The Southern half of Utah is littered with prehistoric rock formations and is also home to five of the nations most beautiful national parks. Utah national parks cover over 650 square miles of Utah desert land. Bryce Canyon and Zion are by far the most popular and so are the sandstone arches in National Park. Some lesser known parks like the Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef are also some of Utah’s best kept secrets. To avoid the crowds, plan your visit to Utah’s national parks in early spring or late fall.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is made up of slick rock and bald sandstone, and is a popular destination for bikers, hikers, and photographers. Three toed impressions left by dinosaurs cover the entire north end of the park. Trails leading up to Balanced Rock and the Double Arch are located on the southern end of Arches National Park. The Delicate Arch is by far one of the most popular attractions of Arches National Park, and is shaped like a horseshoe, and stands at approximately 45 feet tall.
Week long car passes are available to day visitors, campers, bikers, and hikers. To make reservations at Arches National Park, or to find out more information you can call the National Park Service at (435) 719-2219 or you can go online to http://www.nps.gov/arch.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Just off route 313 lies Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse State Park is located at the northern corner of the Canyonlands National Park and gives you a breathtaking view of the Canyonlands. Every bit of scenery here is just as good as the Grand Canyon and on rainy days the muddy Colorado River can be seen flowing through the valley. You can reach Dead Horse Point State Park by phone at (435) 259-2614 or online at http://www.stateparks.utah.gov. Day passes are $7 per person.
The Canyonlands National Park
The Canyonlands National Park covers 527 square miles of remarkable Utah desert. The Canyonlands are divided into three sections. The southeast section called Needles ascends to overlook Big Springs Canyon. The Canyonlands provides a more intimate setting and Pygmy Juniper dot the grounds. Hundreds of layers of thin sandstone are stacked on top of each other like a phyllo dough crust.
Newspaper Rock, a huge black stone covered in petroglyph’s is by far one of the most popular destinations in the Canyonlands National Park. Newspaper Rock is covered in an impressive collage of words and pictures created by the indigenous tribes that traveled the Utah deserts only a couple of hundred years ago. Canyonlands National Park offers visitors a $10 week long car pass. You can find out more information on the Canyonlands National Park by calling (435) 719-2313.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park, although one of the largest in Utah is probably one of the least well known throughout the National Parks System. Just of Route 24, Capitol Reef National Park is made up of walls that rise hundreds of feet in the air. For the most part, the canyon is dry but when there are heavy rains the canyon becomes washed with the muddy waters of the Freemont River, and can rise hundreds of feet during flash flooding. You can see lizards scrambling through the narrow canyon, and supposedly the park was hiding grounds for Butch Cassidy and his gang. For more information you can call the Capitol Reef National Park directly at (435) 425-3791 or online at http://www.nps.gov/care. Car passes for the scenic drive are $5 and free for those on foot.
Dixie National Forrest
Dixie National Forrest is actually part of the Capitol Reef National Park. Hundreds of tall firs cover the land and in the winter up to 8 foot drifts of snow come in between the trees. The snow can last until the late spring and then the land becomes covered with a span of red and yellow mesas. The grand staircase, or what is known as the Escalante National Monument is located within Dixie National Forrest and is a series of tight curves and 1000 foot or more ravines wrapped around a ridge line. It’s called the grand staircase because that’s what it looks like.
Bryce Canyon National Park
If you want to see the largest and most beautiful hoodoos in the world then Bryce Canyon National Park is the place. Bryce Canyon is bar far one of the most popular National Parks in Utah because of the magnificent hoodoos. The orange and white striped spires of rock look the best at sunrise and sunset, and can appear to cast a purple haze during certain fragile moments when the sun is at an angle in the sky. Photographers especially love Bryce Canyon National Park and you will often see them sticking behind for one last striking shot of the hoodoos. Week long car passes are available for $10. For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park call (435) 834-5322 or log onto http://www.nps.gov/brca.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park overlooks the Riverside Walk Trail that leads to the Narrows. The Narrows is a 16 mile trail that doubles as the bed of the Virgin River. Private vehicles used to be allowed in most of Zion National Park but now they are prohibited from entering north of the visitor’s center. Week long car passes are only $20 and lodging is available near by. For more information on Zion National Park call (435) 772-3256 or log onto http://www.nps.gov/zion.