Every state thinks itís fun. Every state claims to have something for everyone. But not every state has distinct geographic regions, five national parks, 46 state parks, 5 national historic sites and trails, a dozen national monuments, a landlocked state with great beaches, the best ski resorts, recreation areas, rock climbing, canyons, perfect snow, rugged red rocks, alpine lakes and more. Here you can see towering rock monuments, great arches, waterfalls, friendly cities, and the best people in the world to ensure that this reputation holds true.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Follow the paths where native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zionís unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures. Known for its sheer 2,000-foot cliffs and river-carved canyons, Zion deserves to be on every Utah travel agenda. Zion is home to some of the most iconic views and trails in the National Park Service, and everyone seems to know it. Overcrowding at this park is common. Itís impossible to have a bad view in Zion. The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is a paved path that leads to the gorgeous green waters of the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Short and steep, the Weeping Rock Trail showcases Zionís hanging gardens. The 5 mile Angelís Landing Trail is not for the faint of heart. The trail has steep drop-offs, and there are sections where only a chain provides support as visitors pass in both directions. The trail takes you to a peak in the middle of Zion Canyon. The out-and-back trail includes 1,500 feet of elevation gain and takes roughly four hours to hike. The Narrows is an unforgettable gorge with soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. Also consider hiking the 14 mile trail to Kolob Arch, one of the largest natural arches on earth. There is no match for the soaring perspective on trails like Angels Landing and the Narrows, but you donít have to hike to see why the park is so special. The roadways leading through Zion provide ample viewing opportunities. While its massive backcountry trail system can make for an incredible extended stay, the unbridled beauty from basically any spot in the park coupled with easy access makes Zion a perfect one-day trip. However, if itís your first visit, try to spend at least two or three nights and venture to both Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Hoodoos exist on every continent, but here is the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. Situated along a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, the park's high elevations include numerous life communities, fantastic dark skies, and geological wonders that defy description. Bryce Canyon National Park occupies an otherworldly landscape composed of a dozen amphitheaters, or horseshoe-shaped canyons, on an eroded escarpment of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The whimsical formations of limestone rock, created by erosion and rain, are entrancing to visitors who love to explore the slot canyons, windows, fins and, most notably, the tall, skinny spires called hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon National Park boasts more hoodoos than any other place in the world. With elevations reaching 9,115 feet, Bryce offers about 150 miles of visibility on a clear day. Since it's exposed to very little light pollution, the park offers optimal conditions for stargazing. Perhaps nowhere else in the Southwest can compete with southern Utah when it comes to the sheer number of geological works of art. Soaring pinnacles and arches, dizzyingly deep canyons and rainbow-colored, alien-looking rocks are all par for the course. The bones of the earth and the powerful natural processes that shape them.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Located just 5 miles north of Moab is Arches National Park, which contains the worldís largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Although over 2,000 arches are located within the parkís 76,518 acres, the park also contains an astounding variety of geological formations. Colossal sandstone fins, massive balanced rocks, soaring pinnacles and spires dwarf visitors as they explore the parkís hiking trails. A paved scenic drive takes visitors to many of the major viewpoints within the park. There is one road that travels through Arches National Park and that is Arches Scenic Drive. The best time to visit Arches National Park is in the spring and the fall when temperatures are mild. However, while winter weather in Arches may not be the most predictable, the sheer lack of crowds makes it one of the best times of the year to visit. Thankfully, despite its high altitude, the park rarely sees heavy snowfall and the entire park is accessible throughout the whole year. The park is part of the Colorado Plateau with a high desert biosphere. The Arches National Park lies on top of a salt bed which underwent extreme climate changes millions of years ago. The debris from floods and ocean waters compressed into rock, pushing the earth upward into domes and down into hollow pockets. Faults also occurred such as the park's Moab Fault, one of the most highly studied geologic zones in the country. Vertical arches resulted from these conditions, and rock layers that weren't eroded away with time still stand today. Petrified sand dunes can also be found here which indicate where ancient lakes covered the area.
