No matter which Utah national parks you plan to visit, you’ll have the chance to enjoy stunning views, incredible hikes, and once-in-a-lifetime memories. But if you want your trip to go off without a hitch, you’re going to want to bring the right gear. From sturdy hiking shoes to bug spray and everything in between, having the right items makes all the difference. Keep reading to learn exactly what you should have with you in your backpack or suitcase.
When most people think of packing shoes for a trip to any national park, the first thing that comes to mind are hiking boots. But while you will want to wear these most of the time (more on that next), they aren’t the only shoes you’ll want to have in your suitcase.
Maybe you plan to enjoy any water sports during your time in the parks, such as river rafting, kayaking, or canoeing. Or perhaps you want to take a hike that’ll take you through water, like the rocky Virgin River crossing through the Narrows in Zion. Either way, you’ll want a pair of water shoes. And don’t just head to your local department store to pick up a $5 pair. Sharp rocks and submerged debris can be treacherous. Protect your feet with a pair of sturdy, hard-rubber-bottomed shoes.
While your chosen water shoes should be sturdy, it’s even more important to choose the right pair of hiking boots. Not only should they be durable, but comfortable as well. Even if you don’t plan to take on any strenuous trails, you’ll still be spending a lot of time on your feet, traversing rocky, uneven surfaces.
If you know you won’t be doing a lot of true hiking, you might also be able to get away with packing a pair of lower-profile hiking shoes instead. These are like a gym shoe-version of hiking boots, often with no ankle support and lighter weight. If you’ll be hiking through water and don’t want to pack a pair of water shoes and a pair of hiking boots, you might opt for these instead. Just keep in mind that when you’re crossing rocky terrain, you won’t have the same kind of support to prevent rolled ankles.
Protection from the Sun
Whether you’re taking on a long trail or simply enjoying a picnic in one of the state’s national parks, there’s one threat looming that can put a quick and painful end to your fun vacation; the sun. In Utah’s deserts, there’s little shade to be found, leaving visitors baking under the hot sunshine. Protect your exposed skin with UV protective clothing, hats, and the right SPF sunscreen for your skin. Otherwise you’re likely to find yourself with a painful and potentially dangerous burn.
Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that needs protection. The sun can also put your eyes in serious danger. Excessive exposure to UV rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium, a condition where tissue grows over the whites of your eye, causing the curve of your eye to change and leading to astigmatism. Wear sunglasses that are guaranteed to block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. A hat with a wide brim or long bill will also help protect your eyes.
More Water than You Expect to Need
Dehydration is one of the biggest threats to visitors to the national parks. And it isn’t just serious hikers that suffer from it; even walking short trails or wandering overlooks can lead to dehydration if you aren’t used to Utah’s desert heat and haven’t properly prepared.
Even though there are water bottle filling stations in all of the national parks, often located near popular hiking spots, it’s important to pack in plenty of water as well. You could get lost or spend longer on a trail than you originally planned, and burn through your supply before you can refilll. If you’ve never hiked in one of the Mighty 5 before, you may also find yourself consuming more water than you expected to.
Other things you can do to avoid dehydration include:
- Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your national park visit to make sure that your body is properly hydrated from the start
- Limit consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as these will actually dehydrate you
- Drink water during meals, even if you don’t feel thirsty
- Continue drinking water during the evenings after you’ve returned to your resort for the day. You want to ensure that you’re properly hydrated for the next day
Alongside your water supply, you should also bring a few trail-friendly snacks. Choose high-protein items that won’t melt or get sticky in the heat, like nuts or granola bars. These will help give you a boost of energy and get you through until your next meal, especially if you get delayed on the trail.
If you don’t have a comfortable daypack to carry, you’ll likely be tempted to carry less water and other gear with you. It’s essential to find a daypack you’ll want to carry to keep from tempting you to leave important items behind, even on shorter hikes.
The Right Hiking Clothes
While a cotton shirt and running shorts might be the perfect clothes for a hike in a national park in a milder climate, what you wear in Utah’s national parks can be the difference between a fun adventure and a dangerous excursion.
Long, lightweight pants and a UV-blocking, moisture-wicking long-sleeved shirt are ideal. These will help protect you from the sun as well as from cuts and scrapes from thorns. Avoid fabric that is heavy or that doesn’t wick sweat away from your skin, as these can cause you to overheat. Don’t forget to choose your underclothes wisely; chaffing is incredibly uncomfortable on a long hike.
You’ll want to avoid getting caught on a trail after sundown. But it’s still important to pack a flashlight just in case. If you do get delayed and wind up still on your feet after dark, it can help you get back to civilization safely and can also be used to alert other hikers if you get into trouble once the sun goes down.
The desert heat helps to cut down on active bug life during the summer. However, near waterways like rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, you’ll still find pesky mosquitoes. Pack bug spray to keep from getting bit and spending the rest of your trip itching and scratching.
First Aid Kit
Utah’s national parks see plenty of crowds during the summer months, so you won’t be alone unless you choose to tackle one of the longer hikes that few visitors take on. But if you get hurt on even a shorter trail, it can take time for emergency crews to get to you. Or if you suffer only a minor cut or scrape, you won’t want to put an end to your day to go back into town and seek help.
Packing a first aid kit and learning how to treat minor, common injuries can help you keep yourself and anyone else in your group safe and keep little bumps and scrapes from bringing your hike to an end prematurely.
While it may not be a necessity, you’ll want to have a camera along to capture the memories and stunning views you’ll get to enjoy, no matter which Utah national park you choose to visit.
Bonus Packing List for Cougar Ridge Guests
If you’re lucky enough to be staying at Cougar Ridge during your Utah national park adventure, there are a few extra items you may want to pack to allow you to better enjoy the on-site and off-site activities available.
If you’re into hunting, you’ll want to have your camo and other gear along to go bird or big game hunting during your stay. Book a casita to get access to your own locked storage room and a cleanup area.
Many visitors to Torrey don’t realize that Lake Powell is just a day trip away! Pack a swimsuit and book an excursion to Powell to enjoy skiing, wakeboarding, and more. Don’t worry, you’ll be back in time for dinner!
Fly Fishing Vest and Waders
If you’re dreaming of casting a line on the Fremont River, bring your vest and any other gear you’ll want for fly fishing. Or, simply rent gear to save space in your suitcase.
Seeing the red rock cliffs and mountains of Utah from the back of a horse is a whole new kind of adventure. Bring jeans and leather boots to protect yourself during your ride.
Cowboy boots might not be a must for horseback riding, but if you want to get into the mood during your own private rodeo show, channel your inner cowboy and bring them along!