UTAH — The Mighty Five, as it is referred to by adventure seekers from around the globe, is fast becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in America.
Five of the country’s most beautiful national parks are all located in a small geographical area within the state of Utah, yet each one is so different from its neighbors.
Wilmington resident T.J. Drechsel recently returned from this massive trip, where he visited Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks. He conquered the Mighty Five in only four days.
“To see Utah’s top five national parks? I’ve long had this trip on my bucket list,” said Drechsel, a travel and destination photographer, who also spent this past New Year’s Eve in Utah with celebrities from the TV show “Dancing With The Stars.”
“These parks are consistent favorites amongst travel photographers and I couldn’t wait to put my lens to work. It was a very aggressive itinerary,” he said.
It all started when Drechsel met up with his travel companion, Katherine Hough, in Salt Lake City. They would find themselves in Las Vegas four days later with a treasure trove of epic hiking experiences blurred into their memories.
They also had the images from Drechsel’s camera as proof they were not dreaming. Images of “epic landscape and some stunning captures,” he said. (Scroll down to see more photos.)
Each park associated with the Mighty Five showcases the iconic landscape of the Colorado Plateau, much of it an ancient Sahara now turned to stone. The surreal tableau of arches, alcoves, hoodoos, and canyons is so otherworldly, you may wonder what planet you’re on.
Drechsel and Hough started out their journey heading south for Moab, and Utah graced them with an epic sunset. The next day, they watched the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, “which is a must for any traveler,” Drechsel said.
“It is stunning how the sun reflects off the canyon wall to light the bottom of the arch,” he said.
The next day, they took on Arches National Park, which has over 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.
“We looked out over the snow-capped, crimson-colored ‘hoodoos’, which are spire-shaped rock formations,” Drechsel said. “It truly was a breathtaking experience.”
From there, they drove into Zion, one of the more renowned national parks in America, and stayed in one of the Zion cabins sitting in the valley beneath the park’s incredible canyon walls.
“The canyon overlook into the valley was a special treat,” Drechsel said. “It was right at freezing temperatures so we didn’t take on the incredible Angel’s Landing hike or the trip into the Narrows. But Zion did not disappoint with its views just from the park roads.”
Lastly, as they made their way into Nevada, they hit the Valley of Fire, boasting 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone.
“Visually, an incredible park to encounter,” Drechsel said.
This was one of many trips Drechsel has taken in Utah. He is a huge advocate of the U.S. National Park Service and implores all Wilmington residents to travel and enjoy some — or all — of the 59 national parks in America.
“It’s true that the world has some incredible places to travel, but have you taken the time to see your own backyard?” Drechsel said. “The United States boasts some of the world’s most beautiful locations and, thankfully, they are protected by the National Park System. So please get out and see your own backyard.”
T.J. Drechsel, owner of Drechsel Photography, is a travel and destination photographer and has called Wilmington home for the past 12 years. He was born in Idaho, raised in Missouri and went to college in Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.