The U.S. has an endless array of spectacular parks to visit, from the vibrant geysers of Yellowstone to the world-renowned scenic drive of Utah’s Mighty Five.
The rushing rapids, ancient ruins, and slickrock labyrinths of the Mighty Five offer you some of the most Instagram-worthy nature shots.
Yellowstone has many activities and sites lined up, including the world’s tallest active geyser and amazing wildlife spotting opportunities.
So, it’s completely understandable that you’re stuck between which one of these US national parks to visit first.
Not to worry, after comparing and highlighting each destination, it’ll be easier to determine where you long to go.
Welcome to the Yellowstone vs. Utah Parks showdown: let the contest begin.
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Utah vs. Yellowstone National Park | Full Comparison
Firstly, why is Yellowstone vs. Utah even a thing? Glad you asked because this is likely because both are large and offer plenty to do and see.
At the end of the day, the park you choose to visit will depend on your location, your objectives, such as hiking or sightseeing, how much time you have, and so on.
Regardless, it’s still worth considering the differences and similarities:
Similarities Between Yellowstone and Utah Parks
Here are some similarities between Yellowstone and Utah Parks:
One thing you can look forward to is all the geological formations and natural wonders of both parks.
Utah has spires, hoodoos, bridges, arches, pinnacles, canyons, and buttes. Some famous rock formations include The Wave, Delicate Arch, and Rainbow Bridge.
Similarly, Yellowstone has no shortage of breathtaking geothermal icons, such as the renowned Old Faithful.
Other noteworthy features include the Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Upper Falls.
Both the Mighty Five of Utah and Yellowstone are among the most visited and coveted national parks in the country.
Utah’s parks received roughly 13 million last year, and Yellowstone welcomed about 3 million.
Yellowstone was America’s first national park and is widely regarded to be the first in the world, too.
The park was established by President Ulysses S. Grant when an act of Congress and signed into law on 03/01/1872.
On the other hand, Zion and Natural Bridges were the first two areas to be set aside as natural wonders by President Taft in 1909.
Differences Between Utah and Yellowstone Parks
Here are some differences between Yellowstone and Utah Parks:
Shape and Size
The biggest difference between Utah Parks and Yellowstone is its size.
As a comparison, Utah’s biggest park, Canyonlands, only covers 527.5 square miles, more than six times smaller than Yellowstone.
This means you’ll have more ground to cover in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is a massive wilderness with diverse wildlife habitat. You’ll find alpine tundras of rocky, treeless areas near the top of mountains.
At the same time, the lower parts encompass majestic meadows, wet grasslands, shrubs, and gorgeous wildflowers.
Utah is more of a hiker’s paradise thanks to its diverse landscape, mountainous terrains, and dry, semi-arid climate.
Expect to experience fiery sunsets and unspoiled displays of the Milky Way as you trek through wide spaces adorned with hoodoos, tight slot canyons, and panoramic views.
Getting to Know Yellowstone National Park
Geothermal wonders and diverse wildlife are Yellowstone’s pride and joy.
Not only do you have access to Mother Nature’s otherworldly artistic expressions, but also the animals that live in and amongst these sites.
These include dramatic canyons, dense forests, gushing geysers, and hot springs. Hundreds of animal species call this park home, like wolves, bison, bears, antelopes, and elk.
Where is Yellowstone National Park? Most (96%) of this wilderness recreation area is located in Wyoming on top of a volcanic hotspot.
Yellowstone is among the biggest national parks on Earth, spanning an impressive area of 3,472 square miles or 8,991 km².
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
Late April to May and September through early October are the best times to visit Yellowstone Park.
Best Things to Do in Yellowstone Park
Add the following activities and attractions to your Yellowstone bucket list itinerary:
Visit Old Faithful
A Trip to Yellowstone will mean nothing without a visit to Old Faithful, its most celebrated attraction.
This geothermal feature has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours for as long as records exist.
Not only that, it’s the first geyser in the park to be named.
See the Tallest Geyser
Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser, spewing boiling water up to 300 – 400 ft (91 to 122 m).
Sitting in the Norris Geyser Basin, this park favourite is a sight to behold, and it doesn’t have a predictable schedule.
This means you’ll be lucky to see it erupt, as this may happen three days to fifty years!
Swing by Mammoth Hot Springs
These are a large complex of, you guessed it, hot springs.
