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Want to know how many national parks are in Utah?
You’re obviously here because you’re wondering how many national parks are in Utah and I’m here to give you all the deets and more!
Not only will you find out how many national parks are in Utah but you’ll find out the best time to visit them, where they are, and some other fun things to know about them.
After living in southern Utah for almost six years, I like to think I know it pretty well. I could talk about it forever and it was really fun putting this post together.
I’ve been to most of the national parks in Utah but not all of them. The only ones I haven’t been to are Dinosaur, Jurassic (it’s so new!), Golden Spike, Timpanogos, and the historic trails.
Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.
How many national parks are in Utah?
There are 13 national park sites in Utah run by National Park Service and three run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a total of 16 Utah national parks.
There are only five full National Park status national parks in Utah though (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion).
What is the busiest national park in Utah?
Zion, 100%. It saw over five million visitors in 2021! Arches is the next busiest and saw literally three million fewer visitors.
How many people visit the Utah national parks in a year?
There were 11,091,898 visitors to the Utah national parks (the 13 run by NPS) in 2021 (I think it was 2021?).
This does not include the three run by the BLM but, aside from Escalante, I don’t think the other two see tons of visitors.
What is the biggest national park in Utah?
Of the Mighty 5, Canyonlands is the biggest at 337,597.83 acres. But between all 16 sites, not including the historic trails, Grand Staircase Escalante is the biggest national park in Utah!
It covers more than 1.8 million acres with Bears Ears coming in a close second at 1.36 million acres, and Glen Canyon third with over 1.2 million acres.
National Park Goodies
- If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks within a year from your trip, definitely get the America the Beautiful pass. It will save you money in the long run if you’re going to more than three parks in a year. Buy the pass here.
- If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking on your trip, or even at home, check out AllTrails! This is my favorite app to find, keep track of, and track my hiking activity. And it’s FREE! Sign up here.
- This Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is a must-have. You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a National Park journal for all of the NPS sites (400+!) to keep track of your travels!
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
Map of Utah National Parks
National Parks in Utah
The following sections are broken down by type of national park starting with the Mighty 5, AKA the main, full status national parks in Utah.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is just outside of Moab, Utah and home to more than 2000 arches, hence the name.
It’s one of the most popular national parks in Utah and home to Delicate Arch which you may recognize from Utah license plates.
Where: Moab, Utah
How much: $30
Things to do:
- Hike to Tower Arch
- Hike Fiery Furnace
- Hike to Sand Dune and Broken Arch
- Hike the Devils Garden Loop
- Hike to Landscape Arch
- Hike to Delicate Arch
- Hike Park Avenue
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for it’s towering orange hoodoo filled natural amphitheaters (they’re not technically canyons).
It’s often overshadowed by Zion next door but it still 100% deserves a visit. One of my friends thought she would hate it and ended up loving it, so you never know!
Where: Bryce, Utah
How much: $35
Things to do:
- Hike the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop
- Hike Peek-a-boo Loop
- Hike from Sunrise to Sunset Point
- Hike to Mossy Cave and the waterfall
Don’t have time or don’t want to hike at Bryce Canyon? Check out these things to do at Bryce Canyon other than hiking!
Canyonlands National Park
Another park overshadowed by it’s neighbor is Canyonlands who gets a fraction of the visitors from Arches even thought its less than an hour drive between the park entrances.
I think Canyonlands rivals the Grand Canyon in it’s majesticness (I actually think it’s better) and absolutely deserves a visit.
It’s so much more than Mesa Arch, the top sight in the park, and you need to make sure you can at least spend half a day here while you’re in Moab, but a whole day is better.
This is also a great park to visit in winter. Moab in general is one of my favorite places to go in winter thanks to lack of crowds and cool temps.
Where: Moab, Utah
How much: $30
Things to do:
- Hike to Mesa Arch
- Hike Murphy Point Trail
- Hike the White Rim Overlook Trail
- Climb Whale Rock
- Hike Upheaval Dome
- Go to The Needles Overlook
- Drive White Rim Road
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is 100% underrated and my favorite national park in Utah! This is the park that gets cut from packed itineraries or ignored altogether.
But don’t skip this one! It’s got beautiful desert, history, and even plenty of greenery but in a better way than other parks: orchards!
