13 Closest National Park to Salt Lake City

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Closest National Park to Salt Lake City
Image by Frank Ravizza from Pixabay

National parks are a compilation of the different aspects of nature around us. They are established to preserve and enhance the natural beauty and promote the enjoyment of the scenery by the public. It allows open-air recreation at the most affordable costs, even around places near the state capital of the U.S. state of Utah. But you often are under time constraints, so you need to look for the nearest opportunities, and that is how you stumbled on the 13 closest National Park to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City has much more than the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range. Salt Lake City, the most populous city of Utah and the religious centre of the Mormons, serves as a tremendous hop-off point to cruise towards many of these National Reserves.

Most of the incredible national parks near salt lake city are less than a 5-hour drive, with the closest National Park to Salt Lake City being the Capitol Reef and the Arches National Park. Salt lake city is the gateway to Southwestern America.

Although these public lands boast the wonders of geological wonderland and the scenic drive they provide but are a devil’s garden in the scorching summer heat. Still, they become a balanced rock since they are specific elevation gains with every new Park.

To know about more things you can do around Salt City and in the State of Utah, read 13 Utah attractions that you should once visit in your life. After reading this you don’t need to search national parks near me in Salt Lake City.

Here is a compiled list of the most magnificent and closest national park to Salt Lake City, arranged in ascending order of approximate time taken to reach the designated spot, along with the price of the entrance passes required to step into the territory of any of the following parks.

These passes are available in 3 categories, the first one being for individuals without vehicles, the second is for motorcyclists, and the third is for private non-commercial vehicles. A brief account of these national parks in the U.S. National park system has also been made.

Closest National Park to Salt Lake City

1. Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park
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Capitol Reef is approximately 200 miles and a 3 hour 30 minutes drive towards South Central Utah, in the heart of Red Rock Country, and is the closest National Park to Salt Lake City. Hosting around a million visitors each year and introducing them to the 100-mile Geological wrinkle on Earth’s crust, more commonly known as the Waterpocket Fold, is 65 million years old.

Through the more popular Waterpocket, the fold is another spectacular gorge called Grand Wash, followed by a trail of flat wash for 6 miles. The entry fee for Capitol Reef National Park starts at a generous $10, valid for up to 7 days for you to witness the deep narrow canyons and fascinating rock formations without any time crunch.

Capitol reef national Park is one of the best national parks to visit if you are looking for a park near salt lake city. It provides scenic beauty with plenty of easy hiking trails, making it a fun family experience. It although is less known than the other Utah’s national parks, it is still one of the best national parks near salt lake city.

2. Arches National Park

Arches National Park
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At a distance of 230 miles and an approximate drive of 3 hours 45 minutes towards North of Moab, it houses terrific natural creations formed from erosion, resulting in Mammoth Rocks and Arches. It is also one of the closest national park to salt lake city.  The longest natural stone arch in the USA, The Landscape Arch can be witnessed here.

It has a footfall of around a million visitors a year and an entrée fee of $15 for the pass, also valid for seven days. The main highlight of this park is the Delicate Arch which is the reason for the visit of most visitors. This arch is also embedded on the state license plates and is the most sought-after hike in the park.

Other trails include the Devil’s Playground, Fiery Furnace, and the Towering Cliffs on Park Avenue. The attractions- the Windows, the Great Wall, the Balanced Rock, Courthouse towers, and Park Avenue are accessible via brief walks after the park entrance.

This park has also been a victim of two significant collapses, the first for the Wall Arch in 2008 and the second for the Rainbow Arch in 2018. Hence, these are not ever-lasting structures; if one wants to witness these, the sooner one plans a trip, the better.

3. Great Basin National Park

great basin national park
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Great Basin National Park is located around five miles west of the town of Baker, in east-central Nevada. It s also another closest national park to salt lake city. At a distance of 235 miles and an approximate drive of 3 hours and 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, it is home to some of the oldest living trees on the planet, the 5,000-year-old bristle cone pine trees. There is no entrance fee for the park, but there is a per-person fee charged for all visitors for cave tours.

This park has several developed campsites along with back country camping opportunities. Even though the Park is diverse with a mix of alpine lakes and limestone caverns, it has a lower footfall of around 100,000 visitors a year, making it the least visited National Park in the U.S. The Great Basin National Park has also made up a name for itself in name of its magnificent dark skies.

Trekking through this park gives you the necessary solitude that one needs to experience nature. The visitor centre for the park is situated on Nevada State Route 487 in the town of Baker, inside the park boundary. Park wildlife, including the Bighorn sheep, and sightings of Mountain Lions have also been reported.

4. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park
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Located in South-Eastern Utah, near the town of Moab, it is the largest of Utah’s National Park – Canyonlands National Park. Being the closest National Park to salt lake city. A drive of around 3 hours and 50 minutes for a distance of about 240 miles is required to witness the Mesa Arch, the most picturesque arch in Utah.

The Mesa Arch has located just a 10-minute walk from the nearby parking lot. With a yearly footfall of around 500,000 visitors for its four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers.

