The National Parks in Southern Utah will blow you away! An other worldly landscape covered in crazy canyons and rich red rock are waiting to be explored. Whether you’re an active hiker or prefer to go at a more relaxed pace you will find a lot to see & do in the parks in and around Southern Utah. If you have a week to spend tripping around this fantastic state, this is the perfect Utah National Parks road trip itinerary for exploring Southern Utah.

My Utah road trip itinerary covers national parks, state parks in Southern Utah. This one week road trip itinerary for Utah also covers Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend and a visit to stunning Antelope Canyon. If you’ve got a little extra time I’ve also included an extension for visiting the Grand Canyon.

 

One Week Road Trip Itinerary (1)

One Week Road Trip Itinerary for Exploring Utah’s National Parks

Route Highlights:

Route begins in Salt Lake City & ends in Las Vegas

Alternative route round trip from Las Vegas

Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

Optional Grand Canyon extension day

Looking for a rental car for your road trip-

Fielding Garr Ranch, Antelope Island

Day One

Arrive in Salt Lake City

Start your journey by flying into Salt Lake City, Utah and picking up a rental car. Depending on what time of day you arrive, there are a couple of great things to do in Salt Lake City such as the Natural History Museum of Utah on the western edge of the city or Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. If you have the time though, head straight for Antelope Island State Park.

Natural History Museum, Salt Lake City

Bison on Antelope Island

Antelope Island State Park is an island sitting in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. You probably haven’t heard of it but you definitely shouldn’t miss it. Don’t come to Salt Lake City without at least getting a glimpse of the natural wonder it’s named after. Besides getting to drive over the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island begs a visit to see it’s population of roving bison and antelope. There are some stunning lookouts, beaches and even an historic farm to explore. You can spend at least half a day here. Bring yourself a picnic lunch and pick up a map at the visitors center before you head out to explore.

Overnight in Salt Lake City

Suggested Hotels in Salt Lake City:

 

 

 

The Wynn, As Seen from The Palazzo

Alternative option that begins and ends in Las Vegas:

Arrive in Las Vegas

If you want to begin and end in Las Vegas, plan to arrive in Sin City early on in the day to pick up your rental vehicle to get in a full day of exploring. If you’ve got the family along for the ride, there are some great things to do in Las Vegas with kids. If you’re on a budget, picking a hotel with a great pool and spending the day relaxing is not a bad way to while away the hours in Las Vegas.

The Golden Nugget is a very affordable hotel option and has one of the best pools in Las Vegas, complete with a water slide through a tank of sharks! If money is no object or you want to splurge before your road trip begins, pick The Wynn or Palazzo and spend the day & night enjoying the shops, shows and restaurants in your hotel.

Overnight in Las Vegas – For your one night in Las Vegas, stay in a great hotel to start your trip out right. We recommended hotels (in order of increasing budget) The Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, Trump International Hotel, The Palazzo or The Wynn. All have free parking.

Suggested Hotels in Las Vegas:

 

 

 

Our Car in Canyonlands National Park

Day Two

Drive from Salt Lake City (or Las Vegas) to Moab

Your road trip begins today! Start your day early, pick up a picnic lunch, gas up your vehicle and get on the road. Depending on where you set off from it’ll take you about 3.5 hours (from Salt Lake City) or 6.5 hours (from Las Vegas) to reach Canyonlands National Park. It’s an easy drive along the I-15 for most of the way.

Grand Viewpoint, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is your first stop on your tour of Utah’s National Parks. This is a huge park, split into four differently accessible zones. With one day, you can visit the Island in the Sky zone. The drive into the park itself is spectacular. Entering through the red rocks and journeying up to the park gates takes about 15 minutes. Stop at the Visitors Center and grab a map of the park to plan your visit. If you don’t already have a National Parks Pass, consider buying one here. The parks in Southern Utah are some of the most expensive in the country so it makes sense to purchase an annual pass when visiting.

