National Parks

8-Day Utah National Parks Road Trip: Big 5 Bucket List Itinerary

Mar 16, 2022

National Parks

8-Day Utah National Parks Road Trip: Big 5 Bucket List Itinerary

Mar 16, 2022

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With their popular attractions like Angels Landing, the orange hoodoos of Bryce, and Canyonlands’ vast landscape, it’s no wonder you’d want to explore all 5 Utah parks! And you can’t go wrong with a Southern Utah National Parks road trip.

You’ve been warned: this is the adventure of a lifetime!

In this blog, we’re going to cover the best 8-day itinerary for seeing all the Utah parks in their glory.

So let’s not take up any more time. We’ll start this blog by discussing some of the must-know details before you embark on your trip, then we’ll get into the itinerary.

You’ll also find these posts helpful for planning your trip:

πŸ“Œ Save this to Pinterest!

Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my linksβ€”thank you!

FREE Coming Soon: Steal My ChatGPT Travel Prompts

Join my email list and be the first to get access to my new freebie: ChatGPT Prompts for trip planning! You’ll get my best tips for using AI to plan custom trips for you.

Planning Your Utah National Parks Road Trip

  • When to Go: You can get away with visiting the parks anywhere from February to May.
  • Trip Length: This Big 5 Utah road trip will be 8 days β€” this includes your departure.
  • Fly: For the best tickets, check KAYAK.
  • Rental Car: KAYAK can help you find cheap rental cars as well!
  • Rental Campervan: Want a campervan instead? You can rent one using Outdoorsy.
  • Stay: We’ll discuss your options!
  • Park Fees: The standard entrance fee is about $35 per park. To save, snag the America The Beautiful Pass ($79.99) and will be your annual pass for all US national parks.

If February to May doesn’t work for you, there are other times to embark on this road trip!

Spring is great from a weather perspective and brings in fewer crowds, but summer can be enjoyable.

You will have to keep an eye on the weather and make sure summer won’t be too hot. Winter is doable too, but will require extra preparation.

Where to Start Your Big 5 Utah Road Trip

To start your Utah parks road trip, you have a few cities you can fly into:

Las Vegas, NV (recommended) – 16 hours and 50 minutes, round trip way, starting from Zion National Park. 

Flagstaff, AZ – Your drive will be 16 hours and 40 minutes, round trip, starting in Zion National Park. If you choose this route, it’ll be easy to actually do an Arizona Utah road trip itinerary!

Salt Lake City, UT – You can certainly take a Utah National Parks road trip from Salt Lake City. Your drive will be 15 hours and 30 minutes, round trip, starting from Arches National Park.

For this itinerary, you’ll start in LV and fly out of SLC. This route will be 13 hours and 50 minutes round trip.

Utah National Parks Itinerary at a Glance + Map

  • Day 1 – Land in Vegas and arrive in Zion National Park
  • Day 2 – Explore Zion
  • Day 3 – Head to Bryce Canyon and explore
  • Day 4 – Head to Capitol Reef National Park and explore
  • Day 5 – Drive to Canyonlands National Park and explore
  • Day 6 – Explore Arches National Park and Moab
  • Day 7 – Explore Arches
  • Day 8 – Head to SLC

In this blog, we’ll cover a Utah National Parks itinerary from Las Vegas.

I will start the route in Zion NP, ending with Arches and flying out of Salt Lake City. See this on the map below!

Click here for a live link to the road trip map!

8-Day Utah National Parks Itinerary

Day 1 β€” Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Once you land in Las Vegas, pick up your rental car, and head to a grocery store to stock up on snacks before heading to Zion.

We’re going to assume you arrive in LV early morning to early afternoon!

Morning β€” Entering the Park

Zion National Park as a whole is just beautiful. Once you get there, it’s easy to see why folks love it so much.

This park has plenty of hiking trails to choose from, which means you’ll never get bored!

I suggest parking at the Visitor Center or in one of the paid Springdale lots.

