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Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary from Las Vegas

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Last Updated on March 2, 2024 by Sarah Puckett

Welcome to your bucket list guide on how to road trip Utah national parks. Stunning geological wonders, breathtaking vistas, and an unspoken connection with the forces of nature await on this one-week road trip itinerary through Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks.

Imagine cruising down scenic highways, winding through narrow canyons, and standing on the brink of mesmerizing cliffs that seem to touch the sky. Utah, with its unique blend of geological diversity and natural beauty, offers an unparalleled experience for road trip enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. From the famous red rock arches of Arches National Park to the otherworldly landscapes of Bryce Canyon, the Utah National Parks road trip promises to be a journey that ignites your sense of wonder and leaves you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.

In this blog post, we invite you to join us on a road trip through the remarkable Utah national parks. We’ll explore the must-visit destinations, share insider tips for maximizing your adventure, and offer insights into the rich history and geological significance that make these parks a true marvel of our world. So, buckle up, pack your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on a road trip that will take you deep into the heart of some of nature’s most extraordinary creations. Utah’s national parks are calling, and the road trip of a lifetime awaits – are you ready?

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Sarah and Tim at Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley
Sarah and Tim at Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley

Table of Contents

About our Experiences at Utah’s National Parks

My and Tim’s first trip to Utah was in 2013 when we spent a long weekend exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Moab. It took us over 7 years to get back to road-tripping Utah’s national parks (mostly because we were out of the country on our long international jaunts!). When we came back in the winter of 2021, we spent 6 weeks visiting all 5 Utah National Parks, diving deep into each. In 2022, we repeated the adventure, but this time stayed for 8 weeks. In 2023, we ended up spending FOUR MONTHS road-tripping the Southwest. We’ve spent countless days exploring Utah’s national parks, and are excited to share our expertise with you!

Utah National Parks Road Trip At-A-Glance

  • Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas and drive to Springdale, UT
  • Day 2: Zion National Park
    • Sunrise Hike on The Watchman Trail
    • Pa’rus Trail
    • Zion Human History Museum
    • Emerald Pools Trail
    • Weeping Rock Trail
  • Day 3: Zion National Park
    • Option 1: Hiking Angel’s Landing
    • Option 2: Hiking the Narrows
  • Day 4: Zion National Park and Bryce National Park
    • Canyon Overlook Trail
    • East Mesa Trailhead/Observation Point Trailhead
    • Red Canyon Arch
    • Scenic Drive to Bryce Point
    • Lower Inspiration Point
    • Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail
    • Sunrise Point for Sunset
  • Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park
    • Gifford Homestead
    • Scenic Drive
    • Petroglyphs Panels
    • Rim Overlook Trail to Hickman Bridge
    • Factory Butte
  • Day 6: Canyonlands National Park
    • Sunrise at Mesa Arch
    • Grand View Point
    • White Rim Overlook Trailhead
    • Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Day 7: Arches National Park
    • Sunrise Hike to Delicate Arch
    • Hike to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch
    • Hike Devil’s Garden
    • Walk the Windows Trail
    • Hike to Double Arch
    • Visit the Park Avenue Viewpoint
  • Day 8: Return to the Airport and Fly Home

Utah National Parks Road Trip Map

Want this map in an interactive format at your fingertips?

This meticulously crafted interactive Google Map showcases an extensive 7-day itinerary through Utah’s 5 national parks, featuring over 50 handpicked locations, along with detailed information about each site. With the Utah National Parks Explorer Map, your exploration becomes a curated and unforgettable experience, guiding you through the awe-inspiring landscapes of Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks. Embark on your ultimate Utah adventure with confidence.

>>> Planning to visit more Utah National Parks? Buy the Utah National Parks Road Trip Map here

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas and drive to Springdale, UT

On Day 1 of your road trip to Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, your main goal is just to arrive and drive to Springdale, Utah where you will be based for your explorations in Zion National Park!

In our experience, the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada has the best flight options both in terms of price and in terms of fewer connections. Once you get to Las Vegas, it’s about a 3 hour drive to Springdale, Utah, which is the most popular base for visiting Zion National Park.

Note: You can also fly into Salt Lake City and drive to Springdale instead. The drive from Salt Lake City International Airport to Springdale, Utah is 4.5 hours.

