Red rock arches silhouetted against a bluebird sky. Mighty rivers winding their way through steep canyons. Aspen leaves quaking in a mountain breeze. This is Utah, where public lands comprise 70% of the state. It’s a nature-lover’s dream with plenty of space to find solitude and soak in the quiet beauty of the desert and mountains. On this 1,200-mile route, you’ll explore six national parks along with countless national monuments, state parks and other public lands in between.
This road trip takes you from the capital of Salt Lake City to the red rock country near Moab where Arches and Canyonlands national parks display some of the most stunning rock formations in all of the West as well as incredible night skies. Continuing south into Arizona, drive through the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation to learn more about whose homelands you’re recreating on. Visit the Grand Canyon’s less-crowded North Rim before heading back into Utah to find adrenaline-fueled adventure in Zion. Explore Cedar Breaks National Monument and discover solitude in Bryce Canyon. Finally, head north towards Torrey, Utah to check Capitol Reef, the final of Utah’s national parks, off your bucket list.
Take the Under Canvas Glamping Version of this Trip
Want to do a similar road trip but go glamping at every stop? Do the Best Southwest Glamping Road Trip.
Road Trip Map
Before You Go
Download the Gypsy Guide App
Enjoy the freedom of driving your own car while traveling with an entertaining guide that doesn’t take up space. There are driving tours for Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Learn more at gypsyguide.com
Start: Salt Lake City, Utah
The New Salt Lake
Discover an eclectic ecosystem that involves unique coffee houses, artisan cocktails and a short hike that gives you fantastic views of the city.
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
We’ll start off this Utah national parks road trip with two parks in the southeastern part of the state. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park are neighbors. Sitting next to the cool waters of the Colorado River, is the nearest town of Moab with a wide choice of hotels and campgrounds.
Moab’s Top 7 Things to Do with Family
With so many things to do in Moab, choose among our favorite seven things to do with family including a boat tour with Canyonlands by Night & Day, seeing life-sized dinosaurs at Moab Giants, and five more.
Push Your Limits
Check out these three heart-pounding adventures in Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Raft the Desert West’s Best River Stretches with OARS
Read these tips to incredible rafting trips for families, thrill seekers and those just looking for relaxation amid some of the country’s best scenery in Utah and Colorado.
Go Retro in Moab at the Expedition Lodge
The retro vibes of this lodge will immediately take you back to a time before the kids could block out rounds of “99 Bottles” with earbuds and Spotify, when the journey was the destination, not the Instagram-worthy view.
Home Comforts at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab
Kitchenettes, an indoor pool and convenient downtown location make Homewood Suites your perfect Moab adventure basecamp.
Top 4 Campgrounds in Moab
These campgrounds by Sun RV Resorts offer extraordinary amenities, including pools, dog parks, cabins and more near two of Utah’s national parks, Arches and Canyonlands.
Monument Valley, Navajo Nation and Hopi Nation
An iconic stretch of land, the Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Indian Nation and home to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This drive has been called the most scenic in America by many and it’s no wonder why.
Explore the Navajo Interactive Museum
Discover the rich history and culture of the Navajo Nation and its people in Tuba City and Monument Valley. The Explore Navajo Interactive Museum will give you a glimpse of Navajo history and modern life.
Take an Experience Hopi Day Tour
People have been living in Old Oraibi for nearly 1,000 years. Tour this ancient village as well as other significant Hopi sites, and conveniently stay at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn.
Grand Canyon National Park
North Rim vs. South Rim
From Tuba City, Ariz. choose to visit the Grand Canyon’s North or South Rim. What’s the difference? A 277-mile-long (446 km) canyon separates the national park. The South Rim is the area is far more popular than the quiet North Rim. It’s more developed with multiple hotels, restaurants and campgrounds. It’s just 60-miles from Tuba City, Ariz. to the Desert View East Entrance near Cameron, Ariz. The North Rim gets far fewer visitors each year, is home to just one hotel and is closed from November to May every year because of snow. The North Rim is 150-miles from Tuba City, Ariz., but brings you closer to your next stop on this road trip.
