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National Park Service

Why you should visit one of Utah's 8 national monuments this year

By Krystal Rogers-nelson, Contributor  |  Posted May 2nd, 2017 @ 3:59pm



THE GREAT OUTDOORS — No matter what you think of President Trump's recent executive order, which calls for the review of several national monuments, what better time than now to start planning a trip to one of Utah's monuments.

Utah boasts eight national monuments, including Bears Ears National Monument, which was specifically mentioned in the executive order. Here's a list of each monument, what makes them unique, things to do and how to get there.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Located near Mt. Timpanogos in the Wasatch Mountains, Timpanogos Cave was designated as a national monument on Oct. 14, 1922, by former President Warren G. Harding.

Even though you might work up a sweat hiking up the 1.5-mile paved trail to get to the entrance, once you are inside the cave, it’s nice and cool, so it's probably a good idea to bring a light jacket. Make sure you look for the helicites, which are hollow, straw-like crystalline minerals.

Things to do: hike to the cave and take the guided tour, which takes about three hours. The trailhead is by the visitor center, where you pick up your tickets.

When to go: mid-May to mid-October. You can reserve tickets a month in advance, so call ahead to purchase tickets.

Where to stay: You can find lodging in nearby Orem, Lehi or American Fork. Several campgrounds are also available in American Fork Canyon.

Dinosaur National Monument

Located in northeastern Utah on the edge of the Utah/Colorado border, Dinosaur was declared a national monument on Oct. 4, 1915, by former President Woodrow Wilson.

Although there are a handful of other places to see dinosaur bones in Utah, the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument exhibits hundreds of dinosaur fossils that are still embedded in rock, called “The Wall of Bones.”

Things to do: Check out the Quarry to see a large allosaurus skull and piles of bones from dinosaurs unique to Utah. There are also plenty of historical sites, hikes to petroglyphs, river rafting on the green river and fishing or biking nearby.

When to go: late May to mid-September. The quarry is open limited hours from September to May, but the surrounding unpaved roads may become impassable from rain or snow.

Where to stay: You can find lodging in nearby Vernal or you can camp within the monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Located near Cedar City in southwestern Utah, Cedar Breaks was established as a national monument on Aug. 22, 1933, by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Above 10,000 feet, the monument is known for its naturally carved amphitheater of castle-like rocks with a rainbow of colors. The visitor's center is a log cabin built in 1937 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Things to do: As one of the few dark sky certified parks in the world, this is one of the best places to see stars in Utah. It’s also a great place for hiking in the summer with its cooler temperatures. There is a lot to do at the nearby Brian Head Resort, which includes lodging, restaurants and a spa.

When to go: Summer for hiking/mountain biking, fall for leaves and winter for skiing.

Where to stay: Brian Head Resort or Cedar Breaks campground.

Bears Ears National Monument

The newest of Utah’s monuments, Bears Ears was designated as a national monument by former President Barack Obama on Dec. 28, 2016. One of the most remote monuments in the state, it is located in the heart of southeastern Utah’s canyon country with miles of rugged and wild terrain.

This monument is special because it contains more cultural resources than any other in the U.S. During your trip, make sure to honor the “visit with respect” guidelines to protect the thousands of historical and cultural sites there.

Things to do: Canyoneering, backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, scenic drives, horseback riding, ATVs and river rafting are popular. Some activities require permits and some roads allow motorized vehicles and some do not, so pay attention to signs and maps.

When to go: To avoid high temperatures and flash floods, visit the area March through mid-June and September through October.

Where to stay: The nearby towns of Moab, Monticello, Blanding, Bluff, and Valley of the Gods offer lodging. There are also several camping options near the Indian Creek Region, Monticello and Bluff.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Located in southeastern Utah about 50 miles north of the Four Corners area, Natural Bridges was declared Utah’s first national monument by former President Theodore Roosevelt on April 16, 1908.

It only takes about three hours to visit the three natural rock bridges via the car-tour loop around the park, including walking to the overlooks.

Things to do: drive the loop and walk to the overlooks. To see the arches up close, take the hiking trails from the overlooks. Park rangers also lead talks, walks and stargazing programs if you have time to stick around.

When to go: The monument is open year-round, but visitor center hours vary depending on staffing and holidays.

Where to stay: camp in the monument year-round. The nearest restaurants and lodging are 40 miles away in Blanding.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Located in southern Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated on Sept. 18, 1996, by former President Bill Clinton. It covers the largest area of any monument in the U.S. at nearly 2 million acres.

Like Bears Ears, this is a very remote area. When visiting, having a 72-hour kit is recommended that includes food, water supplies and a compass and map. The monument includes beautiful waterfalls, slot canyons and panoramic vistas.

Things to do: hiking, climbing, canyoneering, camping or off-roading. There are three distinct regions to see: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits Plateau and Canyons of the Escalante. For a scenic drive, take Utah Scenic Byway 12 or U.S. Route 89.

When to go: spring through fall. Most scenic roads are unpaved and become impassable when wet.

Where to stay: Lodging is available 6 miles from the Glendale entrance or there are also plenty of camping options in the monument.

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep is located in a remote area of southeastern Utah. It was established as a national monument on March 2, 1923, by former President Warren G. Harding. Hovenweep, which means “deserted valley” features six villages of Ancestral Puebloan ruins over a 20-mile radius.

Things to do: Hiking and stargazing are the two main attractions. Plan at least 1.5 hours to hike the 2-mile loop from the visitor center.

When to go: Hovenweep is open year-round, though it is remote and many roads are impassable during bad weather.

Where to stay: A first-come, first-served campground is open year-round near the visitor center.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Declared a national monument by former President William Taft on May 30, 1910, Rainbow Bridge is located in southern Utah off the shore of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The natural arch is considered one of the tallest in the world and can only be reached by boat or by foot.

Things to do: Plan an all-day boat trip to Rainbow Bridge. But remember that water sports are not allowed within the monument. If you are staying at Lake Powell, take advantage of the swimming, fishing, waterskiing and sunbathing permitted within Glen Canyon Recreation Area. If you don’t have a boat, you can reserve a boat tour.

When to go: open year-round, but peak season is in the summer. There may be minimum requirements for boat tours during the offseason.

Where to stay: Camping is available outside the monument on Navajo land (permit required) or on the shores of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


Utah’s national monuments have something for everyone to enjoy. If you need another reason to visit one of Utah’s amazing national monuments this year, don’t miss out on the Utah Symphony’s tour Aug. 29-Sept. 2, where it will be performing free concerts in state parks and national monuments across Utah. You can reserve tickets online starting May 31.

Have you visited any of Utah’s national monuments? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson is a Utah native, writer, artist and mother of one rambunctious toddler. She can be contacted at

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