>> Search flights to Las Vegas for your Utah National Park Road Trip here.

Once at the airport, you’ll need to rent a car for your Utah National Parks road trip.

>> Search rental cars from Las Vegas here.

Wondering what kind of vehicle to rent for your road trip through Utah’s national parks? Here’s our take: while a 2-wheel-drive vehicle is completely sufficient for this road trip, if you are able to rent an all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive vehicle, you will have more options for some offroading adventures and side quests down dirt roads. If you plan on spending at least 10 days road tripping Utah, we think that is a good option. If you are only visiting for 8 days like in this itinerary, two-wheel-drive will be just fine!

Where to Sleep in Springdale

Where to Eat in Springdale

  • Oscar’s Cafe: big portions and local favorite
  • Camp Outpost: rotisserie and veggies served fast with a charming outdoor space
  • Cafe Soleil: great sandwich choice and located right next to the park entrance

Day 1 At A Glance:

  • Fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City
  • Drive to Springdale, Utah
Tim and Sarah in front of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park on the Watchman Trail.
The Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

Day 2: Zion National Park

Zion National Park Entrance Information

Today you will be adventuring into Zion National Park! The park entrance fee is $35, but we recommend buying an America the Beautiful National Park Pass, which will save you money if you go to every park on this roadtrip through all five Utah National Parks.

 >>> Buy your National Parks Pass from REI here

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

This itinerary allots for 2.5 days of exploring Zion National Park. Because of its size and the array of types of activities and hiking you can do here, I wanted to give you enough time to hike both the Narrows and Angels Landing (if you are able to get a permit – more info below). Even without an Angels Landing permit, there is still plenty to see and do in Zion.

Zion National Park Itinerary:

At a high level, here is what 2.5 days in Zion will look like:

  • Day 2: Rent an e-bike or take the shuttle to explore Zion Canyon. 
  • Day 3:Take a short sunrise hike to the Watchman followed by a water hike adventure in the Narrows
  • Day 4: Depart Zion NP via the Zion scenic drive and a spectacular sunrise hike on the Canyon Overlook trail. 

Note: If you have a permit for Angels Landing, spend one day of this itinerary doing that. You can simply swap it out for any of the other days listed above. Or, if you’re the high energy type, add it to Day 2’s activities on this itinerary. 

Getting Around Zion National Park

While you can drive your own vehicle on the Zion Scenic Byway and the Kolob Canyons regions of Zion National Park, private vehicles are NOT allowed in Zion Canyon itself during the shuttle season. The shuttle season, according to the National Park Service, is generally May through November and during the holiday season. When we visited in April of 2023, the shuttle was running, however. So, if you plan on visiting Zion National Park most times of the year, you will need to plan for one of two options for getting around Zion Canyon: taking the shuttle, or renting an e-bike (electronic bike).

Zion Canyon Shuttle Option

The free Zion National Park shuttle is the most popular way to get around Zion Canyon. It makes multiple stops throughout the canyon and runs every few minutes. 

The shuttle system consists of two main routes:

  • Zion Canyon Shuttle: This route takes visitors along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, stopping at key trailheads, viewpoints, and attractions. It runs from the park’s south entrance through the main canyon to the Temple of Sinawava, where you can access the trailhead for The Narrows hike.
  • Springdale Shuttle: This route connects various lodging properties and campgrounds in the town of Springdale to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, providing visitors with convenient access to the park’s entrance and shuttle system.

Shuttles run frequently throughout the day, allowing visitors to hop on and off at different stops. The system operates from early morning until evening, accommodating both early birds and those who prefer to explore during the cooler hours of the day.

The shuttle system is designed to accommodate visitors with disabilities. Accessible shuttle buses equipped with ramps or lifts are available to ensure that everyone can enjoy the park’s attractions.

If you plan to use the shuttle system, park your vehicle in Springdale’s designated parking areas or at the Visitor’s Center in Zion Canyon (but note parking fills up quickly). Many accommodations in Springdale also offer shuttle service to the park entrance.

You can find more information about the Zion National Park shuttle here.

