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The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip: One Week Itinerary

A Utah National Parks road trip belongs on everyone’s bucket list. 

Utah’s iconic National Parks are some of the most popular in the country, as they each offer some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. Each of the parks offer something different, and all stand up on their own with incredible scenery and unique experiences.

Road tripping through the state is the best way to see the parks, and is one of those quintessential American experiences that everyone has to do at least once in their lives.

A one week in Utah road trip will allow you to see some of the best of what the Utah Mighty 5 have to offer, from otherworldly hoodoos, majestic canyons, grand sandstone arches, and much more. You’ll also get to see a few of the best State Parks in the area.

Ready to plan your own road trip through Utah? Be sure to read this Utah National Parks road trip itinerary for the detailed planning tips and the best of what to see in this beautiful state!

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Before you go: Be sure to purchase an America the Beautiful pass! For $80, you’ll gain admission into all 5 of Utah’s National Parks, as well as the rest of the US National Parks

One Week in Utah Road Trip Itinerary: At-a-Glance

My suggested itinerary starts in Las Vegas and ends in Salt Lake City, but you can flip it and do it backwards.

  • Day 1 – Las Vegas to Zion (w/ Valley of the Fire)
  • Day 2 – Zion
  • Day 3 – Zion to Bryce Canyon
  • Day 4 – Capitol Reef + Goblin Valley State Park to Moab
  • Day 5 – Arches
  • Day 6 – Canyonlands + Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Day 7 – Drive to Salt Lake City + fly home

About Utah’s National Parks

Utah is known to have some of the best National Parks in the county. While it does not have the most National Parks in a state (that title belongs to my home state, California, with 9), all of its parks are within a 35 minute to 3.5 hour drive of each other.

Having so many parks relatively close to each other is what makes them referred to as “Utah’s Mighty 5.” It’s also one big reason why so many people plan a road trip here!

Not only are they in close proximity to each other, they each offer a unique experience. Each park has its own set of extraordinary sights, experiences, and landscapes. No two parks are alike – they all stand on their own, and each is worthy of a visit in their own ways. 

Here is a rundown of each of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks, and what they each have to offer:

Zion National Park

Zion is Utah’s oldest National Park, as well as the third visited in the nation. While it’s only 15 miles long, the park has an endless array of stunning landscapes and hiking opportunities.

Known for: Tall red rocks, sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, and the Virgin River
Must-see sights: Angels Landing, the Narrows, the Watchman

Read more about Zion National Park: 2 Day Zion Itinerary, 8 Epic Zion Hikes

Bryce Canyon

While Bryce Canyon is one of the smallest National Parks, it’s got some incredibly unique landscapes. The park almost feels like another planet, with its distinctive hoodoos, tall, skinny spires given their unique shapes by erosion.

Known for: Having the largest collection of hoodoos on Earth
Must-see sights: Queen’s Garden + Navajo Loop, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point 

Read more about Bryce Canyon National Park: One Day in Bryce Canyon Itinerary

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef is perhaps Utah’s most underrated park. It doesn’t get as much attention as some of its neighbors, but still has plenty to offer. Capitol Reef gets its name from its white Navajo Sandstone dome formations, which look similar to the color on capitol buildings. It was also said that the “reef” of mountains acted as a barrier to travel for pioneers.

Known for: Red rock canyons, towering sandstone rock formations, arches, stargazing
Must-see sights: Fruit orchards and pie in the Fruita District, Cassidy Arch, Hickman Bridge


As the name implies, Arches National Park is home to a large number of natural stone arches. The park boasts the highest number of arches in the world, with over 2000. Perhaps the most famous of them all is Delicate Arch, which graces the Utah license plates. There is also an array of other unique rock formations here, including pinnacles, balanced rocks, and fins.

Known for: Arches, arches, and more arches
Must-see sights: Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Balanced Rock


Canyonlands is Utah’s least visited park, but is full of sweeping desert landscapes. The park is large, stretching 337,570  acres, and has four different districts, each offering a unique experience. While you’ll find plenty of canyon views here, there are also a number of arches, mesas, buttes, fins, and spires seen throughout the park.

Known for: Dramatic desert landscapes, off-roading adventures, remote land
Must-see sights: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, Shafer Canyon

Planning Your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Route

How many days do you need to road trip through Utah?

I suggest spending a minimum of one week in Utah for your road trip.

This gives you one full day in each of Utah’s Mighty Five parks. In addition, I’ve also included some nearby State Parks on this itinerary. These offer some incredible landscapes so you can further get a sense of the unique topography of the area. They are also located relatively close to the National Parks, making it a worthy and do-able detour.

If you don’t have a full week, you can shorten the itinerary to 5 days and cut a few things out. I would cut out all the State Parks and combine Arches and Canyonlands in one day. However, do note that a 5 day Utah National Parks road trip is going to feel VERY rushed, so I do recommend trying to extend it to a week if you can.

Have extra time? You can also explore some of the other gems in Utah and Arizona on a Southwest road trip. Some of the spots you can add to your itinerary include Grand Canyon National Park, Page, AZ, Grand Escalante National Monument, Monument Valley, and some of the state parks near the Kanab area.

Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Map

Where to start and end your Utah National Parks trip?

The best options for starting and ending your trip are Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

  • Las Vegas: Las Vegas’s Henry Reid International Airport (LAS) is the closest major international airport to Zion National Park, about 2.5 hours away. You’ll find connections to almost anywhere in the world from Las Vegas. One big advantage of planning a Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary from Las Vegas is that it always has cheap flights (I sometimes find $40 RT flights from Southern California!), and car rentals are affordable as well. However, you will leave the longest drive for the end of the trip.
  • Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is the closest major airport to Moab, near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, about 4 hours away. From here, you can connect to many domestic and international cities. I’ve found that flights from the west coast are relatively cheap, but fares tend to be a bit higher from elsewhere. By starting in Salt Lake City, you can get the longest drive over with at the beginning of your trip.
  • Other airports to fly into: You can find small regional airports in St. George (30 minutes from Zion), and Canyonlands Regional Airport in Moab. Do note that flights are limited, and usually operate on a seasonal basis. Further away is Denver International Airport (DEN).

One-way vs. loop itinerary

The most efficient way to structure your itinerary is doing a one-way route. This means starting in Las Vegas, and ending in Salt Lake City, or vice versa. 

However, do note that there is an extra charge for having different pickup and dropoff locations for your rental car. Booking two one-way flights may be higher as well (but not always).

If the extra costs are too high, you can do a loop itinerary, starting and ending at the same city. In this case, I suggest flipping the itinerary and starting in Salt Lake City, as this will result in less driving time overall (16 hours vs. 17 hours).

Driving distances and times

Here are the driving times between the stops listed on this itinerary:

  • Las Vegas to Zion: 151 miles, 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Las Vegas to Valley of Fire: 45 miles, 48 minutes
  • Valley of Fire to Zion: 121 miles, 2 hours
  • Zion to Bryce Canyon: 83 miles, 1 hour, 45 minutes 
  • Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: 119 miles, 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Capitol Reef to Moab: 136 miles, 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Capitol Reef to Goblin Valley State Park: 60 miles, 1 hour
  • Goblin Valley State Park to Moab: 100 miles, 1 hour, 40 minutes 
  • Moab to Arches: 5 miles, 10 minutes
  • Arches to Canyonlands: 26 miles, 30 minutes
  • Canyonlands to Dead Horse Point State Park: 11 miles, 13 minutes
  • Canyonlands to Moab: 30 miles, 35 minutes
  • Moab to Salt Lake City: 233 miles, 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Moab to Las Vegas: 457 miles, 6 hours, 40 minutes 

Logistics for Your Utah Road Trip

A few things to know before your National Parks road trip in Utah

  • Purchase an America the Beautiful pass: If you only do one thing before your Utah National Parks trip, purchase this pass! For $80, you will get admission to all National Parks, National Forests, and Recreation Areas (with a few exceptions). This means that you can visit all 5 of Utah’s National Parks with this pass! Considering that the admission fee to the parks costs $20-35 each, this will save you a load of cash! (Note: the America the Beautiful pass is *not* valid for the State Parks on this itinerary)
  • Book things ahead of time: Visiting Utah’s National Parks is very popular between spring and fall, and accommodations and campgrounds fill up quickly. This means you’ll have to plan ahead and book things early! 
  • Reservations and permits: Currently, Arches National Park requires a timed entry reservation between April-October. The other 4 parks currently do not require a reservation. Also do note that the popular Angels Landing hike requires a permit. There are a few other hikes (i.e. the Subway and the top-down Narrows hike), but you will likely not have time to do them with a one week in Utah itinerary.
  • Bring plenty of water! It can get HOT in Utah, especially in the summer. Bring plenty of water – more than you think you need! It is suggested to bring one gallon per person, per day. You can bring a reusable water bottle, but I recommend using a bladder for hiking.
  • Fill up your tank before entering the parks: Utah’s National Parks have limited amenities, and you won’t be able to find gas within the parks. To ensure that you have enough fuel, make sure you fill up before entering the parks.
  • Avoid driving in darkness: You’ll be driving through remote areas where there’s a ton of wildlife, and they may give you quite a scare in the darkness! To avoid this, I recommend driving while there is still daylight.
  • Pack your own food + snacks: As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t that many amenities in the parks and food service is limited. I suggest grabbing your own lunch and snacks that you can bring on your hikes.
  • Download offline maps: Cell reception is spotty, so be sure to download offline maps before your trip!
  • Check current conditions: Some trails may be closed due to trail damage and/or weather. It is also important that you don’t go out in inclement weather, as this may create dangerous conditions. Always check current conditions before you go out.
  • Leave no trace: Please, please, PLEASE pack out what you pack in, and pick up your trash. Also stay on trail, don’t damage any plants, keep wildlife wild, and don’t vandalize any rocks. Keep the park pristine so future generations can enjoy it as well! Be sure to read up on the 7 Leave No Trace principles before your trip.  

Getting around in Utah

As this is a road trip through Utah, well, you’re going to need a car. Many of Utah’s National Parks are in remote areas, so you’ll want to drive yourself.

