How many national parks can be found in Utah?

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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.

Bryce Canyon National Park view

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. – 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.

cathedral in the desert lake powell utah

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).

Bears Ears Utah

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.

lower calf creek falls hike escalante

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.

Skylight arch trail Utah

National Park Goodies

Fiery furnace hike arches national park utah

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.

Tower arch trail arches national park 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.

It’s one of my favorite parks to visit in winter and it’s a great park to visit if you just have one day.

Where: Moab, Utah

How much: $30

Things to do:

Want to know things to do in Arches besides hiking? Check out that post! Need to decide between Canyonlands and Arches? This post will help!

Where to stay: Moab Under Canvas, Quality Inn, Lazy Lizard Hostel, and Sleep Inn are all places we’ve stayed and enjoyed.

Bryce Canyon National Park with snow

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:

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!

Where to stay: Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn, Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, Quality Inn Bryce Canyon

Murphy Point trail canyonlands utah

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:

Where to stay: Moab Under Canvas, Quality Inn, Lazy Lizard Hostel, and Sleep Inn are all places we’ve stayed and enjoyed.

Surprise Canyon hike capitol reef utah

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:

If you want to do things other than hiking in Capitol Reef, then that post will help you plan.

Where to stay: Capitol Reef Resort, Skyridge Inn (my favorite), and Rim Rock Inn are all great places to stay in Torrey.

Emerald pools trail zion utah

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:

Check this post out if you want to do something other than hiking in Zion and this post to find out how to spend one day in Zion.

Where to stay: Zion Park Motel (my favorite affordable place to stay in Springdale), Cliffrose, and Harvest House Bed and Breakfast

100 hands pictograph escalante

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!

Anyway, I think some of the monuments are some of the best places to visit in Utah and shouldn’t be missed on your Utah road trip.

bears ears national monument utah

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.

Where to stay: Prospector Motor Lodge (not fancy at all but I like it), Stone Lizard Lodging, and Blue Sage Inn.

bears ears utah

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 VerdeEdge 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 utah

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

Where to stay: Abbey Inn, Big Yellow Inn, and The Cottages at Shakespeare Lane are all very cute options.

Photo by Matthew Dillon Flickr

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.

Where to stay: Dinosaur Inn & Suites, Microtel Inn & Suites, and TownePlace Suites are good choices.

scenic byway 12 escalante utah

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!

Things to do: While you’re here there is a lot to choose from to do. If you want to just drive, Scenic Byway 12 and Hell’s Backbone are perfect.

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.

Finally, if you just want a day hike check out 100 Hands Pictographs, Lower Calf Creek Falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls, or some of the Escalante River Trail.

Where to stay: Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, Canyon Country Lodge (I like this one), and Yonder Escalante (looks SO cute) are my top choices.

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.

It’s a small park and easy to see if you’re driving between Mesa Verde and the Blanding area. You can easily see the highlights in an hour or two.

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.

Where to stay: Retro Inn at Mesa Verde, Holiday Inn Express, and Hampton Inn are good choices in Cortez.

Photo by NPS Natural Resources Flickr

Jurassic National Monument

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!

The Trail Through Time in Colorado and Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail outside of Moab are two other great dinosaur stops nearby.

Where to stay: Legacy Inn and Holiday Inn Express & Suites are good options in Price, the closest town.

Sipapu bridge natural bridges utah

Natural Bridges National Monument

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.

Where to stay: Prospector Motor Lodge (not fancy at all but I like it), Stone Lizard Lodging, and Blue Sage Inn

rainbow bridge lake powell utah

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.

Where to stay: Defiance House Lodge and Ticaboo Lodge near Bullfrog (North Lake) or Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, or Clarion Inn in Page (South Lake).

Photo by Matthew Dillon Flickr

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.

Where to stay: Hyatt Place, SpringHill Suites, and Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center are good options nearby.

Photo by BLM Utah

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.

Photo by BLM Utah Flickr

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.

san rafael swell

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.

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

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.

California National Historic Trail

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.

lake powell utah

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.

lake powell utah

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.

There are hikes you can do here, too but the lake is why everyone visits. And it’s huge! The two main places to visit are Bullfrog Marina in Utah and Whaweap Marina near Page, Arizona.

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.

A few hikes in Glen Canyon you can do include Halls Creek Overlook and Pedestal Alley near Bullfrog.

Near Wahweap there is the Hanging Garden Trail, Skylight Arch, Stud Horse Point, and the Rock Line Trail.

Where to stay: Defiance House Lodge and Ticaboo Lodge near Bullfrog (North Lake) or Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, or Clarion Inn in Page (South Lake).

White rim overlook trail Canyonlands Utah

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:

  • Arches
  • Capitol reef
  • Canyonlands
  • Cedar Breaks
  • Dead Horse Point
  • Dinosaur
  • Goblin Valley
  • Hovenweep
  • Natural Bridges
studhorse point utah

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.

Sand Bench trail zion national park Utah

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.

Antelope point marina lake powell

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.

arches national park sunset

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.

Tower arch trail arches national park 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!

cedar breaks national monument utah

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?

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