National & State Parks - 30 min read

15 Best National Parks, Monuments, and Trails in Utah

Dennis Howard

Dennis Howard, Updated September 20, 2022

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Utah is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery you can imagine. Among these national treasures, you can find an inspiring mix of history, adventure, and almost alien landscapes. There are enough things to see and do in Utah to keep your travel plans booked for months.

Utah is home to 5 National Parks, 14 National Historic Landmarks, 2 National Heritage Areas, 4 National Trails, and 1 Wild and Scenic Rivers. Over eleven million people visited these sites. These National Park Service managed places offer their own set of attractions, spectacular landscapes, and an unusual wilderness experience.

It is easy to see that one weekend won’t be enough to appreciate what Utah has to offer fully. Many travelers plan a week or more to explore their favorite parts of the National Park System. Each park has its own set of facilities, events, and possibilities. These are my favorites.

Contents

1. Zion National Park

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Zion National Park is number one on my list, and the first National Park established in Utah. Here you can immerse yourself in history that spans millions of years.

Evidence of early cultures in North America is found in this region. The canyons and rivers of Zion National Park made this a haven for people and animals for thousands of years.

Activities and Features

It would be easier to list the outdoor activities you can’t do at Zion National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors, there is an activity in Zion National Park for you.

Your Zion experience will be filled with wonder and excitement, from backpacking to river trips. Guided tours and activities are available almost year-round.

A ride in the park shuttle gets you to most of the best features in the park. The shuttle runs during the summer months to ease the traffic congestion in the park. During the winter months, the roads are open to private vehicles.

Among the activities you, don’t want to miss a hike through the Narrows. A trip to Angles Landing is also recommended but beware if you are afraid of heights.

For spectacular views, especially at sunset, plan a stop at Lava Point. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can drive the Mt. Carmel Highway Scenic Drive.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

There are three campgrounds within Zion National Park. Watchman Campground in Zion Canyon is a year-round camping area. South Campground is closed during the winter months. Lava Point Campground is also closed in winter. South Campground and Watchman campground have some RV spaces.

You might book a room at the Zion Lodge on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Reservations are required. There is also a gift shop and restaurant in the lodge. For reservation and other information, click here.

The areas and towns around the park offer various lodging and eating opportunities. Las Vegas is only about 2.5 hours away, which opens another set of entertainment opportunities.

2. Arches National Park

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No trip to Utah would be complete without visiting Arches National Park. You are familiar with the features that give this park its name, even if you don’t know it.

This park’s spectacular natural arches, hallways, and tunnels have been featured in countless films, commercials, and TV shows.

Activities and Features

Undoubtedly, the main attractions are Arches National Park and soaring natural arches and bridges. These stunning wonders defy gravity and nature. You can pick any number of ways to enjoy the unbelievable scenery in this park.

Arches National Park offers almost any outdoor activity you can imagine. You can camp, go canyoneering, enjoy horseback riding, or backpacking.

Auto touring is a terrific way to enjoy the park if physical activities aren’t on your schedule. Birdwatching and photography are popular activities as well.

Many ranger-led activities and programs are available at the park. You can also extend your stay in the park by camping at the Devils Garden campground. If you overnight in the park, don’t forget to spend some time at night stargazing in this dark sky environment.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

The only campground within Arches National Park is the Devils Garden campground. The campground can accommodate RVs and travel trailers up to 40 feet in length.

This campground is open year-round, but you will need a reservation between March 1 and October 31. The rest of the year, campsites are first-come, first-served.

There are no lodging facilities within the park. However, there are plenty of options outside the park. You can choose from a wide variety of hotel and motel options that keep you within easy access to the park. Online booking service for many of these is available at this link.

Bring a picnic lunch and snacks when you visit Arches National Park. Currently, there are no food service establishments inside the park. Drinks and snacks may be available at the Arches Park Store near the visitor’s center.

