Experience the magnificent scenery of five distinctly different national parks by following our “Southern Utah National Parks” tour. As you head out on I-70 to Moab, the first stop is Arches National Park. Set against the alpine backdrop of the La Sal Mountains, Arches is home to the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. More than 2,000 of these spectacular natural wonders can be seen throughout the park. “Must sees” for many visitors include Balanced Rock, Devils Garden and The Windows, as well as Delicate Arch, a favorite spot to take in a blazing Utah sunset.
Arches also offers a number of hiking trails, with ratings that range from easy to strenuous. If you happen to be visiting in early September, you won’t want to miss the Moab Music Festival where world-class jazz musicians come to play.
The next stop on the tour is Canyonlands National Park which has been described as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth . . .” As its name suggests, Canyonlands is filled with towering canyons formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries. These waterways divide the park into four distinct areas: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. Favorite activities at Canyonlands include hiking, biking, boating and four-wheel driving in the park's backcountry.
After Canyonlands, you’ll head to Capitol Reef National Park. It’s located in the heart of Utah’s red rock country and offers 378 square miles of colorful canyons, ridges, buttes and monoliths. One of Capitol Reef’s most unique geographic features is the Waterpocket Fold, a “wrinkle” in the earth which extends for nearly 100 miles. Allow enough time to take the park’s 90-minute scenic drive and to visit the Gifford Homestead which includes a restored farmhouse that depicts Utah farm life in the early 1900s.
Next, you’ll take a scenic drive through Dixie National Forest on your way to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is sure to take your breath away with its natural scenic beauty. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. It’s a natural amphitheater filled with thousands of pillars, columns, windows and hoodoos (rock spires) carved by the wind and sand over millions of years. Be sure to stop at the Visitor’s Center to watch the award-winning 22-minute film. The park is a great place to go hiking, horseback riding and stargazing. In fact, the night sky at Bryce is so dark, you can see thousands of stars on a moonless night!
The last stop on the tour is well worth the wait. It’s Zion National Park, one of the top attractions in the state. Named by early Mormon pioneers, the name Zion means “the promised land.” Popular activities here include hiking, birdwatching, horseback riding, ranger-led programs and bicycling (the park’s shuttle buses are conveniently equipped with bike racks). Plan to spend a minimum of five days exploring all of southern Utah’s natural wonders. You’ll be amazed by the amount of spectacular scenery you’ll find in one geographic area. Don’t forget your camera!