We invite you on an adventure through Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonland, Capitol Reef, and Zion. This Ultimate Utah National Parks Itinerary is the result of our experiences. We visited each of Utah’s national parks several times, and we have prepared an optimal travel plan. This is an intense 7 day Utah road trip itinerary. But we also give tips for its extended to 10 days and 14 days. So you can choose, depending on the time you have for your Utah National Parks Road Trip.
Moreover, thanks to this Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary, you will see the best each of the parks offers. Must see in Utah. We also tell you where to stay, where to eat, and the best time to visit Utah. Furthermore, we tell you what to pack for your adventure. Finally, we give you some iconic hikes, the best hikes in Utah. So, check our tips and tricks on how to plan an epic Utah National Parks Road Trip.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary – Introduction
Utah is a state that stands out for its beauty and the multitude of its attractions. It is a state for lovers of adventure and outdoor activities. A month or even two is not enough to discover all of Utah’s treasures. We have been to Utah many times and at different times of the year. Some places, like the Utah Mighty 5 National Parks, we have visited several times because we have not had enough. There are still many hiking trails waiting for us.
We have traveled around this state in different ways. We have made road trips with a regular car, stayed in hotels/motels, and traveled with a tent. But we have also traveled through Utah with an RV.
So this itinerary is the result of our many experiences. This 7-day Utah road trip itinerary is the essence of the best in the state, so you can plan your vacation. We also recommend you to take your time if you have two weeks for your Utah vacation. Because we assure you that after a 7-day Utah road trip, you will definitely want to come back. We will show you the most exciting places in Utah. We hope you will find lots of inspiration and important tips for your Utah itinerary. We will focus in these seven days on the national parks in Utah, the famous Mighty 5. But Utah is much more than national parks, so you will find other magical places here as well.
Where is the best place to start and end the Utah Road Trip?
You can start this Utah National Parks Road Trip from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or Denver because they have the biggest airports in the area and great connections.
In our itinerary, we suggest starting in Las Vegas. Why? Las Vegas has great flight connections, both domestic and international, at excellent prices. Moreover, most people choose this city as the start of their Southwest travels. We have started our Utah road trips in Las Vegas several times and can recommend this scenario. But the same Utah Road Trip Itinerary can start and end from Salt Lake City or Denver. There is also a wide selection of rentals at excellent prices in Las Vegas. We have used Alamo many times, which we recommend. But it’s also worth comparing prices and offers from other rentals on TripAdvisor or Rentalcars.
Moreover, if you dream of a camper trip, we highly recommend RVshare, which has great options. We also traveled in an RV for many months, and we love this type of road trip. But, to be honest with you – this Utah road trip itinerary is intense. A motorhome trip takes a little more time. So if you only have seven days, we recommend a car. The RV is a good option if you have at least 10-14 days for your Utah road trip.
How many days do you need for the Utah National Parks Road Trip?
7 days is the minimum; the optimal time is 2 weeks. You can spend over a week in each park, as we have so far. But we know that not everyone has that much time. The 7-day trip will be very intense and will require self-discipline to see all the recommended places. This is a great option if you are short on time and want to visit Utah national parks for the first time. So, if you can, extend your stay to 10 or 14 days, that you can really explore the fabulous national parks of Utah.
Below you will find the 7 Day Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary in short, and then a detailed description of each day, with:
- driving time,
- best route options,
- suggestions for best hikes,
- best photo spots (also for sunset and sunrise)
- lodging options
Finally, we suggest how to plan 10 Days Utah National Parks Road Trip and 14 Days Utah Road Trip. So, you can choose the variant that suits you best.
Furthermore, we start this Utah road trip from Zion National Park and end it in Arches National Park. But it is possible to reverse the order of the Utah National Parks Itinerary if it suits better to your needs.
7 Day Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary – Overview
- Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, drive to Springdale (night in Springdale)
- Day 2: Exploring Zion National Park (night in Springdale)
- Day 3: Exploring Zion National Park and drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, sunset in Bryce (night in Bryce Canyon City)
- Day 4: Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, drive to Moab (night in Moab)
- Day 5: Exploring Canyonlands National Park (night in Moab)
- Day 6: Exploring Arches National Park (night in Moab)
- Day 7: Drive to Las Vegas
- Days 8-10: Utah national parks
- Days: 11-14: Hidden gems of Utah and Arizona
Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip – Permits
You must carefully plan your Utah Mighty 5 trip in time. Since 2022, some parks have introduced reservation systems. In Utah National Parks, such a park is Arches National Park. We give details in this post.
If you want to hike to the famous Angels Landing in Zion National Park, you must get a permit. It’s a new rule for 2022. Here are the details.
What is the best time of year for Utah National Parks Road Trip?
Utah is beautiful at any time of the year. Moreover, Utah National Parks are open all year round. But most of all is worth visiting Utah Mighty 5 during Spring and Fall.
