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Reader Participation Day: California, or Utah, For A National Park Trek?

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Utah, or California, which state beckons you for a national park tour? Top photo of Arches National Park by Kurt Repanshek, bottom photo of Half Dome by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.

If you had the option of either traveling to Utah for a swing through its national parks, or to California to sample its national parks, which would you choose?

True, California has Yosemite and Sequoia and Lassen Volcanic and Redwood just to name four, and overall more national parks than Utah. But Utah has Arches and Canyonlands and Zion, wonders that frame a red-rock landscape like none other in the world.

To help you decide, here's a breakdown of the national parks (just parks, not seashores, monuments, preserves, etc.) in those states:

California

Yosemite National Park
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Death Valley National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Channel Islands National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

Utah

Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Zion National Park

Comments

I'd have to go with utah! The red rock is so beautiful! California is too crowded, but utah has so much to choose from and it's never crowded.


Utah is next door; California--well, I've been there. There are too many people in California. I'll choose Utah.


pkrnger:
On the other hand, the mild summer temperatures of the High Sierra produces ideal conditions for multiple-day backpacking trips into John Muir's "Range of Light," albeit with permit in hand. These days, I'd recommend avoiding the Half Dome cables, however, at least until some system can be put in place to eliminate crowding and dangerous conditions. For the same reasons, I'd recommend avoiding Angel's Landing in Zion.

Uh - there's been a permit system for the Half Dome cables starting this year - enforced only Friday/Saturday/Sunday without a permit system in place Monday-Thursday. It's supposedly 400 permits issued per day for day users. Anyone with a valid backcountry permit can also go up the HD cables. They're stationing personnel during most of the day to check for permits, which I understand are printed tickets that are torn when accepted.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm

The sense I get is that there will might be more people going up the cables during some non-permit days, although it probably won't be excessively crowded. People who would have normally done it on a whim for a weekend will find an excuse to do it during the week when permits aren't required. I did it on a Thursday (got there at about 10:30 AM from my backcountry campsite) a few years back, and I didn't find it crowded at all.


Think Redwood, think Lassen Volcanic, think Joshua Tree. None of these California parks are crowded. Yosemite Valley is, of course. But is Toulumne meadows crowded? Wawona? The Hetch Hetchy area? Kings Canyon is not crowded and Sequioa is certainly less flooded than Arches.


California has one major factor that detracts from all other attributes, crowds and traffic. It's hard to escape them. Unfortunately, industrial tourism. which is rampant throughout California, has also come to southern Utah, in a big way.

Much of the concerns and warnings voiced by Edward Abbey are as relevant today as they were in 1968 when Desert Solitaire work was first published. The once small towns of St. George, Hurricane, and Moab have grown radically since that time. Fortunately, the private car has been eliminated from the upper reaches of Zion Canyon thanks to the installation of a free shuttle service and collaboration between the NPS and the community of Sprindale, UT. The night sky above the Zion's West Rim Trail is now compromised by the encroachment of the direct glare of city lights on the western horizon.

In contrast to Zion Canyon, the private car is still allowed into Yosemite Valley. However, it's now been 30 years since the NPS 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan called for removal of the private car from the congested Valley. Yet, park concessions and gateway communities have become so dependent on sustained visitation, that it is a near political impossibility for the NPS to effectively entertain visitor use carrying capacities to guard against overcrowding and ecological damage from overuse.

Southern Utah to me, is one gigantic national park. The entire region still contains many hidden surprises of natural and cutural significance, even beyond the borders of those areas considered official units of the National Park System. It contains special smaller parks like Natural Bridges National Monument, which has been judged to have the darkest skies in the entire National Park System.

To fully connect with what the desert SW has to offer, much more time is required than a single two-week vacation will allow. Most non-resident travelers find it necessary to return to southern Utah for multiple visits. A few are so affected by the beauty of the place that they adopt the region as their new location of residence and never return home.

On the other hand, the mild summer temperatures of the High Sierra produces ideal conditions for multiple-day backpacking trips into John Muir's "Range of Light," albeit with permit in hand. These days, I'd recommend avoiding the Half Dome cables, however, at least until some system can be put in place to eliminate crowding and dangerous conditions. For the same reasons, I'd recommend avoiding Angel's Landing in Zion.


Anon, I am frankly puzzled as to what you are talking about. Beaches aren't referred to anywhere in the article or in any of the comments that follow it.... except yours.


Utah has no beaches? How about Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon NRA. My first visit to Yosemite was this spring and it was incredibly beautiful, but Utah gets my vote.


I'm from California, but I keep returning to visit the parks of Utah.


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