Utah : our road-trip in 5 national parks

Discover an overview of the 5 national parks that you will discover during a road trip in Utah! The 3rd state with the largest number of national parks, perfect for outdoor lovers.

A short article to give you an overview of the national parks we visited in Utah during our 3 months road trip to the USA… This state was kind of the one we were looking forward to with Arizona. It is the 3rd state with the largest number of national parks (after California and Alaska) but it also gathers State Parks and National Monument which are worth the detour. The good news is the distances between each park aren’t that big. So here’s a preview of the wonders that await you on a road trip in Utah.

Here is the list of the 5 national parks that you will see during a road trip in Utah:

  • Zion National Park, the must-see when discovering the West
  • Bryce Canyon Nation Park, most popular with visitors
  • Capitol Reef National Park, the forgotten
  • Arches National Park, the favourite of families
  • Canyonland National Park, the most multiple with its three parts

1 | Zion national park, must-see

Zion National Park is the gateway to Utah from Nevada. Usually we get there after a little stopover in Las Vegas. Besides it should not be forgotten that Las Vegas can be a very good idea as a city of arrival and departure for a road trip in the West of the USA.

Zion National Park is best known for its two legendary hikes: Angels Landing, known as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, but also Narrows, a trip up a narrow canyon with most of the time feet in the water. The park nevertheless has many other hikes and this is what allows it to attract a large number of outdoor enthusiasts.

What marks Zion is above all the changes in colour that can be observed on the rock throughout the day. We advise you to spend at least two full days in the park. Travel is via shuttles that run throughout the day in the park.

Sleeping there = Remember to book your campsites in advance because like Grand Canyon, the campsite in this park is very popular. For 20$ you will have a tent pitch.

From the heights of the Angels Landing Trail.

2 | Bryce Canyon, the popular

Bryce Canyon is one of the parks we were also looking forward to because everyone was just talking about it! It’s one of the favorite parks of Americans but also social networks! Whoever has never seen pictures of Bryce Canyon National Park on Instagram, raise your hand! And even though the park is beautiful, I feel like we missed something. Strangely enough, I didn’t fall in love as I expected… Maybe sometimes magic doesn’t live up to our expectations? And that it can’t work every time? Has this ever happened to you? I think it was one of the first times it did this to us.

One of my favourite national park in Utah

Nevertheless this park is worth the detour and I know that we will return there, undoubtedly longer history to be able to better soak up the places. We had only spent one night there, maybe a mistake!?

And even if it wasn’t love at first sight, I must admit that the various hikes offered by the park are superb. You can “modulate” your circuit according to the desired length and difficulty. Our favorite part was the “Peek A Boo Loop”.

Finally do not miss the sunrise and sunset from the different points of view, shows guaranteed (take you there in advance because you will not be alone…).

Sleeping there = Unlike Zion you can’t book your pitches here! So you will have to pray and arrive at the right time, at the right place to find a place! 10am is usually a good time, it is from this time that campers leave. You will find more information about camping in the USA in our practical guide, we give you our tips and tricks to make sure everything goes well 😉

3 | Capitol Reef, the forgotten one

During a road trip in Utah we do not necessarily think to discover this park… And yet ! What a marvel! We didn’t know what to expect and we just decided to cross the park on the way between Bryce Canyon and Arches… If we had known… First we would have rented a 4×4! And second, we would have spent at least one or two nights in the area. For lovers of texture and colour variations, Capitol Reef National Park is a bit of a paradise.

The park being little visited the hikes are rather badly indicated and we turned quite a lot of time in order to seek some of them. For the one we absolutely wanted to see we needed a 4×4 to get to the beginning. We also advise you to start your hikes very early, the heat is omnipresent there.

We will tell you more in our dedicated article, we have two / three good spots and tips to share with you!

Sleeping there = There is no camping facilities at Capitol Reef, you will have to go to Torrey to find a motel to spend the night.

4 | Arches, for families

Arches National Park is often reduced to its arches, and even if it is the flagship attraction of the park, notably with the Lansdcape Arch, the Delicate Arch, the Double Arch…

What particularly struck me when I visited this park was the number of families who were present! It’s true that Americans are fond of outdoor, but here! I clearly wasn’t expecting that. I was quite shocked by some behaviour of disrespect of the place, but fortunately a rangers is never too far… Is it necessary to remind that it is not necessary to climb on the arches? Apparently, yes!

I’ll tell you first: you can’t see all the arches! Choose the ones you really don’t want to miss, some are easier to access than others but you will have to choose. If you stay three days you will have time to see the most famous and make two or three hikes a little more difficult. It is during one of these hikes that we saw the most beautiful landscapes of the park (according to me)… we tell you more in the dedicated article (suspense…).

Sleeping there = There are no camping facilities in Arches National Park, you will have to go to Moab to find a motel or campground to spend the night.

5 | Canyonlands, multiple facets

Canyons as far as the eye can see! After having taken many eyes with the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands remains just as spectacular. There too I found the place quite difficult to photograph. I wouldn’t really know why. Even if I have to admit that I would love to go back and take up the challenge, I am sure I will be able to do much better today.

The park is divided into three parts over 1366km², the most famous, and the most accessible is Island in the Sky. This is where you will find the famous Mesa Arch, photographers’ favourite spot for sunrise in Canyonlands National Park. The other two parts of the park are the Needles and the Maze, the least accessible part reserved for hikers and 4×4s.

If you don’t have much time we advise you to concentrate on the Island in the sky part. It is the most spectacular, the Needles is also interesting but has less accessible look out without walking too much, it will take more time to make hikes.

Sleeping there = There are no camping facilities in Canyonlands National Park, like Arches Park, the easiest way is to go to Moab to find a motel or campground to spend the night.

Other parks to see during a road trip in Utah

The list is still long, during our first road trip we could not explore everything! Here are some of the other wonders that Utah can count (non-exhaustive list).

– The Dinosaur National Monument
– Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
– The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
– Dead Horse Point State Park
– Natural Bridge National Monument
– Hovenweep National Monument
– Monument Valley (straddling Utah and Arizona, although the majority is in Arizona)
– Kodachrome Basin State Park
– Cedar Breaks National Monument
– Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

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