Road Trip to Utah’s Five National Parks: Planning the Perfect Trip
Your dream of loading up the car and hitting all five of Utah’s amazing national parks is within reach. You’ve mapped out all the things you want to do and see and the excitement is building as you think about what you’ll experience - like the early morning hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, and the slick-rock Mountain biking adventure in Moab, and the epic day hike to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. But before you go, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need for Utah’s diverse weather conditions – the last thing you want is to get caught unprepared and have weather upend your trip.
Utah’s Diverse Weather
Utah’s five national parks are all arid high desert landscapes, which typically have cool nights and warm to hot days.
Arches National Park, near Moab, sits at between 4,000 and 5,700 feet and sees summer temperature ranges from the low 50’s to the low 90’s, the widest variations of any of the five parks.
Nearby Canyonlands National Park has a similar climate and while both parks receive very little rain throughout the year, July and August bring the monsoon season, which means you’ll need to be prepared for thunderstorms, rain, and lightning at any time.
With elevations ranging from 8,000 to 9,000 feet, Bryce Canyon National Park has the most extreme weather of the five parks, and although temperatures are more moderate with summertime highs in the 70’s and lows in the 40’s and 50’s, it receives the most rainfall, especially in July and August during monsoon season (afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer).
Zion National Park has the most extreme altitude variation, ranging from 3,600 feet to more than 8,700 feet above sea level, but unlike Bryce, its summertime temperatures are hot, hot, hot with July and August highs averaging in the triple digits. With the heat comes frequent and sometimes unpredictable thunderstorms which can cause flash flooding.
Capitol Reef National Park, considered by park enthusiasts to be one of Utah’s best-kept secrets, ranges in altitude between 6,000 to 9,000 feet. This geologically unique landscape produces comfortable temperatures from May through October, with average lows in the 50’s to low 60’s and average highs between 75 and 90. July through October sees about an inch of rain per month, half the annual total rainfall for the year.
Bring Gear and Clothes to Stay Dry, Warm and Comfortable
Experiencing Utah’s five national parks is truly an epic adventure, and with the extreme swings in elevation and temperature, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the right gear to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
Utah Gear Suggestions
Your two best friends on this trip will be footwear that is waterproof but also breathable and an all-weather shell that’ll keep you protected from the monsoon rains and warm during the cool nighttime/early morning temperatures. Here are a few recommendations:
Hiking Footwear That is Waterproof but Also Extremely Breathable
La Sportiva Primer GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Shoe - This lightweight low cut hiker is an ideal choice for hiking during Utah’s cool nights and hot days. With GORE-TEX® SURROUND® product technology, it’ll keep your feet protected from wet conditions while delivering optimal breathability all around your feet. The STB Control System™ ensures ample stability, a snug fit and excellent comfort.
Salewa Alp Flow Mid GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Boot – For those wanting a mid cut, this boot is ideal for Utah’s more challenging hikes and climbs. With GORE-TEX® SURROUND® product technology it provides waterproof protection with exceptional breathability. The 3F lacing system ensures stability across your entire foot for additional control.
All-Weather Shells That’ll Keep You Protected From the Wind and Dry in Wet Conditions
Patagonia Super Cell Jacket - Made from lightweight, highly packable GORE-TEX® fabric with Paclite® product technology, this women’s jacket offers outstanding waterproof protection and extreme breathability in Utah’s weather.
Marmot Minimalist Jacket – This men’s jacket provides featherweight all-around protection, ideal for Utah’s extreme conditions. Its elastic draw cord waist and hem seal out serious weather. Made with GORE-TEX® and Paclite® product technology, this jacket is guaranteed to keep you dry and comfortable no matter what Utah throws at you.
Article by Rob Wood