Utah’s Extraordinary Landscapes – ‘The Mighty 5’

If (like me) you love rugged arid landscapes then southern Utah should be well up on your wish list.   The region has everything to make for a great trip – canyons,  arches,  valleys,  hoodoos,  deserts,  red rock scenery….  – and all stunning.   The problem is fitting the lot in!   Utah’s tourism industry cleverly markets the ‘Mighty 5’ – the main national parks across this part of the state – but of course there is much more to see,  time permitting.

This is just a very brief sample of what the parks have to offer…





















































Small Stuff

Getting There:

The region is best served by Las Vegas and Salt Lake City international airports.  With Las Vegas being about 2.5 hours from nearest park (Zion) and SLC about 3.5 hours from Moab, there’s no quick accessibility to any of the parks.  The most feasible option is to fly into one airport and out of the other.

How Long:

I’m assuming here that, if you are interested in Utah, this is not your first visit to SW USA – first timers will want to concentrate on Grand canyon,  Monument valley etc. – unless you are going on an extended road trip.

Can the 5 be done in a week?   Wouldn’t fancy it myself.   Canyonlands is split into 2 so that actually makes 6 parks,  plus the drive in between,  plus the transfers from airports.  No thank you!

If you’ve 10 days,  you could comfortably visit them all and have time to enjoy some of the short trails in each – which I suspect is what most people (including ourselves) do.

14 days would allow time to slow down and enjoy a swimming pool on occasion and also time to explore other attractions along the way.


I love this part of the world and I love US national parks and walking trails etc.  But,  2 weeks would definitely cause national park fatigue!   I need an urban fix thrown in!.   So if this is your first visit,  I’d do Zion,  Bryce and Arches (if you’ve time),  and throw in Las Vegas – or NYC maybe as a stopover on your way home if flying back to Europe.   Canyonlands is stunning also and definitely worthy of a return trip.


Getting In:

There’s an entrance fee for each so just buy the annual $80 pass at your first park.  (we bought ours on August 2nd this year – its valid until end August 2020 … so … we could go back to USA next summer and still have a valid pass…)




This is prime tourist country so good luck finding a bargain.   Popular places can fill up quickly in high season so plan accordingly.

There are lots of options for Zion in the nearby town of Springdale.

For Arches and Canyonlands,  Moab has plenty of ‘budget’ accommodation.

Capitol Reef- The small town of Torrey, is just a few miles away.

Bryce- Most people stay in Bryce Canyon City or in Tropic (10 miles away)





8 thoughts on “Utah’s Extraordinary Landscapes – ‘The Mighty 5’

  1. Just drove into St George today and will see Zion tomorrow. And I find your post!! As you know, my wife broke her leg in Alaska, so we are not doing the hikes we’d typically do… But thanks for your preview. Will be visiting at least four of these in the next couple weeks.

    1. You’ll enjoy it all even if you can’t do your usual hikes. The drives themselves are spectacular – I love that road through Zion. And there will be plenty of viewing spots in the other parks . Have a great trip – I’m looking out at rain and wind here in Dublin – the tail end of storm Lorenzo – wouldn’t mind a bit of Utah heat right now!

  2. I remember when I was there feeling incredibly small and insignificant. Puts a lot of things in perspective I think. Enjoyed your photographs, makes me realize I must get back to blogging!

    1. We certainly felt that while walking on the floor of Bryce Canyon. Thanks as always for your support. Go on… get writing!!!!

    1. Absolutely. But I think from a European perspective, it takes a few trips to get to that stage. On the first trip its all about the Grand Canyon – maybe Monument Valley if you’ve time. While you’re there, you hear about Bryce, Zion, Arches etc so you hopefully get back some day to see those …. its only after then that you can start to actually explore the other areas which as you say, are equally stunning and less busy.

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