Canyonlands National PArk

There are many spots to enjoy spectacular views over the canyons with varying degrees of difficulty, some just a short stroll from the car park and others more extensive hikes. Some of the best viewpoints are at the Grand ViewPoint Overlook, Green River Overlook and the Buck & Shafer Canyon Overlooks.

Overnight in Moab, Utah – From Canyonlands National Park, head down to Moab about 40 minutes away, to spend the night. Moab is a sweet little town surrounded by towering red rock cliffs. There are lots of hotels and restaurants to choose from in Moab, most of them set along the main road through town. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn as it has a wonderful pool & hot tub area. Some of the best dining options in town are Sabaku Sushi (though it isn’t cheap) or Milt’s Stop n’ Eat for classic, tasty diner fare.

Suggested Hotels in Moab:

  • Budget: Comfort Suites Moab – This hotel will do nicely for travellers on a budget or families. It’s well located for exploring the national parks near Moab.
  • Midrange: Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn – Modern and extremely comfortable hotel right on the main road in Moab. Great hot tub & pool!
  • Luxury: Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa – Beautiful resort set on the banks of the Colorado river just outside of Moab where you can enjoy a campfire, horseback riding and the night sky.

 

 

 

Reuben and Lee in Arches National Park

Day Three

Arches National Park

Start your day at Arches National Park. My favourite park in Utah!  The park gates open at 7.30am in Summer (8am in Fall and 9am in Winter) but you should always check the NPS website for weather advisories first. If you’re visiting in the summer months, begin as early as you can to beat the heat. The visitors center is well worth a visit to learn how these natural sandstones arches formed. Kids will love it as it’s interactive and informative. Pick up a map and ask rangers to point out the hikes that best suit your ability.

Reuben and Lee, Walking in Arches National Park

Windows, Arches National Park

Tree, Arches National Park

Sandstone Arch, Arches National Park

Once inside the park you won’t want to miss the following easy hikes and viewpoints – Balanced Arch, Double Arch, Delicate Arch viewpoints and Sand Dune Arch.

Native American Petroglyphs Near Moab

Native American Petroglyphs

After you’ve visited Arches, make a little time to go see some fascinating Native American Rock Art. As you’re coming out of Arches, back towards Moab, cross the bridge to the other side of the river onto Potash road and continue driving along a few miles until you see the sign post. Park on the side of the road and look up!

Overnight in Moab, Utah.

 

 

Road Leading to Monument Valley, Vertical

Day Four

Drive from Moab to Page, Arizona via Monument Valley

The drive from Moab to Page, Arizona is about 290 miles and will take you all day once you include the below mentioned stops. There are not a lot of services on this route so be sure to gas up your vehicle in Moab and pick up some supplies for your lunch before you leave town. This is your busiest day on the road trip by far so start out as early as possible.

Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park

About 2 hours out of Moab, before reaching Monument Valley, take a quick detour off the 163 to Goosenecks State Park. The park is about 3.5 miles from highway. There’s no hiking to be done, just drive your car into the parking lot, get out and take a good look at the San Juan river winding it’s way around the valley 1000 feet below.

The Mittens, Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Once you’re back on the highway it’s about 40 minutes on to Monument Valley and the Navajo Tribal Park, part of the Navajo Nation on the border between Utah and Arizona. About 20 minutes before you reach the park you’ll get a great view of the road stretching out, leading up to the park. Look for the “Mile Marker 13” sign for the best place to pull over and photograph it.

Monument Valley

Reuben on Horse, Monument Valley

Park entry is $20 and is not covered on a US National Parks pass. Call into the visitor’s center to start with, there’s a great view out too the buttes and some historical displays. Exploring Monument Valley can be done on a guided truck tour but it’s actually not difficult to drive some of it yourself in a decent sized sedan or SUV. The park is big, and all the roads are unpaved, so driving the whole 17 mile loop could take all day. If you want to gather some easy highlights then head down into the valley, pass The Mittens, Merrick Butte and Elephant Butte, and then drive up to John Ford’s point before turning back to the visitor’s center and exiting the park. See the map here. This will take you just over an hour.

