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When you think of the US, Utah probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind – but we’re here to change that! With five incredible National Parks, some of the best skiing in the world, and bustling Salt Lake City – which has restaurants, bars, galleries and lots of sport activities available - this is a destination with just about everything. It’s the place to hit the open road on a classic American road trip.
In fact, there’s so much to see and do that we’re going to focus on the impressive National Parks that’ll you’ll find here – all with breath-taking views and walking trails.
There’s no doubt why Arches National Park is one of America’s top National Parks. With 73,234 acres of red sandstone, mixed with towers, rubs, gargoyles and balanced rocks, it’s a feast for the eyes, with something amazing to look at, at every turn. Its name is quite self-explanatory, due to the many natural arches in the National Park – over 2,000 in fact!
On a visit here, hiking is a must, with trails throughout the park that lead to some awesome viewpoints. If you’ve got time to stay for the evening, you’ll be star stuck (literally), by the sensational night sky and the thousands of stars shining bright like you’ve never seen before. Camping or a motorhome is a great option at Arches National Park, and whilst there’s only one campsite in the park itself, there are plenty of options nearby, making it easy to pop back and forth during your stay.
The unique rock formations are what Bryce Canyon is known best for – in fact, it boasts the largest collection of hoodoos (a particular type of pinnacle-like rock formation) in the world. They dominate the huge amphitheatre that stretches out as far as the eye can see.
There are four main viewpoints to admire the scenic beauty as well as walking trails to explore, plus horseback rides, full moon hikes, and constellation tours. Geology talks from one of the expert Rangers are available too to learn about the fascinating plant and wildlife in the park as well as the geological and culture history.
Whilst the summer is a special time to visit, the winter doesn’t disappointment either, and brings a different experience – the park allows you to snowshoe or cross-country ski the plateau top! Equipment can be hired outside of the park before you make your way in.
If you’re looking to stay inside the park, there’s Bryce Canyon Lodge, or Bryce Canyon City offers a number of hotels on the edge.
If hiking and off-road adventures are your bag, then Canyonlands National Park is the place for you. In fact, there is 70 miles of hiking available – so it’ll be a challenge doing it all! Opting for a guided off-road tour of Canyonlands is the best bet on a trip here, as it’ll take you into the depths of the park and to the most impressive views – and with over 500 square miles of park to explore, it’s a tough job deciding exactly where and what to see, so they’ll make sure you cover all of the best bits.
There’s time for a chill out too, with calm waters under impressive cliff sides to sit back and take in the scenes. If you’re feeling brave, take a multi-day guided trip on Cataract Canyon which host Class V Rapids – it’ll be sure to give you an adrenaline rush and a real sense of adventure!
Located in southern Utah’s desert, Capitol Reef National Park is filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges. The 8-mile scenic drive leads you through millions of years of geological history to incredible viewpoints. Take one of two spur dirt roads - Grand Walsh or Capitol George - for more impressive, scenic views which shouldn’t be missed.
In the Fruita Historic District learn about the pioneer community of Fruita, Freemont culture and view ancient petroglyph panels. Don’t miss the orchards where many varieties of fruits planted by Latter-day Saint pioneers still grow. Here you can pick your own fruit – you pay for what you pick, and the season will determine whether it’s apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears or plums. If you’re feeling peckish don’t miss the delicious locally baked fruit pies available from The Gifford House.
Last but by no means least, Zion National Park, is best known for its towering sandstone cliffs and famous hiking trails. If you’re a keen camper or have chosen to hire an RV, then Zion is a great choice, with a wide choice of campsites in the area. Activities including horse rides, cycling, canyoneering and a spot of stargazing will make a trip here extra special. Plus, Zion National Park has over 300 days a sunshine per year, so you’ll likely enjoy bright blue skies as you explore your surrounds.
If you’re looking for a hike, we recommend Angels Landing (a head for heights is needed) or The Narrows, and for families, Emerald Pools Trail which follows a small, lush stream that collects in a series of ‘pools’. Choose from a hike of 1.2 miles, 2 miles or 2.5 miles – and if you like, you could spend a whole day hanging out here.
Beyond the National Parks, there’s a lot more to Utah, including its vibrant capital, Salt Lake City which can be added on at the end or beginning of your Utah adventure. With high-end hotels, restaurants galore, an array of galleries, museums and its very own Olympic Park which hosts sports activities all year-round – there’s plenty to do here for a few days. Visit on the third Friday of the month and the galleries stay open late for the public – and after, head to one of the hidden speakeasies for a tipple (if you can find it, that is)!
Alternatively, Las Vegas is another great gateway to Utah’s impressive National Parks and can easily be tagged on at the beginning or end of your Utah adventure, giving you bustling cities and remarkable scenery in one trip. Sounds exciting to us!
If finding out more about Utah’s National Parks and has got you eager to visit – then contact us today for more information, and we’ll talk you through the best itineraries and tailor a package to suit you and your travel party.