Find Your Park in Utah
In 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial. That's 100 years preserving America's natural places and heritage. When you Find Your Park in Utah, you find the best of the American West spread across The Mighty 5® national parks, seven national monuments, portions of three national historic trails, two national recreation areas and one national historic site, all in one spectacular state. The NPS administers 13 of Utah's 15 national sites.
When you join the centennial celebration in Utah, you raft the white water of the untamed stretches of the mighty Colorado in Canyonlands then luxuriate on the placid waters of Lake Powell. Dinosaur and Hovenweep reminds you of this land's prehistoric life. Zion transports you through ages of erosion as you hike through the Virgin River. Fast forward to the ages of expansion and industrialization and you see the site where the nation was transformed by the First Continental Railroad at Golden Spike. Fast forward to your next vacation where you Find Your Park in Utah, and find yourself transformed by inspiring experiences in imaginative landscapes.
When you Find Your Park in Utah, you will intersperse life-changing experiences with unforgettable adventure. You find bucket-list hikes among fellow adventurers or experience complete isolation in rugged backcountry. Hike, raft, bike, walk, explore and stargaze away your days and nights into more memories than you can count, all in one spectacular Utah vacation.
Itineraries: see our recommended Mighty 5 itineraries, plan a road trip itinerary on the Road to Mighty or browse all Utah national parks and monuments below and Utah's northern, central and southern state parks.
Arches National Park
In Arches National Park, hiking, camping and road cycling can fill your itinerary. Every arch is a window into time and space that frames 300 million years of patient erosion. Arches also contains fields of spires, pinnacles and balanced formations that seem to defy the laws of physics. The National Park Service has options for half-day drives through the parks with brief stops at overlooks, but Arches National Park’s must-see hikes can fill several days of exploration. Like the more than 2,000 arches that give Arches National Park its name, Delicate Arch begs a closer look. As with all hikes at Arches, this one begins with anticipation and ends with a sense of fulfillment.
Canyonlands National Park
Utah’s largest national park has some of the least-visited areas in the nation, yet also has some of the most well photographed icons in the West. You can custom-build your Canyonlands National Park adventure with short but inspiring hikes for the whole family, a day or more on the rapids or a retreat into the backcountry. Island in the Sky is the popular northern section accessible from Moab, where easy and moderate hikes access views of the Colorado River to the east and the Green River to the west. The southern tip overlooks the rivers’ confluence. Strenuous hikes like Gooseberry Canyon and Murphy Loop descend into the canyon. The White Rim Trail is a must for mountain bikes and Jeeps.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park's visitor center and campground are open year-round and are near several easy hiking trails and the park’s scenic drive. In only a couple of hours, you can take the scenic drive along S.R. 24 for a snapshot of the park and even harvest fruit from the park’s orchards when in season. Stop for a couple of short hikes like Hickman Bridge and the Grand Wash or examine petroglyph panels left by the Fremont culture. With a day or more, and a high-clearance vehicle, you can explore the bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone “reefs” and canyons of the Waterpocket Fold or tour the Temples of the Sun and Moon and the rest of Cathedral Valley’s sculptured sandstone monoliths. Check ahead for current conditions of backcountry roads and washes.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is equally perfect for auto tourists looking for short walks to viewpoints and for backcountry hikers seeking solitude. The 37-mile scenic drive accesses multiple overlooks where you’ll capture your own memories of the park’s famous vistas. The Rim Trail offers near-continuous looks deep into the main amphitheater while Rainbow, Yovimpa and Inspiration Points access wildly different perspectives. Return at different times of day and night and discover the park’s ever-changing personality. If you only have a few hours, you can easily complete the drive and stop at every overlook. Some of the park’s iconic hoodoos stand 10 stories tall — something you’ll have to hike into the canyon to fully appreciate.
Zion National Park
Carved by water and time, Zion National Park is a canyon that invites you to participate in the very forces that created it. In the warm climate of southwestern Utah, step into the Virgin River and see the colorful strata that mark the ages rising for thousands of feet up to a narrow strip of sky, then hike to seemingly impossible places and heights. From Springdale or the visitor center, join fellow adventurers on the park’s multi-passenger shuttle system, which is the only motorized transportation allowed in the main canyon past the historic Zion Lodge during peak season. The park shuttles let visitors sit back and enjoy Zion’s lofty formations such as The Great White Throne, Angels Landing and Weeping Rock and keep the main canyon road free from congestion. There is adventure at every stop along the way. Plan time for ranger-led programs, the Human History Museum and life-list experiences.
NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Where red canyon walls meet the shimmering reservoir, you’ll find Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, a scenic playground for boating, waterskiing, camping, backpacking and some of the west’s best trout fishing. Look for lodging in gateway towns of Manila and Dutch John or camping on the Ashley National Forest. The national forest administers Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell
From Bullfrog or Wahweap marinas, Lake Powell’s 2,000 miles of shoreline wrap around the second-largest reservoir in the U.S. The lake is only a portion of the 1.2 million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area playground, a paradise for houseboaters, kayakers, bass anglers and photographers.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Take the scenic drive at 10,000 feet through the lush, green vegetation of the Dixie National Forest, where a fairyland amphitheater of multicolored limestone strata called Cedar Breaks National Monument plunges 2,000 feet deep into the plateau. Explore hiking trails or camp under the stars in summer and premier cross-country skiing in winter.
Dinosaur National Monument
At the Dinosaur Quarry near Jensen, Utah, interact with the 149-million-year-old fossils that give Dinosaur National Monument its name. Beyond the Quarry, explore a full array of rich history, scenic splendor and starry skies, all connected by trails and rivers in the monument’s extensive backcountry.
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Experience 1.8 million acres of outdoor adventure, star-filled night skies and expressive geology of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Slot canyons, slickrock and other geologic wonders fill your line of sight while hiking, mountain biking, off-roading and camping. Visitor centers at Big Water, Kanab, Escalante and Cannonville. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers the Grand Staircase–Escalante.
Hovenweep National Monument
In a stark and beautiful landscape of sage and juniper, explore the astonishing ruins of Hovenweep National Monument’s six prehistoric villages. In the 13th century, Ancestral Puebloans built towers and other structures, some skillfully balanced on canyon rims. Learn more with hiking and interpretive programs.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Discover three majestic bridges carved by water and time including Sipapu (“place of emergence”), the world’s second-largest natural bridge. See Natural Bridges National Monument from the scenic drive or hike down moderate to difficult trails. Stay late for a star show under some of the nation’s darkest skies.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Accessible from Lake Powell (depending on lake level and trail condition), Rainbow Bridge National Monument is one of the world’s largest natural bridges. Rainbow Bridge is a sacred symbol of indigenous people and an inspiration to modern travelers. With a permit, serious trekkers can backpack across Navajo lands to the remote site.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
From the Timpanogos Cave National Monument visitor center and trailhead in scenic American Fork Canyon, it’s a moderate 1.5-mile hike on a paved trail that gains 1,000 feet in elevation. You’ll trade scenic valley views for the unique colors and formations of the cave system’s three spectacularly decorated caverns.
NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
The momentous meeting of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific in Northern Utah marked the completion of America’s First Transcontinental Railroad. May through September, enjoy daily steam engine demonstrations and Saturday reenactments of the Golden Spike ceremony. Golden Spike National Historic Site also has scenic drives and hiking trails and is near the famous Spiral Jetty earth art.
NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILS
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California
It is hard to believe that young men once rode horses to carry mail from Missouri to California in the unprecedented time of only 10 days. This relay system along the Pony Express National Historic Trail in eight states was the most direct and practical means of east-west communications before the telegraph.
Experience the Pony Express Trail in Utah:
There are 40 points of interest along the Utah portion of the Pony Express Historic Trail, which followed the historic Hastings Cutoff route and trail improvements blazed by Brigham Young and the first Mormon settlers to the Salt Lake Valley. Hike the 4.5-mile stretch of the trail in Little Emigration Canyon near East Canyon State Park from Mormon Flat to Big Mountain or stop at Camp Floyd and Stagecoach Inn State Park and Simpson Springs mail station in the West Desert. There's a BLM Backcountry Byway for off-road vehicles or horseback riding near Camp Floyd, in Fairfield, Utah.
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California
Follow the routes of mule pack trains across the Southwest on the Old Spanish National Historic Trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California. New Mexican traders moved locally produced merchandise across what are now six states to exchange for mules and horses.
Experience the Old Spanish Trail in Utah:
Three different historic trails all cross portions of Utah. There are opportunities to explore areas where the routes passed near Moab and its neighboring national parks (Arches and Canyonlands), through the central part of Utah and southwest Utah near Cedar City, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, St. George and Zion National Park. Visitor centers throughout the region may have NPS passport stamps for trail enthusiasts.
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah
Explore the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail across five states to see the route 70,000 Mormons traveled from 1846 to 1869 to escape religious persecution. The Pioneer Company of 1846-1847 established the first route from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah, covering about 1,300 miles.
How to Experience the Mormon Trail in Utah:
By the time the Mormon Pioneer Trail crosses the Utah border, most of the historic journey was nearly over. It's about 75 miles from the Wyoming border to Salt Lake City, but there are dozens of historical sites along the last leg of the famous route. Get a taste of the journey on a 4.5-mile hike in Little Emigration Canyon near East Canyon State Park from Mormon Flat to Big Mountain then learn more at This Is the Place Heritage Park and The Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
Find Your Park
For the National Park Centennial, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have teamed up with partners to present engaging programs, events and activities that will support America’s national parks. Learn more about the Centennial Find Your Park campaign.