Utah National Parks


Like Picasso’s blue period, Utah national parks are variations on a theme — petrified Jurassic sediments sculpted by wind, water and time — but each one exhilarates in its own way.

Families/High-adventurers/Leisurely travelers can hike/bike/tour/explore southern Utah’s unending fins/buttes/hoodoos/canyons. Raft the Colorado River, walk the earth’s seams or watch the sunset through a hole in a mountain.

Choose your own adventure.

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A California CondoR Beds in Zion

(That’s not only true (they’re not extinct after all!), it’s a helpful mnemonic for remembering the Utah national parks from east to west)

​Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion: Five sculptural interpretations of the Colorado Plateau, cut with a big, slow chisel.

38˚ North on the Utah Map

Something good happened a while back at 38˚ north latitude. All five of the national parks in Utah are within a sandstone’s throw of it — in fact, you could drive through them all in a single overstimulated afternoon. (You could, but you shouldn’t. That’d be like sprinting through the Louvre.)

Over 150 million years the soft-ish stone sediments in these five spots relented in weird, beautiful ways, cutting open a color spectrum of reds, pinks, yellows, grays and whites, all dappled with green. It’s called the Grand Staircase, but you could think of it as a peeling painting, a dozen layers on display from Bryce to the Grand Canyon.


Arches →

The Holey Land (See: Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Fiery Furnace)


Canyonlands →

The slow work of merciless rivers (See: Grand View Point, Horseshoe Canyon, how tough you are)


Capitol Reef →

A snag in the earth’s crust, 100 miles long (See: Waterpocket Fold, historic Fruita)


Bryce Canyon →

Sometimes-snowy erosions, elevated (See: Navajo Loop, Fairyland Point/Loop)


Zion →

The oldest, the most visited (See: Subway, Angels Landing, your life flash before your eyes)


Museums of Ancient Art

Michelangelo wasn’t bad; Rembrandt made nice pictures; and Kahlo had some interesting ideas; but the Earth’s greatest masterpieces weren’t made by human hands. And they’re all in southern Utah.

It’s a reddish-orangey-pink swath of a United State that’s eroded in audacious ways. New York’s got the Museum of Modern Art; Utah has FIVE museums of ancient art. Climb through a hole punched in a mountain, hike through a slot canyon, kayak the Colorado River and explore Bryce Canyon’s rock opera. It’s art appreciation... in hiking boots.


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