18 hours and 47 minutes
The Ultimate Utah Road Trip
Beautiful locations, tips, food + lodging, travel time, and a gift at the end that took HOURS of logistical planning… all as a THANK YOU for all the support I’ve received from my followers! YOU ARE THE REAL MPVS.
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NOW LET’S GET PLANNING!
Who doesn’t have road-tripping through Utah on their bucket list? Utah is jam packed with literally EVERYTHING you need to have the best vacation ever. All it’s missing is the ocean, but trust me… there are PLENTY of places to swim… without sharks! HUGE bonus in my book.
Before you take part in a 1,000+ mile road trip around the state of Utah…
FIRST, save some money by purchasing:
- National Park Annual Pass (even if you’re only using it for this trip, you’ll save money)
- Utah State Park Pass (this may save you money depending on how many state parks you plan to stop at)
SECOND, plan ahead!!!
Read this blog so that you don’t make any mistakes or miss out of any opportunities! Some activities require booking ahead of time, and some parks may be closed! The app Hotel Tonight is great for any last minute bookings that you need if you aren’t planning on camping! Look into Enterprise for rental cards WEEKS ahead of time, and if possible.. try to get one that’s 4 wheel drive!
THIRD, choose your park days wisely!
If you can, plan to visit the big parks on weekdays and in the off-season if possible. September is warm, beautiful, and less busy than the peak of summer!
FINALLY, practice Leave No Trace EVERYWHERE YOU GO. I have an entire blog on LNT HERE, and you can find plenty of information on the Leave No Trace website HERE.
Ready? Here is my list of the MUST-SEE places that Utah has to offer, and how you can visit them all in one road trip!
THE ULTIMATE UTAH ROAD TRIP
1. SALT LAKE CITY TO MOAB
(ABOUT A 4 HOUR DRIVE)
When you arrive in Moab, I recommend giving yourself at least 1.5 – 2 days to explore. The downtown area is adorable, and there are such cool parks surrounding the little city.
Photos of moab
THINGS TO DO AROUND MOAB:
Canyonlands + Dead Horse Point (Day 1 – spend at least half a day exploring)
If you time your trip out right, head into Canyonlands to explore right when you get into Moab, and then visit Dead Horse Point on the way back. No matter what you do, BE AT DEAD HORSE POINT FOR SUNSET! Photographers – bring your best equipment! The sunset is UNREAL.
Arches National Park (Day 2 – give yourself an entire day to explore)
Due to COVID, they are currently only letting people enter the park every 3 hours, with limited cars allowed through each time slot! Plan ahead, get there early, and be prepared to spend the day there!
In Arches National Park, there are plenty of bathrooms but no places for food, so bring lots of snacks and water!
WHERE TO EAT IN MOAB:
Moab Brewery Food is BOMB, and so are the local brews. Worth a visit!
Moab Coffee Roasters A quick one-stop-shop before entering the parks!
Eklecticafe SO CUTE, comfortable outside and inside seating, bomb food.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN MOAB:
Camp in Arches National Park Plan WAY ahead of time. I have never gotten a campsite week or day-of in Arches!
BLM Land Like anywhere you travel, looking into staying on BLM land is always an option! Use the free app FreeRoam to find campsites near you. As always, follow Leave No Trace and pack up everything you bring, even food scraps.
Inca Inn For the price, this place is amazing. It’s in between downtown Moab and Arches National Park, and was so clean and comfortable. If you don’t feel like camping, this is a great option!
2. MOAB TO WILSON ARCH
(30 MINUTE DRIVE)
Just a stop on the highway! Explore for 30 minutes and be on your way!
Photos of wilson Arch
Wilson Arch is just a quick stop on the highway (US-191 South).
You’ll see it from the road and it’s the easiest hike! Only about 5-10 minutes, WAY less crowded than the arches around Moab, and a great way to move and get the wiggles out before the next leg of your drive!
3. WILSON ARCH TO RECAPTURE RESERVOIR
(50 MINUTE DRIVE)
Could be just a quick stop to swim, or an overnight if you want to camp! Read about the reservoir HERE.
We drove right passed Recapture Reservoir and almost missed it, then decided to turn back to check it out. SO WORTH IT. We took a dirt road down a path to a little beach that we had all to ourselves… so OF COURSE we took a quick dip in our birthday suites! THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: have a 4 wheel drive car, and bring water shoes. The bottom on the reservoir is so slimy! Other than that, 10/10 experience. So refreshing and worth the break in driving!
*NOTE: Free camping is available, but there are no garbages or bathrooms at Recapture Reservoir! Great place for kayaking, swimming and other water activities, just be prepared to bring all your trash with you on the way out!
Photos of recapture reservoir
4. RECAPTURE RESERVOIR TO MONUMENT VALLEY
(1 HOUR 40 MINUTE DRIVE)
***MONUMENT VALLEY ENTRANCE WAS CLOSED WHEN WE WENT DUE TO COVID! Click HERE to see if the park is open. Unfortunately, Navajo lands were heavily impacted by the pandemic, causing one of their most beautiful parks to close until further notice. Driving by Monument Valley is still absolutely breathtaking and totally worth it, in my opinion!
Photos of monument valley
5. MONUMENT VALLEY TO LAKE POWELL (2.5 HOUR DRIVE)
Lake Powell is one of the greatest places on earth. If possible, spend AT LEAST 2 days exploring!
Photos of lake powell
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND LAKE POWELL:
Kayak Glen Canyon – make this a priority!!!
