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Where to Stay in Utah to Visit National Parks: 7 Best Areas

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Utah is home to some of the best national parks in the United States and is a great place to travel for anyone who wants to enjoy some incredibly beautiful scenery. With the towering Rocky Mountains to its north and east and vast deserts to its south and west, Utah is where drastically different ecosystems meet, creating some of the most unique landscapes you can find.

There are five national parks in Utah, all of them in the southern part of the state. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are in the southwest, near the state’s borders with Nevada and Arizona, while Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are east towards Colorado. Capitol Reef National Park sits in the middle.

If you’re visiting Utah to see these amazing places, you’ll certainly want to find places to stay near each of them – the nearest national parks to Salt Lake City, where many travelers will fly, are nearly four hours away!

This makes a day trip from the capital area and its surrounding ski and mountain resorts difficult, and travelers to the Utah parks will want to find local accommodation nearby.

The massive size and rural nature of these parks can confuse potential travelers – so we’ve put together this guide on the best areas to stay in Utah to visit national parks.

Read on to see where you might want to stay to visit each of them, how to plan your trip to be as efficient as possible, and which Utah hotels travelers love most for this type of trip.

TL;DR: Top Picks for Accommodation

Best Areas to Stay in Utah for Visiting National Parks

  • Area for Capitol Reef National Park – Torrey
  • Area for Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park – Moab
  • Area for Bryce Canyon National Park – Bryce & Bryce Canyon City
  • Area for Zion National Park – Springdale
  • Area for adding Grand Canyon National Park to your trip – Kanab
  • Bonus areas for Zion plus state parks and national monuments – Hurricane & St. George

Best Places to Stay in Utah to Visit National Parks

Below, we’ll look at some popular places to base yourself, along with some of the best hotels in Utah to visit national parks, in no particular order.

Whether you prefer to pitch a tent under the stars or relax with a glass of champagne at a luxury hotel at the end of each day, there’s a place for you to enjoy Utah’s national parks.

1. Moab – Best Place to Stay for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

Downtown Moab Aerial View
Wangkun Jia / Adobe Stock

We’ll start in the east of Utah, where the town of Moab presents the perfect place to stay for exploring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Sitting on the Colorado River, this nearby town is just 10 minutes from the entrance of Arches and a bit more than 30 from Canyonlands.

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks both present some of the most interesting and beautiful rock formations in the southwest, making them so famous to visit. In Canyonlands, millions of years of water flow have carved out countless canyons, buttes, arches, and mesas, leaving an unbelievable playground for nature lovers with viewpoints and hiking trails.

In Arches, you’ll find a huge concentration of more than 2,000 natural stone arches, along with pinnacles, balanced rocks, and all kinds of other interesting geology.

The little town of Moab has made itself quite a destination thanks to its proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, with a ton of great dining, accommodation, and entertainment in downtown Moab, plus other things to do nearby.

There are waterfalls, hikes, and even ancient dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs around the town, making for plenty to see and do on a trip to this part of the state. Here are the things to do in and around Moab in between your national park visits:

  • Dead Horse Point State Park – Enjoy bonus hiking, views, and outdoor fun at this state park near Canyonlands.
  • Moab Restaurants – Have a coffee at Moab Coffee Roasters and a meal at The Trailhead Public House and Eatery.
  • Corona Arch – Enjoy a hike to one of the iconic arches of this area without going into one of the parks.

Top Things to Do and See in Arches National Park

Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park near Moab
Frédéric Prochasson / Adobe Stock
  • Arches Scenic Drive – The main road through Arches National Park is a lovely paved, scenic drive with many stop-off viewpoints and short side hikes along the way.
  • Landscape Arch – In the northern part of the park called Devils Garden, you’ll find a number of beautiful arches, including Landscape Arch, the longest one in America at over 300 feet.
  • Delicate Arch – A unique rock formation that has become an iconic symbol for the state of Utah, often referred to as the star attraction of this park and viewable from a panoramic point or via a hike.
  • Panorama Point – A stopping point along the main road providing expansive views of the park, the mountains in the distance, and the nighttime sky for those who want to do some stargazing.