3. Bryce Canyon National Park

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Have you ever been close to a hoodoo?  Wait. Don’t you know what a hoodoo is? A hoodoo is an irregular column of rock created by wind and water.

Would you be surprised to know that Bryce Canyon National Park has the largest concentration of hoodoos you can find anywhere? You can get up close and personal with a hoodoo of your choosing.

Activities and Features

This fascinating area offers hikers and bikers some of the most challenging and rewarding trails to explore. There are many day hikes available and improved walking and biking trails. A walk along the Rim Trail is necessary to get a true understanding of this impressive park.

A drive along the Southern Scenic Drive is a safe way to see the park if hiking is not your choice of activity. There are nine scenic overlooks with parking and easy access from which you can view the majesty of this area.

At the same time, you are driving, watch carefully for wildlife, especially the pronghorn antelope that call the park home. Make sure you stop at the Bryce Amphitheater.

In this case, the amphitheater is a natural erosion formation over millions of years. This canyon has the largest concentration of hoodoos you can find. Three scenic viewpoints give you different perspectives on this wonderful feature.

Don’t forget to stop at the Visitor Center and Museum before leaving. Interpretive exhibits take you through the history of Bryce Canyon, the tale of human occupation, and an overview of this area’s geological and environmental uniqueness.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

You can go backcountry primitive camping to experience Bryce Canyon differently if you are intrepid. Designated campsites are marked, and you must get a permit at the visitor center before embarking.

Bryce Canyon National Park has two improved campgrounds, North Campground and Sunset Campground. Be sure and check with the visitor center about campground operations as they may be closed at certain times of the year.

North Campground

North Campground is located across the road from the Visitor Center. The campground has 100 sites. RVs are restricted to certain parts of the campground.

No hookups are available at any of the campsites. A dump station is available. Potable water is available near the dump station.

Sunset Campground

Just down the road from the Visitor Center is Sunset Campground. This campground has 99 sites. Approximately one-third of the sites are RV accessible. There are no hookups on the RV sites, but a dump station has potable water.

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

If camping is not your cup of tea, consider staying at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. This facility offers 114 modern rooms and a dining room. There is also a small gift shop. You should make reservations well in advance of your trip. This is a popular spot and rarely has an opening for walk-in visitors.

You can find plenty to eat at the park. The dining room at The Lodge is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The General Store near the campgrounds offers grab-and-go food, pizza, and sandwiches. Near The Lodge, you can find the Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop.

T&T Tip: Make your reservations for camping or at The Lodge well before visiting.

4. Canyonlands National Park

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You must plan your visit to Canyonlands National Park in advance. The park is divided into four districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon Unit.

Each offers its own flavor and unique geological features. Unfortunately, there is no easy road link between the districts inside the park and long car drives may be required to access different areas.

Don’t forget the rivers of the Canyonlands National Park. The Colorado River is the primary channel responsible for the formation of the areas of the park. However, the many tributaries of the Colorado River also played a role and make for some interesting exploration.

Activities and Features

Canyonlands National Park is like four parks in one. The unique districts of the park are different enough to make them stand out or stand-alone. It has been said that Canyonlands National Park needs a lifetime to explore and understand fully.

Island in the Sky

The Colorado River left this huge mesa towering above the surrounding area. At every turn, you find breath-taking vistas of the surrounding valleys.

In many ways, this is the easiest district of the park to visit and requires the least amount of time. You can hike or four-wheel drive to your heart’s content. Or sit on the mesa edge and marvel at what time and water can accomplish.

The Needles

Imagine spires of red, orange, and yellow sandstone that look like the towers of some great castle. The Needles district, named for the Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires, sits in the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park.

This park district has a Visitor Center where you can attend an orientation about the park. Hiking, four-wheeling, and camping are available in this district.

The Maze

Visiting The Maze in Canyonlands National Park is no easy task. This is the most remote and least accessible district in the park. Most areas of The Maze are only accessible by high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles.