Need to book a rental car? I suggest booking on This will allow you to compare prices from the top car rental companies. They also offer a price match guarantee. 

If you’re planning a one-way itinerary as suggested, remember to select a different pick-up and drop-off location. Remember that this results in an extra fee. If the fee is too high, you can always do a loop itinerary, with the same pick-up and drop-off city.

What type of vehicle to drive?

This road trip through Utah is designed to be completed in any type of vehicle. While having a 4×4 will allow you to access additional areas of the parks that are inaccessible to standard vehicles (i.e. Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef), I left them off this itinerary as we drove a sedan.

A Utah National Parks road trip is also a perfect opportunity to rent a campervan or RV! There are plenty of free camping areas throughout this part of the US. I would love to do this the next time I do this road trip!

Guided Tours of Utah National Parks

It is *highly* recommended that you have your own vehicle while touring through Utah’s National Parks. However, if you absolutely do not want to drive, you also have the option of taking a guided tour. 

This 7 Day Utah and Arizona National Parks Tour is a good option and visits Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands, as well as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.

Best time to road trip through Utah

There is not necessarily a *bad* time to plan a road trip through Utah’s National Parks. You’ll experience breathtaking scenery and have an unforgettable experience, regardless of what time of year you visit!

Generally speaking, I think that the best time to plan a road trip in Utah is in late spring or early fall. This is when you’ll be most likely to find comfortable temperatures, open trails, and fewer crowds than in the peak summer months.

That said, there are many things to consider when choosing which time of year to plan your trip, including weather, crowd levels, accommodation availability/prices, and more. I will go over what to expect during each season in Utah:

  • Spring: You’ll find comfortably warm temperatures in the spring months, making it an ideal time to explore Utah. However, do note that there may still be snow in the early spring, and not all trails may be open. The Narrows may still not be open as well. There is a higher likelihood that everything will be open if you visit in late spring. Do also note that spring is a popular time to visit Utah, so expect some crowds.
  • Summer: I would avoid visiting in summer, if possible. It is not only very crowded with the summer vacation crowd, but it is scorching HOT! Temperatures can reach nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes conditions less than ideal for hiking. You’ll likely encounter thunderstorms as well. If you do decide to complete this trip in the summer, bring plenty of water and sun protection!
  • Fall: Early fall is another ideal time to do a Utah road trip, as temperatures start cooling down but are not yet chilly. As with spring, this is a popular time to visit, so you can expect some crowds. Still, it is an excellent time to visit!
  • Winter: Winter brings some beautiful scenery to Utah’s parks, which sometimes get covered in a dusting of snow. However, it can get COLD, with temperatures below freezing at night. Snow can shut down hiking trails as well. You’ll get the benefit of minimal crowds, but you will have to do some research and bring appropriate gear. Keep in mind that there are also seasonal closures within the neighboring towns.

What to pack for your Utah Parks road trip

  • Phone mount: If you’re not driving your own vehicle, you’ll need a phone mount so you can easily use GPS and navigation. 
  • A jacket: A packable wind/rain proof jacket is ideal for the warmer months, and a packable puffer is great for cooler weather.
  • Good hiking shoes: Sturdy hiking shoes with grip are absolutely essential! I’ve linked to my favorite pair from Columbia which are sturdy, comfortable, and affordable.
  • Day Pack: A backpack to hold all your gear, snacks, camera equipment, and more is a must. I’d also get something with a slot to hold your water bladder. I recently purchased this REI Trail Backpack and it’s perfect!
  • Water: And speaking of water…carry plenty of it! A water bladder is ideal for easy access while hiking.
  • Flashlight or Lantern: Especially if you plan to hike around sunset – you don’t want to be caught in complete darkness! My friend Christina brought along this handy collapsible lantern and I loved it so much that I had to get one for myself.
  • Trekking Poles: They will definitely help you on hikes. Get a collapsible hiking poles so they fold up easily into your luggage.
  • Battery Pack: I never travel or hike without this battery pack. It can charge up to five times on one full charge!
  • First Aid Kit: Be prepared, just in case!
  • Snacks: Bring plenty of snacks, both to have in the car and on hikes.
  • Sunglasses: It can get BRIGHT! I love my polarized pairs from Goodr, which are cute and affordable.
  • Sunscreen: On that note, be sure to bring some SPF – here’s my favorite sunscreen. This one is also my favorite face sunscreen (and a great top-off).

7 Day Itinerary: Utah National Parks Road Trip

Day 1: Las Vegas > Valley of Fire > Zion 

  • Las Vegas to Valley of Fire: 45 miles, 48 minutes
  • Valley of Fire to Zion: 121 miles, 2 hours

Welcome to Las Vegas! I suggest flying in on a morning flight so you can pick up your rental car and start making your way towards Zion. I suggest making a stop in Valley of Fire State Park along the way. And, if you’ve never been to Las Vegas, you’ll definitely want to set aside a few hours to explore the city as well.

Note: There is a $20 admission fee to enter Valley of Fire State Park. Your America the Beautiful Pass is not valid here, since it’s a State Park, not a National Park. You’d think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but trust me, we saw people at the window trying to use theirs.

