In Utah cities, mountains, rivers and cultures converge. With five national parks, 44 state parks, six national forests, seven national monuments, 14 ski areas, deserts and mountains, natural beauty is around every corner. From the red rocks of southern Utah’s Mighty 5® national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion) to the Greatest Snow on Earth®, Utah is jam-packed with jaw-dropping landscapes and world class outdoor adventures – all just waiting to form part of the ultimate US road trip.
The Mighty 5®
Each of southern Utah’s Mighty 5® national park boasts unique features and some of the most breath-taking landscapes on earth. Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 naturally formed sandstone arches, towers, fins and balanced rocks, including Landscape Arch, the second longest in the world!
Witness the rugged terrain of deep canyons, towering mesas, buttes and spires in Canyonlands National Park. The mesmerising landscape you see today has been carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.
Capitol Reef National Park is almost like a planet unto itself. Here you get a real feel for what the earth might have been like millions of years ago. Experience spectacular coloured cliffs, sweeping vistas, massive domes and deep canyons.
The distinctive red rock pillars, called hoodoos, in Bryce Canyon National Park have been carved into the parks natural amphitheatre over millions of years. Take a walk through the impressive spires and watch the golden colours change as the sun rises and sets.
Follow the Virgin River throughout Zion National Park’s canyon, the luscious greenery contrasting the massive sandstone either side of you. Don’t miss your chance to hike The Narrows or climb the incredible trail to Angel’s Landing for an unforgettable experience!
Time on the road in Utah passes quickly as no matter where you are travelling there’s a scenic byway to take you there. The 27 state and national scenic byways are destinations themselves connecting the Mighty 5® national parks with state parks, national monuments and vibrant cities and welcoming towns.
Punctuating the drive are breathtaking views, national monuments and recreation areas, as well as state parks to visit. You’ll pass through pioneer towns like Henrieville, untouched by time and experience award-winning local cuisine in Boulder.
There is no doubt that Utah’s national parks feature some of the most astonishing landscapes in the world. But Utah’s state parks, and national monuments and recreation areas are equal to, and sometimes more alluring.
Monument Valley is the iconic symbol of the American West, with a deep tribal history located in the heart of the Navajo Tribal Park. The towering sandstone formations soar between 400 to 1,000ft high. Explore the 17-mile scenic drive on your own, via a guided jeep tour, or get up close and personal by hiking or horse riding through the valley.
The vast Grand Staircase-Escalante area boasts a mixture of colourful sandstone cliffs soaring above narrow slot canyons. In Goblin Valley State Park the landscape, covered with sandstone goblins and fascinating formations, is often compared to Mars. Bring your camera to capture the view from the canyon rim at Dead Horse Point State Park as you look 2,000 feet down towards the Colorado River. And admire the three spectacular natural bridges in White Canyon at Natural Bridges National Monument, each carved by the incredible force of water.
The culturally vibrant Wasatch Front of the western Rocky Mountains is home to many of Utah’s liveliest downtowns. The state capital, Salt Lake City, is an artsy, cultural centre with a bustling dining and shopping scene. Take a free guided tour of Temple Square, home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and containing more than 15 attractions related to their heritage and beliefs.
Nearby Antelope Island State Park, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, is home to free-roaming bison and antelope herds. It’s a craggy adventure destination with miles of hiking and biking trails.
Bear Lake State Park is a story of two halves; during the summer months sail, water ski, paddle or scuba dive the brilliantly blue waters. In colder months the park transforms into a winter wonderland to experience the likes of snowmobiling and ice fishing.
Head to the mountains to Wasatch State Park or Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest, or detour to Timpanogos Cave National Monument for spectacular colours and formations. Walk where dinosaurs once roamed and study real life fossils embedded into the rocks at Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument.
International Dark Sky Places
With very little light pollution and clear weather Utah boasts the highest concentration of International Dark Sky Places in the world, including four national parks, four state parks and five national monuments. You’ll have no problem catching incredible views of the moon, constellations, planets and even the Milky Way! Many areas offer their own night sky programmes with telescopes and astronomers at hand to talk you through exactly what you can see.
Film buffs will be in their element as they delve into Utah’s movie heritage. Since the early 1930s, Utah has been Hollywood’s go-to outdoor filming location and the state has played a starring role in big screen hits including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Footloose, Independence Day and Dumb and Dumber.
Having shot five films in the area John Wayne named the towering mesas of Monument Valley as ‘the place where God put the West’. Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump also famously ended his cross country run here, while Thelma and Louise took their final leap at Dead Horse Point State Park. In Arches National Park a young Indiana Jones discovered the Cross of Cortez in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Fans of HBO’s futuristic drama series, Westworld, will also recognise Utah’s iconic and diverse landscapes.
Each January, the annual Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Salt Lake, Ogden and Sundance Mountain Resort. Founded by Robert Redford, the 10-day celebration showcases the best in independent film making.
Adventure and activities
Adrenalin seekers are spoilt for choice with an abundance of outdoor activities across Utah including hiking, mountain biking, rafting, climbing, canyoneering, horse riding and off-road adventures.
There are thousands of miles of great walking and hiking trails throughout Utah. Choose between a stroll to stunning rock formations or a mountain walk with views of alpine lakes and dense forests. Utah’s mountain biking trails range from gentle introductory rides to extreme slick rock terrain. If you are tempted by a wet and wild adventure, Utah is also home to rivers and lakes that offer some of the most incredible water-based activities – white-water rafting, kayaking and swimming.
Local activity operators throughout the state offer guided tours from a just few hours to full day or multi-day experiences.
Getting to Utah
Fly directly into Salt Lake City from London Heathrow with Delta Air Lines, or for access to southern Utah, Las Vegas is just a one and a half hour drive. Once in Utah, getting about is straight forward. You’ll just want to hit the road, explore and savour the fresh air, blue skies and stunning scenery around you!