Zion Shuttle System infographic
Image Credit: nps.gov

E-Bike Option

Our favorite way to explore Zion Canyon, and what I recommend for you, is renting an e-bike in Springdale and biking into Zion National Park. Because private vehicles are not allowed in the canyon, the only vehicles you have to worry about sharing the road with are the shuttles. Each trailhead has a bike rack you can lock your e-bike to, so you can thoroughly explore each stop the shuttle goes to, plus any other location you feel inspired to check out during your ride!

We rented e-bikes from Zion Adventures on our most recent trip to Zion National Park and it was the PERFECT way to spend the day. 

Regardless of whether you e-bike or take the shuttle, here’s how we recommend spending your first day in Zion National Park and Zion Canyon.

e-bike Zion National Park
E-biking is the best way to get around Zion Canyon

Sunrise Hike on The Watchman Trail

Start your day with a sunrise hike at The Watchman. This is one of the only trails in Zion Canyon that doesn’t require using the park shuttle (or bike) to get to. The trailhead begins right by the parking lot at the Zion National Park Visitor Center. 

The trail is slightly steep as it traverses up the canyon walls via gradual switchbacks. At the top of the trail, you will be awarded spectacular views over Zion Canyon, including the Watchman rock formation for which the trail is named.

The Watchman Trail

Pa’rus Trail

After your sunrise hike at the Watchman, grab a quick breakfast at Soleil Cafe or one of the other shops within walking distance of the Visitor’s Center. Then, either walk or bike the paved Pa’rus Trail. This trail provides a great overview of Zion’s unique landscapes. 

It’s an incredibly pleasant trail, very flat, and provides awesome views of the red cliffs and Virgin River! 

Pa’rus Trail

Zion Human History Museum

While on the Pa’rus Trail, stop at the Zion Human History Museum for fascinating exhibits about the history of people in the region. If you are arriving by bike, you will need to walk the bike up a few steps. Please don’t leave your bike lying on the trail. Spend about 10-15 minutes here before continuing your bike ride or walk.

If you are biking, bike to the Emerald Pools Trailhead.

If you are taking the Shuttle, pick up the shuttle from the Zion Human History Museum (Stop 2) and get off at The Grotto (Stop 6).

Emerald Pools Trail

The Emerald Pools trail leads to a number of waterfalls, some seasonal, at the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. This hike is VERY popular and as such tends to be quite crowded. Plan to arrive very early to avoid most crowds, and be considerate of your fellow hikers. When we went, it was absolutely packed, but seeing a 90-year-old woman making the trek and loving every minute made any annoyance about the crowds completely evaporate. Smile, make friends, and enjoy the stunning views!

The best time to see waterfalls flowing at Zion National Park is in the spring when snow melt increases water flow. We were lucky to see three flowing during our visit.

Emerald Pools Trail

After your hike to Emerald Pools, make your way to Weeping Rock trailhead. On the shuttle system, this is Stop 7: Weeping Rock.

Weeping Rock Trail

The short path to Weeping Rock is one of our favorite spots in the park because you get to go behind the waterfall! Like the waterfalls at Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock has the most water in the springtime. The paved trail leading up to the waterfall is steep but short.

Weeping Rock Trail

Sarah admiring Weeping Rock waterfall at Zion National Park
Weeping Rock Trail Zion National Park

 After hiking the Weeping Rock Trail, either bike back to Springdale or take the shuttle back. Get a delicious dinner in town – we recommend Oscar’s Cafe – and stroll the shops in downtown Springdale. Then, return to your hotel for the night to rest up for another big day in Zion National Park tomorrow!

Day 3: Zion National Park

Today, you have options! How your second day in Zion National Park unfolds will depend on whether or not you are hiking Angels Landing.

Option 1: Hiking Angel’s Landing

Obtaining an Angel’s Landing Hiking Permit

In order to hike Angel’s Landing, you need a permit issued in advance. You can obtain the permit (issued via online lottery) the day before you want to hike Angels Landing, or in a seasonal lottery ranging from 1-5 months in advance of when you want to hike.

You can find more information about obtaining a permit to hike Angels Landing here.

Sunrise Hike at Angel’s Landing

Assuming you have a permit for Angel’s Landing, start your hike as early as possible. The earliest shuttle departs from the Visitor’s Center at 6 am until September, and 7 am after that and before May. You’ll want to get off at Stop 6: The Grotto.