You will have to take the Zion shuttles to get around (assuming you are not visiting the park in winter.

I explain all of this in my Zion park guide. You’ll be spending 2 nights here starting tonight.

Afternoon β€” Emerald Pools or Narrows

Depending on how you’re feeling after your drive, you have a few options for activities!

Here are some notable ones to consider:

Emerald Pools Hike β€” This will be a 2 mile RT hike to the Upper Pool. The Emerald Pool trails are an easy entry trail into the park!

The Narrows β€” The Narrows will take you deep into a canyon system in Zion National Park. Folks from all over love to take this trail because you feel a little Indiana Jones-ish when you’re walking through the water channels! Starting from the Temple of Sinawava, the Bottom-Up section of The Narrows is free to explore!

Evening β€” The Watchman Trail

Let’s cap off the day with a lovely sunset! The Watchman is the iconic rock formation you always see pictures of in Zion National Park.

Scott and I discovered the Watchman Trail on our most recent trip there and LOVED it!

This is a beautiful sunset hike, and it’ll take about 2 hours to hike and is 3.3mi RT and 300ft+ elevation gain.

The trailhead can be accessed by the Visitor center!

Insider Tip: Not in the mood to hike? Watch the sunset at Canyon Junction Bridge! There is parking on the side of the road near the bridge.

Day 2 β€” Zion National Park

Today will be your last day in Zion so let’s make it count!

Morning β€” Angels Landing Sunrise

Angels Landing is the most noteworthy hike in Zion National Park!

Known for its amazing park views, it attracts millions of visitors to Zion every year. It’s a BEAUTIFUL hike, to say the least, and if you skip it I think you’ll end up regretting it!

The hike starts at the Grotto Trailhead and goes along the lower West Rim Trail. It is 4.8mi RT and has 1,630ft in elevation gain, and can take most hikers 4 hours to complete.

To get there early in the morning, you will have to take the earliest Zion shuttle to the trailhead. Read more about the Zion shuttle system on NPS.gov.

Insider Tip: Want to hike Angels Landing for Sunrise? Read how to coordinate biking to the trailhead in my Zion National Park 2 day itinerary blog!

Afternoon β€” Scenic Drive or Bike Ride

You’ll probably be tired after your hike, so I recommend relaxing or taking a fun tour that doesn’t require a ton of physical exersion.

Here’s a quick list of activities you can do while you wait for sunset!

Evening β€” Canyon Overlook Trail Sunset

Canyon Overlook Trail will give you gorgeous views of Zion Canyon and will GLOW at sunset.

This is an easy 1-mile hike that can take 30 minutes to an hour.

After your sunset mission, head back to your accommodations!

Tomorrow you’ll be driving to Bryce.

Insider Tip: I highly recommend grocery shopping in Springdale before you leave. Food options are sparse in Bryce! You can stop in Kanab, but this will add time to your trip.

Day 3 β€” Bryce Canyon National Park

One day in Bryce National Park is plenty as your Utah National Parks road trip continues!

You can choose to leave early in the morning to catch the sunrise at Bryce (no hiking required).

Morning β€” Sunrise Point

Bryce has made your life easier and told you where exactly to catch the sunrise with Sunrise Point.

The colors are nothing short of amazing as the bright orange hues glow when the sun comes up.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have your camera gear (like a Sony a6400 and 16-35mm f/4 lens) handy for some pics!

Afternoon β€” Navajo Loop Trail

During the day, jump on the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail!

The Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail is probably the most popular hiking route in Bryce Canyon National Park.

It takes you deep into the canyon, where you will come face to face with some fairly interesting rock formations.

Expect the hike to take around 2 hours, depending on how many stops you make for photographs and breaks. The loop is just about 3 miles.

Depending on how much time you have between the end of your hike and sunset, you can go back to your campsite or accommodations to relax.

Insider Tip: Want to see something different? Another great option is to head outside of Bryce National Park and explore the Red Canyon area!

