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Step Back Into Time By Visiting Utah’s National Monuments

Photo Courtesy NPS

The road leads the traveler west out of Colorado. The rearview mirror fills up with skyscraping peaks of the Rocky Mountains, brown and green toward the bottom and then icy white on the summits of the great peaks.

As the traveler’s path reaches the western Colorado line, the world around starts to change. 

The landscape becomes more sparse and wide, the vegetation less lush. Soon, odd rocky structures speckle the roadside, and the horizon seems to rise into the coming sunset slowly.

As the sign that reads “Leaving Colorado” flashes by, the traveler finds themselves in another land altogether, one that feels ancient and prehistoric.

With enormous skies meeting long, impossibly flat plains, the land is dotted with plateaus and red, rocky geological oddities.

The next roadside sign comes into focus: “Welcome To Utah!”

The state, with its history, both ancient and more recent, is a singular one in the story of the U.S. It is at once the land of Indigenous western Tribes that lived and thrived there for thousands of years before white settlers arrived, making its story feel as old as the land upon which it is written. Yet, it is also the spiritual home of Mormonism, one of the most recently founded major religions in existence, making it feel as if its story has just been penned.

One could spend a lifetime seeking to learn the tale and secrets of “The Beehive State” and still never know it all. Thankfully, some of its most precious treasures are preserved in the National Monuments it keeps within its border for all to learn from and experience.

Natural Bridges National Monument: This site must be seen to be believed! Three natural bridges, carved in the timeless stone by years of water flow and named for their Native forebearers, “Kachina,” Owachomo,” and “Sipapu,” are one of the most recognizable natural attractions the state has to offer. Located within the Arches National Park, these natural bridges are surrounded by some of the best hiking in the area. The park and this National Monument, established in 1908, are some of the most popular destinations for nature lovers from all parts.

Photo Courtesy NPS

Rainbow Bridge National Monument: Not terribly far away near the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, another bridge awaits appreciators of the strange and beautiful — geologically speaking. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is one of the world’s largest known natural bridges and has been considered a sacred place for thousands of years by the Indigenous Tribes who lived in and around it. Visitors can enjoy a brisk one- to two-mile hike to the famed bridge and learn more about it by taking a guided tour.

Photo Courtesy NPS

Dinosaur National Monument: This site boasts an impressive, welcoming invitation: “Dinosaurs once roamed here!” Indeed, the Dinosaur National Monument, located on the Utah-Colorado line, offers visitors the chance to walk in the footsteps of the prehistoric and view first-hand their fossilized remains as well as the writings, cave dwellings, and drawings of the early culture that existed here. Visitors can also enjoy some of the most beautiful hikes in the area while learning more about the human and non-human inhabitants of this little piece of the West. This destination is a step into the past in the most exciting ways. 

Photo Courtesy NPS

Jurassic National Monument: If dinosaur lovers thought Utah had only one spot devoted to the ancient beasts, they would be wrong! Jurassic National Monument contains the densest concentration of dinosaur bones ever found from the Jurassic Erc, some 12,000 bones. This incredible discovery has allowed scientists to learn volumes about the period and the creatures who lived during the time frame. Today, visitors can walk among the excavation sites, scenic vistas, and unique geological structures that populate this location.

Photo Courtesy NPS

Hovenweep National Monument: Hovenweep also shares a border with its sister state of Colorado, yet offers a different glimpse into the people who came before. The monument preserves some of the lasting structure from around 1,200 A.D., which once was home to some 2,500 people who lived there. Visitors are invited to walk among the structures that stand to this day and marvel at the craftsmanship and skill that these ancient people possessed. Some of these dwellings are even built into the sides of canyons or perched precariously on boulders. Yet, they still stand today, and Hovenweep offers a chance to see history in real life!

Photo Courtesy NPS

Bears Ears National Monument Management: This Utah National Monument is one of the most recently defined in the country, with the current president doing so and expanding its boundaries as recently as Oct. 8, 2021. This site and the land upon which it sits have long been of significant historical and spiritual importance to the Native Tribes who have lived here for millennia and those who still use the land for ceremonial and practical purposes. For others, the area is a veritable smorgasbord of adventure with opportunities to rock climb, hike, or raft the nearby river. There is truly something for everyone at Bears Ears!

Photo Courtesy Bears Ears National Monument 

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