One of our travel goals is to hit as many National Parks as possible. Ok, so I (Kathi) want to log every single one, and Ryan isn’t as ambitious!
When it comes to the National Parks, the Utah “Mighty 5” are a must.
After leaving Las Vegas in May, we headed Northeast through Southern Utah and went to 4 out of 5 of them, hitting the 5th when we circled back on our way to Salt Lake City. A special bonus was getting to meet up with long time friends at two of the parks.
Each park is amazing in its own way and worth a visit. We’ll just share a few details about each below.
Zion National Park
Zion is majestic and has to be one of the most beautiful parks we’ve seen. Huge mountains jut up from the valley below in spectacular colors that are almost unnatural.
A highlight for Kathi was getting to hike Angels Landing on Mother’s Day with her friend, Sarah. Angels Landing is famous for the steep narrow climb the last 0.5 miles to the vista at the top. Chains are installed in the walls to keep people from falling several hundred meters below. Although it definitely requires caution, the hike felt very safe and doable, but slow moving because it was busy.
While we were visiting, Zion was still requiring visitors to book a shuttle ticket to be able to ride through Zion Canyon Drive. However, Ryan was not able to get a ticket and decided to ride his bike the 7 miles on the main park road. This was one of the most memorable days for him in national parks so far and possibly the best bike ride of his life!
Bryce Canyon National Park
This smaller National Park makes for a great one day visit. The most impressive part is the Bryce Amphitheatre, a spectacle filled with hoodoos (now that’s fun to say) as far as the eye can see. A very popular trail, the Navajo Trail, takes you on a route through the canyon to fun places called Wall Street and Thor’s Hammer. We also had a lot of fun with our first true boondocking experience in the nearby Dixie National Forest.
First free dry camping experinence in Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon
Arches National Park
Arches was by far the busiest and hottest of our National Park visits. Typically by 9am people were turned away as the park reached capacity until reopening later in the afternoon.
We learned a lot about rocks and got to see some spectacular arches, hoodoos, windows, fins, spines, and mesas. The most famous arch, Delicate Arch (think Utah license plates), was out of reach for our family as it was 3 miles long and we were conserving kid energy that particular day. In our opinion, the most impressive arch was Double Arch. We also enjoyed going to the Corona Arch (appropriate, right?) just outside of the National Park.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is a very large National Park with 3 distinct districts close to Moab, UT and Arches NP. We focused on Island in the Sky as it was closest to us. We visited Mesa Arch, Whale Rock, and saw the Confluence Point (meeting) of the Green River and the Colorado River.
Capital Reef National Park
The last national park we visited last was Capital Reef. This place surprised us as we thought it would be the least exciting but it enamored us just as much as the others. It is a beautiful waterpocket fold that was home to the historic settlement of Fruita. The orchards established over 100 years ago still bear fruit and we had the opportunity to pick apricots from its trees. We drove through Capital Gorge, saw the Goosenecks, the Castle, and ancient petroglyphs. Kathi also had the chance to hike the Chimney Rock Trail early one money before the temperature rose to 1000 degrees outside!
Another highlight of this park was the spot where we camped. This was another free boondocking spot high up on a rock section where we could see panoramic views for miles. There were also huge boulders that were a natural playground for all of us (see picture below). This will likely go down as 1 of our top 10 camping spots for all of our RV travels.