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Carved-out canyons. Sheer drop-offs. Body-wide footpaths slicing through red rock. Exploring Canyonlands National Park is touring with an edge. The whole park is a redrock woodcut engraved by windís and waterís big, slow chisels. The Green and Colorado Rivers trisect the Colorado Plateau, etching Canyonlands into distinct districts. The mesas you see at Island in the Sky look like a mountain range lopped off by a broadsword. The Maze is gorges, gorgeously gouged. Needles is a pincushion, pointy-sides-out. Chopped buttes, scored sediment and carved petroglyphs. Lots of sculpting, scraping and dividing asunder. Island in the Sky is the most accessible district in the park, nearest to a major city (Moab) and boasting a paved scenic drive with views of the surround buttes, fins and water-carved canyons, as well as numerous hikes. The Needles is less accessible, requiring more time, more strenuous hiking and four-wheel drive or boat ride to reach its secret corners, but it provides incredible backcountry approaches into some of the most dazzling landscape on earth. But even the Needles feels like a roadside B&B compared to the remoteness of The Maze, the isolated district west of the Green River. The Maze offers challenging backpacking, off-roading and hiking for seasoned explorers. If youíre feeling the life aquatic, you can also book a river trip on the Green or Colorado and see the whole thing from a boat.
Monument Valley is a 30,000 acre Navajo Tribal Park located on the border of Arizona and Utah. It's known for its sandstone buttes. The largest butte is 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The formations in Monument Valley have achieved some Hollywood fame as the backdrop of many movies and television shows. This iconic symbol of the American West is internationally recognizable and it is one of the most photographed places on earth.
THE GREAT SALT LAKE
The Great Salt Lake is one of the most asked about tourist destinations in Utah. It's a remnant of the massive ancient Lake Bonneville, the lake is now landlocked and its waters are salty. It is the largest lake between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. The Lake and its islands provide outstanding scenery and recreational opportunities in northern Utah. Sunsets over the lake can be breathtaking. Amazing red, orange, lavender and magenta hues slowly dissolve in the evening sky. The lake's turquoise waters attract sailors, its white sand beaches are popular with swimmers and sunbathers, and craggy outcroppings on Antelope Island and some shoreline areas draw hikers and mountain bikers. The Lake is actually the remainder of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which covered some 20,000 square miles of land in what is now Utah, Nevada and Idaho some 10,000 to 30,000 years ago. The present lake is about 75 miles long and 35 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 33 feet. After a series of wet years, the lake's surface area may be much larger but it will be only a little bit deeper. Water levels in the lake are far from constant. During its recorded low in 1963, some of the lake's 10 major islands became peninsulas. In 1983, when the lake reached its historic high, it flooded houses, farmland and the nearby freeway. Huge pumps were constructed to deposit excess water into Utah's west desert. The pumps were shut down in 1989. Four rivers and numerous streams empty into the Great Salt Lake, carrying dissolved minerals. The lake has no outlet so these minerals are trapped. Continual evaporation concentrates the minerals.
GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Encompassing over 1.25 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. The recreation area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, encompassing scenic vistas, geologic wonders, and a vast panorama of human history. Lake Powell is only 13% of the National Recreation Area, but one of the largest man-made lakes in North America. At full pool it is 186 miles long, has 1960 miles ofshoreline, over 96 major side canyons, and a capacity of 27 million acre-feet. Its maximum depth (at Glen Canyon Dam) is 561 feet. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is graced with scenic views, unique geology and evidence of 10,000 years of human history. As the water level gets lower, the re-emergence of rock formations is drawing sightseers after being submerged under Lake Powell for some 50 years.
Lake Powell is located in South Central Utah. The Green River, Escalante River, and the San Juan River join the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to form the reservoir. With nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, endless sunshine, warm water, perfect weather, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the west, Lake Powell is the ultimate playground. At 186 miles long Lake Powell is longer than the entire west coast of the U.S. Lake Powell covers an impressive amount of territory across the American West. There are 96 major canyons, some of which are 15 to 20 miles in length. It's no wonder Lake Powell is a national recreational destination of choice. The lake Area plays host to a myriad of plants and wildlife through a complex ecosystem that spans 1.2 million acres of the Colorado Plateau.
