Home to Utah’s Mighty 5, is you guessed it… Utah! The Mighty 5 parks include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. As you might expect, Utah’s Mighty 5 includes a plethora of desert landscapes to explore. This makes for an amazing adventure no matter what park you decide to go to! Towering red rock cliffs, Otherworldly hoodoos, deep canyons, and rivers carving their way through sandstone – Utah’s national parks will amaze you.
- Utah’s Mighty 5 #1 – Zion National Park
- Utah’s Mighty 5 #2 Bryce Canyon National Park
- Utah’s Mighty 5 #3 Capitol Reef National Park
- Utah’s Mighty 5 #4 Canyonlands National Park
- Utah’s Mighty 5 #5 Arches National Park
Utah’s Mighty 5 #1 – Zion National Park
Utah’s Mighty 5 first national park, Zion, has clawed its way to second on the most visited national parks list, and for good reason. Zion National Park is no exception. Located in southwestern Utah, Zion offers amazing scenery, dramatic canyons, and hikes that will challenge even the most experienced of hikers. The park is divided into four sections: The Front, The Narrows, The Subway, and Kolob Canyons. Each section offers something unique and all are worth exploring. So if you’re looking for an amazing outdoor adventure, be sure to add Zion National Park to your list. You won’t regret it.
What is Zion National Park known for?
Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Zion National Park is no exception. It is a park that features looking up from within the canyon vs most national parks, which look down into a canyon. This allows visitors to gaze up at the canyon rim in sheer amazement of the towering beauty.
Zion is also home to a variety of wildlife, including the California condor and the desert bighorn sheep. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, Zion National Park is a true wonderland.
If you have only one day…
One day in Zion is not nearly enough time to see every the park has to offer. You have to stay at least a few days. However, sometimes that is not possible. So if you have just one day to see as much as possible, Drive Highway 9 and hike Angels Landing.
This is the main highway that leads into Zion National Park, so not driving it would be pretty difficult. However, make sure to drive it all the way through the park to ensure the best experience. It is only a 14-mile drive, making it very easy to cross off the list. This is a perfect way to spend part of your day in Zion.
Angels Landing – Most popular Hike of Utah’s Mighty 5
The most popular trail by far, Angels Landing is a must-do for anyone capable visiting Zion National Park. It is a 2.5-mile-long hike with an elevation gain of 1,500 ft making it a strenuous trail to hike. The last half mile of the trail features walking on a narrow ledge leading to the final viewpoint. However, the sweeping views make this trail more than worth the effort.
If you have multiple days
Multiple days in Zion is definitely the way to go. In other words, the park has so much to offer that to get the full experience would take at least 3 days. The things you need to see along with the one-day activities are The Narrows, Observation Point, and Watchman Trail.
This is an amazing trail to walk while seeing the views that Zion has to offer. The Narrows have canyon walls over 1000 ft high while walking beside and in the river that runs through this geological feature.
Considered a moderate trail via East Mesa Trail, Observation Point offers sweeping panoramic views of the canyons below. However, it is a long hike at 7 miles, but with only 700 ft of elevation, your biggest worry will be staying cool and water.
Also considered a moderate trail, the watchman Trail is a must-see for anyone visiting Zion. One can expect panoramic views of Watchman, Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, and the Town of Springdale down below. Three views in a span of 3 miles total make this the perfect adventure for anyone visiting Zion.
Utah’s Mighty 5 #2 Bryce Canyon National Park
Spanning 35,835 acres, Bryce Canyon is home to very distinct geological features. Not many people visit the park making it a perfect way to experience this spectacular place.
What is Bryce Canyon National Park known for?
Bryce Canyon has a unique landscape that goes way beyond what you’d think of when you think canyon. The red rock hoodoos tower next to the canyon walls, giving the impression of a rock forest. Hoodoos can be seen in other parks as well, but nothing like what you can see at Bryce Canyon National Park.
The Best place to spend a single day in Utah’s Mighty 5
A single day in Bryce Canyon National Park is bound to be a treat. The main scenic road through the park offers a ton of outlooks that give a great impression of the park.
Main Park Road
The road following the plateau above Bryce Canyon is Main Park Road. The amount of outlooks on this road is truly impressive. The best way to experience the park without hiking is to stop at all of the 14 outlooks and enjoy the never-ending views. Disappointed is non-existent with this scenic drive.
