Once upon a time, Utah was a mystical land underwater. Today, it’s well-known for its unique landscapes in a total of 5 national parks: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, Canyon Lands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Park. All parks are made up of red rock sediments that date back to the Jurassic Era. Each park has its unique set of breathtaking canyons, all of which are worthy of a visit.
Dirty Devil/Robbers Roost Wilderness
In the heart of the Colorado Plateau, just southeast of Hanksville Utah, lies one of the truly undiscovered gems of North America. The Dirty Devil River winds for over 90 miles through a labyrinth of red rock canyons and is surrounded by some of the most rugged and remote wilderness landscapes of the American Southwest. Over the millennia, this small desert stream has carved a wilderness paradise, providing habitat to an interesting variety of inhabitants. The Fremont Native Americans lived in the canyons for over 800 years, from approximately 500 to 1300 AD. Signs of their presence can be observed throughout the region in the form of pictograph panels, granaries and chiseled moqui steps. More recent inhabitants include bands of outlaws from the late 1800s — most notoriously Butch Cassidy and the Wildbunch Gang. The maze of wild and remote canyons provided an ideal hideout for these fugitives and Wild West outlaws.
San Rafael Swell Wilderness
The “Swell” is an incredible anticline measuring 75 miles long and 40 miles wide. An anticline, or an uplift in the Earth’s surface that has eroded the surrounding terrain, presents a spectacular labyrinth of colorful valleys, canyons, mesas and buttes. A myriad of new places to explore are located in this wild, remote and undiscovered landscape.
Goblin Valley State Park
Hidden amongst the spectacular hoodoos and mesas of Goblin Valley State Park lies a truly fantastic canyoneering adventure. With fun scrambles through the Valley of the Goblins and beautiful slot canyons that disappear into dark and mysterious chasms in the Earth, Goblin Valley State Park is one of our favorite spots in the universe. The awe-inspiring chamber resembling a gothic cathedral, the Chamber of the Basilisk is truly an unforgettable canyoneering adventure.
Bears Ears National Monument
Once you lay eyes on this monument, you’ll immediately understand why its name is the same in all of the regional native languages describing it: Bears Ears. The twin buttes, towering tall over vibrant pine-filled scenery, have a distinctive formation resembling a bear’s ears. Filled with red rock canyons, juniper forests and plenty of artifacts from the native people that once lived there, this national monument has a certain spirit about it that calls your name to explore it on the adventure of a lifetime.
Greater Canyonlands/Horseshoe Canyon
The Horseshoe Canyon complex of Greater Canyonlands is a vast, remote, rugged and beautiful canyon system with some of the most exquisite barrier-style rock art in the USA. You can spend days exploring this incredibly expansive area and the Native American rock art and artifacts hidden within its myriad of canyons. Two notable sites, Cowboy Cave and Walters Cave, contain some of the richest and oldest paleontological remains on the Colorado Plateau.
Capitol Reef National Park
For those unfamiliar with the park, it is characterized by colorful sandstone formations, cliffs, canyons, ridges, buttes and monoliths. Its most stunning geologic feature is a 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold. This 65 million year old fold is the largest exposed monocline in North America. Younger and older layers of the Earth’s crust have folded over each other in an S-shape to yield this raw anomaly. This striking geologic feature was probably caused by the same collision of continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains. It has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose a fascinating amalgam of brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs and canyons, gleaming white domes and contrasting layers of intricately shaped rock and sand.