Las Vegas

As you have limited time, you won’t have a whole lot of time to explore Vegas, but you can definitely make a few quick stops. Below are a few suggestions on what to do in Las Vegas. If you want more ideas, you can also check out my Las Vegas bucket list.

Snap a photo with the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign: One of the most iconic symbols of the city, and the perfect photo op to commemorate your visit. (Tip: You can skip the long line by take a photo off to the side)

Tour the themed casinos on the Strip: Many of the casinos on the Strip are themed, so you can travel to Paris, Rome, Venice, Egypt, New York, and more in one day. You likely won’t get to see them all, but it’s fun to stop into a few!

Check out the Bellagio Fountains + Conservatory: Even if you don’t get to all the casinos, I suggest at least checking out these two attractions.

Take a ride on the High Roller: At over 500 feet tall, it’s one of the tallest observation wheels in the world, from where you can catch a birds-eye view of the entire Strip!

Visit the Neon Museum: This unique open-air museum has a collection of vintage neon signs from the former casinos that once stood in Las Vegas.

Check out the Seven Magic Mountains: This art installation is a creative expression of human presence in the desert, and features seven pillars of stacked neon-painted rocks. It’s right off the 15 freeway on the way to Zion, so it’s worth a quick stop.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire is Nevada’s first state park and is a geologic wonder featuring breathtaking red rocks, sandstone rock formations, petrified forests, and petroglyphs.

Since it’s less than an hour away from Vegas, it’s a popular day trip. You’ll have to make a small detour on the way to Zion, but it’s well worth it because it is absolutely stunning!

A few things to check out in Valley of Fire:

Mouse’s Tank Road: You’ll find one of the best views in the park off this road. To find it, turn onto Mouse’s Tank Road from the visitor’s center and continue driving about 2.5 miles. There’s a small pull-out on the left, or you can also park on the Rainbow Vista trailhead and walk back. Be careful and watch out for cars – I suggest coming earlier in the day so the road isn’t busy.

Fire Wave: This rock formation is often referred to as a mini version of the Wave in Arizona. A quick 1.5 mile hike will lead you here. It’s got a curved shape with stunning red and white stripes, and almost feels like a different planet!

White Domes: This short 1.1 mile hike leads you through a slot canyon, but you’ll experience a variety of scenery along the way. You even get to see the remains of an old 1965 movie set! Do note that the trail is pretty slippery (I slid and fell), so wear sturdy shoes.

Arriving in Zion

After you explore Valley of Fire, hop back on the 15 and head east towards Zion. You’ll cross into Arizona briefly before you arrive in Utah. Do note that Utah is in a different time zone, so you’ll jump an hour ahead.

Upon arrival in the Zion area, take the rest of the day to relax as you will have a busy day ahead on day 2!

Where to stay on night 1

Plan to stay in the Zion area on the first 2 nights. This will allow you to get an early start on day 2, and stay until sunset. Since it’s a relatively short drive to Bryce Canyon, you can head out on the morning of day 3.

If you want to stay within the park, there are campgrounds as well as the Zion Lodge, however, there options book up very quickly. 

The nearest town to Zion National Park is in Springdale. You can also stay in Kanab, located near the eastern entrance of the park, which will be the most efficient way to get to Bryce Canyon on day 3.

Here are some options for where to stay near Zion:

  • Desert Pearl Inn: This award-winning hotel is just 0.8 miles from the park, and has eco-friendly modern amenities, with a Southwest flair.
  • Zion Mountain Ranch: This ranch-style property features upscale cabins with Southwestern decor, and even has its own buffalo herd.
  • Under Canvas Zion: For a unique glamping experience, consider staying at Under Canvas. The resort features luxury, safari style tents with modern amenities.

Day 2: Zion National Park

With its tall red cliffs, turquoise waters, slot canyons, and breathtaking vistas, Zion is one of the most visited National Parks in the nation. It does get busy here, one look and you’ll see why – it’s stunning!

Because of the crowds, you’ll want to get an early start. I suggest arriving by 8am to ensure that you find a parking spot by the visitors center so you can hop on the shuttle. Which brings us to…

The Zion shuttle system

In order to limit congestion and pollution, Zion has a shuttle system that runs along Zion Scenic Drive. This is the only way to get around the park during most of the year (from March 3 through December 1 in 2024).

The shuttle makes 9 stops along Zion Scenic Drive, which will get you to most of the top sights within the park. There is a second shuttle line that makes stops in the town of Springdale before dropping you off at the walk-in entrance through the park.

Shuttle hours and frequency depend on the time of year. Here is the shuttle schedule for 2024:

Best Things to do in Zion National Park

Below are some of the highlights of Zion National Park. With only one full day to see Zion, you won’t be able to do it all. If you somehow find yourself with any extra days when planning your National Parks road trip in Utah, I would add an extra day in Zion.

Morning: Angels Landing or the Narrows

These are the two marquee hikes in Zion. You won’t have time to do both, but definitely do one of them as they each offer an unforgettable hiking experience.

