Utah’s National Parks are simply stunning.
From lush green valleys and sandstone formations in every shade of orange to deep canyons and expansive panoramas stretching as far as the eye can see, Utah’s National Parks will take your breath away, transport you to another planet, and inspire your inner sense of adventure all in one fell swoop.
You could spend an endless number of days exploring Utah’s National Parks and still leave hoping for a return visit. But if you’ve got a week, you can experience Utah’s unbelievable beauty on an unforgettable road trip.
Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1- Fly into Salt Lake City
If you don’t live near Utah, you’ll need to fly into the region. You could also fly into Las Vegas and do this road trip in reverse, which separates this road trip route from others like my Oregon Coast road trip itinerary that needs to be done from north to south.
It’s great to have both options because you can search for cheap flights with some flexibility. Even better if you’re using miles and points to book an award flight as there may be available seats in one starting point but not the other.
Whichever airport you fly into, you’ll obviously need to rent a car if you’re traveling without a guide. Both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas are major airports with plenty of car rental options.
For all my road trips, I use Kayak to search rental car costs because it compares prices on many sites all at once.
Consider the time of year of your trip. Some of the parks have steep and narrow roads. If you want to do any off-roading, definitely rent a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. That being said, I went in spring and rented a basic 4-door car and had no problems.
Either way, see how you can save money on your car rental with this car rental hack.
If you’re planning to drive to Utah from where you are, be sure your car (and everyone in it) is ready and prepared with this road trip packing list.
ProTip: If you’re doing a guided tour of the National Parks, flying into Salt Lake City makes the most sense. A guided Mighty 5 tour takes the hassle out of planning a DIY Utah road trip and could make sense if you’d rather not drive.
Once you’ve picked up the car, head southeast for the 3.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City to Moab, Utah. Moab will have everything you need from food to gas to lodging. Once you arrive, settle in and get ready for a fresh start in the morning!
Where to Stay:
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Moab. It’s on the main road through town, close to 2 National Parks, and comes with a free breakfast. Perfect when you’re planning a day of hiking and outdoor fun!
If you’re a miles and points enthusiast like me, it’s also one of several loyalty program hotels in Moab. You can use IHG points to book the Holiday Inn Express.
Whichever Moab hotel you choose, plan to stay 2 nights.
ProTip: If you’ve landed in Salt Lake City in the morning and have a full day to get to Moab, consider a stop at Antelope Island State Park. You’ll get to see the Great Salt Lake and have a chance to spot wildlife like bison roaming freely.
Day 2- Arches National Park
If you arrived in Moab after dark, prepare yourself!
The morning light reveals the orange and red rock formations surrounding the city. Waste no time and arrive at Arches National Park in time for opening. The park is just 5 minutes from downtown Moab.
ProTip: Arches National Park now requires you to reserve a timed-entry slot due to overcrowding in the park. Be sure to do this ahead of your trip to ensure you can successfully enter the park.
Buy the America the Beautiful Pass before your trip to get entrance to any National Park for a whole year or find out ahead of time if you qualify for another way to save money on National Park entrance fees.
After visiting just a few parks, the pass will pay for itself.
At Arches National Park, you won’t want to miss the views from the park’s scenic drive, hiking up to Delicate Arch, or walking down into Park Avenue.
Remember to pack water and lunch/snacks for the day. Moab has plenty of places to stock up. Arches heats up even in the spring and fall. The rocky desert landscape has no cover from the sun and only a couple of spots to drink from a water fountain. You want to enter the park prepared.
When the day is done, spend 1 more night in Moab. Try some delicious Mexican food at El Charro Loco Mexican Grill and prepare for another day outdoors tomorrow.
For a detailed Arches National Park guide, check out:
How to Plan 1 Awesome Day at Arches National Park
Day 3- Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is divided into 4 districts. The Island in the Sky section of the park is by far the most visited area.
After checking out of your hotel this morning, make the 20-minute ride from Moab. Again, remember to have the food and water you need for the day before leaving Moab.
Just before reaching Canyonlands entrance and visitor’s center, take a detour into Dead Horse Point State Park. The lookout at Dead Horse Point Overlook is a must-see!
After this brief stop, return to the main road and on to the entrance of Canyonlands National Park.
Drive the entire scenic road through Canyonlands, hopping out to hike or take photos from the numerous scenic overlooks. Be inspired by the vast panorama of the canyon stretching outwards from Mesa Arch. Walk the easy hike along the ridge at the Grand View Point Overlook.
For more information about Canyonlands and my favorite overlook spot, check out:
How to Spend an Inspiring Day at Canyonlands National Park
By late afternoon, say goodbye to Canyonlands and begin the 2.5-hour drive to Monument Valley. If you have a clear night, look to the sky for some terrific Monument Valley stargazing.
Where to Stay:
When you arrive in Monument Valley, you’ll have only a couple of hotel options. I highly recommend The View Hotel in the Navajo Nation or the Goulding’s Lodge just 2 minutes away. With just 1 night’s stay, either one will serve you well.
ProTip: Gas up as you drive back through Moab on your way out of town. Gas stations and rest stops are far and few between as you head south on US-191.
Day 4- Monument Valley
Tumbleweed blows across the open valley. Iconic sandstone monuments dot the landscape. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a scene from an old Western with a bunch of cowboys chasing down a group of thieves!
The most popular Mesas, Buttes, and Spires are along a 17-mile loop within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. You can join a guided tour or drive yourself.
I drove my small rental car with no problem. Yes, the road is rough and bumpy, but if you drive slowly and carefully, you’ll be fine. Choosing the self-driving option also allowed me to enjoy the views at my own pace.
However, the upside to a tour with a Navajo guide is you can access more of the tribal park.
For a detailed Monument Valley Guide, check out:
Everything You Need to Know for an Epic Visit to Monument Valley
When your Monument Valley visit is finished, begin the 4.5-hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Along the way, look out for Page, Arizona, home to the famous Horseshoe Bend. If you can manage a quick stop, you’ll have gotten a bonus and checked off a fantastic spot that’s a must for every Arizona road trip.