They stand out from the park’s other hot springs because they deposit calcium carbonate instead of sinter.
Besides that little fact, it’s unbelievable to look at.
The sad thing is most people miss this feature as it’s in the far corner of the park, but that should motivate you even more to see it.
Photograph the Grand Prismatic Spring
If you know anything about Yellowstone, you’ll know that the Grand Prismatic Spring is its poster child.
Its signature deep blue center and prismatic border draw hordes of visitors just to get a picture of its beauty.
Located in the Midway Geyser Basin, this feature is also the largest hot spring in the United States.
Wanderer Tip: Discover more attractions with this West Yellowstone tour.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone Park
While there are lodges within the park, most would opt to stay in nearby cities as you’ll have more and better options.
Hotel Jackson — Imagine an ultra-modern take on a cabin in the woods. This is what you’ll get at Hotel Jackson, boasting pristine, elegant rooms with inescapable mountain vistas.
Fairfield Inn & Suites — Stay at a gorgeous and sleek hotel with spacious rooms and modern amenities, including a fitness center and indoor swimming pool.
Hibernation Station — The name gives it away. Experience something more rustic and cozy with a log cabin interior, a fireplace, and a hot tub.
Getting to Know Utah Parks
Together, they are known as the Mighty Five, stretching across Utah to create one of the most scenic road trips in the U.S.
This means you’ll have much to choose from, but most people opt for a multi-day trip to cover all five.
Psst: Don’t miss this 8-day Utah National Parks Road Trip.
Utah parks boast intriguing, mind-bending red rock formations from Arches’ stunning arches to Bryce’s bewitching hoodoos.
If you’re into hiking, you wouldn’t want to miss Zion’s challenging hikes lined with narrow canyons and cliffs.
Lastly, prepare for gorgeous sunset photography and magical stargazing at Capitol Reef and Canyonlands.
Best Time to Visit Utah Parks
Spring is the most fantastic time to visit the Mighty Five as the scenery transforms into lush and vibrant landscapes peppered with wildflowers.
Spring takes place from March to mid-June.
Best Things to Do in Utah Parks
Buckle up for some of the most thrilling activities and attractions in Utah Parks:
Hop on a Bus Tour
A sightseeing bus tour of Bryce Canyon is an excellent alternative if you’re comfortable or prepared to hike through the park.
This exciting tour lets you see all the best highlights, including Natural Bridge, Thor’s Hammer, Fairyland Canyon, and Inspiration Point.
Go 4×4 Driving
Craving a thrilling adventure? A 4×4 driving tour through Canyonlands and Arches might be just what the doctor prescribed.
Drive along the iconic Shafer Trail, tour the Island in the Sky, and admire the Tower Arch.
Enjoy Stargazing in East Zion
Here’s the memorable event you’ve been waiting for.
East Zion offers some of the most dazzling night skies with this stargazing experience, complete with a telescope, blankets, and a hot chocolate bar.
Hop on a Helicopter
Witness the most scenic panoramas over Zion National Park with this epic 20-minute helicopter tour.
Go Horseback Riding
What’s a trip to the West without a scenic horse ride?
This 3-hour horseback ride in Red Canyon is the perfect opportunity to trail through Bryce Canyon as you absorb its remarkable red rocks.
Where to Stay in Utah Parks
Here are some of the best options for lodgings near a Utah Park:
Zion View Camping — Have an authentic Western glamping experience in stunning tents underneath a starry sky.
Capital Reef Resort — Surround yourself with red mountains and tranquillity while enjoying luxurious rooms, a swimming pool, and a hot tub.
Under Canvas — Wake up to entrancing vistas of the red-hued voodoos in Bryce Canyon. Go glamping in a tricked-out tent filled with luxurious furniture set within the most beautiful scenery.
Yellowstone National Park vs. Utah Parks | Which Park Is Better?
Yellowstone National Park and Utah’s Mighty Five offer some of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring sights and experiences in the U.S.
These parks share similarities like long histories, iconic natural features, and high volumes of visitors. This makes it hard to choose one park over the other.
If you’re lucky, you should 1000% visit both as they’re worth it, hands down.
However, if you could only choose one, weigh up the differences and consider all the unique attributes of each park.
Then, consider which park will meet your desires, such as hiking, photography, or wildlife spotting.
Next Read: Canyonlands vs. Grand Canyon: Which is better?