Planning the perfect Utah road trip itinerary doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. No matter where you choose to visit in Utah, you are in for a real treat. I, Victoria, have explored Utah from top to bottom through my childhood and teen years well before social media and smartphones even existed. This Utah itinerary will be different than others because it will offer recommendations from someone who has spent months of her life in Utah road tripping through the national parks and slow traveling through Utah’s Big 5.
For this Utah road trip itinerary, we are not going to specify an amount of time so that you can make the drive as time allows for your schedule. If you have 5-7 days for your Utah itinerary, then modify this Utah road trip route to fit that length of time. If you have 2 weeks, consider spending a few days in each location to really take in what Utah has to offer. No matter what amount of time you choose to explore the state, this Utah road trip itinerary will not disappoint!
The Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary
Begin Your Utah Road Trip By Flying Into Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the largest city in Utah and also the most accessible to fly into to begin your Utah road trip. There are both affordable international and domestic flights that fly into Salt Lake City. We recommend checking out Skyscanner to find the best and most affordable flights into Salt Lake City. We use this tool to discover the best flights for our trip because you can easily compare rates.
When you fly into Salt Lake City, consider buying a one-way ticket. Depending on how you structure your Utah road trip, you may want to fly into Salt Lake City and fly out of Las Vegas. This itinerary will end at Zion National Park so you can choose to fly out of Las Vegas which is about a 2.5 hour drive from Zion, or retrace your steps and fly out of Salt Lake City, which is a 4.5 hour drive away from Zion.
Take a moment to peruse this itinerary as see which of the Utah National Parks you want to visit. If you choose to follow this itinerary exactly, all you have to do is decide if it is best for you to drive 2.5 hours of 4.5 hours. This will also be important to compare prices on flights out of Salt Lake City and Las Vegas so that you can find a deal that is best for you!
Where To Stay In Salt Lake City:
Stop 1: Explore Moab And Two Epic Utah National Parks
So many memories surrounding Moab from growing up traveling around that area! It is a truly fantastic little city and a family favorite and it has only gotten better over the past few decades. Moab is around a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City. It is a bit of a drive but that is okay! This is hands down, the best place to start your Utah road trip! After all, how can you have a road trip without a little driving to start it off?
We recommend spending 3-5 days in Moab if you have the chance. Of course, if you are just dropping by that is okay too. You are going to utilize Moab as a “home base” to explore the nearby Utah National Parks which are Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
These are two of the best National Parks in all of the United States and you will NOT be disappointed. They are family friendly with many things to do and will transport you to an otherworldly landscape.
Where To Stay In Moab:
Visiting Arches National Park
Arches National Park is the ultimate way to begin your Utah road trip. Arches is one of the Big 5 National Parks in Utah and it isn’t to be missed. Arches is only a 9-minute drive from Moab which is why we recommend making Moab your home base.
The arches are beyond incredible and visiting will not disappoint. We would like to caution you to please be careful and NEVER carve your name into the arches or take rocks. We didn’t do this visiting the Utah National Parks growing up and now they still live to stand for you to enjoy now. Please think of the future and REFRAIN from harming this beautiful nature in any way!
There is one road in and out of Arches National Park and it is 18 miles long. This means you can easily see Arches in one day on your Utah Road trip. That being said, if you can spend more than one day here, we highly recommend it. It is very close to Moab so you can always come back if you missed something you really want to see!
Best Hikes In Arches National Park:
If you can only do one thing at Arches National Park, we suggest hiking to Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is the photo that you see all over of a stunning rock feature that creates well, a delicate arch! This Utah hike is family friendly and around 3 miles round trip. If you are hiking during the heat of the day, make sure to wear sun protection and to take plenty of water! Delicate Arch is something I remember from growing up and now is your chance to make family memories too!
We also highly recommend the Windows Hike in Arches National Park. It is shorter than the Delicate Arch hike and will get you up close and personal with many arches. This hike is short and easy and very rewarding. If you don’t want to hike 3 miles or aren’t able to for physical reasons, this is another wonderful stop to add to your Utah road trip itinerary. It is a 1.2-mile loop trail and the most popular in the park.
Another favorite is “Double Arch” which is a really short and fun trail! The trail to Double Arch is an easy 0.5-mile well-maintained loop, accessible from the parking lot of the Windows Hike. You guessed it, you are going to get to see a double arch which is a truly stunning feat of nature!
Finally, you must pay Landscape Arch a visit as it is the longest natural arch in the entire world! It spans a whopping 306 feet long! You can reach Landscape Arch from the Devils Garden Loop Trail. It is on a manicured part of the trail so don’t go past Landscape Arch unless you want to embark on a 7-mile hike. If this is what you are looking for then perfect! If you just want to see Landscape Arch, it is a short and easy walk that is family friendly before you can turn around and head back!
