13 Magnificent National Parks Near Salt Lake City

by | Sep 28, 2020 | USA, Utah

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With 13 magnificent National Parks located near to Salt Lake City, it is the perfect entry point to explore an array of national parks. From Salt Lake City, it takes less than a day to reach 13 National Park’s across Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona.

We recently used Salt Lake City as our starting point to explore the surrounding National Parks and wanted to share our guide to the best National Parks near Salt Lake City.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

 

13 National Parks Near Salt Lake City

From the magnificent geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Parks to the ancient cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde and the vastness of the Grand Canyon, there are some incredible National Parks near Salt Lake City.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

 

1 | Arches National Park, Utah

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 3 hours 30 minutes

Arches National Park is the closest National Parks to Salt Lake City. Located in the town of Moab in Utah, Arches is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches. One of its most famous arches, Landscape Arch, is the longest natural stone arch in the USA.

The instantly recognizable Delicate Arch, a symbol of Utah and a fixture on the state licence plates, is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Other great trails include the challenging Devil’s Playground, the permit only Fiery Furnace and the towering cliffs on Park Avenue.

National Parks near Salt Lake City tip: Arches is one of the best National Parks near Salt Lake City for families. Most of its trails can be managed by kids and there are easy to access viewpoints throughout the park.

Delicate Arch Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

 

2 | Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 3 hours 30 minutes

With its endless rugged landscape and colorful desert rock, Capitol Reef National Park is a magical place to visit. The defining feature of Capitol Reef is Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile long buckle in the earth’s surface along which erosion and uplift have created deep narrow canyons and fascinating rock formations.

Capitol Reef is an easy and extraordinary park to explore. Highway 24 cuts through the park and showcases the beautiful Panorama Point, Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point. The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, an 8 mile scenic drive, leads the way through the most magnificent scenery in the park and includes access to the Hickman’s Bridge trail where Capitol’s Reef natural stone arch sits.

National Parks near Salt Lake City tip: the five Utah National Park’s (Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef) can be explored together on a Utah National Parks road trip.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

 

3 | Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 3 hours 45 minutes

Located in eastern Nevada, Great Basin National Park is centered around the dry and mountainous Great Basin region between California and Utah. The park is incredibly diverse with a stunning mix of alpine lakes and limestone caverns which are set in a solitude environment. The park is home to Nevada’s only glacier as well as the oldest living trees on the planet with its 5,000 year old bristle cone pine trees. Great Basin National Park is also renowned for its dark skies.

Its highlights include the Lehman Cave tour, the Alpine Lakes Loop trail, the Bristlecone Trail and the trail to the summit of the second highest peak in Nevada, Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park

Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park

 

4 | Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 4 hours

Canyonlands is the largest of Utah’s National Parks and its vast and dramatic landscape comprises colorful canyons, buttes and mesas. Canyonlands is divided into four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze and the rivers.

The districts are located quite far apart. Island in the Sky is the most accessible and is a 30 minute drive from Moab. This is where Mesa Arch, the most photographed arch in Utah, is located. Perfect framing the surrounding canyons and rock formations, Mesa Arch is only a 10 minute hike from the nearby parking lot.

Many of Canyonland’s best viewpoints are nearby: Grand View Point, Orange Cliffs, Buck Canyon, Candlestick Tower and Green River are all amazing overlooks while White Rim Overlook and the Gooseberry trail are all popular hikes.

National Parks near Salt Lake City: Canyonlands National Park is usually combined with a visit to Arches National Park – both are within 30 minutes drive of the two of Moab, Utah, which is used as base for both.

Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

 

5 | Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 4 hours 15 minutes

With its signature hoodoo rock columns Bryce Canyon National Park is a truly magnificent sight. Its series of natural amphitheaters are carved into the edge of a high plateau and there are some spectacular viewpoints along the rim: Rainbow Point, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Bryce Point all offer sweeping views.

The Queens Garden trail and the Navajo Loop trails are the most popular in Bryce and our favorite is the combination of both trails (1.5 hours). It includes Sunrise and Sunset Point, descends into Wall Street and the canyon floor and back up to Sunset Point. 

National Parks near Salt Lake City tip: Bryce Canyon is Utah’s smallest National Park and it can easily be explored in a single day. Bryce Canyon is only 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Zion National Park and a visit to the two is often combined.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

 

6 | Zion National Park, Utah

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 4 hours 45 minutes

Home to soaring red cliffs, iconic hikes and a rich variety of wildlife, the magnificent Zion National Park is one of the most visited of the National Parks near Salt Lake City.

Hikers flock to Zion to conquer the iconic Angels Landing and the water-based Narrows. Canyon OverlookRiverside Walk, Observation Point, Scout Lookout and the Emerald Pools are among the other best things to do in Zion.

