Regional Guide

Overview - Southeast Utah and Canyon Country
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, with the La Sal range in the distance
Arches National Park's Delicate Arch (Greater West Images)

Looking for a luxurious, pampering vacation spot? You'd best avoid southeast Utah. This is a place for backcountry exploration, for wild adventure among unbelievable rock formations. The mercury can climb past 100 degrees in the summer, and snow and ice can close roads in the winter—what few roads there are. Light on convenience and comfort, but heavy on natural beauty, southeast Utah ranks high on the list of any outdoor enthusiast.

From rough-and-tumble whitewater nuts to families wanting a gentle float, paddlers will find what they're looking for on the Green, Colorado, and San Juan rivers. Moab is a required pilgrimage for fat-tire fiends eager to test their tires on the strangely sticky slickrock. Intrepid explorers can satisfy their curiosity in canyons deep and winding, layered and narrow, and Utah's otherworldly, fragile-looking rock formations—arches, spires, hoodoos, and fins—tempt climbers (and photographers) from all over.

Three national parks help preserve this unearthly terrain—Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands—and their names go a long way to describe their attractions. Sandstone forms giant arcs through the air in Arches. Within Capitol Reef, you'll find white domes of Navajo sandstone that resemble capitol-building rotundas, as well as a high ridge—part of the 100-mile Waterpocket Fold—that posed a barrier to early settlers, like a coral reef. Canyonlands centers around the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers; these waterways and their tributaries have carved out a serpentine network of deep canyons within the park.

Farther south along the Colorado, the Glen Canyon Dam restrains the river. The damming of the Colorado flooded what was once gorgeous canyon country, but it also created the massive Lake Powell, a hot spot for water recreation and the highlight of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Visitors to southeast Utah will find a number of national monuments in the area; these protect local attractions, such as giant natural bridges and ancient Indian ruins.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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