The Mighty 5: Utah National Parks Road Trip

The Mighty 5: Utah National Parks Road Trip

A rocky landscape in the state of Utah, US

Utah is often celebrated for its natural beauty and diversity, ranging from arid deserts to pine forests. That’s why this spectacular state is home not to just one but five national parks. 

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, going on a Utah national parks road trip is a dream-come-true type of experience. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide with all the information you need to set out on such a journey, from the route’s outline to useful travel advice.

Itinerary for the Utah 5 National Parks Road Trip

If you are planning to cover all five of Utah’s national parks, it’s best to begin your journey from one of the two traditional starting points: Las Vegas, NV or SaltLakeCity, UT. 

Depending on the location from where you will head out, you’ll have three itinerary options:

1: Las VegasLoop

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Las Vegas – Arches – Canyonlands – Capitol Reef – Bryce – Zion Las Vegas

If you wish to go back to your starting point at the end of your epic road trip, you can take the loop route. 

When the beginning and end of your journey are in Las Vegas, you will certainly have something to look forward to even when your road trip adventure is over.

Besides, you can consider taking a detour and visiting some additional sights like the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Antelope Canyonon your way back.

2: SaltLakeCityLoop

The itinerary of a loop route starting and finishing in Salt Lake City

SaltLakeCity Zion – Bryce – Capitol Reef – Canyonlands – Arches – Salt LakeCity

Chances are that it’s easier for you to start and end your road trip at SaltLakeCity. This route is also possible and is approximately 100 miles shorter than the Las Vegasloop.

3: Las Vegas/SaltLakeCity

The itinerary of a road trip across Utah covering its 5 national parks

SaltLakeCity – Arches – Canyonlands – Capitol Reef – Bryce – Zion Las Vegas (or vice versa)

This route implies not having to go back to your starting point at the end of your journey. For instance, you could be arriving in Las Vegas by plane, renting a vehicle there, and returning it in SaltLakeCity, from where you have a flight back to your hometown. 

The route is reversible, meaning that if it’s more convenient for you to start the journey at SaltLakeCity, it’s equally as possible.

This is the best driving route for Utah national parks if you are coming from another state. Thus, let’s take a closer look at it.

7-Day Road Trip Plan: from SaltLakeCity to Las Vegas

When planning a trip to Utah national parks, it’s wise to free up at least a week to complete it. This way, you’ll ensure peace of mind for yourself and will have enough time to explore every destination.

Day 1: SaltLakeCity - Moab 

The view of SaltLakeCity with mountains on the background

Let’s say you head out of SaltLakeCity the same day your plane arrives there. If that’s the case, it’s advisable to make the first day’s drive easy, as you can be tired after the flight. 

Driving from SaltLakeCity to the town of Moab takes approximately 4 hours and brings you to a spot with a comfortable connection to the Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

You’ll also be in close proximity to the Dead Horse Point State Park, so consider visiting it if you have enough time and are willing to take a detour.

Day 2: Arches National Park

The famous arch-shaped rock formation in the Arches National park

On the second day of your road trip, it’s a great idea to visit the Arches National Park while using Moab as your home base. The park is only 5 miles away from the town, which gives you a full day to explore it.

This fascinating destination is home to over 2,000 natural arches, giving it a surreal feel. Hike around and don’t miss such iconic landmarks as the Delicate Archand the Balanced Rock.

Day 3: Canyonlands National Park

A view of the canyons at Canyonland National Park

On day 3, you’ll be saying goodbye to Moab and heading out to the Canyonlands National Park, which is only a 30-minute drive away. As its name suggests, its main attractions are the various canyons that you’ve probably seen on postcards.

The park’s territory is large and is divided into four districts:

Each of these areas has something distinct to offer, so it’s up to you which of them you wish to explore. However, note that one day is certainly not enough to cover all these districts properly.

If you have to choose just one of these, our recommendation is to hike around the Island in the Sky district. 

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park 

Capitol Reef National Park view

On the fourth day of your road trip adventure, you’ll be visiting the Capitol Reef National Park. It’s only a 2,5-hour drive from the Canyonlands National Park and is known for its stunning landscape filled with colorful desert rock. It’s also fairly easy to explore, so you will have time to drive to your next destination the same day.

Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park

The view of the Bryce Canyon on a sunny day

Suppose, you’ve had time to arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park the previous day, which gives you a chance to start exploring it early in the morning. This place is truly a feast for the eyes with its signature hoodoo rock columns that look especially breathtaking at sunrise. The variety of textures and the mix of orange and white rock together with the evergreen coniferous trees is a sight to remember.

After taking in the magnificent views and exploring Bryce Canyon, you can head off to Springdale, the town adjacent to Zion National Park.

Day 6: Zion National Park

The Zion National Park canyon view at sunrise

The last of the MightyFive on your list, but certainly not the least, the Zion National Park is historical and enchanting. It’s Utah’s first national park and it has sandstone cliffs, beautiful canyons, and a unique array of animals and plants.

Try to cover both of the park’s iconic hikes - Angels Landing and the Narrows in one day or extend your visit, as it's very well worth it.

Day 7:Las Vegas

The iconic road sign at the entrance to Las Vegas

On the last day of your epic road trip, all you’ll have to do is enjoy the 2,5-hour drive to Las Vegas, reflect on what you’ve seen and done over the past week, and look forward to future adventures.

Practical Tips for the MightyFive Road Trip 

Now you know the best itinerary for Utah national parks and have an idea of how to tackle it. Here are some additional tips to ensure the journey goes as smoothly as possible:

  • The best seasons to go on this trip are spring and fall due to moderate temperatures and the abundance of sunny days.
  • The MightyFive are the busiest from May to September, so expect crowds if you are planning to travel then.
  • There are many accommodation options available across each of the itinerary variations. However, one of the most convenient ways is to rent a vehicle with a rooftop tentto have a backup option to spend the night at all times.
  • Always read the information provided on the national parks’ websites before visiting to be aware of the current regulations and updates.

Are you ready to go for your next adventure? Your Utah national parks road trip awaits!



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