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What Are The Best Utah National Parks?

What Are The Best Utah National Parks?

Utah national parks are some of the most beautiful in the country. That’s right; this land-locked state has more natural wonders than you can imagine. Keep reading to find out which we think are the best and why.

How Many National Parks Are in Utah? 

There are five Utah national parks, and all of them are in the state’s southern half. Within a day’s driving distance of one another, they make for an exciting RV vacation route

rving in zion national park utah

Utah National Parks Ranked from Great to Best

We’ve ranked the Utah national parks from great to best. See that little trick we played? Ranking these parks is nearly impossible since they’re all absolutely stunning! Basically, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to any of the parks within the state’s borders. 

5. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is just south of Arches National Park.

About Park History and Geography: Millions of years ago, marvelous canyons formed here from wind, rain, and rivers. People have walked the Canyonlands for over 10,000 years, and you can see evidence of this in rock markings throughout. 

hiking canyonlands national park in utah

Tips for Visiting: Horseshoe Canyon is one of the most famous sights in Canyonlands. It has significant rock art that’s nothing short of Instagram-worthy!

The Needles and Island in the Sky are popular sections here. You can hike trails here as well as enjoy ranger-led programs. There’s a campground in both of these sections too. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10

4. Capitol Reef National Park

You’ll find Capitol Reef National Park approximately three hours east of Canyonlands.

About Park History and Geography: Capitol Reef National Park is a geological wonderland of red rocks and Navajo sandstone white domes. Some of the rocks in this park are 270 million years old. 

Waterpocket Fold is a monocline, which is the name for steps in the rock layers that make Capitol Reef what it is. John Wesley Powell named this impressive site during his 1871-1872 expedition because of the many depressions in the sandstone collecting and holding water.

utah red rock

Tips for Visiting: Whether you have an hour to spend in the national park or several days, there’s plenty to do and see. If your time is limited, there’s a 90-minute round-trip scenic drive. Or consider a short hike to Hickman Bridge.

If your visit to Capitol Reef is longer than a day, we recommend taking long hikes or participating in a ranger-led program. Backcountry backpacking and star gazing are also popular activities in the park.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10

3. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is about an hour and a half north of Zion National Park.

About Park History and Geography: Bryce Canyon’s horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved into the Paunsaugunt Plateau have made this Utah national park famous. Frost-wedging and rainwater have formed the mudstone into hoodoos–irregular columns of rock. Bryce Canyon has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world.

bryce canyon national park utah

Tips for Visiting: Hikes and ranger-led programs are popular activities at this Utah national park. We also recommend checking out the 2 to 4-hour wrangler-led horseback ride tours.

Driving to Rainbow Point is also a highlight at Bryce Canyon. It’s 18 miles one-way and offers 13 pull-off viewpoints. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

2. Arches National Park 

Arches National Park is the northernmost of Utah’s national parks.

About Park History and Geography: With natural red stone arches, Arches National Park has a deep history. Native Americans, traders, and settlers have called this place home, and many seeking wealth, farmland, adventure, inspiration, and more trekked through its red-rocked beauty. 

Here’s a fact to emphasize how much you could explore here: It was only in 1970 that explorers numbered the arches to nearly 90. Today, we know that number to be more than 2,000 arches in the national park. 

arches national park utah

Tips for Visiting: You can see a lot of the park in a half-day to full-day visit. Hiking is a great way to see Arches National Park, and there are many hikes for any skill level. 

You can also drive on the scenic route to see many of the arches and rock formations. The drive also has pull-offs where you can take short walks for a closer look at the natural wonders. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

1. Zion National Park

Zion is the southernmost national park in Utah and likely the most popular.

About Park History and Geography: A first glimpse of the towering sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park leads you to see why so many visit this park. It saw its first visitors 12,000 years ago, and people keep coming! 

motorhome in zion natiional park

Zion, located along the edge of the Colorado Plateau, provided Native Americans and pioneers a place to grow food in the desert and a reliable water source. You can also see wildlife throughout the park. 

On a visit today, you can imagine its earliest settlers as you take in the park’s Grand Staircase. It’s a series of cliffs that actually stretch from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon.

Tips for Visiting: Zion National Park has many hiking trails for varying skill levels. You can also go canyoneering, climbing, birding, horseback riding, bicycling, and backpacking. We recommend planning your activities around the amount of time you’ll have here. Zion’s website has a map and guide.

Zion National Park Angels Landing Hike — Chains to the Summit! Not For The Faint of Heart!

If you’re staying for more than a day, the park has three campgrounds. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit? 

April, May, September, and October are the four best months to visit Utah national parks. You can beat the heat of summer and some of the more crowded periods. 

The summer months are also excellent for exploring any of these parks. Just know that this period will likely come with scorching temperatures and lots of other visitors.

How Many Days Do You Need for Travel?

If you’re visiting all of the Utah national parks in one visit, we recommend two weeks. It’ll give you time to do a limited number of activities in each park. Otherwise, if you don’t plan to hike or do a lot of physical activity in the parks, you could see them all in one week.

At the very least, plan 1-2 days per park. As you start planning the activities you want to do in each place, you’ll soon recognize how much time you’ll need to get the most out of your experience. 

Tom Morton in  Bryce Canyon National Park
Tom Morton in Bryce Canyon National Park

We love Utah national parks and hope you’ll get to visit if you haven’t already. Once you’ve gone, you’ll likely want to go again and again!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Larry Gosselin

Thursday 17th of June 2021

Hi Tom,

Interesting timing of this article. My wife and I just got home to Wisconsin yesterday after visiting 10 more National Parks which included all five of the parks in Utah. We had a great time in all of them!

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 19th of June 2021

Wow, 10 national parks! It sounds like you had an awesome trip! :)

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