Southern Utah has long been one of the country’s hottest tourist spots, especially for those who prefer arches to skyscrapers. Experienced and amateur hikers alike revel in the trails, caves and sandstone.
It’s easy to get lost in the state’s plethora of national parks, but with a some planning and prioritizing, tourists can hit the must-sees. Here are eight of them:
Made famous by its appearance on Utah license plates, this 65-foot, freestanding, natural sandstone arch can be found near Moab in Arches National Park. The distinctive shape is recognized all over the world and almost too scenic to believe. It’s well worth the three-mile, round-trip hike, but shoot for sunset for an extra dose of awe-inducing nature.
It’s among the world’s biggest natural bridges, documented at somewhere between 230- and 275-feet long. The famous Southern Utah attraction is rich with Native American history, and several tribes have been consulted over the decades in its upkeep and maintenance. Tribes have held the bridge to be sacred and while the National Park Service requests visitors to be respectful of its meaning to local tribes, more than 85,000 tourists visit the site every year. It can be accessed through neighboring marinas or a long-hike.
Calf Creek Falls
This jaw-dropping waterfall is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The lowest tier is accessible via a 6-mile roundtrip hike, and the top tier can be reached by hiking an extra mile. The water topples 126-feet down a stone backdrop into a crystal clear pool, so bring a swimming suit and take a plunge.
Located on the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a road trip photo favorite with its cluster of stone towers ranging from 400 to 1,000 feet tall. Make a pitstop at the visitors center and take a tour of what’s dubbed as one of the most photographed landscapes in the West.
The Canyonlands offer an expansive itinerary of Southern Utah’s colorful canyons, rivers and buttes. The park is split into districts — the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Green and Colorado rivers — and each is worth its own trip. A roundtrip 7-mile hike up Horseshoe Canyon leads to the famous Great Gallery and its Native American rock art, which includes life-sized, intricate drawings on the stone wall.
This park is one of the country’s biggest, most serene attractions and raved about from coast to coast. Make the most of it with hikes, stargazing and camping across the nearly 36,000-acre park. While Bryce Canyon is tucked away in remote Southern Utah, and consequently gets less visitors than other parks like Zion, it’s well-worth the drive.
Dead Horse Point
The high desert park offers panoramic views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands. Dead Horse Point peaks at 2,000 above the gooseneck of the Colorado River, and the plateau drops into dramatic cliffs and offers hikes to explore the park’s rich cowboy history.
Zion National Park
There’s a reason the words “Zion Park” are famous across the world: It’s as beautiful as its reputation assumes and belongs on every list of Southern Utah must-visits. Its expansive list of natural attractions — mountains, arches, canyons, buttes, mesas, rivers, slot canyons and unique wildlife — transports visitors to a different world. Spending a single day in the park doesn’t do it justice, so soak up the history and take advantage of its tourist services, like the shuttle system.