Evening β€” Sunset Point

If you’re not too tired after your hike, check out Sunset Point before calling it a night!

Sunset point is located near Sunrise Point.

About 0.6 miles of sidewalk separates them.

But if you don’t want to see a similar view for sunset, skip this!

Insider Tip: Sleep tight! Tomorrow you’ll head to Capitol Reef National Park for the next park of your Utah Parks road trip!

Day 4 β€” Capitol Reef (Utah National Parks Road Trip Halfway Point)

When you arrive in Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll automatically notice how cute it is (I’m not kidding).

There are multiple picnic areas and little farmhouses (adorrrrable) making it the perfect stop on your trip!

Morning β€” Gifford House for Pie

Once you get there, I recommend sampling the baked goods at Gifford House!

And when I say baked goods, I am NOT messing around. Inside the bakery, you’ll find fresh-baked PIES.

Yes. PIES. Like rhubarb and strawberry.

Loaves of bread, salads, jellies. I mean, it’s incredible. I mean, who doesn’t want a pie?

Across from Gifford House, there is a small picnic area.

Snag yourself a table and chill! If you have a campervan, you can cook some lunch and enjoy the outdoors.

That’s what Scott and I opted to do during this segment of our trip!

Afternoon β€” Capitol Reef Scenic Drive or Hike

Ready to explore after your picnic? Here are some activities you can do:

Drive Capitol Reef Scenic Byway β€” Scenic Drive features large rock formations, canyon views, and dirt roads you can take (about 1.5 hours to complete the drive).

Hike to Hickman Natural Bridge β€” A scenic natural bridge in the park, 1.7 miles out and back.

Drive Cathedral Valley Road β€” Requires a high-clearance 4×4. If you want to drive this road, I suggest adding a day to your trip to accommodate. Takes about 4 hours to drive the loop, but definitely make sure you get to the Temples.

Evening

You can watch the sunset over Capitol Reef at Sunset Point!

This is a short 0.3 mile hike to a scenic overlook.

Access the Sunset Point Trail from the Goosenecks Overlook parking lot.

You can also enjoy sunset as you’re driving the park’s Scenic Drive!

Insider Tip: As an alternative, you can watch sunset at Cathedral Valley Road (start your drive in the afternoon). Beware that you’d be driving out at night.

Day 5 β€” Canyonlands National Park & Moab, UT

Today you’ll be exploring Canyonlands National Park!

This park is known for its scenic overlook and adventure.

You don’t need to get here early, but you certainly can!

Arches National Park is in the same area, so you won’t have to do any significant driving once you arrive in Moab.

Morning β€” Mesa Arch

It is no question that Mesa Arch is easily one of the most popular things to do in Canyonlands National Park.

It is a photographer’s hot spot for sunrise, which is usually very crowded.

But, the view is worth it!

Insider Tip: If you get to the park early enough for sunrise, you can head here first. The walk to get to Mesa Arch is less than a mile!

Afternoon β€” Excursion

Canyonlands is an adventure hub.

To make the most out of day 5 of your Utah National Parks road trip, I recommend booking an excursion like mountain biking, off-roading, or horseback riding!

You can also spend quite a bit of time exploring Moab and the local areas like Long Canyon.

Insider Tip: During my last visit, I booked a packrafting trip down Canyonlands’ Green River and loved it! You can book a canyoneering and packrafting combo trip too!

Evening

The Grand View Point Overlook area can be fantastic for sunset!

Green River Overlook is another option and one of my favorites.

I love these areas of the park because it has a way of making you feel so small against the giant canyon.

The best part is that there is no hiking is required for either view.

You can enjoy them as soon as you park and witness an amazing sunset!

Day 6 β€” Arches National Park (A Utah National Parks Road Trip Favorite)

Spending one day in Arches is fun, but on this trip you’ll be spending 2!

Since you’re in Moab, getting here will take a matter of minutes.

