Julie United States 18 Comments

Utah is home to five of the most stunning national parks in the United States. Throw in some national monuments and a few spectacular state parks and you have a extraordinary road trip destination. If you are planning your Utah national parks itinerary, we have tons of information to share with you.

In this post, learn how to plan the ultimate road trip through Utah’s Mighty 5. This can be done in a whirlwind 7-day road trip. But with more time, you can further explore each park or add in state parks, slot canyons, scenic drives, and even places like Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.

About Our Experiences in Utah

It’s no secret that we are huge fans of Utah. We visit this state so frequently that we joke that we should just move out here.

We have hiked to Delicate Arch four times, driven the White Rim Road in Canyonlands, Looped the Fold and explored Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef, seen Bryce Canyon at sunrise, and stood on top of Angels Landing and hiked the entire length of the Narrows in Zion National Park. We have also spent time exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante, hiked in the San Rafael Swell, and visited Goblin Valley State Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Through these experiences, we have learned a lot about Utah. Not only where to go and what to do, but also how to piece together a memorable road trip itinerary. And that’s what we want to share with you in this post.

About this Post

This Utah national parks itinerary post is meant to be used in conjunction with our other articles about Utah. We have lots of information not only about Utah’s Mighty 5, but also the state parks, national monuments, and off-the-beaten-path experiences. Rather that rewriting this content, I will provide the links to each article. They will open in a new browser window so you can easily refer back to this article.

If you want to see everything we have written about Utah, click here to visit our Utah Travel Guide.

For an overview of Utah’s Mighty 5, click here.

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch in the Island of the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

About These Itineraries

There are many different ways to piece together a road trip through Utah, and in this post, I will give you six different suggestions, to help you plan your perfect road trip. If you ever have questions, feel free to comment below and I can help you tweak these itineraries to fit your schedule and your interests.

Before we get started, here is one final word of advice. Utah is jam-packed with incredible outdoor experiences. You will have a more enjoyable experience if you slow down and savor the national parks, rather than blitzing through them on a super-fast road trip. If you are like us, this road trip you are currently planning will simply be an introduction to the wonders that Utah offers, and you’ll be dreaming about and planning a return visit in the future.

Best Starting Point for a Utah Road Trip

The best places to start your road trip through Utah are Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Both of these airports have frequent flights from a wide number of airlines.

The majority of these itineraries in this post are written so that you do a loop, starting or ending at one of these airports.

It’s also possible to fly to Moab, but flights are limited and expensive and not a great option for most people. However, it is worth looking into, and I imagine in the upcoming years more flights will be available to Moab.

 

7-Day Mighty 5 Itinerary from Salt Lake City

This 7-day Utah national parks itinerary is a bit of a whirlwind but you get to visit all five of Utah’s national parks. This road trip is perfect if you are short on time and want the experience of visiting five national parks on one sweet little road trip.

Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, drive to Moab
Day 2: Arches National Park
Day 3: Canyonlands National Park, drive to Capitol Reef National Park
Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park, drive to Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park, drive to Zion National Park
Day 6: Zion National Park
Day 7: Drive to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and fly home

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Day 1: Fly to Salt Lake City, Drive to Moab

Driving time and distance: 4 hours, 240 miles

Pick up your rental car at the airport (a standard vehicle is fine for this itinerary) and drive to Moab. Once in Moab, get settled into your hotel and have dinner.

For suggestions on where to stay in Moab, click here.

Day 2: Arches National Park

This beautiful national park is a great introduction to Utah’s Mighty 5. 2,000 arches dot the landscapes, as well as giant fins of rock, mesas, and one perfectly balanced rock.

Today, you will spend one full day exploring Arches National Park. Tonight, sleep in Moab.

Utah National Parks Road Trip

Delicate Arch

Day 3: Island in the Sky: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is the least visited but also the largest of Utah’s national parks. There are four districts that make up this national park. Today, you will spend most of your day in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.

Follow our One Day in Canyonlands itinerary for suggestions on how to spend your time and take a look at our Best Things to Do in Canyonlands: Island in the Sky, to learn about what to do here.