Mossy Cave is a short hike coming in at 0.8-miles. Experience a desert river leading to a small waterfall with a cove set behind. The mist from this waterfall creates moss on the backdrop making this geological feature truly a desert wonder. The best time to see this trail is in the spring or autumn after some rain
If you have multiple days
Much of the big ticket items in Bryce Canyon can be seen within a day. This doesn’t mean multiple days in this national park is a waste of time though! Personally, I would recommend a 2-3 day stay just to experience the longer hiking trails and stargazing.
With the amount of scenery in Bryce Canyon National Park, there is no shortage of hiking trails to experience. Trails you must experience on your multi-day trip include Queen’s Garden, Navajo Loop, and Tower Bridge. There are many more trails to choose from, but these are the must-see trails.
Being in the middle of nowhere on top of a plateau makes for amazing stargazing opportunities. The night sky here twinkles white with the sheer amount of stars shining though the atmosphere. Whether you’re camping or staying in the local towns, be sure to catch a glimpse of this beautiful spectacle. For best results find a place to set up a hammock with a clear view of the night sky. You won’t be disappointed!
Utah’s Mighty 5 #3 Capitol Reef National Park
Some would say Capitol Reef National Park is the most underrated park of Utah’s Mighty 5, and for good reason. Capitol Reefs loaded to the rim of the canyon with geological features and breathtaking views.
What is Capitol Reef National Park known for?
A geological wonderland, Capitol Reef National Park has amazing sights to see. Some include natural bridges, canyons, cliffs, and domes as well as a ton more.
If you have only one day…
Capitol Reef demands more than a day just to see the scenic roads, not to mention the trail system. However, if one day is all you have, we have you covered. Here is what you need to do to get the best experience out of your single day in Capitol Reef National Park.
Drive Cathedral Valley
Cathedral Valley is an otherworldly landscape located in Capitol Reef National Park. This drive is a 58-mile long drive that takes 6 to 8 hours to complete. The drives known for its massive towers of rock that rise out of the ground, as well as its beautiful desert scenery. The best time to visit Cathedral Valley is during the spring or fall when the temperatures are milder. However, visitors who make the journey to Cathedral Valley will be rewarded with unforgettable views of one of the most unique landscapes on earth.
The best place to see the sunset in all of Capitol Reef is Sunset point. It is a short hike away from the Sunset Point parking lot making it very accessible and easy. The great thing about this area is Goosenecks Trailhead is directly on the other side of Sunset Point Trailhead. This two-for-one view is a must-do if you only have one cay in Capitol Reef National park.
If you have multiple days
Now here comes the good stuff. Multiple days is best for experiencing Capitol Reef National Park. Given the scenic drives and hiking trails, a single day is not enough to get the full experience of this park.
Loop the Fold – The Best Drive of Utah’s Mighty 5
Meandering around the outskirts of Capitol Reef is Loop the Fold. Accordingly, there are so many things to see on this drive that it’s too much to list here but a few notable locations include Norton Road Twin Rocks, Surprise Canyon, and Long Canyon. Dedicate roughly 5-hours to Loop the Fold
The ghost town of Fruita is located directly inside Capitol Reef National Park. Not many buildings exist there anymore. However, the scenery of this canyon is unbelievable. The valley floor is covered with lush green making it a little desert paradise. Markedly, this is also the base of operations for the NPS.
Capitol Reef offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Hiking is by far the best way to see these views. A few trails that you have to hike include Rim Overlook Trail, Hickman Bridge, and Great Wash. A lifetime of memories awaits you on these hikes!
Utah’s Mighty 5 #4 Canyonlands National Park
This unique national park is best known for its canyons, but it also includes mesas, buttes, rivers, and desert landscapes. Canyonlands is a popular destination for hikers, backpackers, climbers, and canyoners. Spectacular views that stretch for miles await you here at Canyonlands National Park. It is the least visited of Utah’s Mighty 5 but don’t let this detour you. The sights here are truly stunning. Situated directly next to Arches National Park, and right outside of Moab, Canyonlands is a must-visit.
What is Canyonlands National Park known for?