If you want an earlier start, plan to take a bike and lock it to the bike rack at the trailhead for Angel’s Landing.

The Angel’s Landing trail often wins the title of “scariest hike” among outdoor enthusiasts, because of the steep drop-offs on either side of you as you climb the chains portion of the hike. This is definitely not a hike I would recommend to those who are very afraid of heights, but if you take it slow and steady, this hike is not necessarily dangerous. With the permit system in place, the trail is also less crowded than it was in previous years. This is great news because some of the most unnerving experiences on the trail to Angel’s Landing occur when having to cross someone going the opposite way as you on the chains.

Hiking the Chains on Angels Landing in Zion National Park

The views at the top are spectacular and worth the effort of tackling the over 20 switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles and conquering your fear of heights.

Angel’s Landing Trail

Temple of Sinawava

After hiking Angel’s Landing, take the shuttle or a bike to Stop 9: The Temple of Sinawava.

The Temple of Sinawava is where the popular Narrows hike starts, as well as the short and pleasant Riverside Walk trail. In spring, look for the ribbon waterfall on the cliffs! 

Riverside Walk

If you have some energy left over from hiking Angel’s Landing, take a short stroll on the Riverside Walk. We especially recommend hiking the Riverside Walk if you don’t plan on hiking the Narrows, since you can still get a sense of what the canyon is like as it narrows around the Virgin River.

Riverside Walk Trail

Option 2: Hiking the Narrows

If you don’t have the permit or the desire to hike Angel’s Landing, we recommend hiking the Narrows. This bucket-list Zion National Park hike is famous for its unique trail, which has hikers literally wading through the Virgin River, sometimes in water up to chest high (but usually around knee height), between towering cliff walls that become increasingly narrow as you continue your hike.

Sarah hiking the narrows in Zion National Park

Preparing for Hiking the Narrows

Gear up! It’s time to tackle a bucket list hike through the iconic slot canyon Narrows of the Virgin River. Hiking the Narrows requires walking in the water pretty much the entire time, so it’s important to rent gear from a local outfitter in Springdale if you don’t have your own dry suits/bibs/boots. You also need a walking stick to help you keep your balance in the water! 

Here are some local shops we’ve used to rent gear in Zion National Park: 

Additionally, the Narrows frequently closes in springtime and the rainy season when water flow is too high for hikers to safely hike the Narrows. Sometimes the Narrows will be open, but with a high risk of deadly flash floods. Under no circumstances do we recommend hiking the Narrows when there is a risk of flash flooding or any rain in the forecast. If you are unsure if it’s safe on the day of your visit, ask a park ranger!  You can also check for closures on the park’s official website here.

Don’t let this information scare you, though! The Narrows is a fun and safe hike in good weather conditions and with the right gear. 

Hiking the Narrows Bottom-Up

The trailhead for the Narrows starts at the Temple of Sinawava for those hiking “bottom-up”. The “top-down” route through the Narrows is a canyoneering route, so be sure you know what you’re getting into if you choose that option! We hiked the Narrows Bottom Up, so that is what this blog post will focus on.

You will first hike the Riverside Walk all the way to the end. There, you run out of trail and there’s nothing else to do but start walking in the Virgin River.

Hike the Narrows as long as you wish. Depending on how high the water is, making it all the way to the end may not be feasible or fun. The good news is, you don’t have to hike all the way to experience the towering canyon walls surrounding you.

Once you are ready, turn back the way you came. Don’t forget to drop off your rental gear back in Springdale when you return!

The Narrows Bottom Up

Day 4: Zion National Park and Bryce National Park

On your last day in Zion National Park, I recommend hiking at least one more trail, this time on the Zion Scenic Byway on your way toward Bryce Canyon National Park. The drive on the byway itself is incredibly scenic, and since it is not located within Zion Canyon, you may drive your own vehicle versus having to take the shuttle. Be sure to check out of your accommodation this morning, as you will be moving to your next overnight stay today.

Canyon Overlook Trail

The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of our favorites because it’s short with a huge view at the end, making it an ideal choice for early mornings. I recommend timing your hike for sunrise! Plus, the parking area for this hike is fairly small so it helps to get in super early anyway. 

