Last Updated on September 17, 2022
There are many great road trips throughout the US, but a road trip through Utah and its amazing national parks is one of the best. Utah is home to five national parks (often referred to as The Mighty 5), as well as dozens of national monuments and state parks. It has some of the most unique landscapes and best hikes in the country and this Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary will help you experience all of it in one epic 10 day road trip.
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How Many Days Do You Need for Utah National Parks?
It can be done in a week, but you will have do a lot of driving and little more than checking the parks off your bucket list or just picking a couple of parks to focus on instead of all five. Each park deserves at least one full day, not including the significant driving time between them. A 10 to 14 day trip would be the best so you can see everything without being too rushed.
Is Salt Lake City or Las Vegas Better for a Utah Road Trip?
Salt Lake City is marginally better for less driving, but more people have direct flight access to Las Vegas. Both are great for seeing the Utah national parks and have plenty of rental car options but it could also depend on if you want to see anything else. If you just want to visit the Utah parks, Salt Lake City is great but if you want to see more of the southwest, Las Vegas may be the better option with better access to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Death Valley, and more.
Which Utah Park is Best?
All of the Utah national parks are incredible and unique but they all have very different things to offer and experience. Arches, Bryce, and Zion are the most popular, with Zion getting the most visitors, but Canyonlands and Capitol Reef are both very beautiful and should not be skipped if you have the time.
Whether you just visit three or all five, getting an America the Beautiful Annual National Park pass is a must. The cost is $80 USD but will be paid for after three park visits. The pass will get you into all National Park Service sites and is worth every penny. Additionally, as it is valid for one whole year, you can easily plan additional trips in the United States to some of these amazing national parks:
10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
This Utah National Park Itinerary was designed to help you experience the best that each park has to offer including both hikes and some incredible overlooks that are much easier to get to. With ten days, you will be able to visit all five parks and have plenty of time in each of them.
Day 1 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Day one of this Utah national park itinerary starts in Salt Lake City which is the best place to stock up on food, water, and any other supplies you may need as it has tons of shopping options at reasonable prices. Once you leave Salt Lake, you will mostly be traveling through smaller towns without many store choices. If you can arrive earlier in the day, you will have plenty of time to stock up and make the drive to Moab, your first destination.
Looking for More Information on Moab? Check out our 3 Day Moab Itinerary!
Distance: 237 miles (381 km), approximately 3 hours 45 minutes
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn is a great choice and it is conveniently located right in downtown Moab, within walking distance of quite a few great restaurants and shops. It is perfect for a night on the town after a day in the parks.
Day 2 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
If you are visiting Arches between April 1st and October 3rd, you will need to reserve a timed entry permit in addition to the park entrance fee or national park pass. The entry permits are available on recreation.gov. You do not need a permit outside of these dates and you do not need one if you are able to enter before 6:00 AM or after 5:00 PM, if you have a camping reservation, or if you have a Fiery Furnace permit. Some permits are set aside for the night before so if you are not able to get one online, you can try the night before, too. You will need one for each day you want to visit the park.
The first full day of your road trip through Utah will be spend enjoying Arches National Park. This day is relatively light on activities, accounting for a potentially long drive and late arrival the night before.
If you don’t mind the crowds, you can head to Arches mid-day, otherwise start your day nice and early with your first hike at Park Avenue, a fairly easy hike that will make you feel like you walked into an old western movie. From here continue through the park, stopping at Balanced Rock before taking a hike through the Windows Area to see the North and South Windows, Turret Arch, and the famous Double Arch.
As you drive, enjoy the views from the many scenic overlooks and make sure to pack a picnic lunch. Finally, end your day with one of the most iconic hikes in the national parks. Head to the Delicate Arch Trailhead and be sure to make the short detour through the Wolfe Ranch area to see some petroglyphs on your way up in case it is dark on the hike back. Finish the steep hike up to Delicate Arch and enjoy the sunset over the beautiful free-standing arch and La Sal Mountains.
You will want to bring a headlamp or flashlight (more than your phone) in case you are hiking back in the dark. After your hike, head back to town for the night for a delicious dinner at The Spoke or 98 Center.
Distance: 12 to 50 miles (20 to 80 km), approximately 50 to 90 minutes
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn
Day 3 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
The next day you will be back in Arches National Park for sunrise in the Windows area. This is a great place for sunrise since there are a lot of vantage points here for great photos. Next, stop at the Salt Valley Overlook and Fiery Furnace Viewpoint for some amazing views. The Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch trails are two short hikes to arches that are very easy to see from the same trailhead.
