Ultimate Guide to Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks
Whether you’re planning a vacation with friends or a big ol’ family road trip, Utah’s National Parks make a perfect destination for those who love the outdoors and are looking for a bit of adventure!
We’re going to let you in on all our best tips and advice – from avoiding the crowds to getting that perfect photograph. We'll even share what to pack!
This guide to Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks will get you all set for a trip of a lifetime!
What is the best time of year to visit Utah?
Each season offers visitors something unique. Spring and fall have the most comfortable temperatures for hiking and mountain biking. Winter boasts the least amount of tourists and the opportunity to see some of the iconic landscapes dusted in snow.
And summer, generally tends to be an easy time for people to make travel plans. We visited in the month of June, and while we had very hot temperatures during the day (especially in Moab), we were still able to do everything we wanted to.
How long should I plan to spend in Utah?
We'd recommend at least a week if you want to visit all of the Mighty 5 National Parks. We think 10 - 12 days would be ideal for a trip like this, and would allow you to see some sights outside of the parks as well!
What to pack for Utah's National Parks
Packing can be one of the most daunting parts of planning a trip, but lucky for you, we've got you covered with a complete packing list so you are totally prepared during your visit to Utah. And don't for get to pack some eco-friendly travel gear to help leave no trace.
Summer: Tank tops and also light layers to shield your skin from the sun.
Spring and fall: Pack layers because it can get cool at night!
Winter: Lots of warm layers for cold nights. Don't forget a hat and gloves!
Packing cubes - These babies help us keep our clothes organized and compact.
Shoes for hiking - We wore our Chacos everywhere in Utah! We also wore hiking boots a few times.
We love our Joby tripod because you can't always trust other tourists to take a nice picture of you (sorry, but it's true!). This tripod is super lightweight and helps us get great shots on all our travels!
If you're camping in the National Parks, chances are you'll go a few days without having access to an outlet. We love our Anker charger because we can get 7 phone charges out of it! We did a lot of research on external chargers before making the purchase, and this is one of the best ones you can get!
Cooler for picnic lunches - With the exception of Zion, you won't be able to find food inside the national parks. You'll want to be prepared with plenty of food for picnics and snacking.
Hat for shade
Sunglasses - We love our bamboo Tree Tribe shades. They are high-quality, lightweight and float in water! And the best part is that 10 trees are planted for every purchase!
Water bottle or Camelback
Chapstick and lotion - the dry desert heat can wreak havoc on your lips and skin.
Microfiber towel -These towels dry super quickly and pack down tight.
Collapsible backpack - This guy folds up super small and is great for day hikes!
WANT TO TRY OUT VAN LIFE WHILE VISITING Utah?
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 12 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
BONUS: We’ve partnered with them to give you a 10% off discount when you use the code WANDERING10.
Descriptions of Utah's "Mighty 5" National Parks
What parks make up Utah's famous "Mighty 5", you ask?
You probably want a little more information than that, dontcha? Below you'll find a brief description of each park, along with a link to a complete guide full of all the information you'll need to plan your visit.
We'll explain what makes each park unique, the pros and cons, where to get the best photos, camping spots nearby and even how to avoid the crowds.
Related reading: Traveling to Utah with your family? Check out this handy guide to visiting Utah with kids!
Known for sweeping canyon views of a dramatic red rock landscape, Canyonlands National Park is sure to make your jaw drop. Located just outside of Moab, this park is easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Drive through the park to one of the many viewpoints at sunset, or lace up your hiking boots and get up close and personal with the land.
Check out our full guide to Canyonlands National Park.
Perhaps the most iconic of Utah’s National Parks, Arches is known for the unique arch formations in the desert sandstone. The most famous of all, Delicate Arch, draws visitors from around the world and is even celebrated on the Utah license plate! Just outside of Moab, this National Park is popular for good reason.
Check out our full guide to Arches National Park.
Zion is the most visited National Park in Utah, and one of the most popular parks in the nation. And there’s good reason for its popularity. Pine trees dot the landscape in clusters and towering red rock cliffs rise on either side of the canyon. Carving through the center is the crystal clear Virgin River. This National park offers strenuous hikes, like the famed Angel’s Landing, as well as easy walks for the whole family!
Check out our full guide to Zion National Park.
Being that Capitol Reef National Park is not near any major cities, many visitors skip over this park during their time in Utah. The landscape is out of this world, and being that it sometimes gets forgotten on Utah itineraries, it feels a bit “off the beaten path”. Pick fruit from historic orchards, drive through a narrow gorge and see ancient petroglyphs in this gem of a park. We think it’ll surprise you!
Check out our full guide to Capitol Reef National Park.
Known for super unique pillar-like rock formations called “hoodoos”, Bryce Canyon is a stunner. Wander past rock formations that’ll make you feel as if you’re in a fairytale and watch as the sunlight dances and casts ever-changing shadows. You’ll certainly be enchanted by this National Park.
Check out our full guide to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Extend your Road Trip to See More Epic Places on the West Coast!
If you have more time on your hands and would like to add a few more states to your road trip adventure, consider driving west and making a pitstop in Vegas! We even wrote up an article on how to visit Las Vegas on a budget so you don't break the bank!
Next, head directly to Los Angeles to see one of the most iconic cities in the United States. But don't stop there! Head north on route 1 from LA to San Fransisco for an epic road trip! You'll see beaches and cute towns along the way, and you'll end up in San Fran – perhaps our favorite big city in the US!