Utah is known for their national parks, and there is good reason for it. Utah is beautiful. Utah’s amazing landscape can quite literally make you wish you lived there. That is until the heat and wind pick up. Still, it is a place everyone should visit.
We took a very quick tour of three of the Mighty Five Utah national parks. We began with four days in Capitol Reef, then moved on to three days in Moab, where we visited Arches and Canyonlands.
We did not have enough time to explore this park, but we did the best we could with the time we had!
We spent our first day hiking, as you do in a national park. We got a late start (10am) and set out on the Hickman Bridge Trail and it was already quite warm and in full sun. We, quite honestly, did not finish the trail. It was partly because of the heat and partly due to the elevation gain. The kids were done about 3/4 of the way to the natural red rock bridge, so we found a shaded area and hung out for a bit before heading back. We actually stopped at the Nels Johnson Natural Bridge and were quite satisfied with this as our final destination.
We then ventured home for lunch and some kiddo nap time before spending the afternoon hiking the Sulphur Creek Trail. Our entire family agrees this is our favorite hike to date. The trail follows right along the Sulphur Creek and is often in the creek. We actually hiked the creek the entire way. Oh, the best part is the trail ends at a large natural swimming hole and small waterfall!
Despite the heat, walking in the creek (with sunscreen and sunhats) kept us very cool. Plus, once we arrived at the swimming hole, we all took a dip to enjoy the murky (because of the red clay bottom) and delightfully not cold water surrounded by beautiful red rock cliffs. And because the hike back was also in the creek, it was also well received by everyone.
Katie and the kids also spent time in the park each day and the kids really earned those Junior Ranger badges with all the exploring they did. They took a tour of the little historic town of Fruita, which is inside Capitol Reef. They enjoyed delicious fresh baked pies from the historic home (turned shop) Gifford House. They were going to pick cherries and apricots from the orchards within the national park, but the crops were not ready yet. This was a bummer for all. If you visit Capitol Reef, call ahead and make sure there is fruit ripe for the picking. This will save you from disappointing the kiddos (and yourself).
They also drove some of the Capitol Reef Scenic Route and were met with gorgeous views, especially once they took the Grand Wash turnoff.
Fun in Torrey
We stayed at a small RV park and Katie was over the moon to discover it was not only 1/2 block away from a coffee shop, but also nestled up to cow pastures.
We also decided to spend one afternoon hiking outside the national park. Lone Tree Falls was a wonderful hike with a neat waterfall at the end, but the hike back to the car was 3/4 of a mile uphill. It was met with a lot of complaining, but we survived to hike another day.
Arches National Park
After leaving Capitol Reef we drove to Moab with the intention of exploring Arches National Park and whatever else Moab had to offer. Maybe it’s all the hype surrounding Arches or maybe it’s because we left had just the beautiful Capitol Reef, but Arches left us a bit underwhelmed. Don’t get us wrong, it has beautiful rock formations, but it just happened to be the least mighty of the three Mighty Five national parks we visited this week. Plus it was so very hot and sunny, so we were all a bit cranky too.
We drove in and went directly to the Windows area of the park. We spent about an hour or so in the area and hiked to two of the arches before the heat became too much. Obviously, we did not have enough time to thoroughly explore the park. Maybe next time we will dedicate more time.
One plus side to Covid-19 is that many national parks are handing out the Junior Ranger badges with the booklets to avoid having repeat interactions with visitors. This meant that we didn’t have to scramble and wait in line for the kids to be sworn in and receive their badges. It also worked out well for us at Arches because the kids were so tired and cranky after our morning exploring, that stopping to get their badges would most certainly been met with some melting down on all our parts.
Canyonlands National Park
Since we felt we had explored enough of Arches to satisfy our adventures, we decided to drive out to Canyonlands. We immediately felt we made the right decision as we drove up into the park. The views were stunning and the park itself is really beautiful. We drove along the main road and stopped for some of the sights. It was a wonderful morning to be sure. And the kids were able to earn their third Junior Ranger badge in a week as well. Again, not enough time to explore this park as much as it deserves. Next time for sure!
Fun in Moab
Though our time in Moab was not quite long enough, we did enjoy it. We ordered dinner and beer to go from Moab Brewery and ate it outside at our campground. Though it was not the same as enjoying a brewery in-house, we did enjoy the experience quite a bit.
We also noticed that the Moab Giants, a dinosaur museum, was open. Our two-year-old loves dinosaurs and has literally been asking to go to a museum for months. We decided that this mostly outdoor museum was a great option. We were not wrong. The outdoor dinosaur tour was hot and in full sun, but it was also really neat. The kids absolutely loved the life-sized dinosaurs and deciding which ones would eat them and which would prefer plants based on the teeth they saw. The museum also had a video (which we skipped), an indoor museum space with skeletons and some hands on pieces (which we opted to not do), an outdoor play area, and a 3D dinosaur aquarium. The last one was really neat because you walk through a dark room with projected aquarium tanks and scenes all around you. It was almost like walking through an actual aquarium, though this one had dinosaurs swimming by. We enjoyed it quite a lot.
As we set our sights on Colorado and were headed out of town, we saw this gem of a place. The boys love Scooby Doo, so we obviously could not pass it up!
And that is how we spent time in the great state of Utah. Stay tuned next time for our Colorado adventures!
Current Adventure Stats:
On the road: 11 months
Miles towing our home: 7,263
Campgrounds visited: 50
Breweries visited: 32
National Parks visited: 14/62
National Monuments/Seashores/Historic Sites/etc.: 5
State Parks visited: 4