I recommend driving to Torrey, the gateway into Capitol Reef National Park, in the late afternoon (3 hours, 164 miles). This will give you more time to explore Capitol Reef. However, if you don’t like the idea of doing a long drive at the end of the day, you can sleep in Moab and get an early start tomorrow.

Canyonlands Island in the Sky

The view from Grand View Point in the Island in the Sky

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park

In my opinion, Capitol Reef is the most underrated park of Utah’s Mighty 5. With hiking trails that rival those in Zion, wonderful backcountry experiences, and low crowds, this national park is a delight to visit.

On this Utah national parks itinerary, you will only have one day to explore this park, but you might learn that a return visit in the future would be well worth your time.

Spend the day visiting the highlights of Capitol Reef. From historic Fruita, drive Capitol Reef Scenic Drive to Grand Wash. Hike Cassidy Arch and walk through the first section of Grand Wash. Grand Wash is very similar to the Narrows in Zion, only without the river, so your feet stay dry but you still get to hike through a wide slot canyon.

Continue down Capitol Reef Scenic Drive and then drive the very cool Capitol Gorge Road to the end. Walk through Capitol Gorge to the Pioneer Register, where settlers in the late 18th century and early 19th century scrawled their names on the canyon walls.

Drive back to Fruita and consider hiking Cohab Canyon Trail or to Hickman Bridge if you still have the energy. See the petroglyphs and end your visit with the view from Sunset Point.

In the late afternoon, drive to Bryce Canyon (2 hours, 105 miles). It’s best to stay near Bryce Canyon so you can see it at sunrise.

Capitol Reef National Park

Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park

This small park, with its hoodoos and hiking trails, is quick and easy to visit. Sunrise here is magical and it’s worth an early start to see this park first thing in the morning. Spend the day visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, and in the afternoon, drive to Springdale (2 hours, 84 miles).

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 6: Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the best places in Utah to go hiking. Angels Landing, the Narrows, and Observation Point are the top hiking trails, but there are many more to choose from. With one day, you can hike one longer trail in the morning and spend the afternoon exploring Zion Valley or hiking a shorter trail. Tonight, sleep in Springdale.

Zion Narrows

The Zion Narrows

Day 7: Las Vegas or Salt Lake City

In the morning, drive to Las Vegas (2.5 hours, 170 miles). In the afternoon, fly home.

If you want to do this round trip from Salt Lake City, it is a 4.5 hour drive (310 miles).


7-Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip from Las Vegas

This Utah national parks itinerary is very similar to itinerary above, only you will visit the national parks in the opposite order. The disadvantage to this itinerary is that you will have to do it point-to-point. It is very impractical to drive from Moab back to Las Vegas (it takes almost 7 hours to drive the 465 miles back to Las Vegas).

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park
Day 2: Zion National Park, drive to Bryce Canyon
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park, drive to Torrey (Capitol Reef)
Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park, drive to Moab
Day 5: Arches National Park
Day 6: Canyonlands National Park
Day 7: Drive to Salt Lake City, fly home

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas and Drive to Zion

In Las Vegas, pick up your rental car and drive to Springdale (2.5 hours, 170 miles). Get settled into your hotel in Springdale.

Day 2: Zion National Park

Hike the trails in Zion and then drive to Bryce Canyon National Park in the evening (2 hours, 84 miles).

Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park

Start at sunrise in Bryce Canyon. Enjoy the views from the rim, hike a short trail, and then drive north to Torrey (2 hours, 105 miles) and get settled into your hotel.

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park

Spend the day exploring Capitol Reef National Park and in the afternoon drive to Moab (3 hours, 164 miles).

Day 5: Arches National Park

Spend the day in Arches National Park and sleep in Moab.

Day 6: Canyonlands National Park

Spend the day exploring the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands and sleep in Moab.

Day 7: Drive to Salt Lake City and Fly Home

From Moab, it is a 240 mile drive that takes 4 hours to get to Salt Lake City International Airport. Plan a late afternoon flight to give yourself enough time to get to the airport.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park


10-Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip

This is a longer version of the first road trip itinerary through Utah’s Mighty 5. The additional three days allows you to slow down, spend more time in Zion, and add on several visits to state parks and national monuments.

Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, drive to Moab
Day 2: Arches National Park
Day 3: Canyonlands National Park
Day 4: Little Wild Horse and Goblin Valley State Park
Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park
Day 6: Grand Staircase-Escalante or more time in Capitol Reef
Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 8: Zion National Park
Day 9: Zion National Park
Day 10: Fly home from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City

 


Mighty 5Get a Digital Download of this Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an eBook version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our Mighty 5 Itinerary eBook includes this full 10-day itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, and travel planning resources. It is a 21-page itinerary that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the eBook on Etsy.com.


 

Day 1: Fly to Salt Lake City, Drive to Moab

Driving time and distance: 4 hours, 240 miles

Pick up your rental car at the airport (a standard vehicle is fine for this itinerary) and drive to Moab. Once in Moab, get settled into your hotel and have dinner.

Day 2: Arches National Park

This beautiful national park is a great introduction to Utah’s Mighty 5. 2,000 arches dot the landscapes, as well as giant fins of rock, mesas, and one perfectly balanced rock.

Today, you will spend one full day exploring Arches National Park. Tonight, sleep in Moab.

Day 3: Canyonlands National Park

Spend the day in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. In the afternoon, if you are doing well on time, you can add in Dead Horse Point State Park or drive back to Moab via Shafer Canyon Road and Potash Road. Tonight, sleep in Moab.

Day 4: Goblin Valley & Little Wild Horse Canyon

Say goodbye to Moab and start your drive to Torrey. Along the way, visit Goblin Valley State Park and hike Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Goblin Valley is an awesome state park in Utah. It’s small and super easy to explore. You can either hike one of the designated trails or simply wander through the hoodoos. If you are traveling with kids, they will love this!! A visit here lasts anywhere from one hour to half of a day, depending on how much fun you are having.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is a thrilling slot canyon that’s located right next to Goblin Valley. With tight passageways, curving, scalloped walls, and short sections of easy rock scrambling, this hike is fun for both kids and adults. You can hike the narrowest (and most fun) section of Little Wild Horse as a quick out-and-back hike, or do this as a loop, adding on Bell Canyon.

In the afternoon, drive to Torrey. This drive takes just under 2 hours. Get settled in your hotel.

San Rafael Swell

Little Wild Horse Canyon

Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park

Spend the day exploring Capitol Reef National Park and sleep in Torrey.

Day 6: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Today you will drive to Bryce Canyon. On the way, there are three different ways to spend your time. Take your pick from two backcountry drives in Capitol Reef or make a detour into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to hike some very unique trails.

Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley is the northernmost section of Capitol Reef National Park. If you want to add on a remote, scenic drive and leave the crowds behind, this is something to consider. To drive the full loop, with detours, you will drive a total of 73 miles and this will take all day. If you only want to drive out and back to the Temples of the Sun and Moon, it’s only 34 miles, plus driving time to and from Torrey. You need a high-clearance SUV to do this, although a 4WD vehicle is ideal.

This is the longest option of the day. Once finished driving the loop, it is a 2.5 hour drive to Bryce Canyon (135 miles).

How to Visit Temple of the Sun and Moon

Cathedral Valley

Loop the Fold

This remote drive loops around the waterpocket fold in the southern part of the park. Like Cathedral Valley, Looping the Fold takes roughly one full day.

On this loop, you will drive down Notom-Bullfrog Road. It starts off as a paved road but eventually turns to gravel, however, it is usually suitable for standard cars (after rainstorms, a 4WD may be necessary). Along Notom-Bullfrog Road, you have the option to hike many slot canyons. Headquarters Canyon and Surprise Canyon are two very easy slots to add onto this drive.

The loop continues on Burr Trail Road. You’ll climb up the legendary Burr Trail switchbacks, and the higher you go, the better the views. Hike out to Strike Valley Overlook, where you get panoramic views of Strike Valley and Notom-Bullfrog Road.

Just beyond the overlook, the road becomes paved and you enter Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The drive twists and turns through canyons before arriving in Boulder.

From Boulder, take Highway 12 south to Bryce. It takes about an hour and a half (76 miles) to drive from Boulder to Bryce.

