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Old 02-14-2022, 10:13 AM   #1
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Utah National Parks Trip

Planning a trip to Utah to visit all 5 parks. Im looking for your favorite must do - see things.

Appreciate any pointers you may have.
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Old 02-14-2022, 10:36 AM   #2
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In addition to the national parks, I like Cedar Breaks National Monument and Goblin Valley State Park.

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Old 02-14-2022, 11:35 AM   #3
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Plan a month! So much to see and do. Can get very hot during the daytime so take lots of water and snacks on hikes. Also, Bryce, with its elevation, can get fairly cold at night. We were there once in June and the furnace ran much of the night and drained our batteries.
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Old 02-14-2022, 11:58 AM   #4
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I liked canyonlands better than arches.
also capital reef is not near as crowded
in western colorado the colorado national monument must be seen
truly breathtaking
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Old 02-14-2022, 12:04 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Legolas View Post
Planning a trip to Utah to visit all 5 parks. Im looking for your favorite must do - see things.

Appreciate any pointers you may have.
My advice is to get MORE TIME - and visit State Parks - Talk to the locals to find the true Great Secrets - Do Early - not in the day but in the early Spring Late Winter, gets hot in Utah south of I-70 in the Summer.

Lake Powell
Angels Landing
Antelope Canyon
Horse Shoe
Monument Valley
Mexican Hat
On..................and On

So much to see and Never Enough TIME,
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Old 02-14-2022, 01:16 PM   #6
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Every national (& state) park has a great web site giving special alerts, road or other closings, things to do, maps, camping information, etc. That's really all you need for touring information.

Here is Zion's web site. (Use the for all national parks)

I'd also recommend not trying to make a camp base station and tour around to other parks. That's entirely too much wasted time of driving. Move to each park for the best overall experience. They are all worth your time!

The state parks are great, also, but our national parks are there for a reason. They deserve visiting at least once.
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Old 02-15-2022, 06:12 AM   #7
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Every National Park has its own personality and unique features, so what one person may enjoy another may not. That being said, we did the same trip with our kids some years back during the summer months when they were off from school. We all had a wonderful time.

Our favorite National Parks were Bryce Canyon, Zion and Capitol Reef. (I believe that Capitol Reef is seriously underrated and often overlooked). Our favorite State Park was Goblin Valley.

Our favorite activities of the trip were swimming in the Virgin River at Zion (but that may no longer be a safe option); hiking among the hoodoos at Bryce; picking fruit in the orchards at Capitol Reef; hiking Whale Rock at Canyonlands; and climbing among the "goblins" at Goblin Valley.

A few random comments . . . Be aware that there are height restrictions at the Zion/Mt. Carmel tunnel outside of Zion and be sure your rig will fit or be prepared to drive around. Our experience at Zion was better because we camped within the Park at Watchman - it was just a short walk to the shuttle from our site and an equally short walk to hang out in the shade at the river. While visiting Capitol Reef, we stayed at the Singletree Campground, a U. S. Forest Service facility near the Park (no hookups). Singletree was much cooler than it was in Capitol Reef due to its higher elevation. Because we wanted electric for the A/C and a pool for the kids due to the temps, we stayed at the KOA in Moab while visiting Arches and Canyonlands. Never again. Our site was exceptionally narrow and the pool was so noisy and crowded that the kids refused to go back a second time. Last, but not least, I agree with twogypsies that you shouldn't go with a base camp and drive to other Parks, but move from Park to Park instead. I think that would ultimately allow you more time in each Park and provide the advantage of being able to visit at times that the Parks are less crowded.

This is an incredible trip - travel safely and have a wonderful time!

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Old 02-15-2022, 07:13 AM   #8
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While you are in the area of Canyonlands, also make a visit to Dead Horse Point State Park. It has some of the best views of the canyons.
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Old 02-15-2022, 07:14 AM   #9
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I recommend spring or fall
Too hot in summer
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Old 02-15-2022, 03:29 PM   #10
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I know Arches has an entrance reservation policy this year. Cost $2 to reserve a time.
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Old 02-15-2022, 06:11 PM   #11
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x2 on Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park.
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Old 02-16-2022, 08:34 AM   #12
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The Utah tourist bureau has excellent information and many sample itineraries. Look for “Might Five” or “Road to Mighty Five” at There is an awful lot of information about state parks and other scenic areas nearby. Note that elevation is the key to temperatures, not the date. In May, for example, Zion may already be uncomfortably warm, while Bryce may still have snow on the trails.
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Old 02-17-2022, 07:39 AM   #13
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We were there last year in July, and it is HOT, always 100+.

We not only hit all the NPs but all the State Parks as well. Knowing we were going to do that I purchased ahead of time the State Pass year pass which saved us a lot of $$.

Our biggest mistake was spending a week at Bryce. Unless you are an avid hiker way to much time, as we did the tour in a single day.

Our best list would include Hy12/Burr trail all the way thru capital Reef, Canyonlands, and the Shaffer Trail down from Canyonlands NP. We did Shaffer in a Jeep but seen some in their little suvs. Gorgeous views of the areas.
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Old 02-17-2022, 10:00 AM   #14
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We spent a month and a half moving around to see all the big parks. Could have easily stayed longer. The way I describe Utah is to say you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some mind blowing scenery. I spent a lot of time with my jaw on the floor and my neck was sore from constantly looking up, and twisting from side to side. I expressed a lifetime of expletives and OMGs in that state.

If you have the time, and you are comfortable with a long backcountry drive, do the Looping the Fold drive in Capitol Reef. Capitol Reef was my favorite park.

Some of it is paved, and some is dirty/gravel but we did it in our Honda CRV with no problems.

Only suggestion I have is DON'T go to these parks during peak times. We went in the spring, before the huge crowds arrived. Even then lines were long in Zion. In peak times Moab could be renamed Mob.

I have a thousand photos and they just don't do the scenery justice because they can't capture the immensity of these places. You will feel like an insect amount these rocks.

Here's one picture that offers a little perspective, a rock arch in a canyon wall on the Fold drive. Look closely, and you'll see me standing with my arms raised. I'm the dark speck just to the left of the tree in the lower center. The panorama is at the start of the switchbacks. You can see the dirt road ahead and where it curves back and forth going down into the fold valley.

I've also attached a photo taken among the Hoodoos of Goblin Valley. This part of the park closes at 10pm, but in the spring it gets dark early enough you can hike the Hoodoos by moonlight or Starlight before it closes. The photo was taken during a waxing gibbous Moon and the hoodoo are illuminated only by moonlight.

The last two pictures are of a rock outcropping just off the road in Capitol Reef. It looks like chocolate layer cake. The white layers are crystals of gypsum and were up to a inch thick. Where it erodes along the side of the road it makes layers of shiny glaze that sparkles in the sunlight like broken glass.
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