Capitol Reef National Park
Not as crowded as its fellow parks but equally scenic, Capitol Reef contains much of the 100-mile Waterpocket Fold, created 65 million years ago when the earth’s surface buckled up and folded, exposing a cross-section of geologic history that is downright painterly in its colorful intensity.
Arches National Park
One of the Southwest’s most gorgeous parks, Arches (435-719-2299; www.nps.gov/arch; per vehicle $20; visitor center 7:30am-6:30pm Apr-Oct, 8am-4:30pm Nov-Mar) boasts the world’s greatest concentration of sandstone arches. Just 5 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191, the park is always packed in summer. Consider a moonlight exploration, when it’s cooler and the rocks feel ghostly.