Spring in Utah National Parks
Spring is fantastic. The best are April and May. It is not hot yet, the temperature is pleasant, and you can wander extensively in the parks. But the water level in rivers in April can be quite high, and water is cold, though. It cannot be easy to enter the slots canyon (as Zebra Canyon) or do some water hikes like the Narrows or the Subway. It gets hot in June, but it is still bearable. So, in our opinion, Spring is great for a Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip.
Summer in Utah National Parks
Summer is sweltering. In July and August, the temperature during the day exceeds 100° F (40°C). If you have to go on your Utah National Parks Road Trip during these months, be prepared for the heat. So, be sure to pack a hiking hat, sunglasses, sunscreen SPF 50. Remember also to cover your arms and legs from sunburn and start hiking early in the morning. Furthermore, take a big water reservoir per person for each hike, and often hydrate yourself.
Autumn in Utah National Parks
Fall is perfect. For us, these are the most enjoyable months. The colors of autumn are delightful. We have been several times in Fall. September and October are great. But November is fabulous too. In November day was shorter, so we started our hikes early, but the temperature still was pleasant. Furthermore, there were much fewer people. So, we highly recommend Fall for a Utah National Parks Road Trip.
Winter in Utah National Parks
Winter is freezing and can bring snow in Zion, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon. However, the landscape looks fabulous, covered by the storm. But some trails and roads might be close because of weather conditions. So, if you plan your visit from December to March, check weather forecasts and weather warnings. We were in December, during the snow. The snowy orange peaks looked very exciting. But it was quite slippery, and it wasn’t easy to hike. Part of the road was closed. So, winter might be challenging for Utah National Parks Road Trip, and you need a 4×4 car and chains in case of snow.
PRO TIP: Before your Utah National Parks Road Trip, check the current weather, possible alerts, and park road status on the official websites of the Utah Mighty 5: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Zion National Park
Utah National Park Road Trip Map
Please, take a paper map for your Utah Mighty 5 road trip. You will need it. Believe us, often, there is no phone coverage, and you must use the traditional Utah Mighty 5 Map. We love modern apps, but they have turned out to be useless in some places, like Utah wilderness, deserts, and challenging hikes. So, a paper map is the best when there is no cell service.
Utah Road & Recreation Atlas is our favorite Utah road trip planning resource. It shows all of the dirt roads so that you can reach Utah’s hidden gems and points of interest. It is great for travelers who love outdoor adventures. Furthermore, it also shows public lands, which is perfect if you sleep in an RV or a tent.
Utah National Parks is the best choice for hikers. This Utah Mighty 5 Map Set covers each park’s hiking trails. We have been using them for years. They are very detailed and of great quality. Furthermore, the paper is very durable and waterproof.
What to pack for the Utah National Parks Road Trip?
Below are some must-haves for your Utah National Park Road Trip. It all depends on when you will stay and what season you will choose for your Utah road trip. However, are some essentials. Please also check our detailed Day Hiking Packing List to see what you should pack for your hiking trails.
Furthermore, check our Road Trip Packing List Essentials to make your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip safe and comfortable.
- Hiking Boots are a must—no sandals or sneakers for Utah hikes. If you plan hiking, you need sturdy shoes with great grip.
- Hiking Backpack. For daytime trips and hikes, you need a comfortable backpack, preferably one with spine relief belts. It would be best if you packed, among other things, a large supply of water, hiking snacks, additional clothes (depending on the season), sunscreen, and a most important: a first aid kit and hiking maps.
- Water Reservoir. In Utah, even in autumn, temperatures can be 70-80 degrees. Over 100 degrees in summer. So, it would be best if you had plenty of water available for hiking. We use this water reservoir because it’s light and capacious.
- Jacket. Regardless of the season, it would be best to prepare for a sudden change in weather. Always pack something warm. Rain and windproof jacket should be in your daypack.
- Due to the epidemic situation, do not forget to pack a travel-size hand sanitizer, and of course, good quality Face Masks with a filter. Buy more before your trip. Not everywhere, it is easy to buy masks with filters. We have to get used to the fact that they become something normal. And we should take care of our and others’ safety.
Entrance Fee fo Utah Mighty 5 – America the Beautiful Pass
It’s a Utah national park’s road trip. Admission to the national parks is payable. Buy & pack America the Beautiful Pass. Priced at $79.99, you have one year’s access to all US National Parks, most state parks. It is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. So, don’t forget to pack it. A weekly and daily admission fee to one national park is $30-35. So it is much more profitable to buy an annual card for all parks. Pass is valid for 1 year from the month of purchase. So, it’s beneficial if you plan to go to more than 3 national parks during a year. Buy it online before your Utah Mighty 5 trip to avoid queuing at the entrance to the park.
Where to stay during the Utah National Parks Road Trip?
It all depends on your needs, travel style, and budget. We traveled both by car slept in lodges/hotels and by an RV, and stayed at campsites. Therefore, we recommend specific lodging options for each day of the trip—only those we checked and were satisfied with—hotels and RV campgrounds for each location.
