Picture this: a red-rock wonderland dotted with dancing hoodoos, mesmerizing slot canyons, and countless natural arches that capture the perfect sunsets.
Utah has quite the charm that largely attracts eager outdoor enthusiasts like hikers and rock climbers from all across the U.S.
That’s why Utah’s national parks rank among the most visited recreation destinations in the country.
So, when you add an extra stop like the Grand Canyon to a Utah Mighty 5 itinerary, you don’t get the typical Arizona-Utah road trip, but rather a thrilling journey through the Southwest.
If daring hikes that end with stunning views, river rafting through rugged cliffs, or watching the stars dance on dark skies sound like your cup of tea, look no further.
Follow this guide for a magical adventure through the jewels of America’s most jaw-dropping landscapes.
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Where to Start Your Utah Mighty 5 and Grand Canyon Road Trip
Anytime you’re visiting US National Parks, you’ll have to plan for the best trip starting point. You’ll have several options of cities to fly into.
After landing at the airport, fetch your rental car and let the journey begin.
- Salt Lake City, UT — You’ll drive for about 15 hours (one-way) starting your road trip itinerary from Arches National Park to Grand Canyon.
- Las Vegas, NV — You’ll spend approximately 15 hours and 30 minutes (one-way) on the road, kicking off your itinerary from the Grand Canyon to Arches National Park.
- Phoenix, AZ — This option also sees you traveling for about 15 hours (one-way), and the itinerary starts in Grand Canyon National Park and ends in Arches National Park.
For the purpose of this guide, you’ll be taking on this road trip itinerary from Salt Lake City to Grand Canyon.
You’ll land at Salt Lake City International Airport and fly out from the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, or Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Don’t forget your America The Beautiful Pass!
Day 1 — Arches National Park + Canyonlands
- Total Drive Time: 4 hours and 10 minutes
- Time Exploring: 1 day
- Stay: Expedition Lodge, Downtown Moab Apartment, Red Stone Inn
- Eat: Giliberto’s Mexican Taco Shop, The Spoke on Center, Zax Restaurant
- Fees: Park entry is $30 per vehicle at both Arches and Canyonlands or America the Beautiful Pass
Morning: Salt Lake City to Moab
After landing in Salt Lake City, grab your rental car and drive to the city of Moab.
Check into your hotel, get a cup of coffee, and eat some brunch to fuel up for the day ahead.
You would have been traveling on the road for over three hours, so this stop is much-needed.
Afternoon: Arches National Park
Once your energy levels are back up head over to Arches National Park to begin your road trip itinerary.
There are many activities you can do in just one day in Arches National Park, but since you only have the afternoon, opt to see the highlights like the Double Arch and Fiery Furnace.
An off-roading adventure via a 4×4 is the best way to see most parts of the national park when you have limited time.
These routes take you to some of the best Arches National Park sunrise and sunset spots, so if you stay a little longer, the reward is a captivating sunset framed by curvy archways.
Evening: Canyonlands National Park
Forget the Canyonlands vs Grand Canyon debate, as this national park offers a distinct array of extraordinary landscapes.
Spend the early evening driving through the “Island in the Sky”, stopping at its scenic pullouts and grand viewpoints.
There are tons of things to do in Canyonlands National Park in one day, but evenings are typically reserved for stargazing and night photography.
And, if you didn’t catch the sunset at Arches National Park, Canyonlands’ Green River Overlook is your next best choice.
Day 2 — Capitol Reef National Park + Bryce Canyon
- Total Drive Time: 5 hours
- Time Exploring: 1 day
- Stay: Capitol Reef Resort, Home with Breathtaking Views, Red Sands Hotel
- Eat: The Rock Garden Eatery and Bar, La Cueva Restaurante Mexicano, Capitol Burger
- Fees: Park entry costs $20 at Capitol Reef, and $35 at Bryce Canyon National Park per vehicle or America the Beautiful Pass
Morning: Capitol Reef National Park
Start your day with a thrilling 4×4 adventure through the Cathedral Valley, where you can enjoy a number of short hikes and wander through a sea of striking sandstone formations.
Follow the Cassidy Arch and Hickman Natural Bridge trails to see incredible red-rock arches.
Then, end the morning by picking fruit and strolling through the lush Fruita Orchards.
Afternoon: Drive Along the Scenic Byway 12
In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a mindblowing drive through the Scenic Byway 12 (or Highway 12). This 124-mile road directly connects Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon.
Along the way, you can stop at incredible spots like Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase Escalante.