A short hike at Horseshoe Bend leads to the popular scenic overlook. Depending on what time it gets dark, you may even make it to Bryce Canyon to see the hoodoos lit up at sunset.
Where to Stay:
Bryce is a tiny town right at the edge of the National Park entrance. I highly recommend the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn. Book a room for 1-2 nights.
Your hotel in Bryce should be among the first things you book for your Utah National Park road trip. There are only a few hotel options in Bryce. Once they sell out, there aren’t really any other options in the immediate surrounding area.
ProTip: You may save money by staying in less expensive Bryce for 2 nights. Bryce National Park and Zion National Park are less the 2 hours from each other. You could easily stay the 2nd night at your less expensive Bryce hotel and wake up early on Day 6 to make the drive to Zion National Park.
Day 5- Bryce National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is like descending into a fairytale land where sandstone hoodoos stare up at you from a natural amphitheater and show off their brilliant shades of orange, pink, and red.
No matter how many National Parks you’ve visited, once you visit Bryce you’ll understand what I mean when I say, this National Park is like no other.
Drive the scenic road through the park stopping at must-see overlooks like Sunrise and Sunset Points. Hike along the Rim Trail. Go down into the Canyon following the Queens Garden trail or complete the Navajo Loop.
No visit to Bryce Canyon is complete without seeing the sunrise over the hoodoos. The orange and pink hoodoos turn absolutely fiery as the sun first hits them.
To convince yourself why you should absolutely wake up to see the sunrise, check out:
25 Photos to Make You Want to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
ProTip: The small town of Bryce is just outside the National Park. Scramble out of bed to see the sunrise. Then, if you want, head back to town for breakfast before a day of hiking and exploring.
Day 6- Zion National Park
Zion National Park grabs you by the senses and overwhelms you with its magnificence. You’ll understand how special Zion truly is from the moment you drive along the Mount Carmel Scenic Highway with its towering mountains on all sides.
Zion offers an endless number of activities for every type of adventurer. Hike, horseback ride, mountain climb, and spot wildlife to your heart’s content.
Springdale, Utah is the park’s gateway town. You’ll find everything you need from lodging and food to tour and gear shops.
Whether you checked into your Springdale hotel last night or this morning, plan to ride the free Springdale Shuttle to the National Park’s entrance. Be sure to have your America the Beautiful Pass!
From there, you’ll catch the Zion National Park Shuttle to different points within the park. Unlike the other National Parks, there is no scenic road through the park itself that is accessible to the general public, except for a brief period of time in the winter months. Shuttles run continuously to pick up and drop off park visitors.
For a complete Zion National Park guide, check out:
What You Need to Know for a Successful Zion National Park Visit
8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park
Where to Stay:
I highly recommend the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale. Not only was it the nicest Holiday Inn Express I’ve stayed in, it had a pool and the free town shuttle bus to Zion stopped just outside.
Day 7- Zion National Park (You won’t want to leave!)
Zion National Park has a couple of famous hikes like Angels Landing and the Narrows. Angels Landing is a strenuous and steep hike to reach the lookout over Zion Canyon. The Narrows treks through the Virgin River and is open only when the water levels and currents are safe. Unfortunately, it was closed when I went.
If you’re physically fit and not afraid of heights, I highly recommend giving Angels a try! It’s a tough climb and you absolutely have to be careful. But, the view and the accomplishment are worthwhile rewards.
For a complete Angels Landing Guide, check out:
Climbing Angels Landing Hike at Zion National Park
Day 8- Fly home from Las Vegas
Check out of your hotel in Springdale. Tearfully, say goodbye to Zion and make the 2.5-hour drive to Las Vegas. Plan to return your rental car at the airport. Then, head for home with unforgettable memories from your fantastic Utah National Parks road trip!
ProTip: If you’re short on time or would rather base yourself in Las Vegas, guided Bryce and Zion tours make it easy to experience some of what these national beauties offer.
Have more time?
- Plenty of visitors add a few days to their trip to see Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. You could fit this in after Monument Valley or Zion National Park.
- Antelope Canyon is a natural wonder between Monument Valley and Bryce and Zion National Parks. Why not plan extra time in the area to take a guided tour?
- You’re so close! Why not do an Arizona road trip and head south towards Tempe and Tuscon?!
- Spend 1-2 days in Las Vegas. After a week of outdoor fun in Utah’s National Parks, a posh Las Vegas hotel, fine food, and some nightlife might be the perfect way to end your vacation.
- Looking to do an extended road trip out west? You could easily start with a Colorado road trip and then cross the border to reach Moab to begin your Utah road trip itinerary.
So, what are you planning to see and do on your Utah National Parks road trip itinerary?
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128 thoughts on “How to Plan a Successful 1 Week Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary”
I don’t know when Utah will happen in my life. You have triggered my travel pangs to the place. The itinerary is well detailed but at the same time I could not choose one over the other.
Luckily, Indrani, you can see and explore these parks with just a week. Plenty of time to visit other places in the USA, too.
What a remarkable landscape. Utah National Parks is one of the prime reasons I want to visit USA for. This post makes it look very do-able…thanks for this.
Thanks for reading, Punita.The Utah National Parks would have to be up there in the top 5 or 10 USA experiences to have.
We briefly ventured in to Utah when we lived in Arizona and did visit Monument Valley, which is gorgeous. But we’d love to go back and Arches NP, Canyonlands NP and Moab are all on our Utah bucket list. Thanks for this itinerary. We’ll keep it in mind when we get around to finally planning our Utah trip.
Hope you can plan it soon, Jennifer! Arches and Canyonlands are great! 🙂
Sounds like a very busy week. There are so many amazing National Parks in Utah I am always torn between the epic road trip and a deep dive explore of one or two parks. Sounds like you put together a trip that you get to see everything and perhaps, make a choice what to come back to and explore later.
It was busy but so much fun, Jen. If I had to pick one to go back to for a deeper dive, I’d go with Zion. It’s so majestic. Truly a one of kind National Park.
This is awesome and a must save because I would love to see many if not all of these places.
You’d love a Utah road trip, Holly! Gorgeous part of the USA.