Angels Landing: This thrilling hike is perhaps the most famous in Zion. To reach the summit, you’ll need to scale up a narrow ridge, with 1000 foot drop-offs on each side. The reward is a view that is so beautiful that it was declared that “only angels can land here” (hence the name).

You need to know that hiking Angels Landing can be dangerous, and is not for everyone. If you’re in any way queasy about heights, I would avoid the hike. Also do not attempt if it has recently rained, as the trail can be slippery. 

Do also note that permits are now required to hike the portion of the trail from Scouts Landing to the summit. You can find more details about applying for a permit on the Zion website.

However, if you don’t want to complete the entire hike, I suggest at least hiking to Scouts Landing as it is already a pretty awesome view. You can see people go up the chains, which is really cool!

The Narrows: One of Zion’s most unique hikes, the Narrows offers the unforgettable experience of hiking in the North Fork of the Virgin River through the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon. 

You can make the Narrows as short or as long as you want (up to 9 miles). Most hikers aim to reach Wall Street, where the canyon is at its narrowest, about 2 miles in.

If you choose to hike the Narrows, I highly recommend using water shoes and a walking stick (or hiking poles). There are loose, slippery rocks in the river so I found them super helpful! You can rent these items from Zion Outfitter on the way into the park.

Always check current conditions, as the Narrows close when the water levels are too high. This area is also prone to flash floods, especially in the summer, so avoid if there is a storm in the forecast. It is also susceptible to toxic cyanobacteria, so do not drink the water or duck your head underwater.

Afternoon: Short hike(s)

Depending on how long it takes you to complete your morning hike, you might have time (or energy) for 1-2 shorter hikes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Emerald Pools: A relatively quick 3 mile hike, which should take 1-2 hours to complete. It is best to hike Emerald Pools in spring or fall, after there has been rain. This will create roaring waterfalls from the cliffs above, which create striking emerald colored pools on the ground. If you’re visiting in summer (or after a dry winter), the pools tend to be dry and impressive.
  • The Watchman: A moderate, 3 mile hike, this trail  takes you to a viewpoint with some amazing views of the Watchman, one of Zion’s most iconic rock formations. You’ll catch some awesome views of several other rock formations as well. The Watchman is especially beautiful in the spring, when wildflowers bloom throughout the trail.
  • Pa’rus Trail: This is one of Zion’s most accessible trails, and is flat, paved, and 3 miles long. It’s also the only trail in the park where bicycles are allowed. You’ll get some pretty views of the Watchman and the Virgin River. Be sure to catch the view from the Canyon Junction Bridge.
Sunset at Canyon Overlook

After your afternoon hike, end your day in Zion at one of the best viewpoints in the park. Canyon Overlook is one of those low-effort, high-reward hikes. The trail is only 1 mile round-trip, but you’ll find sweeping views of the canyon floor and surrounding rock formations.

I like to call it the “Poor Man’s Angels Landing” because it’s got similarly dramatic views – with a whole lot less effort! It is especially gorgeous during sunset, when the cliffs get cast in a golden glow.

Note that Canyon Overlook is located along Mt. Carmel Highway, which is not located along the Zion shuttle route. You will have to drive to get there.

Where to stay on night 2

I recommend staying at the same accommodations as the first night. This will allow you to catch the sunset without having to drive in the dark.

However, if you want to see the sunrise at Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon, you may want to consider staying near there instead. 

Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park

  • Zion to Bryce Canyon: 83 miles, 1 hour, 45 minutes 
  • Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: 119 miles, 2, 15 minutes hours

Wake up early and make your way towards Bryce Canyon!

Walking into Bryce Canyon is almost like walking onto a different planet. Here, you’ll see the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world, tall, thin, orange rock spires created by erosion over millions of years.

Bryce Canyon is pretty compact, so you can see all of its highlights in a day. You can do a hike, drive along the scenic drive, and stop at some viewpoints.

The Bryce Canyon shuttle: The park offers a free shuttle for visitors, which stop at all the most popular viewpoints and trailheads. Unlike in Zion, it is not mandatory to use the shuttle, but can be a helpful way to get around when visiting during busy times, when parking lots are congested,

Best Things to Do in Bryce Canyon 

Sunrise Point: As the name implies, Sunrise Point is gorgeous at sunrise. However, we visited mid-morning and still thought the view was pretty amazing! You can get a sense of the diverse landscapes of the park, and see some greenery growing through the rocks. 

Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop: This is the most popular hike in the park. The 3-mile hike is a combination of 2 trails that take you to all the best and most iconic sights within the park, like Thor’s Hammer and Wall Street. 

It’s kind of like the “best of Bryce Canyon” in one hike. The views are awesome throughout, and you’ll be surrounded by hoodoos for the entire hike. You also get an up close look at the hoodoos in the amphitheater, which I also thought was cool!

Starting from Sunrise Point, I recommend doing the hike in the clockwise direction. This is a little bit easier and safer. 

Do note that the Wall Street portion of the hike is closed during the winter. You will have to hike up Two Bridges instead.