Evening: Bryce Canyon National Park
Wrap up your day with a jam-packed evening Bryce Canyon itinerary.
And, if time allows you, take a scenic horseback riding excursion through the Red Canyon — you wouldn’t want to miss this.
Day 3 — Zion National Park
- Total Drive Time: 2 hours
- Time Exploring: 1 day
- Stay: Holiday Inn Express Springdale, Zion Park Motel, Historic Rose Cottage
- Eat: Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon, Spotted Dog, MeMe’s Café
- Fees: Park entry costs $35 in Zion National Park per vehicle or America the Beautiful Pass
Morning: Drive to Springdale
Springdale is by far the best place to stay when visiting Zion National Park.
The town, located at the southern entrance, boasts many lodges, restaurants, quaint shops, and several art galleries.
You’ll love exploring if you’re visiting for longer, or spending at least 2 days in Zion.
Afternoon: Hiking + Off-Roading at Zion National Park
Spend the afternoon discovering some of the best things to do in Zion National Park.
A scenic hiking tour or helicopter ride around Zion are the best ways to see its incredible landscapes.
Wrap up the afternoon with an adrenaline-pumping UTV adventure to the Crimson Canyon in East Zion.
Or simply opt for a rejuvenating hike through The Subway, which is also a popular spot for canyoneering.
It’s important to note that there are plenty of things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking.
Your day in Zion ends with a splendid night show.
This national park is among the best International Dark Sky Places for stargazing.
Book an East Zion stargazing trip and finish off the day with a constellation of stars, a warm blanket, and a soothing cup of hot chocolate.
Day 4 — Grand Canyon National Park
- Total Drive Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
- Time Exploring: 1 day
- Stay: The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, Little America Hotel Flagstaff, Home with Views of the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
- Eat: Yavapai Tavern, Bright Angel Bikes & Café, El Tovar Dining Room
- Fees: The park entry fee is $35 per vehicle in Grand Canyon National Park or America the Beautiful Pass
Morning: Grand Canyon Village + South Rim
If you’re a Grand Canyon first-time visitor, there’s no better place to start your day than at the village.
In addition to offering public facilities, like restrooms, lodges, and restaurants, the Grand Canyon Village is where you’ll find a visitor center and a crucial shuttle stop in the park.
If you have limited time, take advantage of the numerous airplane tours on offer and see the best Grand landmarks in just 40 minutes.
You’ll also appreciate seeing canyon views from up close when you take an off-roading Hummer tour, which ends with a stunning sunset.
Afternoon: South Rim Trail Hiking + Landmarks
The Red Shuttle route to Hermit’s Rest is great for taking short hikes along the South Rim, as well as spotting magnificent views.
If you take the Hikers’ Express Shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead, you’ll get to see some of the most remote parts of the canyon, with almost no crowds.
Evening: North Rim
Before wrapping up your day in the Grand Canyon, visit the park’s least-visited section.
The North Rim often goes under the radar as many people stick to exploring the south, but don’t make that mistake.
The Cape Final and Widforss trails are great for seeing the national park’s most densely-forested parts.
Utah Mighty 5 Itinerary and Grand Canyon Road Trip at a Glance + Map
- Day 1: Arches National Park + Canyonlands
- Day 2: Capitol Reef National Park + Bryce Canyon
- Day 3: Zion National Park
- Day 4: Grand Canyon National Park
Helpful Planning Information
Here’s a snapshot of some crucial information about the length of your trip.
This includes when you should go and other travel essentials such as park entrance fees, flights, car rentals, and where to stay.
When to Go: You can do this road trip all year round, but spring and fall are considered ideal times to go. Both mornings and evenings are cool, and it stays bright and sunny during the day.
Trip Length: 4 days
Fly: Find the best-priced flight tickets on KAYAK.
Rental Car: KAYAK can also help you find great deals on car rentals.
Rental Campervan: If you’re into RVs, check out Outdoorsy and rent a campervan instead.
Stay: You’ll find accommodation suggestions below.
Park Fees: The standard entrance fee varies at each park. You can expect to pay anything between $20 and $35 per vehicle. Alternatively, purchase an annual “America the Beautiful Pass” ($79.99), to access many U.S. national parks and save some cash while at it.
Wrapping Up Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary + Grand Canyon
From dramatically-shaped red-rock formations to river-crafted gorges, and star-studded dark skies, this Mighty 5 and Grand Canyon road trip has it all (and then more).
So, if you’re looking to go on a thrilling adventure through Utah’s national parks and visit the granddaddy of canyons, this itinerary has you covered!