Top Things to Do and See in Canyonlands National Park

View on Canyonlands National Park
Delphotostock / Adobe Stock
  • Grand View Point Drive, Overlook, and Trail – This main route through Canyonlands is excellent for scenic driving and stopping off for views. At the end of the road, a panoramic spot provides expansive views of canyons carved by millions of years of water; a short hike leads to another great spot to see it all.
  • Mesa Arch – A famous and massive arch known as a beautiful spot to see the sun rise above the red rock landscape, but also just as amazing to see in standard daylight.
  • White Rim Overlook – A short hike to a viewpoint overlooking the eastern part of the park, high above canyons, pinnacles, and ancient riverbeds far below.
  • Green River Overlook – Another viewpoint accessible by a short, paved hike with vistas of a vast plateau cut and carved by the Green River.

Moab really is the best option for visiting these two fascinating Utah national parks – it’s conveniently placed, has plenty of tourist infrastructure, and is the only place in the surrounding area where you’ll find significant accommodations. Here are some top picks of places to stay in Moab:

See Related: National Parks to Visit in November

2. Torrey – Best Place to Stay for Capitol Reef National Park

Scenic road in the desert during a vibrant sunny sunrise. Taken on Route 24 near Torrey, Utah, United States of America.
edb3_16 / Adobe Stock

Moving west, the next Utah national park you’ll come across is Capitol Reef National Park, over two hours away from Moab. While that may sound like it’s on the fringes of feasibility for a day trip, Capitol Reef is a beautiful place that you won’t want to be pressed for time in – therefore, we recommend you choose one of the places to stay nearby, like the town of Torrey.

Torrey is a tiny community of just a few hundred residents about 8 miles from the park entrance. With a number of hotels, motels, campsites, and some interesting places for dining and shopping, Torrey is the place of choice to stay for visitors to Capitol Reef National Park.

The park has fantastic rock formations, canyons, colorful sandstone, and other natural wonders. These phenomena occur because of a wrinkle on the earth’s surface, called the Waterpocket Fold, on which Capitol Reef sits.

The park’s name comes from the impression that early settlers had of the white domes of the Navajo Sandstone, which they thought resembled the roof of the Capitol building in Washington.

Highway 24 cuts straight through the center of Capitol Reef National Park and presents a great opportunity for a paved, scenic drive with plenty of viewpoints and hikes along the way. More adventurous visitors will head to the north and south, where more remote parts of the park offer endless opportunities for exploring. While you’re not in the park, there are a few fun things to do in and around Torrey:

  • Local Shopping – Places like the Chuck Wagon General Store and The Torrey Gallery offer local and Navajo crafts, art pieces, and snacks, while Robber’s Roost Bookstore can offer something interesting to read from your room.
  • Fremont River Hiking – Just south of downtown, the banks of this river offer some interesting and scenic trails for exploring.
  • Boulder Mountain – Climbing 11,000 feet, this massive peak offers a number of trails, lakes for fishing, and scenic overlooks, including some with views of Capitol Reef.

Top Things to Do and See in Capitol Reef National Park

Cassidy Arch at Capitol Reef National Park
D. Popovic / NPS
  • Panorama Point & Goosenecks Overlook – The former is a stopping spot along the main road, while the latter is an extremely simple hike; both provide unbelievable canyon, river, and rock formation views Capitol Reef is known for without going too far into the desert landscape.
  • Hickman Natural Bridge – A very large natural arch amid red rocks and cliffs with a small loop hike underneath.
  • Cathedral Valley – A remote and rugged place in the north of the park where sandstone formations shoot up from the ground in dramatic, eroded shapes, almost resembling gothic cathedrals.
  • Cassidy Arch – A moderate hike with a large elevation gain leading to another large arch and incredible views over fields of pinnacle-like rock formations.