There are no facilities in this area, and you must be prepared to be self-sufficient. There is a ranger station, and you need a backcountry permit to overnight in The Maze.

Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon is an archeologist’s and naturalist’s playground. Wall art that is thousands of years old can be viewed in the canyon. Archeological studies continue in many places in this portion of the park.

Impressive cliffs and landscape, wildlife, and intermittent streams add to the flavor of this part of the park. Camping is permitted on BLM lands at the West Rim Trailhead.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

To put it quite simply, bring anything and everything you need for your trip to Canyonlands National Park. There is no lodging or eating establishments within the park. Gasoline is not available in the park.

Camping is available in designated areas and on adjacent BLM lands. For more information about camping on BLM land, click here. Potable water is available at the Visitor Center at Island in the Sky and The Needles. No RV or travel trailer hookups are available. Dump stations are not provided.

Several nearby communities have lodging and eating establishments. Travel time to and from the park varies depending on the community and the park location you are visiting. Plan your trip accordingly.

5. Capitol Reef National Park

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If you are confused about visiting a reef in Utah, let me explain. The reef, in this case, is a geological formation called the Waterpocket Fold.

This uplift formation created a rugged and often steep line of canyons, ridges and buttes that became a barrier to westward travel. Hence, this area became known as a reef, just as an ocean reef is a barrier to sea travel.

Activities and Features

Even though much of the Capitol Reef Park remains undeveloped, it is still a popular destination. You can hike through the Fruita Canyon district, where more than fifteen trails of various difficulties await you. For more information about Fruita Canyon hiking, click here.

A hike in the Waterpocket Fold District of the park is a trip back in time. Here, you can see the visible results of the massive forces that lifted and folded layers of geology. Several trails will take you to some of the most spectacular evidence of these geological marvels. Follow this link to learn more about hiking in the Waterpocket Fold district.

You can road tour some portions of the park as well as use your bicycle. Horseback tours can be booked at the stables located inside the park.

For the more intrepid, rock climbing, rappelling, and camping are also available. Capitol Reef National Park is also an International Dark Sky sight where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the night sky.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

Extend your stay in Capitol Reef National Park by camping at the Fruita campground or by heading into the backcountry for more primitive camping.

The Fruita campground has 71 campsites open to RVs, travel trailers, and tents. There are no hookups at the campsites, but a dump station and potable water is available in the camping area.

Backpacking and camping in the less developed sections of the park are exceedingly popular. Two primitive camping areas are designated within the park, Cathedral Valley Campground, and Cedar Mesa Campground. These campgrounds have pit toilets but no potable water. Access is limited to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

There are no lodge facilities or food vendors located inside the park. Nearby communities offer a variety of services including hotels, motels, RV parks, and restaurants. To browse some of these alternatives, click this link.

6. California National Historic Trail

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The United States’ westward expansion created a wave of people moving toward these new lands. Many were driven to make the arduous journey in hopes of finding riches in the new gold fields in California. Covering portions of ten states from Iowa and Missouri to California, the California Trail was the chosen route for many.

Activities and Features

The entire 2000 miles of the California National Historic Trail offer visitors a wide array of opportunities. The easiest way to get a feel for the trail is to plan an extended auto tour. This gives you a chance to get a sense of the several types of terrains and conditions the early settlers experienced

Scattered the length of the trail are various interpretive centers and other facilities to explore. To learn more about the points of interest in Utah along the California Trail, click this link.

Donner Springs

Those traveling the California Trail that took the Hastings Cutoff faced a long and thirsty journey. Donner Springs was the first water on this leg of the trail they encountered after Redum Springs. Donner Springs is on private property but is open to visitors with permission from the landowners.

Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area

This huge salt flat comprises almost 30,000 acres and sits on the eastern edge of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Basin. The Bureau of Land Management oversees this site. Part of the Hastings Cut on the California Trail crossed the salt flats in this area.