Popular viewpoints of Canyonland, such as the Grand View Point, Orange Cliffs, Buck Canyon, Candlestick Tower, and Green River, along with the popular hikes such as White Rim Overlook and the Gooseberry trail, are nearby.

The two major rivers of Canyonlands are Colorado and the green rivers. Both are fantastic overlooks. There is also a facility for the interested ones if they would like a trip that would lead deep into the Canyon on ATVs.

This southwest-facing viewpoint captures the fantastic view of the Green River overlooks, one of the best spots in the park to witness the sunset. This viewpoint also catches glimpses of the Maze district and the White Rim road. It has a decent per-person entrance fee of just $15, and it increases to $30 for a private, non-commercial vehicle.

5. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park
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To the east of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, around 270 miles from Salt lake city, with an approximate driving time of 4 hours, is the Bryce Canyon National park, home to the most hoodoos on Earth. It is also the closest national park to salt lake city.

Some enthusiasts interested in making observations about these hoodoos from much closer choose horseback riding as the preferred way for their commute. Bryce Canyon is the smallest National Park in Utah and at a higher elevation than some other nearby national parks like the Zion National Park and has a higher footfall of one and half million visitors each year.

Bryce canyon national park holds magnificent viewpoints, which include Rainbow point, Bryce point, Sunrise, and Sunset Point, descending into Wall Street and the canyon floor and then back upwards to Sunset Point. The drive towards this park is also one mesmerizing experience, as you will be in a treat of views of desert, forest, and mountains on the way.

The most popular trails in Bryce canyon national park are the Queens Garden trail and the Navajo Loop trails, and most people prefer combining both of them, turning them into one, 1.5-hour trail. The per-person entrance fee for Bryce canyon national park is $20 for a person with no car and $35 if you would like to admit inside a vehicle.

6. Zion National Park

Zion National Park
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Zion National Park is just a 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Bryce Canyon and around 300 miles from Salt Lake City, making it the closest national park to salt lake city, taking the driving duration to about 4.5 hours, situated in Southwestern Utah.

Due to the size of Bryan Canyon National Park, it can easily be explored in a single day, and a visit to both of these is suggested to be combined. It is also home to the Virgin River, so deep that even sunlight has to struggle hard to reach the bottom.

Zion National Park is the most visited National Park near Salt lake city, with an average footfall of 3.5 million visitors. It houses iconic red cliffs, hikes, and a wide variety of wildlife. It is home to the Zion Canyon, which is vast and has sheer cliffs dropping up to 3,000 feet.

Other best scouting points include Canyon Overlook, Riverside Walk, Observation point, Scout Lookout, and Emerald pools. Conquering the iconic Angels landing is the favourite choice of hikers, although flocking on Angel’s landing will soon be permitted.

The entrance fee for Zion National Park is similar to that of Bryce Canyon National Park, with $15 for individuals without vehicles, and $35 for non-commercial, private vehicles. This pass will be valid for 7 days from the date of purchase.

7. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park
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Grand Teton National Park is a highly populated National Park with a footfall of over 3 million visitors yearly, spread over 310,000 acres of lush forest, rivers, lakes, and snow-capped mountains. Around 280 miles from Salt lake city, with a drive duration of around 4 hours and 45 minutes, includes significant peaks from the Teton Range and a part of Jackson Hole valley. I am making it the closest national park to salt lake city.

Spending one full day here should give you enough time to drive the Scenic Loop Drive and grab amazing photographs at Mormon Row, Schwabacher Landing, and Oxbow Bend. The crystal clear lakes of the park also offer opportunities for fishing, boating, and some watersports. It is also a popular spot for trout fishing and is one of the few places where people have the chance to catch the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout.

A visit around September would be a good decision, as you will be able to witness the first dusting of the snow on the Teton peaks and a collage of vibrant colours due to the ushering of Fall. Grand Teton National Park has various visitor centres which are run by National Park Service.

Grand Teton national park has an entrance fee of $20 for individuals without vehicles and $35 for non-commercial private vehicles. These passes are valid for up to 7 days from the date of purchase.

8. Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring
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Situated just 30 miles North of Grand Teton National Park is the Yellowstone National Park, a hot springs national park. It is around 330 miles north of Salt Lake City. The journey takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes, mainly situated in the northwest corner of Wyoming and extending further into Montana and Idaho. It is another closest national park to salt lake city.

Yellowstone houses the largest hot spring in the U.S. It hosts gushing geysers such as the Grand Prismatic Spring and the more famous Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts every 60 to 90 minutes. It is a recreation spot made out of a volcanic hot spot.

Yellowstone national park is the oldest National Park in the United States and also contains the colourful Morning Glory, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the Minerva Terrace on the Mammoth Hot Springs. Yellowstone boasts rich wildlife, with bears, wolves, bison, bighorn lambs, elk, and antelope among its residents.

Yellowstone National Park has an entrance fee of $20 for individuals without vehicles and $35 for non-commercial private vehicles. These passes are valid for up to 7 days from the date of purchase.

