There is no doubt that road trips and visits to National Parks across the U.S. are an emerging travel trend this year. With many pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place around the world, many are left wondering, where can they travel? My husband and I set off on a road trip across four states and several National Parks, covering 3,300 miles. With breathtaking scenery and so many beautiful luxury properties near the National Parks, Utah emerged as the highlight of our trip.
We kicked off the Utah portion of our road trip at the beautiful Waldorf Astoria, Park City. We received a warm welcome in the luxurious lobby, where the smell of a fire burning in the fireplace and the dark wood accents, perfectly matched the mountain views we could see just beyond the lobby. At the base of Canyon Mountain, this location is a great year-round option with activities ranging from skiing, hiking and biking to horseback riding, golfing and more. Located only four miles from downtown Park City, it is close to restaurants, shops, museums and art galleries. The property has a heated pool, hot tub, spa, fitness center and restaurant, making it the perfect home base for adventures or relaxation.
Shown here is the Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park.
From Park City, we left the mountains on a four-hour road trip south to Bryce Canyon National Park. This drive could easily be broken up with visits to several natural hot springs, including Homestead Crater, Meadow and Mystic Hot Springs. With only two days in Bryce, we drove the 38-mile scenic loop through the park, to get the lay of the land, making stops at the 13 overlooks to admire the views. Each provided a different vantage point of the colorful canyon, lined with skinny spires of rocks and sandstone towers known as hoodoos. Up early for sunrise at Inspiration Point and a hike into the canyon on the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop trail made for a perfect final day in Bryce.
From Bryce, we drove the All-American Scenic Byway 12 East, for a night stopover in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We hiked the Long Slot Canyon, which we enjoyed to ourselves. A morning hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls rewarded us with a 126-foot cascading waterfall in the desert. It was a perfect start to our day on the road to Capitol Reef National Park just an hour northeast.
Lower Calf Creek Falls in Escalante
Capitol Reef is often overlooked and one of Utah’s best-kept secrets. A 100-mile wrinkle in the earth’s crust, it is full of colorful exposed rocks, petroglyphs, arches and hiking trails. With limited time, we drove the scenic loop through the heart of the park, stopping at the 11 viewpoints to enjoy the views. A stop in Fruita at the Gifford Homestead for homemade pies and cinnamon rolls was a must.
From Capitol Reef, we continued our drive two hours northeast to Moab, checking in at the stunning 240-acre Sorrel River Ranch, where luxury meets adventure. The ranch sits on the banks of the Colorado River, surrounded by stunning views of red rocks and majestic mesas. After a day of exploring, Sorrel offers a peaceful and tranquil place to unwind and soak in the beauty that surrounds the incredible Moab area. The gorgeous ranch-style cabins were spacious with kitchenettes, a living area and a beautiful front porch to take in the view from your porch swing.
Krissy enjoying a hike among the hoodoos on the Navajo Queens Garden Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon
The ranch offers five-star amenities, such as a riverfront spa, pool, fitness center, fire pits, a farm-to-table restaurant, adventure center and hiking trails. We loved that the ranch had 25 horses living on property that were available for guided trail rides, making it easy and accessible for guests to enjoy. A horseback ride through the stunning mesas and red rocks that surround the property was one of our most memorable experiences in Utah.
Sorrel was the perfect home base to explore Arches and Canyonlands, two of the most iconic National Parks in Utah. Arches is busy year-round, but with 2,000 sandstone arches, it is an essential visit while in Moab. We drove the 43-mile scenic loop, stopping to hike and explore the highlights such as Windows, Park Ave, Skyline Arch, Balanced Rock, Upper Delicate Arch and the Double Arch.
Southern Utah’s National Parks are some of the most iconic in the country. Shown here is the Canyonlands National Park.
Although close to Arches, Canyonlands National Park’s scenery is vastly different. The “Island in the Sky” district is the most accessible to explore. Sitting on top of a 1,500-foot mesa, visitors can see over 100 miles in any given direction. Weather in Canyonlands can be unpredictable; we were welcomed with snow showers and a 30-degree temperature drop from Moab. With limited visibility, we drove the 32-mile scenic loop, stopping to explore the Grand View Point, Upheaval Dome, White Rim Overlook and the famous Mesa Arch. With a break in the weather, we walked the half-mile loop to the Mesa Arch. Sitting on the edge of a cliff, we were treated to views that took our breath away.
Southern Utah’s National Parks are some of the most iconic in the country. Whether you’re visiting to hike slot canyons, see the colorful hoodoos or dramatic red rocks, or experience the otherworldly qualities that make up Utah’s Mighty 5, it will be a trip you will not forget. The geography of Utah is so diverse that no two parks are alike, each has its own distinct landscape, making it one of the most unique states I have ever visited.