Capitol Reef Hike

Hiking Headquarters Canyon while Looping the Fold

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

If you like hiking, exploring tight spaces, and rock scrambling, you’ll love the trails in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

From Torrey, head south on Highway 12. Just before getting to the town of Escalante, turn left onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road. This gravel road leads to some spectacular slot canyons. Note: Hole-in-the-Rock Road is suitable for standard vehicles although washboarding on the road can make it rough.

There are 3 spots we recommend on this road:

Zebra Slot Canyon. Zebra slot canyon is named for its striped walls. This hike is challenging, with some difficult rock scrambling, but you get one of the most unique views in Utah.

Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. These two slot canyons sit side by side. Spooky Gulch is an extremely narrow but easy to hike slot canyon. Peek-A-Boo is more challenging, with sections of moderately difficult rock scrambling.

Devils Garden. This small area is filled with hoodoos and unique rock formations. It’s a fun place to take kids and it’s also a great spot for photographers.

Near Tropic and Cannonville (before you get to Bryce Canyon), you can also explore Kodachrome Basin State Park and hike Willis Creek Slot Canyon.

Tonight, sleep in Tropic or Bryce.

Zebra Slot Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon

Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park

Spend the day in Bryce Canyon National Park and in the afternoon drive to Springdale and get settled in your hotel.

Days 8 & 9: Zion National Park

On this Utah road trip itinerary, you have two wonderful days to explore Zion National Park. This gives you enough time to hike two epic trails and add on a few shorter hikes, if you like. Both nights, sleep in Springdale.

Day 10: Fly home from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City

Drive to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and fly home from here.

In the morning, drive to Las Vegas (2.5 hours, 170 miles) or Salt Lake City (4.5 hours, 310 miles). In the afternoon, fly home.

Utah National Parks Road Trip

Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park


10 Day Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks Itinerary

This Utah national parks itinerary is perfect if you are looking for adventure, solitude, and unforgettable experiences. Tour the highlights of Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks. But you also have enough time to journey into the backcountry, where the real adventures await.

Since this road trip only visits three national parks, you get to spend more time in each park, plus, add on some truly unique experiences that you don’t get on a whirlwind tour of Utah.

What you are missing are Zion and Bryce Canyon. However, on a future visit to the American Southwest, you can combine these two parks on another great road trip that also includes the Grand Canyon (it’s also the next itinerary in this post).

If you have the time, I think breaking up Utah’s Mighty 5 and visiting them on two separate visits (or combining them into one epic 3-week trip) is the best way to experience this part of the USA.

Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, drive to Moab
Day 2: Arches National Park
Day 3: Canyonlands Island in the Sky District
Day 4: Canyonlands Needles District
Day 5: Hiking in Canyonlands or More Time in Arches
Day 6: Little Wild Horse Canyon & Goblin Valley
Day 7: Capitol Reef National Park
Day 8: Capitol Reef National Park
Day 9: Capitol Reef National Park
Day 10: Return to Salt Lake City, fly home

Canyonlands View

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park. On this itinerary, you have enough time to add on a drive down Shafer Canyon and take Potash Road back to Moab.


10 Day Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks Itinerary

This itinerary combines two of Utah’s most popular parks, Zion and Bryce Canyon, with the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Not only will you visit Utah but you also get to tour some of Arizona’s highlights.

This itinerary is very similar to our 10 Day American Southwest Itinerary, with one exception, the starting point. This itinerary starts and ends in Las Vegas, which gives you a little more time in the Grand Canyon. Our 10-day American Southwest itinerary starts in Phoenix, which gives you some time in Sedona. But once you get to the Grand Canyon, the itineraries are identical.

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, Drive to the Grand Canyon
Day 2: Grand Canyon
Day 3: Grand Canyon, drive to Monument Valley
Day 4: Monument Valley
Day 5: Page, Arizona: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Day 6: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 8: Zion National Park
Day 9: Zion National Park
Day 10: Drive to Las Vegas and fly home

If you want to see a detailed version of this itinerary, take a look at our 10 Day American Southwest Road Trip. This post has details on both routes: starting in Phoenix and starting in Las Vegas.