What a beautiful place! More I see photos such as this and read articles on Utah more I want to go now. I once was browsing thru a book on all the national parks of US. It is just truly amazing.
Thanks, Nisha. Yes, the U.S. has so much open space to explore in its National Parks. There are so many gorgeous spots to explore. Hope you make it soon!
Such great tips! We love Utah but have quite a few parks to check out still. We’ve only made it to Arches and Zion, but I’d love to explore them all sometime, especially Canyonlands! Your photos are great and make me want to plan another road trip out there again soon!
Thanks, Jenna. 🙂 Canyonlands, I think, is a hidden gem. You hear so much about the other parks, but then Canyonlands just quietly captivates and overwhelms you. Hope you can make out west again soon.
I love Utah’s National Parks! Fabulous itinerary, thanks for putting each of these parks into an itinerary we can do in a week 🙂 We were in Utah two years ago now though didn’t have nearlly enough time to properly explore the state. We hit up a couple of State Parks which were in our area, and then did Arches, but Bryce, Zion and Monument Valley are still on the list. Going for at least a full week next time!
Aren’t they so great, Meg?! Everyone really needs to spend some time out there and even with a week can have a great experience. Hope you make it back in the near future!
Totally just what I need! This roadtrip is on my bucketlist. I really hope I can do it this 2017. Saving this and thanks for sharing. Can you also share with me the car rental cost? I am not sure I can use my friends car for the whole week so I might rent.
You’ll love this road trip, Carla. It’s really fantastic. So my car rental cost was a bit different because we rented one in NYC and drove across country first. But, I recommend making a car rental reservation with any site (Kayak, Car Rentals, etc), then tracking your reservation with Autoslash. Autoslash is my secret weapon for saving money on car rentals. They’ll search for a better price continuously and let you know when they find one. As long as it’s not a last minute reservation, I all but guarantee they’ll find you a better price. I’ve done better every single time, as have my readers, family, and friends. Good luck!
This kind of trip has been on my bucket list forever now. You’ve given me so many great ideas! I’ve always wanted to go to Bryce, but there’s so much more!
Utah is a treasure trove, Lauren. Bryce is just the beginning! Hope you can take a road trip soon!
Thanks for the great write up. I’ll have a couple days to spare. Did you feel that any of these parks were rushed at all? Would you stay at any other than Zion for an extra day?
Thanks for reading and great question! I absolutely would have spent more time at Zion to do a bit more hiking. It’s such a beautiful park, though, it’s hard to leave no matter how many days you’re there. Enjoy!!! 🙂
I’m so much into going but how can I find travel mates? I am not looking for dating just people whom I can trust to travel with.
where can I find them and plan the trip together?
One woman would be just fine
THanks so much for reading. I’d look for Facebook groups with like-minded travelers looking for travel buddies and go from there. 🙂 Don’t underestimate solo travel, though. It’s such an opportunity for personal growth.
This is exactly what I needed! I am taking my mom and one of her friends (in their 70s) and my 12 yr old son on this trip in May. Your itinerary and tips are really going to help. Do you have any suggestions for hikes for seniors? They are both in good shape, but they don’t need to do anything too rocky.
Thanks for reading, Dana! How exciting to be planning a Utah National Parks trip. So, I loved this trip so much that my mom and several older relatives did this trip after me following my itinerary. They were all in their 60s-70s and were able to hike on most trails I talk about in the posts on each individual park, with the exception of the last bit of Angel’s Landing in Zion. I’d say more than trail difficulty (which is clearly marked by the National Parks Service), the key was starting early. The heat was more of a concern, with much of the parks’ landscape being dry, with few trees to take cover. Hope that helps and you have a fantastic trip! 🙂
Thank you so much!
I do have another question- I saw that you would have stayed longer in Zion if you could….you would pick an extra day in Zion over Arches? Just checking before I decide..
I’m so glad you’re finding the guides helpful. 🙂 I would absolutely spend the extra day in Zion over Arches. There’s so much about Zion to take in. The more time there the better.
Let me know if you have more questions. Happy to help.
Am thrilled to find your blog! Your week-long tips for traveling through the Utah canyons has been so helpful.
We just booked and will explore these canyons this coming June! I am a teacher as well and won’t retire for 6 more years. My husband and I LOVE to travel, but are starting to worry about spending money on traveling rather than saving for retirement. We have never used miles and points b/c we don’t travel that often, but I’m wondering if we should start. I know nothing about it.
Thanks so much for reading! I love to have fellow teachers following along. 🙂 I’m glad the Utah tips are helpful. The National Parks out in Utah are just incredible. My whole approach to miles and points is making the money you’re already spending on bills and everyday life work harder by giving a return in the form of travel rewards. If you’re interested in learning a bit more, check out my free basics course at theglobetrottingteacher.teachable.com/p/travel-hacking-basics There’s no obligation of anything and it’ll give you the basics. Whether you take 1 trip a year or many, miles and points can help you save money on travel costs. Enjoy Utah!!
I’m trying to plan a trip for my family to Utah in March and this itinerary is perfect and saves me a lot of time! It got me so excited. Thank you!! With one day at each park would you say it’s sort of rushed or is that definitely enough time to see what you’d like at each place?
Thanks so much for reading and glad the itinerary is helpful for you! It depends on how much you want to go off-the-beaten-path or not? I was definitely glad to stay in Zion for a couple days. Arches and Canyonlands were fine for the day. For Bryce Canyon, I did a day and a half. I was glad to do the drive through the park on the afternoon of my arrival for the sightseeing. The next day was for hiking and was fine for my April visit. (Keep in mind for a March visit (like mine in April), Bryce may still have snow in spots closing off some of the hiking trails.) Hope that helps and you have an amazing trip!
We are planning a trip this summer ( I too am a teacher) and I was wondering about the rental car. We have been told that it is more expensive to return it to another airport. We could fly into Vegas or SLC but we thought we had to do a loop because of the rental car. Did you run into this?
