This year we decided to visit some of the most beautiful national parks in the world, located in Arizona and Utah. This little guides aim to provide some help for people that want to organise a similar travel, with a few tips.
How to access Arizona's and Utah's national parks
Coming from Europe, the starting place to visit Arizona’s and Utah’s national park is the city of Las Vegas in Nevada. To visit the parks, you will unfortunately need a car, and Las Vegas is the right place to book it. There are many rental car agency both at the airport and in the city, but we decided to book it on Turo.
Turo is a sort of Airbnb for cars, where you can rent a car directly from private citizens. We rented a Jeep Renegade from Nathan, and we were really satisfied with the service. You can also buy insurance on the app, without any additional effort.
Once you got your car, you can just drive out of the Las Vegas chaos towards the beautiful natural reserves. Usually at the entrance of a national park, you will find a ranger station, where you can buy the entrance ticket. For large national parks, like the Grand Canyon, we suggest arriving there early to avoid long queues.
Which tickets to buy for the national parks
You have different choices of tickets to buy for the national parks.
- Single Entry ticket: Usually it gives access to the national park to a car and its travellers for a few days (up to a week, up to $35).
- Single National Park Season ticket: It gives free entry to the chosen national park for a year (up to $80 depending on the park).
- America the Beautiful, Interagency-Pass: It gives access to all national parks in the US for one year ($80).
More infos can be found on the NPS website (http://nps.com). If you plan to visit more than one national park, we suggest buying the interagency pass, to save some money.
Where to sleep at the national parks
Depending on the national park, you could find different type of accommodation inside the park itself. For example, at the Grand Canyon you will find the entire range from campsites to fancy hotels. Typically, you should be able to book the accommodations directly on the NPS website. If you plan to sleep inside the park, we suggest booking in advance, since these places fill up quickly.
During our trip, we never slept inside the parks, but we preferred to book accommodation in nearby towns. In the coming posts dedicated to each national park, we’ll also share our experiences in terms of accommodation and restaurants.
Which facilities shall I expect inside the park?
Most of the parks have a visitor centre, where you can collect information and buy some souvenirs. There you will also find a free water fountain, where to fill your bottle.
Large national parks, like the Grand Canyon or the Zion, have also built a good bus service to visit the park. Sometimes, the bus is the only way to access a trailhead for some of the most famous hikes. Sometimes (but not always!), you will also find water stations and toilets at the trailheads.
Shall I pay something extra to park my car?
No, parking is free inside the national parks.
Will I see wildlife?
Of course! We saw plenty of wild animals during our visit. Always remember to keep your distance and do not feed them.
What's the best period to visit the parks?
There is not a unique rule here. It largely depends on the park, because of their different elevation and climate. We went in April and found a very good climate for hiking, with just a day above 30 degrees Celsius, at the Arches national parks. Also, you will probably find fewer visitors in Spring compared to the summer months.
Do I need a special permit for hiking?
Typically, not. Some very popular hike, e.g. Angel’s landing in the Zion National Park, would require a permit, but this was the only in our trip.