How to Visit Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona


14 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip + the Grand Canyon

This is one of the best road trips in the USA. On this road trip, you will visit Utah’s Mighty 5, the Grand Canyon, and a handful of wonderful state parks and national monuments.

This is the itinerary that I wish we had when we first planned our visit to the American Southwest.

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, Drive to the Grand Canyon
Day 2: Grand Canyon National Park
Day 3: Grand Canyon National Park
Day 4: Page, Arizona: Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend
Day 5: Monument Valley
Day 6: The Needles, Canyonlands National Park
Day 7: Arches National Park
Day 8: Canyonlands National Park
Day 9: Goblin Valley State Park and Little Wild Horse Canyon
Day 10: Capitol Reef National Park
Day 11: Capitol Reef or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park
Day 12: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 13: Zion National Park
Day 14: Drive to Las Vegas and fly home

The Needles

On this itinerary you have enough time to visit The Needles district of Canyonlands.

Our Recommendations

If you only have one week, take your pick from one of the 7-day itineraries.

If you have 10 days, and you like the idea of slowing down and exploring the parks, take your pick from one of the 10-day itineraries that only visits 3 national parks. In the future you can do the other itinerary.

If you have two weeks, it’s a no-brainer…our Two Week American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary is the clear winner.

If you have 3 weeks, combine the 10 day Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef with the 10 day Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon itinerary. If you have any questions about how to join these together let me know in the comment section below.

 

Can You Do Utah’s Mighty 5 in 5 Days?

We get this question a lot.

Yes. But…you will be moving extremely fast. Not only will you be driving long distances but you will also have very little time to actually visit the parks.

This is what a 5-day Utah’s Mighty 5 itinerary looks like:

Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, drive to Moab
Day 2: Arches + Island in the Sky (Canyonlands)
Day 3: Drive to Bryce Canyon, spend a few hours in Capitol Reef on the way
Day 4: Bryce Canyon in the morning, Zion in the evening
Day 5: Drive to Las Vegas and fly home

I don’t recommend combining 2 national parks in one day. It’s an extremely rushed experience and you will be missing out on a lot. Having spoken to others that have visited the Mighty 5 in 5 days, they said they wouldn’t do it again. For the entire trip they felt like they were in a race.

If you can add two extra days, it will be a much more enjoyable experience.

In my opinion, if you only have five days, a better experience would be to visit two or three of Utah’s Mighty 5. In the future, return to Utah to visit the spots you missed.

Zion National Park

The view from Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Best Time to Visit the Utah National Parks

You can do these itineraries all year.

The best time to visit Utah is in the spring (March through May) and the fall (mid-September through November), when temperatures are mild.

During the summer months, temperatures soar in Arizona and Utah, and it is not unusual for temperatures to go above 100°F. If you plan to do this road trip in the summer, be prepared for intense midday heat. Try to do most of your hiking and sightseeing in the morning and evening, taking a break midday.

In the winter, it can be quite cold. In January, the average high lingers in the low 40’s with freezing temperatures at night. Snow is a possibility from November through February in Utah and at the Grand Canyon, but for the most part, the weather is dry and skies are clear. Snow can temporarily close the roads in the parks, in particular the unpaved backcountry roads.

Our favorite time to visit the American Southwest is in October, with great weather and lower crowds than you typically see in the summer months. If you want decent weather and low crowds, November and March are also good times to do this American Southwest road trip.

Capitol Reef Road Trip

Capitol Reef National Park

National Park Fees

Here are the fees to enter each park. When you pay the entrance fee, it is valid for 7 days.

  • Canyonlands: $30
  • Arches: $30
  • Capitol Reef: $20
  • Bryce Canyon: $35
  • Zion: $35
  • Grand Canyon: $35

Save your money and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass. This annual park pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. Purchase your pass at the first national park that you visit (in this case, at Grand Canyon National Park) or you can get it online.

Click here to learn more. 

Arches National Park Panorama

Arches National Park

Here are the links to each national park website. Check park conditions and road closures before you go.

And just in case you missed it, here is the link to our Utah Travel Guide, where you can read all of our articles about Utah.