The rest of the day will be spent in the Devils Garden area. If you want a difficult but adventurous hike, the entire 7.9 mile (12.6 km) loop is perfect, but if you want something shorter, you can still do part of the loop. Pine Tree, Tunnel, and Landscape Arches are the easiest arches to hike to in this area and are very worth it.
If you want to hike a little more, but still not the whole loop, hike to Double O Arch, Partition Arch, and Navajo Arch. The Fiery Furnace Viewpoint is a great place to enjoy the sunset on your way back to Moab before enjoying dinner at The Trailhead restaurant or Moab Spitfire Smokehouse.
Distance: 12 to 50 miles (20 to 80 km), approximately 50 to 90 minutes
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn
Day 4 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Your last full day in Moab will be spent exploring the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park. Get up super early so you can make the drive up to the Mesa Arch Trailhead and claim a spot near the arch for sunrise, one of the best places for sunrise in the area. You will want to get there about 30 minutes before sunrise if you want a good photography spot. After enjoying the beautiful sunrise, you will get to enjoy some incredible overlooks and short walks.
First, stop at the Orange Cliffs Overlook, one of the most famous views in the park. The Grand View Point is next and is absolutely incredible. There is a short hike to two overlooks here where you can see the White Rim Road, The Needles District, Monument Basin, the La Sal Mountains and The Maze District. Holeman Spring Overlook and Candlestick Tower Overlook are followed by the Upheaval Dome hike. The hike to the first overlook here is just 1 mile (1.6 km) and there is a second overlook that makes it a 4 mile (6.4 km) hike in total.
For more detailed information on Canyonlands National Park, check out our One Day Canyonlands Itinerary for everything you need to know!
Your last stop in the park is the beautiful Green River Overlook, our favorite view in the park. If you have a few hours before sunset and a 4×4 high-clearance vehicle, consider taking the Shafer Trail, an amazing dirt scenic drive, back to Moab before another delicious dinner. If you do not have the right vehicle, you could stop at Dead Horse Point State Park on your way out for some more great hiking and views for sunset. This is an incredible viewpoint to end the Moab portion of your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary.
Distance: 60 to 100 miles (96 to 160 km), approximately 1 to 3 hours
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn
Day 5 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Before leaving today, spend a little time walking around town enjoying the shops of downtown Moab. If you want to do a little more hiking, the Corona Arch trail is a great easy hike not far from town. On the drive down Potash Road you can also see petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks right on the side of the road. If you start your day early enough on the trail, a great way to avoid any crowds, you could do both the hike and some walking around town. Have lunch at the Moab food truck park before heading out.
From here drive to Goblin Valley State Park where you will get to see a whole valley of mushroom shaped rock formations. There are a couple of hiking trails here but the best way to experience the park is to just wander through the Valley of the Goblins and climb up the rock formations.
Just be sure you can get back up or down anything you try to climb. On the far side of the valley you may be able to find some little caves in the rock wall. You can spend the night in either Hanksville or Torrey. If you stay in Hanksville you will not have to backtrack the next day (though it is not too far) but Torrey has more choices for dinner and is better if you do not want to change hotels two days in a row.
Distance: 140 miles (225 km), approximately 2 hours (Hanksville) or 185 miles (297 km), approximately 3.5 hours (Torrey)
Where to Stay: Hanksville is recommended so you do not have to back track as much to drive as much the next day. The Whispering Sands Motel is not fancy but it will get the job done. If you want to stay in Torrey so you do not have to switch hotels two nights in a row, The Capitol Reef Resort is just outside of the park and has both hotel and glamping options. If you want a fun experience, you can stay in a teepee or a conestoga wagon.
Day 6 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Day 6 of your road trip through Utah will take you off the beaten path through the Cathedral Valley area of Capitol Reef National Park. A 4×4 high-clearance vehicle is highly recommended for this 57-mile (91 km) dirt road loop. It is recommended to start on the side of the river crossing to be sure you can get across and will not need to back track the entire loop if you start at the other side and cannot cross.
Plan to spend most of your day driving this loop so you can take your time and enjoy the sights. Be sure to stop at the South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and the Gypsum Sinkhole. Some parts of the road are very rough, so you will have to drive quite slow on a lot of it.
