Whether you believe it or not, Utah is one of the best U.S. states to drive through. It boasts 13 different national parks and monuments; including the Mighty Five parks that rank up there with the most-visited parks in America. It offers a wealth of outdoor adventure sports, ranging from rafting to skiing, and it has a great highway system that connects it all.
Add to this all the state parks and protected lands that would make any landscape photographer drool, and you've got a great road trip through Utah.
Here are a handful of non-manmade sites you should see while you're there.
Utah is home to the Mighty Five, a collection of five national parks that are beloved by outdoor enthusiasts, adventure-seekers, pro photographers, and casual tourists alike. Zion National Park is known for its diverse scenery, ranging from mountains to canyons and waterfalls. Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its distinct rock formations that have been carved out over the years pillars, towers, and steps fit for giants make for a great hiking backdrop. Capitol Reef National Park also has stunning landscapes (along with Indian rock art), but is much less visited than the rest of the Mighty Five. Arches National Park is known for - you guessed it - its wealth of natural stone arches. Lastly, Canyonlands National Park covers a huge area that's been carved out by the Colorado and Green rivers over the millennia.
Located on the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park characterized by flat desert and the rust-red sandstone buttes that rise up out of it. You may find that Monument Valley feels familiar and that's because it's been featured in movies and TV shows for decades, epitomizing the American West. Visitors are free to visit the park on their own (though there's an entrance fee), however I would suggest hiring a Navajo guide or booking a tour. This way, you can learn a lot of the native stories associated with each rock formation and get a glimpse into daily life in the Navajo Nation.
Utah's Great Salt Lake is probably its most famous feature; the capital city is both located near and named after it, after all. The lake itself is unique because of how shallow and salty it is. It's far saltier than seawater and is sometimes referred to as America's Dead Sea. It's also huge - the largest lake west of the Mississippi River covering an area of about 1,700 square miles. The lake doesn't support much aquatic life, but the surrounding area is home to many species of birds. There are beaches you can enjoy during the summer months, with Antelope Island offering up some of the most popular swimming spots.
Located in northeastern Utah on the border with Colorado, this is the spot to unleash your inner archaeologist or at least your inner Jurassic Park fan. Here at Dinosaur National Monument, thousands of dinosaur bones are exposed in a 200-foot-long sandstone wall. Millions of tons of fossils including full skeletons and bones from previously unknown species have been excavated from this site since it was discovered in 1909, and can now be found in museums all around the world.
And to think... these are only a handful of things to do in Utah in the summer. In the winter, there's also great skiing at places like Alta and Snowbird and Park City, along with everything else listed here.
Which sites would end up on YOUR Utah itinerary?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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