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A hiker admires the rock canyons of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

Utah

Guide to Utah's Parks and Monuments

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  • States:
    Utah

In Utah, find a feast for the eyes as you explore vast landscapes filled with deserts, mountains, canyons and flowing rivers.

The state is home to The Mighty Five National Parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion – and is known for its rugged beauty. Marvel at colorful Navajo sandstone cliffs, the motion of a river cutting through steep canyons, and the stunning views from the highest point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Explore by hiking, biking or rafting, or opt for a guide to take you above it all on a thrilling helicopter sightseeing tour.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Be amazed at the unique geology of this popular park and its slot canyons. Hike a myriad of trails, from relatively easy to strenuous, and walk the rim to see world's largest collection of rock formation columns called hoodoos. At night, look to the dark sky; this is one of the best stargazing spots in the world because of its high altitude and remote location. Bring a camera to record the moments. Visit year-round, and tour the park with expert guides by bus, horseback or in a helicopter. Camp in a park cabin, or stay at a local motel.

Overlooking hoodoos and slot canyons at sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

Overlooking hoodoos and slot canyons at sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park
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Canyonlands National Park

The vast park, just west of Moab and not far from Arches National Park, is divided into three land areas and one river area. Ideal for nature-loving backpackers, the Needles District includes about 119 kilometers of hiking trails. Go to the Island in the Sky for an amazing view, and hike a family-friendly trail to the famous Mesa Arch, the park’s most popular spot for photographers – sunrises here are incredible. A 32.2-kilometer parkway, suitable for sport utility vehicles, connects many attractions. Park rangers offer guided tours from March to October, but the park is open year-round.

A stunning aerial view of Canyonlands National Park

A stunning aerial view of Canyonlands National Park
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Capitol Reef National Park

Enjoy adventures in this paradise, a contrast of elevations and topography filled with colorful sandstone cliffs, dramatic domes and towering boulders. Hikers, mountain bikers and Jeep explorers can traverse roads and trails throughout the park. Visitors will see high mountains, lush forests, rock formations, arches, plateaus and stunning desert landscapes. The park is sometimes known as “Sleeping Rainbow” because of its marvelous landscape of diverse rock formations beautifully set against a backdrop of blue sky. There are many accommodation options, including campsites, cabins, family hotels and upscale hotels.

A road traveling through the amazing scenery at Capitol Reef National Park

A road traveling through the amazing scenery at Capitol Reef National Park
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Cedar Breaks National Monument

At an elevation of more than 3,000 meters, peer down 800 meters into a gorge resembling a natural amphitheater. In the surrounding Dixie National Forest, see wildlife among the ponderosa pines, aspens and wildflowers. This is an International Dark Sky Park, an ideal place for stargazing, especially in the summer at the Point Supreme Overlook. Look through telescopes at stars, constellations and distant galaxies. On your way to or from the park, stay overnight at Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa, try raspberry pie at the Brian Head General Store or stop by the Iron Gate Winery in Cedar City.

Hiking at Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City

Hiking at Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City
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Dinosaur National Monument

Discover the scenic mountain, desert and canyon landscapes where dinosaurs wandered 150 million years ago. Tour the Quarry Exhibit Hall to see, and even touch, fossils documenting their existence. The best time to visit is from March to October. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, learn about constellations in the darkest sky in the country from park rangers, who also light bonfires every summer night. See petroglyphs and wildlife at McKee Springs. Explore more on a guided rafting trip along the Green River. People who like snow and winter activities will enjoy fewer visitors in the colder months.

A dinosaur vertebra in the Quarry Exhibit Hall

A dinosaur vertebra in the Quarry Exhibit Hall
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Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

In the Uinta mountain range, explore a waterfront playground. At the 145-kilometer-long lake, with about 570 kilometers of shoreline, cast a line to try to reel in trout, catfish, bass or salmon. Take a paddle or float trip under towering cliffs along the Green River, and watch wildlife on land. Many local restaurants offer outdoor dining next to the lake, and popular main courses include burgers, hand-cut steaks, wild venison and bison. Stay at one of the 700 campsites in 43 campgrounds – some reachable only by boat – or at a small inn or a luxury mountain chalet.

Clouds reflected on the lake at Flaming Gorge

Clouds reflected on the lake at Flaming Gorge
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Four Corners Monument

This monument in the Navajo Nation is the only place in the USA where you can stand in four states at the same time. The marker at the corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona was completed in 1912 and rebuilt in 1992 and 2010. Learn more about the Navajo and Ute people at the visitor center, and meet Native American artisans and craftsmen selling their wares.

