Three of America’s most scenic National Parks can be found in southern Utah, each offering its own distinct type of scenery and natural beauty. Arches and Canyonlands are right outside the town of Moab and are easy to reach from there. Zion sits further south right next to the charming town of Springdale. All three offer a wide range of hikes that will please everyone from beginners to experts.
Arches National Park is unlike anywhere else on the planet. With over 2,000 red rock formations, Arches is a hikers' paradise. For beginners, or if you've brought the kids along, consider one of the park's shorter hikes, like the Delicate Arch Trail, or looping through Broken Arch toward the park's campground. Try a half-day hike, like the Devil's Garden Trail to the Dark Angel Spire, or consider a ranger-guided hike through the Fiery Furnace. (Be sure to sign up in advance at the visitor's center.) No time for a hike, or prefer to stay in the car? Drive to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see one of the most famous rock arches in the country, or get a view of a few of the larger arches by driving through the park's Windows Section.
Canyonlands National Park is divided by rivers into four districts, and offers an array of great outdoor activities. In the Needles or Maze districts, strap on your backpack for a multi-day excursion, with well-marked trails available for beginners, or open areas for those who prefer to strike out on their own. Biking in Canyonlands is not to be missed, as the park offers some of the best mountain biking terrain in the country, like the White Rim Road or Island in the Sky. Island in the Sky's sandstone towers are also ideal for free climbing. If you've never seen the stars in a remote area like Canyonlands, be sure to check out one of the park's stargazing programs, which are offered throughout the year.
Zion is Utah's oldest National Park, and perhaps its best-known. The park's cliffs are well-known for their climbing and bouldering, and the slot canyons of the Narrows are a great place to get an introduction to canyoneering. The park is well-known for its scenic hikes for all ability levels. On the easier end, try the Archeology Trail and see some prehistoric sites, or the Lower Emerald Pool trail to get to the Grotto waterfall. On the more difficult side, the Angels Landing Trail can be difficult and narrow in parts, but will lead you to a truly unparalleled view. The most well known hike is “The Narrows,” which takes you through beautiful slot canyons, but does require walking through sometimes chest-deep water on a long and winding trail.
Have you visited any of these great parks? Which was your favorite?
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Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin are hosts of The Travel Brigade Show - a weekly travel and destination podcast. Kathleen Curry is experienced in both the travel industry and broadcasting. She has worn the hats of travel writer, photographer, travel agent and hospitality evaluator. Her advice of, “No excuses, just travel!” reaches out to listeners who pick up on her enthusiasm for travel and benefit from her savvy advice. Her travel guilty pleasures are eating at a street-cart vendor so she can splurge later to order room service, finding deals to rack up sky miles so she can book her next flight and hoping her social security comes through some day because she has spent her future retirement savings trekking the globe.
Geoff Griffin is a reformed attorney turned travel junkie with over two decades of experience as a journalist and editor specializing in sports, outdoor recreation and travel. His current philosophy is that there are two stages in life - You’re either on a trip, or you’re planning your next trip. His travel guilty pleasure is trying recreation adventures that require the use of an expert guide to keep him from harming himself or hopping on a plane knowing nothing about his destination other than the airport code and wandering about a new town while relying on the locals to point him to the best places.
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