Note that this trailhead is NOT in Zion Canyon, so the shuttle system does not run here. Instead, you should plan to self-drive your own vehicle. 

Sarah and Tim watching the Sunrise at the Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook Trail

Bonus: East Mesa Trailhead/Observation Point Trailhead

After your sunrise hike, we recommend driving to the trailhead for the East Mesa/Observation Point trail. You’ll technically exit the park and re-enter for this one. This trail is very off-the-beaten-path and delivers amazing views of Zion Canyon at the end. It rivals the views at Angels Landing, in our opinion! 

East Mesa/Observation Point Trail

Red Canyon Arch

On your drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park, don’t miss this awesome landmark along the way. You will actually get to drive through two rock arches on the road to Bryce. There’s a small pull-off area where you can stop for photo ops. Just be careful of vehicles and don’t hang out in the road! 

Red Canyon Arch near Bryce Canyon National Park

Enter Bryce Canyon National Park

Welcome to Bryce Canyon National Park! The entrance fee to Bryce Canyon National Park is $35 per vehicle, or free if you have the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass.

Here’s how we recommend spending an afternoon and evening in the park as part of your Utah National Parks road trip from Las Vegas.

Scenic Drive to Bryce Point

Drive the Bryce Canyon Road from the Visitor Center to Bryce Point. We recommend driving all the way to Bryce Point first and then stopping at each of the overlooks and viewpoints that will be along the right-hand side of your vehicle as you drive back towards the Visitor Center. 

Lower Inspiration Point

Stop here on your drive back in the direction of the Visitor Center for a view over Lower Inspiration Point and the Grand Staircase! It’s also worth the short walk on the Rim Trail to Upper Inspiration Point nearby. 

Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail

The Navajo and Queens Garden Loop Trail is our favorite for seeing the highlights of Bryce Canyon National Park’s iconic orange hoodoos. It’s short and easy enough for families with kids, and makes the most of a short visit to the park! 

Views on the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Note that Bryce Canyon National Park sits between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of elevation above sea level, which means you will likely feel the impacts of the altitude. Symptoms most frequently include shortness of breath, headache, and fatigue. Drink a lot of water and take your hike slow and steady if you find you’re feeling altitude sickness! And don’t worry, your symptoms should recede as your body adjusts or when you descend back down to lower elevations.

Views on the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail

Sunrise Point for Sunset

After your hike, catch the sunset at either Sunrise Point or Sunset Point. Both are near each other, just a short walk apart from the same parking lot and provide slightly different facing views and angles.

After sunset, drive to Escalante, Utah, and check into your accommodations for the night.

Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park

Additional Things to Do Near Bryce Canyon National Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park is worth a visit if you have extra time on your Utah National Park road trip. This is a great place to see more of the unique geology of the “Grand Staircase”, which refers to the way the landscape descends in a stairstep-like pattern over the hundreds of miles south from the top of the staircase here down to the Grand Canyon. Note that the entrance fee for Kodachrome Basin State Park is $10 per vehicle.

Devil’s Garden of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Another awesome and easy add-on to the portion of your Utah road trip between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks is the Devil’s Garden in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. 

No hiking is required to appreciate the beautiful and bizarre rock formations here, but you are free to explore the unique hoodoos and arches along the trails that meander through the “garden”.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

While not within any of Utah’s National Parks, Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the best hikes we’ve done in the state. If you have 3 hours to spare, we recommend stopping here for the moderate 6-mile hike to a stunning waterfall deep in the canyon. You will also see petroglyphs on the cliff walls along the way! This hike is also part of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. 

Note that there is a $5 parking fee for this hike. 

Lower Calf Creek Falls Utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike

Where to Sleep in Escalante

Sarah and Tim at Escalante Yurts, glamping in Utah

Where to Eat in Escalante

Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park

With one full day in Capitol Reef National Park, we recommend visiting the Gifford Homestead, driving the Scenic Drive, hiking to Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge, and checking out the impressive petroglyphs. As with all of the other National Parks in Utah, Capitol Reef charges an entrance fee to visit. This fee is $20 per vehicle or you can use your National Parks Pass for free entry.