Zion National Park

Canyon Overlook, Zion National Park

 

7 | Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 4 hours 45 minutes

The oldest National Park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal and wildlife filled wonderland.

Yellowstone’s most famous sights include the Old Faithful Geyser which erupts every 60 to 90 minutes and the largest hot spring in the US, the Grand Prismatic Spring. The colorful Morning Glory, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Minerva Terrace on the Mammoth Hot Springs are other highlights.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone wildlife is incredible with bears, wolves, bison, bighorn lambs, elk and antelope among its residents.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

 

8 | Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 5 hours 45 minutes

Formed by 1.7 million years of erosion from the Gunnison River, a deep river gorge cuts through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The narrow canyon is surrounded by 2,000 foot tall canyon walls and, as a result, the canyon floor only receives a few minutes of sunlight each day.

It is a challenging hike to the canyon floor so most visitors are content exploring the rim. There are two scenic drives through the park: the North Rim Road and the South Rim Road are dotted with viewpoints from which to gaze upon the beauty of the canyon. The South Rim is open year round and the North Rim closes in Winter.

Gunnison Black Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 

9 | Mesa Verde National Park

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 6 hours 30 minutes

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mesa Verde was the home of the ancestral Pueblo people for over 700 years between the 6th and 12th Century. 4,400 archaeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings are protected in this unique National Park.

The cliff dwellings are only accessible via a guided ranger led tour. The 800 year old Balcony House, the 150 room Cliff Palace and the more remote Long House can be explored this way. Cliff Palace can also be seen from along the scenic drive on Mesa Top Loop Road.

Other interesting sights at Mesa Verde include the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum and the 2.4 mile Petroglyph Point Trail.

National Parks near Salt Lake City tip: cliff dwelling tours must be reserved in advance. The tours are on hold at the moment.

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

 

10 | Grand Canyon National Park, Arizon

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 6 hours 30 minutes

Depending on the time of year and where else you are planning on visiting, it can be a possible to visit either the North or South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The South Rim is the most popular of the two and has a more extensive tourist offering. It is also open year round. A series of viewpoints along Desert View Drive and Hermite Road showcase the vastness of the canyon. Other highlights include the South Kaibab Trail with its incredible viewpoints including Ooh Aah Point.

Grand Canyon National Park

South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

The North Rim is much quieter, and cooler, than its South Rim counterpart. It is only open from May 15 to October 15 for overnight stays and December 1 for day access as the winter conditions at the North Rim are more extreme. Highlights of the North Rim include Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal and Roosevelt Point.

It is possible to hike Rim to Rim via the North Kaibab trail and either the Bright Angel or South Kaibab trail. This is an extremely challenging hike and one which only a small number of visitors undertake.

National Parks near Salt Lake City tip: the Grand Canyon West Rim, where the Skywalk is located and the helicopter tours visit, is in the part of the canyon owned by the Hualapai Tribe. It is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park.

 

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

 

11| Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 7 hours

Located just south of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park is 310,000 acres of snow capped mountains, amazing wildlife, valleys, lakes, rivers and lush forest. It encompasses the Teton mountain range and part of Jackson Hole valley.

Grand Teton can be explored through a mix of scenic drives, picturesque hiking trails and boat trips on the lake.

A 42 mile scenic drive along Teton Park Road and Jackson Highway ticks off most of the major sights with a detour to the summit of Signal Mountain to admire the panoramic views of the park. The Jenny Lake Scenic Drive is another highlight as are the nearby hikes to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

 

12 | Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Drive time from Salt Lake City: 7 hours 30 minutes

Rocky Mountain National Park is 265,000 acres of mountainous beauty with 147 lakes (check out Dream Lake or Sprague Lake for sunrise) and 77 mountains soaring over 12,000 feet. The magnificent wildlife includes elk, moose and big horn sheep.

Trail Ridge Road, a seasonally road which climbs to over 12,000 feet, has spectacular views and crosses the continental divide at Milner Pass. Old Fall River Road and Highway 36 are also beautiful drives.

There are over 355 miles of hiking trails in the park and the best hikes include Mount Ida, Chasm Lake, Emerald Lake and the Flattop Mountain Trail.

National Parks near Salt Lake City: With the elevation on the park’s roads reaching 12,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is a high elevation park and visitors need to be mindful of the potential to suffer from altitude sickness. It is important to allow time to adjust to the higher altitude when planning a visit.

 

Dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

13 | Death Valley National Park, Nevada

Drive Time from Salt Lake City: 7 hours 45 minutes

Located on the Nevada – California border, Death Valley is a National Park of extremes. It is the lowest, hottest and driest of the US National Parks and some of the hottest temperatures on the planet have been recorded in Death Valley.

The highlights include Badwater Basin which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America, Dantes Valley Viewpoint and Zabriskie Point.

Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

 

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