Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Planning your trip to see some of the places to visit in Utah can be a bit overwhelming.

We’ve got the perfect Utah National Park road trip itinerary that will cover all 5 parks in this amazing state!

We share things to do, what to pack, where to stay and more for each National Park!

Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary pin

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National Park Packing List

When you are visiting any national park it is important to be prepared. This includes wearing the proper clothes and shoes to be comfortable for the climate and the terrain.

→ CHECK OUT: National park packing list for summer and winter

For most national parks you will want to bring:

Best Time to Visit Utah National Parks

The best time to visit Utah National Parks is really a personal preference. Here’s what you can expect during each season of the year.

Spring

The busy season starts at Utah National Parks in the spring. Between March and October the roads, hiking trails and parking lots typically fill to capacity. If you can, avoid the holidays around Easter, spring break and Memorial Day. Those times are especially busy!

Spring weather is perfect for exploring the National Parks in central and southern Utah. The days are warm but early morning and evening temperatures are still cool. In early spring you might experience rain or even snow.

Due to the elevation near Bryce Canyon, temperatures are much cooler: early spring high 50, low 20 | late spring: high 77, low 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For the other four parks you’ll find warmer temperatures: early spring high 60, low mid-30s | late spring high 80+, low 40+ degrees Fahrenheit.

Summer

To be completely honest, Utah National Parks in the summer is not our favorite time to visit. Summer weather is HOT in central/southern Utah where the national parks are located. You also have to watch for summer monsoon rain that can affect hiking in slot canyons!

Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun! Plan your outdoor activities in the morning and late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Bryce Canyon is a “bit” cooler due to its elevation with highs near 80 and lows around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The other four parks can become unbearable with highs in the 90s to 100s and lows around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fall

Visiting Utah National Parks in the fall is one of the best times of the year to go. Fall is a very busy season because the weather is “just right” for outdoor activities. Expect warm days with nighttime temperatures cooling down as the months progress.

Bryce Canyon: September highs 69, lows 37; October high 57, lows 27 and November highs 44, lows 18 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The other four parks: September highs 80, lows 50; October highs 70, lows 40; November highs 60, lows 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winter

The best thing about Utah National Parks in the winter is the solitude and serenity you’ll experience as you explore the parks.

When visiting Bryce Canyon in the winter you can expect it to be snowy and cold. Throughout the winter months temperatures to range from 36 degrees all the way down to 11 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Winter weather for the other four parks is a bit milder than Bryce Canyon with highs near 40 and lows in the mid-20s.

Be prepared for rain and snow storms. Watch weather reports so you’re prepared for the conditions. Roads can close in all parks due to snow storms. Trails can become muddy and icy and may require traction devices.

hoodoos at Bryce Canyon

Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary

This itinerary starts by flying into Las Vegas then driving to the Utah National Parks in this order:

  1. Zion National Park
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park
  3. Capitol Reef National Park
  4. Arches National Park
  5. Canyonlands National Park

You can also fly into Salt Lake City and visit the parks as listed above, or in reverse order.

Zion National Park

The drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park is 160 miles and takes about 2 1/2 hours. Exit Route 9 off I-15 just past St. George and follow the signs to Zion National Park.

Las Vegas to Zion map

Use our Zion National Park travel guide to plan your visit. We recommend 2-3 days to really experience this park.

The park shuttle into Zion Canyon runs most of the year so be sure to check schedules and times to navigate this section of the park.

There are amazing things to do at Zion National Park, and here are a few of our favorites:

NOTE! Angels Landing pilot program begins April 1, 2022. On and after April 1, 2022, hikers going to Angels Landing will need a permit. The National Park Service (NPS) will issue permits using online lotteries at Recreation.gov.

Visitors can get a permit by entering seasonal lotteries or a different lottery the day before their planned hikes. It will cost $6 to enter any of the lotteries and successful permit holders will pay a $3 per person fee. These funds will cover costs to manage the lotteries and for additional NPS rangers who will assist visitors and check permits on the trail. Learn when and how to enter the lotteries at go.nps.gov/AngelsLanding.

Where to Stay Near Zion

You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance to Zion. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay at to Zion National Park:

  • Holiday Inn Express – our favorite place to stay with an outdoor pool and amenities you’d find in a high end hotel
  • Zion Lodge – we haven’t had a chance to stay here yet, but you can’t go wrong staying right IN the park!
  • Under Canvas Zion – if you want to experience a less crowded part of Zion, this is the place! It’s in the Kolob section of the park.
  • Vacation Rentals in Springdale – you’ll want to stay in Springdale so you’re close to the park entrance and can walk to shopping and restaurants. 
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Leave Zion National Park through the east entrance and travel 2 hours north, about 73 miles, on Highway 89 toward Bryce Canyon National Park.

