Essential Guide To Utah’s Parks and Monuments

It’s nearly impossible to drive any distance in Utah without going through some spectacular landscapes, no matter what route you choose.

Marvel at colorful Navajo sandstone cliffs, the motion of a river cutting through steep canyons, and stunning views. Explore by hiking, biking, or rafting, or above it all on a thrilling helicopter sightseeing tour.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park

Be amazed at the unique geology of this popular park and its slot canyons. Hike a myriad of trails, from relatively easy to strenuous, and walk the rim to see world’s largest collection of rock formation columns called hoodoos. At night, look to the dark sky; this is one of the best stargazing spots in the world because of its high altitude and remote location. Bring a camera to record the moments.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Breaks National Monument

At an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, peer down 2,500 feet into a gorge resembling a natural amphitheater. In the surrounding Dixie National Forest, see wildlife among the ponderosa pines, aspens, and wildflowers. This is an International Dark Sky Park, an ideal place for stargazing, especially in the summer at the Point Supreme Overlook.

Arches National Park© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a red, arid desert, peppered with oddly eroded sandstone formations such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. Natural arches abound and come in all sizes, ranging from an opening of only 3 feet to the 306-foot span of Landscape Arch, one of the largest in North America. The 73,000-acre region has over 2,000 of these “miracles of nature.”

The 18-mile Scenic Drive climbs a steep cliff from the visitors center and winds along the arid terrain providing amazing glimpses of red rock features.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natural Bridges National Monument

Since natural bridges are formed by running water, they are much rarer than arches, which result from a variety of other erosion forces. Natural bridges tend to be found within canyons, whereas arches are usually high and exposed. A nine mile drive connects pull-outs with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges. Moderate hiking trails provide closer access to each bridge.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park

The vast park, just west of Moab and not far from Arches, is divided into three land areas and one river area. Ideal for nature-loving backpackers, the Needles District includes about 75 miles of hiking trails. Go to the Island in the Sky for an amazing view, and hike a family-friendly trail to Mesa Arch, a popular spot for photographers.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding.

The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park

Enjoy adventures in this paradise, a contrast of elevations and topography filled with colorful sandstone cliffs, dramatic domes, and towering boulders. Hikers, mountain bikers, and Jeep explorers can traverse roads and trails throughout the park. Visitors will see high mountains, rock formations, arches, plateaus, and stunning desert landscapes. The park is sometimes known as “Sleeping Rainbow” because of its marvelous landscape of diverse rock formations beautifully set against a backdrop of blue sky.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is known for its majestic towering rock mountains which rise to awe-inspiring heights. Zion is a lush green oasis, surrounded by startling sentinels of stone. With sheer, milky-white cliffs, Zion is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are formations like the Watchman, which towers 2,600 feet above the road, and others with dramatic names such as the West Temple, Mountain of the Sun, Towers of the Virgin, and the Three Patriarchs.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante spans many acres of America’s public lands and contains three distinct units, Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyon. From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the wonders of the Escalante River Canyons, the Monument is a diverse geologic treasure speckled with monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches.

Worth Pondering…

When lighted by the morning sun the gorgeous chasm is an immense bowl of lace and filigree work in stone, colored with the white of frost and the pinks of glowing embers. To those who have not forgotten the story books of childhood it suggests a playground for fairies. In another aspect it seems a smoldering inferno where goblins and demons might dwell among flames and embers.

The Union Pacific System, 1929

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