Morning

Delicate Arch is probably the most iconic structure and top things to do in Arches National Park. There is no reason to not include it in your Utah National Parks road trip!

You can expect this trail to have a crowd if you visit it in the middle of the day, but it is still worth the visit!

The hike is 3.1 miles round trip with 613ft in elevation gain.

Hiking Delicate Arch will take about 2 to 3 hours. In the dark, it may take you a bit longer.

The trail is marked but can be tricky to navigate, so plan accordingly!

Insider Tip: If a sunrise hike isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other sunrise and sunset spots in Arches National Park that you can enjoy!

Afternoon β€” Explore Moab, UT

After hiking Delicate Arch, you might want to take it easy for the rest of the day. In that case, here are some of my suggestions for things to do:

Additionally, this is the perfect time to leave the park and se more of Moab before your sunset adventure. You can check out my 2 days in Moab itinerary for any suggestions!

Evening β€” Broken Arch Sunset

And when you’re ready for sunset, head to one of Arches best sunset spots like Turret Arch or Skyline Arch!

An easy one to get to (and my favorite) would be Broken Arch.

Directly next to it is the super photogenic (grab your camera gear) Sand Dune Arch, which you can take your time exploring too!

Day 7 β€” Arches National Park

Today will be your last day exploring the parks on your Utah Mighty Five road trip!

So let’s end it with some more adventure.

Morning β€” Windows Section

Ready for one last sunrise adventure? The Windows Section is the perfect option!

This is also a popular area for sunrise because there are various arches located near each other (Double Arch, Cove Arch, etc.). No hiking is required, so you can easily pull up and enjoy!

Insider Tip: For a unique perspective of Double Arch, climb inside and snap some pics! Make sure you have a 16-35mm f/4 lens to capture the whole thing!

Afternoon β€” Park Avenue & Devil’s Garden Loop

After your sunrise mission, you can explore the popular Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue Trail.

Alternatively, this would be the time to go on a hike. Devil’s Garden would be my recommendation because you can admire multiple hikes along the same loop!

Some popular arches along the trail include Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.

Devil’s Garden is a popular hike and a bit strenuous, but worth doing. Expect to hike 7.9 miles with 1,085 feet of elevation gain.

The hike will take about 3 to 5 hours depending on how much time you spend on trail.

Insider Tip: make sure you check for closures before heading over to Devil’s Garden on the NPS site.

Evening β€” Dead Horse State Park

It’s completely up to you whether or not you’d like to stay in the park for sunset! If you opted for taking the 3 to 5 hour loop hike, you might want to skip this sunset mission (depending on how tired you are).

However, if it were me, I’d make the one hour drive to Dead Horse State Park!

This is notably one of the most popular and iconic views in Moab, and worth the visit.

If this doesn’t make sense for your trip, skip it until next time!

Day 8 β€” Final Day on Your Big 5 Utah Road Trip

  • Moab, UT to Salt Lake City, UT: ~ 3 Hours and 50 Minutes
  • Time Exploring: 1 Day
  • Stay: SLC
  • Eat: SLC
  • Fees: None

Once in SLC, you can rest up, eat some food, and depart Utah the following day!

If you want to explore SLC a bit, add a day to your trip and leave on day 10!

Insider Tip: If you have even more time, make this a Utah and Arizona road trip!

What to Bring on Your Utah Mighty 5 Trip

From experience exploring the parks, these are the essentials I’d bring!

Overall Thoughts on a Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

I hope you enjoyed this blog and you get to see all 5 parks in Utah!

Utah National Parks have endless things to do, and we only touched the surface here. However, a Mighty 5 Utah self drive tour is really the best way to go.

It’s the national parks road trip of a lifetime if you ask me!

If you want to do this trip backward, starting in SLC then ending in Flagstaff, that’s an excellent option too!

You’ll be able to see the Grand Canyon on your way down. Even Sedona.

In that case, a Phoenix Sedona Grand Canyon trip (in reverse) may be of interest to you.