But no matter what you decide, book your accommodation well in advance. This is true for both hotels and campgrounds. From April to the end of September, Utah Mighty 5 is a trendy destination. Therefore, check and compare prices on TripAdvisor, and booking.com, and book your stay.
Day 1 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Arrive in Las Vegas, drive to Springdale
The Route & Driving Time
Depending on what time you manage to leave Las Vegas, you have two route options for starting your Utah National Park Road Trip.
- 1 Option – via I-15. It’s the fastest route, 165 miles, approximately 2 hours, and 40 minutes driving time to Springdale.
- 2 Option – via I-215 E and I-11 S, then from Lakeshore Rd through Northshore Rd (167) and I-15 N. This is a scenic but longer route, 215 miles 4 hours driving. There are two stops on the route. First is 26 miles from LV – it is Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The lake meanders along the road on the right for several miles. You can make a short stop at one of the viewpoints. The second stop might be the Valley of Fire State Park. The entrance fee is $10.00 per car. You can make a driving loop in the park. It will take you around 2 hours with shortstops. You need to return to Northshore Road from the park, then drive through Moapa Valley to intersections with I-15 N in Moapa Valley. Take direction to Salt Lake City by 75 miles and then turn right on UT-9 E/W to Hurricane and Springdale. But you need about 6-7 hours to do this route with stops. So, do it if you have all day.
Visiting Zion National Park
So, we start our Utah National Parks Road Trip from Zion National Park. First of all, you must know that from April to late October, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Road is served only by a free shuttle bus. You can’t go via private car. From this road, most of the hiking trails start.
So, how to get to Zion and visit it? If you are staying in Springdale, you can take a free shuttle bus from Springdale to Zion. The buses ride every 15 minutes, or even more often, and start services from 6 am. There are 9 stops on the scenic road in the park. There is also parking inside a park, next to the visitors center, where buses stop. But during high season is really crowded, so it is much better to take a free shuttle bus from Springdale. More about this, we write in a separate article about Zion.
Lodging options in Zion
If you choose 7 days Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary, we suggest booking 2 nights in Zion National Park.
It’s only one lodging inside the Zion National Park. And it’s trendy, so if you want to stay in Zion Lodge, book it well in advance. The scenery is stunning. The lodge is located next to bus stop number 5, about 4.8 miles to Springdale center, and 3.8 miles to Zion National Park South Entrance. It has cabins, hotels, rooms, and suites. Furthermore, if you stay in this hotel, you can drive to this place in your car. But after this point, you have to take a shuttle bus in front of the hotel to stop at 6 to 9 last stop, where Riverside Walk starts, and the gateway to The Narrows.
Lodging options in Springdale
The town is charming, beautifully situated, and right at Zion National Park entrance with lots of dining, shopping, and activities that you can’t get inside the park. This is the best option to stay, especially with a busy schedule. But it would be best if you planned accommodation for your Utah National Parks Road Trip in advance.
Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites is our personal choice. So, we highly recommend it. We like its high quality. It is located just outside Zion National Park. They are within walking distance to the park, restaurants, and shopping. There is a bus stop for the free shuttle service into the park and around town. Mountains surround the hotel, so you can relax on your balcony and enjoy the views.
But check the Deal finder below, to get the best offers.
RV Camping near Zion
Zion Canyon Campground & Quality Inn is located in Springdale, and it’s fabulous, with all facilities. It’s only 0.5 miles from the South entrance to Zion National Park.
But if you are looking free overnight stay and don’t need electricity or water, you can use BLM in Utah (Bureau of Land Management) and park your RV in the public lands.
Eating in Springdale
If you haven’t had time to get supplies, there are several small grocery stores in town where you can buy snacks for the next day’s hikes.
Moreover, as we mentioned before, this Utah National Parks Road trip Itinerary is intense. So during the day, we focus on visiting and hiking in each of Utah Mighty 5. So, the best option is to pack lunch and snacks for an all-day trip. And later eat dinner in the towns.
The choice of restaurants and pubs in the town is quite big. Below are a few of our favorite restaurants where we were and enjoyed the food and atmosphere.
- Oscar’s Cafe ($$)
Outstanding Mexican cuisine is served here. The view from this place is excellent and the atmosphere even better. If you are a fan of burgers, get a patty one. If you prefer seafood, you can try the fish tacos. Pork chili Verde enchiladas are also suitable for immense hunger. And you definitely should use the terrace if the weather allows.
- Majestic View Lodge & Steakhouse ($$$)
We recommend this place for dinner. It’s best to reserve a table before sunset and the one with the view. You can have a glass of fantastic red wine and wait for your steak to be prepared in such a case. Or if you are not a big fan of steaks, you will find tasty buffalo wings here as well. For a dessert, we suggest Pumpkin Cake.
- Cafe Soleil ($)
Fantastic place to have lunch. The food here is fresh, the gyro is phenomenal, and espresso drinks tremendous. If you are an eastern food lover, try hummus wrap sandwiches accompanied by a mango-squash smoothie. If you prefer meat, you can have a chipotle chicken wrap.