If you have extra time in the area as you make your way to Moab and your final two Utah National Parks, we recommend visiting Goblin Valley State Park as a bonus adventure!  

Scenic drive in Capitol Reef National Park
There are many scenic drives in Capitol Reef National Park!

Gifford Homestead

Steeped in history, the Gifford Homestead is a well-preserved pioneer-era farmhouse that offers visitors a glimpse into the past. Built in the early 1900s, this historic homestead is now a charming country store and bakery. If you want to snag one of their coveted fruit pies, you should plan to arrive right when they open because they do run out!   

Scenic Drive

Allow an hour and a half to visit all the stops along the 8 mile Scenic Drive, the highlights of which are described below.

Cassidy Arch Trail

The hike to Cassidy Arch is one of the most popular day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. It’s only 3 miles roundtrip with a little over 600 feet of elevation gain, and your reward at the end of the hike is an impressive rock arch! 

Cassidy Arch Trail

Capitol Gorge Road

Our favorite part of the Scenic Drive drive is when you get to enter the narrow road in Capitol Gorge Spur Road. It’s like driving through a slot canyon, and is such a wild experience! Don’t do this drive in rainy conditions, however. 

Petroglyphs Panels

After the Scenic Drive and back on the main road through Capitol Reef National Park, be sure to stop at the Petroglyphs Panels for an impressive display of rock art from the Fremont culture. Please respect the petroglyphs by not touching or defacing the rock. 

Capitol Reef National Park Petroglyph Panel
Capitol Reef National Park Petroglyph Panel

Rim Overlook Trail to Hickman Bridge

End your visit to Capitol Reef National Park with one last hike. The views along the Rim Overlook trail to Hickman Bridge are simply mind-blowing, and the natural rock arch at the end is impressive.

Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Natural Bridge Trail

Hickman Bridge Trail

Factory Butte

While driving from Capitol Reef towards Moab, you can’t miss the tall towering butte on the left-hand side of the road. This rock formation is Factory Butte. Several dirt roads lead to closer vantage points, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for what this part of the Utah desert holds. 

Continue your drive to Moab, Utah, where you will check into your accommodation for the next 3 nights.

Factory Butte in Hanksville, Utah

If you have time: Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park looks oddly like it sounds – a rock valley with small, stumpy hoodoos that look a bit like, well, goblins! We love this state park for sunrise photography and just exploring the formations. 

Enjoy the view from the viewing platform, or walk down the steps into the valley to explore amidst the hoodoos! 

If you visit, please follow the principles of Leave No Trace and do not climb, carve, or otherwise break/damage any of the rocks. 

Note that the Entrance Fee for Goblin Valley State Park is $20/vehicle.

Where to Sleep in Moab

>>Read our review from our stay at Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa

Where to Eat in Moab

Day 6: Canyonlands National Park

One day is plenty of time to see the main highlights of Canyonlands National Park. We recommend three short hikes, that each provide a different experience and perspective over the canyon. The Entrance Fee for Canyonlands National Park is $30 per vehicle, or free with your National Park Pass.

 >>> Buy your National Parks Pass from REI here

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Start your Canyonlands National Park visit with sunrise at Mesa Arch. It will likely be crowded (yes, even at sunrise), but when the light’s rays hit the canyon below it will all be worth it. It is just a short walk from the parking area to Mesa Arch. 

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch Trail

Grand View Point

After sunrise, drive to Grand View Point and then walk the short trail to the Overlook. We absolutely cannot get over this view over the canyon because you can see a lot of the ridges and crevasses which highlight how dramatic this landscape is! 

Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park

Grand View Point Overlook Trail

White Rim Overlook Trailhead

For another short but highly rewarding hike in Canyonlands National Park, check out the White Rim Overlook trail. This trail provides a different view and perspective over the canyon that the others you have seen so far today. 

White Rim Overlook Trail

Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

For sunset, visit Dead Horse Point State Park for one of Utah’s most iconic views. 

The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle. Note that National Parks Passes do NOT work at Dead Horse Point State Park (or any other state park). State parks are not part of the National Park Service and are not covered by the America the Beautiful Pass.

>> Do you want to explore ALL of Utah’s National Parks? Check out our Utah National Park Itinerary and Map here!

