The days are getting warmer, there’s more daylight hours, and school will soon be out. A great formula for a summer vacation, for sure.
BUT, where to go and what to do?
If you enjoy wide open spaces, room to stretch your legs, and unlimited opportunities to observe Mother Nature at its finest—consider UTAH.
For a state that is 13th in area, Utah has an amazing number of locations managed by the National Park Service. These parks include seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, one national historical site, and five national parks. It is these “crown jewels,” the BIG FIVE, we’ll briefly describe in today’s post.
Located in the southwest corner of Utah is magnificent Zion National Park. Highway access is prime at this incredible park, as I-15 rims the park on its western edge. SR-9 runs through the southern portion of the park, and 12 miles east is the community of Mt. Carmel Junction.
Located at the park’s southern entrance, Springdale offers numerous visitor facilities.
RV camping is available inside the park at South Campground (117 sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites) near the south entrance of Springdale. Reservations are strongly suggested as both campgrounds are full every night during the reservation season. Several private RV parks are available a short drive from the park.
To help ease traffic congestion, a shuttle service runs from early March through October. There are two shuttle loops. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale. The Springdale Shuttle will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
Zion is all about hiking, and the beauty of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This famous drive runs from the visitor center to the famous Temple of Sinawava.
Also in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is located northeast of Zion.
Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. The most famous of these is the Bryce Amphitheater (pictured above), which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). Their colors vary, giving the area unusual hues during the changing daylight hours. The largest collection of hoodoos in the world is found in Bryce. Descriptions fail. Bring your sense of wonder and imagination when visiting Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, North (99 sites) and Sunset (100 sites), located in close proximity to the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Bryce Amphitheater. Sites fill by early afternoon during the busy summer months.
Drive to Rainbow Point (18 miles one way) and stop at the 13 viewpoints on your return trip. Hiking trails are numerous. Since park elevations reach over 9,000 feet, even mild exertion may leave you feeling light-headed and nauseated.
Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today.
Canyonlands preserves the natural beauty and human history throughout its four districts (Islands in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, Horseshoe Canyon) which are divided by the Green and Colorado rivers. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and adventure.
Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, several hikes of varying length and a moderate four-wheel-drive route called the White Rim Road.
Camping is available in the Islands of the Sky District at Willow Flat (12 sites) and Needles District at Needles Campground (27 sites).
Almost next door, is smaller, unusual, Arches National Park. It is located 5 miles northwest of Moab. Visitor services including several RV parks.
Arches has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.
The 18-mile scenic road passes the many outstanding natural features. Parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden may fill for hours at a time, especially on weekends and holidays. Tent and RV camping is available at Devils Garden Campground (51 sites), 18 miles from the park entrance.
Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.
The park’s main driving tours include the paved Scenic Drive and two long, mainly unpaved, loop tours through the park’s Cathedral and Waterpocket Districts. The Scenic Drive starts at the park Visitor Center and provides access to Grand Wash Road, Capitol Gorge Road, Pleasant Creek Road, and South Draw Road. The Scenic Drive is a 7.9 mile paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.
The 71-site Fruita campground is the only developed campground in the park, located south of the visitor center in the Fruita Historic District.
Utah national parks bring superlative sights like no other state. It’s one of the few where someone can look at a picture and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s Utah.”.
When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?