A fly-drive of Utah's 'Mighty 5' means watching the sunrise over the vertiginous depths of Canyonlands, then watching the sunset through an impossibly delicate rock bow in Arches. It means standing nose-to-nose with ancient petroglyphs in Capitol Reef, then lying on your back as a meteor shower streaks across the Milky Way. It means gazing down at coral-hued rock hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, then gazing upward at the steep walls of a slot canyon in Zion.
If you're looking for an adventure that delivers dramatic scenery around every bend and incredible, uncrowded national parks - you've found it.
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No one should leave Salt Lake City without seeing Historic Temple Square, the beautifully landscaped 10 acre park that surrounds the six spired Salt Lake Temple. The famous domed Tabernacle, home to the world renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir is also on the square. Free concerts occur on most weekends and you can listen to rehearsals on Thursday evenings. Organ rehearsals are also open for listeners.
A Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass lets you visit any or all of the prime attractions in Salt Lake City including Utah Olympic Park, Utah Museum of Natural History, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Clark Planetarium, Discover Gateway, the Living Planet Aquarium, the Zoo and Red Butte Garden. Pick and choose as you like for today and tomorrow.
Distance: 50 miles
Distance: 206 miles
Distance: 126 miles
Passing the Calf Creek Recreation Area, the drive climbs Haymaker Bench and crosses the Hogback, a ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides. The road is very narrow at the top, twisting through Dixie National Forest and across Boulder Mountain. The section of road between Boulder and Torrey was paved in 1985. Part of the Aquarius Plateau, Boulder Mountain exceeds 11,000 ft. and is the highest timbered plateau in North America. Closer to Bryce, the route then climbs past a rocky section with unusual clay coloured hills, called The Blues.
Bryce Canyon National Park, named after the Pioneer Ebenezer Bryce, became a national park in 1924. Famous for its unique geology, the Park is not really a canyon, but a series of horseshoe shaped amphitheatres carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
This area which boasts some of the world's best air quality offers a panoramic view of three surrounding states and nearly 200 miles. This phenomenon, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates an unparalleled opportunity for stargazing.
As with most National Parks, your first stop should be at the Bryce Canyon Visitors Centre to get an overview of the Park. There are times in Bryce when everyone is required to use the shuttle. A Geology Talk about the hoodoos, ancient lakes and frost wedging is given each day at either Inspiration or Sunset Point. A ranger-led one mile round trip on the Rim Walk lasts about an hour and a half and delivers great views, fascinating plant and wildlife stories, a touch of geology, and a smattering of cultural history.
Distance: 99 miles
Zion National Park is located along the edge of a region known as the Colorado Plateau. As you travel between the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park and on to Bryce Canyon, the rock layers are a series of stair steps referred to as the Grand Staircase. The bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion and the bottom layer at Zion is the top layer at the Grand Canyon. At the land in the area transformed, each layer of rock was created from a different type of material. The ancient sea beds became limestone, mud and clay became shale and desert sand became sandstone.
There is a free shuttle that travels throughout the park and stops at eight locations. The transfer of passengers between loops is made at the Zion Canyon Visitor Centre. You may get on and off the shuttle as often as you like. You can also visit the Zion Human History Museum, a regular stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. Permanent exhibits display the rich human history of Zion National Park, showcasing American Indian culture, the historic pioneer settlement, and Zion's growth as a National Park. The Human History Museum also illustrates the effects of water on Zion, both as creator and destroyer. In addition, a 22-minute video, shown every half hour, provides an excellent overview. There is another Visitor Centre at Kolob Canyon.
Distance: 270 miles
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument, creating Utah’s first National Park Service affiliate. When the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned the Hopi names of Sipapu, (place of emergence), Kachina (reflecting the rock art on the bridge) and Owachomo (rock mound). A nine-mile scenic loop starting and ending near the Natural Bridges Visitor Centre overlooks each of the bridges. A trailhead for each bridge is also located along the drive.
Valley of the Gods is a red dust landscape punctuated with silver-green brush. The valley, lying at the base of a 1,200 foot bluff is called Cedar Mesa. The area’s jagged towers, gravelly washes and tortured sandstone formations line the Valley of the Gods Road, a 17-mile dirt route that forms a scenic loop. Each bend in the road reveals a surprise, a slightly different shade of red or a new rock contortion, many of which are described in Navajo legend as ancient warriors frozen in time.
The Hovenweep National Monument protects six Puebloan-era villages spread out over a 20-mile expanse of mesas and canyons on the Utah-Colorado border. The Square Tower Group, with multi-storeyed towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders, serves as the primary contact facility with a Visitor Centre and Interpretive Trail. Take time to explore and marvel at the skill of these ancient builders.
Movie buff? You'll want to visit Forrest Gump Hill and stand in the exact spot where Forrest suddenly decided to stop running and head back to Greenbow, Alabama!
Distance: 35 miles
During the day the park offers up some of the southwest's most spectacular natural stone architecture, including its namesake natural bridges, and awe-inspiring sandstone canyons. Hiking trails and an 8.6 mile scenic drive allow visitors a closer exploration of these wonderful structures. By night, Rangers specially trained in astronomy advise visitors on the best opportunities for star gazing. These Dark Rangers also educate the public about the effects of light pollution on humans, plants and animals, and how we can all make a positive difference.
Your accommodations for tonight are a short drive away in Bluff, so take your time enjoying the truly amazing celestial light show.
Distance: 101 miles
Between Blanding and Moab, you’ll be able to explore The Needles District, the first accessible Portion of Canyonlands National Park. In this relatively remote area, the roads between the two portions of the park do not connect with each other. The park is known as high desert, with elevations ranging from 3,700 to 7,200 feet above sea level. Temperatures may fluctuate as much as 50 degrees during a day.
We also recommend a stop at Edge of Cedars Museum in Blanding or a quick detour to Newspaper Rock on the edge of the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.
Distance: 220 miles
This former silver mining town is the mountain resort made famous by the 2002 Winter Olympics. Its historic Main Street has over 100 bars and restaurants, lovely boutique shops and even the world's only ski in Whisky distillery.
In Summer the expansive mountain range offers a great range of activities for people of all ages, such as a mountain roller coaster ride, zip lines, an adventure area with climbing wall, bouldering zone and spider web climbing and, of course, the winter ski lifts are there to take you up to enjoy the spectacular views across the mountains and beyond.
Distance: 36 miles
Today you leave Salt Lake City for your journey home, however your adventure doesn't have to end here. Perhaps you would like to extend your tour and explore neighbouring states of California or Arizona?
Call the specialists at Bon Voyage to discuss your dream Utah and Mighty 5 adventure or order a digital guide here.