Horseshoe Springs, Utah

West of Salt Lake City, Utah, is Horseshoe Springs. This spring-fed watering hole was a popular stop on the California trail for travelers who had just crossed the salt flats.

Most of those using the Hastings Cut to get to California paused here for a few days. The springs is a Bureau of Land Management site.

For more information about historic sites along the California National Historic Trail, click here.

Much of the trail is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. If you aren’t familiar with visiting or using BLM lands, you can find more information by clicking here.

7. Cedar Breaks National Monument

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Atop the Grand Staircase, the geological layers of sedimentary rock lying along a portion of the Colorado Plateau is the Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Breaks is over 10,000 feet above sea level. From this elevation, you can see the half-mile-deep amphitheater leading down to the valleys below.

Activities and Features

Camping, hiking, and sightseeing are the major activities in Cedar Breaks National Monument in the summertime. The monument is open for various winter activities in winter, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Skywatchers will revel in the nighttime. The monument is a dark sky area and provides some of the best stargazing to be found. If you aren’t familiar with the dark skies concept, click this link to learn more.

The almost alpine conditions in some parts of Cedar Breaks Monument provide perfect conditions for stands of deciduous trees. These forests put on a colorful display as the leaves change color each fall. During a driving tour, you can easily enjoy these fall events from your car.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

Point Supreme Campground is the only campsite available in the monument. This improved campsite is open to tent camping and RVs. However, there are no hookups for RVs in the park. The campground is open seasonally, depending on the weather. There is no dump station in the monument.

The monument does not have a camp store or a lodge. Hotels, motels, and restaurants are available in the surrounding area. Brian Head is eight miles from the campground and has accommodations, a grocery store, and a gas station.

There is potable water at the campsite. You can fill your RV or travel trailer potable water tanks. The camp host has more information about the availability of potable water.

8. Dinosaur National Monument

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Enter the fascinating world of dinosaurs when you visit Dinosaur National Monument. This huge park straddles the border between Utah and Colorado. Most of the park is in Colorado, but the Utah side is well worth the trip. There are plenty of exhibits, interpretive centers, and activities to keep you occupied for several days exploring this monument.

Activities and Features

Dinosaur National Monument is big. With size comes a bounty of activities and opportunities. Dinosaur National Monument boasts 6 improved front country campgrounds.

If you are more adventurous, you can take to the back country for primitive camping. Hiking is always a popular pastime.

The Green and Yampa rivers are a huge part of Dinosaur National Monument. Some areas of the monument are best enjoyed from a raft on one of the rivers. Several companies operate river rafting tours in season. Tours typically last from one to six days.

There are plenty of educational and tourist types of activities to enjoy as well. You can visit the petroglyphs and pictographs scattered around the canyons.

Several exhibit halls and museums offer a chance to learn more about the history and ecology of the monument. Of course, you won’t want to miss Echo Park right in the heart of the monument.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

There is no lack of places to camp while you visit Dinosaur National Monument. There are six improved campgrounds in the park. Each is slightly different in the geology, terrain, and environment so you can pick your favorite.

Dinosaur monument is an arid desert climate. Snowfall and rainfall are common at the monument. The exceedingly fast evaporation rates get the monument its classification as a desert climate. Temperatures can soar in the summer months while nighttime temperatures can fall dramatically.

Green River Campground

This is a seasonal camp and sits adjacent to the Green River. RVs and travel trailers are welcome at the campground. However, there are no hookups. Potable water is available but there is no dump station. Flush toilets are open and operational during the season.

Split Mountain Campground

This is another campground on the banks of the Green River. This cap is closer to the dinosaur quarry if that is your main interest. Trailers and RVs can access this campground. No hookups are available. You can fill your tanks with potable water at this campground, but no dump station is available.

Echo Park Campground

Echo Park Campground is dominated by Steamboat rock and the towering cliffs nearby.   If you bring your RV or travel trailer, be prepared. There are no hookups in this campground and no dump station. There are vault toilets in the campground.

