Utah is home to five stunning national parks, affectionately dubbed The Mighty 5®️. Even though they’re in the same state, some within 100 miles of each other, each is incredibly unique. To explore each of them in-depth would take years, and you’d still leave plenty of remote corners untouched.
While you might not get to see everything, it is possible to hit the highlights in a quick trip, like on the Mighty 5® small group tour. Whether you already have this tour booked or are just starting to plan your next vacay, keep reading to learn a little bit about each of Utah’s natural gems.
Canyonlands National Park
If you take on The Mighty 5® Utah National Parks 4-day Snapshot Tour, you’ll start your adventure in Canyonlands National Park. Covering 527 square miles, it’s the largest national park in Utah. It’s a popular destination because of its close proximity to Moab, which lies just 32 miles from the park.
Canyonlands’ massive size means that much of the park is wild and untouched. It also means that the park has been divided into 4 unique districts. They include Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and two rivers, the Green and the Colorado, that cross the park.
Island in the Sky features towering mesas that rise out of the red dirt ground far below. They look like a disjointed mountain range that’s had the top of each peak cleanly sliced right off. The Maze section of the park is home to gorges that have been gouged into the Earth over thousands of years. The Needles section features pointed rock formations poking from the ground. If you have only hours to explore, Dead Horse Point is a must-see, as is the Islands in the Sky Mesa.
Arches National Park
Just over a half-hour’s drive away from Canyonlands is Arches National Park. Where Canyonlands is known for its gouged out canyons, Arches’ main features rise upward towards the sky, forming graceful windows.
At nearly 120 square miles, Arches is a fraction of the size of Canyonlands. And yet, it’s home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the largest collection in the world. The park is stunning to witness, with sunsets that are many feel are the best in the world. You’ll find hiking trails that cater to every difficulty level throughout the park.
Capitol Reef National Park
Moving west across the state, the next national park that you’ll come to is Capitol Reef. The park’s unique and beautiful landscape comes from its location on the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline, or literal wrinkle in the earth, that stretches over 100 miles long.
Capitol Reef National Park is named for the white dome rock formations that resemble the U.S. Capitol Building, as well as for the rocky ridges that look a little like a coral reef.
Most visitors head to one of three areas in the park. The first, the Fruita section, is more popular. Here you’ll find many of the park’s most famous hiking trails, as well as historic fruit orchards that you can stroll or even pick fruit from in the Fall. The Waterpocket Fold is the remote, southern corner of the park. You’ll need to be prepared for some rugged trails, not to mention rugged roads, to explore this section. The third section, Cathedral Valley, is just as rugged, with unpaved roads and backpacking trails set beneath towering monoliths.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is best known for a unique rock formation you won’t find in any of the rest of the Mighty 5®. Called Hoodoos, these formations look like precarious stacks of rocks. While hoodoos exist on all 7 continents, Bryce Canyon is the largest concentration of them in the world.
Many of the park’s hoodoos are concentrated in a stunning natural amphitheater. While hiking much of this is a challenge, a hike around the rim of the theater is not to be missed! Sunset Point is perhaps the most popular overlook in the park. From there, you can see out over hundreds of hoodoos in the most inspiring view in all the park.
Zion National Park
Utah’s first, and most popular, national park, Zion National Park is an iconic destination. The fourth most-visited national park in the country, millions make their way through the small town of Springdale to Zion’s gate each year.
Once inside, they have no shortage of options. If you aren’t afraid of heights, you can trek to the top of the famous Angels Landing. Or take a ride on the park’s shuttle. This is the only way to reach the lower canyon during the busy seasons. For a more remote experience, you can also visit the park’s northern section, Kolob Canyons. The area is known for its incredible sunset views and towering arches.
Conquering Utah’s Mighty 5®️
While Zion may be the most-visited national park in Utah, each of the Mighty 5® is more beautiful than the last. If you want to experience the highlights of each of these iconic parks, check out our Mighty 5® Small Group Tour!