Zion to Bryce Canyon map

Use our Bryce Canyon travel guide to plan your visit. You can quickly see this park in 1/2 to 1 day, but if you plan to do any hiking, photography, horseback riding or other activities, we recommend 2 days!

If you want to take amazing photos of the hoodoos, windows and arches here, check out our Bryce Canyon photography guide with tips and best times to take pictures at each viewpoint!

Here are our favorite things to do at Bryce Canyon National Park:

Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon:

Capitol Reef National Park

From Bryce Canyon you’ll drive along Utah Scenic Byway Route 12 to Capitol Reef National Park. The 2.5 hour drive, 116 miles, is along a narrow and winding road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef map

We highly recommend taking your time as you travel along Highway 12. Here are a few stops at Utah State Parks, hiking trails and other day adventures you can do:

Use our Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan your visit. You can quickly see this park in 1/2 to 1 day, but if you plan to do any hiking, photography or exploring the more remote districts, we recommend 2 to 3 days!

Check out our Capitol Reef Photography Guide with tips and best times to take pictures in the park.

Here are our favorite things to do in Capitol Reef National Park:

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef

Places to Stay at Capitol Reef National Park

  • Capitol Reef Resort – this is where we stay! Make it a unique experience and stay in a teepee or covered wagon!
  • Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel – basic rooms and cabins with a deli and store right on the property which is so convenient!
  • VRBO Vacation Rentals – we like finding a place with a kitchen so we can prepare our own food.
  • RV Share Rentals – enjoy the convenience of having an RV delivered to you at Capitol Reef!
take amazing photos at capitol reef

Canyonlands National Park

Before you leave Capitol Reef, make sure you have plenty of water, healthy road trip snacks and a full tank of gas as you head 2.5 hours to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

capitol reef to canyonlands map

We recommend you drive Highway 24 to I-70 and take time visiting Goblin Valley State Park. Keep in mind the park hours are 6 am to 10 pm every day. Go early so avoid the crowds, especially during spring, summer and fall.

Use our Canyonlands National Park guide to plan your visit. Remember there are really four districts in this park: Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky, Needles Canyonlands, The Maze and the Colorado River.

Island in the Sky

We recommend a full day to explore the Island in the Sky scenic drive and take a short hike or two. And you MUST take time to visit Dead Horse Point State Park, a side road right before the entrance to Island in the Sky. Add another day or two if you plan to take longer hikes or explore the 4×4 Shaeffer Trail or White Rim Road.

Needles

The Needles District is in a remote part of the park that features extensive hiking trails, amazing geology, and relatively few people, making this a fantastic area to explore.

This section of Canyonlands National Park is 40 miles south of Moab. Drive along US 191 until you reach UT 211. This is the only road into and out of this section of the park. Be sure to stop and see Newspaper Rock, one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs dating back 2,000 years!

Check out our Arches and Canyonlands Photography Guide that includes a 3-day itinerary to photograph the most amazing sunrise, sunset and night spots in both parks!

Here are our favorite things to do at Canyonlands National Park:

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Island in the Sky

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds.

Here are 4 places we recommend:

  •  Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Canyonlands.
  •  Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel.
  •  Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Townhomes south of town – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Needles

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there is one campground.

You can visit Needles and stay in Moab, and most people do that.

The town of Monticello is a bit closer to Needles, but the lodging, food and shopping options aren’t as good. It’s a much smaller town than Moab.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a few miles north of the fun outdoor adventure town of Moab, Utah. We visit many times and never tire of photographing or hiking around the natural rock formations that include 2,000 stone archways, giant balanced rocks, and massive pinnacles.

Yes, you can drive through Arches in a day (or even 1/2 a day) if all you do is stop at the various points of interest. But you’d miss all that this amazing small park has to offer!

We recommend at least 2 full days in Arches, especially if you really want to take amazing photos and/or hike the trails. Here’s our Arches & Canyonlands 3 day itinerary and photography guide that lists the must-do photo spots and things to do!

Here are our favorite things to do at Arches National Park:

PLEASE NOTE: Arches will be doing a TIMED ENTRY pilot program April through October, 2022.

Timed entry tickets will be required to enter the park from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and will allow visitors to enter the park during a one-hour specified window of availability. After entering, visitors may stay in the park as long as they wish for the remainder of the day. Reservation holders may exit and re-enter the park on the same day with a correctly validated ticket.

Visitors can book reservations first-come, first-served on Recreation.gov. The park will release reservations three months in advance in monthly blocks.

Where to Stay Near Arches:

Arches National Park Camping

There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks.

→ Where to Stay Near Arches National Park

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
  • Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  • Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Vacation Rentals – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.
national park packing lists

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