Man Sitting at Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

From Monument Valley, head toward Page, Arizona. It’ll take you a little over two hours to drive this stretch of your journey. Timing your visit to Horseshoe Bend, about ten minutes outside Page, with sunset is a great idea but you won’t be the only person who had it! The parking lot gets very busy at sunset so come as early as you can to grab a space. The 15 minute walk from the parking lot to the viewing point is moderately tough as it’s on sand and a little step. Enjoy the view over Horseshoe Bend but take care as there are no barriers and many people standing or sitting at the cliff’s edge. More than a little nerve wracking, especially with small kids.

Overnight in Page, Arizona – Page is a small town but makes for a convenient stopover with access to both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. While there is not a lot going on in town, there are plenty of hotels to choose from and a great Mexican restaurant for dinner.

Suggest Hotels in Page:

 

 

Antelope Canyon, Opening

Day Five

Upper Antelope Canyon Tour

Antelope Canyon is one of those places that you just have to see to believe. The photos are of course spectacular but walking through and experiencing it is very special. Upper Antelope Canyon is on tribal land and is only accessible by joining a tour lead by Najavo guides.

Tour Trucks, Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Reuben Walking in Antelope Canyon

Reuben, Angel Wings, Antelope Canyon

The guides are great and will tell you about the creation of these petrified sand dunes and help you line up your camera to get the best photographs. Walking through the canyon takes about one hour with about 15 minutes driving on a tour truck in each direction. You absolutely must pre-book your tour in advance as they sell out early.

Bryce Canyon

Drive to Bryce Canyon for Sunset

Driving from Page, back into Utah and up to Bryce Canyon takes about 2.5 hours so leave in the early afternoon to allow time to sneak in a sunset at Bryce Canyon. The aptly named Sunset Point is the best place to watch the sun drop over the hoodoos that dot the canyon. Bryce Canyon is also a wonderful place for stargazing. If you’re in town during a full moon, the park rangers run a full moon hike or go to one of the hundreds of stargazing events run each year.

Overnight in Bryce Canyon, Utah – We stayed at the recently built and very comfortable Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. Dining choices are few and far between in Bryce Canyon. If you’re there in the off season, your only dining choice is at Ruby’s Inn. It’s not outstanding but it’s good enough considering it’s the only place in town. In the on season, there is a pizza place too.

Suggested Hotels in Bryce:

 

 

Snow on Bryce Canyon, Vertical

Day Six

Bryce Canyon National Park

Start your day early to catch the morning sun over Bryce Canyon. The park gates open at 8am year round. Driving from viewpoint to viewpoint is a great way to explore the park if you have limited mobility or if you’re travelling with small kids. The main park road is 18 miles long.

Bryce Canyon, Snow

Heading into the park from the visitors center, don’t miss Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints all the way around the the other side of the canyon to Rainbow and Yovimpa points. Depending on your level of ability, you can hike down for a closer look at the hoodoos and walk the Rim Trail  at various points around the park. The entire Rim Trail is 11 miles long so pick and choose the bits you want to do. The Navajo Loop is one of the most popular trails and is only 1.3 miles long. There is a mandatory park shuttle that you must use to get around Zion National Park during peak months, roughly March to October. In winter months you are able to drive around the park.

Drive from Bryce Canyon to Springdale

Once you’ve had your fill of Bryce, get back in the car and head onwards to Springdale. The 85 mile drive will take you about 1 hour 45 minutes. Take the evening off, sit in the hot tub at your hotel and star gaze.

Overnight in Springdale, Utah – Springdale offers the best choice in lodging and dining close to Zion National Park.

Suggested Hotels in Springdale:

  • Budget: Quality Inn & Suites Montclair – Affordable, clean hotel with a pool and also close to the park entrance and shuttle stop.
  • Midrange: Holiday Inn Express Springdale – Comfortable hotel right next to the park with great views and an outdoor pool & hot tub.
  • Luxury: Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens – Stunning lodge with gorgeous grounds and views located just outside the park and within walking distance to the park shuttle.