You’ll find a number of other tiny towns to the east and west of Capitol Reef National Park, but Torrey has the most accommodation options for visiting this beautiful place. Below are a few of the top choices in this remote town.

3. Bryce & Bryce Canyon City – Best Place to Stay for Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon City aerial view, Utah. Entry point for national park.
jovannig / Adobe Stock

Moving west again, the next Utah national park you’ll come across is Bryce Canyon National Park, about two hours southwest of Torrey. And once again, the distance between here and the other Utah national parks makes day trips prohibitive, and you’ll want to stay nearby.

The most convenient places to stay to visit Bryce Canyon National Park are the town of Bryce, just outside the entrance, and the town of Bryce Canyon City, which is inside the park. In Bryce, you’ll find a number of full-service hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds just a short distance from the park. Bryce Canyon City has a few campgrounds and one hotel – The Lodge at Bryce Canyon – run by the National Park Service directly inside the park and within walking distance of some of its most famous spots.

Bryce Canyon National Park is breathtaking. Deep canyons are chiseled into the red desert plateaus here for miles, creating geological amphitheaters.

Massive rock spires called hoodoos rise from the canyon floors one after another as if someone had built a giant sand castle. There are endless viewpoints that look like they came out of paintings to admire it all.

Therefore, most of your fun will be spent driving, hiking, and exploring this fantastic national park. However, don’t miss out on enjoying the little village of Bryce and its unique features. Here are a few ideas to include during your stay here:

  • Dine at Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room – Buffet-style western cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that’s great for families.
  • See a Rodeo – In the summertime, Ruby’s Inn hosts evening rodeos several times a week where spectators can watch real-life cowboys compete in a night of fun and excitement.
  • Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill Cowboy Dinner Show – Combine those last two ideas by enjoying great barbecue food while watching a western cowboy performance!

Top Things to Do and See in Bryce Canyon National Park

The rim trail at Bryce Canyon National Park at sunrise.
Brian B. Roanhorse / NPS
  • Bryce Point – An easily accessed viewpoint over thousands of the hoodoos that Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for, spectacularly towering from the canyon floor below.
  • Sunset Point & Sunrise Point – Two spots along the Bryce Canyon Rim Trail, a popular hike to see the best of the amphitheater, are known for their views of their respective times of the day.
  • Bryce Natural Bridge – Deeper in the park, this massive natural arch surrounded by hoodoos, red cliffs, and mountains and valleys in the distance is an iconic spot for the park.
  • Ponderosa Canyon – Divert off the main road to the east into this remote canyon named for the majestic ponderosa pines that line the canyon floor.

There are a few alternatives to staying in Bryce or within the park, such as the nearby towns of Tropic and Cannonville, but you’ll have a slightly longer drive to reach the park. However, they can offer additional accommodation options if you need more. If you decide to stay in Bryce, here are some of the best places to stay.

See Related: Best Hot Springs in Utah & Resorts to Visit

4. Springdale – Best Place to Stay for Zion National Park

Zion National Park entrance station with red rock formations and blue sky
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Continuing southwest, you’ll come across our final and most popular national park in Utah – Zion National Park. More visitors visit this park yearly than others to see its beautiful, deep canyons cut by the Virgin River and its tributaries.

One of the best places to stay near Zion is Springdale, the true gateway to the park’s main entrance and where you’ll find its visitor center. Tucked between the red rock mountains that the park is known for, Springdale has plenty of great places to stay, eat, and have fun with one of the best Utah national parks at your doorstep.

In order to keep Zion beautiful and prevent over-congestion, some of the park is only accessible by shuttle bus during much of the year. This includes the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, reaching into the center of this vast space, which only has a narrow road that would otherwise become too packed to move.

Luckily, there is a convenient schedule available online and at the visitor center, and these shuttles can accommodate gear like backpacks and bicycles if you have them.