Rainbow Park Campground

This campground is open year-round. However, access may be difficult at times because the unpaved road is no maintained during the winter. There is no hookup, dump station or potable water at this campground. The vault toilets are open year-round.

Deerlodge Park Campground

This campground is 53 miles from the Visitor Center. We told you this was a big park. There are only seven campsites and only tent camping is allowed. Facilities are limited to vault toilets. There is no potable water available at this campground.

Gates of Lodore Campground

Located in Lodore Canyon, this campground is almost 106 miles north of the Visitors Center. Camping at this site is limited to 19 campsites. RVs and travel trailers can use this camp but there are no hookups. Potable water is available but no dump station.

Dinosaur National Monument doesn’t have a lodge or any food service facilities. The two Visitor Centers may have canned or bottled drinks and a few snacks, but no groceries. Vernal is the closes town to the western side of the monument. You can find lodging here as well as groceries and restaurants.

9. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

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For unsurpassed outdoor recreational opportunities, you must visit Glen Canyon Recreational Area. This 1.25-million-acre reserve lies along the northern and western shores of Lake Powell.

This recreation area stretches from the western border of Canyonlands National Park to the northern tip of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Activities and Features

No matter your choice of recreational activities, there is a place for you at Glen Canyon Recreational Area. Of course, lake activities dominate the activities. Boating, fishing, and sailing are served by the five marinas. Guide services are available for those that want to ensure a successful fishing trip.

With over 1 million acres to explore, hiking and back country camping are also popular. You can plan a day hike or make an extended trip into the vast wilderness area. Trails are well marked and maintained. You can visit some of the most spectacular scenery available on these hikes.

If a more mechanized form of exploring is your choice, Glen Canyon has miles and miles of trails and roads meant for off-road vehicles. Be sure you are familiar with the restrictions and regulations that govern operating motorized vehicles in the Glen Canyon Recreation area.

More than 2,000 miles of shoreline on Lake Powell are accessible from the Glen Canyon Recreational Area. The Lake and the Glen Canyon Recreational area have become a mecca for fishermen, boaters, and outdoor enthusiasts.

There is no lack of places to visit and explore. Lees Ferry, Escalante, Hite, and the Orange Cliffs all provide dramatic views and interesting historical insight into the region.

Glen Canyon has several visitor centers that offer interpretive displays and gift shops. Staff at the visitor centers can help with planning your stay in the recreation area.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

You can rest assured that you won’t have trouble finding a place to camp, motel space, or food while on your trip to Glen Canyon Recreational Area.

There are four park-operated campgrounds in the recreation area as well as several campgrounds operated by private concessions. Facilities range from primitive camping to fully developed RV parks with full hookups and amenities.

There is no lodge or other hotel accommodations in the recreation area. However, the communities surrounding the recreation area often cater to visitors. There are plentiful hotels, motels, and restaurants to be found.

The marinas in the park can provide limited food service in some cases. Small choices in groceries and supplies are also stocked at the marinas. Various private concessional operate in the recreation area and may provide additional resources.

10. Rainbow Bridge National Monument

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Water and wind can do amazing things. None are more impressive than the Rainbow Bridge in Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Some claim this is the highest natural bridge in the United States. Native Americans recognized Rainbow Bridge as a sacred place to be revered.

Activities and Features

The focus of any visit to Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the wonder the natural formation inspires. You can access Rainbow Bridge by backpacking in from the Navajo Nations.

Two trails to the natural bridge are available, but they are not well marked. It is also important to remember that this is Navajo land and, as such, has different rules, laws, and expectations.

Access from the shore on Lake Powell is not available currently. Lake levels are such that access to the trails is not available.