Thanks so much for reading. I love chatting with fellow teachers about their travel plans. 🙂 To be honest, we drove back and forth across the country as part of our adventure. However, I have rented a car and returned it to another location. It depends on the location and time of year so fees vary. I use a website called Autoslash to track my car rental reservations. Make a reservation with any website. Then enter the details at Autoslash. They’ll let you know if they find a cheaper price. I’ve always saved money with them. Hope that helps! Have a great trip!
We weren’t able to fit Moab and canyonlands into our Great Southwest Adventure instead opting for a round trip out of Vegas and doing the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. My biggest tips would be to stay IN the parks if you can to be right in the middle of the action (but you can’t use points) and if you’re going to hike The Narrows rent the water boots and poles from the adventure shop in Springdale. Water sandals weren’t sufficient. Makes me want to go back!
Thanks for reading and for the tips, Angie! Sounds like you had a great trip. 🙂 Hope you can make it back to visit Moab someday.
Great write up, thanks for sharing. We are planning a trip this fall maybe October, coming from Vermont, and are looking forward to hit the road again. We did the Big Sur, and route 66 a couple of years ago, great time. One question, did you have to make any lodging reservations on your trip? And if not, did you have any problems finding lodging close to where you were exploring and hiking?
Thanks so much for reading, Don. I did make lodging reservations, but they were all fairly last minute. So for example, we were in Moab/Arches NP already when I booked the hotel for Bryce NP. So, we didn’t just show up but it was spontaneous. We also traveled during spring break time so I was more mindful that just arriving with nowhere to stay could be problematic because of the busier time of year. As for the drive across country to get to Utah, we just found places along the way. Hope that helps and happy travels! 🙂
Wow. What a great resource for planning this trip. What is a better time? Late April or Late September. Thanks for the article.
Thanks for reading, Steve. Honestly, they’d both be great times to go. Weather-wise, it should be more moderate compared to the high temps in summer. Crowd-wise, both times are during the regular school calendar. If I had to choose, maybe late September. Maybe you’ll see the leaves starting to turn a little in Zion NP and it’s probably more comfortable hiking the Narrows in Zion if that’s on your list. Have a great trip! 🙂
Great itinerary and sounds great even with teenage kids, which is my plan. Would this trip work for roundtrip from Salt Lake City? How far is Zion, last stop, back to SLC? I am flying in and the car isn’t my concern but roundtrip tickets from same airport tend to be cheaper.
Thanks for reading, Lizzie. It’s a great trip for teenagers! Zion to SLC is about 4 1/2 hours by car. Not bad, but still may be worth it to search multi-city itineraries flying into SLC and out of Las Vegas, for example. 🙂
Hi! Thanks for the info! I enjoyed this post.
I live in Las Vegas and we are getting ready for a 6 day Utah trip: Zion, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, and Bryce. We decided to skip Arches/Canyonlands on this trip so we wouldn’t be rushed.
Thanks for reading. So glad the guide was helpful. Enjoy your trip! 🙂
Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you so much. So glad you included Monument Valley.
We are a family of 5 (kids 16/14/12) and I am putting together my itinerary for 9 actual days + 2 flying days, flying in and out of Salt Lake City. Where would you spent the extra two days? We would like to go down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which looks like it is a 2.5 hour journey from either Bryce hotels or Zion Hotels. So North Rim would likely be an extra day and then if we add an extra day to Zion, and finally a day in Salt Lake City at the end to recover and see Antelope Island, then we have the three additional days. Thoughts?
1) Since we arrive late into SLC, we will stay night 1 there and drive to Moab early the next morning which would be Day 2.
2) Seems that it makes sense to either drive down to the North Rim after leaving Page AZ. Or from lodging in Springdale AZ. I think from Zion makes sense.
3) One of our friend families went on a family ‘canyoneering’ adventure at Zion for a day. Is such a thing worth it for a half or whole day?
4) How long should we plan for at the North rim?
5) I hear that Route 12 from Torrey to Bryce is one of the most scenic drives. How would you incorporate this into one of the days?
Tips you may want to add. Friends tell me there is a ‘ghost town’ /cemetary on the way out of Zion called Grafton Cemetary. Driving back to SLC, Mona Utah has a Lavender Farm that could be a nice stop.
Thank you so much for any detailed comments. I realize I have asked several questions.
Your blog is very much appreciated.
Further as I look at things, it may make sense to stay overnight in Page AZ when coming from Monument Valley, check out the Antelope Valley area there, then the next morning go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. After that go to Zion and spend two days. Then last go to Bryce, why because then when done at Bryce, we could drive Route 12 through Escalante toward Torrey and then back to SLC so there would be no backtracking. Thoughts?
Have a fantastic day!!
Thanks so much for reading, Mike. Glad the post is helpful. 🙂 You have so many great ideas for your trip! You asked where I would have spent more time and I can easily say Zion. The Grand Canyon was tempting for us, as well, but it just felt too big to do it any justice with just a day. But I can easily see adding it because we almost did. Since you’re flying in and out of SLC, I’d stay as much as you can in Zion (yes, canyoneering is worth it!) and route back via through Escalante. I hope you have a great family vacation!! -Jackie
Thank you Jackie. Can I ask another question on logistics and your leanings having been there?
So I am using your rough order of things–after Monument Valley and staying in Lake Powell, Day 5 will be the North Rim and drive back to stay over night in Springdale. Then I have 5 days left for the best! So how to divide…. I think
Day 1 Fly and arrive evening
Day 2 Arches (3 hr drive in morning then to park)
Day 3 Canyonlands (as you suggest drive to The View)
Day 4 Monument Valley (as suggest & stay in Lake Powell)
Day 5 North Rim (2.5 to, hike, 2.5 hour to Springdale)
Day 6 Zion — recover and hiking etc
Day 7 Zion — Canyoneering 9-4pm
Day 8 Bryce hiking and enjoy
Day 9 Bryce for another half day, then drive through to torrey then on to night in Richfield 4 hours plus stops (6 hrs)
Day 10 Drive 3 hours to Antelope Island for 4-6 hours. We would have time to stop at the Lavendar farm.
Day 11 Fly very early
The question remains, is Antelope Island worth half a day? Or should we stay a third day at Zion or two full days at Bryce?
