Utah is home to five national parks, known as the Mighty 5, that offer some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States. These parks are Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. Each park has its unique geological formations, trails, and scenic views. Hiking in the Mighty 5 is a fantastic way to explore these parks, but it’s important to be prepared for the elements and conditions that come with hiking in the desert.
Here’s everything you should know about hiking in the Mighty 5 in Utah:
What are the Mighty 5 in Utah list ?
The Mighty 5 in Utah refers to five stunning national parks located in the southern part of the state. The list includes:
- Zion National Park: Known for its towering sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons, and diverse wildlife. It’s also a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing, and canyoneering. Find out Top 10 hikes in Zion national park US 2023 here !
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Famous for its unique geological formations known as “hoodoos,” Bryce Canyon is a must-see destination for any nature lover. Visitors can explore the park’s trails on foot, horseback, or even snowshoes in the winter.
- Capitol Reef National Park: Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef is known for its colorful sandstone cliffs, canyons, and natural bridges. Visitors can hike, camp, and even pick their own fruit in the park’s orchards.
- Canyonlands National Park: This park is divided into four districts, each offering its own unique features, including towering mesas, deep canyons, and winding rivers. Popular activities in Canyonlands include hiking, mountain biking, and river rafting.
- Arches National Park: Home to over 2,000 natural stone arches, this park is a must-visit for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Visitors can hike to Delicate Arch, one of the park’s most iconic landmarks, or explore other unique rock formations such as Balanced Rock and Landscape Arch.
How to get The Mighty 5 ?
The Mighty 5 national parks in Utah are located in southern Utah and can be accessed by car or by flying into a nearby airport.
If you’re driving, you can take Interstate 15 to access Zion and Bryce Canyon. Highway 12 connects Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef and then on to Moab, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands.
The closest airport to Zion and Bryce Canyon is St. George Regional Airport, while Salt Lake City International Airport is the closest to Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands.
What do you need to prepare for the Mighty 5 hikes ?
- Plan ahead: Each park has its unique hiking trails, so plan your route and the duration of your hike before you arrive. Check the park website for information on trail conditions, weather updates, and any trail closures.
- Dress appropriately: Utah’s desert can be extremely hot during the day, but temperatures can drop significantly at night. Dress in layers and wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
- Carry plenty of water: Hiking in the desert requires plenty of water, so carry at least one gallon of water per person per day. Dehydration can occur quickly in the desert, so it’s essential to stay hydrated.
- Bring snacks: Pack plenty of snacks and high-energy foods to keep you fueled during your hike. Trail mix, energy bars, and dried fruits are all great options.
- Follow Leave No Trace principles: Protect the environment and leave no trace of your visit. Pack out all trash and avoid damaging vegetation or disturbing wildlife.
- Be aware of wildlife: Utah’s national parks are home to a variety of wildlife, including rattlesnakes, scorpions, and mountain lions. Stay on designated trails and be aware of your surroundings.
- Respect cultural sites: Some trails in the Mighty 5 lead to cultural sites and historic structures. These sites are sacred to local tribes, so be respectful and do not disturb any artifacts or structures.
- Check the weather: Weather conditions in the desert can change quickly, so check the forecast before you head out. Avoid hiking during thunderstorms, as flash floods are common in the desert.
Some of the most popular hiking trails in the Mighty 5 include:
- Angels Landing in Zion National Park: A strenuous hike that rewards hikers with stunning views of Zion Canyon.
- The Narrows in Zion National Park: A unique hike through a narrow slot canyon with towering walls on either side.
- Queens Garden/Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park: A moderate hike that takes hikers through stunning hoodoos and rock formations.
- Chesler Park Loop in Canyonlands National Park: A challenging hike that takes hikers through stunning red rock formations.
- Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park: A moderate hike that takes hikers through some of the most iconic arches in the park.
How many days is needed for Mighty 5 hikes ?
The amount of time needed to explore the Mighty 5 in Utah depends on the level of detail you want to experience in each park. Ideally, you should allow at least 7 to 10 days to explore all the national parks in Utah. This will give you enough time to see the major attractions, go on some hikes, and explore the surrounding areas. However, if you have limited time, you can plan a shorter trip and focus on one or two parks that interest you the most.
What is the best time to visit the Mighty 5 in Utah?
For hiking and outdoor activities, the best time is typically in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November) when temperatures are cooler and the crowds are smaller. During the summer months (June to August), temperatures can get very hot, especially in areas like Zion National Park, which may make hiking uncomfortable for some visitors. However, this is also the peak season for tourism and the parks may be more crowded.
In the winter (December to February), some of the parks may be closed or have limited access due to snow, so it’s important to check park websites for updates and road closures. However, the parks can still be visited during the winter, with some areas offering winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing.
Hiking in the Mighty 5 is a great way to experience the beauty of Utah’s national parks. By following these tips and being prepared, you can make the most of your hiking experience in the desert.