I have never experienced such peace, mystery and excitement in any other activity as I did kayaking Glen Canyon. This is something you will remember for the rest of your life. We got SO LUCKY because, after calling places all morning, we found one rental shop that had kayaks available!
Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks – a smaller rental shop that not only hooked us up with everything we needed, but gave us a honeymoon discount! They were so kind and helpful, and they let us keep the kayaks overnight so we could experience the sunset on the lake! I HIGHLY recommend making any and all rental reservations with them before anyone else!
While kayaking Glen Canyon, make sure you go all the way to the end and hike the slot canyons! This will take 1-2 hours, so be sure to bring comfortable shoes! Since we were in and out of the water, I wore Chaco sandals the entire trip and had no problems!
Horseshoe Bend for sunrise or sunset!!
Antelope Canyon Tours was closed when we visited, so we kayaked Glen Canyon to get to the canyon. If it’s open, you way want to do Antelope Canyon and Glen Canyon separately!
Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon if antelope canyon is closed, there are so many other slot canyons in the area! Please check the weather before entering a slot canyon, and avoid if there is even a chance of rain! Slot canyons FLOOD very fast and can be very dangerous, and even deadly!
THINGS TO BRING WHEN KAYAKING GLEN CANYON:
- Waterproof backpack
- We brought our Yeti Panga backpack for all our gear, and also bought a waterproof bag that was around $20 at Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks.
- Comfortable shoes for hiking in the canyon (Chaco for the best sandals to hike in!)
- GoPro (with float case!)
WHERE TO SLEEP IN LAKE POWELL:
Lake Powell Resort at Wahweap – Lake access? Yep. Pool? Yep. Amazing restaurants? … YEP! We stayed 2 nights at this resort and I really don’t think you’ll want to stay anywhere else once you check out their website! It was so affordable, and had the best views! PRO TIP: Wake up for sunrise and head to the pool area! The view is UNREAL!
6. LAKE POWELL TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
(2.5 HOUR DRIVE)
Leave Lake Powell early in the morning to drive through Bryce Canyon to hike and adventure through the late morning/afternoon, and then head to Zion to stay overnight! We spent about 2 hours in Bryce, but you may want to spend more time there!
Photos of Bryce Canyon
7. BRYCE CANYON TO ZION NATIONAL PARK
(1 HOUR AND 20 MINUTES)
Yes, you’ll have to back-track a bit to get to Zion, but we decided that in order to sleep in Zion, this made the most sense. The drive is so pretty, so it really didn’t bother us!
On the way to Zion, right before the park entrance, we stopped at an AMAZING restaurant for an early dinner before our sunset hike. We spent 1.5 days in Zion, but would recommend more if you’re able to!
Zion Mountain Ranch – First, I can’t say enough about their restaurant, Cordwood – the food is so fresh and delicious, and mostly farm to table! They raise buffalo on the property, and harvest most of their fruits and veggies on sight! If we had known this place existed before, we would have stayed overnight here, as well! Check out their website, the property is UNBELIEVABLE!
After eating, we entered Zion National Park and rushed to the Canyon Outlook Trailhead to get parking so that we could make it up in time for sunset. We made it right in time!
A FEW TIPS:
- Get there at least 2 hours before sunset so that you don’t miss sunset. The hike isn’t very long (about a mile round trip) but it took a while to find parking!
- Wear shoes with grips! The trail is easy but the sand from the red rocks makes some surfaces slick.
- If you are heading up for sunset, bring a head light for the hike down. It gets dark FAST.
THINGS TO DO IN ZION:
The Narrows – check the weather before and if it’s clear skies, hike the narrows! (Whole day hike – visit HERE to see what you need to do to prepare for the hike.)
Angel’s Landing – a tough hike, but worth the view! (also a whole day hike)
WHERE TO SLEEP IN ZION:
Majestic View Lodge – For the price, this hotel was SO NICE! We didn’t spend much time in the hotel, but it was absolutely perfect for all our needs! (located in Springdale, the town next to Zion)
Zion Mountain Ranch – for a more luxurious experience!
WHERE TO EAT IN SPRINGDALE (TOWN NEXT TO ZION):
Oscar’s Cafe – this place… was freaking amazing. Oscar’s Cafe was recommended to us by our hotel for breakfast and WOW it did not disappoint!
MeMe’s Cafe – Also recommended to us, but we never went! Looks incredible!
8. ZION TO LITTLE SAHARA RECREATION AREA
Little Sahara is one of those places that you need to visit to believe it exists. Sand Dunes… in the middle of nowhere! It is such a cool place to visit, but there isn’t much around the area. I would recommend making this the final stop on your trip before making the 1 hour and 45 minute drive back to Salt Lake City.
9. LITTLE SAHARA RECREATION AREA TO SALT LAKE CITY
(1 HOUR 45 MINUTE DRIVE)
And there you have it. The Ultimate Utah Road Trip.
CLICK HERE FOR THE GOOGLE MAPS LINK TO THE ULTIMATE UTAH ROAD TRIP
OTHER COOL PLACES TO ADD TO YOUR TRIP THAT MAY NOT BE ON THE ROUTE, BUT WOULD BE WORTH THE VISIT IF YOU’RE TRAVELING IN FROM OUT OF STATE!
Bonneville Salt Flats – nowhere near the loop of the Utah Road Trip BUT so so worth it. Make it for sunrise or sunset, you will not regret making the trek out!
Mystic Hot Springs – you may be able to squeeze this into your road trip! If you decide to, PLAN AHEAD! Reservations fill up fast!
Antelope Island State Park – plenty of wild buffalo and a beautiful drive that will provide you the best views of the Great Salt Lake!