Discover the 8 Best National Parks in Utah

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 15, 2022
Image Credit silky/Shutterstock.com
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The beauty of Utah is hidden in its magnificent national parks, which provide habitat for many critically endangered species. With a vast array of incredible things to see and do, it’s not surprising that Utah welcomes visitors from all over the world each year.

Steamy beaches, iconic high plateaus, stark red-rock desert landscapes, vibrant towns, and the snow-capped mountains combine to entice travelers to Utah. Consider Utah if you want to go somewhere with rustic charm and beauty.

For all the adventurers, wildlife lovers, and history buffs, here are the 8 best national parks that will leave you spellbound as you explore the flora and fauna of Utah’s rocky landscape.

1. Arches National Park

arches national park
Arches National Park is home to skunks, foxes, bighorn sheep, and small nocturnal animals.

spacaj/Shutterstock.com

Arches National Park
Size76,679 Acres
Animal to SeeMountain Lion
Attraction to SeeDelicate Arch

Arches National Park is Utah’s crown jewel. It offers impressive views of the densely concentrated natural sandstone arches and other stunning geological formations. You will also see massive mesas and hoodoos.

Take a scenic drive to La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, the only place in the park where you will get a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings, including the rocky landmarks just before you enter the park.

Along Highway 191, south of the visitor center, you may spot skunks, foxes, bighorn sheep, and small nocturnal animals.

2. Dark Canyon Wilderness

Dark Canyon Wilderness
Dark Canyon Wilderness is home to black bears, bighorn sheep, elks, mule deer, and turkeys.

Brian Murdock, Moab/Monticello Ranger District, USFS / This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. – License

Dark Canyon Wilderness
Size47,116 Acres 
Animal to SeeBlack Bear
Attraction to SeeWilderness Loop

Dark Canyon Wilderness is the world-renowned home of wilderness. It’s the best place to go if you want peace and solitude. The place offers you magnificent views of the desert scenery and forests. The steep walls in the lower section block the morning and afternoon lights, making the place dark.

There are a lot of things to learn about the Dark Canyon Wilderness. The place reveals years of geological history, and the most fascinating of all is the presence of petroglyph panels, potsherds, fantastic cliff dwellings, and other forms of artifacts.

Dark Canyon Wilderness is home to a variety of animals species, including black bears, bighorn sheep, elks, mule deer, and turkeys. You may also see some cougars within the canyons.

3. Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is the only park with the most South Snake mountains and unique stalactites.

iStock.com/Allen Allnoch

Great Basin National Park
Size77,180 Acres
Animal to SeeBighorn Sheep
Attraction to SeeLehman caves

There is something innately great about Great Basin National Park. Although it is in Nevada, it is very close to Utah’s border. It’s the only park with the most South Snake mountains and unique stalactites. If you know that, then I think you already understand why it’s worth visiting the place.

Go for a stroll through the ancient trees, or challenge yourself to a summit peak. Be alert for deers and marmots crossing the road. You may even be lucky enough to see a bobcat or a mountain lion, although they’re very elusive.

4. Canyonlands National Park

canyonland national park
Canyonlands National Park offers you the best opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Edwin Verin/Shutterstock.com

Canyonlands National Park
Size337,598 Acres
Animal to SeeMountain Lion
Attraction to See Mesa Arch

Canyonlands National Park is where a lifetime of exploration awaits you. There are countless canyons and magnificent buttes to traverse. The rivers divide the park into four sections, with all of them offering you the best opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Most people adore the Islands in the Sky District, especially first-time visitors. It’s the best place to get the park’s best views from the top of the mesa. Honestly, there’s much more to Canyonlands than the sights of the Islands in the Sky overlook.

Explore the desert landscapes at The Maze in the Needles District. You may also spot some of the nocturnal animals in this section, such as mountain lions, skunks, bobcats, ringtails, and foxes.

5. Zion National Park

zion national park
Visit Zion National Park to enjoy outdoor activities.

Asif Islam/Shutterstock.com

Zion National Park
Size146,597 Acres
Animal to SeeDesert Tortoise
Attraction to SeeAngel’s Landing

Be ready to lay your eyes on the steep red cliffs and deep chasms in Zion national park. Visit the park to enjoy outdoor activities, including biking, hiking, scenic drives, camping, photography, and ice climbing in winter.

When you visit the park, be sure to take some time to watch wildlife at the Weeping Rock Area. Apart from seeing the desert tortoise, California condor, cougar, and other animals, the Weeping Rock Area also provides you with an opportunity to see the most fantastic lush hanging gardens amid the oozing water.

6. Bryce Canyon National Park

bryce canyon national park
Visit Bryce Canyon National Park to see the intense reflections of soft and warm lights at the famous Sunset Point.

silky/Shutterstock.com

Bryce Canyon National Park
Size35,835 Acres
Animal to SeeRocky Mountain Elk
Attraction to SeeSunset Point

Most visitors travel to Bryce Canyon National Park to see the intense reflections of soft and warm lights at the famous Sunset Point. Still, the thousands of hoodoos in the park are just as impressive.

Make the most of your trip by visiting the Bryce Amphitheatre. This is by far the true star of the park. It’s where you will closely view the irregular rock spires rising from the canyon floor.

Hike the Riggs Spring Loop Trail if you want a chance to view various animals, including the Rocky Mountain elk and mountain lions. 

7. Capitol Reef National Park

capitol reef national park
Capitol Reef National Park offers a fantastic view of the striking rock formations and layers of golden sandstone.

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock.com

Capitol Reef National Park
Size241,904 Acres
Animal to SeeBighorn Sheep
Attraction to SeeChimney Rock Trail

One of Utah’s exciting destinations, Capitol Reef National Park, offers a fantastic view of the striking rock formations and layers of golden sandstone. You can take a scenic drive or hike the trails to see the towering monoliths, canyons, and white sandstone domes.

The park’s rocky terrain provides habitat for bighorn sheep, beavers, porcupines, raccoons, prairie dogs, and woodrats, among many other animals. Visit the Fremont River Trail near Fruita for bird-watching opportunities.

8. Dead Horse Point State Park

dead horse point state park
Dead Horse Point State Park is a fantastic place to visit if you want to see the immense desert landscapes of canyons.

Shawn Mitchell Photo/Shutterstock.com

Dead Horse Point State Park
Size5,300 Acres
Animal to SeeRiver Otters
Attraction to SeeRim Overlook

Although underrated, Dead Horse Point State Park is a fantastic place to visit if you want to see the immense desert landscapes of canyons and get a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River. Don’t miss out on the breathtaking views of the nearby Canyonlands National Park.

Explore the best wildlife trails, such as the Great Pyramid Loop Trail and the Intrepid Trail, which will lead you to various desert wildlife species. Thousands of grey foxes and river otters call Dead Horse Point State Park home.

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