We couldn’t just pick one in Utah: These three National Park gems all equally show off the grandeur of America’s Southwest. Start in Zion, hiking the Narrows, a slender gorge flanked by soaring canyon walls, or climbing to Angel’s Landing, a towering rock formation reached by a notoriously precipitous trail. A 90-minute drive on US-89 brings you to Bryce Canyon’s eerie, hoodoo-filled amphitheaters and natural arches. It’s another two hours to Capitol Reef (via UT-62 and UT-24), one of America’s most underrated and striking parks. Though it rarely gets the acclaim of nearby Zion and Bryce, visitors will find spectacular cliff, canyon, and red rock-filled landscapes with far fewer crowds.
Where to stop: Try to get to Bryce Canyon a couple hours before dawn for some epic stargazing (the park is a certified international dark sky park), then head over to Sunrise Point for—wait for it—sunrise. The raising sun paints the hoodoo-filled amphitheater in incredible shades of pink, purple, and orange.
Where to eat: Just south of the Zion National Park Visitor Center, Cafe Soleil is the perfect place to have a healthy meal before a day spent outdoors. Try the chipotle chicken wrap, pomegranate smoothie, or tofu scramble.
Where to stay: If it’s scenery you’re after, you can’t do much better than Zion Lodge within the park’s boundaries. Aside from standard hotel rooms, the lodge features 40 cabins with private porches overlooking 3,800-foot sandstone cliffs.