Best photo spots in Zion National Park
Our Utah Mighty 5 program is intensive, but with our tips, you will be perfectly prepared for the road trip. Below are our favorite, best photo spots in Zion NP. If you follow this Itinerary you see most of them.
- Lower Emerald Pool Trail
- Riverside Walk
- The Narrows
- The Scout Lookout – a platform before starting the final ascent to Angels Landing’s top when the chains start.
Day 2 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Exploring Zion National Park
There are a lot of hiking trails of varying difficulty in Zion. Most of them with photos and descriptions of the hike you can find in our article Best Hikes in Zion. So, you can choose hikes according to your skills and experience. Below you will find our suggestions. You must have heard of the famous Angels Landing. If you feel strong enough to reach this summit, we suggest starting visiting Zion from this trail, if you have a permit.
Morning Hike to Angels Landing (only if you have a permit)
Important: From April 2022 you must have a permit for this hike! In this post, we describe in detail how to get it. The Angels Landing trail is very popular. This hike takes 4-5 hours both ways. The trail is 5.4 miles (8.7 km) long both ways. And trailhead starts at the shuttle stop number 6 – The Grotto. The difficulty level is moderate to strenuous. Furthermore, the last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit.
We describe this hike in detail in a separate article about Angels Landing. Please, check our tips and photos to see if this hike is for you.
Afternoon in Zion
We suggest you spend the afternoon mildly, after Angels Landing. There are several easy and fun treks in Zion that will allow you to enjoy the park’s views and rest after a strenuous hike.
We suggest you consider the following easy-moderate trails (see the links for our photos to help you make your decision)
Sunset in Zion
For a sunset, go to the bridge over the Virgin River near the Watchmen to enjoy the view.
Evening in Springdale and preparing for the next day
Before you rest and go for dinner, we suggest you prepare for the next day. We recommend for your next day The Narrows hike, one of the most beautiful in Zion but runs across a Virgin River. It all depends on the weather, the water level in the river, the water temperature, and the season you are in. We highly recommend renting special water gear for this hike – shoes, socks, and pants. The best option is to rent it in the afternoon before your hike so that you can start early in the morning. You can rent it here. Please, check the details and our photos about the Narrows hike before you decide if it’s for you.
Day 3 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Exploring Zion National Park and drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, sunset in Bryce Canyon
Mornig hike to the Narrows
The Narrows Trailhead
You start this hike from the Temple of Sinawava (the last stop of the shuttle bus – number 9). We recommend you to start it early in the morning, about 9 a.m., to get the best light in the canyon. There is an easy paved trail, Riverside Walk, which takes you to the river, where you get into the water. You don’t need a permit for this hike if it starts from this point. Round Trip duration to the Narrows entrance via Riverside Walk is 1-1.5 hours, 2.2 miles (3.5 km).
Hiking the Narrows
The Narrows hike can take you 2 hours, and it can take 8-10 hours. It all depends on how long you will be able to walk along the riverbed. As the schedule for this road trip is intense, we suggest that you allocate a maximum of 4 hours back and forth for the Narrows hike. If you have 10 or 14 days for Utah national parks road trip, you can do a full day hike in the Virgin River. But we assure you that you will see and feel the beauty of this canyon in these few hours. It is an amazing adventure to move along the riverbed.
Afternoon Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park
Yes, we know it’s hard to say goodbye to Zion National Park. It’s truly magical. But, if you have only 7 days for your Utah National Parks Road Trip, you must go. You want to visit all Utah Mighty 5. So, there are still 4 amazing Utah national parks ahead of you, each worth seeing. Try to leave Zion early afternoon to make it to Bryce Canyon for the sunset. The best if you will in Bryce an hour before sunset when the light is most spectacular.
The Route & Driving Time
You have two options to get to Bryce Canyon from Zion.
- VIA THE ZION-MT. CARMEL TUNNEL.
It is around 73 miles and will take about 1 hour 20 minutes to drive the scenic road. From Canyon Junction point in Zion National Park, you can take Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to East Entrance to 8 and 89 to Bryce Canyon National Park. But there is a tunnel on this road. Furthermore, no bikes or pedestrians are allowed.
Vehicles 11’4” tall or taller, or 7’10” wide or more full, require one-lane traffic control through the tunnel. Visitors requiring traffic control through the tunnel must pay a $15 fee per vehicle in addition to the entrance fee.
Vehicles not permitted in the tunnel include the following: Vehicles over 13’1” tall; Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles; Vehicles carrying hazardous materials; Vehicles weighing more than 50,000 lb; Combined vehicles or buses over 50 ft.
- VIA I-15 NORTH
It is around 146 miles and 2 hours 30 minutes driving. If your car exceeds the allowed size, you must leave the Zion National Park by Springfield and Touquerville and take I-15 North in Andersen Junction (direction: Salt Lake City) to UT-20 East. After 20 miles, take exit 95 from I-15 N (direction US-89 / Panguitch / Circleville). Take UT-20 E, US-89 S, and UT-12 E to UT-63 S in Garfield County.
