The Ultimate Utah Road Trip (National Parks + Itinerary)

Lauren on the Utah Road Trip

Wondering “How do I plan a trip to all 5 Utah national parks?” Ayyy, don’t stress, we have you covered. Our 10 day Utah road trip will take you through some of the best things to see in Utah, along with the Mighty 5 National Parks.

Utah happens to be one of our absolute favorite states in America. Once you explore Utah for yourself, you’ll soon see why. It’s amazing, it’s diverse and it’s full of adventure. Now, let’s get you prepped, you have a Utah road trip to get to!

Don’t forget to check out our road trip essentials packing list!

10-Day Utah Road Trip Itinerary

Best Month to Visit Utah

Ok, let’s set the record straight…Utah is amazing all year round. No lie.

  • Utah In The Winter: Winter is cold, but it’s perfect for skiing the slopes around Salt Lake City. Another perk is less crowds on the hiking trails in the State Parks and National Parks.
  • Utah In The Spring: The spring months tend to be the busier months to visit Utah due to milder temps and springtime blooms. Be prepared to deal with large crowds around Spring Break time and Memorial Day weekend.
  • Utah In The Summer: Depending which part of the state you are in, Utah can be hot, hot, hot. The summer is popular time as school is out so lots of families can be seen exploring the state. However, the sun stays out much longer so you have longer days which is really nice.
  • Utah In The Fall: Considered one of the best times to visit Utah, the fall months are great. Changing of the leaves, milder temps but with great weather usually means more crowds.

For us, we visited Utah in late September / early October and it was perfect. Mild to chilly temps, bright sunshine and nothing was too crowded. If you were to ask us, we say aim to visit Utah during September or October.

Driving our Utah Road Trip

Utah Road Trip Map

The Mighty 5 in Utah are something everyone should see in their lifetime. Scattered throughout the state of Utah, the Mighty 5 (or sometimes known at the Big 5) refers to the 5 National Parks that are found within the state of Utah. Yes, Utah is that awesome that it’s home to 5 amazing National Parks.

  1. Arches National Park (Located near Moab, Utah)
  2. Canyonland National Park (Located near Moab, Utah)
  3. Capitol Reef National Park (Located near Torrey, Utah)
  4. Bryce Canyon National Park (Located near Tropic, Utah)
  5. Zion National Park (Located near Springdale, Utah)

Our Utah road trip will take you on some of the best scenic byways in the country, through some of the best National Parks in America and give you too many adventures to count.

Getting Around Utah – Rent a RV

One of our favorite ways to road trip is by RV! It’s your one -stop-shop for everything you need – shelter, food and clothes. An RV gives you the flexibility to change direction and not have to worry about canceling a hotel reservation and booking a new one. Making it a great “car” to take on your Utah road trip.

It’s a perfect road trip companion and great vehicle to consider when exploring Utah. From large rigs to camper vans, there is something out there for everyone.

Day 1: Get Yourself To Utah (Salt Lake City or Denver)

To start your Utah road trip, you have to get to the state, right? Two popular jumping off points to explore Utah tend to be flying into Salt Lake City (airport code: SLC) or Denver, Colorado (airport code: DEN).

Note: While our route takes you from North to South through the state of Utah, you can easily do our route in reverse by flying into Las Vegas and starting South and working your way North. Totally up to you.

Jesse enjoying Utah's State Park

Flying Into Salt Lake City

Once you land in Salt Lake City, plan to pick up your car or RV rental and head south toward Moab, Utah. Moab is located about 3 hours and 40 minutes (234mi / 377km) away from Salt Lake City and where our Utah road trip itinerary begins from.

It’s worth noting that Salt Lake City airport is the closest airport to Moab, Utah.

Flying Into Denver, Colorado

The second closest airport to Moab is Denver International Airport located 5 hours and 30 minutes (355mi / 571km) away. Once at the Denver Airport, plan to pick up your rental car and/or RV rental and head west until you reach Thompson Springs where you’ll take 182 straight-ish into Moab.

Tip: If you don’t feel like driving back to either Denver or Salt Lake City, buy a one-way ticket into either of these airports for your arrival, and then a one-way ticket out of Las Vegas for your departure.

Day 2 – 4: Explore Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Park

Welcome to Moab. Home to two of the Mighty 5 National Parks, a quaint little downtown and loads of outdoor adventure. Whether you’re looking for a 4×4 off road adventure, white water rafting down the Colorado River or just some epic trails to bike or hike through, Moab is the PERFECT jumping off point for all of it.

After a day of adventure and outdoor fun, you can mosey through the shops, downtown cafes and bars. Grab some breakfast and coffee at Jailhouse Cafe or Moab Garage Co., some lunch or dinner at Moab Food Truck Park or Sunset Grill, and finally a beer at Moab Brewery.

