Utah's National Parks are a perfect domestic getaway for adventure-seekers and photography enthusiasts ready to venture out to sweeping vistas off the beaten path on a gorgeous road trip where you can fit in plenty of sights in a short time. Utah's five iconic National Parks, often called "The Mighty Five," are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, and Zion. Utah also boasts six National Forests, 43 State Parks, and seven National Monuments: Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, Dinosaur, Rainbow Bridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Timpanogos Cave, and Hovenweep.
Below are some favorite tours and highlights of Utah's magical, majestic National Parks that photographers, nature lovers, and spirited adventurers will all enjoy and remember forever.
FOUR FUN FACTS ABOUT UTAH
The only place in the U.S. where four states all meet is at "Four Corners," the border of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Utah is the second-driest state after Nevada and has about 300 sunny days a year.
Utah's Great Salt Lake is about four times saltier than any ocean.
Kanab, Utah is known as "Little Hollywood" because over 100 movies and TV series were filmed there since 1924 including The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Planet of the Apes, Stagecoach, The Outlaw, and Sergeants.
WHEN TO VISIT UTAH
Utah has a mainly dry, semi-arid and desert climate; summers are long and very hot, while winters are short and cold. The average high temperature in summer ranges from 85 up to around 100 degrees at the middle of summer in July, but the dry air and low humidity keep the nights cool even in summer. The high temperatures in January are between 30-55 degrees, but it drops below 0 degrees throughout most of the state during winter. The best time to go is during spring from April to June and in autumn from September to November, to avoid the extreme heat and bitter cold.
WHY USE A TRAVEL ADVISOR?
Nine Muses Travel can custom build a completely private itinerary just for you, your family, or your group. We can arrange large SUVs or 15-passenger sprinter vans, depending on the group size, and ensure you the most scenic drives with plenty of beautiful picnic stops. Your immersive tour can be conducted by the most knowledgeable guides in Utah so you receive the very best experience in the National Parks, and beyond. We also arrange the most unique and luxurious lodgings and have access to private jets for those who prefer flying private and having more control over their environment these days for more safety, comfort, and flexibility.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Situated in Southwest USA and easily accessible from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and by regional airports in St. George and Moab where you can fly private or via helicopter transfer.
Salt Lake City is Utah's capital and largest city, and many choose to arrive and depart from here. SLC airport is about 10 minutes from downtown and 40 minutes from Park City. One night here is recommended at the beginning or end of your trip for logistical reasons, or add extra nights in the winter for great skiing; there are several boutique and chain options plus more lux resorts in Park City or Deer Park, less than an hour outside Salt Lake City.
Las Vegas is another great option to begin and end your National Parks sightseeing. From Las Vegas you can even add a phenomenal day trip by helicopter over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and remote sections of the Mojave Desert to the Grand Canyon, where you'll land and experience breathtaking overlooks and maybe brave a stroll onto The Skywalk, a glass platform extended 70 feet - like walking on air!
Moab is less than four hours driving from Salt Lake City, and it's a beautiful drive! Two to three days is recommended for Moab, where you can stay in a boutique or chain style property or treat yourself to one of Utah's unique lodges nearby. Moab is your base for exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Deadhorse Point State Park. The best time of year to visit is definitely April-June and September-November because those summer months are scorchers! Highlights include tours of the parks, Slick Rock 4x4 and ATV adventures, whitewater or float trips on the Colorado River, photography tours, rock climbing, canyoneering, and much more.
SLICK ROCK 4X4 ADVENTURE
The 4x4 tour is definitely a must; within minutes of departure, you're scaling one of Moab's famous redrock fins on your way to "Hell's Revenge," weaving in and out of rock canyons and feeling the excitement of climbing unbelievable sandstone hills. On this tour you also learn about the geology and history of the area and experience a spectacular overlook to the Colorado River, Arches National Park, and La Sal Mountains.
PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Get out in the field to experience the stunning Utah landscape and master your photography skills at the same time, under the direct supervision of a professional photographer. We can arrange a comprehensive course that deep dives into everything from planning the shot in your mind to taking the shot in the moment; then make the shot in the "digital darkroom." Whatever your level of experience, this is a photo education you'll never forget!
Bryce Canyon is a four-hour drive from either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, and one or two nights here is recommended. Depending on how much you want to see and do, Bryce can be done in a half day or full day. The best time of year to visit is May through September when you'll especially enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and rodeos.
PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS IN RED ROCK COUNTRY
Learn to capture the essence of this wild, vivid landscape with an expert photographer as you discover the beauty of Southern Utah's spectacular red rock country. Hike to Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon where brilliant red Navajo sandstone walls rise 80 feet around you and look for Moqui steps carved by Anasazi 800-1,000 years ago. The daylight creates a fire-like orange glow to the sculpted walls, and your knowledgeable guide will show you how to best photography this natural wonder.
THUNDER MOUNTAIL TRAIL HORESEBACK RIDE
If you're a more experienced horseback rider, you'll love riding on Thunder Mountain Trail, which starts at the bottom of Red Canyon and ends at the top, offering the most breathtaking scenery of Bryce Canyon as your backdrop, along narrow backbones and switchback. For less advanced riders, there are plenty of other trails to enjoy!
BRYCE CANYON SCENIC FLIGHT
Get a bird's eye view of the natural wonders and redrock hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park from the cockpit of a plane or helicopter on a scenic flight tour! Your tour can be shared or private.
I'm sneaking Page into the list because it's just across Utah's border, about 4.5 hours from Las Vegas, 2.5 hours from Flagstaff, and only about 2 hours from Monument Valley, Bryce, and Zion National Parks. One or two nights here is recommended for exploring the unique culture of the Navajo Nation, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and Glen Canyon. This area has a lot of impressive lesser known slot canyons that are fun to discover!
KAYAKING LAKE POWELL
On this relaxing paddling trip, you'll kayak under massive cliffs and past beautiful red rock formations for amazing photo opportunities through Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. The waters are mirror-like and create stunning images. In summer and fall, Lake Powell's water is very warm, so you can enjoy a swim or even try cliff jumping if you're feeling adventurous!
Nine Muses Travel works with exceptional land operators who add unparalleled value:
RISK-FREE bookings you can change for any reason up to 7 days prior (dates and destination!)
World Travel & Tourism Council "Safe Travels" stamp of approval
Expert guides: historians, naturalists, artists, unique locals with insider tips & insights
Flexibility with your touring - See and do as much, or as little, as you prefer!
24/7 real-time support
I design journeys that inspire by highlighting local arts and culture, history, and cuisine for intellectually curious clients longing to feel deeply inspired by exciting destinations, culinary delights, and authentic cultural experiences on a life-changing, joyful journey of discovery.
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