Lodging in Bryce Canyon
We recommend booking 1 night at Bryce Canyon if you have 7 days for your Utah National Parks Road Trip.
Inside the Park, there is only one lodging option. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is one of the park’s most iconic historic structures. Reservations are highly recommended because the place is trendy.
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel in Bryce Canyon City is our favorite. Is located next to the park entrance. It offers spectacular rooms, great facilities, and service. It is a great choice.
Bryce View Lodge is also a good option. It is a mid-range hotel, clean and comfy. This hotel is within a 5-minute drive from Bryce Canyon National Park. Rooms are equipped with a coffee maker and cable TV. Rooms also have air conditioning.
RV Camping near Bryce Canyon
We recommend booking an RV campground in advance. The beautiful Bryce Canyon Pines Store & Campground & RV Park with all amenities, like hook-ups making your stay a great vacation, is located ten minutes to Bryce Canyon Visitor Centre.
In Hatch, you can find The Riverside Ranch RV Park Motel & Campground, which is also the right choice.
Eating in Bryce Canyon
Bryce doesn’t have as many restaurants as Springdale, but we can recommend some of the places we’ve reviewed where we enjoyed the food.
- Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant ($$)
Pines are not located in the heart of Bryce Canyon, but at least it serves excellent food. You can try elk burger, grilled chicken, or fantastic steaks. Please check opening times, especially offseason.
- Stone Hearth Grille ($$)
Another place to eat close to the Bryce Canyon is Stone Hearth Grille. At first, it might not look amazing, but the food is really great here. You can order a sensational steak or nice chicken florentine. Desserts are also unique. You will not find a better place in the area.
- Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room ($$)
This is not the best restaurant, but one of the most popular. It’s also not very well rated; however, we sometimes come here for lunch. Burgers are quite ok, but you can also find other meals. However, we recommend staying simple here because food is strongly processed, so don’t treat it as something unusual.
Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park
Visiting Bryce Canyon is much easier than Zion because you can drive your own car inside the park. There is a shuttle bus during high season, but it’s recommended solution, not mandatory. More about Bryce Canyon you can read in our separate article.
Sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park
We recommend the first visit to Bryce Canyon National Park at sunset. In good weather, the view is spectacular. You have the best light and colors an hour before sunset. Orange rocks have the most intense shade then. The famous Sunset Point viewpoint is right after entering the park, at the beginning of the loop drive. We suggest a short walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. The distance is 1 mile / 1.6 km round trip, time: 1 hour.
It is a part of the Rim Trail, runs along the canyon’s top, and looks out over the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and one of the most impressive vistas in Utah. Hoodoo rocks look like from a fairytale. They are shining in the sun with reds and oranges.
Day 4 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, drive to Moab
It will be another very intense day. There are two Utah national parks ahead of you. Therefore, start it early.
Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park
You should be at Bryce Canyon National Park at least by 7.00 a.m., to avoid parking problems. But if you like sunrises, you should start from sunrise at a point called Sunrise Point.
Drive through the Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon’s viewpoints are located all along the park’s 18-mile main road. It takes you from the park’s only entrance in the north along the plateau rim to its highest elevations in the south (over 9,000 feet / 2,743 m). It will take you a maximum of 2-3 hours driving with stops go and back. The most exciting stops are Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Natural Bridge, Rainbow Point, and Yovimpa Point. Photos and detailed descriptions of each point you can check in this post.
Hiking in the Bryce Canyon
As time is short and the Utah road trip schedule is tight, we only recommend a short and easy walk. Of course, Bryce Canyon has many more trails. You can read about the most interesting hiking trails in Bryce here.
If you missed your walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point the last evening, do it now. However, if you did manage to see Bryce at sunset, you can make the short Queens Garden trail. The distance is 1.8 miles / 2.9 km round trip, time: 1-1,5 hours. This trail starts at Sunrise Point. It is the least difficult trail into the Bryce Canyon. Use your imagination to see hoodoos formations looking like a Queen Victoria sitting on her throne. It’s an easy hike, so it’s worth taking it if you have limited time. Impressive hoodoos rise all around you. They look spectacular from the bottom perspective.
Drive to Capitol Reef National Park
It would be best if you left Bryce Canyon around noon. You have two options to drive to Capitol Reef.
- 1 Option. The most scenic route from Bryce to Capitol Reef is via UT-12 W. But it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes (116 miles).
- 2 Option. Another option is via UT-24 W and Johns Valley Rd, which is 112 miles long and takes about 2 hours 10 minutes.
Exploring Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is Utah’s least-visited national park. Capitol Reef National Park is known for its famous Waterpocket Fold that runs the length of the park. Is a nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust, the Waterpocket Fold is a classic monocline, a “step-up” in the rock layers. “Waterpockets” are small depressions that form in many of the sandstone layers as they are eroded by water and are common throughout the fold at Capitol Reef.
Furthermore, Capitol Reef is also famous for the Mormon settlers that came through the area during the 1800s.
Capitol Reef National Park is long and skinny, and it’s fairly easy to get around. From the main visitor center in Fruita, the scenic drive to the end is only 8 miles. And what we recommend is doing this route.