Any comments appreciated.
I wish you a fantastic day!!!!
Jackie one more. Wow, I have read some more in other forums and your advice to spend more time at Zion is right on. I think I will adjust to stay at Zion 3 days, and one day at Bryce. If we one day at Bryce, then do we clip the day at Bryce by driving the Torrey route at the end of that day, or dedicate the entire day, and make the next day long doing Torrey route back to SLC and optionally see Antelope Island…..Or Bryce for 2/3 of the day and then Torrey route and night in Richfield UT (free hotel night there).
So many questions but you have a great itinerary that you have shared.
3 days in Zion will be amazing. You’ll have a day for canyoneering. But, then 2 other days to hike, explore, do the park’s scenic drive, etc. (Angel’s Landing is a challenge but worth it! The Narrows is on my list when I return. It was closed when I was there.) I wouldn’t clip Bryce. The park’s scenic drive and stop-offs are already a few hours. Not to mention doing a hike down into the hoodoos! If anything, because Zion and Bryce are relatively close. You could do 3 full days in Zion but sleep that 3rd night in Bryce. The sunrise over the hoodoos the following morning is gorgeous.
Thank you again Jackie. Great comments.
I have all my hotels booked but having trouble with availability now in Bryce on June 12 for one night. We may need to stay in Tropic or out at Panguich but some reviews of hotels are scary.
The ones you recommended are full at this point.
Wish I could help there, Mike, but I don’t know anything about hotels in those towns. But Good luck! I’m sure something will work out. Have a good one!
I’d like to suggest the Muley Inn Bed and Breakfast outside of Bryce in Teasdale ?
Thanks for that tip! 🙂
Roughly how much did this trip coast you?
Hi Michelle, thanks for reading. Unfortunately, I don’t have that number. We didn’t fly. We drove and need a car rental. We booked hotels as we went and made use of some cash back rewards on a credit card to erase some of the charges. The America the Beautiful Pass got us into all the National Parks and it cost $80. Hotels and food were really the biggest expense. Sorry I couldn’t be more accurate in my estimating.
This is an amazing post – Kudos! I am planning to do a solo trip to Utah over the July 4th week, but I am going to take your advice of flying into Vegas and doing the whole thing in a reverse order. Any tips/recommendations for a solo traveler?
Thanks so much for reading, Dev. I would check each Park’s website for any alerts and pay careful attention to wildlife warnings and/or areas where it’s recommended you go as a few people together versus solo. And, definitely be prepared with plenty of water, food, a charged cell phone, and a basic first aid kit. While I haven’t hiked solo in Utah, I have in Patagonia and the Canadian Rockies. It can be awesome but I always take these precautions, plus let people know my plans. Have so much fun!!
Jackie – I just had the most amazing week in Utah, all thanks to your post. Bryce and Zion were truly astonishing, almost other worldly!! Thank you so much for this blog, you did an awesome job! Take care!
Aww, Dev! I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks for checking in and sharing about your amazing trip. 🙂
Hey, Jackie, wanted to say I just started my search for info on southern Utah and this is fantastic. I’m going to read your post again and then all the comments for additional guidance. I’d really like to see the Grand Staircase and I’m thinking maybe doing that instead of Monument Valley. (I couldn’t figure out from Google Maps how to get in there).
Do you know anything about weather in late October/early November there? I’m in between going in September, which may be more crowded, or going later in the fall.
One more question: I’d like to do the Angel’s Landing hike at Zion but my husband is not that much of a hiker (he’s doing some of the smaller hikes). 1) is it safe for a woman to hike it alone, and 2) are there enough things to do in town so he won’t be bored?
I’m going to start reading some of your other posts about other places to go. Amazing set of details. Thank you, Jan
Thanks for reading, Jan. So glad the guide is helpful. Grand Staircase is just about a half hour from Bryce and a little longer from Zion. You could easily get there from either of those parks. I don’t have any direct knowledge of the weather in October/November other than the average highs and lows for that time shown on weather websites. Personally, I think hiking when the temps are in the 60s, even 50s, is ideal. As for Angel’s Landing, I hiked it solo and felt totally comfortable. I was there in April so not peak summer season and there were plenty of people around. Springdale is a cute town with some shops and places to eat. The main street is certainly walkable but also accessible by a free town shuttle. Even our Holiday Inn Express had a pool which was great for my hubby who was a little under the weather to relax by while I went off hiking. Hope you have a great trip!!
I appreciate your additional info in your reply to my note. We are going last week in September! I’m checking out your site for other vacation ideas.
Fantastic, Jan! Have a great trip. 🙂
Hi Jackie, this is just what I was looking for. My mother-n-law highly recommended this trip. Do you think I should plan this trip in mid July or is it to hot that time of year? Do you approach a trip like this differently that time of year? This is the only time we have open.
Thanks for reading, Mike. It most certainly will be hot. I’d say hotter in Arches and Canyonlands because there aren’t as many places to find shade. It’s wide open, rocky, desert-like terrain. Zion and Bryce will be hot but there are ways to escape constant direct sun either from the trees or the hoodoos when down among them. I don’t necessarily plan differently, but I am more cognizant of starting my days early and, if need be, taking a break for the hottest midday hours before fitting more in as the sun lowers in the sky. I hope you have a great trip!!
Hello!! So happy to stumble upon this site written by a fellow teacher! 🙂 I am a 4th grade teacher in Ohio and will be heading to Utah in a couple weeks. I have set a goal to visit all 50 states before I’m 50 and Utah will be state number 44! 🙂
We are flying into Las Vegas and would love to do Zion NP, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. We have also heard from others that the Grand Canyon is just a 2-3 hour drive from Zion and we should include this… Neither of us have been there and it, too, is on our bucket list. Advice?!?! What MUST we do? We are open to other locations as well…but knew these were great spots that all seemed able to be driven within our time frame.
