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The Mighty Five National Parks
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Utah National Parks

Visit five stunning Utah National Parks in one epic vacation in southern Utah, where “The Mighty Five” parks of Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches National Park rise up in multi-colored stone monoliths, spires, hoodoos and massive arches soaring overhead like ribbons turned to stone.

Moab, Utah plays host to two of Utah’s five National Parks: Canyonlands and Arches. With so many recreational adventures nearby Moab is the obvious anchor-point in your visit to southern Utah. While it is possible to visit all five Utah National Parks in one epic vacation, many recommend making separate trips to Utah to catch it all. We can’t disagree with that logic, after all, a multi-day river rafting trip in Utah’s Cataract Canyon or Desolation Canyon is worthy of four or five days in Utah.

Use the itinerary outlined below for tips, or follow it straight through (frontwards or backwards) for the ulitimate “Mighty Five” Utah National Parks vacation!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park (Est. 1919)

Escape Las Vegas heading North on I-15 towards St. George, Utah like Robert Redford did in the Electric Horseman. Continue through Hurricane (pronounced “Her-i-cn” by locals) and follow signs to Zion National Park. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion. Stay at the Cliffrose Lodge or The Desert Pearl in the thick of Springdale’s gift shops. Enjoy the local restaurants - all with great views!

Must Do & See in Zion: Zion Narrows is an easy sidewalk stroll or intense stream-crossings if you continue beyond where the sidewalk ends. Emerald Pools is a classic, beautiful and moderate hike in Zion. Angels Landing is an epic Zion hike that climbs 2,000 vertical feet with exposed drop-offs - not for the faint of heart or heights!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park (Est. 1928)

Plan to finish off your hikes and activities in Zion in time for dinner on the road, (maybe sooner) toward Bryce Canyon to the north. The drive itself is a must-do activity in Zion. Follow the highway that zig-zag up the cliff face toward the amazing highway tunnel built by CCC work crews. You’ll enjoy more stunning views of Zion on the top-side. Reaching Scenic Highway 89, drive north toward Bryce Canyon. Stay at Ruby’s Inn for the night, located just outside the park entrance. If you miss the sunset, you won’t want to miss the unbelievable sunrise on that east-facing rim of Bryce Canyon.

Must Do & See in Bryce: Sunrise at any one of the overlooks. Be sure and ask when the local sunrise times are to be sure and catch sunrise. Take a short hike down into the fairyland of strangely eroded spires and you’ll understand why the early settlers said it would be “one hell of a place to lose a cow”! The Wall Street hike is particulary inspiring.

Capitol Reef National Park & Beyond

Capitol Reef National Park & Beyond (Est. 1971)

After a brief interlude with Bryce Canyon, you’ll be ready to drive eastward on Scenic Highway 12 through the heart of the Grand Staircase National Monument. You’re aiming for the town of Moab, today, but hang on for one wild highway carved into the Waterpocket Fold on the way to Moab,Utah. (Think of Wile E. Coyote vs. RoadRunner). Be sure to gas up in Torrey or Escalante as you’re headed into the more remote part of the road trip though the middle of Utah. If you’v e got time to layover for a night at the campground and love a good hike, Calf Creek Falls is extraordinary. On the drive over Boulder Mountain, you’ll see the Henry Mountains - the last mountain range discovered in the lower 48 - home to natural ranging buffalo herds. If you layover near Capitol Reef, a good place to rest is The Lodge at Red River Ranch.

Must Do & See in Capitol Reef: The park’s best feature is that it is remote and relatively free of crowds. Truthfully, it is best enjoyed on a backpacking trek, but the roadside history of the pioneer settlements and ghost-towns are worth getting to know as well. Get some fresh roadside fruit in Fruita.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park (Est. 1971)

Find a good place to lodge for the night in Moab, after that big day of travel. The Gonzo Inn is in walking distance to everything you’ll need in Moab. All of the massive stone walls you’ve seen on your epic road-tip so far have been part of the greater swell of land called the Colorado Plateau, but none will be quite as inspiring as the delicate spans of rock arches in Arches National Park. Millions of years in the making, and you are there to witness solid rock flowing like ribbons overhead - frozen in time. Over 2,000 arches are concentrated inside the Park boundaries.

Take a break from the wheel in Moab and let us drive you around town: Get a new perspective from off-road with a morning Hummer Slickrock Safari over petrified sand dunes, then in the evening catch a guided Sunset Van Tour through Arches National Park. Or, stretch the legs on a “Fiery Furnace” hike in Arches National Park. We can guide you through with the required permit. It is truly amazing - you’ll know what we mean when you get there. A self-guided hike to Delicate Arch is really a must see as well.In the evening you can enjoy a Sunset Hummer Safari or Canyonlands by Night Jetboat Tour.

Must Do & See in Arches National Park: Delicate Arch is a moderate, but rewarding self-guided hike. Fiery Furnace is a labrynth of slot canyons, hidden arches but must be guided with a permit. Landscape Arch is inspiring, as well as Balanced rock… Hard to say which will be your favorite here!

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park (Est. 1964)

Canyonlands National Park is often mistaken for the Grand Canyon in photographs - or Hollywood movies. It is wide open and upside down. “A wilderness of stone” where a river runs through it. Hands down, the best way to explore Canyonands is first by river and then by air on the return flight back to Moab. The 4 Day Cataract Classic river trip includes the flight back over Canyonlands National Park to Moab. Or, double your time on a 2 Day Cataract Express trip through the same 100+ miles of Colorado River through the deepest heart of Canyonlands.

After your river trip, stay the night in Moab to freshen up for the drive back home - or play some more in Moab! An early morning drive to the scenic overlooks of Dead Horse Point (State Park), the Mesa Arch overlook in Canyonlands, or possibly Grand Viewpoint will give you a good overview of where you’ve been. Allow about 4 hours to drive to Salt Lake International Airport (SLC), 7 hours south to Las Vegas (LAS), or 1.5 hours to Grand Junction, Colorado (GJT).

Must Do & See in Canyonlands: A river rafting trip on the mighty Colorado River (2 Day or 4 Day Options). A scenic flight over Canyonlands is included with the 4 Day rafting option. Mesa Arch (especially at sunrise) or the overlooks of Dead Horse Point or Grand View.

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Free Insiders Guide to Moab, UT

What to take, where to eat, where to stay, what to do, and a few little secrets on the side. Not unlike your own personal Jiminy Cricket, (minus the worries of the little guy getting smooshed) the Moab Insiders Guide will provide you with all the essentials for a perfect Moab experience.

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