Outside the Utah Mighty 5
Utah’s much more than The Mighty 5®. Sure, its famous national parks — Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park — are must-sees, but spectacular scenes don’t end at the parks’ boundaries.
Just beyond their star-studded borders, you’ll find equally-impressive red-rock slot canyons, sandstone cliffs and limestone plateaus. What these less-popular locales lack in national designation they make up for with easy access, peaceful meandering and uninterrupted wilderness delight.
Famous: Capitol Reef National Park
Nearby Fave: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument sits in the same sun-drenched Utah backcountry as Capital Reef National Park. The All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12 (from the north) leads travelers through colorful sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, picturesque washes and seemingly endless slickrock. Hike highlights include Lower Calf Creek Falls and Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons.
Set up basecamp in Escalante, which perches on the edge of Grand Staircase National Monument. Pamper yourself in one of Yonder Escalante’s luxury cabins, Airstreams or RV sites, and dine farm-to-table style at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in Boulder, Utah.
Famous: Zion National Park
Nearby Fave: Snow Canyon State Park
After a visit to Snow Canyon’s Navajo sandstone cliffs that share the same history and geology as Zion National Park to the east, you may find yourself wondering why it’s not designated as a national park. Snow Canyon State Park is a hit with families and all levels of road cyclists, rock climbers and hikers.
Set up basecamp in St. George, just a short 10 miles away. Book a room at Red Mountain Resort, golf at Sand Hollow Resort, relax at the Green Valley Boutique Hotel and Spa, and dine at Wood Ash Rye.
Famous: Bryce Canyon National Park
Nearby Fave: Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest
As Bryce Canyon’s lesser-known neighbor, Red Canyon inherits road travelers en route to the national park, but stuns them when Scenic Byway 12 runs directly through two red-rock arch tunnels. The highway displays orange-red pinnacles, spires, columns and hoodoos. Unlike Bryce, Red Canyon welcomes mountain bikers, off-roaders and horseback riders.
If glamping is your style, you’re in luck. Under Canvas recently opened its newest luxury experience Under Canvas Bryce Canyon just 15 minutes outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Check undercanvas.com for availability.
Famous: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park
Nearby Fave: Dead Horse Point State Park
Oh, the views! The panorama from Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Smack dab in the middle of Moab’s two national parks, Dead Horse’s slender peninsula of land extends off the massive plateau that is home to Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district. If you crave arches, hike to Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch just outside of Arches National Park.
Reserve a campsite or yurt at any one of Dead Horse Point State Park campgrounds. Take in the spectacular star show from this International Dark Sky Park. Or take the more luxe route by booking a room at Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa in Moab and dining at any one of downtown Moab’s brew pubs, pizzerias, Thai, or sushi restaurants.
Looking for more travel guidance? Read more of our adventure pieces here.