shafer Canyon Viewpoint
- Shafer Trail Viewpoint
- Grand View Point
- Buck Canyon Viewpoint
- Green River Overlook
- White Rim Overlook
- Hike to Aztec Butte, Whale Rock, or Upheaval Dome
Things To Do In Capitol Reef National Park
Located a little over 2-hours away from Moab, you’ll find your third Utah National Park, Capitol Reef. For your stay in Capitol Reef, book your accommodation in the nearby town of Torrey. In terms of allocating your time in Capitol Reef, anywhere from 1-3 days is recommended depending on the extent of what you want to see and do. One day for the highlights and three days to see and do it all!
Some of the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park are:
- Drive Highway 24, the main road that runs through the park
- Panoramic Point
- Sunset Point
- Goosenecks Overlook
- Stop at Gifford Homestead for a slice of pie
- Explore the historic Fruita district
- Stop at the Petroglyphs Panel
- Take a hike to Cassidy Arch, Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash, Navajo Knobs or Cathedrals Trail
- Drive out to Cathedral Valley
Things To Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
After your time in Capitol Reef is up, it’s time to set your sights on Bryce Canyon! From Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon is around a 2-hour drive. As for time allotment and where to stay for Bryce Canyon, you should plan to spend 1-2 days in Bryce Canyon and make a reservation to stay in either Bryce Canyon City or Tropic.
Some of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park are:
- Sunrise Point
- Sunset Point
- Hike the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail
- Walk the Rim Trail
- Inspiration Point
- Bryce Point
- Natural Bridge
- Rainbow Point
- Yovimpa Point
Things To Do in Zion National Park
It’s time to make your way to your last Utah National Park, and it’s a good one - Zion National Park! From Bryce Canyon, your drive to Zion National Park will take you around 2 hours if not a little under. When making your ZIon park plans, we recommend spending at least 2-3 days exploring Zion National Park and booking a place to stay in Springdale.
Some of the best things to do in Zion National Park are:
- Hike the Narrows
- HIke to Angels Landing
- Hike to Watchmen Trail
- Ride the shuttle along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
- Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
- Visit Weeping Rock and Lower Emerald Pool
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Observation Point Trail
Tips For Visiting Utah’s National Parks
- When visiting all five of Utah’s National Parks, be sure to get a National Parks Pass to save on entry fees
- Before visiting National Parks, always check to see if there are any road closures and if you need a reservation to enter certain National Parks. You can find this information at NPS.gov
- Plan to start your days early to avoid the heat (if visiting during the summer months) and to avoid crowds
- Pack lots of snacks, plenty of water, a first aid kit, and any other items you deem necessary (i.e. daily medications). There are few service options throughout these parks so it’s best to come prepared so you can enjoy as much time in the parks as possible.
- Reception in National Parks can be non-existent to intermittent. Plan to download any apps to use offline (i.e. maps, music, etc).
- As always, leave no trace. Stay on the trails, be respectful of wildlife and foliage, and pick up and throw away any trash or waste. Essentially, leave the national parks better than how you found it.