A Guide to National Parks in Utah
by Cash Store Staff
Utah’s diverse and incomparable landscape provides five incredible national park destinations, which showcase its rich terrain in several different ways. Whether you’re in search of a scenic day hike that places you amid mesmerizing geographical features or looking for an immersive camping experience under the stars, Utah’s national parks have something for anyone who appreciates the finest of what nature has to offer.
Situated just north of Moab, Arches National Park is definitely true to its name, containing the most natural arches in the world.
Red rocks that have formed into peaks and unique formations comprise much of the landscape within Arches National Park, presenting several different shapes and textures, which give the park its trademark look. The area features over 2,000 sandstone arches, highlighted by the famous Delicate Arch, which has become a widely recognized visual of the Utah National Park system.
Visitors should plan on spending several hours at the park and take time to check out the various trails, offering up-close views that often go right under many of the biggest arches. Longer walks and trails are available, along with guided tours, and overnight camping in Devils Garden campground.
Like all of Utah’s national parks, Bryce Canyon is known for certain geological features. In this case, these features are “hoodoos,” which are towering, irregular columns of rock protruding up from the ground.
Although hoodoos exist in some form on every continent, the concentration of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon is the largest on the planet. Forged by frost weathering and wind erosion over millions of years, the vibrant red, orange, and white rock formations have come together to create a “canyon” that’s really a vast natural amphitheater that runs along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
The main portion of the park is located on a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, offering a spectacular bird’s eye view down toward the hoodoos. Whether you’re catching a sunset in the summer or admiring the occasional delicate snowfall in the winter, Bryce Canyon is truly one of the most majestic places in the world.
Canyonlands is the state’s largest national park, and yet another amazing natural destination located near Moab. Here, you’ll find a rich and surprisingly colorful landscape created from erosion by the Green River and Colorado River, resulting in several different canyons, mesas, and buttes winding through the area.
The park was officially designated back in 1964 and is now divided into four separate districts: the highly popular Island in the Sky mesa, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined Green and Colorado river areas. You’ll also encounter plenty of rock pinnacles and arches, and even artifacts from the Ancient Pueblo peoples, who originally inhabited the area thousands of years ago.
Canyonlands’ rugged terrain gladly welcomes hikers, campers, mountain bikers, backpackers, and four-wheelers, and offers specified activities on certain trails and in certain areas.
Zion National Park was Utah’s first park designated and is near the town of Springdale, situated at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert. Mesas, sprawling canyons, and jagged rock towers are spread throughout Zion, including the famously picturesque Virgin River Narrows and the 229-square-mile Zion Canyon.
The park location’s diverse features allow it to sustain four entirely different ecosystems: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. This has resulted in a large amount of plant and animal diversity, as Zion is now home to 289 bird species, 75 different mammals, and 32 reptiles.
Day hikers at Zion can easily enjoy a broad sampling of all the most recognized and celebrated aspects of Utah’s vast terrain — all contained in one park.
The smallest of the state’s five parks, Capitol Reef National Park crams a lot of geographical features into a somewhat small area that is only around 60 miles long and 6 miles wide.
The most famous feature of the park is the Waterpocket Fold, a “warp” in the earth's crust that is estimated to be over 65 million years old. The fold is made from layers of earth that collided with each other over time, resulting in a wrinkled effect that spans over 100 miles. Capitol Reef also contains sandstone cliffs, rounded white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth in an array of colors.
Overnight campers at Capitol Reef can enjoy one of the most mesmerizing night skies in the world. In fact, Capitol Reef has been designated a "Gold Tier" International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.
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