Rainbow Bridge is remote and in a wilderness area. You should be prepared for difficult terrain and conditions. The desert climate can be hot and unforgiving. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and good hiking shoes.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

There are no facilities at Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Camping is not allowed within this National Monument. The closest facilities are at the Dangling Rope Marina about 10 miles away. Backcountry camping on Navajo lands requires special permits and permissions.

Your best opportunity is to plan a day trip to Rainbow Bridge and base the rest of your trip at the facilities available in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area.

11. Timpanogos Cave National Monument

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This trip will take you underground into a magical world. The Timpanogos Cave National Monument is distinctly different than the other monuments and parks in Utah.

The caves are a wonder of natural evolution. You will surely enjoy a unique experience as you learn about the creation and environment of this underground park.

Activities and Features

Your guided tour of the cave formations will take about 55 minutes. The tour is conducted by a National Park employee and will give you insight into the geology of the caves, the various formations inside the cave, and the environment that exists in the caves.

Access to the caves is by guided tour only. Make your reservations early as this is a popular destination. Reservations can be made here. Remember that the cave averages 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round so plan your attire accordingly.

To access the caves, you must make a strenuous hike of about 1.5 miles that rises over 1,00 feet. Round trip you can expect to spend almost 3 hours on the trail. Temperatures can reach 100 degrees in the summer.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

You should expect to visit the Timpanogos Cave National Monument as a day trip only. There are no facilities in the monument and camping is not allowed.

12. Hovenweep National Monument

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1,000 years ago, this part of Utah was the home of many Indigenous peoples. What we now know as Hovenweep was one of the major sites of occupation. Situated on the rocky contours of this canyon, this site has yielded major archeological finds and tells us much about these people and how they lived.

Activities and Features

There are five primary features that you should visit on your trip to Hovenweep National Monument. Each warrants a visit to understand the historical importance of these ruins.

Square Tower Group

This is the main unit of the park and holds the visitor center and the campground. You take the main Square Tower trail to visit the ancestral Puebloan structures at the site. Many visitors never get further than this trail. The rangers on site urge you to start your tour here.

Cutthroat Castle

Northernmost in the monument area is Cutthroat Castle. Pinyon pines dominate this area which is on the bend of a long-gone ancient river.

The road to this ruin is not well maintained and the park management suggests that a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle be used to make the trip.

Horseshoe and Hackberry Units

Once the largest community in the Hovenweep assembly of villages, Hackberry doesn’t seem like much now. The ruins are scattered and mostly foundations. Horseshoe is a small assembly of ruined structures set high with some astounding views of the region. Both are on the same BLM road and should be visited at the same time.

Holly Unit

This is the most visited site at Hovenweep after the Square Towers. This impressive structure can still be awe inspiring after thousands of years. There is a road to the Holly Unit but the hike from the Square Towers is worth the effort.

Cajon Unit

Southmost in the Monument is the Cajon Unit. For many of the rangers that serve this area, this is the favorite part of the Hovenweep site.

The ruins are secluded in a small canyon that is surrounded by the Navajo Nation. The Navajo people still consider this site sacred and ask that you respect their beliefs and their past.

You can also enjoy some of the finest birdwatching and stargazing available. The lack of nighttime lights make this a perfect sark sky area. The pinion pines and other vegetation are home to numerous species of birds.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

There is no lodging or eating facilities at the Monument. However, the park service operates a 31-campsite campground.

The campground is open year-round. Campsites are available first-come, first-served. The campsites can accommodate RV’s and travel trailers up to 36 feet long. There are no hookups at the campsites.

Potable water is available in the campground but there is no dump station. There are flush toilets that are open during the normal season. No other facilities are available. Stays are limited to 14 days.

13. Natural Bridges National Monument

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If you aren’t up to the trek to see Rainbow Bridge, then don’t skip Natural Bridges National Monument. Although the bridges are not as big as Rainbow Bridge, they are miraculous and awe-inspiring in their own right. This was the first National Monument created in Utah and remains one of the most visited.