Where: Torrey, Utah
How much: $20
Things to do:
- Pick fruit in the orchards
- Hike Cohab Canyon
- Visit the Gifford Store for pie and ice cream
- Hike to Hickman Bridge
- See the petroglyphs
- Hike to the Pioneer Register and the Tanks
- Hike Sulphur Creek
- Drive Cathedral Valley Loop
- Hike Headquarters Canyon
- Hike Surprise Canyon
If you want to do things other than hiking in Capitol Reef, then that post will help you plan.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park, the crown jewel of Utah and, in my opinion, a little overrated. Still beautiful but a little overrated.
This is the most visited national park in Utah by literal millions meaning it’s extremely busy but some of that can be avoided by visiting in the winter.
The park is known for it’s towering cliffs and two major hikes: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, but there is so much more to it than that and those are the things that make me like the park more.
Where: Springdale, Utah
How much: $35
Things to do:
- Hike Angel’s Landing
- Hike The Narrows
- Hike Hidden Canyon (currently closed)
- Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail
- Hike the Sand Bench Trail
- Hike to the Lower Pine Creek Waterfall
- See the petroglyphs
- Hike the Watchman Trail
- Visit Kolob Canyons
- Drive up Kolob Terrace Road
- Hike to Observation Point
National Monuments in Utah
Next up are the national monuments in Utah! I really enjoy utah’s national monuments and was actually surprised at some of the visitation numbers for them!
Cedar Breaks was just shy of a whopping 900,000 visitors in 2016 (according to Wikipedia, I can’t find a more recent number on the park website).
And I know it’s a recreation area, but Glen Canyon sees over 4 million visitors per year! Wild!
Bears Ears National Monument
Bears Ears is unlike the other national monuments in Utah because it’s pretty undeveloped, very rugged, and quite remote.
It’s home to countless Native American ruins and if you hike to any or happen upon any, please be respectful and leave them as you found them.
Where: Blanding, Utah
How much: Free!
Things to do: We drove from Natural Bridges to Blanding via Arch Canyon Overlook and Elk Ridge and I love that drive. Procession Panel and Moonhouse Ruin are two hikes here that look really great.
The five mile Horse Pasture Trail to Scorup cabin is a great option for solitude out of the desert. I would love to do this one some day.
Things to keep in mind when visiting rock art & ruins:
- Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
- If you find artifacts, do not take them. Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
- If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can. Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter. Mesa Verde, Edge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
- And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks! I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks is like a mini Bryce Canyon, featuring similar hoodoos, though maybe a bit less dramatic. Just as beautiful though!
I absolutely loved Cedar Breaks and we happened to be there during the wildflower festival!
Where: Cedar City, Utah
How much: $10
Things to do:
- Attend the wildflower festival
- Do some stargazing
- Hike the Sunset Trail
- Hike the Alpine Pond Loop (we did this one, I liked it)
- Hike the South Rim Trail
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is home to canyons similar to southern Utah full of fossils, bones, dinosaur tracks, and petroglyphs. It stretches across the northern Utah/Colorado border.
You can even go river rafting here! This is a park I wish we had gotten to but it’s in such an out of the way spot, we never did. Next time!
Where: Vernal, Utah
How much: $25
Things to do: Be sure to check out all the petroglyphs (Swelter Shelter, Cub Creek, Deluge Shelter, McKee Spring, and Pool Creek), or at least a couple of them.
If you’re feeling adventurous consider a river rafting trip! There are one day and multi-day trips available.
If you just want to do some hiking there are a surprising number of trails to choose from including five on the Colorado side and eight on the Utah side.
Most trails are easy or moderate but there are a few more difficult ones if you want a challenge.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase Escalante is massive and extremely beautiful. It’s home to Scenic Byway 12, one of the best scenic drives in the US, and Lower Calf Creek Falls, one of the most popular hikes in southern Utah.
It’s not just the biggest national monument in Utah but the biggest national park in Utah meaning it has a lot to see.
Where: Escalante, Utah
How much: Free!
There are the classic Escalante slot canyon hikes like Spooky, Zebra, and Peek-a-boo all down Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
If you want to go backpacking, consider Coyote Gulch, Reflection Canyon, or Golden Cathedral.
Hovenweep National Monument
If you like the Native American history and culture in the four corners area, then Hovenweep is a great stop for you.
Where: Cortez, Colorado, technically
How much: $20
Things to do: Hike and see the ruins! There are a few different groups of trails to choose from including the Square Tower group, Cutthroat Castle, Horseshoe and Hackberry, Holly, and Cajon.
