Victory Ranch, home to a sought-after mountain living experience, pristine views and prime real estate, is also not far off from Utah’s five famed national parks. These parks, offering striking red rocks, staggering peaks and fathomless canyons, are celebrated for their beauty, hikes and vistas; and, of course, their ability to pull one out of the day-to-day routine into a life lived in harmony with Mother Nature and one another.
Despite an adventure-driven lifestyle and expanse of natural wonder right here at Victory Ranch, nothing compares to a weekend road trip. So, settle in and start planning with this easy-to-digest guide to Utah’s five beloved National Parks.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is among the lesser known parks (this means fewer crowds), but undeniably rich in experience and sights. It’s home to a hundred-mile-long wall-like rift of stone, large Capitol-esque domes, natural bridges, spires and slot canyons—an idyllic oasis that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Drive: 3 hours and 43 minutes. Map it here.
See: When visiting Capitol Reef, a short hike—less than 20 minutes—along Sunset Point Trail lets you off to an epic panorama of rich red Moenkopi towers and domes, as well as the Henry Mountains in the distance. You’ll also want to experience the petroglyphs and Goosenecks Overlook.
Hike: Capitol Reef is an opportune place for walking adventures, the most popular among them being the Hickman Bridge hike. An easy 1-mile hike leads to a staggering view of the 133-foot natural bridge. Keep moving to the Golden Throne Hike, a scenic 4-mile trip with steep drops and matchless vistas.
Eat: A must when visiting Capitol Reef is a stop at Gifford Homestead, birthplace of delicious pie and the largest cinnamon rolls around. If you’ve saved any room but at all, check out Rim Rock Restaurant, which features unmatched locally-sourced eats.
Stay: If it’s an overnight trip, plan to rest your head at the Red River Ranch, a place that combines luxury with tradition.
Arches National Park
It’s not everyday that you have an opportunity to make your way in an out of iconic stone arches. So, when the chance comes, hop or hike to it. Arches National Park is comprised of 120 miles of high density stones—2,000 plus to be exact. Here, find famous landscapes, the world’s longest freestanding arches and sandstone that dates back 300 million years. Get a lesson in nature and history as you explore this vast and special place.
Drive: 3 hours and 53 minutes. Map it here.
Hike: Hikes at Arches range from easy to strenuous, the latter including the Devil’s Garden Trail, a lengthy trek that requires a half day commitment. The easier trails include the half-mile journey to Double Arch where the opening of one Indiana Jones flick was filmed.
See: It almost goes without saying that Delicate Arch is required for this trip. It’s printed on Utah’s license plate and truly spectacular with it’s ombré-like shading that frames the vast land behind it. You’ll also want to spend some time at the pencil-thin Landscape Arch, a world record-holder as the longest freestanding arch.
Eat: Treat yourself to a meal at the Love Muffin Cafe, a true local favorite. Here, order a delicious hot cup of coffee, chia pudding or a homemade sandwich for that extra hiking fuel. If you’re staying for dinner, the Moab Brewery is the place to be.
Stay: if it’s an overnight trip, the Red Cliffs Lodge, with it’s breathtaking sunset-facing rooms, is where you’ll want to unwind after a day of trailblazing.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park stands out amongst its NPS Utah neighbors. Here, it’s all about the canyons. This park wears the badge of most-undeveloped and largest of Utah’s National Parks. The appeal here are rough, remote spots with endless vistas and mesas as well as what they call the “Island in the Sky”—or I-SKY—the park’s most popular attraction.
Drive: 4 hours and 7 minutes. Map it here.
See: This park is divided into four parts because of its size. So, you’ll want to use your time wisely and hit all of the sweet spots including the famous Mesa Arch, which is most beautiful at sunrise. Be sure, too, to spend some moments at Green River Overlook and I-SKY’s Grand View Point overlook at sunset. It could just change your life.
Hike: Canyonlands is made up mostly of moderate and strenuous hiking options. But if the easiest route is the one you seek, hike through Needles to a 0.6 mile loop where you’ll find everything from hanging gardens to an old cowboy camp and natural springs. For a real challenge, hike the Syncline Loop 8.3 miles through boulder fields and around Upheaval Dome.
Eat: Atomic Lounge is where you’ll want to eat if you’re craving burgers and brews, and if your palette wants something a little more complex, they offer that too. Think duck entrees and craft cocktails.
Stay: Moab’s Aarchway Inn is a prime pick for an overnight stay near Canyonlands. It’s a fairly modern hotel with a pool, space for children to play, lush grounds and amenities, and it sits against a vast sandstone, giving off rich pink sunsets and sunrises.
Bryce Canyon is known for amazing, colorful rock formations called hoodoos, as well as its scenic views. A half day just won’t do the trick in exploring this natural gem. Arrive early and take your time as there’s much to see in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Drive: 4 hours and 20 minutes. Map it here.
See: Aside from the constant change of scenery and the indescribable formations to behold, be sure to witness the views at Agua Canyon and Rainbow Point, as well as the Sunset at Sunrise Point or Inspiration Point—both are breathtaking as colors dance all around and the world gets quiet for the day’s grand finale.
Hike: Hike the 3-mile long Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, a fairly moderate trail with an easy trip down and a semi-strenuous trip back up thanks to several switchbacks ending at Sunrise Point.
Eat: Along with being the perfect place to lay your head, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon has a restaurant that serves a wide range of rustic fare. Their menu includes unforeseen eats like elk chili, buffalo flank steak and prickly pear coleslaw.
Stay: Stay and eat at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. Built in 1925, but up-to-date with cozy beds and delicious fare, this is the perfect place to rest after a long day of jaw-dropping adventure.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s most talked about national parks. Marked by massive walls of rock and a winding red road leading the way, this park is loaded with adventure. One of the largest of Utah’s top five, Zion is home to incomparable sandstone cliffs, emerald pools and narrow slot canyons. There is plenty to see here, so spend your time wisely and plan according to the weather and time of year.
Drive: 4 hours and 41 minutes. Map it here.
See: There’s no shortage of sights to see at Zion National Park, but there are a few iconic spots you won’t want to miss. Regardless of where you’re entering from, pull over and take a short walk to Canyon Overlook. It’s the perfect view to either inaugurate or close out your visit.
Hike: If you’re up for the challenge, make time for Angels Landing. This strenuous hike over a narrow spine of rock all proves worth it as it opens up to reveal the best views of Zion Canyon. If you want something a little less intense, but comparably epic, try the more moderate Kayenta Trail that includes a path to a watery wonderland or take an easy walking route beneath a waterfall to Middle Emerald Pools.
Eat: The Castle Dome Cafe features outdoor dining and some of the best fare in the Zion National Park area. Located at Zion National Park Lodge, the restaurant serves delicious lunch eats including burgers, hot dogs, salads, fries and snacks.
Stay: Mixing luxury with landscape, the Cliffrose Lodge is one of the best places to stay when visiting Zion National Park. The lush resort is built against the sandstone, close to the park and loaded with amenities like a heated pool, hot tubs and manicured grounds.