After you finish the drive, stop at the Gooseneck Overlook to enjoy the sunset from one of the best views in the area. There is just a short walk from the parking area to the overlook where you will see Sulphur Creek far below. Panorama Point and Sunset Point are at the same area and also worth the short walks to enjoy. Finish up your night with dinner at Capitol Burger or Hunt & Gather Restaurant.
Distance: 110 miles (177 km), approximately 5 to 8 hours
Where to Stay: The Capitol Reef Resort
Day 7 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Day 7 of the Utah National Park itinerary takes you from Torrey to the Bryce Canyon area. For this, you will be driving Scenic Byway 12, one of the most beautiful drives in the state. Along the way stop in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and hike the Spooky and Peek-A-Boo slot canyons.
These are two of the best slot canyons in Utah and can be found down the rough Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Both slot canyon are very narrow, but beautiful slot canyons that can be hiked by anyone as long as you are not too claustrophobic. If you hike both of these slot canyons, it is a 6.3 mile (10.1 km) loop.
If there is rain nearby or in the forecast at all, do not enter these or any other slot canyons. The risk of flash floods is very high in slot canyons and can be extremely dangerous. If you are claustrophobic and the idea of slot canyons is not for you, the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is a great alternative that is about the same hiking distance. It is one of the most popular hikes in Utah and takes you to a beautiful waterfall.
The Stone Hearth Grille in Tropic is a great place to stop for dinner on your way to Bryce Canyon City. If you want to eat in Bryce Canyon City, options are extremely limited; the restaurant at Ruby’s Inn is your best bet.
Distance: 170 miles (275 km), approximately 4.5 hours
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City is a great choice just outside of the park but close to restaurants, convenience stores, and gas.
Day 8 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Day 8 of your road trip through Utah will be spent entirely in Bryce Canyon National Park. Start your day nice and early to beat both the heat and the crowds and enjoy the view from the rim at sunrise at either Sunrise or Sunset Point.
This is one of the best views in Bryce Canyon and the easy hike between the two points is worth doing as well. This is where a lot of hiking trails start, including the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails. These are the easiest trails to hike below the rim, among the hoodoos the park is famous for. Hiking both trails as a loop is just 2.75 miles (4.4 km) but you are at a higher elevation than the other Utah national parks, so it may feel more difficult than it would elsewhere.
Next, enjoy the views from the various overlooks along the scenic drive. On the way to Paria View is Inspiration Point, one of the most beautiful views in the park. The view from here is incredible and unobstructed by fences, unlike Sunrise and Sunset Points. Then head to Bryce Point and the Natural Bridge. These are both quick stops but Bryce Point is the starting point for many hiking trails. Finally, enjoy the sprawling views from Ponderosa Canyon Viewpoint and Yovimpa Point Viewpoint before returning to Sunset Point for sunset.
If you are completing your Utah Mighty 5 road trip in the winter, Bryce Canyon is the main park that will be effected by snow due to its high elevation. In the summer it will still be hot but it will be a bit cooler than the other parks. In the winter, part of the main road can close due to heavy snowfall. For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park, check out our complete One Day in Bryce Canyon Itinerary!
Distance: 35 to 80 miles (55 to 130 km), approximately 2-3 hours
Where to Stay: The Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn if you do not want to make the drive to Zion. If you do want to get the drive over with this day, the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale is a great choice. It is the best town to stay in for visiting Zion.
Day 9 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Finally, the park you have all been waiting for, Zion National Park, the most popular national park in Utah! One thing to know before getting here is that if you plan to hike Angels Landing any time of year, you will need a permit to do so. You do not need one to hike to Scouts Lookout but you do need one to go beyond that.
This is to help with congestion on the dangerous chains section of the trail. The permits are up for lottery on a seasonal basis and are applied for online. There are minimal permits available the day before as well if you were not able to get one online in advance. It is best to have a backup plan just in case you cannot get a permit.
Throughout most of the year, there is also a shuttle that is required to enter the main Zion canyon because parking is so limited. The shuttle typically runs from March through November, the last week of December, and weekends in February and March. They leave from both Springdale and the Zion National Park Visitor Center. Exact hours vary by season just be sure you are done with your last hike with enough time to catch a shuttle back or you will face a 9+ mile (14+ km) walk back to your vehicle.