It’s also an International Dark Sky Park meaning it’s great for stargazing. This would make it a great park to camp at. It’s also a great stop on a Trail of the Ancients road trip.
Jurassic National Monument is Utah’s newest national monument and it’s home to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry which has the largest concentration of Jurassic fossils found.
I haven’t been here but we drove past it quite a bit but never went to see what it was. I wish we did now but I guess our next visit will just have to be dinosaur themed!
Where: Cow Flats, Utah
How much: $5 per adult, kids are free and a national park pass works here.
Things to do: There are three trails in the park, all under three miles but over one mile.
Rock Walk is about 1.5 miles, Raptor Point is about one mile, and Rim Trail is about 2.6 miles. Along the trails you can see various bones and fossils, which is pretty cool!
Natural Bridges is by the road we always take to Bears Ears, just off of Highway 95 near the turnoff for Halls Crossing.
It isn’t by a town at all, just sort of between things. Here you can find three natural bridges (surprised?) and even some ruins. It’s also great for stargazing.
Where: Lake Powell, Utah (but not on Lake Powell)
How much: $20
Things to do: Hike to one, two, or all three of the natural bridges! Sipapu is the most challenging hike (to a single bridge) but you can combine more than one of them in a loop trail, too.
It’s about 7 miles for all three in the loop. You can also just admire them from the overlooks if you don’t want to hike.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Rainbow Bridge is another natural bridge that can only be reached by boat via Lake Powell or by a long a difficult overnight hike via the Navajo Reservation.
If you’re a casual visitor, boat is best. I would plan most of a day if you want to go to Rainbow Bridge whether you’re coming from Page or Bullfrog because it’s roughly the same distance.
Where: Lake Powell
How much: Free but you either need to pay to rent a boat, join a large tour, or take a private tour. Large tours will be the cheapest but a boat or private tour is, I think, the best way to see it.
Things to do: The only this to really do here is hike to the Bridge and the distance depends on the water level.
If you’re renting a boat be sure to give yourself time to see some other things while you’re on the lake.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
Timpanogos Cave is a cave system in Mount Timpanogos near Salt Lake City. It’s one of the few national park in Utah in the north part of the state.
There are three caves in the park that you can visit, Hansen, Middle, and Timpanogos Caves, but only on tours. You’ll definitely want to book ahead if you know you’ll be here because tours do sell out.
Where: American Fork, Utah
How much: Free! But it’s $12, $17, or $22 for various cave tours
Things to do: Join a tour! There are three to choose from depending on what you’re interested in. All tours involve a 1.5 mile strenuous hike to the cave entrance.
The Timpanogos Cave Tour you visit all three caves in about 55 minutes on a 1/3 mile trail with stairs. Plan 3.5 hours including the hike to the cave and back.
The Introduction to Caving Tour you’ll crawl and scramble along the trail to Hansen Cave Lake. This tour is 1.5 hours plus time for the hike there and back.
The Lantern Tour would be a fun way to see the cave, just back lantern light like back in the 1800s.
National Historic Trails in Utah
I’m not going to go into too much detail on the national historic trails since they all just pass through Utah, they’re not entirely in the state.
I will include some of the places you can see or learn about the trail though so you can still visit them if you want.
Pony Express National Historic Trail
The Pony Express Trail runs from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. At it’s peak it had 190 stations, 65 of which were in the Utah Territory (which included Utah, Nevada, and Western Colorado), used to get mail across the country.
Yes, it’s that pony express! Some places you can learn about the trail in Utah are Fairfield and Floyd Camp, Simpsons Spring Station, Boyd Station, and Canyon Station.
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
The Old Spanish Trail stretches 2700 miles from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, passing through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
There are quite a few places in Utah you can see parts of the trail, some require 4WD and high clearance while others don’t. You can find all of the details here.
Stops along the trail include Museum of the San Rafael, Richfield Visitor Center, Old Spanish Trail Heritage Loop, John Wesley Powell River History Museum, Upper Cottonwood Wash, and Muddy Creek (Emery County).
You can also visit Courthouse Rock Campsite, Idol Rock and Head Rock on the Old Spanish Trail, Big Rock Candy Mountain Mountain Bike Trailhead, and Green River Gap.
The Mormon Trail is 1300 miles from Illinois to Utah that Mormons used to travel from 1846 to 1847.
It passes through Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and ends in Salt Lake City and has a whopping 38 places to experience it just in Utah.
Some of those stops include Hogback Summit and Donner Springs. You can see a full list here.