GRAND STAIRCASE ESCALANTE NM
Grand StaircaseĖEscalante National Monument is a phenomenal landscape. Sun-drenched Utah backcountry spreads out well beyond the visible horizon from the road. Depending on where you stand, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument has been quietly doing its thing for over 50 million years. But itís relatively new to us humans. It was the last part of the lower 48 United States to get cartographed, and once people started poking around they realized they were dealing with an un-spent wealth of ancient and modern science and culture. The Escalante Canyons area is the most popular area of the monument, especially among hikers. Active waterfalls, arches, riparian oases, sculpted slickrock and narrow canyons. The Grand Staircase area is more remote and less visited. It is spectacular and contains the most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah. It is surrounded by National Parks that is part of the Grand Staircase. To the north is Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, to the east is Glen Canyon and Canyonlands, to the west is Zion National Park, and it stretches into Arizona to the Grand Canyon.
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK AREA
Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the Earth's crust that is 65 million years old. It is the largest exposed monocline in North America. In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other. The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth. The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold. The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that has barely been breached by roads. Early settlers referred to parallel impassable ridges as "reefs", from which the park gets the second half of its name. State Route 24 cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, but few other paved roads invade the rugged landscape. The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. The Fremont River has cut canyons through parts of the Waterpocket Fold, but most of the park is arid desert.
FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL REC AREA
The Flaming Gorge NRA is located in the northeast corner of Utah between Green River and Rock Springs, Wyoming and extends into the Uintah Mountains towards Vernal, Utah. The area is a mixture of climate, topography, and recreation opportunities well suited to a variety of summer and winter interests. With 43 campgrounds spread over nearly 91 water-miles with a whopping 360 miles of shore line plus countless mountain retreats. There is plenty of room for everyone and inforgettable views. Rising 502 feet above bedrock, Flaming Gorge Dam impounds waters of the Green River to form the reservoir. At full elevation of 6,045 feet, it has a surface area of 42,020 acres. Within the Ashley National Forest, the forest is thick with evergreen trees, pinyon pines, and junipers that grow down to the clear blue waters of the reservoir. The lake is famous for its trophy trout fishing and for the beautiful red rock mountains rising around it. Below the lake, the Green River is renowned for river rafting. Flaming Gorge might be the West's most spectacular reservoir. Flaming Gorge National Recreation area is an all-encompassing outdoor recreation destination. With more than 200,000 acres of land and water. Beautiful any time of day, the Red Canyon Overlook lives up to its name as the canyon walls catch the fire of the intense morning light.
Adams Canyon Waterfall...3 (Layton Utah) Archangel Falls...6 (Zion National Park) Battle Creek Falls...17 Pleasant Grove Utah) Bells Canyon Falls...1 (Sandy Utah) Bridal Veil Falls...7 (Provo Canyon) Cascade Falls...8 (Dixie National Forest) Donut Falls...5 (Cottonwood Canyon) Emerald Falls...2 (Zion National Park) Ferguson Canyon Falls...25 (Cottonwood Heights) Fifth Water Hot Springs Waterfall...10 (Diamond Fork Canyon) Fremont River Falls...19 (Teasdale Utah) Gunlock Falls...27 (Gunlock Utah) Horsetail Falls...18 (Alpine Utah) Hidden Falls...20 (Zion National Park) Kanarraville Falls...4 (Kanarraville Utah) Little Deer Creek Falls...9 (Unita National Forest) Lower Calf Creek Falls...16 (Boulder Utah) Little Dolores River Waterfall...21 (Moab Utah) Lower Timpanogos Falls...22 (Mount Timpanogos) Mossy Cave Falls...23 (Tropic Utah) North Creek Waterfall...24 (Zion National Park) Provo River Waterfalls...11 (Provo Canyon) Stewart Falls...12 (Mount Timpanogos) Scout Falls...14 (Mount Timpanogos) Salt Creek Falls...28 (Nephi Utah) Timpanogos Falls...13 (Mount Timpanogos) Upper Calf Creek Falls...15 (Boulder Utah) Waterfall Canyon...26 (Ogden Utah)
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