If you're contemplating a family road trip that takes in multiple national parks, there is arguably no better place in the United States to set your sights than Utah. The southern half of the state is home to the so-called "Mighty 5"—a remarkable quintet made up of Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. Together, they deliver an unrivaled opportunity for a getaway that delivers not only spectacular scenery but as much hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, and stargazing as your troops can handle.
Here's what makes the Mighty 5 a perfect family adventure:
It makes for an easy-peasy road trip. The distances between Utah's parks can be measured in hours, not days. You could see them all in a week or design a mini road trip and take in just two parks that are near each other—say Zion and Bryce Canyon or Arches and Canyonlands.
Map your route by taking National Scenic Byway 12, which passes through some of the most spectacular scenery and natural wonders seen along any rural route in the nation, or Scenic Byway 24, which travels along rolling sagebrush desert and drops into high valley farmland.
You can keep it affordable with built-in free fun. Each of these national parks offer free ranger-led programs and Junior Ranger programs for kids. One standout is the special force of park rangers and volunteer astronomers known as “The Dark Rangers” at Bryce Canyon. These rangers conduct a night sky program that integrates a one-hour multimedia show with 90 minutes of telescope stargazing.
Families can also take a guided hike and view the pictographs and petroglyphs in Horseshoe Canyon at Canyonlands.
You can spend the night somewhere extremely cool. Along with the many wonderful hotels in the area, you can also find some fun and unique alternatives that will get your family embracing the stunning natural surroundings.
For example, consider booking a glamping-style “tipi" at Moab Under Canvas, just outside of Arches and Canyonlands national parks, for as little as $79 per night. Shooting Star RV Resort is another unique lodging option where guests can choose from a number of airstream campers designed to resemble the dressing trailer of famous movies.
Hate planning? Leave it to someone else. Sign up for a weekend outing or week-long excursion with REI Adventures and forget about the stress of planning an action-packed trip. Your family will get to experience all the activities you love at your own comfort level and with expert guides.
But wait, there's more. In addition to Utah's Mighty 5 national parks, the state's national monuments are equally as stunning. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument along Scenic Byway 12 is a 1.7 million acre park full of bold plateaus and multi-hued cliffs. Another must-see is Natural Bridges National Monument, which features three natural river-carved bridges connected by a nine-mile round-trip drive.
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