Utah is home to 5 of the most thrilling and iconic U.S. National Parks known as The Mighty 5. People from all over the world travel here to experience a Utah road trip and explore these beautiful lands.
While the National Parks are great destinations, I’ve found that Utah is also home to some of the most underrated adventures. I’ve had the pleasure of taking several Utah road trips through the state, stopping at different locations every time and exploring its diverse landscape.
This road trip, however, was one of the most epic I’ve taken. Two other girls and I packed our bags, met up, and loaded our itinerary full of as much adventure as possible.
This was not a leisure type of travel. We hiked, kayaked, and adventured our way through Utah, leaving very little time to relax since we only had a certain time frame to fit it all in.
I’ve listed our entire road trip itinerary for you in this post with links to places we stayed, rented from, hiked, and stopped at. You don’t have to move as fast as we did or do everything that we did. Rather you can pick and choose to create your own epic road trip that fits your style.
I hope this itinerary gives you ideas and helps you plan your own epic road trip through Utah!
UTAH ROAD TRIP OVERVIEW
Length: 8 days, 7 nights (with options to make it longer!)
Airports: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City
I know you are excited and probably wondering what the highlights of this Utah Road Trip are, so I’ve listed them below!
- Zion National Park
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes
- Peekaboo Slot Canyon
- Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon
- Horseshoe Bend
- Canyonlands National Park
- Arches National Park
- Monument Valley
- Salt Lake City
- Bonneville Salt Flats
THE BEST TIME FOR A UTAH ROAD TRIP
Spring is a beautiful time to visit the Southern part of Utah because the temperatures are still cool and there are less crowds of people. The National Park hike that close during winter start opening up but not all of them right away.
Parts of Utah will still have snow and be chilly, especially Salt Lake City and Bryce Canyon National Park in early spring. The water activities may not be as enjoyable in the cooler temperatures either.
The road trip can be done in spring, however you may want to skip some of the destinations/activities based on your preferences.
Southern Utah gets HOT during the summer and is also the most popular season for National Parks. If you can, I’d refrain from going during the middle of summer and choose a different season to visit.
This itinerary can be done during the summer, but I’d suggest beginning your days very early!
I think fall is the best time for this itinerary, which is when I road tripped through Utah! Middle of September to middle of October is when I visited and we had almost PERFECT weather the entire time.
The destinations weren’t too overcrowded, it was still nice out but not too hot, and it didn’t rain on us but once (and it was a sprinkle).
Salt Lake City and even parts of Southern Utah get snow. This road trip itinerary definitely is not for winter! A lot of the National Park trails close during the season leaving your hiking options scarce. Plus the water activities are more enjoyable during beautiful weather!
Quick tips for your Utah Road Trip
- You’ll be visiting multiple National Parks so I’d suggest purchasing the America The Beautiful pass beforehand to save money.
- Check each park’s website before you visit for weather alerts or closures and to check their shuttle schedules.
- Fill up the tank when it is half full and before heading into the parks because there are long stretches without services.
- Create playlists and download your music on your phone or Spotify app because you will be out of service for most of the trip!
- Stock up on snacks and beverages before hitting the road. This includes protein bars and trail mixes for your adventures.
- While you’re in the outdoors remember to leave no trace.
EPIC UTAH ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 1: Vegas to Zion National Park
Morning – Late Afternoon
The first day of our Utah road trip began in Vegas! The girls flew in and I picked them up with my car to head to Zion National Park.
If you don’t have someone nearby who can drive you can do a one way car rental and drop it off in Salt Lake City at the end of your trip.
Pro Tip: Stock up on supplies in Vegas or Springdale before you reach your accommodations near Zion.
Once we settled into our cabin suite, we quickly freshened up, grabbed dinner from the resort restaurant (more on that below), and met East Zion Adventures for our Sunset Jeep Tour! They took us on a thrilling Jeep ride to a mountain bluff and we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets!