Visiting Canyonlands National Park
While we love the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands National Parks is just so incredibly special! The canyon formations are beyond insane and will blow your mind. Canyonlands National Park is located 36 minutes away from Moab so it is a tad bit further than Arches but again, this is a Utah road trip so what is a road trip without a little bit of driving?
Canyonlands is one of the Utah National Parks that is divided into four distinct sections. These four districts include the Green and Colorado Rivers, the Maze, the Needles, and the Island in the Sky district. Just having a basic understanding of how Canyonlands National Park is laid out will help you see the “big picture” when planning your Utah road trip.
Best Canyonlands Scenic Drives:
If you aren’t the hiking type, don’t worry! Canyonlands is home to some wonderful scenic drives! Island In The Sky offers some amazing Utah road trip sightseeing by car. The overlooks and pull-outs along this 34-mile scenic drive are not to be missed! It is perched 1000 feet above the canyon floor and offers breathtaking and memorable views! If you want to drive this drive, plan at least an hour. If you want to hike some short trails and picnic, plan longer! This is the perfect thing to do if you don’t want to do a lot of hiking!
Another wonderful scenic drive in Canyonlands is The Needles. It begins at the Canyonlands Visitor Center and is 6.5 miles long. It concludes at the Big Spring Canyon Overlook. As with Island In The Sky, there are multiple pull outs and picnic spots along the way. It is also the way to access several of the more popular Canyonlands hikes.
It is important to note that Island In The Sky and The Needles are about two hours apart from each other. Keep this in mind when planning how much time to spend in Moab on your Utah road trip itinerary.
Best Hikes In Canyonlands National Park:
If you can only do one thing during your Utah road trip in Canyonlands, make sure you hike to Mesa Arch. It is located in the Island In The Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. It is an easy 0.6 mile round trip trail and it is perfect for families. If you are a photographer looking for some fantastic sunrise or sunset photos, make sure to prioritize Mesa Arch! The arch is located on the rim of the Plateau so you will have some incredibly stunning viewpoints.
Another one of our favorite easier hikes is the Cave Spring Hike. This hike is located in the Needle district of Canyonlands. It is an easy 0.6-mile loop and provides some incredible views. You get to see prehistoric ingenious rock art, a cowboy camp and more. The trail is easy, but you have to climb two wooden ladders along with it. If this is something you have difficulty with, skip this trail and choose one of the other easier ones featured in this Utah road trip itinerary.
If you are looking for some of the best canyon views, the Aztec Butte Trail is the perfect trail for you. It is an easy 2 mile loop trail and provides outstanding views of the surrounding canyons once you arrive! The hike will end at Butte Summit which is where you can see these fantastic views. This hike is located in the Island In The Sky area of Canyonlands.
Stop 2: Walk Among “Goblins” At Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is one of the lesser known stops on your Utah road trip itinerary. The landscape will make you feel like you have entered another planet. Goblin Valley State Park is located roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Moab so it is a day of light driving along your Utah road trip itinerary. The formations create small structures that look like goblins, hence the name!
Goblin Valley State Park is home to the incredibly unique valley itself as well as some easier hikes, a disc golf course, and plenty of pullouts for viewing. This state park can be a day stop along your Utah itinerary or you can choose to spend the night. If you want to spend the night, you will have to camp as the only hotel options are around 45 minutes away. This stop can also be done as a day trip from Moab if you want to wake up early and drive. Using Moab as your home base is an easy possibility.
If you could choose one thing to do here, we recommend the easy The Three Sisters Hike. It brings you to the most iconic “goblin” formation in the entire park. Most people view Three Sisters from the road, but if you pull off, there are small trails that go up to it. You can also see down into the Carmel Canyon Drainage System 100 feet below from this hike too so it is two for the price of one hike!
The beauty of Goblin Valley State Park is that you should just visit, drive around, and explore at will. It does cost $13 for a day pass, but it is a beautiful and unique stop to add to your Utah road trip itinerary and you won’t want to miss it.
Where To Stay Near Goblin Valley:
Stop 3: Discover A Warp In The Earth’s Crust At Capitol Reef National Park
I have to admit that this one is a little weird for me! When my family visited Capitol Reef National Park a few times in the early 2000’s it was the “weird” thing to do and the strange National Park to visit. Now, Capitol Reef National Park is all over Instagram and social media, and for a good reason. It is strange and pretty neat to see a remote National Park surge into the limelight in the past 20 years!
We highly recommend stopping at Capitol Reef National Park on your Utah road trip itinerary. Although it has become more popular as of late, it is still off the main tourist trail when compared to places like Arches and Zion. This Utah National Park is defined by “Waterpocket Fold” which is essentially a 100-mile warp in the Earth’s crust. This is a totally incredible and unique feature which is why we always recommend Capitol Reef National Park on any Utah road trip itinerary!