 

Zion National Park

Day Seven

Zion National Park

Rise and shine for a full day exploring Zion National Park! Stopping at the visitor’s center is always worthwhile to pick up maps, park information and to ask rangers for advice on specific hikes to meet you level of ability.

Zion National Park Utah

Narrow Trails At Zion National Park

Many of the hikes in Zion are steep and narrow making them unsuitable for families or people who are scared of heights. Check out this hiking guide to pick some suitable trails before your visit. The best way to see The Narrows is from above by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you’re visiting Zion with the family in tow, here is a great post on what to do in a day when you’re travelling with kids.

Drive from Zion to Las Vegas

The 160 mile drive from Zion to Las Vegas will take you about 2 hours 45 minutes. Fill up your vehicle while you’re still in Utah, gas is considerably cheaper here than in Nevada! St George, Utah is a good spot to stop for coffee and gas.

Overnight in Las Vegas, Nevada – Try out a different hotel to the one you stayed at on your first night, suggestions above. If you stayed on The Strip last time, consider staying Downtown at The Golden Nugget this time around so you can swim in their shark tank. If you want to stay on The Strip, pick a hotel based on the shows you want to see or the restaurants you want to visit. That way you can make the most of the last night of  your vacation!

Suggested Hotels in Las Vegas:

 

 

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Extension

If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, don’t come all this way and miss it! If you can add an extra night to your itinerary, you can build a quick visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona into your road trip.

In summer, you can dip down from Page, AZ  and start at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. In winter, you’ll need to access the park from the South Rim which is best done as an overnight side trip from Las Vegas. If you are really pushed for time, the Grand Canyon can be visited in a day from Las Vegas via helicopter or car.

Overnight in Tusayan, Arizona – Park accommodation in the Grand Canyon is booked out months and months in advance. The best place to stay is in Tusayan which is just outside the park gates and is a more affordable option.

Suggested Hotels in Tusayan:

  • Budget: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Grand Canyon – A comfortable 2-star option with an indoor pool and hot tub. The large suites with bunk beds are great for families who are travelling together.
  • Midrange: Best Western Premiere Grand Canyon Squire Inn – An upscale but still affordable option in Tusayan, this 3-star hotel has a great breakfast and an outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna which guests love after a long day of exploring.
  • Luxury: El Tovar Hotel – If you have the money the views and decor of the El Tovar can’t be beat! Located in the park itself on the South Rim, this historic 4-star hotel is extremely popular so make sure you book well in advance.

Top 10 Road Trip Essentials

Before you set off on your road trip, make sure you’ve got all the essential items at the ready.

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Showing 39 comments
  • Marta Grilo
    Reply

    Love your writing. The way you described Utah’s National Parks makes me wanna get into a plane to go there!

  • Reply

    Wowzers if that isn’t an impressive road trip them I don’t know what is! This is such a handy summary thank you so much for writing it. A great American road trip is so high up on our to-do list, I’ll be bookmarking this! Your photos are stunning… such vibrant colours. I’m about to share it too. Fab post. 🙂

    Gabby

  • Natalie Deduck
    Reply

    OMG!!!
    Your photos, the activities, the way you describe the place… Amazing, without words to say how amazed I was by your trip [and a bit jealous too…lolololol]
    I have never been to USA, and I feel like I´m missing a whole incredible world.
    Thanks for sharing the experience.
    All the best,

    Nat

  • Amy Trumpeter
    Reply

    Wow, what an amazing article! I visit Vegas every year for a conference, and I was thinking about extending my trip for some sight seeing. Perhaps I will use your itinerary if I have time!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      You definitely should Amy! Even if you could just manage SOME of this itinerary it would be worth it. While Zion and Bryce Canyon are closer to Las Vegas, it’s worth going the extra effort to reach Monument Valley and Arches. They are truly stunning.

