‘Mother Nature played favorites’: Utah National Parks and when you can visit them for free

Local News

Courtesy: NPS

UTAH (ABC4) – Summer is right around the corner, and you know what that means. It’s time to visit Utah’s National Parks. 

Utah is known for its many national parks, most notably the Mighty Five:

  • Arches National Park
    • Located southeast Utah, north of Moab
  • Canyonlands National Park
    • Located in southeastern Utah 
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
    • Located in southern Utah 
  • Capitol Reef National Park 
    • Located in Utahs south-central desert
  • Zion National Park 
    • Located in southwest Utah 

Anna Loughridge, public relations manager for the Office of Tourism, tells ABC4 “Mother Nature played favorites here in Utah from the incredible mountains to the powerful desert red rocks. Our Mighty Five® national parks are just the beginning.” 

Utah does not lead the nation in most national parks per state. California has nine national parks and Alaska has eight. 

Utah is home to the Mighty Five national parks, 46 state parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, 23 accredited Dark Sky places, and The Greatest Snow on Earth, Loughridge shares. “Utah’s gems are abundant.” 

Loughridge says as we head into what is known as the busy season for Utah’s National Parks, visitors are asked to visit responsibility. 

“While outdoor recreation is vital to the health and wellness of Utahns and visitors alike, it is important to show good stewardship of our public lands as well as our physical safety,” Loughridge shares with ABC4. “We encourage visitors to visit off-season, to hire a guide, to get off-the-beaten-path, to explore new things such as Utah’s dark sky destinations, and to support local businesses.”

Guides and outfitters provide the opportunity to access some of Utah’s most inaccessible and powerful landscapes, engage with the surrounding geological formations, and keep you safe. 

Loughridge lists the following tips for safe, responsible national park visits in Utah: 

  • Plan ahead
  • Stay on marked trails
  • Prepare for your trip with adequate water, sun protection, clothing, and gear
  • Arrive at popular recreation sites early in the morning and visit hidden gems as part of your trip
  • Respect the restrictions in state and national parks intended for public safety and protection of our environment
  • When possible, support small businesses such as restaurants, hotels, guides, and local retailers

Utah’s National Parks are more popular than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Loughridge shares. “Covid inspired a renewed appreciation for adventure and open-spaces. Utah’s National Parks are more popular than ever.” She recommends planning ahead and to expect crowds and possibly wait times to get into the parks. 

Utah’s National Parks traditionally see a high-volume of visitation between March and September, with the summer months being the most trafficked. 

“Choose to visit during early morning hours, after dark, and try to avoid weekends and holidays,” Loughridge adds. 

Loughridge says she feels Utah’s vast, unique landscapes inspire adventure and discovery. “Through the pandemic, our national and state parks, dark sky places, off-the-beaten path destinations have called travelers from across the country and within our state to come and explore. Our mighty places allow visitors to have a truly rarified, unique experience.” 

Thinking of visiting one of Utah’s National Parks? 

On six days in 2021, all national park service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. 

Mark your calendar with the following days below for free entry dates in 2021:

  • January 18: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • April 17: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 25: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

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