Right after the Jeep Tour we embarked on their Star Gazing Tour. We were given blankets to bring and hot chocolate which warmed our experience under the stars. We laid down and learned all about stars, satellites, and constellations- such a blast! I’ve never seen Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn in the sky before.
While visiting Zion National Park for 2 nights we stayed at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort in a cabin suite. Their sister company East Zion Adventures has multiple tours that embark right from the resort property so it was a two for one deal!
You can read all about my review of the resort and view photos below.
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 2: Canyoneering and Zion National Park
Morning – Afternoon
We woke up early to meet East Zion Adventures again for our half day Canyoneering Tour! They took us to the Huntress Canyon outside of Zion. This was my second time canyoneering with them and it was just as much fun as the first time.
The adventure totaled to be about 3 miles with 4-5 repels, the highest being 70-75 feet. It it is the perfect first canyoneering experience if you haven’t done it before or if you’re weary of heights.
You can read all about my experience and what to expect below!
Afternoon – Evening
After canyoneering we quickly restocked our supplies at the cabin and headed into Zion National Park. We received recommendations for two short, un-popular hikes within the park so we started with those.
The first was to a wall that had petroglyphs dated up to 7000 years old. It took us two attempts to locate these but they were so worth it!
The second was to a waterfall .5 miles from the road! We hiked and boulder climbed our way to the Pine Creek Waterfall and sat to eat our snacks. The water was full of algae so we were careful not to touch it or go in, but with good quality water there is actually a rock you can jump off of into a deep pool below.
Before the sun went down we decided to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion which is 2 miles round trip. This trail was thrilling because it follows along the side of the mountain and provides epic drop off views along the way.
The views were a bit hazy at the top with the sun and wildfire smoke combined but it was still worth every step!
After hiking in Zion we drove through the remainder of the park into Springdale and had dinner at Oscar’s Cafe, a popular local Mexican restaurant. I had the Turkey and Avocado with Bacon Sandwich and sweet potato fries which was delicious!
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 3: Last hike in Zion, afternoon in Kanab, and drive to Lake Powell
Morning – Afternoon
This was one of our busiest days for we packed it as full of activities as we could! We woke up early to check out of our cabin suite and drove to the trailhead (right off of the resort property) for our last Zion National Park hike.
Totaling 7 miles, the morning hike to Observation Point was easy and enjoyable. There is a trail that begins at the bottom of Zion but we hiked an easier trail right from the resort into the park, ending at the top of the lookout!
After our morning hike we hopped into the car and headed to Kanab, Utah!
Afternoon – Evening
I HIGHLY suggest adding Kanab to any Utah road trip Itinerary. Our first stop in Kanab was the Moqui Cave. This cave is rich with history and yes, is actually a cave! The gentlemen who run the cave museum are extremely friendly and helpful.
If a museum isn’t your thing, they also have a small cafe truck outside you can order from or you can take one of their tours from Expedition Kanab. There are also some amazing sand caves a short walk up the road that are old mines from World War II! The caves are definitely worth visiting.
Be sure to ask them about nearby slot canyon tours and horseback riding! We did an UTV tour with them to the remote Peekaboo Slot Canyon and stopped to sandboard the dunes on the way back. It turned out to be one of the best things we’ve done!
After exploring canyons and playing in the sand, we backtracked just a little to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. We wanted to visit these at sunset because that is when the sand turns pink!
We didn’t actually go into the park, however. Since we were cutting it close to sunset and we had already sand boarded, we decided to stop at this small parking lot just before the park to get our fill of sand dunes and watch the sun set. This is a great option if you don’t want to pay to get into the park!
After sunset we stopped again in Kanab for dinner at Escobars Mexican Restaurant (very yummy!) then drove through the dark to Page, Arizona!
It was a late check-in to our hotel in Page, AZ. We stayed at the Best Western View of Lake Powell for 2 nights, and it did in fact have one of the best views- even for sunset!