We will be there from a Wednesday to Wednesday. We arrive late on the first Wednesday, however. Any and all advice from anyone is welcome!! THANK you so much from one teacher to another!! 🙂
Thanks so much for reading, Jenni. It’s always nice to meet a fellow teacher and one who has a fantastic travel goal! 🙂 That’s such a tough choice! Zion and Bryce are musts. Are you also flying out of Las Vegas? If yes, then I might actually stick to Southern Utah and make a visit to the Grand Canyon. If your intention is to drive toward Arches and then fly out of Salt Lake or continue to drive back home from there, I’d say don’t rush to squeeze in the Grand Canyon. In my opinion, the Grand Canyon is a destination all to itself, even though I know plenty of people visit for the day. Grand Escalante, Monument Valley, and even Dead Horse State Park Point (near Canyonlands and Arches and even looks a bit like the Grand Canyon) have so many things to offer in addition to the National Parks on your trip without making the drive to the Grand Canyon. But I know how tempting it is because we almost did it too with the itinerary, but in the end felt we needed more days. I hope that helps and enjoy your trip!! 🙂
Thank you so much for the advice! We are going to hold off on the Grand Canyon and do that with Flagstaff in the future. ?? Planning to head from LV to the Moab area to see Arches/Canyonlands and others. Then back down to Bryce and back to Zion for 2-2.5 days. Yes, we are flying out of LV as well, so this plan seemed to make sense to make the most of the area. Really looking forward to it!! Thanks again for posting your awesome travel experiences and tips for all of us. ??⛰
I think that’s a great choice, Jenni. Utah has so much to see and do. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your summer travels! 🙂
Any chance you can post a map that shows the trip on it, just to show an overview of where each night is spent?
Also we are wondering if there is time to stop at the Antelope canyons near Page, and if it’s worth it.
Thanks for reading, Scott. Yes, I will add a map in the coming days. I definitely think it’s worth it to see Antelope Canyon. But, I’d add a day to the overall trip. Antelope Canyon will take a half a day and you wouldn’t want to shave off time at Bryce or Zion to make it work. 🙂
My wife and I decided to make a trip to Utah in September, and your suggested itinerary sounds great for us – Thanks. Two questions: Do you know if September is a busy month there for tourists? And I love touring through the mountains in a convertible, so any reason not to ? (high temps appear to be around 90.)
Thanks for reading, Richard. Glad the itinerary will come in handy for you and your wife. September is still likely to be busy, but not nearly as busy as the months of June, July, and August. If your visit coincides with weekdays instead of weekends even better. Convertibles are so fun! Besides the sun, I’d think about having a car with 4 wheel drive. Not that you need an SUV or anything, but depending on where you’re driving in Utah, 4 wheel drive could come in handy. Hope you have a great trip! 🙂
Traveling from SLC 5 -6 days to see parks then heading to Mesa verde, Durango , telluride to Denver for 4 days. Should we drive from SLC straight to Zion, then Bryce, Capitol Reef then onto Arches and Moab? Can we fit that all in? Any suggestions would be helpful before booking our stays. Coming in October. Thanks
Thanks for reading, Michele. If you have 6 days, you could do it. Luckily, Zion and Bryce are close to each other. And, Canyonlands and Arches can be accessed from Moab so you don’t have to move hotels. If possible, I’d arrive in SLC, do the drive to Zion (4ish hours) and then have the 6-day visit start the following day. Depending on what hikes/activities you want to do, I’d stay in Zion for 2 days, Bryce 1-1 1/2, Canyonlands 1, Arches 1, give or take + you have to factor in travel time. Looks like an amazing itinerary continuing into Colorado. I’d love for you to check back in and let us know how it goes. 🙂
This is such a helpful resource–thank you so much! I’ll definitely be returning for more travel tips.
Question: We’re planning to make this trip in mid to late March (unfortunately, our dates aren’t flexible because of spring break dates). What do you think of that time for this area? Do you think the roads will be closed, icy, or safe? As for hiking, if a few hikes are closed because of snow, that’s fine, but if all of them were closed, that would be a bummer. So any tips on that time of year would be great (or if you think this itinerary wouldn’t work for those dates, do you have another suggestion?)
Thanks for reading, Sam. So exciting to be planning a trip to Utah. I was there right about the same time in early April. Arches and Canyonlands were ideal with comfy temps (60s) and sunny. Bryce was the chilliest because of the elevation. Some of the hoodoos still had a dusting of snow but the majority of it had melted. One trail was partially closed due to ice. Zion was warm with afternoon temps in the 80s. The Narrows, though, was closed because of snow and ice melt making the river higher than at other times of the year. Hope that helps and feel free to come back with any other questions. 🙂
Any trouble renting a car in Utah and returning in Nevada? I’ve been socked for extra fees before.
Thanks for reading, Jane. One-way fees depend on location, time of year, and even whether or not the car rental company needs cars in a specific place. A one-way fee can be just a few bucks or several hundred. Whenever I make a car rental reservation, I always take all the reservation info and input it into Autoslash’s reservation tracker. They’ll search for a cheaper price for you up until the time of the rental. While it might not eliminate drop fees, I often save 20-25% overall with Autoslash. Hope that helps! 🙂
Hi jackie what an excellent blog here , i was hoping you can help me with some things biulding my Interniary this april 3rd week
i have my wife with me with 9 and 4 yr old , driving a rental from PHX to sacramento in 7 days
any helpful suggestion with this
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Grand Canyon National Park
Antelope Canyon, Arizona 86040
Bryce Canyon National Park
Zion National Park
Las Vegas, Nevada
day 6 and 7 going home to sacramento which is about 8 hrs drive
i wanna go to monument valley but i think it is too far it will add about 2.5 hrs of driving or 3 , im confused about this ,
Thanks so much for reading, John. Monument Valley is a bit out of the way and I’d focus on what you already have in your itinerary. I’d want to wake up in the places I’d end up for the day, especially with Bryce and Zion. So that would mean seeing Antelope Canyon/Lake Powell and driving to Bryce at night so you have the full day in Bryce. You can easily drive after a day at Bryce to Zion and check in to your hotel that night so you have the whole day at Zion. Depending on what time your flight arrives into PHX, I might build in a little more time to start. Flagstaff is just 2 hours from Phoenix and 90 minutes from the Grand Canyon South Rim. There’s some really cool stuff to do in Flagstaff, but it also could be a way to get settled and ready for the next day at the Grand Canyon without feeling rushed. Have a great trip! You have so many great things awaiting on this itinerary! Enjoy!