  • Travelwith2ofus
    Reply

    This is a really good road trip itinerary. I would love to do the exact trip. And I will definitely want to visit the Grand Canyon.

  • Reply

    I love how your thought process led you to suggest choosing between SLC or Las Vegas to start. This will be so helpful to people who may not have flexible flight options from their home airports. Utah is an area that I’ve only driven through once with no time to savor these treasures. This post will whet the appetites of many.

  • Jen
    Reply

    I have been to the area but didn’t explore as thoroughly as you did – looks like I should! Great itinerary and spectacular photos.

  • Reply

    This is another world to me – and yet it’s still on my bucket list. Your photography is stunning! I’ll just have to find a way to do it!

  • Eric Stoen
    Reply

    I’m so glad I found this article. We’re not too far from Utah, yet I’ve never taken my kids through there. I bookmarked this and made a mental note to do this drive in the next year. Thank for putting together such a great itinerary!

  • Reply

    This is perfect timing! I’m working on an itinerary that includes a lot of these places! I’ll have to save it and go over it with my sister as we plan. I was going to skip Utah, but maybe I’ll add it after all. It looks gorgeous!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      You definitely shouldn’t skip Utah!!! It’s amazing. Our favourite state by far. The trip we did around the parks was definitely a highlight of our travels in the US so far.

  • Natasha Hecher
    Reply

    That looks incredible! And oh my, what photos!!

  • Chris
    Reply

    Wow, simply stunning!

    On thing the US does very well is National Parks.

    Thing I’d work on an itinerary that avoids Las Vegas however… possibly the city I like least in the world!!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Possibly the city I like most in the world! Everyone is different.

  • Wandering Carol
    Reply

    Sensational photos! I don’t often read blog posts that actually inspire me to go somewhere, but I really want to go to Arches National Park now.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      You should definitely add it to your bucket list Carol! Arches was our favourite by far.

  • Minka @mytravelfever
    Reply

    Thanks for your post and your stunning photographs! All the parks you’ve listed are on my bucket list and it’s great to have a bit of a guide to organise my visit. I would also like to visit the Wave (North Coyote Buttes) as well – have you been and if so where in your itinerary would you put it?

  • Brianna
    Reply

    I’ve only visited Zion but absolutely loved it. I definitely need to go back!

  • Tracie Howe
    Reply

    Utah has some of my favorite scenery in the entire world! I could spend years there just exploring. Thanks for pointing out the highway and mile-marker for Monument Valley. I’ve always had trouble finding that one iconic spot for some reason. Great info here!

  • Reply

    The only place of the ones you mention that we’ve seen is the Antelope National Park, but it is worth seeing. I wish we had more than just a few hours to visit that place, because it looked like a fun place for hiking. Thanks for all the tips! We really have to do a trip out West some time!

  • Karilyn
    Reply

    Wowzers you fit in a lot in a week! We just returned from a leisurely 10 day road trip from LA to Grand Canyon to Page to Zion. We didn’t even get to do everything that we wanted. Life is always slower with kids isn’t it?! SO much amazingness in that region of the US. We didn’t make it to Arches, so our next journey is to fly to SLC and do what we can from there.

  • Sanket D.
    Reply

    That sounds like a pretty kickass itinerary. I love the wild outdoors, and national parks are the one of the best ways to experience native natural history. Love this post – wish I living in America right about now, only so I could take this on! lol

  • Reply

    Fantastic post!
    I’ve clipped it into Evernote for when I finally get there! You’ve managed to so succinctly pull the trip together and make it sound all so do-able… even in just a week!
    What a great trip 🙂

  • Reply

    Amazing destination made more amazing by an incredibly written and super detailed summary! As always, impressive photos. Thanks for sharing this great trip with us, Bethaney!

