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How many of these 10 Utah national monuments have you been to?

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Here in Utah, we share our beautiful national parks with millions of people. And it makes sense. They're incredible. But Utah has about four states' worth of other attractions, just as beautiful and usually a lot less crowded. So, the next time you're planning a road trip, consider one of our national monuments. (San Juan County would be a good place to start.)

Golden Spike National Historical Site

Box Elder County

The Union Pacific Railroad met the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869, tying America together by rail. Train fanatics and students of manifest destiny can relive this remote section of Utah’s great big moment in U.S. history at the site’s museum, visitor center and live reenactments with replicas of the original Jupiter and 119 locomotives.

Learn more about Golden Spike here.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Utah County

Climb Mount Timpanogos and you can look out approximately forever. Feeling more introspective? Climb inside the mountain at Timpanogos Cave. Must be part of a guided tour (tickets are $8; available daily from May to September) which will teach you about stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn, helicities, draperies, flowstone and the bats that call them home.

Learn more about Timpanogos Cave here.


Dinosaur National Monument

Uintah County

Kids have notoriously bad judgment regarding clothing, movies and what to do with boogers, but there are two childish preoccupations adults would do well to (re)adopt. First, trampolines. (Have you jumped on a trampoline lately? It’s like you’re flying.) And, second, dinosaurs. Dinosaur National Monument’s world-famous concentration of Jurassic fossils — including some of the best-preserved skeletons ever found — will have you reading illustrated library books by flashlight under the covers when you get home.

Learn more about Dinosaur National Monument here.

Hovenweep National Monument

San Juan County

This one’s out there. You might feel like the first person ever to set foot in Hovenweep National Monument, but you’re not. Hunter-gatherers beat you to it by 10,000 years at least, passing through with the seasons, and Ancestral Puebloans settled down there around 900 CE. Visit the six groups of structures these Puebloans left behind, and be sure to stay the night in this International Dark Sky Park.

Learn more about Hovenweep here.


Natural Bridges National Monument

San Juan County

The bridges have Hopi Indian names: Owachomo ("rock mounds") is dangerously delicate; Sipapu ("the place of emergence") is among the longest natural bridges in the world (just behind Rainbow Bridge); and Kachina ("dancer") is a massive hole punched through a gooseneck in Armstrong Canyon. Each is tiger-striped with desert varnish and startling in its own way, posing semi-permanently along the nine-mile loop of Bridge View Drive.

Learn more about Natural Bridges here.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

San Juan County

Just south of Lake Powell is Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a massive sandstone half-circle the Navajo culture holds sacred as a symbol of deities who bring clouds, rain and rainbows. It was nearly inaccessible to tourists before Glen Canyon was flooded in 1966, but the shores of Lake Powell’s Forbidding Canyon now approach Rainbow Bridge’s long evening shadow, making it just a long boat ride and a short hike away.

Learn more about Rainbow Bridge here.


Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument

Kane and Garfield Counties

A huge variety of formations, ecosystems and world-class paleontological sites exist in the Monument’s three distinct sections: 1. The Grand Staircase rises in broad, tilted terraces of sedimentary Technicolor, like the layers of Utah’s famous Jell-O salad. 2. The Kaiparowits Plateau is wild, arid and remote, rich with canyons and Late Cretaceous fossils. 3. Canyons of the Escalante is the rocky bones laid bare after the Escalante River gnawed through the earth’s flesh.

Learn more about Grand Staircase–Escalante here.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Iron County

It’s like one of Bryce Canyon’s monstrous (in all the good ways) red rock coliseums grew up and moved out of the house. The rim of Cedar Breaks is 10,000 feet above sea level — that’s 1,000 feet higher than Bryce — and it drops a full 2,000 feet before it bottoms out. Native Americans called it “Circle of the Painted Cliffs,” describing the colorful bands of shale, limestone and sandstone revealed by eons of uplift and erosion.

Learn more about Cedar Breaks here.


Bears Ears National Monument

San Juan County

Come to see what all the fuss is about, stay for the peace and quiet. Utah’s youngest (by designation) national monument is named for a couple of buttes that rise attentively from the horizon. Bears Ears is made up of sandstone canyons, mesas and forested buttes, and protects artifacts such as rock art, ancient dwellings, ceremonial kivas and countless other artifacts from 13,000 years of native civilizations. And the views ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, neither.

Learn more about Bears Ears here.

Bonus: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

San Juan County

(This one isn’t a U.S. designation, but we’re including it here because it’s the Navajo Nation’s equivalent.)

Monument Valley is what wind and water can make with enough time and creative license. It’s home to the iconic East and West Mitten Buttes and so many other iconic backdrops from so many iconic John Ford/John Wayne westerns. You’ll see the sky, bigger and bluer than you remembered. You’ll see the earth, red, rough and unpredictable. And you won’t see anything else. Stand stranded at its center, struck by astounding simplicity. It will never happen again.

Learn more about Monument Valley here.