The Mighty Five--Utah
The "Mighty Five" are five of Utah's National Parks. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion, along with multiple scenic drives in between, offer some of the most spectacular views and unique rock formations I have ever seen. Even though we covered the entire trip (about 1,500 miles) in four days, I wouldn't suggest it. (Although I'm pretty sure a certain Mr. Sullivan would be proud.) If I were to re-plan this trip knowing exactly what I now understand about the parks I would definitely make at least three changes.
One change would be to leave all of our camping gear at home. Even I consider this to be a blasphemous statement. Here's why though. The time of year was almost perfect. Thanks to our early start and early finish school year, we hardly had to wedge in among crowds to see the sights during the first week in June. However, the temperature averages listed in the park information were almost ten degrees below what we actually experienced. The mid-to-upper 90's temperature, higher than we anticipated, made for a rough few days of camping. Plus, we battled a ridiculous amount of bugs in Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. [I'm sure my parents find this statement hilarious because bugs while camping have always been my nemesis. My dad once bought a net/hat combo for me to wear when I was young. They might have meant it as a joke, but I'm pretty sure I wore it.] Anyway these bugs were no joke and poor little Latimore, maybe because of his short hair, ultimately looked like he contracted chickenpox before we moved our trip indoors to cheap-ish hotels.
Another change I would make, and it seriously saddens me to say this, would be to leave the pups at home. Because husband and I have a few trips planned this summer, we decided it was best to include the pups on this one. Kind of a mistake. Between the heat (and not wanting to fry their brains and kill our babies by leaving them in the car) and not being able to take the dogs anywhere but in parking lots, we were definitely limited. Both Zion and Bryce Canyon have incorporated shuttles to reduce the effects of the tourists in the parks which is great, but they of course don't allow dogs, so again we were limited in what we were able to see.
The last change I would make to our itinerary is to keep a reasonable schedule. We originally had each park all spaced out assuming we'd spend a day or two depending on how much we liked it. Once we decided not to camp though, it became a little unreasonable to put out 4x the amount we would have spent on a campground each night in order to stay at hotel. The 7-9 day leisurely camping extravaganza became a 4 day high speed tour with the four of us (husband, me, and two 70 pound dogs) all mashed into a Jetta that was jam packed with camping gear we were no longer using and one pup who refused to believe he is not lapdog.
Okay, having said ALL of that, the trip was beautiful, unreal, and completely worth all the driving. I picked up a book from Zion's bookstore that is just a little fact book about Zion and Bryce Canyon. It said something about how depending if you are a "looking up" kind of person or a "looking down" kind of person will determine which of the parks you prefer and I totally agree. While husband and I both easily chose Zion as our favorite, the rest of our list is not the same. I am more of a "looking up", completely in awe of my surroundings while contemplating how early settlers and natives ever made life feasible when traveling and living within the canyons, like in Capitol Reef's Gorge. He appreciated and was overwhelmed by the breathtaking view and the vast overall awesomeness of Canyonlands' Island in the Sky viewpoints.
As a side-note, we started with Arches and worked our way west to Zion. I don't know if there is any real difference in the route direction, but I am glad we planned this way since we ended our tour in what became our favorite out of all five parks. We enjoyed Zion so much, we chose to re-route our return trip and went back through the park before we set off for home.
Disclaimer: We do not claim to be photographers, nor do we believe they capture the views the same way we saw them. Enjoy without judgement and then enjoy in person.
|View from campsite. (Not in park)|
|Along the Colorado River|
|Quite possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasing views from a camping toilet.|
|Green River View Overlook from Island in the Sky|
|Grand View from Island in the Sky|
Capitol Reef (My second favorite)
|Route 24 Scenic Drive heading to Capitol Reef|
|Capitol Gorge- Second favorite part of the entire trip. Can you see Latimore?|
Scenic Drive 12
|Boulder Mountain Viewpoint|
|Husband's absolute favorite part of the entire trip--unpacking and packing the car to get stuff.|
|Viewpoint from Rainbow Point.|
|Natural Bridge--misnamed in how it was formed.|
|Viewpoint from Bryce Point.|
Zion National Park
Vermillion Cliffs (AZ)
These parks offer beautiful sights filled with tons of hiking, camping, biking and tons of other recreational activities, especially in Moab, Utah. I suggest you go if you haven't yet.