Canyonlands has it right in the name. It is best known for its canyons along with its mesas and the rivers that carve out the landscape. A little-known fact about this park is the stargazing. Some of the best camping in the world can be had in Canyonlands. A tent without the rainfly under the stars is the perfect way to experience this nighttime wonder.
If you have only one day…
One day in Canyonlands can get you some amazing experiences. Grand View Point Road shows off all Canyonlands has to offer. Mesa Arch Trail will be next in your lineup for the day.
Grand View Point Road
Grand View Point Rd is the main road running directly down Island in the Sky. As the name suggests it offers great views from above looking below at the sun-scorched landscape. At the end is Grand View Point. An amazing spot to look out for miles.
Mesa Arch Trail
This trail is only 0.7 miles long making it a perfect opportunity to take on your one-day Canyonlands trip. The amazing thing about this Arch, when you look through it, you’re looking into the canyon below. Better yet if you are an early bird, the sunrise will shine right under Mesa Arch making the already breathtaking scenery even more stunning.
If you have multiple days
It doesn’t take long to see most of what Canyonlands has to offer. The low visitor count makes it easy to get where you’re going promptly. So if you’re in the books to experience Canyonlands for more than a day here are the things you need to do.
There are plenty of trails to hike in Canyonlands including Maze Overlook Trail, Grand View Point Trail, and Devil’s Pocket Loop. Take your pick and be on your way! Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunblock out on these adventures. The heat can get brutal during the day.
Stargazing – The Best place to spend the night in Utah’s Mighty 5
A must-do while in the park for more than a day is stargazing. Canyonlands has consistently clear skies with very low levels of light pollution making it a great place to stargaze.
It is recommended to get a campsite in the park to fully experience this wonder. At night the warm breeze from the canyon below can be felt subtly on your awestruck face as you experience the heavens above. The sky isn’t black out here as it is in most places, it is white with all the stars you normally would not see. If you’re looking for a truly dark night sky, Canyonlands is the place to go.
Close by to Canyonlands is U-128 or River Road. It is a 44-mile-long, winding road that follows the Colorado River. This scenic byway has tons of parks and pull-offs to enjoy the scenery. Traveling the full length. Being highly recommended there is so much beauty this road has to offer.
Utah’s Mighty 5 #5 Arches National Park
After the land rose about 300 million years ago, erosion from wind and water slowly carved out the landscape that is seen today. Red rock arches tower overhead giving the park a surreal feel. Seeing that much rock overhead is a wild experience.
What is Arches National Park known for?
The natural arches here are out of this world. The park is home to over 2000 different arches with the most popular being Delicate Arch. If arches is all you are expecting, you are very wrong. Arches National Park is also home to giant rocks balancing on spires, pinnacles, and plenty of rock fins.
If you have only one day…
Delicate Arch is the most popular attraction of Utah’s Mighty 5
The most known natural arch in the world is Delicate Arch. It is a picturesque scene famous for its nighttime photography. Being a 3-mile out and back hike it an easy hike, but it is recommended to do this trail early or later in the day to avoid the heat.
Arches Scenic Drive
The road going directly through Arches National Park is Arches Scenic Drive. This road is perfect for seeing most of what the park has to offer. Some views seen from this drive include Sand Dune Arch, Salt Valley Overlook, Fiery Furnace Viewpoint, Panorama Point, and Balanced Rock, along with tons of others.
The best (2) places to spend multiple days of Utah’s Mighty 5
Arches is a small park and is recommended to be done in conjunction with Canyonlands for extended stays. However, with so much to do, multiple days in Arches is well worth the time. Take the scenic roads through and around the park, do some hiking, and make a stop in the little desert town of Moab.
Plenty of trails throughout Arches National Park make for the perfect way to see the geological wonders offered here. Just to name a few, Devil’s Garden, Double Arch Trail, and Landscape Arch Trail are all must hikes. These trails show off the wildest of what Arches has to offer. Don’t forget Delicate Arch too!
Located directly outside the park is the small town of Moab. For most this will be your base of operations. Come and see the parks, local restaurants, and history of this area. For a small desert town, Moab has a lot to offer.
Utah is home to some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring landscapes in the world. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, or simply want to take in some amazing natural scenery, be sure to add one (or all!) of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks to your travel list. With so many new experiences, you won’t regret it! Have you been to any of Utah’s Mighty 5 Parks? What was your favorite part?