  • Vicky and Buddy
    Reply

    I road tripped in this area for my 30th birthday. Arches was probably my favorite, and of course ending the trip in Vegas was fun. I’d definitely like to go back and see Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

  • Allison
    Reply

    Utah is my home state, and I love all of these places! The truly astonishing thing is how many great places you missed, simply because there is too little time to see it all. If you take an alternate route west from Moab, you can see Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Fremont Indian State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and others on your way to Bryce Canyon. I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip!

  • helen
    Reply

    Brilliant! We’ve coming to Utah for 2.5 weeks in March, heading from Vegas to Grand Junction and I was worrying about how we were going to fit all the parks in to our road trip – now I know we can do it! Thanks so much

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      You’ll love it Helen! Will you be headed to Park City at all? We’re here at the moment but leave in a few days. It’s great skiing. You can read about Park City in this post that I wrote.

      • Allison
        Reply

        Hi Bethaney, I am planning a family trip and found your site. This sounds wonderful! I have a question though. I can’t walk very far so will there be places for me to rest or wait while my family walks to the sites? I had thought we’d stay in Vegas or some other city and venture out from there, staying in some National parks, or I can stay in Vegas while they go. We have 8 nights. Thank you so much! Allison

        • Bethaney Davies
          Reply

          Hi Allison. I think you could enjoy a trip like this without too much walking. We did this trip when we had a 4.5 year old and a 11 month old baby so we didn’t do any walks longer than about 20 mins. If one or both of the kids were asleep in the car we would take turns doing a quick walk but even just driving around the parks and pulling into a viewing areas is satisfying enough. I think you could manage joining your family for the National Parks portion of the trip. To be honest, there is a lot of walking involved in Las Vegas because everything is much further away than it seems and walking to and from hotel car parks takes a long time. I have a friend who injured her ankle in before going to Las Vegas and she ended up hiring a motorized scooter there which was a real life saver. Definitely something to consider if you are not able to walk more than 10-15 minutes. Let me know how you get on and if you have further questions!

  • Kaye bruden
    Reply

    Love your informative blog , can’t wait to go there and so pleased I have read all your tricks and tips and now I won’t miss a thing , thanks so much Kaye

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Let me know if you need any more info Kaye! Happy to chat some time. When do you go?

  • Mariliz
    Reply

    Hello!!! I am from Puerto Rico and we have been looking into doing a Road Trip in the US. (Going to Orlando has gotten us bored)

    We were looking at flights and they are cheap for the months of jan to march but I know its Winter. Would you recommend visiting this time around? Or wouls there be too much snow? Any input would be great.

    Looking forward to this trip!!!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      All the photos in this post were taken in February. As you can see the roads are find and there wasn’t much snow around at all. We spent the winter skiing in Park City and there was obviously snow there but it’s higher elevation. Even in Salt Lake City there isn’t THAT much snow around. It’s cold still though but, as you can see in Southern Utah, the days are sunny and bright. It would be a great time for you to visit, just pick up some warm clothes!

  • Louise
    Reply

    Thanks for your great insight and information! We are a family from Australia looking to do this little road trip as part of our 3 week west coast trip. We will have to leave from LV and have 3 nights to explore this beautiful part of the country. We definitely have to see antelope canyon and monument valley and either Grand Canyon or Bryce? Do you think this is doable??
    Many thanks. 🙂

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Hi Louise. Where are you going to afterwards? Back to Vegas? You certainly could try and squeeze it into 3 nights/4 days. Leave Las Vegas, drive to the Grand Canyon South Rim (4 hours) and spend the day and night there. Next morning, drive to Monument Valley (3 hours) and spend a couple of hours there before driving to Page (2 hours). See if you can time it so that you are back in Page to see Horseshoe Bend at sunset. In the morning, do an Antelope Canyon tour and then drive to Bryce Canyon and/or Zion National Park. Stay the night and explore whichever park you choose before driving back to Vegas (or whever else you’re going!).

      What time of year are you going? If you’re there in Summer then you could potentially visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon instead of the South.

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