You must have 4×4 to explore this park deeper, but anyway, it’s a busy schedule, so let’s focus on the scenic drive and few stops to take photos. Reserve a 1.5-hour for scenic drive loop. It is enough to get a taste of the park. In Fruita, you can visit the Gifford House to learn about Mormon pioneer history.
If you have 10 or 14 days for your Utah national parks road trip, you can do some hikes like Cassidy Arch or Chimney Rock. But you must have a 4×4 high-clearance vehicle because there are really rough, gravel roads. If you have more time, you may also drive out to Capitol Gorge for a hike through the narrows, where you’ll find some petroglyphs and the names of Mormon settlers. Furthermore, if you have time and a high-clearance vehicle, you can drive to Waterpocket District, but it’s a 124-mile loop. But it’s an adventure, so prepare for it.
Drive to Moab
From Capitol Reef to Moab is still 2 hours and 15 minutes driving. It’s 136 miles. Drive via UT-24 E, then I-70 E (Green River direction), and US-191 S Moab direction. We know it’s been a busy day, so book a table in advance for dinner at Moab in one of the places below, and rest before the next day.
Lodging in Moab
In Moab, we recommend booking 3 nights. The town impresses with its charm and atmosphere. It is close to the rest of Utah’s national parks, so we suggest you stay there.
The Gonzo Inn is located in Moab and provides free WiFi, express check-in and check-out, and concierge services. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with an outdoor pool.
Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn and Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn are our choices. We stayed in both. They are located in the heart of the city, well equipped and have good value for money. We like these hotels, and we highly recommend them.
RV Camping in Moab
If you are planning your Utah National Parks Road Trip in an RV, book camping in advance.
Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground is one of the best in our opinion. It offers WiFi, a swimming pool, breathtaking views, and incredible amenities.
Spanish Trail RV Park has great reviews among the guests. It offers 81 sites with WiFi and other facilities. There is no tents allowed. After exploring the Arches National Park, you can relax in the pool.
Archview RV Park & Campground offers 77 sites with WiFi and full hookups. It is also tent camping allowed. It offers restrooms and showers, laundry, and a swimming pool.
Eating in Moab
- Moab Diner ($)
Moab Diner is one of the best places for lunch and dinner. Try Kokopelli chicken with green chili if you are looking for authentic food. Otherwise, you can have a regular bacon cheeseburger served with fries. This place is a very old school American diner, so you should feel here like home.
- Thai Bella ($$)
Thai Bella is an amazing place for Asian food lovers. So if you are a fan of pad thai or khao soi, this place is for you. You will find an authentic taste of Asia in the middle of Utah. Nice place for lunch and dinner.
- Desert Bistro ($$$)
Desert Bistro is our favorite place in the magic Moab. This is our first choice of a dinner restaurant, but you have to remember about table reservation – it might get crowded, especially on the days of local events. It’s best to sit on the patio and order buffalo tenderloin, and fish or lamb with sweet potato pave. Another original taste might be the rabbit sausage.
Day 5 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Visiting Canyonlands National Park
It’s time for the fourth of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks. Canyonlands National Park is fabulous.
Drive to Canyonlands National Park
From Moab, drive via US-191 N and UT-313 W. It’s only 30 miles and about 35 minutes of driving.
The park is large and divided into three districts. We have described it in detail in this post.
Hikes in Canyonlands National Park
You have a full day to explore this park so that you will make some interesting trails. Remember to pack some snacks for lunch. Otherwise, you will have to return to Moab. There is no water in the park and no shop or restaurant.
We focus on the 3 best hikes in the Canyonlands National Park on the Island in the Sky district. More hikes we describe here.
The most famous place in Canyonlands but also most stunning is Mesa Arch. Moreover, it is the best spot for sunrise photography because of its unique lighting on the arch. It’s an easy to hike, only 0.5 miles / 0.8 km round trip. There is a car park located right on Grand View Point Road. From the Visitor Center, it is a 10-minute drive to get here (6 miles). But, it might be a crowded place all day. It’s best to go there at sunrise, but don’t worry if you don’t make it. Also, in the mornings and afternoons, the view is amazing. Besides, there are many photographers at sunrise, and it might be crowded.
White Rim Overlook it’s also a fabulous hike. It offers views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin, and the La Sal Mountains. The best light for photos is in the late afternoon. It’s a short and easy hike that also offers one of the Canyonlands’ best panoramic views. The hike is 1.8 mi / 2.8 km round trip long and takes about 1,5-2 hours.
Grand View Point is the last hike we suggest doing during one day in the park. It is a stunning hike on the canyon edge. This easy trail offers spectacular panoramic views of Canyonlands. It’s a 2.0 mi / 3.2 km round trip.
Evening in Moab
After another intense day of exploring Utah Mighty 5, it is worth having a break and dining at Moab. If you are in high season, we recommend that you reserve a table to avoid staying in line. Moab is also a great place to shop. You will find high-quality souvenir shops, often handmade items. Furthermore, you will find here outdoor equipment shops. Moreover, the town is worth a walk to feel its atmosphere.
