Hoodoos and Stars
Hoodoos and Stars takes advantage of the proximity of Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef national parks to slow down and also experience some of the must-see southwestern Utah landscapes and experiences along the way — including the world's best dark skies.
Start: Las Vegas
In the option shown below, you'll travel west to east from Zion to Capitol Reef National Park. Consider adding an extra day or two for a more leisurely return drive and departure from Salt Lake City. Salt Lake start: You could also reverse the days, land in Salt Lake and head first Capitol Reef for a Zion finish and a departure from Las Vegas.
Hoodoos and Gems takes advantage of the proximity of Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef national parks to also experience some of the must-see destinations along the way.
Day 1: As shown below, this Utah itinerary starts in Zion National Park by way of Las Vegas. The hikes at Zion include Angels Landing, a perennial top hike by any measure and 5.4 miles you’ll never forget. After a dip (or extended walk) in the Virgin River that carved The Narrows, stay overnight in or near Zion.
Days 2–3: The next day, make way for Bryce Canyon via the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Drive, saving time for the Canyon Overlook Trail just past the tunnel. Even better? Get there early for sunrise. The day's drive will take you to Bryce Canyon, but not before a stop at nearby Red Canyon to follow in the footsteps of outlaw Butch Cassidy or break out the mountain bikes. Once in Bryce, you'll have very good reason to stay up for the pristine dark skies. During the day, tackle the Queens Garden/Navajo trail, easily one of the best 3-mile hikes around.
Day 4–5: The All-American Highway Scenic Byway 12 fills your windshield with a splashy desert palette while you drive towards Capitol Reef National Park. There is a lot to see and do along the way, and we call a lot of that the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Much of the monument is rugged and remote, and we'll save it for another trip. For just a taste of the landscape, consider the spur road to Kodachrome Basin State Park before continuing up the byway. Then, it's dinner reservations at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder.
Days 5–6: In Capitol Reef, cruise the scenic byway behind the visitor center to spot ancient petroglyphs or grab a hike along S.R. 24. There are shorter options for families and longer options for adventurers. Either way, save time to pick fruit in season and grab fresh-baked pies at Gifford Homestead for everyone. Nearby Torrey offers great dining options and Capitol Reef is an accredited dark sky park, so you'll welcome a couple of nights in this majestic land.
Days 6–7 (optional): After a couple of days in Capitol Reef, return the long route to Las Vegas or consider a departure from Salt Lake with time to explore all this outdoorsy and welcoming city has to offer.
A Party of Astronomic Proportions
Every Saturday from May through Labor Day weekend, weather dependent, crowds ranging from 100 to 500 people gather at Cedar Break’s main overlook, Point Supreme, to gaze up at the region’s amazing dark skies and explore the stars and the planets that make up the solar system.
Dark Skies in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a designated International Dark Sky Park. Make plans to come see the most magnificent night sky ever!
Find a Winter Refresh in a Utah State Park
The best Utah state parks will entice you with ice fishing, white sand and snow-dusted scenery. Take a winter break to refresh with a visit to a few of these places.
Reclaiming the Stars
Utah’s public lands are beautiful and dramatic during the day, but they might well become famous for how awe-inspiring they are during the night.
Tips for Astrophotography
Need tips on how to take pictures of stars? Utah is the perfect location to put tips from an award-winning photographer into action.