National Parks of the Colorado Plateau

Known as the "Grand Circle" of national parks, the Colorado Plateau region of the U.S. is one of the world's great concentrations of outstanding natural and cultural features. These parks will fill you with wonder and, if you don't already love the national parks, one visit to any of these will be enough to have you traveling to parks your whole life.

  • 01 of 09

    Arches National Park

    Arches national park
    © Navin75 via Flickr

    Arches contains some of the country’s most amazing natural wonders—mammoth rocks and arches formed from erosion. Perhaps one of the most important facts about Arches is that the park is constantly evolving. In the past 18 years, two major collapses have occurred: A major piece of Landscape Arch in 1991, and Wall Arch in 2008. Both serve as reminders that these structures will not last forever—all the more reason to visit soon.

  • 02 of 09

    Bryce Canyon National Park

    Bryce Amphitheater
    © Lauren Himiak

    No other national park showcases what natural erosion can build than Bryce Canyon National Park. Giant sandstone creations, known as hoodoos, attract more than one million visitors annually. Many take to the trails choosing hiking and horseback riding to get an up-close-and-personal look at stunning fluted walls and sculptured pinnacles.

  • 03 of 09

    Canyonlands National Park

    Canyonlands National Park
    © Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr

    In the geological wonderland of Canyonlands, rocks, spires, and mesas dominate the heart of the Colorado Plateau cut by canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. Petroglyphs left by Indians hundreds of years ago are also present. The Colorado and Green rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and the study of natural and cultural history.

  • 04 of 09

    Capitol Reef National Park

    Sunset at Capitol Reef National Park
    © fxp via Flickr

    The 241,904-acre Capitol Reef park in south-central Utah draws more than half a million visitors per year. It protects the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long warp in the Earth's crust, as well as the unique historical and cultural history of the area.

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  • 05 of 09

    Grand Canyon National Park

    Mount Hayden
    © mandj98 via Flickr

    About five million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year and it comes as no surprise why. The main attraction, Grand Canyon, is a mammoth gorge stretching 277 miles showcasing amazing depths of colorful geology. It boasts some of the nation’s cleanest air and a great deal of the park’s 1,904 square miles are maintained as wilderness. Visitors cannot help but be blown away by stunning views from almost any vantage point.

  • 06 of 09

    Great Basin National Park

    Great Basin National Park
    © Alaskan Dude via Flickr

    This 77,180-acre Nevada park draws only about 80,000 visitors a year, making it one of the least visited of the US national parks. Among Great Basin's natural features are streams, lakes, abundant wildlife, a variety of forest types including groves of ancient bristlecone pines, and numerous limestone caverns, including Lehman Caves.

  • 07 of 09

    Mesa Verde National Park

    A Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park
    © ooOJasonOoo via Flickr

    Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table," offers a unique opportunity to see and experience 700 years of history. From approximately A.D. 600 through A.D. 1300 people lived and flourished in communities throughout the area.

  • 08 of 09

    Petrified Forest National Park

    The Painted Dessert
    © Lauren Himiak

    Petrified Forest National Park is living example of our history, revealing the world’s largest concentrations of brilliantly colored petrified wood. To visit is like traveling back in time to a land that remains radically different than the one we know.

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  • 09 of 09

    Zion National Park

    A view of Angel's Landing from the top of Hidden Canyon Trail
    © Lauren Himiak

    Located in Utah's high plateau county, the Virgin River has carved a gorge so deep that sunlight rarely reaches the bottom! The canyon is wide and completely stunning with sheer cliffs dropping some 3,000 feet. Weathered sandstone shines red and white, and creates amazing sculptured rocks, cliffs, peaks, and hanging valleys. Zion is a must-see.