This is a great iteniary! My husband and I took a week road trip 3 years ago that ended up lasting over 3 months and spent a good deal of time visiting all of these besides Zion (who wouldn’t allow our dog, lol)! We were in love the minute we camped in Moab and continued North. We did this in a frugal budget and more amazing scenery and landscape than I could have ever imagined. Camping, a new passion and stargazing! Take the next left while finding some off the map beauty that we loved! Ashley National Forest is a must, Sheep’s Head Pass is incredible! Fishlake National Park has the most scenic foliage of the alpine trees in fall I have seen! We moved to Utah and there are too many to list! Well done and thanks for sharing with others!
Thanks so much for reading, Chris. Appreciate all your expert tips! Utah is just gorgeous with so much to see and do. The stargazing is amazing!
Utah’s National Parks seems to be the eighth wonder! Yes; I could spot you under the massive arch. thank you for writing such a detailed article on the park.
Thanks for reading, George. I had a good laugh that you spotted me under that massive arch! 😉 The Utah NPs are a wonder, for sure. Hope you enjoy your visit.
Jackie: Love your trip. How would this trip be in March ? Would weather be a problem ?
Thanks for reading, Steve. Temperature wise I think you’ll find it comfortable for hiking and being outdoors. (Utah can get pretty hot in summer!) One thing to keep in mind is Zion and Bryce may still have snow on some trails or on the hoodoos. I was there in early April and Zion was actually really warm with no sign of snow. Although, the Narrows was closed because of snowmelt making the river current too strong. Bryce was a bit chillier because of elevation and there was 1 trail that was partially closed due to ice and snow still in a few spots. Otherwise, I had no issues. Hope that helps and you enjoy your trip! 🙂
We’re older, yet active. We walk ALOT! Hiking? Is there time for that? That being said, no climbing .Weather wise , end of May beginning of June? My husband would do all the driving, i’d Want him to enjoy the drive.
Thanks for reading, J. There’s absolutely time for hiking. We hiked Delicate Arch and a few other trails on our visit to Arches. We hiked along the canyon rim in Canyonlands. At Bryce, we did a partial rim trail and Navajo Loop trail hike, while at Zion we hiked Angel’s Landing and a few of the shorter hikes off the main stops of the park shuttle. A May trip should be warm and sunny. Hope you enjoy this gorgeous part of the U.S!
Four ‘retired’ adults planning to head to the big 5 in mid May. Starting from Vegas. Very loose itinerary. Main concern is overnight accommodations availability. Am I overthinking this?
Thanks for reading, Joe. It’s hard to say, but I think you should be ok. The one exception is in Bryce. The town is small and has few places to stay just outside the park. I did this trip in April around school break time and booked many of the hotels in a similar way as you’re planning to do and it worked out. I have to imagine my April week was busier than May because school is still in session. However, I’d definitely book ahead if any of your dates coincide with Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy Utah! It’s such a beautiful state!
I’ve planned a trip based to Utah starting this weekend, based on this blog post. I’m excited! I’ll let you know how it went!
Thanks for reading, Aseem! So excited to hear about your trip to Utah! Happy travels and hope you enjoy the itinerary. 🙂
Thank you so much for his article! I really appreciate your advice and your encouraging attitude. I am hoping to take this road trip with my 10 year old daughter soon. We live in Albuquerque.
Thank you, Noelle!
Appreciate the kind words and I hope you guys make the trip soon!
Thanks for this post as it provided us an informative start on planning- just did the trip in early August. We opted to go to Capitol Reef NP instead of Monument Valley- it was more direct and turned out to be one of my favorites. MV is a bit out of the way, with few lodging options and restrictions on what you can do there compared to Capitol Reef.. Again, thanks so much for this post as it really inspired me.
Thanks for reading, Sean. So glad you loved Capitol Reef and so glad the post inspired you! 🙂
Hi. Thanks a ton for sharing and the detailed layout of your trip. This information is great, as we plan our visit to these National parks.
We will be flying into Denver, and then driving down passing through Mesa Verde. Once we get into Utah, the plan is to follow your lead from Arches National Park on. If there is one thing we get from your post (and descriptions), it seems this road trip of ours will be an experience of a life time, for which we are super excited.
You have been a great help!
– Naz & Faz!
Thanks for reading, Naz and Faz. You will certainly have an amazing trip! The Utah National Parks are just gorgeous. Enjoy! 🙂
Thank you very much for this website. I am flying into Salt Lake City in October and meeting a friend – we are going to visit a National Park in Utah. Would it be possible for me to correspond with you directly?
Thanks for reading, Travis. I’m happy to answer your Utah NP question. You can post it here or contact me through the blog’s contact form. 🙂
I actually have some fans on a facebook page related to this stuff. I’ll share your post with them and see what they have to say. I’m sure they’ll love it though.
Thanks for reading and sharing, Matthew.
Thank you so much for your tips. We’ll definitely follow your itinerary during our trip in May 2020.
One thing I wonder, isn’t it better to fly to Moab when planning to go to Zion and Bryce, so we save a few hours driving?
We are flying from Minneapolis and our trip will be for a week. We’d like to use our time and see as much as possible of Utah.
Thanks for reading, Elena. Not sure I completely understand your question. There’s a small airport about 20 miles from Moab that services flights on a United/Sky West from Denver. No other commercial airlines fly in or out. Also consider, Zion and Bryce are roughly 2 1/2 hours from Las Vegas which has a much larger airport. Moab is nearly 5 hours from Zion and Salt Lake City is 4 1/2 hours. If you’re only doing Zion and Bryce, I might fly into Las Vegas instead and drive to the parks from there. Hope that helps! 🙂
Me and my husband in Utah at the moment and tried to add Antelope Canyon driving from Monument Valley to Bryce Canyon, but unfortunately all tours were sold out.
