Many seasoned travellers will tell you that Utah is the most beautiful state in the United States, which is significant when you consider just how many stunning landscapes can be found from east to west. Part of the reason why people tend to fall in love with Utah is its diversity of terrain and scenery. From arid deserts to high snow-capped mountain ranges, it simply has everything that someone with a taste for the Great Outdoors could want.
When it comes to national parks, the state of Utah really comes up trumps. In this article, we will go through the most popular national parks that are hosted by the state to help anyone who plans to visit in the future build their travel itinerary.
1. Zion National Park
Of the many national parks that litter Utah, Zion National Park is undoubtedly the most visited. Located in the southwestern corner of the state, the park contains over 100 miles of trails that wind through valley floors of narrow river canyons and traverse the steep inclines of Navajo sandstone rock faces.
The park is a haven for rock climbers and canyoneers, who cannot get enough of the spectacular rock formations that have been formed over millions of years. One of the most awe-inspiring sights in the whole park can be obtained by making the hike up Angels Landing, a vertigo-inducing trail that rewards those brave enough to tackle it with unrivalled views over the whole park.
2. Bryce Canyon National Park
Those who first glimpse that weird and wonderful landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park often cannot believe that it occurred without the interference of extra-terrestrial landscape artists. The park is filled with eroded sandstone spires that jut towards the heavens like some strange homage to a greater power. The spires are known as “hoodoos”, and Bryce Canyon National Park has a larger collection of them than almost anywhere else on the planet.
The park is full of lookouts and viewpoints which offer spectacular views over the park. Make sure that you leave enough time to visit Sunset Point and Inspiration Point above all the others!
3. Canyonlands National Park
Southwestern Utah is home to one of the most alien-looking landscapes anywhere in the United States. This is where you will find Canyonlands, a desert populated by otherworldly rock formations, canyons and buttes that would not look out of place on Mars.
As Utah’s most extensive national park, Canyonlands is worth dedicating a day or two at the very least. Straddling the expanse between the Colorado and Green rivers, the park is the definition of wilderness. If you would like to penetrate its depths, there is a wealth of extreme sports options, including hiking, rafting, kayaking, canyoneering and many more besides!
4. Capitol Reef National Park
Snaking its way through the desert in a narrow but very long S-shape, Capitol Reef national park contains distortions in the Earth’s crust that resulted from the same geological forces that formed the Rocky Mountains 65 million years ago.
Characterised by its rocky terrain comprising of sandstone cliffs and domes, the park is the site of the longest exposed monocline anywhere in the planet. As the sun dapples the surface of the rocks, it is easy to let yourself be taken away by the sheer beauty of nature.
5. Arches National Park
The last of the so-called “Big 5” is Arches National Park. Located in the southeast of the state, Arches National Park is famous for… yes, you guessed it – arches!
The park is full of relatively easy and accessible trails that will take you over and under some of the most spectacular natural arches that you will find anywhere. In total, there are an estimated 2,000 stone arches, all carved out of the park’s iconic orange-red stone by the elements over millions of years.
For visitors looking to experience a true taste of the Wild West of the United States, there is no better place than Utah. For many years, its most stunning national parks have protected its wondrous natural heritage so that U.S. citizens and visitors from abroad can enjoy the landscape and wildlife in its natural state. If you plan to visit Utah from Europe, you will need to sign up for the ESTA visa waiver scheme if you want to gain entry on your arrival to Salt Lake City. If you want a step-by-step walkthrough on how to apply, check out this excellent ESTA guide for more information.