Hoodoo? You Do!

Clients can discover the wonders of Utah’s National Parks

By: Irene Middleman Thomas

Utah is most certainly a state for outdoor enthusiasts with an unbeatable array of five national parks, seven national monuments and plenty of state and local parks as well. They offer superb hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, bicycling, horseback riding, backpacking, rock climbing and incredible sightseeing. Its spectacular scenery ranging from lush Rocky Mountain valleys to isolated red rock canyons to towering cliffs never fails to thrill visitors.

Utah’s landscape provides us with a remarkable history of the Earth’s geology. This state, which has been active seismically, offers exposed rock strata billions of years old. Unusual rock formations entice our imagination thus, the “hoodoos,” as the Paiute Indians called the colorful, fancifully-shaped stone pillars, carved by erosion over the eons at Bryce Canyon. In some sites, such as Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado border, thousands of dinosaur bones have emerged from the sandstone, while in Capitol Reef National Park, almost mystically rainbow-striped cliffs form a 100-mile-long barrier reminiscent of the seaside.

Arches National Park (435-719-2299): This rugged terrain has the most natural stone arches (over 2,000) in the United States. Just five miles northwest of Moab, famed for its mountain biking, Arches hosts some of the most photographed and visited sites in the world, such as Delicate Arch, with its opening of almost 35 feet. Another is Landscape Arch, which spans 306 feet and is 105 feet high, and is one of the longest natural stone arches in the world. Arches are joined by red rock canyons, spires, fins and balancing rocks in mind-boggling formations. Temperatures can rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and can dip below freezing in winter try spring and fall for best weather conditions.

Bryce Canyon National Park (435-834-5322): Bryce Canyon is famed for its hoodoos, which are tinted in red, yellow and brown, along with lavender tones as well. Bryce is not an actual canyon, rather, it consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved in the edge of a plateau by tributaries of the Paria River.

The park is home to three different climate zones: spruce/fir forest, ponderosa pine forest and pinyon pine/juniper forest. While summer highs are only in the 80s, note that the altitude here is from 8,000 to 9,000 feet, for those who need time to adjust. Again, the most beautiful times to view the brilliant colors of Bryce are at sunrise and sunset.

Canyonlands National Park (435-719-2313): In the same general area as Arches, Canyonlands is also in southeastern Utah. The park hosts deeply carved canyons, sheer-sided mesas, buttes, spires, arches and fascinating rock formations. Cataract Canyon is filled with thunderous rapids formed by the joining of the Green and Colorado rivers, causing three districts of the park, each reached by separate entrances. Each of the districts (Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze) offers its own spectacular beauty and wonder. Much of this park is backcountry-only accessible, but Canyonlands does have paved roads leading to many of its most scenic areas. In the northern district, Island in the Sky, features some of the finest Native American pictograph panels in North America.

Capitol Reef National Park (435-425-3791): The 378-square-mile Capitol Reef was named for its huge 1,000-foot cliffs topped with white sandstone formations, supposedly resembling the United States Capitol. The park is known for its large section of the Waterpocket Fold, a vivid illustration of how the Earth’s surface was folded, wrinkled and eroded, forming pockets that today hold thousands of gallons of rainwater. There are pre-Columbian Indian petroglyphs on the surrounding canyon walls, and lush orchards amid the red rock where fruit orchards have been planted. Elevations here range from 4,000 to 9,000 feet.

Zion National Park (435-772-3256): Zion offers a sublime mix of desert terrain, enormous carved rock formations and verdant hanging gardens. Its Zion Canyon is an astonishing, massive gorge sculpted through exotically colored sandstones and shale by the Virgin River. The Kolob Canyon section is famed for its finger-like red sandstone canyons and the Hurricane Fault, with its layers of exposed ancient rock. Kolob Arch, at 310 feet across, is one of the largest free-standing arches in the world. Zion, with 229 square miles of terrain, offers a myriad of nature programs to its visitors.

For complete information on the United States National Park Service, check www.nps.gov.