During the winter months, you can take your car into Zion Canyon. The eastern part of the park, accessible via the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, is open year-round to traffic, as is the Kolob Terrace Road and Kolob Canyons area in the north. Whether you’re on the shuttle from Springdale or self-driving, there are a few fun things to do in this scenic town in between your adventures:

  • DeZion Gallery – Admire and shop for high-quality, local artwork inspired by the beautiful natural landscapes in this art gallery’s backyard.
  • Old Springdale Pioneer Cemetary – You might not put wandering an old cemetery at the top of a typical itinerary. Still, it’s super interesting to see what remains of some of Zion’s earliest settlers.
  • Local Dining & Drinking – Long days of hiking and exploring warrant great food and drink, which you can get at places like Deep Creek Coffee Company and Porter’s Restaurant.

Top Things to Do and See in Zion National Park

A view of the deep canyons at Angels Landing in Zion National Park
Marc Neidig / NPS
  • Angel’s Landing – One of the most popular hikes along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive along a narrow, challenging ridge, which now requires a permit to attempt.
  • Riverside Walk Trail & The Narrows – A pleasant and much easier hike along the Virgin River leading to The Narrows, a beautiful but more challenging spot within a narrow canyon.
  • Kolob Canyons – A less-visited portion of the park where narrow and parallel box canyons of a striking crimson color offer excellent hiking and scenic driving.
  • Keyhole Canyon – In the eastern part of the park, you can test your limits in an extremely narrow slot canyon that’s perfect for photographers even without hiking far inside.

As we’ll see soon, there are a number of other great spots to base yourself to visit Zion National Park. However, Springdale is undoubtedly the closest and most convenient of them all. It’s also where you’ll find a ton of great hotels and vacation rentals like these:

5. Kanab – Best Place to Stay to Visit Grand Canyon National Park from Utah

Kanab, Utah welcome sign
Kristina Blokhin / Adobe Stock

While we’ve already covered great places to stay for all five Utah national parks, these next few are great bonus places convenient for additional add-ons to your trip.

State parks, national monuments, conservation areas, and even other states’ national parks are close to some places to stay around Zion National Park – and this next town is even within day trip distance of Bryce Canyon.

Kanab is a small town near the border with Arizona. It’s just over 30 minutes to Zion’s eastern entrance, under 90 minutes to Bryce, and about the same distance to the North Rim area of Grand Canyon National Park.

Add the fact that this town is at the doorstep of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and you have the potential to hit five super-scenic sites in one place.

Grand Staircase counts nearly 2 million acres of rugged terrain where hikers, mountain bikers, off-roaders, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the beautiful southern Utah landscapes.

A direct route takes you from Kanab to the northern Grand Canyon, opening the possibility to a massive network of serious hikes and amazing viewpoints in one of the world’s most beautiful places. A drive down a desert road will bring you to over a thousand acres of vibrant-colored sand dunes in a remote state park.

All of this makes Kanab a hugely popular place for Utah and northern Arizona visitors to stay in, and its prime location is complemented by quite a few fun things to do locally. Here are some of the things to keep you busy when you’re in Kanab:

  • Dinosaur Tracks Trail – A basic hike leading to dinosaur footprints engraved into the rock.
  • Addison’s Poppy Falls – A local favorite spot along the side of a creek with a small waterfall, great for picnics and relaxation.
  • Little Hollywood Land – A seasonal museum with props and sets from movies filmed in the desert and a popular western-themed gift shop.

Top Things to Do and See in the Northern Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock
  • North Rim Scenic Drive – This windy road leads to Cape Royal and the Angels Window lookouts, providing excellent views along the way and at the end that only a small percentage of Grand Canyon visitors get to see, as most of them visit the South Rim.
  • North Kaibab Trail – One of the three maintained trails in the Grand Canyon that’s also the least visited but offers amazing scenery along its descent into the lush valleys.
  • Hike North Rim to South Rim – At 20+ miles, this hike for experts will take a full day at the minimum but realistically even longer. Shuttle services may be available to return you to the North Rim.