Regardless of what you do next, you just completed a bucket-list trip, so congrats! I’ll see you in the next post.

Happy exploring :)!

With their popular attractions like Angels Landing, the orange hoodoos of Bryce, and Canyonlands’ vast landscape, it’s no wonder you’d want to explore all 5 Utah parks! And you can’t go wrong with a Southern Utah National Parks road trip.

You’ve been warned: this is the adventure of a lifetime!

In this blog, we’re going to cover the best 8-day itinerary for seeing all the Utah parks in their glory.

So let’s not take up any more time. We’ll start this blog by discussing some of the must-know details before you embark on your trip, then we’ll get into the itinerary.

You’ll also find these posts helpful for planning your trip:

πŸ“Œ Save this to Pinterest!

Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my linksβ€”thank you!

FREE Coming Soon: Steal My ChatGPT Travel Prompts

Join my email list and be the first to get access to my new freebie: ChatGPT Prompts for trip planning! You’ll get my best tips for using AI to plan custom trips for you.

Planning Your Utah National Parks Road Trip

  • When to Go: You can get away with visiting the parks anywhere from February to May.
  • Trip Length: This Big 5 Utah road trip will be 8 days β€” this includes your departure.
  • Fly: For the best tickets, check KAYAK.
  • Rental Car: KAYAK can help you find cheap rental cars as well!
  • Rental Campervan: Want a campervan instead? You can rent one using Outdoorsy.
  • Stay: We’ll discuss your options!
  • Park Fees: The standard entrance fee is about $35 per park. To save, snag the America The Beautiful Pass ($79.99) and will be your annual pass for all US national parks.

If February to May doesn’t work for you, there are other times to embark on this road trip!

Spring is great from a weather perspective and brings in fewer crowds, but summer can be enjoyable.

You will have to keep an eye on the weather and make sure summer won’t be too hot. Winter is doable too, but will require extra preparation.

Where to Start Your Big 5 Utah Road Trip

To start your Utah parks road trip, you have a few cities you can fly into:

Las Vegas, NV (recommended) – 16 hours and 50 minutes, round trip way, starting from Zion National Park. 

Flagstaff, AZ – Your drive will be 16 hours and 40 minutes, round trip, starting in Zion National Park. If you choose this route, it’ll be easy to actually do an Arizona Utah road trip itinerary!

Salt Lake City, UT – You can certainly take a Utah National Parks road trip from Salt Lake City. Your drive will be 15 hours and 30 minutes, round trip, starting from Arches National Park.

For this itinerary, you’ll start in LV and fly out of SLC. This route will be 13 hours and 50 minutes round trip.

Utah National Parks Itinerary at a Glance + Map

  • Day 1 – Land in Vegas and arrive in Zion National Park
  • Day 2 – Explore Zion
  • Day 3 – Head to Bryce Canyon and explore
  • Day 4 – Head to Capitol Reef National Park and explore
  • Day 5 – Drive to Canyonlands National Park and explore
  • Day 6 – Explore Arches National Park and Moab
  • Day 7 – Explore Arches
  • Day 8 – Head to SLC

In this blog, we’ll cover a Utah National Parks itinerary from Las Vegas.

I will start the route in Zion NP, ending with Arches and flying out of Salt Lake City. See this on the map below!

Click here for a live link to the road trip map!

8-Day Utah National Parks Itinerary

Day 1 β€” Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Once you land in Las Vegas, pick up your rental car, and head to a grocery store to stock up on snacks before heading to Zion.

We’re going to assume you arrive in LV early morning to early afternoon!

Morning β€” Entering the Park

Zion National Park as a whole is just beautiful. Once you get there, it’s easy to see why folks love it so much.

This park has plenty of hiking trails to choose from, which means you’ll never get bored!

I suggest parking at the Visitor Center or in one of the paid Springdale lots.

You will have to take the Zion shuttles to get around (assuming you are not visiting the park in winter.