Day 6 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Visiting Arches National Park
From April 3 to October 3, 2022, is a new reservation system – a pilot timed-entry reservation system at Arches National Park in 2022. So plan it ahead!
This is the penultimate day of the Utah National Parks Road Trip. And the last park of Utah Mighty 5 to visit – fabulous Arches National Park. We love it. The Arches features more than 2000 natural sandstone arches and unique geological formations. You have all day to enjoy its beauty.
So, from Moab, drive north on US 191 for five miles.
Take an Arches Scenic Drive
The fastest option for visiting the Park is driving the 36 miles (58km) round trip Arches Scenic Drive. A paved scenic drive will take you to many of the park’s major viewpoints, as the La Sal Mountains viewpoint and more.
Hikes in Arches National Park
Since you have a whole day to visit the park, it is worth doing at least two or three short hikes. The routes begin along the scenic route.
Landscape Arch is an easy hike to the delicate and fabulous formation. Landscape Arch has the longest span of any arch in North America, 306 feet (93.3 meters), and is the fourth-longest in the world. It’s only 1.6 mi / 2.6 km round trip.
The easy hike is Balanced Rock with weighs approximately 3,5 tons. Distance is only 0.3 mi / 0.5 km round trip.
If you need something more challenging, we highly recommend the hike to Double O Arch at Devils Garden. The distance is 4.5 mi / 6.8 km round trip.
Sunset at Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is our favorite sunset spot in Arches National Park. Delicate Arch is an iconic symbol for Utah. This moderate/difficult 3 miles round trip hike (4,8 km) makes a steady climb gaining 480 feet in elevation from the parking lot. The hike will take you about 3 hours. For more tips, check on our post, please.
Day 7 Utah National Parks Itinerary: Drive to Las Vegas
We reserve this day for return from the Utah National Parks road trip. The road from Moab to Las Vegas is a long one. The fastest route is on the I-70 W and I-15 S. It’s 460 miles and 6 hours 45 minutes driving. So, concentrate on getting back safely. If you have some time to visit Las Vegas check our Las Vegas Itinerary.
Optional 10 Days Utah National Parks Itinerary
If you can extend your Utah National Parks Itinerary to 10 days road trip, it’s great because you can spend more time in each park. Below are some tips for a 10 days Utah Mighty 5 road trip.
- We recommend that you book an additional third night in Springdale to spend two full days in Zion and choose extra treks from our list.
- Instead of 1 night, book two nights’ accommodation at Bryce Canyon, allowing you to enjoy longer Bryce and Capitol Reef.
- Furthermore, from Bryce to the Capitol Reef, you can also make a short stop at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It’s on the way to Capitol Reef, on UT-12 E, about 22 miles from Bryce.
- Book 4 instead of 3 nights in Moab to enjoy the other two of Utah Mighty 5 Arches and Canyonlands. Do more hikes.
- You will also have time to visit Dead Horse Point State Park, which is approximately 33 miles from Moab. You can reach it via US-191 N and UT-313 W. It is one of Utah’s most beautiful viewpoints. It features a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. So, it’s worth your visit.
- Furthermore, you may also consider adding the Goblin Valley State Park to your Utah national parks itinerary. Above all, we recommended it if you are with kids. To clarify, there are thousands of hoodoos, which are formations mushroom-shaped. But are referred to locally as goblins. It’s between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. So, from Moab, take US-191 N and I-70 W to UT-24 W. It’s 100 miles.
Optional 14 Days Utah Road Trip Itinerary
If you can extend your Utah National Parks Itinerary to 14 days road trip, it’s perfect! Of course, you can stay longer in each of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks and do more hikes. For example, you can try to get a Subway hike permit in Zion and do this full-day strenuous hike.
Or you can spend the last three days traveling outside the Utah Mighty 5 and discover some of Utah’s hidden gems. Intrigued? Please follow some of our tips to explore a few more magical places during your road trip, not only Utah Mighty 5.
On Day 10, Drive from Moab to Kanab
Kanab is our favorite town in Utah. Kanab is also a great location for Zion, and Bryce Canyon, if you have more time to visit. Last time we spent 14 days in the Kanab trying to win the Wave lottery. The town is less touristy than Moab and calmer. But it has great lodging options and dining. Therefore, we recommend that you stay at least 3 nights. Most importantly, please take advantage of our suggestions for fabulous hikes in the area.
From Moab to Kanab drive via I-70 W and US-89 S. It is the best option. Moreover, this route is scenic and will take you around 5 hours, it’s 318 miles.
Lodging in Kanab
Our favorite lodging in Kanab is Best Western. But we also stayed in a cheaper but comfortable Canyons Lodge. It’s also a nice, clean motel with charming room decorations. If you prefer RV Campground, our favorite in Kanab is Hitch-N-Post RV Park.
