Two thousand feet above a bend in the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park introduces you to the high deserts of Utah. Southern Utah’s red rock country lies at altitudes of 5,000 to over 9,000 feet. Five national parks are stationed from east to west in a land where millions of rugged, beautiful acres sprawl throughout the bottom half of the state.
Climbing the tall entryway into Arches National Park, hundreds of orange monoliths, balanced rocks and arches stand waiting to be admired. Carved from tan and salmon-colored Navajo sandstone, these weathered rock features are seen here in higher concentration than any other place in the world.
Arches “Fiery Furnace," with its hot temperatures, lets hikers climb and duck through fins and narrow canyons exploring a maze of geologic beauty. The La Sal Mountains can be seen in the distance. The mountains feel as if they're following you, visible from nearly every location in the park. Snow-covered Mount Peale at 12,700 feet stands in stark contrast to the sunshine and high temps of Arches.
Traveling west of Arches and winding through Red Canyon on Utah’s Highway 12 brings you to the orange and vermillion cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park. A hike on the Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point takes you down 36 narrow switchbacks into tall, thin rock spires called Hoodoos. Dry riverbeds remind hikers of the arid climate, but the occasional forest green Ponderosa pine, rising from the canyons bottom hundreds of feet upwards, reminds us that life can thrive in these areas.
Southwest of Bryce all the way to the corner of the state, you come upon Checkerboard Mesa and the outskirts of legendary Zion Canyon. Peer to the left and right, focus your eyes on movement in the distance, and it’s fairly easy to spot desert bighorn sheep climbing steep rock faces. The Virgin River brings life to Zion National Park, watering aspen, cliffrose and pinion and providing food and shade for incredible, giant mule deer the state is famous for. Zion’s flat-sided, rocky cliffs rise thousands of feet and are world-renowned for rock climbing.
Central Utah is home to some of the largest elk and mule deer herds in the western United States, offering both quantity and quality for those fortunate enough to draw a coveted tag. The area is known for its beautiful aspen forests, elk hunting, and thousands of acres of mountain lakes with trout fishing. Jump on an ATV and ride the Paiute Trail for hundreds of miles through the Pahvant Mountains to find backcountry camping and the scenic views Utah is known for.
Utah’s north moves from high deserts to high mountains. The Wasatch Mountain Range surrounding Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake is a haven for alpine sports and especially for skiing. Park City, Alta, Brighton and Solitude are all class A resorts with epic snowy runs.
Antelope Island State Park in Great Salt Lake is an island of pronghorn and bison that roam untethered through the beaches and hills. Utah’s northern creeks and rivers provide alpine fishing and kayaking. Paddle on Deer Creek Reservoir and you'll see Mount Timpanogos, not only on the shoreline, but in a glassy reflection on the water’s surface.
People come to Utah for its epic adventures and their hearts are captured by gorgeous mountains and red rock canyons. Thankfully there is plenty of beauty, exceptional recreation and adventure.