I explain all of this in my Zion park guide. You’ll be spending 2 nights here starting tonight.

Afternoon β€” Emerald Pools or Narrows

Depending on how you’re feeling after your drive, you have a few options for activities!

Here are some notable ones to consider:

Emerald Pools Hike β€” This will be a 2 mile RT hike to the Upper Pool. The Emerald Pool trails are an easy entry trail into the park!

The Narrows β€” The Narrows will take you deep into a canyon system in Zion National Park. Folks from all over love to take this trail because you feel a little Indiana Jones-ish when you’re walking through the water channels! Starting from the Temple of Sinawava, the Bottom-Up section of The Narrows is free to explore!

Evening β€” The Watchman Trail

Let’s cap off the day with a lovely sunset! The Watchman is the iconic rock formation you always see pictures of in Zion National Park.

Scott and I discovered the Watchman Trail on our most recent trip there and LOVED it!

This is a beautiful sunset hike, and it’ll take about 2 hours to hike and is 3.3mi RT and 300ft+ elevation gain.

The trailhead can be accessed by the Visitor center!

Insider Tip: Not in the mood to hike? Watch the sunset at Canyon Junction Bridge! There is parking on the side of the road near the bridge.

Day 2 β€” Zion National Park

Today will be your last day in Zion so let’s make it count!

Morning β€” Angels Landing Sunrise

Angels Landing is the most noteworthy hike in Zion National Park!

Known for its amazing park views, it attracts millions of visitors to Zion every year. It’s a BEAUTIFUL hike, to say the least, and if you skip it I think you’ll end up regretting it!

The hike starts at the Grotto Trailhead and goes along the lower West Rim Trail. It is 4.8mi RT and has 1,630ft in elevation gain, and can take most hikers 4 hours to complete.

To get there early in the morning, you will have to take the earliest Zion shuttle to the trailhead. Read more about the Zion shuttle system on NPS.gov.

Insider Tip: Want to hike Angels Landing for Sunrise? Read how to coordinate biking to the trailhead in my Zion National Park 2 day itinerary blog!

Afternoon β€” Scenic Drive or Bike Ride

You’ll probably be tired after your hike, so I recommend relaxing or taking a fun tour that doesn’t require a ton of physical exersion.

Here’s a quick list of activities you can do while you wait for sunset!

Evening β€” Canyon Overlook Trail Sunset

Canyon Overlook Trail will give you gorgeous views of Zion Canyon and will GLOW at sunset.

This is an easy 1-mile hike that can take 30 minutes to an hour.

After your sunset mission, head back to your accommodations!

Tomorrow you’ll be driving to Bryce.

Insider Tip: I highly recommend grocery shopping in Springdale before you leave. Food options are sparse in Bryce! You can stop in Kanab, but this will add time to your trip.

Day 3 β€” Bryce Canyon National Park

One day in Bryce National Park is plenty as your Utah National Parks road trip continues!

You can choose to leave early in the morning to catch the sunrise at Bryce (no hiking required).

Morning β€” Sunrise Point

Bryce has made your life easier and told you where exactly to catch the sunrise with Sunrise Point.

The colors are nothing short of amazing as the bright orange hues glow when the sun comes up.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have your camera gear (like a Sony a6400 and 16-35mm f/4 lens) handy for some pics!

Afternoon β€” Navajo Loop Trail

During the day, jump on the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail!

The Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail is probably the most popular hiking route in Bryce Canyon National Park.

It takes you deep into the canyon, where you will come face to face with some fairly interesting rock formations.

Expect the hike to take around 2 hours, depending on how many stops you make for photographs and breaks. The loop is just about 3 miles.

Depending on how much time you have between the end of your hike and sunset, you can go back to your campsite or accommodations to relax.

Insider Tip: Want to see something different? Another great option is to head outside of Bryce National Park and explore the Red Canyon area!

Evening β€” Sunset Point

If you’re not too tired after your hike, check out Sunset Point before calling it a night!

