Utah boasts some of the most incredible landscapes, it’s no wonder its five national parks are deemed the “Mighty 5”. Each one very unique and different from the next. The five National Parks are: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches. I was very lucky to be able to visit all five this past summer.
My visit was during July (2018) and after spending a year living in Orlando, I thought I’d adjusted quite well to the heat.
I was wrong.
During my time in Utah temperatures were around 35-40 degrees (celsius) and visiting these National Parks in the heat is something you need to be prepared for, whether hiking or not. Bring lots and lots of water! I was touring with G Adventures, and our group had a variety of abilities. The few hikes we chose were a good option for both hikers and non hikers.
Zion National Park
After picking up my tour in Vegas, we were on our way to Zion. My time in Zion was very short. Due to the flash floods the day before some of the roads and hiking trails were closed. For this reason it took us longer to get there than it should have. And once we arrived the trail we had planned on hiking, which was the emerald pools, had quite literally washed away. We spent maybe 2 hours here max, and while I was very thankful I was able to visit at all, 2 hours just isn’t enough time. We took a leisurely stroll back to the visitor centre and enjoyed the parts of the park we could.
I would absolutely love to come back here, and maybe achieve hiking Angels Landing and The Narrows.
Bryce Canyon National Park
After leaving Zion, we made our way to Bryce Canyon and set up camp for the night. Bryce Canyon was surprisingly cold during my visit. It was the only night during my G Adventures tour that I remember being really cold, and had layers on at night. Everywhere else we visited in Utah was boiling.
The drop in temperature did make the hike the next morning easier however. We hiked the Navajo Loop and during the hike met two elderly ladies. One of the ladies mentioned that she was 79 years old. 79 guys! And there’s me at 28, huffing and puffing, out of breath. If this wasn’t a sign I need to be healthier and work out I’m not sure what is. I want to be the woman who hikes Bryce Canyon at 79!
Bryce was one of my most anticipated National Parks. It did not disappoint. The hoodoos were simply stunning.
Capitol Reef National Park
My time in Capitol Reef was shorter than my time in Zion. A very beautiful and often unheard of National Park. A lot of what I saw of this park was from the bus window. But we did stop at the Gifford Homestead for homemade pies. And yes, they are as good as everyone says. It was a bright blue day, and this little area in the park was so tranquil.
While we didn’t do any hiking here, we did stop at a very cool spot to see some original native petroglyphs. Most of the petroglyphs in Capitol Reef are attributed to the Fremont, which occupied areas in Utah from 600 AD to 1300 AD.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyon lands was the most underrated of all the National Parks I visited. It also turned out to be my favourite. I’d never heard of this National Park until this tour but I’m so happy that I got to see it. Every view in this park was awe inspiring. It took my breath away.
It also helped that there were very few people in the park on the day we visited. Almost like we had the entire place to ourselves.
The hike to Mesa Arch was more like a walk and around 15 minutes long. It’s hard to imagine that this viewpoint was made entirely by nature. I couldn’t help but think of Star Wars when looking through the arch, like a floating car might whizz by at any moment.
It’s funny to think that my favourite arch, was in fact, not in Arches National Park!
Dead Horse State Park
We visited Canyonlands just before sunset. After checking out the views at Grand View Point overlook and Mesa Arch, we drove to Dead Horse State Park. There are some amazing views of the Colorado River at this State Park.
Here is where I experienced the most astonishing sunset I have ever seen. We cooked dinner at the state park, and watched the sky turn a fiery red. I could not take my eyes off the sunset long enough to eat.
Arches National Park
The following morning we made our way to the last of the big five, Arches National Park. We were graced with bright blue skies yet again. Arches National Park has over 2000 natural sandstone arches, I managed to see around 30. The arches are scattered all over the park, so pay close attention as you’ll spot them everywhere.
We stopped at the Balancing Rock upon entering the park. Named after – well – the big balancing rock! Pretty cool really, it looks as though it could fall on you at any minute.
Our first hike of the day was to landscape arch. The hike there was fairly flat, but with temperatures reaching 40 degrees and higher, was rather difficult with little to no shade. No wonder they call it the Devil’s Garden trail.
I don’t remember which arches the next hike took us to, but it’s been the scariest hike I’ve done to date. It might have been a short hike, but the steepness of the rocks scared me. We all took photos on this big rock, as pictured below, and although it might not look like it, there was the biggest drop at the end of it.
We finished our visit to Arches by checking out the North and South Windows. On a bright blue day the red shade of the sandstone really stood out, which was great for taking photos. By this time we’d been in the heat for around 3 hours, I could feel my fingers swelling. Feeling like Aunt Marge (harry potter reference), everybody decided to call it a day and head back to the bus a bit early, if only to get into some shade.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the iconic Delicate Arch. It was one of the things I’d looked forward to most, but the bus just wasn’t small enough for the road.
A Highlight Of My 2018
The Mighty 5 were just as incredible as everyone says, and then some. I love pretty buildings, cityscapes, sculptures etc, but nothing compares to that of natural beauty. #nofilter #makeupfree
But seriously, there’s nothing quite like seeing these magnificent sights for yourself. If you’d like to see them in the flesh yourself, I recommend G Adventures. They offer several different itineraries for different budgets and It’s really nice to hike with a group of people too. I chose this option because I don’t drive and if I did, I’d be driving through the desert on my own – which does not sound appealing! Seeing Utah was one of my biggest highlights of 2018 – and I’m so glad I went ahead with the tour and didn’t cancel!
Have you ever visited Utah? Or any of it’s amazing National Parks?
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