It’s time to plan a dreamy road trip to the five National Parks in Utah, or the Mighty Five, but you have a few questions about how to plan your trip. There are so many things to consider – which is the best route to see them all, what to see in each of them, how many days to spend in each park, which hikes to take, etc. If you can relate, don’t worry! Read on to find the ultimate road trip itinerary to visit the National Parks in Utah.
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Tips for your Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
Before digging into the road trip itinerary, just as a reminder, the five National Parks located in Utah are: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands.
With that being said, the best way to visit all of the National Parks in Utah is to start at Zion National Park and finish at either Arches or Canyonlands National Park (or the other way around). To do so, if you are not already in Utah, the best way to complete this road trip itinerary is to fly into Las Vegas and depart from Salt Lake City (or the other way around).
Also, allowing one day in each park, you can catch the highlights of each, but I recommend spending 2 days each in both Zion and Arches National Parks. And if you’re able to add more days, then go ahead and add one extra for Capitol Reef.
Most importantly, always make sure to proactively fill up your gas tank along the way on this road trip (don’t wait for it to get close to empty), because in some parts gas stations are few and far between. And be sure to bring and stock in your car plenty of water and snacks; you’ll find grocery stores Springdale, the closest city to Zion, and Moab, near Arches and Canyonlands.
Days 1 and 2: Zion National Park
Zion National Park is an astonishing place offering gorgeous mountain views with lush green surroundings with a river meandering through. Because the park has so many attractions, it’s really worth spending 2 days here.
On your first day at Zion National Park, I recommend doing one strenuous/moderate hike in the morning, like The Narrows, and then another easier one in the afternoon, such as The Watchman or Pa’rus Trail.
Then on your second day, you can go to Scout Lookout/Angels Landing in the morning, and later visit Pa’rus Trail and/or Zion Canyon Overlook in the afternoon.
Once you’ve completed the hikes and your visit to Zion, it’s time to continue your road trip to the next park – Bryce Canyon. However, if you have some time, make a quick stop to gaze at the magnificent sand dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, one of the many state parks in Utah.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce National Park is a unique park in Utah, famous for its fascinating terracotta-colored hoodoos. One day is enough to see the main attractions of the park, and it can be visited in any season, especially since the winter brings snow that adds a magical touch to these unique geological features.
So, to make the best of your time here, make sure to wake up early to catch the sunrise at Inspiration Point, the best one in the park to soak in the sun rising over the hoodoos. After the sunrise, head over to Sunrise Point where you can start the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trail – a 3-mile moderate hike that has stunning views of the park and allows you to walk around other major spots such as Wall Street.
And in the afternoon, once you finish the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trail, go back to your car (or take the park shuttle) to cruise along the Scenic Drive – an 18-mile road with 13 incredible lookouts. Along the way, make sure to stop at Natural Bridge, Yovimpa Point, and Rainbow Point.
If you want to spend more time in the park, make sure to read the complete guide to Bryce Canyon, where you can find more activities to do and places to stay and eat nearby.
And now that you have visited Bryce Canyon, it’s time to head to Capitol Reef National Park. And if you want to check another Utah attraction, Kodachrome Basin State Park is on the way.
Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park
Don’t miss the chance to visit Capitol Reef on your Utah National Park road trip. The park is usually overlooked compared to Arches or Zion, but its raw landscapes and untouched nature are truly remarkable, and the hikes are really incredible.
In one day, you’ll want to see as much as possible. So, in the morning, head to Cassidy Arch for a hike that is considered strenuous but offers gorgeous panoramic views that make every step along the way worth it.
Once you finish the Cassidy Arch hike, you can drive along Highway 24 to see the overlooks and complete another moderate hike – Hickman Bridge.
Should you be looking to see a more rugged part of the park, then add one extra day to visit the Cathedral Valley region. To visit this part, be sure to check out the road conditions at the visitor center, as the road can quickly become impassible, and be sure to have a four-wheel-drive and high clearance vehicle.
At the end of the day, continue your road trip by driving to Moab to visit Arches and Canyonlands. If you want to make another stop along the way, check out Goblin Valley State Park, yet another great stop on your Utah road trip where you’ll be able to walk around the mini hoodoos found in the park.
Days 5 and 6: Arches National Park
Once you set up base in Moab, you’ll be able to visit both Arches and Canyonlands. Arches is so phenomenal, with its more than 2,000 natural stone arches, huge balanced rocks, and gorgeous hiking trails.
On your first day in Arches National Park, you can start with an early walk to catch the sunrise at Delicate Arch. This is the most stunning place in the park, and one of the most unique places in Utah.
Since Delicate Arch is a moderate hike and you’ll already have had an early start for your day, in the afternoon you can just do some quick and easy hikes to Double Arch, The Windows, and Turret Arch.
Now, on your second day in Arches, you can cruise along the scenic drive and stop at its lookouts, and take an easy hike to Landscape Arch with the possibility to extend to a more strenuous one to Double O Arch.
Day 7: Canyonlands National Park
Now it’s time to finish your epic Utah itinerary with a day in Canyonlands National Park, the largest national park in Utah, with 338,000 acres of beautiful wilderness.
Your day at Canyonlands will start early to catch the sunrise at Mesa Arch – a short quick hike to a stunning natural arch and impressive views.
After you visit Mesa Arch, head back to the car to start your way along the Scenic Drive and stop at its many lookouts and overlooks, and venture on other hikes such as Grand View Point Trail and White Rim Overlook.
For more information about this park, read the Canyonlands guide.
When leaving Canyonlands, but before returning Moab, make a quick stop at Dead Horse Point State Park, another beautiful state park in Utah, and a must-go of every road trip in the state.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:
Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day itinerary to the park
Petrified Forest National Park: How to spend one day in Petrified Forest National Park
White Sands National Park: How to Plan the Perfect Visit to White Sands National Park
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN THE US:
Austin: The Weekend Guide to Austin
Monument Valley: The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley
Horseshoe Bend: All You Need to Visit Horseshoe Bend
State Parks: 5 amazing state parks in Utah