5 Best Road Trips

Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Road Trip

Driving itinerary and map starting in Salt Lake City, Utah and making its way through Fishlake National Forest, Southwest Utah, and St. George, Utah.

Start: Salt Lake City

Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Photo by Steve Greenwood
Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Photo by Steve Greenwood

Salt Lake City is home of Temple Square (world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and serves as a great home base for outdoor recreationists.

For anyone interested in genealogy, check out the Family History Library, the largest collection of genealogical records in the world. You might not be Mormon, but if you share an ancestor with a member of the LDS, chances are that the Family History Library has that data.

The Heart of the Cave in Timpanogos Cave National Monument
The Heart of the Cave in Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Photo by Ken Lund via FlickrKen Lund/Flickr

Head south past the Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts (and maybe take a side trip to Park City, Utah‘s premier resort town and site for 2002 Winter Olympic events). Further south on I-15 is Provo, home of Brigham Young University and close to Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Resort and Village. (Every January, the Sundance Film Festival selects 200 films for exhibition from more than 9,000 films entered from around the world.)

Just a few miles south is the 38-mile Nebo Loop Scenic Byway — a north-south mountain drive that runs between the regional centers of Payson and Nephi.

For those who thrill to bagpipes, Payson is the site of the annual Scottish Heritage Festival, held every July. On a culinary level, other annual festivities include a salmon supper, held every August, and the Onion Days festival, held every Labor Day weekend.

Just 25 miles south of Nephi (and five miles east of I-15), you’ll find the sandy beaches and warm waters of Yuba State Park, a favorite with in-boat campers.

Fishlake National Forest

Fish Lake
Widgeon Bay on the Fish Lake, Fishlake Scenic Byway, UT

Fishlake National Forest of central Utah will roll by for the next 100 miles or so. Fish Lake (south of Salina), from which the forest takes its name, is considered by many to be the gem of Utah. The largest natural mountain lake in the state, it offers trophy fishing and bird watching.

Southwestern corner of Utah

Cedar Breaks Natioinal Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument by Averette via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to Utah’s “Dixie,” known for a mild climate and history as a pre-Civil War-era cotton growing region. There’s a 7,500-foot drop from the cool forest of Cedar Breaks National Monument to St. George on the edge of the Mohave Desert. This is “Color Country,” known for the vibrant hues of cliff faces and especially Zion National Park.

Cedar Breaks is a natural amphitheater, sort of a miniature Bryce Canyon. The canyon rim is 10,000 feet, so snow effectively shuts down the monument from October to May. 

Nearby Cedar City hosts the annual Utah Shakespearean Festival, from late June to mid-October. Plays featured this season in repertory are: Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps and Great Expectations: A New Musical.

St. George is one of the fastest-growing communities in the country for the past 20 years, attracting retirees drawn by the mild winters. Just 43-miles east of St. George is Zion National Park.

End: Zion National Park

Observation Point in Zion National Park on a cloudy day
Deposit Photos

Don’t miss: Here are our top three vistas in Zion National Park.