In no single US state are so many breathtaking national parks so close together as in southern Utah. “The Mighty 5” – as Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are also known – are among the top natural sensations of South-West USA. There are also 43 state parks, seven national monuments and two national recreation areas.
For years, Utah’s license plates had the skier and the phrase “Greatest Snow on Earth” emblazoned on it. In fact, the snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains in northern Utah are a skier’s paradise. In 2002 some competitions of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games were held here. But that’s not all, because outdoor fans get their money’s worth in the state: fishing, canyoning, climbing, cycling, swimming in the largest salt lake in the USA – everything is here in “Land of the Ute” – like the natives who still live here are called – possible.
According to allcitycodes, Utah is known far beyond the borders as the homeland of the Mormons. About 60 percent of the population follows this belief – and according to US statistics, at least 42 percent practice it. The big white temples are dominant in every major city. Incidentally, anyone who conducts genealogical research is also in the right place here, because the Family History Library in the capital Salt Lake City houses the largest collection of family trees.
Utah is a diverse gem – just waiting to be explored.
Location and size
Utah is located in the southwestern part of the USA and is the 13th largest state in the USA with 219,890 km². The states of Wyoming and Idaho border Utah to the north and Nevada to the west. The state shares a border with Colorado to the east and Arizona to the south. In the extreme southeast of Utah is the border to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona – and thus the only four-country corner – “Four Corners” – of the USA.
With a population of just 3.2 million, Utah ranks only 31st in the US population rankings, making it one of the ten most sparsely populated states.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), 8 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, is the primary airport for arrival. Many winter sports areas can be reached from here in around an hour. For travelers heading to southern Utah’s national parks – the Mighty Five – the nearest international airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS). From here to Zion National Park and Kanab, the drive takes two to three hours.
Utah has an extreme steppe climate with four distinct seasons, with summer temperatures lasting well into fall. Winter often shows itself with early snowfall and sometimes stays until late spring. Regardless of the time of year, you should also be prepared for extremes – especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in nature. The equipment depends on both the season and the region to be visited. Daytime temperatures for the northern metropolitan region vary from around 0°C in winter to around 30°C in summer. In the southwest of the state, temperatures are typically around 5-8°C higher.
|Average temperatures in Salt Lake City, Utah in °C|
|Average temperatures in Park City, Utah in °C|
The following national parks and monuments already have their own page on our homepage:
Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Zion National park
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
Below the 3,581 meter high Mount Timpanogos lies one of the most popular excursion destinations in the capital SLC: the three massive limestone caves that reach more than 550 meters deep into the interior of the mountain. The caves are not easy to reach, because you have to first undertake a two-kilometer steep mountain hike from the Visitor Center to get to the cave entrance. The caves, in which the air temperature is constantly fresh at six degrees, are networked with one another. The limestone formations with numerous stalagmites and stalactites are curious and enchanting. There are also crystalline helictites and numerous other water-sculpted structures to admire. The number of visitors is strictly limited, as the interior of the caves does not allow more guests. If you don’t come early in the morning or during the week, you should make a reservation.
The Timpanagos Caves are situated on the very popular and beautiful 40 mile scenic Alpine Loop. There are beautiful views and numerous camping and picnic areas, as well as several hiking trails. www.nps.gov/tica
Frontier Homestead State Park is located in Cedar City, just off Interstate 15. In this “living history” museum, the heritage of the native people is preserved as well as the life of the settlers. There is the Paiute Cultural Exhibition, where you can experience life in a pioneer mining town. Visitors can also try out how to weave a carpet on a centuries-old loom. The city bell from 1850 provides original background noise.
Railroad fans are drawn to Brigham City – about 30 miles north of SLC just off Interstate-15. Here, the Golden Spike National Historic Site marks the spot where the “golden nail” was driven into the last railroad tie connecting the Union Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad in 1869. This was the first transcontinental rail line in the United States.
Dinosaur National Monument
In 1909, paleontologists unearthed huge finds of dinosaur bones at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers in the Colorado border area (eastern Utah). A fair amount of it was recovered. However, President Woodrow Wilson protected this piece of land as early as 1915. The National Monument was then expanded in 1938. At that time the gorges of the Green and Yampa Rivers were added – and today they are among the main attractions of the approximately 830 km² large protected area. www.nps.gov/dino
The charming town of Vernal is considered the gateway to Ashley National Forest and Utah’s Dinosaur Country. Vernal, just minutes from Dinosaur National Monument, is the largest site of prehistoric Jurassic dinosaur bones. www.dinoland.com
The Uinta Mountains – a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains – run in an east-west direction about 160 km east of SLC. With summit heights between 3,700 m and 4,100 m you will also find Utah’s highest elevation, the 4,124 m high Kings Peak. The High Uintas Wilderness region is suitable for hiking.
Swim, sail and water ski in the deep blue waters of Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border. Or you can go on a 2.4 km long hike that climbs 1,000 meters in altitude.
Valley of the Gods ( Bears Ears National Monument)
In southeastern Utah, on the Arizona border (between Highways 163 and Highway 261 Utah), lies the Valley of the Gods – a 17-mile dirt trail through a mini-monument valley. The road is only conditionally suitable for normal vehicles. However, the scenery is breathtaking.
In 2016, under President Barack Obama, a larger portion of the region was protected as Bears Ears National Monument. However, under President Donald Trump, the area was reduced by almost 85 percent in area in December 2017. It includes the Bears Ears mesas and the Indian Creek Canyon.
Highway 261 Utah runs through the National Monument. A section of the road, the so-called Moki Dugway, overcomes a height of 335 m over a length of 4.8 km. The road is unpaved in the upper section, but asphalted in the lower area.