Perfect for a few days stay, you’ll find becoming bored in Moab is next to impossible.

Check Out our Perfect 2-3 Day Moab Itinerary here!

Arches National Park

The first National Park on our Utah road trip is located 5 miles from Moab (about a 9 minute drive). It is here where you’ll find the entrance to Arches National Park. Some 2,000 natural stone arches along with endless, towering desert landscapes can be found here.

Check out Arches National Park in One Day to help you make the most of your time!

Costing $15/vehicle to get in, you can easily spend a day driving the 36 mile (round trip) road through Arches National Park, hiking Arches most popular trails like “The Devils Garden Loop” and “The Double Arch Trail” or watching the sunset from the Delicate Arch Viewpoint.

However you choose to spend your time, be it a few hours or a full day, Arches National Park will not disappoint.

Lauren and Arches National Park

TIP: If you want a truly unique experience within Arches National Park, consider booking the “Fiery Furnace” tour.

Canyonlands National Park

About a 35 minute drive from Moab and Arches, you’ll find the second of Mighty 5 National Parks, Canyonlands National Park. The expanse of this park is something to see. Canyonlands is the largest of the National Parks in Utah offering dramatic, staggering views of canyons below.

Expansive Canyonlands National Park

The park is divided into four districts:

  1. The Island in the Sky: The most popular district offering rim views of the expansive canyons below, pull offs for photos ops and trail heads. This district is home to famous “Mesa Arch”.
  2. The Needles: Home to popular hiking trails (great for overnight backpacking) and desert landscapes with rock spires.
  3. The Maze: The most remote of the districts requiring a several day commitment and should only be visited and trekked by experienced hikers.
  4. The Rivers (Colorado and Green): For those wanting to get down into the canyon, the rivers section is great for kayaking, guided boat tours, etc.

Whichever district you decide to visit the entrance fee for Canyonlands is $30/vehicle.

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands

Dead Horse State Park

Ok, ok, so yes, not a National Park but Dead Horse State Park is spectacular and since you’re in the area, it should not be missed! Dead Horse State Park is about a 15 minute drive from Canyonlands National Park and about a 35 minute drive from Arches National Park.

Views of Dead Horse State Park

A popular choice is to spend majority of the day in Canyonlands and finish your day (a couple hours) at Dead Horse State Park. Costing $20/vehicle, Dead Horse State Park is located atop a mesa offering incredible vista views of the land and canyons below.

Dead Horse State Park Endless Views

Where To Stay in Moab, Utah

For more places to stay in Moab, you can check out the latest places and prices here.

Day 5. Experience Capitol Reef National Park

With Moab in your rearview mirror, your sights should be set on the next National Park, Capitol Reef National Park. Located a little over 2 hours away from Moab, Capitol Reef is the least visited of the 5 National Parks within Utah, but don’t let that statement think this park is worth skipping.

TIP: As you leave Moab, be sure to take Highway 24 to Highway 12 as Utah State Highway 12 is considered one of the most scenic drives in Utah.

Utah Road Trip Through Capitol Reef

Costing $15/vehicle for the park entrance fee, Capitol Reef has some amazing hikes like Hickman Natural Bridge or the Cassidy Arch. If you’re short on time or just feeling like taking in the sights, we suggest driving the paved Capitol Reef Scenic Drive that winds through some of the best areas of the National Park.

If you’re looking for something more adventurous, canyoneering in Capitol Reef’s slot canyons should be added to your list. However you choose to spend your time, the sights and landscape of Capitol Reef are well worth the visit.

Capitol Reef National Park Landscape

TIP: On your way to Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll pass by Goblin State Park. It’s definetly worth stopping to check out if you have the time. A few hours will give you a taste of what Goblin State Park has to offer.

Where To Stay Near Capitol Reef

For more places to stay near Capitol Reef, you can check out the latest places and prices here.

Day 6: Adventure Through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 

From Capitol Reef, continue on Highway 12 (the scenic byway) for about 1.5 hours, until you reach the town of Escalante. If you find yourself hungry along the way, we highly suggest stopping at Hell’s Backbone Grill.

Devils Garden Hike in Escalante on our Utah Road Trip

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is nearly one million acres of public land that offers endless beauty and loads of outdoor adventures. Whether you’re exploring the Petrified Forest State Park, exploring the Peekaboo, Spooky and Zebra slot canyons or hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls and Devil’s Garden, your day will be well spent.

After a day of exploring, plan to grab a bite to eat at Esca-latte Restaurant, Nemo’s Drive Thru or Circle D Eatery. Oh, and if you need a coffee pick-me-up, make a pitstop at Kiva

Devils Garden Hike in Escalante on our Utah Road Trip

Where To Stay in Escalante

For more places to stay in Escalante, you can check out the latest places and prices here.