Activities and Features

The three natural stone bridges are the major features and attractions to this national monument. We suggest you start at the visitor center to see the exhibits and pick up a map of the monument sites. From there, visit the natural bridges.

There are also ancient ruins to explore. Horse Collar Ruin is an ancestral pueblo site. That should satisfy your historical interests.

On a more modern note, visit the solar panel field in the park. The entire park and all its facilities are powered by the sun. From the ancient to the most modern, this national monument has it covered.

There are at least two collapsed natural bridges known in the monument area. Since wind, water, and erosion continue, in time, the three natural bridges still standing will collapse under their own weight.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

Next door to the visitor centers you will find the park campground. The campground is laced with juniper trees and overs a relaxing place to spend a few days as you explore the monuments.

RVs and travel trailers are welcome but there are no hookups at the campsites. You should bring enough water for your stay. There are no dump stations in the park.

Surrounding communities are your best bet for lodging and eating. Several different options are in easy driving range of the park. These small communities welcome park visitors and offer a complete range of services and amenities during your stay.

14. Golden Spike National Historic Park

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The western portions of the United States were finally easily accessible when the transcontinental railroad was finished. Crews working from both directions met that the site of Golden Spike National Historic Park in 1869 and drove the last spike to complete the construction. If you are a western history fan, this stop is necessary on your itinerary.

Activities and Features

There are several ways to enjoy the Golden Spike Park. You can take one of two auto tours. These tours allow you to drive along the original right of way of the transcontinental railroad.

The east tour is 2 miles long and takes you through hand-hewn cuts in the bedrock. The west tour is seven miles long where 10 miles of track were laid in one day by the train crews.

Hiking along the Big Fill Loop Trail takes you on the original grade of the Central Pacific Railroad. You can see where the rock was cut, low places were filled, and trestles once stood to allow the steam-driven trains to traverse the continent.

The Engine house and the replica locomotives are any train aficionado’s dream. See where and how the engines are maintained and the types of equipment that once made the arduous transcontinental train trip.

Camping, Lodging, and Eating

There is no camping, lodging, or eating facilities at Golden Spike National Historic Park. The Visitor Center usually has soft drinks, water, and other liquid refreshments as well as some light snacks. The park likes about 32 miles west of Bigham City, Utah where you can find lodging and eating options.

15. Old Spanish National Historic Trail

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Before explorers came west the Spanish were traveling and trading from the west coast. These early explorers carved a set of trails heading inland to establish trade and explore these new territories. These trails are commemorated in the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

About the Trails

The Spanish colonized southern California and began exploring the interior parts of the continent. They traveled well into Utah and Colorado. Portions of these trails were later used by westbound travelers during the historic westward expansion.

Some of these trails were in use during the 16th century by the Spanish. This was not one trail but a network of interconnected trails. The Old Spanish National Historic Trail was designated by Congress in 2002.

Activities and Features

Like most National Historic Trails, Old Spanish Trail is not one park but a series of locations of historical significance along several of the routes. A variety of attractions and activities can be found at these locations.

Visit Courthouse Rock Campsite. This location covered travels on the trail feed, water, and protection. This location was a halfway point between two other water sources, the Colorado River and Floy Wash.

A good stop is the Museum of San Rafael. This collection of artifacts, historical documents, and exhibits can give you insight into what travelers on the trail faced.

Camping, Lodging and Eating

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail is not an established park or monument site. The trail extends to several states and is not contiguous. As such, there are no facilities such as a campground, visitor centers, or lodging sites at the locations.

We recommend that you check in local communities close to the trail site you want to visit for lodging, eating, or camping facilities.

Utah National Park Sites

Utah offers one of the richest varieties of National Park opportunities of any state in the union. You can plan an itinerary that can last a day, a week, or a month. There are facilities for camping and the surrounding communities tend to cater to park visitors. In any case, make sure you check the latest conditions and closures at the park you want to visit.

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