Sunset Point: The end of the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop hike will put you at Sunset Point, another one of the best viewpoints in the park. As the name implies, Sunset Point is especially stunning at sunset, but really is beautiful at any time of the day. 

Sunset Point is arguably the best view in the park – this is because you can really see the layers of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also be able to see some of the most iconic rock formations, including Thor’s Hammer and Silent City.

Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive: The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive stretches for 18 miles, and takes you to the highest elevations in the park. Allow about 2 hours to complete the drive and stop at the viewpoints.

I don’t think you necessarily *need* to stop at all the viewpoints, as they start to look the same after a while. Still, you’ll want to stop and see a few, since you’ll find some incredible views along the scenic drive!

The overlooks you shouldn’t miss along the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive are Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Rainbow Point, and Natural Bridge.

Where to stay on night 3

On night 3, I recommend heading towards Capitol Reef, and staying the night in Torrey, the closest town to the park. Do note that the town of Torrey is fairly remote and tiny. There isn’t much there, but you’ll find a few hotels, some restaurants, and gas stations. 

Here are some recommended hotels in Torrey:

  • Capitol Reef Resort: For a unique accommodation experience, you can stay in Conestoga wagon or teepee. They offer cabins as well. Whichever option you choose, you’ll be surrounded by stunning red rock views, 
  • Red Sands Hotel: This recently renovated hotel has spacious rooms, a restaurant, yoga room, hot tub, and spa. You’ll be surrounded by desert views at this sanctuary-like hotel.

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park + Goblin Valley State Park

  • Capitol Reef to Goblin Valley State Park: 60 miles, 1 hour
  • Goblin Valley State Park to Moab: 100 miles, 1 hour, 40 minutes 

I’ll be honest – I didn’t really have high expectations for Capitol Reef. I wasn’t as excited to stop here on my Utah National Parks road trip as I was for some other parks. It’s just not as well known as some of the other National Parks in Utah, and I really wasn’t sure it would live up to the landscapes of some of its more famous neighbors.

When I arrived at Capitol Reef, however, I was immediately impressed with the scenery. There are some breathtaking red rocks and desert views in Capitol Reef, and they are absolutely stunning!

Combine that with some historic landmarks, Native American petroglyphs, and even a fruit orchard, and you’ll find that Capitol Reef has much to offer. It is as charming as it is beautiful.

Best Things to Do in Capitol Reef

Panorama Point: This viewpoint was probably my favorite in the park! You’ll see a breathtaking view of Capitol Reef, along with State Route 24 as it winds through the park.

Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook: If you continue down the road from Panorama Point, you’ll hit these two viewpoints, which are right next to each other. Sunset Point is known for being especially gorgeous at sunset, but it’s still beautiful at any time of day. Goosenecks Overlook has an expansive view of the valley and the creek that carved it into a canyon.

Do note that you’ll have to drive a bit on a gravel road. While you don’t necessarily need a high-clearance vehicle, it may be helpful. We made it in our sedan, but it was touch and go for a bit.

Fruita District + Gifford Homestead: The Fruita District is home to a collection of historic buildings, as well as fruit orchards. You can actually pick fruit off the trees here if it’s in season (you just have to consume it while you’re in the park).

Also be sure to stop at the Gifford Homestead for pie, if it’s open. It’s open from March 14 to November from 9am to 4:30pm. Sadly we missed it, but everyone raves about how delicious the pie here is!

Petroglyphs: There are Native American petroglyphs carved out on the rocks along Highway 24. There is a viewpoint located between Fruita and the Hickman Bridge trailhead where you can see some of them.

Scenic Drive: The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive stretches 8 miles from the Fruita District to the start of Cathedral Gorge Road. There are some pretty amazing views along the drive – we definitely stopped a bunch of times to take photos.

Cassidy Arch: This is probably the most popular hike in Capitol Reef. The 3.1 mile trail leads you to a sandstone arch you can actually stand on top of. You’ll also catch some incredible scenery over the park and Grand Wash.

Hickman Bridge: This 1.8 mile hike is another popular hike in the park. The trail leads you to a natural arch tucked away at the back of the canyon, as well as a breathtaking view over Highway 24.

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley was not originally on our Utah road trip itinerary, but it ended up being one of my favorite stops.

We saw the turnoff to Goblin Valley while we were on the way from Capitol Reef to Moab. We were intrigued, so we ended up here and were so happy we made the spontaneous detour because it was seriously so cool!

Goblin Valley is home to thousands of hoodoos, some resembling goblins (hence its name). They were a bit different than the ones in Bryce Canyon – these were a bit shorter and rounder.

The best thing about Goblin Valley that makes it a worthwhile stop? You can actually hike into the amphitheater and get up close and personal with the hoodoos. It’s kinda like a natural playground, and it was so fun (saying “hooooodoooooos” 384792423 times as you wander around also makes it extra fun).

There aren’t really any trails in the park, you kinda just walk into the amphitheater and just wander around. We only had about an hour to spend here, but really wish we had more time to explore more! 

Note: There is a $20 admission fee to enter Goblin Valley State Park. Also note that your America the Beautiful Pass is not valid here, since it’s a State Park, not a National Park. You’d think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but the ranger said it happens often.