Sunset point is located near Sunrise Point.

About 0.6 miles of sidewalk separates them.

But if you don’t want to see a similar view for sunset, skip this!

Insider Tip: Sleep tight! Tomorrow you’ll head to Capitol Reef National Park for the next park of your Utah Parks road trip!

Day 4 β€” Capitol Reef (Utah National Parks Road Trip Halfway Point)

When you arrive in Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll automatically notice how cute it is (I’m not kidding).

There are multiple picnic areas and little farmhouses (adorrrrable) making it the perfect stop on your trip!

Morning β€” Gifford House for Pie

Once you get there, I recommend sampling the baked goods at Gifford House!

And when I say baked goods, I am NOT messing around. Inside the bakery, you’ll find fresh-baked PIES.

Yes. PIES. Like rhubarb and strawberry.

Loaves of bread, salads, jellies. I mean, it’s incredible. I mean, who doesn’t want a pie?

Across from Gifford House, there is a small picnic area.

Snag yourself a table and chill! If you have a campervan, you can cook some lunch and enjoy the outdoors.

That’s what Scott and I opted to do during this segment of our trip!

Afternoon β€” Capitol Reef Scenic Drive or Hike

Ready to explore after your picnic? Here are some activities you can do:

Drive Capitol Reef Scenic Byway β€” Scenic Drive features large rock formations, canyon views, and dirt roads you can take (about 1.5 hours to complete the drive).

Hike to Hickman Natural Bridge β€” A scenic natural bridge in the park, 1.7 miles out and back.

Drive Cathedral Valley Road β€” Requires a high-clearance 4×4. If you want to drive this road, I suggest adding a day to your trip to accommodate. Takes about 4 hours to drive the loop, but definitely make sure you get to the Temples.

Evening

You can watch the sunset over Capitol Reef at Sunset Point!

This is a short 0.3 mile hike to a scenic overlook.

Access the Sunset Point Trail from the Goosenecks Overlook parking lot.

You can also enjoy sunset as you’re driving the park’s Scenic Drive!

Insider Tip: As an alternative, you can watch sunset at Cathedral Valley Road (start your drive in the afternoon). Beware that you’d be driving out at night.

Day 5 β€” Canyonlands National Park & Moab, UT

Today you’ll be exploring Canyonlands National Park!

This park is known for its scenic overlook and adventure.

You don’t need to get here early, but you certainly can!

Arches National Park is in the same area, so you won’t have to do any significant driving once you arrive in Moab.

Morning β€” Mesa Arch

It is no question that Mesa Arch is easily one of the most popular things to do in Canyonlands National Park.

It is a photographer’s hot spot for sunrise, which is usually very crowded.

But, the view is worth it!

Insider Tip: If you get to the park early enough for sunrise, you can head here first. The walk to get to Mesa Arch is less than a mile!

Afternoon β€” Excursion

Canyonlands is an adventure hub.

To make the most out of day 5 of your Utah National Parks road trip, I recommend booking an excursion like mountain biking, off-roading, or horseback riding!

You can also spend quite a bit of time exploring Moab and the local areas like Long Canyon.

Insider Tip: During my last visit, I booked a packrafting trip down Canyonlands’ Green River and loved it! You can book a canyoneering and packrafting combo trip too!

Evening

The Grand View Point Overlook area can be fantastic for sunset!

Green River Overlook is another option and one of my favorites.

I love these areas of the park because it has a way of making you feel so small against the giant canyon.

The best part is that there is no hiking is required for either view.

You can enjoy them as soon as you park and witness an amazing sunset!

Day 6 β€” Arches National Park (A Utah National Parks Road Trip Favorite)

Spending one day in Arches is fun, but on this trip you’ll be spending 2!

Since you’re in Moab, getting here will take a matter of minutes.

Morning

Delicate Arch is probably the most iconic structure and top things to do in Arches National Park. There is no reason to not include it in your Utah National Parks road trip!