Grand Canyon North Rim
Offering fantastic views with less congestion, the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park offers those willing to drive five hours and 212 miles from the South Rim a chance to see the canyon without the crowds. There are places like Point Imperial where you can watch the distant rising sun gradually spread a blanket of warm red and gold light across the giant walls of rock and the singular spire of Mount Hayden.
There are places like Point Imperial where you can watch the distant rising sun gradually spread a blanket of warm red and gold light across the giant walls of rock and the singular spire of Mount Hayden. You might even hear the evocative song of a canyon wren rising and falling in crescendo, just eight or 10 clear notes. It is, perhaps, the most memorable bird song of the West.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is an experience wholly separate from the South Rim. A more remote, rugged and individual opportunity to see what John Wesley Powell described as, “ledges and cliffs where the soaring eagle is lost to view before it reaches a summit.”
Top 4 North Rim Viewpoints – One is only a half-mile on a paved trail from the lodge.
Kanab is Utah’s Best-Kept Secret
Best Four in Kanab
Avoid the crowds, enjoy fantastic food and discover the hidden gems along the way to the Southwest’s most popular national parks including Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
White Pocket vs. The Wave
Most travelers have heard of “The Wave” but are unaware of the surrounding canyons that are just as jaw-dropping such as White Pocket. Find out which one to visit.
Zion National Park
Head to the most popular Utah park on this Utah national park road trip: Zion National Park. As visitors drive through the park, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the size and vertical orientation of the canyon walls that are all around you.
7 Top Things to Do in Zion National Park
This gorgeous national park offers breathtaking views, lodging and great educational stops. Here are our top seven.
Adrenaline-Fueled Zion Adventures
Looking to physically challenge yourself and find world-class adventure in Utah’s most popular park? Here are four of our favorite ways to spend an active day in Zion.
Starlight, Starbright… Night Sky Photography in Utah’s National Parks
Better pack the cookies, because we’ve rounded up five perfect parks to photograph the Milky Way in.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Not only is this national park site considerably less crowded than its nearby sister national parks, it’s also filled with an incredible array of vibrant wildflowers.
Look down into a half-mile deep geologic amphitheater, wander among timeless bristlecone pines, stand in lush meadows of wildflowers, ponder crystal-clear night skies and experience the richness of the subalpine forest in Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.
Elevate Your Experience in Cedar City and Brian Head
While southwest Utah is known for its amazing red-rock landscapes, there’s a pocket of mountains topped by aspen trees, wildflowers and pine trees. Here are four reasons to stop and stay in the Cedar City area.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Compared to Utah’s other national parks, Bryce Canyon feels like a totally different world. For one, its mesmerizing hoodoos ranging from white to pink to red feel like you might just be on Mars. For another, the canyon’s rim sits at between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation, making it cooler and allowing pine and spruce forests to flourish. And lastly? It sees a fraction of the crowds.
Maximize your experience at Bryce Canyon National Park by driving to Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints. These are all spectacular overlooks of the park’s red hoodoos shooting up against evergreen forests in the background.
3 New Ways to Experience Bryce Canyon Country
See the stars, squeeze through a slot canyon or visit in the winter near these little towns along Hwy. 12.
The Closest Hotel to Bryce Canyon is Ruby’s Inn
Ruby’s Inn and Adventures is at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. Stay at two hotels, an RV park, tipis, cabins, or the campground. Go on a Bryce Canyon adventure on a bike, ATV, or horse.
Capitol Reef National Park
A diversity of landscape like no other in Utah, Capitol Reef National Park and surrounding area has red rock formations, arches, plateaus, meadows, forests, lush green valleys and astounding deserts.
Remote Beauty in Utah’s Capitol Reef Country
Take in Utah’s stunning color palette in and around Capitol Reef National Park. But the national park is just the beginning of what this scenic part of Utah has to offer.
Great Basin National Park
Just over the Utah border, visit Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, where you can explore the inside of the Earth and the top of a 13,000-foot peak on the same day.
Silver State Stopover at Great Basin National Park
In the Great Basin National Heritage Area, you’ll find Nevada’s less-known national park and surprising history.