Where to stay on nights 4-6

After exploring Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley, make your way towards Moab. This is where you’ll stay on the remaining nights of this Utah Mighty 5 road trip.

Moab is a super cute town, with a charming downtown area, plenty of restaurants, and lots of accommodation options. Here are some of my picks for where to stay in Moab:

  • Under Canvas Moab: If you didn’t get a chance to try this glamping experience in Zion, they have a location in Moab as well. You’ll get to stay in luxury safari tents with modern amenities, while being surrounded by nature.
  • Gonzo Inn: This condo-style boutique hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in Moab. Each room has a patio to take in the gorgeous mountain views, and you can’t beat the location just one block off Main Street.
  • Red Cliffs Lodge: This resort is surrounded by towering red cliffs, creating stunning views you can enjoy from the private patio of your suite or cabin. There’s also a horse stable, film museum, and winery on the property.

Day 5: Arches National Park

  • Moab to Arches: 5 miles, 10 minutes

Note: Feel free to flip the Arches and Canyonlands portions of the itinerary on day 5 and 6, if you prefer. The two parks are about an hour away from each other, so it doesn’t matter what order you do them in.

You will have to wake up bright and early today for a full day of adventure in Arches National Park!

As the name implies, there are tons of natural stone arches in the park – over 2000 of them! Obviously you won’t come close to seeing them all, but you’ll get to see some of the most iconic ones.

Timed Entry Reservations at Arches National Park

To reduce crowding and congestion, Arches National Park implemented a reservation system that is in effect between April 1 and October 31. During these months, all visitors will need a reservation if entering the park between 7am and 4pm.

I visited Arches before the reservations system was in place, and honestly felt that it was needed since the park was sooo crowded. The parking lots at the popular trailheads were a mess and I remember having to circle around for over 30 minutes before finding a spot. It was chaotic, and I was glad when the park finally implemented reservations.

Reservations are released about 3 months ahead of your visit – for example, if you plan to visit in May, the slots open up on February 1. They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 8am MST on

If you couldn’t secure a reservation through the advance reservation system, a limited number of tickets are released the day before your visit at 7pm MST.

If you still can’t get a reservation, you can still enter the park before 7pm or after 4pm.

For more information, you can read more about timed entry reservations on the Arches NP website.

Best Things to Do in Arches 

Sunrise hike to Delicate Arch: Delicate Arch is the largest freestanding arch in the park as well as one of the most iconic symbols of Utah (aka the rock formation that appears on the Utah license plate). Hiking here was such a highlight of my Utah National Parks road trip, and is an absolute must-do!

I suggest getting an early start and aiming to hike Delicate Arch for sunrise in order to encounter the least amount of crowds. We *ahem* overslept and ended up starting the hike as the sun was coming up. 

When we got up to the top, the line for photos was only a few people long. By the time we left, there was a long line and it was crazy crowded up there. The parking lot looked full as well. So start early!

Also wear sturdy shoes because parts of the trail are really slippery.

Devil’s Garden (Landscape Arch and Double O Arch): Next, head over to the Devil’s Garden area. Note that the parking lot gets pretty busy here, so you may have to wait for a spot.

The Devil’s Garden entire loop is 7.9 miles long with 1085 feet of elevation gain. However, the trail gets more primitive as it goes on, and requires a bit of scrambling and navigating narrow ledges. Because of this, along with limited time, you may not want to do the entire loop.

At the very least, be sure to stop at Landscape Arch, the longest stone arch in North America and a relatively easy 1.8 mile hike. If you want to hike further, continue on to Double O Arch, which will make it a 4.2 mile hike.

Scenic Drive: The 22 mile Arches Scenic Drive has a number of scenic viewpoints along the way. Two of the most iconic are Balanced Rock and Park Avenue.

Windows Section: This area is home to Double Arch, Windows Arch, and Turret Arch. A number of short trails connect the arches, totaling 1.8 miles. Double Arch was one of my favorites in the park, consisting of two arches that share the same foundation.

Sand Dune Arch + Broken Arch: Hike to a hidden arch that is nestled in deep sand and tall sandstone walls. Then, continue along to Broken Arch, which looks like it’s broken but is actually still intact (for now). I sadly missed this trail but I’ve seen so many pictures of it and it looks awesome! 

Day 6: Canyonlands National Park + Dead Horse Point State Park

  • Moab to Canyonlands: 30 miles, 35 minutes
  • Canyonlands to Dead Horse Point State Park: 11 miles, 15 minutes

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the fifth and final park of your road trip through Utah’s National Parks!

Canyonlands may be Utah’s least visited National Park, but it is vast, spanning 337,570 acres. WIthin this land, you’ll find sweeping canyon views that seem to stretch endlessly, as well as colorful landscapes, mesas, arches, and buttes.

The park is divided into four distinct districts, many of which are very remote and cannot be accessed by standard vehicles. As you have limited time in Canyonlands with a one week Utah road trip, you’ll only have time to see one of these sections. I recommend visiting Island in the Sky, which is home to some of the park’s most well-known sites, and is the most developed.

