WHY UTAH IS THE BEST STATE FOR NATURE LOVERS

Are you a nature lover looking to spend your vacations in a place which is beautiful, easy to reach, and has the highest concentration of amazing natural wonders. Look no further, then there is only one answer: Utah! Located in the southwest part of the US, Utah delivers on stunning scenery, exceptional hiking, and even water sports in a red rock country desert, in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Utah is where you will find The Mighty 5 National Parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonland and Capital Reef. If that is not enough, how about a smaller version of Arizona’s Grand Canyon – Dead Horse Point State Park? Add to it 42 more state parks and natural areas and you would understand why, without a doubt, Utah is the most amazing state for nature lovers. Read on to explore what the state has to offer.

Why Utah is the best state for nature lovers - Zion National Park main overlook.
Zion National Park is addictive. You will want more and more of it with every visit.

WHY UTAH IS THE MOST AMAZING STATE FOR NATURE LOVERS

My first visit to Utah over 30 years ago, was a realization of my American dream. For years, even before I arrived from Poland to the USA in 1987, I pictured myself among  stunning red rock desert. My first opportunity to visit the state came when my son was born. I took a leave of absence from work and decided to travel as much possible. It was not an easy task with an infant, but that did not scare me away. I had no doubt where to go first- Utah and Arizona, both to this day my favorite states. During this 3 week trip, we checked seven national parks off my list, including of course The Mighty 5 Utah National Parks. Since then I returned many times and still hoping for more.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Zion Mountain Ranch.
Zion Mountain Ranch, with a distant view Zion National Park, will meet all your needs for relaxation.

MIGHTY 5 UTAH NATIONAL PARKS

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon’s beauty put me in tears the first time I saw it. Since then, I visited it in different seasons and each time its scenery delivered something new and fascinating. Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park is a delight. You will find there about sixty miles of trails among detailed sculptured red rock formations called hoodoos. Trails go along the rim and drop down into the amphitheater. Make sure to step down and discover park’s magic from within.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers . Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Step inside of Bryce Canyon National Park for a one of a kind experience.

If you have time just for a quick glimpse, one 18 mile road runs the length of the park and ends at Rainbow Point overview. There are 13 viewpoints along the road. Other than hiking, horseback riding, biking and ATV tours are popular activities year round. Cross-country skiing and sleigh rides are also available in winter. Far from major cities, Bryce is famous for its dark skies. Over 7,500 stars can be seen by the naked eye there.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Bryce Canyon National Park - bridge overlook.
Do not miss natural bridge overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Learn more about Planning a Trip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Zion National Park

For many, Zion is the king of Utah’s national parks. The first Anglo-European settlers, Mormon pioneers, arrived in the area in the late 1800s. They named the area Zion, which is ancient Hebrew for sanctuary or refuge.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Red rock vista in Zion National Park.
You will experience spectacular vistas like that when hiking in Zion National Park.

Situated in the southwestern corner of Utah, near the Nevada and Arizona borders, Zion National Park is easily accessible from State Route 9 or Interstate 15. The highlight of the park is an expansive canyon averaging 2,000 feet deep.

Hiking is the most popular activity in Zion. Here you will find two of the Utah’s epic hiking trails Angels Landing heart pumping five mile trail (in and out) and The Narrows at the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The Angel Landing is very challenging if you are afraid of heights but so worth the effort. I am proud to say that I finished it even though my legs were rather shaky at the end.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Famous Angel Landing hike.
Famous Angel Landing hike. I climbed to the top of this mountain! 

The Narrows trail is basically the Virgin River. The canyon is so narrow, the river covers its bottom in many spots, which means you have to wade or swim to proceed. Make sure to check the weather forecast before you take this hike. In case of heavy rain, there are no place to hide from a rushing water. Hikers lost their lives there.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. The Narrows hike delivers on fun and outstanding scenery.
The Narrows hike delivers on fun and scenery.

Not as isolated as Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion has all city conveniences right next door in Springdale, Utah.  This is where you will find great accommodation, including my favorite Holiday Inn Express and all kinds of tours and adventure activities. If for your lodging you prefer a real feel of the Old West, I recommend Zion Mountain Ranch on the other side of the park.

Why Utah it the best state for nature lovers? How about The Mighty 5 Utah national parks and 43 state parks and areas for hiking, biking and water sports! #Utahnationalparks #zion #bryce

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is located on the Colorado River just 4 miles north of Moab, Utah. This is an amazing park, unlike any other in the world. The park is known for having over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. This number is constantly changing with some arches collapsing and others being created. Other features include balanced rocks, beautiful pinnacles, and massive fins.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Arches National Park at sunset.
Do miss a sunsets in Arches National Park!

Just like in other national parks of Utah, hiking is a main activity in Arches National Park. Many of trials are considered easy to moderate so you do not need to be in excellent shape to reach park’s famous attractions. These trails provide access to amazing viewpoints of panoramic views and some arches that are not visible from the road. Some of the trails even travel under arches. Compared to other Utah’s national parks Arches N.P. has little terrain for backpacking.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.
Famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park looks even more amazing at sunset.

Make Moab, Utah your base for visiting not only Arches National Park but also Canyonland National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, each one with its own distinctive character. Moab also had an undisputed reputation as mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts. Jeep tours from there in each directions are also available there. See why Moab is an adventure lover’s paradise. 

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Hiking at Arches National Park.
Beauty of the desert at Arches National Park.