Top Things to Do and See in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

A panoramic scene of the desert in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Bureau of Land Management / blm.gov
  • Canyon Point – A spot deep in the backwoods of the monument accessible by dirt roads known for its red cliffs, plateaus, hoodoos, and seemingly every other interesting geological formation that can be found in Utah.
  • Inchworm Arch – A natural arch with beautiful surrounding scenery accessible by quad or four-wheel drive.
  • Self-Guided Scenic Drive – Enjoy some of the 1+ million acres of nature from the road with an informational commentary.

Top Things to Do and See in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Rolling sand dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Drew / Adobe Stock
  • Observation Deck Lookout – Enjoy a panoramic view of the dunes, the surrounding desert, and all their colors from this lovely spot near the parking lot.
  • ATV Tour – This is a fantastic place to get on a quad and off-road through this wild state park.

As you can see, there are a ton of reasons why you might want to stay in Kanab for a few days or more. Here are some of the best places to stay in town:

See Related: Where to Stay in Grand Canyon National Park: Best Areas

6. Hurricane

Clouds over Hurricane, Utah aerial view with mountainous background
walkingarizona / Adobe Stock

Another bonus area for visiting Zion National Park is Hurricane, a fast-growing gateway to the park less than 30 minutes from its Springdale entrance. The town’s close proximity to the highway also makes for easy access to the northern part of Zion.

If you’ve come to Utah for the outdoors, the things you’ll enjoy most in Hurricane are its state parks, which make excellent additions to your national parks journey. In the western part of town, Quail Creek State Park surrounds the Quail Creek Reservoir, a place for fun on the water with boats, paddle boards, and more.

To the south, Sand Hollow State Park also surrounds a reservoir that’s great for watersports but is more popular for its mountainside trails.

This is a place to take a Jeep, a four-wheeler, an ATV, a UTV, or other motorized toys for trail-beating fun. There are giant boulders, bumpy trails, inclines and declines to climb, and great views of the reservoir and town below.

Hurricane can offer increased hotel and dining options for visiting Zion and these places. But there are also a few fun things to do in Hurricane that are separate from Zion. The town has a fascinating pioneer history, which you can learn about at their local museum downtown.

A short drive away, you can visit a real-life ghost town that was once a bustling population center but has sat dormant for decades. To summarize, enjoy these attractions and activities in and around Hurricane:

  • Hurricane Valley Heritage Park Museum – The aforementioned park in downtown Hurricane also showcases its pioneer history with artifacts and stories from the old Western times.
  • Ghost Towns – One great ghost town to visit is Grafton, conveniently located on the drive to Springdale and maintained by a local organization to preserve its heritage.
  • Local Hiking – You don’t have to leave town to find nice views and riverside trails. Hurricane Hill is a fun hike to gain some elevation and see a bird’s eye view of the town, while trails along the Virgin River reveal secret spots and an old hot springs resort.

Top Things to Do and See in Quail Creek and Sand Hollow State Parks

Rocks and the reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah
Utah Division of State Parks / stateparks.utah.gov
  • Watersports – Rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboard at one of the reservoirs to cool off from the desert sun, and even cast a line to try your luck at fishing.
  • Sand Mountain Off-Roading – You can rent an appropriate toy or take a UTV tour to experience the excitement of driving these trails.
  • Cliff Jumping – There’s one spot on Sand Hollow Reservoir’s northwest shore where you’ll find a perfect natural diving board that locals love to use to dive in.

If you like having the amenities of a larger town at your disposal, along with the bonus fun of these state parks, don’t hesitate to consider Hurricane as an alternative to Springdale. These are some of the best places to stay in Hurricane:

7. St. George

St. George Cityscape
Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Finally, the little city of St. George is another bonus town in southern Utah that’s great for visiting national parks and more. This is the main population center of southwestern Utah, with a lot of great things to do and places to stay.

Many people use St. George as a gateway to Zion National Park, as the Springdale entrance is under an hour away, and St. George has more in the way of dining, accommodation, and entertainment. It’s also near Hurricane, and there are many great things to do, as mentioned above.

The beautiful Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and the adjacent Snow Canyon State Park are the bonus places you’ll get quick access to by staying in St. George. Some of the hiking trails in these parks are within walking distance of downtown St. George, while the further reaches into their interiors are just minutes away by car.

