An Unforgettable Two-Week Road Trip to Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks
Utah is one of my favorite states in the U.S. for outdoor adventures. Traveling here will not only make you feel like you’ve visited another state, but you’ll also feel like you’re on a different planet. The landscapes here are dramatic and otherworldly. There are great stopping points, hikes, and natural wonders to see at each destination.
This itinerary starts at the park furthest from Salt Lake City and works backward. It takes about 4-and-a-half hours to get from SLC to Zion.
Zion National ParkZion National Park, Utah, USA
One of the best places to stay while visiting Zion is the adjacent town of Springdale. There is a shuttle system to and from the park from most hotels there. You can also camp in the park.
SpringdaleSpringdale, UT, United States
I would recommend spending two full days at Zion because there are amazing hikes like the Narrows and Angel’s Landing, among many others. Unfortunately, Zion occasionally has severe thunderstorms and flooding, so always check the weather conditions before your hikes.
You do not need to be an avid hiker to visit Zion. There are many easy trails, lookout spots, and driving tours you can take to see the park’s natural beauty. The park has a hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus that will take you through the key attractions.
The next stop on the itinerary is Bryce National Park. You should spend at least two full days at this park as well.
The drive from Zion to Bryce takes about two hours.
Bryce Canyon National ParkBryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA
Bryce has impressive hoodoo (rock formations that look like columns), alpine forests, and slotted canyons. You can go on guided moonlit hikes, horseback rides, and daytime hikes.
Some activities you can do are take short and easy hikes along the rim and visit the Sunrise, Sunset, Bryce, and Inspiration viewpoints.
You can traverse some more strenuous trails like Rainbow Point and the Under the Rim/Backcountry trails if you’re an advanced hiker.
Rainbow PointRainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA
Inside the park, accommodations include a handful of lodges such as the Lodge at Bryce Canyon and a few motels.
One of the most scenic drives on your road trip will be the trip from Bryce to Capitol Reef on Scenic Byway 12. This stretch alone could be its own road trip.
As you approach Capitol Reef, you’ll feel like your descending upon Mars. The bright red landscape is otherworldly. This was personally one of my favorite parts of the road trip.
You’ll find several lodges and hotels in the nearby town Torrey you can stay at. You can also camp in the park.
Inside Capitol Reef, you’ll find some exciting activities. There are fifteen trails for day hikes and some backcountry hiking for experienced hikers. These include Cathedral Valley, Fruita, Water Pocket District, Sulphur Creek, and Burro, Cottonwood, and Sheets Gulch.
Capitol Reef National ParkCapitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA
Cathedral ValleyCathedral Valley, Utah, USA
ou can also make a scenic driving loop, visit the orchards, and discover the park’s night skies.
You should stay at least one full day here.
Just over two hours from Capitol Reef is Canyonlands National Park. The breathtaking vistas and extraterrestrial landscapes continue at this destination.
It is an enormous 330,000-acre park filled with buttes, mesas, arches, canyons, overlooks, and hiking trails. Just outside the visitor’s center, there is already a spectacular viewpoint.
Islands in the Sky near Moab is the park’s most visited section. However, you can also visit The Needles, The Rivers, The Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon.
Horseshoe CanyonHorseshoe Canyon, Utah, USA
Within these sections are some impressive sights. Some places you should see are Mesa Arch, the Grand Viewpoint, the Gooseberry Trail, Buck Canyon Overlook, Green River Overlook, and Upheaval Dome.
Upheaval DomeUpheaval Dome, Utah, USA
The best accommodations for Canyonlands are in Moab. You won’t find any food in the park, so you’ll want to stock up there before exploring for the day.
MoabMoab, UT, USA
You should visit for at least two full days.
You don’t have to travel very far to get to Arches from Canyonlands, and you wouldn’t need to change hotels.
Arches is an impressive park with some of the most unique natural “sculptures” you can find anywhere.
There are many ways to explore this natural wonder.
You can complete an 18-mile scenic driving tour which will give you an overview of the park. However, I would recommend making stops because you can’t see some of the most famous arches from the car.
Visitors can also go hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, biking, and canyoneering at Arches.
If you don’t want to explore the park yourself, you can take a commercial guided tour.
At night, the sky lights up with beautiful stars, and there is little light pollution.
Arches National ParkArches National Park, Utah, USA
After exploring Arches, head back to Salt Lake City, which takes about 40 minutes.