If you want to explore one of the other districts of the park, especially if you only have a standard vehicle, I recommend booking a tour, such as a 4×4 tour of the Needles District.

Best Things to Do in Canyonlands

Mesa Arch: The most iconic sight in Canyonlands, the Mesa Arch perfectly frames a view of the red canyons and buttes below. It’s a very popular spot for the sunrise. Sadly, we missed the sunrise and it was VERY crowded (although I hear it’s also very crowded for sunrise). It was still a pretty incredible view, though!

Island in the Sky Visitors Center: I always like heading to the visitors center when I first visit a park to get trail information, but that’s not the only reason I’m telling you to head here. The visitors center at Island in the Sky boasts one of the best views in the park. Just head across the street from the parking lot and follow the trail to find a wide overlook.

Green River Overlook: This is one of the best viewpoints in the park! You’ll see the canyons along with the two rivers that cut through the park. It was a bit hazy when we visited due to pollution from wildfire smoke, but I still thought it was beautiful.

Shafer Trail Viewpoint: Another scenic viewpoint. This one is cool because you can see steep, curvy switchbacks carved into the canyon, and see the offroading vehicles making their way up and down them. 

Grand View Point: As the name implies, you’ll find a breathtaking view at Grand View Point. A 1.8 mile hike brings you to an overlook, where you can see canyons stretching for miles, as well as the White RIm four-wheel-drive road, parts of the Needles and the Maze, and mountains in the distance.

Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

End your day with an epic sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park. Here, you’ll find awe-inspiring views that go on for miles and miles. 

While there are a number of hiking trails in the park, I recommend watching the sunset from the main overlook. A short walk from the parking lot leads you to a viewpoint with stunning views of the canyon and the Colorado River snaking around it, over 2000 feet below.

There’s a railed area where you can enjoy the view, or you can stake out a spot on the rocks. The further out you go, the less people you’ll encounter. Either way, the sunsets here are absolutely magical, as you can watch the sun dip directly below the horizon right in front of you. Also be sure to stay for a bit after the sun falls, as you’ll get to see how the sky changes in color.

I recommend getting here about an hour before sunset so you have enough time to park and stake out a viewing spot.

Note: There is a $20 admission fee to enter Dead Horse Point State Park. Also note that your America the Beautiful Pass is not valid here, since it’s a State Park, not a National Park.

More Things to Do in Moab

If you find yourself with extra time on your itinerary on day 5 or 6 (or if some of the activities don’t appeal to you), then here are some additional suggestions. Moab is known as a town of adventure, and there are tons of cool things to do!

  • Colorado River Whitewater Rafting Trip: Whitewater rafting is another popular thing to do in Moab. You’ll get to raft down the Colorado River for 7 miles while enjoying scenic views, an informative guide, and plenty of fun.
  • Moab Scenic Airplane Flight: See Arches and Canyonlands from a birds-eye perspective in this epic airplane tour!
  • Half-Day Rappelling Tour: You’ll get to go on an exciting adventure through Dad Gum Canyon, as you hike and rappel through waterfalls and natural pools.
  • You Drive Hell’s Revenge UTV Tour: Drive your own UTV vehicle on this thrilling adventure that goes through the Hell’s Revenge trail. Traverse steep climbs and slick rock as you make your way to an overlook that looks over Arches and the surrounding desert.

Day 7: Drive to Salt Lake City + fly home

  • Moab to Salt Lake City: 233 miles, 3 hours, 45 minutes

Sadly, your Utah parks road trip is coming to an end – boo! 

I recommend booking an evening flight if you can so you have plenty of time to make the 4 hour drive to Salt Lake City, and have a little bit of time to explore on the way to the airport.

Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Bonneville Salt Flats: These salt flats are the remnants of the ancient Lake Bonneville, which once covered ⅓ of the entire state. They are HUGE – they cover about 46 square miles. People race their cars here (although I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a rental car), and have broken speed records). It’s about an hour and a half west of Salt Lake City, and a worthy stop if you have time.

Temple Square: One of the most famous sights in Salt Lake City, Temple Square encompasses 5 city blocks and is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). It’s the home of the grand Salt Lake City Temple, which is currently under renovations. There are a number of other historic buildings, as well as a garden, which is super pretty in the spring.

Utah State Capitol: The house of government for the state of Utah, the state capitol is housed in a grand domed building. You can take a free guided tour of the inside, or just walk through the grounds. It is especially beautiful in the spring, when you’ll find dozens of cherry blossom trees.

Mural tour: One of my favorite things to do in a city is to check out the street art scene, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Salt Lake City had tons of cool ones! You can wander around the downtown area, or head to the Maven District to find some gems.

Natural History Museum: Known as one of the best natural history museums in the country, the museum has over 1.5 million artifacts, with a concentration on the landscapes and cultures of Utah. Also do not miss the view of the mountains from here! 

Have you ever done a Utah National Parks road trip? What were some of your favorite sights?

You might also like:
An Epic 2 Day Zion Itinerary
9 Incredible Hikes in Zion
A Guide to Hiking the Narrows
One Perfect Day in Bryce Canyon

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