Want the National Parks all to yourself? Go to the desert in the winter. Arches, Capitol Reef, and Dead Horse State Park are all in close proximity, but I prefer Canyonlands. Whether you want a long day hike or you're going on a road trip and want to see some quick cool spots, Canyonlands is hard to beat.
Its worth the early morning commitment to Visit Mesa Arch at sunrise. The way the light hits the bottom of the arch is absolutely beautiful, and the hike is quite easy. I also recommend the the Aztec Buttes. I won't give away my secrets, but if you do some exploring around there you may find some incredible caves to explore. Another cool geological feature is Upheaval dome because of the altering effect that it has on your depth perception!
Stay in Moab and it's a quick 35-45 min drive. Word of advice: If you're trying to catch the sunrise, allow for an hour or driving because once you get into the park, there is a bit of a drive before you can access any of the destinations.
I stayed at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab! It is awesome, friendly, and 30 bucks a night. They have a kitchen where you can cook up your own meal, put your stuff in the fridge, or try out some of Denali's homemade pancakes or soups.
Contributed by Sam Cook