Destination Utah: The Golden Five

The United States is rich with natural wonders found in the country’s 63 national parks spread throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories.  Which state has the best collection of national parks? There is room for debate, however, it is fair to state that it could be Utah.

This northwestern state could be argued to possess one of the wealthiest displays of natural wonders.  Utah is home to five national parks including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion.

Zion National Park

Without question, Zion National Park is the most popular and coveted national park in the state.  There are over 4 million visitors exploring the park annually.  The park was established in 1919 and is one of the country’s favorites.

Dr. Phillip Imler, President of the Global Alliance of National Parks stated, “Of the 63 national parks in the US National Park system, Zion has to be listed in the top five.”

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, affectionately known as the Floor of the Valley Road, is one of the park’s highlights.  However, it is only open to buses from the spring through the fall to manage traffic.  This drive gives you access to many of the park’s fantastic trailheads.

A spectacular trek is the 5-mile hike out to Angels Landing which provides a mesmerizing panoramic view of Zion Canyon.  Another highlight is The Narrows which takes hikers along a winding and twisting rock canyon where wading may be expected.  The bright striated orange sandstone walls reach heights of 1,000 feet.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park is only 72 miles away from Zion and there is direct access between the two parks using the highway connecting the two parks.  This is the second most popular park in Utah and is worthy to be on every nature lover’s bucket list.

The golden rock columns, hoodoos, and rugged terrain create some of the most picturesque landscapes.  Nestled amongst the alpine forests, there is no mistaking that Bryce Canyon is one of the most magical places. Visitors should plan on trekking the canyon floor to maximize their natural wonder experience.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park features over 2,000 naturally occurring arches created out of the striking orange sandstone rocks.  Delicate Arch is the more renowned arch with a height of 52 feet.

The striking terrain varies in elevation ranging from 4,085 to 5,683 feet.  The highest elevation is accounted for by Elephant Butte which is a breathtaking sandstone rock formation that elevates over the neighboring area.

Canyonlands National Park

The Colorado River meanders through the terrain creating amazing canyons, buttes, and mesas.  The Green River complements the work of the Colorado River creating additional canyon features for visitors to experience.

These varied desert landscapes are breathtaking and often leave visitors speechless.  Apart from the two rivers, the three other highlights of the park include the Maze, the Needles, and the Island in the Sky.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is the last of the golden give national parks of the state.  Colorful buttes, monoliths, and golden-orange rock formations await travelers who are ready to witness some of the most amazing picturesque landscapes.

Waterpocket Fold is one of the park’s highlights.  Arches, cliffs, domes, and towers are some of the striking geological rock formations that blanket this park.  Whether taking scenic drives or hiking the rugged terrain, Capitol Reef will not disappoint.

Atop the Bucket List

If you are traveling to Utah to experience the splendor of the state’s national parks, it is hard to determine which one should sit atop your bucket list.  Each park offers striking views and unique sandstone rock formations and picturesque landscapes.  Bryce Canyon National Park is a leader, but Zion National Park probably wins the argument as the most coveted national park destination in the state.

You won’t go wrong with any park that you visit and you will be left speechless by some of the amazing things you will see.  Dr. Imler added, “If you are fortunate enough and have the time, you should explore all five parks and at least capture the highlights. It will be a trip of a lifetime.”

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