Day 7: Arches National Park

With one day in Arches National Park, you can explore all of the best hiking trails to unique arch formations, and catch a bucket-list-worthy sunrise and sunset. Make sure you have a timed entry permit if you are visiting during peak season and if you plan to enter the park after 7 am. As of 2023, timed entry permits are not required for entering Arches National Park before 7 am. All visitors must pay the $30 per vehicle entrance fee OR have a National Park Pass.

 >>> Buy your National Parks Pass from REI here

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

Sunrise Hike to Delicate Arch

Kick off your visit to Arches National Park with a hike to the iconic Delicate Arch! Sunrise here is worth the early wake-up call. Plus, if you enter the park before 7 am, you don’t need a timed-entry reservation. By hiking to Delicate Arch for sunrise, you can beat the crowds (a little bit) and avoid having to have a timed entry permit! 

If sunrise isn’t an option for you, make your timed entry reservation here.

Delicate Arch Trail

Hike to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch

After sunrise, drive back onto the Arches Scenic Drive and head to Sand Dune Arch trailhead. There are three arches you can see here, all on a short hike! 

Broken Arch Trail

Hike Devil’s Garden

Devil’s Garden is a very arch-dense area of the park where you can see several arches of various shapes and sizes! This is one of the best low-effort/high-reward hikes in the park because you can hike as far as you’d like all the way to Double O Arch, or explore the arches closer to the trailhead like Tunnel Arch or Pine Tree Arch. 

Devil’s Garden Loop

Walk the Windows Trail

The arches on Windows Trail are particularly photogenic and worth the short walk! 

Turret Arch as seen from Window Arch

Windows Trail

Hike to Double Arch

Your last arch hike in Arches National Park is to Double Arch. This impressive and unique two-banded arch is a must-see in the park. 

Double Arch Trail

Visit the Park Avenue Viewpoint

Cap off your visit to Arches National Park with sunset at Park Avenue. Enjoy the view from the viewpoint, or hike down along the rock formations. 

Park Avenue Trail

Day 8: Return to the Airport and Fly Home

On Day 8, head to the airport from which you will be returning home, whether it be Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or Grand Junction. Driving times from Moab to each location’s airport are listed below.

  • Grand Junction Regional Airport: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Salt Lake City International Airport: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Harry Reid International Airport – Las Vegas: 7 hours

FAQs

How many days do you need to visit Utah’s Mighty 5?

We recommend no fewer than a week to visit all five of Utah’s National Parks. The itinerary outlined here is 8 days long, which is really the fastest you can still see quite a bit in each park. If you have more time, we recommend extending your trip to 10 days or more and taking advantage of some of the additional nearby hikes and state parks along this route and outlined in the Utah National Park road trip map!

When is the best time of the year for a Utah National Parks road trip?

The best time of the year to road trip to Utah national parks is late winter through early spring. Summer sees triple-digit temperatures throughout the state, as well as peak crowds at the more popular parks. We always time our road trips in Utah to be from January through April, as this is when the climate is most mild and visiting the parks is most pleasant. Additionally, late spring sees heavy snow melt and surging water in the Virgin River, which can lead to the Narrows closing. This is why late fall through winter is best for hiking the Narrows (just be sure you rent the appropriate winter gear). Lastly, nothing beats the contrast of white snow against the orange hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park.

What are the entrance fees for Utah’s national parks?

  • Zion: $35
  • Bryce Canyon: $35
  • Capitol Reef: $20
  • Arches: $30
  • Canyonlands: $30
  • Total for all 5 Utah National Parks: $150
  • Save $70 by purchasing an annual National Parks Pass (America the Beautiful Pass) instead

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

What should you pack for a Utah National Parks road trip?

Check out our comprehensive road trip packing list below and sign up for our email newsletter to get a printable road trip packing list PDF straight to your inbox!

Moonscape Overlook Road Trip Destination

Stuck in a packing quandary?

Check out our ultimate Road Trip packing list!

Goblin Valley State Park

Final Thoughts on How to Road Trip Utah National Parks

I hope this blog post outlining the perfect Utah National Parks road trip has you feeling excited, inspired, and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime!

If you’re exploring more of the US Southwest, don’t miss these blog posts!

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