 


Mighty 5Get a Digital Download of the 10-Day Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary

Our Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary eBook includes a detailed 10 day itinerary through the national parks, starting in Moab with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and ending at Zion National Park. It also includes Goblin Valley, Little Wild Horse Canyon, and the option to go hiking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park. It is a 21-page itinerary that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the eBook on Etsy.com.


 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park


If you have any questions about planning your Utah national parks itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.

You Might Also Like:

 

Utah Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip

Utah Travel Itinerary Mighty 5
 

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Comments 18

  1. Hi! What you have created here is AMAZING, first of all! Thank you for all the work to put it together, it is all so incredibly helpful. I’ve landed here because I’m planning a trip from our home state of Maryland for our 10th wedding anniversary, and I’m trying to hit 10 parks for our 10 years on this single trip (total of 3 weeks). It would start mid next May, so mid/end of May and beginning of June. We are wanting plenty of outdoor adventure/hiking and it’s just the two of us, in our thirties. We’re planning to drive out west in our wrangler, a goal of hitting some 4×4 trails in moab is a must and is what got me to trying to plan this trip. Thinking of hitting the road for two long stretches, leave MD early (7am) for st. louis (it’s around 12/13 hr drive), stop in St. Louis, spend the night, then see the Arch the next day and have a nice dinner. Hit the road early the next morning (5-6am) for a 16ish hour drive to the general area of Moab and just crash into a hotel bed when we get there, with probably a slower morning the next day. But here’s where I’m wondering how to piece the trip together. Should we start in Moab? Is that the furthest point north? I want to see the best of what Utah has to offer, and we’re planning on being gone for 3 weeks total, but that includes our time out and back. Just on the front end, we’ll have 3 days to get out to Utah, so I need to account for at least 3 getting back, maybe even push to 4 or 5 if we try to round out on 10 total parks for the trip. So I suppose we have 12-14 days before we need to be heading back east if that makes sense. I think Zion would be the farthest west we would go before looping back to the east, maybe going south as far as carlsbad caverns as a point heading back if time allowed? Any thoughts on itinerary for the Utah chunk? And or any thoughts on the route back to MD?

    1. Post
      Author

      Sorry for the delay. We are currently in Denali and have had very limited internet access.

      We also live in MD and we always fly out west, since it takes so much time. Since you have a Wrangler, I understand why you would want to bring it, but you can rent Jeep Rubicons while you are in Moab to drive the 4×4 roads. If you wanted to hit 10 parks, you could do the 5 in Utah and the 4 national parks in Colorado. If you add on the Grand Canyon, you hit 10 parks in 3 states without a ton of driving to get between all of them. You could combine our 2 week American Southwest Itinerary and 10 Day Colorado Itinerary to get to everything. But to stay within your time constraints, you would have to fly out that way, or add more time. I hope this helps. If you have more questions don’t hesitate to write back in. Cheers, Julie

  2. Thank you so much for all of this incredibly helpful information! This website and your recommended itineraries are fabulous. We will be flying into (and out of) Salt Lake City and will have 10 full days to visit the National Parks. We really want to see the Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. We will be staying in local hotels and would love to know how much time you would recommend at each location given our short timeframe. We would like to take short hikes while there and want to see as much as possible in terms of the many parks and would very much welcome all suggestions to create the best trip possible.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Post
      Author

      A good place to start would be our 14 day itinerary, which includes everything you list. This itinerary starts and ends in Las Vegas but you could do this from SLC. From SLC, go to Moab, then do the loop counter-clockwise (refer to our map on this post). Once you get to Capitol Reef, return to SLC (you will miss Goblin Valley but you will need to remove 4 days…so this will be one of the 4). Alternatively, you could do the loop in the opposite direction. I don’t think the direction matters very much.

      The trick is taking out 3 more days. Take one day from the Grand Canyon (now you have 1 full day in the Grand Canyon). You could take out Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon, since they are currently closed with no estimate about when they will reopen. Or, if your trip is later in the year, and keeping your fingers crossed that MV and AC reopen, you could take out the extra day in Capitol Reef/Grand Staircase and the Needles.

