SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As summer approaches, Utahns and travelers from out of state are making plans to spend some much needed time outdoors. Utah’s five national parks are the perfect place to do so.

Utah’s national parks have been receiving larger crowds every year with good reason; they hold some of the most stunning natural beauty across the country. In fact, Utah is third place in the nation for highest number of national parks, following only California and Alaska.

  • Arches National Park, located near Moab in the east of Utah, is home to spectacular red rock arches that give it its name. Arches is most famous for the Delicate Arch, a sight closely associated with Utah since the park’s founding.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, in southern Utah by way of Panguitch, is beloved for its forest-like red rock spires. At an elevation over 2,000 feet, Bryce Canyon is home to several different climates and associated environments; visitors can see red rock desert and pine forest in the same trip.
  • Canyonlands National Park, south of Arches, is known for its four different “districts” demarcated by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Canyonlands is a particularly large park that visitors probably won’t get to explore sufficiently over only a couple of days.
  • Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah is expansive, and best suited for longer backpacking trips. Capitol Reef is especially beloved by and photographers
  • Finally, Zion National Park close to St. George in southern Utah is Utah’s oldest national park. Zion’s huge canyon walls are stunning, and even fun just to drive through. For longer visits, hikers traverse the Virgin River through the Narrows, a much beloved journey nationwide.

If the national parks are too busy, Utah is also home to 43 state parks across the state. These parks are great for visits of almost any length, and are great for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.

Goblin Valley, for example, is well known for its many red rock pillars (affectionately referred to as goblins) and associated hikes. Snow Canyon State Park features great red rock views that can be enjoyed by bike ride or horseback. Anasazi State Park Museum is home to an ancient Anasazi pueblo village.

Regardless of specific travel plans, visitors can’t go wrong with Utah’s huge range of options for state and national parks; just be sure to follow safety guidelines set by park management, and to help maintain Utah’s natural beauty.