You can expect this trail to have a crowd if you visit it in the middle of the day, but it is still worth the visit!

The hike is 3.1 miles round trip with 613ft in elevation gain.

Hiking Delicate Arch will take about 2 to 3 hours. In the dark, it may take you a bit longer.

The trail is marked but can be tricky to navigate, so plan accordingly!

Insider Tip: If a sunrise hike isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other sunrise and sunset spots in Arches National Park that you can enjoy!

Afternoon β€” Explore Moab, UT

After hiking Delicate Arch, you might want to take it easy for the rest of the day. In that case, here are some of my suggestions for things to do:

Additionally, this is the perfect time to leave the park and se more of Moab before your sunset adventure. You can check out my 2 days in Moab itinerary for any suggestions!

Evening β€” Broken Arch Sunset

And when you’re ready for sunset, head to one of Arches best sunset spots like Turret Arch or Skyline Arch!

An easy one to get to (and my favorite) would be Broken Arch.

Directly next to it is the super photogenic (grab your camera gear) Sand Dune Arch, which you can take your time exploring too!

Day 7 β€” Arches National Park

Today will be your last day exploring the parks on your Utah Mighty Five road trip!

So let’s end it with some more adventure.

Morning β€” Windows Section

Ready for one last sunrise adventure? The Windows Section is the perfect option!

This is also a popular area for sunrise because there are various arches located near each other (Double Arch, Cove Arch, etc.). No hiking is required, so you can easily pull up and enjoy!

Insider Tip: For a unique perspective of Double Arch, climb inside and snap some pics! Make sure you have a 16-35mm f/4 lens to capture the whole thing!

Afternoon β€” Park Avenue & Devil’s Garden Loop

After your sunrise mission, you can explore the popular Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue Trail.

Alternatively, this would be the time to go on a hike. Devil’s Garden would be my recommendation because you can admire multiple hikes along the same loop!

Some popular arches along the trail include Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.

Devil’s Garden is a popular hike and a bit strenuous, but worth doing. Expect to hike 7.9 miles with 1,085 feet of elevation gain.

The hike will take about 3 to 5 hours depending on how much time you spend on trail.

Insider Tip: make sure you check for closures before heading over to Devil’s Garden on the NPS site.

Evening β€” Dead Horse State Park

It’s completely up to you whether or not you’d like to stay in the park for sunset! If you opted for taking the 3 to 5 hour loop hike, you might want to skip this sunset mission (depending on how tired you are).

However, if it were me, I’d make the one hour drive to Dead Horse State Park!

This is notably one of the most popular and iconic views in Moab, and worth the visit.

If this doesn’t make sense for your trip, skip it until next time!

Day 8 β€” Final Day on Your Big 5 Utah Road Trip

  • Moab, UT to Salt Lake City, UT: ~ 3 Hours and 50 Minutes
  • Time Exploring: 1 Day
  • Stay: SLC
  • Eat: SLC
  • Fees: None

Once in SLC, you can rest up, eat some food, and depart Utah the following day!

If you want to explore SLC a bit, add a day to your trip and leave on day 10!

Insider Tip: If you have even more time, make this a Utah and Arizona road trip!

What to Bring on Your Utah Mighty 5 Trip

From experience exploring the parks, these are the essentials I’d bring!

Overall Thoughts on a Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

I hope you enjoyed this blog and you get to see all 5 parks in Utah!

Utah National Parks have endless things to do, and we only touched the surface here. However, a Mighty 5 Utah self drive tour is really the best way to go.

It’s the national parks road trip of a lifetime if you ask me!

If you want to do this trip backward, starting in SLC then ending in Flagstaff, that’s an excellent option too!

You’ll be able to see the Grand Canyon on your way down. Even Sedona.

In that case, a Phoenix Sedona Grand Canyon trip (in reverse) may be of interest to you.

Regardless of what you do next, you just completed a bucket-list trip, so congrats! I’ll see you in the next post.

Happy exploring :)!

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