Day 7: Explore The Hoodoo’s of Bryce Canyon

Your next stop is the magnificent Bryce Canyon, located about an hour east of Escalante. Known for it vast views and spire-shaped rock formations called hoodoos, Bryce Canyon is truly something to behold.

Utah Road Trip: Jesse with Bryce Canyon

Costing $35/vehicle to enter the park, that entrance fee is well worth it once you set your sights on the views that await you. Plan to hike the Queens Garden/Navajo Trail Loop to see the hoodoos up close. Then, head up to the canyon rim and walk to a few outstanding viewpoints such as Sunrise Point, Inspiration Point and Sunset Point.

You can also drive the 18-mile scenic drive that will allow you to get out at the numerous viewpoints that surround the rim of Bryce Canyon. If you love stars, plan to stay after sunset as Bryce is a certified Dark Sky Park, making it perfect for star gazing.

Really and truly, it’s impossible to not become smitten with Bryce Canyon. It’s a true gem.

Where To Stay Near Bryce Canyon

For more places to stay near Bryce Canyon National Park, you can check out the latest places and prices here.

Day 8 – 9: Stand in Awe at Zion National Park

From Bryce Canyon, you’ll head 1.5 hours southeast to what some consider to be the “mecca” of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, Zion National Park.

Steep red cliff canyon with a flowing cool river, vivid green foliage that lays atop rugged rocks and dirt all set the stage of the awe-filled scenery that make up the landscape that is Zion National Park. Costing $35/vehicle to enter the park, Zion is one of the most visited parks in the United States. Once you arrive, you’ll soon see why.

The signature sites of Zion National Park are without a doubt Angels Landing and The Narrows. However, some other popular hiking outings to add to your “to-do list” are Observation Point Trail, Watchman Trail and Overlook Trail.

If you’d like to take a break from hiking drive the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway or hit the cliff side for some canyoneering and rock climbing fun.

Endless views of Zion National Park

After a day of amazing views and fresh air, head out into Springdale (the town that butts up to the entrance of Zion National Park) for some much needed food.

Bit & Spur, Kings Landing Bistro and Oscars Cafe are great options for dinner and drinks. For breakfast, stop at Cafe Soleil or Deep Creek Coffee Company.

Where To Stay Near Zion

For more places to stay near Zion National Park, you can check out the latest places and prices here.

Day 10: Your Utah Road Trip Comes To An End

A sad day. Your Utah road trip has come to an end. As you leave Zion National Park, the closet airport to Zion National Park is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada – about 2 hours and 45 minutes (172mi / 275 kms) away.

If you have a flight to catch out of the airport you came into (Salt Lake City or Denver), you have a little bit (or should we say a lotta bit) of a drive. From Zion National Park, Salt Lake City is a 4 hour and 20 minute drive (312mi / 502km). Where Denver is about 10 hours (628mi / 1010km) away.

Utah Road Trip: Hiking Zion National Park

If you’re wanting to keep exploring the beautiful southwest of the United States, consider extending your stay to explore some nearby places and National Parks.

Tips for Visiting Utah National Parks

  • National Parks Pass: A great idea if you plan on visiting multiple National Parks throughout the year.
  • Get To The Parks Early: Some of the most beautiful and quiet times at any National Park is sunrise. Plus, starting to hike before the heat of the day is always a good idea.
  • Pack Your Lunch: Make your lunch and bring it with you. By not having to leave the park to find a place to eat, you get to spend more time in the park. Oh, and pack snacks in your daypack too!
  • Come Prepared: If you’re going during the spring and fall months, pack accordingly. The weather can change so make sure you have a jacket. Oh, and protect that skin of yours by applying sunscreen.
  • Bring a Reusable Water Bottle: It’s important to stay hydrated and not use single use plastic water bottles. Another great option is to have a camelbak.

Camping In Utah & Its National Parks

Utah is home to some amazing campsites. You can find campsites scattered about outside and inside the National Parks. For any campsites located within the National Parks, where you are able to, reservations are highly recommended.

If the campsites are first come, first serve, we highly suggest getting to the campground as early as possible to secure a spot.

Be sure to check out our camping tips and essential gear list!

  • Arches National Park Camping: Devils Garden Campground
  • Canyonlands Camping: Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground, The Needles Campground
  • Capital Reef Camping: Fruita Campground, Cathedral Valley Campground, Cedar Mesa Campground
  • Bryce Canyon Camping: North Campground, Sunset Campground
  • Zion National Park Camping: South Campground, Watchman Campground

For campsites located outside and near Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, some require a reservation where others are first come first serve. We recommend the app Dyrt to help you pin point campgrounds in the area where you can call home for the night.

WANT MORE INFORMATION?!

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PIN IT FOR LATER!

Utah Road Trip Pin

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstusPinterest and on Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!

Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

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