By Michael Lanza
All of America’s 59 national parks possess special qualities and scenery, without a doubt. But southern Utah’s concentration of unique and awe-inspiring landscapes sets its five parks apart from the rest—and they’re each quite different from one another. You should see them all, and a prime season for hiking the Southwest is just around the corner. In this blog post, I’ll share many photos from Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion, and tips on the best ways to explore these parks.
For starters, how do the five southern Utah parks differ from one another?
Arches has more than 2,000 natural stone arches, as well as hundreds of soaring pinnacles, giant fins, and balanced rocks. Bryce Canyon holds the world’s greatest number of hoodoos, or bizarrely sculpted pinnacles created by erosion.
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Canyonlands is a vast wonderland of multi-colored cliffs, deep canyons, tall spires, and two major rivers. Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long, jumbled ridge of rock, conceals sandstone domes, natural bridges, beautiful canyons, and bighorn sheep. And Zion, Utah’s first and one of America’s flagship national parks, may be the most varied and magical, from the 2,000-foot cliffs of Zion Canyon (lead photo at top of story) to a backcountry filled with geologic anomalies.
Ready to plan your next hiking, backpacking, or paddling trip to any of these parks?
Start by getting some inspiration and ideas from the gallery below, which contains photos from the numerous trips I’ve taken dayhiking, backpacking, and paddling in Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Park. Below the photo gallery, find links to the many stories at The Big Outside about these adventures in southern Utah’s national parks, from relatively easy trips ideal for young families (which I took with my family when our kids were young) to very hard-core adventures.
Looking for beginner- and family-friendly dayhikes and other trips in southern Utah’s parks? Check out my stories about the best dayhikes in Utah’s national parks, my favorite hike in Bryce Canyon, dayhiking in Arches, and floating the Green River through Canyonlands (one of my family’s best trips ever).
Want to find the best backpacking in the Southwest? See my stories about backpacking Zion’s Narrows, The Needles District of Canyonlands, Spring Canyon in Capitol Reef, and a traverse across Zion, as well as “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest” and “The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First.” And definitely read my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”
Plan your backpacking trip in Zion’s Narrows or other flagship national parks using my expert e-guides.
Are you ready for some top-shelf, expert adventures in the Southwest? See my stories about descending Zion’s incomparable Subway, slot canyoneering in Capitol Reef, and one of the most eye-popping backpacking trips I’ve ever taken, a mostly off-trail route along the spine of Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold (photo above).
Like most stories at The Big Outside, most of the feature stories linked here require a paid subscription, which costs just pennies over $4 a month for a full year or as little as 5 bucks for one month. My blog can help you find and plan all of your adventures. Get full value from it. Click here or the blue button below to subscribe now.
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See my All National Parks Trips page for a menu of all stories about national parks adventures at The Big Outside.
Read about my National Outdoor Book Award-winning book, Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, which chronicles the year my family spent taking wilderness adventures in 11 parks threatened by climate change.
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