St. George is home to a large Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints community, and you can admire its historic and beautiful temple here from outside and in its visitor center. There are numerous other options for things to do in town, too, like these:

  • St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm – An interesting indoor-outdoor museum with real dinosaur footprints imprinted in the rock and fossilized plants and animals from prehistoric times.
  • The St. George Children’s Museum – A museum of fun for kids to explore the world of science, technology, and more.
  • Brigham Young Winter Home – The house of an important Mormon pioneer from the 1800s restored and maintained by the church.
  • Golf – There are several golf courses here, like Southgate Golf Club and Bloomington Country Club, where visitors can hit the links after enjoying the natural attractions.

Top Things to Do and See in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

The crimson mountains at the Red Cliffs National Recreation Area near St. George
traveller70 / Adobe Stock
  • Red Reef Trail – One of the most popular trails in the area, this route sees crimson canyons, boulders, hills, and creeks on its relatively easy loop.
  • Elephant Arch – A hike through a sandy desert landscape leading to an arch formation that looks just like a giant elephant.
  • Yellow Knolls Trail – A relatively easy walk through a desert meadow of yellow color contrasted by red cliffs and black volcanic rocks in the distance.

Top Things to Do and See in Snow Canyon State Park

Red rocks and mountains at Snow Canyon State Park near St. George
Utah Division of State Parks / stateparks.utah.gov
  • Lava Tubes – Bring headlamps and proper shoes to descend into a natural tunnel created by lava that’s now home to a colony of bats. This descent requires good physical capabilities.
  • Petrified Sand Dunes – You may have heard of petrified trees, but a short hike will lead you to massive petrified sand dunes that are surreal to explore.
  • Jenny’s Canyon – A short hike through a sandy desert landscape will lead you to a narrow slot canyon between the red cliffs.

There are plenty of reasons to spend some time in St. George. If you decide to take advantage of this busy southwestern town, here are some great accommodation options:

FAQ

Can you stay in Salt Lake City and visit Utah’s national parks?

Salt Lake City is in the state’s north, while all Utah national parks are in the south. It’s at least a 3.5-hour drive to the nearest parks, which is not ideal for day-tripping – that would put you in the car for 7 hours per day, not including exploring the parks! That’s why it’s best to stay in one of the southern Utah towns mentioned above for this trip.

What is the best place to stay in Utah to visit national parks without changing hotels?

We wouldn’t recommend trying to hit all five Utah national parks from one hotel – they are too spread out, and you’d spend too much time in the car rather than exploring. If you definitely don’t want to do more than one destination, the best area to stay in Utah to visit national parks would be Moab, as it’s the perfect place for easy access to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. At the same time, Capitol Reef National Par might be feasible with a 2-hour drive each way. Kanab is also possible as both Zion and Bryce Canyon are within reach, as is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Where should families stay to visit Utah’s national parks?

If you’re wondering where to stay in Utah to visit national parks with kids, you probably want to minimize long drive times and have easy access to plenty of dining options and other things to do. In this case, places like Springdale near Zion National Park and the quaint town of Bryce Canyon City just outside Bryce Canyon National Park could be perfect – they check all those boxes and have plenty of family-friendly accommodation options.

Is it expensive to visit Utah’s national parks?

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Road-tripping with your vehicle can save you money, or you can find a great deal on a rental car with some research. If you’re wondering where to stay in Utah to visit national parks on a budget, be open to visiting in the winter months to take advantage of lower rates; be sure to check accommodation options in places further away from the parks like St. George, Hurricane, and Cedar City, too.

Do you need a four-wheel drive vehicle to visit Utah’s national parks?

None of the five parks in Utah strictly require a four-wheel drive vehicle, and you’ll be able to see most of each park’s main attractions from paved roads. However, even having a car with higher ground clearance than a standard sedan will open up the possibility of taking on more dirt roads, so many visitors like to at least explore with an SUV.

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