Utah isn’t known as a top travel destination but many of its residents are enjoying incredible and unique terrain not found anywhere else. The South part of the state is filled with national parks, monuments and recreational areas that can satisfy any appetite for outdoors adventure and astonishing landscapes. Listed below are my four favorite Southern Utah highlights to spend time exploring and enjoying.
Zion National Park
Zion one of my the best national parks I’ve ever visited. It’s 230 square miles of outdoor lovers paradise, filled with hiking trails leading up mountains to scenic panoramic views, through large canyons, and into water filled pools, creeks and rivers. This wide variety of scenery helped make Zion Utah’s most popular and visited park. That means it can become quite busy during the summer months and holidays. The park is well run with plenty of modern visitor facilities and a free shuttle to help get you from one spot to the next. Biking, horseback riding, canyoneering camping and
3 Can’t Miss Hikes
- Angel’s Landing – Hike 2.5 miles up a difficult, but not technical trail to the park’s most incredible lookout point. This hike is not for the squeamish when it comes to heights.
- The Narrows – Zion’s most popular hike takes you through the Virgin River, and is ranked among the best canyon hikes in the world. The river becomes so narrow in places that you can’t pass without wading through water occasionally. As long as you don’t mind getting wet and walking on some slippery rocks this is an unbelievably great time. The hike can last as long as you want, turn around any time or continue overnight (permit required) for 10+ miles of hiking.
- Emerald Pools – climb 1.5 miles and pass through the middle-emerald pools and scenic mountain views before reaching the upper-emerald pools. Once there you will be treated to a waterfall and large pool of water. It’s a great place to stop for lunch and enjoy nature’s beauty but watch out for the thieving squirrel population that will rob your day packs.
See all of the park’s hikes here.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Located just over 70 miles from Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon offers one of a kind landscapes and beauty to its visitors. The park’s man attraction are the large and numerous rock hoodoos colored in shades of red, orange and a hint of white. Although just as unique an experience and offering lots to do, Bryce is much less visited than Zion, and therefor rewards its visitors with more opportunity to enjoy the outdoors alone.
If you don’t have time to stay long there’s an 18 mile paved road accessible to all vehicles with 13 marked viewpoints to park and take in the beauty. For those with time on their hands hiking trails are plentiful, horseback riding, skiing and camping are also great options.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
At over 1.5 million acres this huge and remote stretch of land makes up the largest U.S. national monument in the country. This enormous area offers slot canyons, waterfalls, rock formations, petrified wood forests and a plethora of outdoor activities to keep anyone busy.
I haven’t visited the vast majority of the park but I did love one of the slot canyons at Willis Creek. Easily accessible, amazingly beautiful and much less traveled than other more famous slot canyons. No technical canyoneering skills required it’s an easy hike in and out with plenty of time and silence to marvel at the 100 foot sandstone canyon walls.
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is another massive area that covers over 1 million acres of land stretching across the Southern tip of Utah and across the border into Arizona. The main attraction to visit is the popular Lake Powell; home to 2,000 miles of shoreline, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the Glen Canyon Dam and endless water-related activities. Southern Utah is quite hot in the summer making it very popular to enjoy cooling off in the large lake; whether you like to be social or secluded it’s large enough for everyone.
While not officially in Utah, just over the border in Arizona there are even more excellent sights to see including Horseshoe Bend, and the world’s most famous slot canyon – Antelope Canyon.
James Kelley left an office career in his rearview to pursue an insatiable love of adventure and travel.
He’s now living a life of adventure and excitement without boundaries or borders. Keep up with his story on his travel blog escapingabroad.com.