OPTIONAL DAY 3: Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
If you have an extra day or two to spare during your Utah road trip you can fit in Bryce Canyon National Park! It didn’t fit in our itinerary, but I do highly suggest it.
From the Ponderosa Ranch Resort it is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to the park. You can easily stay another night and take a day trip to Bryce. You could also stay the night near Bryce, then backtrack towards Zion and head to Kanab.
If you’re visiting during winter check out 6 Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes and things to do
If Kanab and Lake Powell don’t interest you, you can stop by Bryce and continue along the US-12 Scenic Byway, stop at Lower Calf Creek Falls, and meet up with us back in Moab on day 5!
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 4: Kayak Lake Powell and visit Horseshoe Bend
Morning – Afternoon
Are you ready for an epic day out on the water? Because we couldn’t wait to kayak Lake Powell and explore Antelope Canyon from the water.
First thing first, please take a moment to read over my biggest tips for going out on the water at Lake Powell. If you are not experienced it can actually get dangerous depending on the location and weather.
Tips for Kayaking Lake Powell
- The best time to visit is late summer / early fall because the water temperature is warmer.
- Begin your day EARLY because the weather changes quick in the area and the wind makes traversing the waters more dangerous.
- Pay attention to the sky- there is always a chance of rainfall here even without it being in the daily weather report. You do not want to be in a slot canyon during a rainstorm.
- Know where you are headed and check to see if the boats create a huge wake in that area. If so, you may not want to paddle board and kayak instead.
- Most importantly, HAVE A LIFE JACKET.
Now that we have that covered, I suggest booking your kayak rental in advance because all of the rentals in the area sell out quick. Yes, even on weekdays.
We rented from WazSUP Kayaks and Bill was extremely accommodating and helpful. We were provided the kayaks, life jackets, paddles, and directions on how to get to Antelope Canyon from the water!
This adventure was one of my favorites from the whole trip. The girls and I were able to kayak to the end of Antelope Canyon, dock our kayaks, and explore the canyon for a bit on foot.
You can read more about kayaking Antelope Canyon below!
Horseshoe Bend is not far from Page, AZ and worth visiting for sunset! If you’re more of a morning person you could always get up for sunrise and do this before Lake Powell.
This attraction now has a $10 entry fee but you get restrooms, an actual parking lot, and a paved path down to the lookout over Horseshoe Bend. They say it is a 1.5 mile hike round trip.
I’ve been here several times now and the view never gets old! It makes you feel so small.
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 5: Drive to Moab and hike Canyonlands National Park
Morning – Afternoon
Another jam packed day! The drive to Moab/Canyonlands is somewhat long, so to break it up we stopped at the famous Utah State Sign along the way to take some photos. This is almost a requirement for any Utah road trip!
After twirling endlessly there, we continued to Forest Gump Hill in Monument Valley to take some more fun shots!
The drive from Page to Moab takes you past some epic areas such as Garden of the Gods and Natural Bridge Monument. If you have time these are worth exploring, but we wanted to get to Canyonlands so we drove right through.
Afternoon – Evening
Canyonlands National Park is massive! The closest entrance to Moab (where we stayed) is the Island of the Sky. We were chasing daylight since it was going to get dark in a few hours so we chose our hikes carefully.
We ended up hiking the short 1 mile round trip hike to Mesa Arch. The view from the arch is impressive and it is crazy to me how the arch is set right on the cliff’s edge.
After Mesa Arch we hiked 2 miles round trip to the Grand View Point. The views from here were incredible! And the entire way you hike along the ginormous cliff’s edge. It wasn’t too scary since they have the path far enough from the edge, but you still want to be very careful.
Nearby: If you have more time than we did, you can check out Dead Horse Point State Park which is on the way to the Island of the Sky entrance from Moab!
Day 5 was an extremely long day and we were starving by the time we got back into Moab. For dinner we ate at The Blu Pig which is known for THE BEST BBQ! It is truly some of the best I’ve ever had. They are rated high on Trip Advisor and I highly recommend trying them out when you’re in town.