There are various things to do in Capitol Reef National Park on your road trip in Utah. You can choose to hike, explore by car, pick fruit like apples or go on a tour. There is truly an option for everyone!
Best Capitol Reef Hikes:
If there is one thing I remember from childhood, it is the Capitol Gorge Trail. This trail is incredible and the views are breathtaking. You will have to exit to the main road and then turn onto a dirt road to get here. The features of this trail are walking along a dried up river bed through a massive gorge. The rock walls tower huge on either side of you and it really makes you feel small among nature. This trail was so memorable for us growing up and I highly recommend you go and make your own memories during your Utah road trip!
If you are looking to see yet another arch, Hickman Bridge is one of the more popular hikes in Capitol Reef. It is a moderate hike because you gain around 400 feet of elevation, but it is still easy for families to complete or those of you who aren’t huge hikers like us! It is a 1.8-mile hike round trip and you come to the Hickman Bridge which offers unique views!
If you actually want to walk on an arch without going hiking in Sedona, we recommend Cassidy Arch Hike. This is one of the hikes in Utah where you can actually walk on top of the arch itself, instead of just walking under it! Of course, this is a very unique feature and it makes the hike worth it. This is one of the longer hikes mentioned so far on your Utah road trip. It is 1.7 miles each way and there is a 700-foot elevation gain. The gain comes from the fact that you have to climb up on top of the rocks in order to walk across the arch. It is totally worth it and still an easy-moderate hike with some incredible payoff at the end!
Where To Stay At Capitol Reef National Park:
Stop 4: Get Off The Tourist Trail At Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Another awesome memory from my childhood and teen years? Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument! It is only 1 hour away from Capitol Reef yet many people don’t even know about it or decide to skip it on their Utah road trip itinerary. I am here to tell you that is a huge mistake! This is one of the most unique spots you will ever go to and it is just an hour away and along the way to your next stop!
First off, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers an absolutely HUGE expanse of land. You could take a week just to explore this area alone on your Utah road trip itinerary. We are going to narrow it down to the best things to see. For example, did you know that you can see slot canyons in Utah? You don’t have to go to Arizona to see these incredible features! Want more arches? Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is at your service there too!
We really can’t recommend this National Monument enough if you are looking to get off the main tourist trail during your Utah road trip. You are going to love it!
Where To Stay In Grand Staircase Escalante:
Best Hikes In Grand Staircase-Escalante
If you are looking to visit a slot canyon, Zebra Canyon Hike is the place to be! It an easy 5.3 miles round trip and takes around 3-4 hours to complete. There is another slot called Tunnel Slot that you can continue on to if you want but then the hike will take around 5-6 hours. Zebra Canyon is epic enough as it is! This hike is in the northern part of the National Monument so it is easy to reach from your Utah road trip itinerary.
Alrighty, the secret is out! There are two MORE slot canyons you can visit! Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulches are just 3.5 miles round trip so if you are looking for a shorter hike at this point of your Utah road trip itinerary, you are in good hands. These slot canyons are pretty near Zebra Canyon so you can easily do them both in a day. This is one of the more surreal hikes in Grand Staircase!
If you are a serious hiker and are planning to trek or camp during your Utah road trip, this is the hike for you. Coyote Gulch Hike is around 12 miles round trip and generally takes between 8-12 hours depending on how fast you walk and how many times you stop. You will see some stunning and remote scenery. It is entirely possible to hike this trail in a single day, as long as you start early and pay attention to the weather etc.
Stop 6: Marvel At The Hoodoos Of Bryce Canyon National Park
Growing up we always said, HOODOO?? WE DO!!! Bryce Canyon National Park is still one of the most incredible landscapes I have EVER visited in my entire life. You are totally going to agree. If you want to do a shorter form of this Utah road trip, do NOT skip Bryce Canyon. It will not let you down.
Hoodoos are rock formations formed by the weather. In Bryce Canyon, they are formed by the frost from winter eating away at the rock beneath it. The rocks are weathered and erode to create these incredible formations known as Hoodoos. They are tall and thin and formed by erosion. They are unique to arid areas such as the desert and are pretty fantastic to behold.
One of the best parts about seeing Bryce on your Utah road trip is that many areas are accessible by car. You can drive throughout the whole park and see some incredible and stunning views! If you have an accessibility challenge, this is a wonderful Utah National Park for you to visit as you can still experience all of what it has to offer.
That being said, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most popular national parks on your Utah road trip itinerary. You can park your car and take the Utah National Park shuttle if you want. If you go during the off-season, you can find parking more easily. If you are completing this Utah road trip during the summer or high-season, we do recommend taking advantage of the shuttle as it can be very difficult to find parking.
