utah's mighty 5

“Most of my wandering in the desert I've done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity - I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” 
― Edward AbbeyDesert Solitaire

Mid-October: the best and worst of times. Fall activities, changing leaves, crisp temperatures, Halloween!... and the realization that summer is finally over. For a teacher like me this is.. unsettling. So instead of give in to the October blues, I've spent some time looking back over some of the incredible places I visited this summer - like Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks! 

If you know me you know one of my greatest joys is visiting National Parks. Preferably alone on a road trip in the summer but I'm not picky :) I've had visiting the Utah parks on my list for a few years and even just weeks before leaving made every excuse about why visiting 5 parks in a week across a sparsely populated state as a single lady was a terrible idea. But when has any of that ever stopped me? :) 

My intention is to blog more specifically about each park in the future but for now here is some general info on the parks and some pictures that might inspire you to get outside.

Day 1 - Capital Reef National Park

I started the trip from Denver and drove to Torrey Utah - about 447 miles and the longest driving day. I got there early enough to spend the evening relaxing in the most amazing airbnb with a view out over Capital Reef. 

After waking up with the sun and eating some breakfast I trekked it in to Capital Reef National Park. Capital Reef was first settled by Native American tribes then by Mormons after the Civil War. One of the settlements was Fruita - a small town of ten families that has been restored by the Park Service. You can (and I did obv) visit the old general store, blacksmith, school, and the Fruita fruit orchards. Visitors to the orchards can pick whatever is in season on their own and leave a very small fee to take anything out. The apricots in the orchard were mostly out of season when I visited but I still enjoyed the stroll through. Surprisingly, I didn't encounter many other people at all during my walk and drive/stops etc. It is in a remote location but still has far fewer visitors than the other parks. 

capital reef 2

Day 2 - Zion National Park

The next day I woke up in St. George Utah - not the closest place to Zion but the easiest and most affordable. I drove to the park with the intention of getting there before the crowds but boy was I wrong. I shouldn't have been surprised since Zion is the sixth most visited National Park and the most visited park in Utah (by far). There isn't car access to much of the park so I waited in line for a shuttle bus for over an hour. Once I got on the bus it was worth it. The park is just the way I imagined it and more - awe inspiring and massive. 

I got off at the last stop to hike the famous Narrows. The Narrows is a hike through a river in the canyon. You can find tons of information about it online but my advice is: don't rent the shoes, socks, sticks etc - my cheap trekking poles, old New Balances, and waterproof case in my bag worked just fine. There was a chance of rain and flash flooding can be deadly so I didn't go as far in as I would have liked - just a reason to come back next summer :)

zion 1
zion 2

I went on some other hikes and had lunch at the lodge before the heat got to me and headed back to St. George for some room service and pool relaxing. 

Day 3 - Bryce Canyon National Park

The next day I checked out of my hotel and headed on to Bryce Canyon National Park. The drive to the park was incredible but unfortunately storms were rolling in. The park is between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation so the risk of storms can be dangerous. 

Bryce was crowded and although you don't have to take the shuttle I recommend it. I hiked along the rim trying to convince myself I was in a real place and not a dream world until the storm clouds were imminent. I took the opportunity to visit the lodge for some food and people watch (one of the best things about visiting national parks)

The weather kicked me out way too early so another visit to Bryce is first on my Utah agenda for next year. 

real place.

Interesting Fact: Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon but a natural amphitheater. Who knew. 

Day 3.5 - Brian Head Utah

I try not to plan too precisely on trips like this in case something (like a huge storm) comes up and ruins my plans. Thankfully I hadn't booked a place for the night by lunch so I found a resort I could relax the rest of the night at in Brian Head Utah - a ski town with a 119 population at 9,800 feet. It was raining/freezing rain the entire time I was there so thankfully my resort had an in house restaurant with some pizza and the only place that sold wine was across the street. It was the perfect place to relax mid-trip. 

brian head

Day 4 - Arches National Park

Arches was the only Utah park I had already been to so it wasn't even on my itinerary in the beginning. Of course, I like doing things in series so I figured if I'm already going to 4 of 5 parks I have to do them all. I tried to do some of the hikes that I hadn't done before and it paid off. It was kind of a gloomy day so I spent several hours hiking and just sitting/reading/yoga-ing among the 2,000+ natural arches.


Day 5 - Canyonlands National Park

I left the perfect Airbnb I stayed at in Moab before dawn to catch the sunrise in Canyonlands. The park is about 35 miles away from the city (Arches is only 5). There weren't any cars on the road and surprisingly only passed one other group in the park. I sat and watched the view at Mesa Arch for quite a while before exploring some other areas. The park is so vast - it was the perfect last National Park. My actual last stop was Dead Horse State Park (ahem, Westworld) which is about 8 miles away. 

my selfies got so much better throughout the trip ha

So there you have it - a whirlwind 5 days and a whirlwind of a blog post. If you made it this far - go outside, how do you have this much free time?! haha but seriously, if you have specific questions about any of the parks please ask - I'm no expert but I'm really into research. :)

Now start planning your trip!