      As you work out the details, feel free to write back in with any more questions you might have.

      Cheers, Julie

  3. Hello Julie – First I have to say how helpful and amazing your blog is! wish I had found it sooner. Our trip is a little off the norm. I am following your itinerary for Colorado – beginning our trip in Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes National Park, driving to Mesa Verde but then we are going to head over to Canyon Lands and the Arches, from there head to Colorado National Monument then to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, picking up your Colorado itinerary back up and heading to Rocky National Park.
    My question is – we are planning on staying in Moab for 2 nights, arriving in the late afternoon from Mesa Verde. Are we tackling too much in trying to see Canyon lands that afternoon, star gaze that evening in Dead Horse state park, see The Arches the second day spending the night in Grand Jct. What are your thoughts?
    thank you so much
    Elizabeth

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      It sounds like you have put together a great road trip itinerary. Your time in Moab is rushed, especially if you are trying to combine Island in the Sky with Dead Horse Point State Park into one afternoon. The time of year you are doing this does have an impact. In June and July, the days are long, giving you more time in Canyonlands before sunset. However, if it is later, like early fall, your daylight will be much more limited and you just might have time for Dead Horse. One day is enough to visit Arches. Consider putting Delicate Arch early in the day, since you won’t be able to sit here and watch the the sunset before your drive. And for a super quick visit to Island in the Sky, I recommend visiting Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Shafer Canyon Overlook, and maybe even walking a short trail (White Rim Overlook, Whale Rock, or Uphheaval Dome). There’s nothing wrong with a quick visit to Moab. If you like it here, it makes a great future trip destination with plenty more to still see and do. Cheers, Julie

  4. Dear Julie, thank you for a quick reply.
    What cities do you recommend for the night stays, and how many nights in each point?
    Can you estimate the driving times on each day?
    Also, can we substitute something for Escalante and Zebra Canyon?

    Thanks in advance,
    Dmitri

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      For the itinerary I laid out on the last comment, you will not go Grand Staircase or Zebra slot. I wrote out a different itinerary for you based on your preferences (so you won’t go through Grand Staircase or visit Capitol Reef). For the itinerary in the last comment here is where you will stay: spend 2 nights in Zion, 2 nights in Tropic or Bryce, 1 night in Page, 1 night at the Gouldings Lodge or something similar next to Monument Valley, then 3 nights in Moab. You can plug these towns into Google Maps to get estimated driving times and distances. Cheers, Julie

      1. Good evening, Julie.
        As I was awaiting your reply, I tried to use your awesome website and put together the following trip with approx. drive times. Please let me know if you think this is good and doable. I would love to know your expert opinion on what we can change to make it better (especially super long drive on Day 5)….? We can add 1 more day!

        Day 1: Evening arrival to Las Vegas, rent a car, drive to Springdale, stay the night (3 hours drive).
        Day 2: Zion park by shuttle, stay the night at Springdale (0 drive).
        Day 3: Mount Carmel Highway, Kolob Canyons, Kolob Terrace, drive to Tropic, stay the night (4 hours drive).
        Day 4: Bryce Canyon, drive pass Escalante, Hole-in-the-Rock Road, return to Tropic for the night (3 hours drive).
        Day 5: drive to Page, see White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs and Horseshoe Bend, stay the night at Page (6.5 hours drive).
        Day 6: take Hwy 163 to pass thru Oljato-Monument Valley, see Forrest Gump point, drive Moki Dugway, visit Valley of the Gods, spent the night at Bluff (4 hour drive).
        Day 7: leave Bluff, visit the Needles, spend the night at Moab (5 hour drive).
        Day 8: drive to Arches, Dead Horse Point, Island in the Sky, sunset at the Delicate Arch???.
        return to Moab for the night (2 hour drive).
        Day 9: drive to Salt Lake City, stay the night, relax (4 hour drive).
        Day 10: return the car, afternoon flight home.

