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Family Road Trip: Utah’s Iconic Parks

Tackle whitewater rapids, hike amidst hoodoos, and rappel down red rock canyons—all away from the crowds. Adventure awaits!

Southern Utah’s otherworldly red rock landscapes shouldn’t be viewed just from your car window. This region’s trademark arches, slot canyons and eroded rock spires are a natural playground intended for bucket list travel experiences. All Roads North has crafted the ultimate, action-packed, family-friendly curated travel adventure through the state’s “Mighty Five” national parks. Each offers unique experiences: Zion with its spectacular canyon, Bryce’s geological wonderland of hoodoos, Capitol Reef’s dramatic vermilion rock canyons and early Mormon settlements, the vast desert wilderness of Canyonlands sculpted by the Green and Colorado rivers, and nearby Arches' mind-boggling concentration of rock arches.

It’s no wonder these are some of America’s most-visited parks. “Southern Utah was particularly busy this year,” says All Roads North Founder, Sam Highley. “We created an itinerary that gets you away from the crowds and hits all five parks in just nine days. Membership travel includes private guides who lead you off-the-beaten-path and deliver curated travel adventures complemented by lessons in geology and history.”

One of the early highlights of this private trip is wading up the Virgin River with 1,500-foot sandstone canyon walls on either side of you as you hike up the iconic Narrows in Zion National Park. And what better way to bond with the family than with a canyoneering lesson, where you’ll learn to rappel down rock faces? In lesser-visited Capitol Reef, you’ll explore a new corner of the quarter million acres of sandstone domes and canyons. Your backcountry guide can tailor a route to suit your activity and interest level. Super fit families can tackle a challenging out-and-back hike or if you prefer a low-key day, opt for an easy hike past ancient rock art panels. Every route promises stunning views.

On day seven, a guide will lead you into Arches through a back road, so you won’t have to wait in line at the entrance. Hikes to the most striking rock features, such as Delicate Arch, are perfect opportunities for family photos as well as a lesson in geology from your naturalist guide. In the afternoon after a picnic lunch, explore the Island in the Sky, a sheer-walled mesa in the northern region of Canyonlands, known for its Grand Canyon-esque vistas.

Rafting Canyonlands’s Cataract Canyon
Panoramic view over Canyonlands National Park

This private vacation ends with an adrenaline rush on class IV and V whitewater. Rafting Canyonlands’s Cataract Canyon is a bucket-list experience that typically takes three to four days, says Highley. “We’ve compressed it down to one day by using a motorized white water rigged-hulled inflatable boat,” he says. Your guides will help you navigate high-octane rapids, like the famous Big Drops, and point out flora, fauna, and archeological sites as you cruise down long stretches of mellow water. The action continues when you leave the water and transfer to a plane for a scenic return flight back to Moab that delivers a bird’s eye view over Canyonlands.

If you have a few extra days, extend your stay by a night or two at Sorrel River Ranch. This 240-acre, five-star dude ranch on the banks of the Colorado River in Moab is your base for the final three nights of your luxury private travel experience with All Roads North. Extend your stay to take advantage of its horseback riding excursions as well as its fabulous spa. Highley also suggests driving south to Monument Valley and splurging on a few nights at world-renowned resort, Amangiri, for some well-earned pampering.