Southern Utah is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. This breathtaking region is characterized by its contrasting landscapes and sculpted red rock. Better still, Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks are all found in southern Utah, most within a few hours of St. George.
Whether you’re a backpacker looking to explore mountain trails or a vacationer wanting to enjoy the view, southern Utah has something for everyone. Here’s a quick peek at southern Utah’s national parks and what each one has to offer you.
Arches National Park
As its name implies, Arches National Park is a red rock wonderland of over 2,000 natural stone arches. This park is just 5 miles north of Moab, and it has a variety of astounding geological formations, including colossal sandstone fins, balanced rocks, spires, and pinnacles.
Hikers can enjoy a number of hiking trails such as the Primitive Loop in the Devil’s Garden section of the park, and Park Avenue Trail in the Windows section of the park. Additionally, the scenic drive enables visitors to drive 36 miles round trip through the park, which takes them to many of the park’s major viewpoints. If you’re looking to camp, the Devil’s Garden Campground is available for reservation during March through October.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah, and many visitors travel for miles just to see its famous Island in the Sky. The Island in the Sky sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa, and visitors can see over 100 miles in any given direction.
Canyonlands is open year-round, 24 hours a day, so you can visit no matter when you plan your vacation. If you have only a few hours, you can drive the park’s 20 miles of paved roads to enjoy the spectacular views, but if you have a few days, feel free to hike in Canyonlands backcountry. If you’re a 4-wheel drive enthusiast, consider traveling the 100 mile White Rim Trail which loops below the Island in the Sky. Whitewater rafters will enjoy Cataract Canyon, which has a 14-mile stretch of class III to V white water.
Bryce Canyon National Park
According to Fox News, Bryce Canyon was ranked as one of the Top 10 National Parks in the US during 2014. Its vibrant red rock structures and spires can reach an elevation of 2,000 feet. Bryce Canyon is particularly known for its hoodoos, geological structures that have totem pole-shaped bodies.
Bryce Canyon offers a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, horseback riding, biking, and ATV tours. During winter, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides are available. If you plan on staying several days in the park, consider signing up for a ranger program or moonlit guided hike. Bryce Canyon also features a park shuttle program to provide easy access to the inns and campgrounds as well as tours to Inspiration Point and Sunrise Point.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is named for its great white rock formations which resemble the US Capitol building. However, its contrasting red and white colored cliffs also earned it the nickname of “land of the sleeping rainbow.” It is most widely known for its 100-mile-long bulge called the Waterpocket Fold.
Visitors are welcome to hike, backpack, or bicycle at Capitol Reef, and if you have your fishing license, you’re invited to fish along the Fremont River. Heritage tours and ranger programs are available, so you can learn about Capitol Reef’s rich history while you enjoy its scenic views. Picnic tables are available at Fruita, making it convenient to stop for a pleasant lunch with your family.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is Utah’s oldest national park, and it is known for itsspectacular canyons and views. Zion attracts nearly 3 million visitors every year with its eight layers of sandstone, towering cliffs, and deep red canyons.
Lodging and services are available in east Zion, and the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is open year round. Zion’s hiking possibilities are endless, and its trails accommodate hikers with a variety of skill levels. More active hikers will likely enjoy trails such as Angels Landing and Watchman, while bikers may ride the Pahrus trail. You may also participate in climbing, canyoneering, and photography. The park also features Zion Canyon Theatre, so you can watch a movie after a long day of exploring the outdoors.
Be Close to Nature
While many people travel cross country to reach these fantastic destinations, St. George residents have easy access to all of these parks and activities. In fact, Zion National Park is less than an hour away from St. George, so you can spend your weekends hiking without missing a day of work. Additionally, tours are available throughout southern Utah that visit all of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks.
Don’t miss out on southern Utah’s national parks-you’ll love what you see.