Exploring Top 5 Utah National Parks

It has been a full, adventurous couple of weeks exploring Utah’s Top 5 National Parks.  When we set out on our 10 week roadtrip, we only had 3 Utah National Parks on our itinerary.  After encountering less than ideal weather in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to spend more time exploring Utah’s National Parks.

These 5 Utah National Parks did not disappoint and held many memorable moments.

Zion National Park

Zion was on the top of our “must see” list.  We have many friends who have visited Zion and plenty of people told us this was their favorite National Park.  We ended up visiting Zion on Memorial Day weekend so we expected it to be busy and all the trails to be crowded.

We never waited long to enter the park and were able to navigate around the crowds by going early or late to the more popular trails.  Do not be discouraged by the crowds, it is easy to go off the beaten path and enjoy the park.

We started exploring Zion in Kolob Canyons and hiked the Taylor Creek trail.  It was beautiful with a double arch area at the end of the trail.  Hiking with kids was pleasant as this trail crossed the creek many times and was not strenuous.

That night we stopped in at Zion Outfitter to rent our gear to hike the Narrows the next day.  After talking to the rangers and looking at the forecast, we decided to get to the parking lot by 9 am to ensure we got a parking spot, boarded the shuttle, and arrived at the Riverside Walk by 10 am.

The Narrows was our favorite hike at Zion.  It didn’t take long for the crowds to thin out and get to the point where we were hiking by ourselves.  We took a side creek and only saw a few other groups.  The water was waist high at times and the current was swift which made the hiking slow but the experience was phenomenal.

There were plenty of hikes that were recommended that we did not have time to complete.  I would have loved to hike Angel’s Landing but we did not get a permit for this hike on the lottery system.  We could have hiked up to Scout’s Lookout, but decided to go to the less crowded area of Kolob Canyons.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon was so unique with all the hoodoo formations.  The visitor center had great interactive displays that taught us about how the hoodoos were formed.  We picked up the Jr. Ranger booklets and drove the scenic road out to Rainbow Point to get a good overview of this National Park.

The highlight of Bryce Canyon was hiking the Queen’s Garden- Navajo Trail- Wall Street Loop.  It was so unique and picturesque that we stopped often to take in the views.  The hoodoos are more vibrant in color than can be captured in a picture.  The hike was perfect in the evening as the sun wasn’t beating down on us.

Bryce Canyon can be explored in just a few hours and holds the largest hoodoos in one area so it is definitely worth seeing.

Capitol Reef National Park

This was one of the unexpected treasures of Utah’s National Parks.  We were not planning on stopping by Capitol Reef National Park but picked up a guide to the Scenic Byway 12 and were convinced to drive this beautiful route towards Moab.  We enjoyed the perfect cup of coffee at Kiva Koffeehouse which had ample RV parking and a magnificent view.

Capitol Reef is named after the Capitol Dome which looks a like the capitol building in Washington D.C..  The area was settled by Mormons who had many fruit trees.  The Gifford House sells homemade pies and cinnamon rolls but they were sold out for the day by early afternoon.

We hiked Cohab Canyon and saw great views of the Capitol Dome.  It was a strenuous hike but we managed it pretty quick so we were also able to hike to Hickman Bridge before sunset.

This stop was only a half day and we were able to explore the highlights.  Capitol Reef had more to offer than we expected and were glad we made time to stop.

Arches National Park

Arches was the most difficult to plan out as they have a timed-entry reservation system, as well as, a permit system for hiking the Fiery Furnace.  I checked recreation.gov often to ensure we had everything we needed to make this a successful visit.

The day before we entered Arches National Park, we went into the Moab Information Center and picked up our Fiery Furnace Permit that I had reserved a week before.  We watched a safety video and we were given our permit for the next day.  We could hike the Fiery Furnace anytime from sunrise to sunset.

As to be expected from any desert camping, the Moab’s temperatures were hot while we were visiting in early June so we got up early and hiked before the heat was too intense.  Fiery Furnace was hands down our family’s favorite hike out of 15 National Parks.  Our kids enjoyed the freedom to climb, scramble, and explore this beautiful landscape.

We took a break in the heat of the day back at our camper and then after dinner we went back into the park to hike Wolfe Ranch Trail up to the Delicate Arch.  This is a must do hike as the viewpoint from below does not do justice to the magnitude of this arch.

Canyonlands National Park

After hiking over 100 miles the last 9 weeks, we were excited to explore the backcountry roads of Canyonlands.  We did do a quick 1/2 mile loop hike out to Mesa Arch and then picked up a 4 x 4 permit from Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center.

The drive down Shafer Trail in our F150 truck was not for the faint of heart.  We drove switchbacks down to the floor of the canyon before getting to the gooseneck overlooking the Colorado River.  Then we continued our drive to Potash Road and eventually finished our 45 mile trip which took about 4 hours back in Moab.

Driving this scenic trail was a nice change of pace and a great way to beat the heat in Moab, Utah.

Utah’s National Parks

We were so glad that we experienced all 5 of these parks.  Each one offered unique landscapes, adventurous hikes, and memorable moments.

These were the last National Parks of this roadtrip.  To check out some of our adventures check out these posts:


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Explore Camping Life is a place where our family of 5 shares our travel adventures. We camp all over America, hike through National Parks, and eat delicious food prepared at our campsite.