The national parks of Utah

Jamison Metzger
The hike through the Narrows provides a beautiful view for all who make the trip down to Zion’s National Park.

Utah is home to five national parks; only California and Alaska have more national parks within state borders. These parks display the beauty and land formations unique to Utah’s desert.

“I visited Zion National Park earlier this summer and hiked Angel’s Landing,” said BYU student Carter Spear. “This hike has been on my college bucket list for three years, and it was a beautiful experience. Pictures can’t depict the majestic scenery of Angel’s Landing.”

The hike, a 2,000-foot cliff with drop offs on both sides of the narrow trail, is one of the most popular at Zion National Park,  which is approximately 215 miles from BYU. The park covers 146,000 acres and costs $12 per individual or $25 per vehicle to enter.

Zion Canyon is home to the Virgin River and an oasis snug between giant cliffs  filled with various trails, climbing, camping and numerous slot canyons. This national park is the oldest in Utah, dating back to 1919. Almost 3 million visitors enter the park per year.

Another popular and breathtaking hike at Zion is the Narrows, a 16-mile slot canyon. The hike leads down the Virgin River, and in some parts the water can get as high as a hiker’s chest. The slot canyon has towering cliffs more than 1000 feet high. Another popular hike is the Subway, which is similar to the Narrows but includes rappels.

Arches National Park is approximately 150 miles from BYU. The park covers 73,000 acres and costs $5 per individual or $10 per vehicle to enter.

Arches has red rock vistas and more than 2,500 stone arches to accompany various outdoor activities, including camping and hiking trails. The park is home to the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches, most cut out of beautiful sandstone and red rock. It also has various other unique sandstone forms including fins, pinnacles, spires and balanced rocks. Arches is located near Moab.

Delicate Arch is the most famous and majestic of the arches located in this park. The arch is a Utah icon and is featured on state license plates. The hike is approximately one and a half miles each way.

Jamison Metzger
Graden Nelson, Kent Jarvis, and Jonathan Neubert wade through a deeper section of the Narrows during their recent trip to Zion’s National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park is approximately 185 miles from BYU. The park covers 35,000 acres and costs $12 per individual or $25 per vehicle to enter.

The cliffs at Bryce Canyon are actually not part of a canyon but of the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Regardless, Bryce is an adventure land with various overlooks, trails that offer majestic views and scenes of towering spires called hoodoos. Hoodoos are tall and thin rock spires that protrude from the bottom of a drainage basin. They can reach a height of 145 feet.

This park is also home to a natural amphitheater, which is the most visited area of the park. The rock at the Bryce Amphitheater has a pink hue that makes sunrise and sunset key times for the park to feature a rainbow of colors.

Capitol Reef National Park is approximately 130 miles from BYU, making it the closest national park to campus. The park covers 241,000 acres and costs $3 per individual or $5 per vehicle to enter.

Capitol Reef gets its name from a 100-mile-long bulge or fold in the earth’s crust called Waterpocket Fold. The rugged spine includes a line of white domes and cliffs that resemble the United States Capitol building and give the park its name.

The park also protects sandstone formations, canyons, cliffs, ridges, arches, buttes, monoliths and petroglyphs. It is a popular location for rock climbing and rappelling.

Student Jill Hunsaker experienced her first rappel at Cassidy Arch. “I’d never been rappelling, so I was pretty nervous, but the trail was well marked, and I felt safe,” Hunsaker said. “Our rappel went through this huge arch, and I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful area to explore.”

Canyonlands National Park is approximately 160 miles from BYU. The park covers 337,000 acres and costs $5 per individual or $10 per vehicle to enter.

This piece of land was carved by the mighty Colorado and Green rivers and has made it a rugged masterpiece. It is famous for its challenging 4-by-4 roads and water rapids. Canyonlands is located near Moab and is also a favored location for skydiving.

The Island in the Sky mesa is the most easily accessible and popular region of this national park. The sandstone mesa is made up of various cliffs, some more than 1,000 feet above the terrain floor. It is a great place for hiking, four wheeling and even just a pleasant drive full of various vista points.

Utah national parks receive high ratings. Hundreds of visitors to these parks have left their comments on Google reviews, ranking each Utah national park with at least a 4.6 out of 5.

“I grew up going to these parks with my family. I even spent my 13th birthday at Bryce Canyon, as my family was on a 10-day trip where we visited all five Utah National Parks,” said BYU alumna Kylie Brooks. “This year my husband and I have the goal to visit all five national parks in Utah, and we’ve already hit three of them.”

More information about Utah national parks or other state details can be found at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email