With logistics out of the way, we will get to the good part. You will want to start your day first thing in the morning to avoid both crowds and heat. Start out driving the 10 mile (16 km) Mount Carmel Highway. If you are coming from Bryce Canyon, this is the way you would enter the park so you will not have to backtrack for this. This area is occasionally closed due to rockfall but they update the park Facebook page with openings and closings like this if there are any.
Along the Mount Carmel Highway, be sure to stop and photograph Checkerboard Mesa before hiking the easy and beautiful Canyon Overlook Trail just before the tunnel entrance. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep along this section of road before the tunnel, they spend a lot of time over here. Next you will drive through the tunnel and down the amazing switchbacks. There are parking areas at most corners so do not be afraid to stop for pictures along the way.
Head to the visitor center next to learn about the park and ask rangers any questions you may have. Depending on how much daylight you still have, it should be plenty if you started your day early, you can get on and off the shuttle as you please in the main canyon to hike and explore the park. But if you can get a permit, now is the time to hike the incredible Angels Landing trail. This 5 mile (8 km) hike is difficult and not for anyone with a strong fear of heights.
First you have to face the steep Walters Wiggle switchbacks (which you can hike even without an Angels Landing permit) before conquering the intimidating chains section with over 1,000 foot (300 m) drop-offs on both sides. As long as you take your time and are in good physical condition, you should be able to do this hike.
Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the park, only being beaten out by Observation Point which looks down at Angels Landing. This is a must-do hike on your road trip through Utah. Finally, head back down and out to Springdale for a wonderful dinner at Switchback Grille or Zion Pizza & Noodle Co.
Distance: 90 miles (145 km), approximately 2 hours
Where to Stay: Cable Mountain Lodge
Day 10 of 10 Day Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Before driving back to Salt Lake City, you could spend the last morning of your road trip though Utah back in Zion doing a hike. The Watchman Trail or Pa’rus Trail are two great choices that are both on the shorter side and outside of the main canyon so you do not have to worry about the shuttle this day. They leave from the same spot so you could really do both if you started your day early enough.
Alternatively, if you are done with hiking, you could just spend a casual morning walking around Springdale, checking out all of the shops. Deep Creek Coffee Company has delicious food and coffee making it a great place to start your day. After your morning out, it is time for the drive back to Salt Lake City.
Distance: 315 miles (505 km), approximately 4.5 hours
Best Time of Year to Complete a Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip
There is good and bad about visiting in each season in Utah but there is no time you should just not go, but you will want to avoid major holidays and spring break if you can as they are the busiest, even in winter. Whichever time you chose to go, your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip is sure to be memorable.
Winter in Utah
Winter is the best choice if you do not mind possible snow and are traveling on a tight budget as hotel prices are much more affordable. Snowfall is generally not too much of an issue in the parks, as the areas are very dry. Expect to encounter snow on the mountain passes driving between the parks, with Bryce Canyon the most likely park to be affected by snow.
Due to lower overall visitors, you won’t have to worry about timed entry permits or not being able to find parking anywhere you go.
Can’t Get Enough of Utah? Check out these 15 Stunning Utah Photography Locations!
Spring in Utah
Spring can be very windy but aside from that and spring break, it is a great time to visit Utah. Depending on how early you are visiting in the spring, trees may still be bare but the moderate temperatures make for wonderful hiking conditions and it is still not as busy as summer.
Summer in Utah
Summer is peak season in Utah meaning it is very busy and very expensive. It is also incredibly hot which makes hiking after the cooler mornings much less enjoyable. If this is the only time you have for a Utah road trip, you can definitely make it work but will have to be prepared for the very dry heat. Permits for hikes and entrances are more likely to be needed in the summer since it is the busiest time of year so double check on these for popular hikes you may want to do.
Fall in Utah
Fall is the best time to visit Utah because the weather is perfect, it is not as busy, and you can see leaves changing, even in the desert. This is one of the best times for visiting all 5 Utah National Parks for hiking and photography because of the comfortable temperatures, fewer crowds, and beautiful scenery.
Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Summary
This 10 Day Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary will take you to the best that the Mighty 5 Utah National Parks have to offer. Exploring these parks is a bucket list item for many people, and understandably so. Each park offers something unique to see, and there are plenty of interesting attractions along the way between the parks to keep everyone entertained.
If we missed any of your favorite locations in the 5 Utah National Parks, let us know in the comments below!