9. The Black Canyon as to Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
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This Colorado Park, spread over 30,000 acres, is one of Utah’s least visited national parks, with a footfall of fewer than 500,000 visitors a year. It is the closest national park to salt lake city. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is situated in Western Colorado, around 350 miles from salt lake city, and it takes about five and a half hours to cover the journey

This Canyon is a result of erosion for 1.7 million years from the Gunnison River and gives a challenging hike to visitors. This park exposes you to some of North America’s steepest cliffs and oldest rocks.

There are two scenic drives through the park, the North Rim, and the South Rim. The North rim closes in winter, while the South Rim is available all year round. Roads and trials along these rims provide views of the Black Canyon’s dramatic drops and the striated Painted Wall cliff. Two thousand feet tall canyon walls surround the narrow Canyon and hence can receive only a few minutes of sunlight each day.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has an entrance fee of $15 for individuals without vehicles and $30 for non-commercial private vehicles. These passes are valid for up to 7 days from the date of purchase.

10. Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park
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Mesa Verde national park is a delight for those interested in archaeology. It is one of the closest national parks to salt lake city. It was named UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and protects thousands of archaeological sites, including hundreds of cliff dwellings.

It is at a distance of around 360 miles from salt lake city, taking about 5 to 6 hours of driving time. It also boasts an 800-year-old Balcony House, 150-room Cliff Palace, etc.

Fully exploring this place would at least make you in need of one full day along with an overnight stay for satisfactorily sightseeing and hiking. Mesa Verde national park is also home to a small population of black bears, with sightings more often seen around the summer season.

The Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum exhibits the ancient Native American culture, and the 2.4-mile Petroglyph Point Trail is also situated here. The Mesa Verde National Park is spread across an area of 50,000 acres. This Park offers a unique opportunity to see and experience 700 years of ancient history.

Mesa Verde National park entrance fees vary from Summer to winter. The fee in summer for individuals is $15, while in winter it is $10, meanwhile fee for non-commercial private vehicle entry is $30 in summer while it is $20 in winter.

11. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park
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The Grand Canyon National Park further diverges into the North and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and you can decide your visit based on what time of the year you will be planning your visit. The Grand Canyon is situated at a distance of 380 miles from salt lake city and is 6 hour drive by car. It is also the closest national park to salt lake city.

Taking a flight would help you save some hours- taking the total flight duration to just one and a half hours.

The South Rim is open all year long and is more prevalent among tourists due to its extensive tourist offering. The Canyon’s vastness can be felt when you cruise along Hermit Road and Desert View Drive. The North Rim is, meanwhile, more relaxed and quiet and is open only for a particular time during the year.

The Grand Canyon National Park has a high footfall, thanks to its main attraction, i.e., the Grand Canyon, which is a stretch of 277 miles and boasts clean air and colourful geology. Visitors will be mesmerized by stunning views from any vantage point they choose.

There are two more popular hiking opportunities, The North Kaibab Trail and The South Kaibab Trail or the Bright Angel. These being extremely challenging, are not opted upon by most of the visitors. The Grand Canyon National Park has an entrance fee of $20 for individuals without vehicles and $35 for non-commercial private vehicles.

12. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
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Rocky Mountain National Park is a high elevation park, with roads of the park leading up to 12,000 feet, spread across 265,000 acres, and boasts 147 lakes with high peaking mountains. It is 430 miles from Salt lake city, and a drive would cost you around 7 hours and 30 minutes of your time. It is one of the 13 closest national parks to salt lake city.

Its most popular elements of wildlife include elk and the bighorn sheep. It has a footfall of over 3 million people annually and holds 355 miles of hiking trails, including the more popular ones like Mount Ida, Chasm Lake, Emerald Lake, and the Flattop Mountain Trail. The Dream lake and Sprague lake here are more famous for the sunrise.

The highest roads here include the Trail Ridge Road, which climbs to over 12,000 and showcases spectacular views. The Highest peak here is Long’s peak, which extends to around 14,259 feet. Towering landscapes like these keep visitors in awe of the beautiful scenery.

Besides valid park pass, Timed Entry Permit Reservations are required to enter Rocky Mountain, National Park. One-day entrance pass for individuals without vehicles amounts to $15, and for vehicles, it is $30.

13. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park
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Located in Eastern California is the Death valley national park, seven and a half-hour drive from salt lake city, for a distance of 480 miles. It is spread across the California-Nevada border and has boundaries with the Death Valley, Panamint Valley, Eureka Valley, and the Saline Valley, and it is the 13th closest national park to salt lake city.

Death Valley national park is also the closest national park to salt lake city which is the lowest in elevation, the hottest and the driest. But Death Valley national park is a land of extremes and even has peaks frosted with winter snow.

Even though being the hottest and driest area on Earth, it is prone to summer rains and flash floods that are large enough to break weather records. It is known for Titus Canyon, a ghost town and colourful rocks, and the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 86 metre below sea level. The park is spread across 13000 km, making it almost equivalent to Puerto Rico.

And with that, the article wraps with the 13 closest National Park to Salt Lake City, and now it is your turn to explore these closest National Park to Salt Lake City with your family and friends, grab your most challenging vehicles and hiking gear, and go explore.

Also check out Best Places to visit in Utah.

Things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Click here to read more.

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