Canyonland National Park

Even though I visited Canyonland twice, I do not feel I even touched on its beauty. I experienced it only from the road and short walks, but I know there is huge area inside that is still waiting for me to be discovered. Why I did not see it yet? Because I am afraid to venture in on my own or even in a small group.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Mesa Arch in Canyonland National Park.
Mesa Arch in Canyonland National Park delivers stunning views.

Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah and the most underdeveloped. It should not be taken lightly. Getting lost in its vast desert could be dangerous. I am hoping next time to take a jeep tour into its remote areas and possibly camp overnight. The park is famous for one of the darkest night skies in North America and it is a popular destination for stargazers.

Still, there is an easy way to see its highlights. Start with a visit to the Island in the Sky district, a massive 1500 foot mesa, only 32 miles from Moab. The area offers many pull-outs with spectacular views along the paved scenic drive. You can also take a few short hikes from the road.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Canyonland National Park at sunset.
Canyonland National Park shows all of its beauty at sunset. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

Biking is a very popular activity in Canyonland National Park. With hundreds of miles of four-wheel-drive roads, Canyonlands offers ideal terrain for day and overnight mountain bike trips. For those looking into some water attractions among spectacular scenery, The Colorado and Green rivers are  ideal in some section for canoes, kayaks and other shallow water craft. For thrills seekers, the combined flow of both rivers rushes through Cataract Canyon creating a world-class stretch of white water.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Canyonland National Park - beauty in a desert. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.
Canyonland National Park – beauty in a desert. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park, the second largest of Utah’s The Mighty 5, is much less visited than others due to the rather remote location and perhaps because there is no obvious central attraction. Still, with its colored cliffs, narrow canyons, ridges, arches, spires and domes, the park is another example of Utah’s glory. Its name comes from the resemblance of the many whitish Navajo sandstone domes to the US Capitol building.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Hickaman Bridge at Capitol Reel National Park.
One of the amazing features of Capitol Reef National Park, Hickman Bridge. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

Just like in the rest of Mighty 5, Capitol Reef National Park hiking and backpacking are major activities. The park offers well maintained trails, starting either along highway 24 or the park scenic drive, and leading to arches, overlooks of the Fremont River, viewpoints of the reef, or along deep gorges. Opportunities for off-trail hiking and remote backpacking abandon. I love this park, but again, would not want to be lost there.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Hickman Bridge and a tree.
Off the beaten path Capitol Reef National Park delivers on beauty and solitude. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

For lodging opportunities around Capitol Reef National Park click here.

BEYOND THE MIGHTY 5 NATIONAL PARKS – UTAH OTHER NATURAL ATTRACTIONS

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation’s equivalent to a national park. Located far from major cities and overshadowed by Utah’s The Might 5, Monument Valley seems to be forgotten despite being featured in many Hollywood movies. And that is a good thing. I can’t even imagine flocks of tourist invading it and disturbing what the area is about – Navajo place of worship. Spend at least one night there and check for yourself how serene, beautiful, and spiritual it is.

Learn more about Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and its difficult past.

Why Utah is The State for Nature Lovers. Classic view of Monument Valley.
Classic view of Monument Valley. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Despite its close proximity to Moab, another stunning Utah’s attraction Dead Horse Point State Park remains practically deserted even in high season. Photographers love it, but regular tourist skip this jewel most likely because of its state versus national ranking. They do not know what they are missing. The parks is a smaller version of the Grand Canyon! Most people think that the famous end scene from Thelma and Louise movie was filmed in the Grand Canyon, but in fact it took place in this relatively unknown park.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Dead Horse State Park.
Dead Horse State Park in Utah invites you with its beauty and serenity.

Cottonwood Canyon

I you like dirt roads, this nature ride is meant for you! Cottonwood Canyon Road, Utah, a water carved canyon cutting through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument starts along US 89 and ends at Kodachrome Basin State Park. The entire length is 46 miles. This is a relatively easy drive, but some sections of the road are steep and narrow. Four wheel drive is recommended.

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Grosvenor Arch along Cottonwood Canyon.
Grosvenor Arch along Cottonwood Canyon.

The scenery is one of a kind. Walls of the canyon are red, pink, and white, with patches of greenery. There is a lot to explore along the road. Great hiking trails lead to slot canyons, arches, and springs. The major attraction is a unique sandstone double arch called Grosvenor Arch.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Cottonwood Canyon Road.
Cottonwood Canyon Road will satisfy your appetite for adventure. Photo courtesy of Jakub Jasinski.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

To escape the heat of summer, head to Flaming Gorge Recreational on Utah’s and Wyoming’s border, where you will find excellent hiking and water sports among red cliffs of the reservoir. The area provides varied recreational activities such as boating, waterskiing, parasailing, swimming, and fishing. Below the lake, the Green River is renowned for trout fishing and rafting. The area is unknown, peaceful and stunningly beautiful. In my opinion, a perfect family destination for fun and relaxation.  Learn more about Flaming Gorge Area. 

Why Utah Is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Flaming Gorge.
Flaming Gorge Utah is just what you need for a perfect family vacation.

What I described in the post are just a few major attraction I visited, but the state has so much more to offer. Check this map of Utah’s natural attractions and see for yourself. Just driving around Utah is an experience you will never forget.

Why Utah is the Best State for Nature Lovers. Wilson's Arch near Moab Utah.
Find a person in this picture! Wilson’s Arch near Moab Utah.

For a change of scenery check these beautiful destinations:

10 Top Reasons to Visit Iceland 

One week itinerary in beautiful Portugal 

 

 

Advertisements

Comments