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Postcards from Southern Utah: Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip

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We never thought we could fall in love with the desert, but southern Utah proved us wrong. Our goal was to visit Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks with a twelve-day road trip starting and ending in Las Vegas. Instead of telling you all about it, we thought you might enjoy a short postcard tour of our favorite natural wonders from southern Utah.

Postcards from Zion National Park, Utah

The Great White Throne, Zion National Park, Utah
Start of The Narrows hiking trail, Zion National Park, Utah
Pink sky sunrise from Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park was everything we hoped it would be, grand and unique.

We were most surprised by just how much vegetation and life filled this “Grand Canyon in the making.” Mule deer and very cheeky chipmunks were in abundance, but we even spotted a herd of big horn sheep crossing the road. 

Want to know the best place to watch sunrise at Zion National Park?

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

ATV driving on the dunes of Coral Pink Sands National Park, Utah
Visitors riding sand boards down the sand dunes, Coral Pink Sands National Park, Utah

Before making our way to Bryce Canyon, we made a quick stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Popular for off-road ATV fun and a bit of sand surfing, it was a worthy detour.

Postcards from Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sunrise from Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Hiking descending the Wall Street switch-backs, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
close up of hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Small tree growing on the cliffs edge, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Stairs on hiking trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Zion gets all the hype, but it was Bryce Canyon that kept part of our hearts.

The highest peak on the canyon’s relatively flat rim sits at 9,100 feet (2,778 meters). For us eastern North Americans, Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi is only 6,684 feet. We could really feel the difference in altitude.

Other than its elevation, Bryce Canyon is also known for its hoodoos. We felt like tiny ants in a labyrinth walking amongst these massive pinnacle shaped rock formations.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park sign with rainbow, Utah
Hickman Natural Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Sunset from Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef is the least visited national park in Utah, but we found it no less deserving of our time. Actually, it had little samplings of what all the parks are known for, from petroglyphs to natural arches, to slot canyons.

Postcards from the Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch sunrise in the Canyonlands National Park, Utah
White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Sunset from Green River Overlook Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Though Bryce Canyon was our favorite of the parks, Canyonlands was a close second place.

There are four districts of the Canyonlands, most of which are unreachable without an ATV. We visited the area known as the “Island in the Sky.” As we looked down on the various layers of the canyon below, we felt the name was fitting.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Thunderstorm sweeping across the canyon at Dead Horse Point State Park,Utah

You could probably tell from this postcard; we didn’t have the greatest weather in Dead Horse Point State Park.

We went to the park for sunrise and instead were met by this massive storm quickly sweeping across the canyon. As the first drops of rain reached us, the sky let out a terrifying boom. Luckily, we made it safely to the car to wait out the hail and snowstorm. We were still able to get some great photos before we left. 

Arches National Park

Close up of Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Double Arch, Arches National Park

We weren’t prepared for just how popular and crowded this park gets. Though it’s beautiful, we found it hard to escape the masses here.

However, with over 2,000 documented arches in the park, it is quite impressive.

Postcards from Around Moab, Utah

Train tracks at Corona Arch Trailhead, Moab, Utah
Dinosaur footprints at Potash Road in Moab, Utah
Ancient petroglyphs on Potash Road in Moab, Utah
sun setting behind Corona Arch, Moab, Utah

While looking for ways to escape the crowds, we found some Bureau of Land Management hiking spots in Moab.

With arches, petroglyphs, and even dinosaur footprints, these hikes rivaled anything found in the national parks.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Amphitheater at Cedar Breaks National Park, Utah
Fall yellow Aspen Trees contrasts the dark green of the evergreen trees, Cedar Breaks National Park, Utah

We visited Cedar Breaks National Monument twice.

The first time we were on our way to Bryce Canyon when we heard the aspen trees at Cedar Breaks were peaking in their fall color.

Only 8 days later we returned to find the amphitheater blanketed in snow. What a difference a couple of days made!

view from Sunset Point at Cedar Breaks National Park covered in snow, Utah
the sun rises above the evergreens at Cedar Breaks National Park covered in snow, Utah

For more photos on southern Utah and guides to plan your trip, check out our Utah travel guide page.

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