I love colored stones, do you know any Canyon similar to Antelope Canyon?
Also have you visited Wave?
Is Wave even better than lower Antelope Canyon?
These weren’t included in your tour, so you don’t think Antelope Canyon is as good as other ones in Utah?
We think we missed out big deal not be able to go
Thanks for reading, Abby. Sorry to hear you missed the chance to see Antelope Canyon. I didn’t include it my week itinerary only because we didn’t have enough time. If you can, take a look at Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon. It’s similar to Antelope Canyon but not as crowded/well-known. Good luck!!
Love this! Planning to take the train in February from Chicago and get off at Grand Junction. Shall I do the trip as you set it out and then have a long day of driving back to Grand Junction to get back on the train, heading to CA? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much.
Thanks for reading, Shelley. You could add one last thing to your itinerary to make it more of a loop. Start in Moab and do Arches and Canyonlands area. Head south to do Monument Valley, Bryce, Zion area. Then loop back north to do Capitol Reef National Park before head back to Grand Junction. Good luck on your drive! So many great things to see in that area! 🙂
My girlfriend and i are from Melbourne Australia and travelling to Utah in April 2020. I really like the itinerary that you have created and was wondering if you thought it would be possible to add in Capitol reef as well? I really want to drive there on highway 12 from Bryce canyon. We would only have the same number of days as your itinerary but was thinking of skipping Canyonlands to hopefully accommodate Capitol reef? What do you think?
Thanks so much for reading, Al. You could absolutely do that, swap out Canyonlands for Capitol Reef. You could also leave out Monument Valley and get in all 5 National Parks instead. Once you’re in Moab for Arches, Canyonlands is so close from there. And it sounds like you’re thinking Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef and if so, Monument Valley might be going out of your way. Just depends what are your must-see places…Hope that helps and you have a great road trip! 🙂
As I have researched for our trip at end of March 2020, this is is the most helpful article out there in my opinion! Thank you so much! One question. If you had to shorten it by one day (we only have 7 days) what would you do differently. We are travelling with our 16 yo and 21 yo boys and we are all very active hikers.
Thanks for reading and for your kind words, Kara. If you had to skip something, I’d say leave out Monument Valley. Focus on the National Parks and hiking to your hearts’ content. Hope you have a great trip!
Good Morning. Your website was so helpful when I went out with a friend to Utah in October – we saw Arches and Canyonlands and just had a blast. I am planning a trip for late April or early May as we speak. I was planning the trip with my friend Jon, but he has just pulled out (we had not yet booked hotel rooms or plane tickets). Jon is married with 2 kids and I know trips like that are not easy for him. I am single (47) and I wondered if you knew of any travel groups that might be heading out to Utah? I could go by myself, but when you are single, you spend more time alone and it is nice to take trips with people. Any suggestions?
Thanks so much for reading and so glad to hear the website was helpful for your last trip. I don’t know of any travel groups heading out to Utah. But, what I do when I travel solo is to join in a few day tours. At the very least, you can enjoy the experience with others. But sometimes, you even end up with a friend that’ll join you for dinner or even another activity at some point on the trip. I use Get Your Guide to book day tours and they have a few good ones in Utah like the chance to explore Arches by 4×4 or ATV. You might also look at the website Meetups. They have groups that meet regularly for hiking and other activities in Utah. Maybe your dates will align. Hope that helps and you decide to make the trip! 🙂
Our family is planning a Utah trip this summer, flying into SLC and out of Phoenix. I am trying to map out our days using a portion of your itinerary as well as some of the previous comment’s suggestions. We have a total of 9 days/ 8 nights. Is what I have mapped out accurate?
Day 1 – Leave SLC at lunch time and drive to Moab
Day 2 – Canyonland/Dead Horse Point
Day 3 – Arches
Day 4 – Drive to Bryce via Hwy 12 and hit Capital Reef NP along the way
Day 5- Bryce Canyon NP; drive to Springdale
Day 6 – Zion
Day 7 – Drive to Grand Canyon area with stops in Page, AZ
Day 8 – Grand Canyon
Day 9 – Drive to Phoenix and fly home
Is there a different way you would work this timeline/stops. I love these kind of trips, but mapping it all out is a nightmare for me! Our flights and rental car are booked, but I have yet to book lodging.
I appreciate any advice you may have!
Thanks so much for reading, Bekah. Your itinerary looks great! In addition to this itinerary, I’ve done the Grand Canyon and then drove to Phoenix to fly home. We loved the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale for Zion NP. When I was in the Grand Canyon, I stayed in Flagstaff, which is a great town all on its own. In Moab, we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express as well and liked it. Its location is convenient to the town but just near the entrance of Arches. Hope that helps but reach out with more questions if you have them! 🙂
Thank you for all of these tips, Jackie. My family and I are planning a road trip this summer to stay at a dude ranch in Utah that’s actually right near Bryce Canyon and I’m so excited to see the sunrise over the hoodoos. Do you have any recommendations on hikes in the area? Already considering planning another trip because all of your suggestions sound so fun.
Thanks for reading, Jamie. I can only suggest hikes within Bryce. The Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trails are good ones!
My cousin has been thinking about going on a trip to the Zion national park to have some fun hiking with her kids. She would really like to get some help from a professional to be more effective, and have more fun. I liked what you said about how she should try to climb angels because it is a touch climb but should be really rewarding.
Thanks for reading, Adam. Angel’s Landing is tough but definitely an accomplishment…with great views. 🙂
I really like your website. Can you recommend a shuttle service from the Las Vegas Airport to Bryce Canon City?
Thanks for reading and for your kind words, Travis. I don’t know of a specific shuttle service but there are very small group tours that operate from Las Vegas to Bryce. Not sure if that will help but I’ve linked to it just in case.
Hello, thanks so much for detailing out this 1 week trip! I just booked it exactly as you suggested as a high school graduation gift/family trip for my son in August. Used all suggestions and hotels. THANK YOU!
Thanks so much for reading, Jen! That’s so awesome! I’m sure you’ll have a great time. The Utah National Parks are amazing. Enjoy. 🙂