We stayed in Moab for 1 night at the Hyatt Place in Moab. The hotel was styled very well and super clean.
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 6: Hike Arches National Park
Morning – Afternoon
This time we woke up extremely early and checked out of the hotel so we could miss the crowds in Arches and catch the sunrise.
If you plan on visiting Arches National Park you must get there for sunrise! The girls and I were glad we chose to do this. Once the sky starts to lighten up you are surrounded by massive arches and rock formations you had no idea of (because you entered in the dark)!
We chose to hike to Turret Arch for sunrise and had it to ourselves. I’m thankful we did, because after talking to other hikers, Delicate Arch was packed (and not worth it) and same news for the North and South Windows.
At Turret Arch we got to see the silhouette of The Windows come alive as the sun was rising which we felt was more exciting. We hiked to these after the sun rose since they are on the same path- two for one!
After that we hiked Double Arch which is another short hike off of the same parking lot as The Windows and Turret Arch.
Since a lot of these hikes are short we were able to knock out a bunch. We headed to the end of the park and hiked to Landscape Arch, Double-O Arch, Tunnel Arch, and Pine Tree Arch which are all off of the same trail.
On our way out of the park we stopped and hiked Delicate Arch (3 miles round trip) which ended up being more difficult than we thought but well worth it. Delicate Arch is by far the most impressive and popular one in the park!
Afternoon – Evening
We felt like we had done as much as we could in Arches, so for the afternoon we decided to grab lunch at the Moab Brewery and shop around downtown before leaving Moab.
I purchased a couple cute Moab shirts and we hit the road towards Salt Lake City!
We checked in late to our Hyatt Place hotel in downtown and stayed here for the remaining 2 nights.
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 7: Hike in Salt Lake City and visit Bonneville Salt Flats
Morning – Afternoon
The last full day of adventures during our epic Utah road trip!
Our day started early, as usual, because we decided to hike Grandeur Peak which is a 6 mile round trip hike, 7 if you have to park on the road like we did. It was really nice to get a taste of the crisp fall air and colors in the mountains!
This hike was difficult and took us several hours to complete combined with the wildfire smoke from a nearby wildfire, constant elevation gain, and seeing a rattlesnake slither across the trail. Yeah, this was an eventful last adventure for sure!
Pro Tip: Use the Gaia App and their new Wildfire Map Layer to keep on eye on any nearby wildfires while hiking!
Afternoon – Evening
After we conquered Grandeur Peak we went back to the hotel to get dressed up and drive to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a fun photo shoot.
The Salt Flats were amazing! Walking on them made me feel like I was on another planet. We chose not to drive on them for we’ve heard mixed reviews about the salt ruining the car, etc. You may also want to be careful to not set your phone or camera directly on the salt! It could potentially ruin those as well.
To get to the Salt Flats you’ll want to drive West from Salt Lake City towards Wendover, NV. There is a rest area called Salt Flats Rest Area West Bound where you will be able to pull over, park, and explore!
Pro Tip: Get gas and snacks before leaving the city. It is a long drive (approximately 1.5 hours) with hardly any services along the way.
OPTIONAL DAY 7: Hike more around Moab
We ended up wishing we had more time to spend in the quaint city of Moab. If you have extra time I’d highly suggest staying another night to explore more of the area. A couple good hikes outside of the park are Mary Jane Falls and Corona Arch!
UTAH ROAD TRIP DAY 8: Fly out of Salt Lake City
By the end the girls and I were starting to feel the exhaustion hit from our Utah road trip. We had considered grabbing brunch before their flights but it was easily a group decision to take our time in the morning to try and get an extra hour of sleep.
I dropped them off at the airport and since I drove my car I decided to stay an extra few weeks in Salt Lake City to tour around myself.
Check out 11 of the Best Salt Lake City Hikes to see the hikes I did during my time there!