The California National Historic Trail stretches through ten states, including northern Utah, following the footsteps of over 250,000 traveling to the gold fields in California in the 1840s and 50s.
There are nine places you can visit in Utah to experience the California National Historic Trail.
They include Salt Flats Rest Area, Redlum Spring, Horseshoe Springs, Hogback Summit, Hastings Pass, Grassy Mountain Rest Area, Donner Springs, Bonneville Salt Flats, and Black Rock Site.
National Historical Parks in Utah
There is only one National Historical Park in Utah, Golden Spike National Historical Park, in Brigham City, not far from Salt Lake.
Golden Spike National Historical Park
Golden Spike commemorates the location of the Last Spike of the first transcontinental railroad in the US.
You can see a Victorian era locomotive replica as well as the original railroad grade which you can drive or walk on.
Where: Brigham City, Utah
How much: $20
Things to do: While you’re here see the locomotives outside or in the engine house if you’re visiting in the winter.
There are two roads to drive, one is two miles and one is seven, to see what the railroad workers were building.
You can also hike the 1.5 mile Big Fill Loop Trail or join a ranger program to learn about the park and history.
Where to stay: Tru By Hilton, Home2 Suites, and Best Western Plus High Country Inn are good choices.
National Recreation Areas in Utah
Finally we have Glen Canyon National Recreation area, the last Utah national park on this list. I never thought I would get here.
It’s the only national recreation in Utah and one of 18 throughout the US run by NPS with an additional 22 run by the BLM.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is home to Lake Powell which is the main draw to this Utah national park.
Where: Bullfrog, Utah; Halls Crossing, Utah; Hite, Utah; Page, Arizona
How much: $30 + $30 per boat (if you’re bringing one)
Things to do: Boat! The best way to experience Glen Canyon and Lake Powell is by boat. You can either bring your own or rent one.
Some of the notable things to see on the north end of the lake (above Rainbow Bridge) include Iceberg canyon, Knowles Canyon, Bowns Canyon, and Good Hope Bay, but it’s hard to go wrong.
Some good places near Wahweap include West Canyon, Navajo Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam, Ice Cream Canyon, and Wiregrass Canyon.
International Dark Sky Parks in Utah (national and state parks)
Stargazing in Utah is one of the best things you can do while you’re there and luckily, Utah is home to quite a few International Dark Sky parks.
I’ve included both Utah national and state parks in this sections:
- Capitol reef
- Cedar Breaks
- Dead Horse Point
- Goblin Valley
- Natural Bridges
Best time to visit Utah National Parks
I think fall and winter. Fall is still warm but not horribly busy (still a little busy) and winter is chilly and not busy at all (except over holidays).
Winter in southern Utah is my personal favorite time to visit and explore.
Summer is just way too hot (for me) making hiking miserable so if you don’t want to hike a lot or don’t mind getting up at sunrise, it might be fine.
Spring is OK but it can be extremely windy in Utah in spring which, while it isn’t that busy, the wind makes hiking not so fun with sand blowing in your eyes.
Are Utah national parks worth a shot?
1000% yes! They’re some of the most beautiful national parks in the US and underrated! At least Capitol Reef and Canyonlands are underrated.
I think this is one of those trips that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Utah has more than just Mormons.
Where should I stay when visiting Utah national parks?
There isn’t one place you can stay to visit all of the Utah national parks but if you want to keep moving to a minimum you could get away with two or three places.
I would stay in Moab for Arches and Canyonlands, Torrey for Capitol Reef, and Springdale for Zion and Bryce, but just a day trip to Bryce because it’s over 1.5 hours away.
Spending nights in Moab, Torrey, Panguitch/Bryce, and Springdale would really be best. It can be hard to decide where to stay between Zion and Bryce if you want to limit hotel changes.
If you’re just going to Capitol Reef and/or Bryce as you drive between places then you could get away with Moab and Springdale plus one night near Bryce OR Capitol Reef.
How long do you need to visit the Utah national parks?
You could probably see all of them, the Mighty 5 at least, in a week but that would be pushing it.
I would say no less than ten days, preferably two weeks, to see all of Utah’s national parks, at least most of them in southern Utah.
Which is the better national park in Utah, Arches or Zion?
Lucky for you I have an entire post battling Arches and Zion against each other. I won’t spoil the winner here though!
Utah posts you may also like:
Have you been to any of the Utah national parks? Which ones? Which national park in Utah is your favorite?