Southern Utah in the USA is home to five different national parks Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches. And if you have five days here is how you can see the Mighty Five.
Zion National Park
Utah’s First National Park, Zion is characterised with massive sandstone cliffs in red and pink hues, verdant valleys and a narrow slot canyon home to its famed wilderness. A hiker’s paradise, this park has guided tours, camping, rock climbing and canyoneering among a slew of activities. The Pa’rus Trail and the Riverside Walk are hikes that are wheelchair friendly while the Emerald Pools Trails, Weeping Rock Trail and Canyon Overlook Trail are family friendly options. In fact you can even drive through the scenic vistas from the North Fork of the Virgin River upstream at Canyon Junction (closed April to October). The Mexican spotted owl, Peregrine falcon, the bald eagle and California Condor are found here.
Home to the largest collection of odd-shaped pillars of rock in the world, Bryce Canyon National Park has two campground sites for the summer and winter. There are several activities like moonlit guided hikes, telescope stargazing, seasonal evening programmes, Geology Talks, horseback tours and more. Home to several species of mammals and birds, the geological formations in deep hued shades are enticing. With narrow fins, natural bridges and Bristlecone pine trees the hikes range from easy 1-mile loops to challenging 11-mile round-trip adventures. Do check the sunrise or sunset when the sandstones change colour. Set at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, winter sports like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the Utah desert are a reality.
Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park has cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges. At the heart is the Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile geologic monocline which is like a wrinkle in the earth’s crust and extends from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. This is where you can enjoy some of the best hiking trails, four wheel drive roads and Fremont petroglyph panels that are over a 1,000 years old. Some of the sights that you must see include the majestic white sandstone formation Capitol Dome, a 400-foot-tall sandstone pillar, Chimney Rock and Hickman Bridge a large natural arch and Cathedral Valley a remote area home to enormous monoliths.
This National Park is an ode to the beauty of unending canyons and natural buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Green and Colorado rivers divide the park into four; Island in the Sky, The Maze, The Needles and the rivers themselves. With canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, spires and a rugged landscape this is the largest national park in Utah. Many mammals, birds and reptiles are found here, pretty much all animals apart from the amphibian species.
Arches has colourful shades, textures, land forms and the red rock park has 2,000 plus natural stone arches, soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks in myriad formations will thrill you. You can take a hike – there are many from 10 minute walks to 4 hour hikes that will bring you up close to the many natural wonders.
The spadefoot toad, scrub jay, peregrine falcon, red fox, antelope squirrel, desert bighorn sheep, Western rattlesnake and the Western collared lizard are among the several species found here. Do check out the Balanced Rock, Courthouse Towers, Delicate Arch and Petrified Dunes when you are here.