Cover image by Jamie Fenn
If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, head to Utah to conquer The Mighty Five. The Mighty Five are Utah’s five world-renown national parks —Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion. Each park offers a unique adventure, and whether you’re an advanced hiker or you’re just starting out, the Mighty Five should be at the top of your outdoor bucket list. We don’t want to sound biased as Utah is our home, but we think these places are pretty rad :-)
Knowing a few tips and tricks when it comes to traveling to these five national parks in Utah can make all the difference in your Mighty Five travel adventure.
When you think of Arches, you think of Delicate Arch. And if you want to hike Delicate Arch, go early in the morning or after dark. This helps you avoid big crowds. Delicate Arch at night is a completely breathtaking site, but make sure you have the appropriate nighttime hiking gear.
If you are looking for an Arches adventure a little off the beaten path, put your rock climbing skills to use. No rock climbing is allowed on named arches or features, but there are several hidden multi-pitch walls and freestanding pinnacles that a park ranger can direct you to.
Carved out by the Colorado River, Canyonlands is a sight to behold. Grab your camera and make sure you spend a little time in the Island In the Sky District of the park, which will give you a birds-eye-view of the park. If you want to beat the crowds in Canyonland, don’t plan your visit in March or April when many local schools have spring break. If you do travel during peak season, give nighttime stargazing a try for a less-crowded, completely breathtaking experience.
For advanced hikers, try exploring the Maze District of Canyonlands, which requires a backcountry permit year-round.
Bryce Canyon gets the occasional Utah snowfall, so before you head to the canyon, make sure you check the weather and see if any areas of the park have been closed. That being said, there is something completely awe-inspiring about the redrock of Bryce mixed with the snow and a great way that locals experience Bryce is by camping there — even in the cooler months.
If you choose to camp at Bryce, make sure you have all the warm weather gear you need for the season. Don’t let the desert fool you, even summer nights can be cool. Protect your camera gear with the appropriate camera bag and make sure to pack a heavy duty sleeping bag.
Capitol Reef often gets skipped when it comes to Utah national parks, but this park has a lot of unique things to offer. With several easy hikes like Cassidy Arch, unique petroglyphs to see, and historic buildings and orchards, Capitol Reef is a sandstone glimpse into the past. Relax and eat a picnic in the park or head off on a hidden hike like Sulphur Creek; Capitol Reef can be relaxing or riveting.
For those looking for a technical adventure, try Pandora’s Box — a 10+ hour hike that requires seven repels and wading through tight slot canyons. If you choose to hike Pandora’s Box, go fully prepared and consider bringing a local guide.
Zion National Park is full of hundreds of things to do. Daredevils wishing to hike the infamous Angel’s Landing should do so with proper footwear, and during the offseason. November and December are great times to visit Zion. Locals know that the best time to hike popular hikes is Thanksgiving morning.
Zion also offers a variety of slot canyon hikes, some of which require a permit. If you want to hike slots like The Subway, make sure to secure your permit beforehand. Zion offers several hikes with water features, so waterproof shoes are a must. There are a few spots you can even swim in Zion, so pack your swim trunks if you’re interested in cooling off on a hot summer day.
No matter which park you head to, make sure to always check the weather and bring the appropriate gear. Never hike alone and always let a third party know where your latest adventure will be taking you.