Red Rocks And Towering Spires -- A Quick Guide To Vacationing In The National Parks Of Utah

When planning a National Park vacation, you may immediately think of the most famous parks -- like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon. But, if you're looking for a great time in the outdoors, you may want to look at the great state of Utah. Why Utah? In addition to many other natural and man-made monuments and attractions, Utah has an abundance of less-crowded National Parks all within a short hop from each other.

So, if this might be just what you're seeking for your family trip, here's a quick guide to visiting these spectacular parks. 

Getting There. If you travel by air, you'll likely arrive at either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. Both access points provide a great starting spot for your vacation, including things like a variety of hotels and other places to stay before and after your flight, car rental facilities, and stores to buy what you need for your treks. If you start at one airport, you can plan a comfortable one-way drive through the National Park area before ending up at the other airport, as well. It all depends on your time allotted and whether you want to take in the larger cities on your vacation.

Speaking of Time... How long should you spend on your trip to Southern Utah? The answer will vary depending on your family's temperament, your amount of free time, and how much outdoor exploring you want to do. All five of the National Parks in Utah are meccas for hikers and winter enthusiasts, so if you're into long treks, you should probably double the minimum time spent in each large park. If you're more into day hikes and scenic drives, try to allot at least these times for visiting:

  • Arches National Park: 2 days, including short hikes and many scenic views of the natural bridges and arches
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: 2 days, especially if you want to descend on trails to the lower part of the canyon
  • Canyonlands National Park: 1 day in each distinct district (Needles and Island in the Sky) -- one day for scenic drives and one for hiking in the Needles
  • Capitol Reef National Park: 1 day to enjoy the views along the scenic roads
  • Zion National Park: 2 days to allow enough time to walk into the narrows and explore

Staying There. Each park hosts a nearby area with places to stay on any budget or group size. While some towns are little more than a collection of hotels and shops that have sprung up near the park entrances, others are filled with amenities to keep everyone happy. When visiting Arches or the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands, stay in Moab and enjoy this outdoor paradise. Near Bryce Canyon's entrance, you will find the town of Bryce City and near Zion, you can stay in the charming town of Springdale or the larger city of St. George. 

No matter how much time -- and money -- you have to enjoy the wonders of southern Utah, you can find plenty of ways to make beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.