Eating in Kanab
Our favorite restaurants in Kanab with delicious meals and a great atmosphere are:
- The Rocking V Cafe ($$)
This place is excellent for American food fans. We recommend Rocking V Shrimp and veggie enchilada here. Also, you can try adobe chicken, trout, or pork chop. Among other options, you will find a lot of vegan options and lovely desserts. However, prices might be a little bit high, but the food is excellent. But, you should make a reservation.
- Wild Thyme Cafe ($$)
This is another nice American restaurant in Kanab. Our favorites here are chicken, ribs, and penne. Moreover, this restaurant has an on-site organic garden, thus serves the best vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options.
- Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen ($$)
Peekaboo will be suitable for all vegan and vegetarian food lovers. You can have excellent pizzas prepared in the woodfired oven. Our favorite is “everything” pizza. Moreover, if you choose to sit outside, the view is beautiful.
Days 11-13 of Utah Road Trip Itinerary: Hiking in Kanab Area
Day 11 – the Wave Lottery and Hike to the Paria Rimrocks Toadstool Hoodoos
If you’re staying in Kanab and haven’t seen The Wave yet, why not participate in the Wave walk-in lottery? It takes place every morning. The permits are drawn for the next day’s hike. So, after the lottery, you will have time for another interesting trip. Details of the Kanab lottery you will find in this post.
After the draw, you can drive to Paria Rimrocks Toadstool Hoodoos. The Rimrocks hoodoos are balanced rock formations reminding toadstools. The Toadstool Hoodoos hike is located next to the highway US89 in Utah. From Kanab, take US89 to the east, and after 44 miles (milepost 19.3), look carefully for the small parking lot on the left side of the road.
Day 12 – Hike to the Wave or Bucksin Gulch Slot Canyon
If you were lucky enough to win a permit to The Wave, set off early in the morning to the trail to enjoy this amazing place. We have described in great detail how to get to the parking lot and how to prepare for the Wave hike.
If you did not win the Wave permit, maybe you got the permit to the Coyote Buttes South? If yes, here you have a detailed hike description. So, follow our tips.
Finally, if you haven’t been lucky in any of the lotteries, don’t worry at all. We recommend a trip and hike to one of the most beautiful slot canyons. There is no lottery. Moreover, you don’t need a permit for a one-day hike. You have to pay an admission fee of $7 at the parking lot. The place is fabulous. Buckskin Gulch in Utah is the longest slot canyon hiking trail in the world. So, check our tips and details.
Day 13 – Road Trip to North Rim or Toroweap Overlook or Page and Antelope Canyon
In case you haven’t had a chance to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, go there from Kanab. North Rim is spectacular. Moreover, only 10% of tourists visiting Grand Canyon National Park annually reach there. So, it is worth going there even for a day trip from Kanab. It’s 90 miles one way from Kanab via AZ-67 and US-89A. Driving time is 1 hour and 45 minutes. Moreover, the road is beautiful. What’s more, it’s worth staying until sunset, because they can be spectacular—details and photos of the North Rim we presented in this post.
But the most beautiful place above the Grand Canyon is Toroweap Overlook. We have been there a few times, and the view is touching and intimidating us each time. But you’ll only get there with a 4×4 and high suspension. So, if you have a good car, go there from Kanab and stay until sunset. It’s only 72 miles via Mt Trumbull Road. But the road is so rough that the driving time is 3 hours. But it’s worth your effort. So, consider this trip. Moreover, detailed directions, tips, and more photos you will find here.
The phenomenal Navajo Antelope Canyons are located in Arizona, but if you have two weeks for a road trip around Utah, you should consider adding them to your plan. From Kanab to Page, where the canyons are located, is only a 75-mile drive. And the slots canyons are breathtaking. However, you must purchase a guided tour in advance. Only in this way you can visit them. You have three canyons to choose from Upper, Lower, and Canyon X. We’ve been to all of them. Our favorite is Upper Antelope Canyon.
Day 14 of Utah Road Trip Itinerary – Drive to Las Vegas
This is the end of our trip to Utah Mighty 5. Of course, Utah National Parks Itinerary can be modified depending on your needs. Each of the parks is worth seeing and spending a few days in it.
We hope that you like our suggestions on how to arrange the Utah National Park Road Trip and you will use it. This state is fabulous and offers much more than Utah Mighty 5. That’s why we show you also other places worth visiting. But this list is much longer.
Plan a next road trip
Finally, you can combine a visit to Utah Mighty 5 with a road trip in neighboring Arizona. So, if you have more time, you can add to the Utah National Park Road Trips fabulous Arizona destinations. From Moab, you can drive to Page to see Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, or mentioned Antelope Canyons Lower or Upper. To Las Vegas, you can back via the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Moreover, you can plan a separate Arizona road trip and use our ready-to-go Arizona Itinerary.
Or you can combine the Utah road trip with Colorado. Here you can check our detailed Colorado Road Trip Itinerary!
Finally, we wish you a full of adventures and a safe Utah National Parks Road Trip! If you have any questions, write to us. Moreover, if you like our Utah National Parks Itinerary, share it, please.
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