Where To Stay Near Bryce Canyon:
Best Hikes In Bryce Canyon
If you could only do one thing during your Utah road trip stop in Bryce Canyon, we recommend the Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Trail. This takes you down into the canyon so you can walk among the shadow of the hoodoos. There is one very switchbacky area of this trail called ‘Wall Street.” We highly recommend walking DOWN this section. You get a better view and the experience is just better overall. Most people don’t know this and do the opposite. This is the premier hike in Bryce so make sure to do it while you are here! It is a 2.5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail and it is popular for a good reason!
If the park is busy and you want to do something fun, we love the Mossy Cave Waterfall hike. You must leave the park a tiny bit, but you get to see a waterfall and a sleeping bear cave. This is a slightly different landscape than you are used to seeing along this Utah road trip itinerary so it is something fun and different to do. It is an easy 1-mile trail and you get to see a waterfall!
We also recommend Bryce’s Rime Trail Hike. It is 0.5 miles to 5.5 miles one way and it is located above Bryce Canyon. It connects all the scenic overlooks from Fairyland to Bryce Point. If you do NOT want to hike, many of these viewpoints are accessible by car too! If you are looking for an accessible trail, there is a 0.5-mile section of trail between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point that is wheelchair accessible. We love the Rime Trail hike because you can choose to do as much or as little hiking as you want!
Stop 7: Discover Zion National Park, The Most Famous On Your Utah Road Trip
If there is one Utah National Park you have probably heard of, it is Zion National Park. It is easily the most famous and popular stop on your Utah road trip itinerary and for a good reason. Often, you cannot drive in Zion unless you are staying in the campground. There is a shuttle that will take you in and out of the park and this is very important to know.
Many people do not know about the shuttle until they arrive and are in for a surprise. If you know about the shuttle going into your Utah road trip, you will be going in with open eyes. March through November, access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is by free shuttle bus only. If you are going during high season or during these months, please be advised! That being said, Private vehicles are allowed to access the Scenic Drive only when the Shuttle System is not in operation. If you are visiting in say, January, you will be allowed and able to drive your own vehicle.
The thing we love about Zion National Park that sets it apart from other stops on your Utah road trip itinerary is that it blends the red rocks with greenery! This is a sight for sore eyes after days of being in the desert and there are very many cool things to see and do here during your trip to Utah.
Where To Stay Near Zion National Park:
Best Hikes In Zion National Park:
One of the most memorable hikes from my childhood is The Narrows Hike. It is very long and involved, but you can choose to just do the beginning portion of it which is what I did as a kid. It is about 16 miles round trip and you must walk through the river and even swim at some points! If you aren’t doing the 16-mile hike, you can go to the beginning of the hike and just have fun walking through the water in the canyon for as long as you want or until it gets deep. This is what we did and it was such a wonderful experience!
If you want to do the most popular hike in Zion, that is Angels Landing Hike. People do this with kids quite often, but it is strenuous and around 5 miles long. This takes you to the peak of Zion National Park and the views are beyond incredible! If you are doing one hike during your Utah road trip, this is the one! We recommend budgeting around 3-5 hours depending on how fast you walk.
If you can only do one hike in Zion, let it be The Canyon Overlook Trail. This is only a 1-mile trail and provides stunning views. It is easy and you can access it to see some of the best views in the park. Since it is so short and easy, it makes a great beginner hike for all ages. This is the perfect introductory hike to do when you arrive in Zion on your Utah road trip!
End Your Utah Road Trip By Flying Out Of Las Vegas
And there you have it! You have just completed an epic Utah road trip itinerary. Once you end in Zion, you now must choose how to fly home. As we mentioned in the beginning, you have two choices. You can fly home from Las Vegas which is around 2.5 hours away from Zion National Park or you can choose to fly back from Salt Lake City which is 4.5 hours away from Zion.
Since this is indeed a road trip, driving isn’t all that bad if you budget in the time if indeed flying round trip out of Salt Lake City is more affordable. We recommend simply seeing the different prices between Salt Lake City round trip or between a one way flying into Salt Lake City and flying out of Las Vegas.
Either way, you will have had a fantastically rewarding trip and whichever you choose we know it will be the right decision for you!
Utah Road Trip Map:
Some of us are more visual and that is okay! That is why we created this Utah road trip map so you can see where everything is located across the state. As you can see, once you drive away from Salt Lake City, everything is only within 30-120 minutes away from each other. This means more time to enjoy everything on your Utah road trip and less time spending endless hours in the car!
We hope you have a fantastic time on your Utah road trip itinerary. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about planning your trip to Utah in the comments below! Please let us know how you got on and if you went to any of the places we suggested in this itinerary!
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