The Four Corners Monument, where you can stand in four states at the same time

The Four Corners Monument, where you can stand in four states at the same time
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The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

About 5 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year, but only about 10 percent enjoy the slower pace at its North Rim, open May to October. Explore the deep valleys of the canyon along Bright Angel Point, or ride a mule down to the Colorado River. At Point Imperial, gaze from the highest overlook in the North Rim, then explore more via the Cape Royal Highway. Other great destinations are Roosevelt Point and Walhalla Overlook. Less-experienced hikers will want to join a guided group tour. Reserve an overnight stay at the North Rim Lodge.

A beautiful sunset view of the Grand Canyon from the north rim

A beautiful sunset view of the Grand Canyon from the north rim
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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Covering nearly 7,690 square kilometers, the monument’s vast and diverse topography stretches from northeastern Escalante to southwestern Kanab. The best times to visit are April to May and September to October. Enjoy canyon rafting on the Little Cattle River, challenging hiking at Death Hollow and The Gulch, mountain biking, off-road tours and photographing the landscapes. Stop by visitor centers in Kanab, Escalante, Cannonville, Paria and Anasazi State Park to learn more about the undeveloped territory, including the must-visit sites of Devil's Garden Natural Area and the Grosvenor Arch.

Calf Creek Recreation Area, within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is a quiet area for camping and picnics. One of the most famous attractions is the 38-meter-tall waterfall. It's a must-see attraction for visitors traveling Scenic Byway 12. If you choose to camp here, enjoy the clear night skies filled with stars. For comfort and luxury, stay in the peaceful Boulder Mountain Lodge in Red Rock Canyon. Enjoy American cuisine, such as ribs, burgers and chicken, at local restaurants.

Sandstone formations in the Devil's Garden at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Sandstone formations in the Devil's Garden at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
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Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park

Explore Utah’s first national park and its tranquil Kolob Canyons section, easily accessible from Interstate 15. Drive along the eight-kilometer Kolob Canyons Road to see Navajo sandstone, waterfalls and crimson canyon walls that are 610 meters tall. For a perfect family outing, go to the Taylor Creek Overlook Trail, check out the famous Double Arch and visit historic log cabins in the park. For a different perspective, go sightseeing on a Jeep tour or book a flight with Zion Helicopters. Be amazed at panoramic views of the majestic landscapes below as friendly pilots offer commentary.

Hikers view the Kolob Canyons double arch alcove

Hikers view the Kolob Canyons double arch alcove
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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Visitors to the rugged terrain of Monument Valley will be amazed at the massive rock formations jutting high above the desert floor, but everything will seem familiar. Hollywood filmmakers have always loved the scenery here. At the bottom of the valley, go on hikes, horseback trips, Jeep safaris and stargazing outings. Explore the sights by car on a 27-kilometer drive. Navajo tribal guides are available to lead excursions to both scenic and sacred places. For your base camp, stay at historic Goulding's Lodge, which also offers campsites, shops, restaurants and a museum.

Towering rock formations in Monument Valley

Towering rock formations in Monument Valley
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Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest

As part of the Dixie National Forest in southern Utah, Red Canyon features spectacular ponderosa pines and rock formations, much like the larger Bryce Canyon 19 kilometers away. See pink, orange and red limestone rocks, walk through valleys, climb through tunnels, and hike, bike or ride an ATV along trails. In the winter, go skiing or sledding. At the park entrance, stop at the visitor center to learn about excursions along the stunning Scenic Byway 12. Nearby, find comfortable accommodations and campsites. Menu items at local restaurants include barbecue and cowboy cuisine, salmon, and American and Indian fare.

A camper goes through an arch along Scenic Byway 12 in Red Canyon

A camper goes through an arch along Scenic Byway 12 in Red Canyon
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Snow Canyon State Park

This exciting destination in the desert features Navajo sandstone cliffs in striking colors, including burnt orange and white. There are 61 kilometers of hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult, and 24 kilometers of trails for those riding a horse. Bring a camera to photograph the most magnificent areas of the park on a one-hour, easy hike along the Petrified Dunes Trail. Camp overnight in the park, or find accommodations in the nearby town of St. George.

Hiking along the Pioneer Names Trail in Snow Canyon State Park

Hiking along the Pioneer Names Trail in Snow Canyon State Park
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