        Many thanks, Dmitri

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          You really put together an awesome road trip! I don’t think 6.5 hours in the car on day 5 is bad…driving through this part of the country is amazing and it sounds like a great day. We haven’t been to White Pocket or the Vermilion Cliffs but they look wonderful and we are hoping to get there soon (so unfortunately I don’t have any experience here to give you any more advice for this day). If you can add 1 more day, add it to Moab and split your day 8 into 2 days: 1 day for Arches and 1 day for Island in the Sky + Dead Horse Point State Park. But other than that, your itinerary looks fantastic! Cheers, Julie

  5. Hello:
    First of all, I think that your travel tips are fantastic. It’s truly the best among what the web has to offer, so thank you so much for your info!
    We are planning a 10 day trip to Utah in the first week of August. Hopefully we will deal with the heat.
    So we would like to cover the most nature attractions. Bryce, Zion, Arches…Maybe drive on Hwy.163 thru a Monument Valley (which is closed), and Valley of the Gods. Maybe see the Vermillion Cliffs from Hwy.89A instead of the Antelope Canyon (which is also closed).
    Unlike your family, we are not big on long hikes. We are a bit lazy, prefer driving on a windy road to a point where we can do a relatively short hike in-and-out or just enjoy a view. And we would like not to spend more days in a certain park than necessary. At the same time we want to take it easy and not run around every day like crazy.
    I would really appreciate your expert suggestion on the itinerary that can fit our agenda and schedule.

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      Hello Dmitri. I’d be happy to help. I think your itinerary will work best from point to point. I will lay it out in one direction but you can do it in the opposite direction if flights/hotels work out better the other way. Fly into Vegas. Go right to Zion and then visit Bryce. Then, go to Vermilion Cliffs. Drive through MV to go to Arches.

      Day by day, your itinerary will look something like this: (1) Arrive in Vegas, drive to Zion (2) Zion (3) Zion, in the evening drive to Bryce Canyon (4) Bryce Canyon (5) drive to Page, visit Vermilion Cliffs on the way, visit Horseshoe Bend at sunset (6) Drive to Monument Valley, see the sights around MV: Forrest Gump Point, Valley of the Gods, drive Moki Dugway. Maybe MV will be open by then? Sleep in Gouldings Lodge and keep checking to see if The View Hotel is open…I see that they are but I am not sure if this for travelers or residents of Navajo Nation (7) Drive to Moab, consider visiting The Needles on the way (8) Arches (9) Arches (optional: afternoon at Dead Horse Point State Park or Island in the Sky) (10) Fly home from Salt Lake City or Grand Junction.

      I hope this helps and feel free to write back in with more questions. Cheers, Julie

  6. Planning on making trip the last of May and first part of June for 3-4 weeks or more. What is best way to combine the two 10 day trips.

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      That’s great that you have so much time! There are two ways to spend your time. The first would be combining the two 10 day itineraries. Start in SLC and do the Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef itinerary first. Rather than going back to SLC, go south and do the second itinerary, almost in reverse order. If you want to do the hikes on Hole in the Rock Road, do those on the drive to Bryce Canyon. Visit Bryce Canyon and then Zion. From Zion, visit Page, then Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley, and then the Grand Canyon (there will be a little bit of back tracking here). From the Grand Canyon, you can either go south and end in Sedona or go west and end in Las Vegas. So, from Capitol Reef, the itinerary would look like this (day 10) Hole in the Rock Road, sleep in Bryce (11) Bryce Canyon, sleep in Zion (12) Zion (13) Zion (14) drive to Page, Lower Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend sunset (15) Upper Antelope Canyon, drive to Monument Valley, Monument Valley sunset (16) Monument Valley, drive to Grand Canyon, see the viewpoints on Desert View Drive (17) Grand Canyon (18) Grand Canyon (19) Drive to Sedona or Las Vegas.

      Alternatively, you can take the Two Week American Southwest loop and add onto it. Things to add on would be more time in each national park, a day trip or a few days in Sedona, the White Rim Road if you like that idea in Canyonlands, and more hiking in Zion. You will also have more time for the backcountry experiences in Capitol Reef. Near Las Vegas, add a day to day trip out to Valley of Fire.

      I think that it is wonderful that you have so much time. You will really have the chance to slow down and explore these parks. Have a great trip!

      Cheers, Julie

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