Incredible outdoor adventures, seven national parks and ancient ruins combine to make this a trip of a lifetime. Start in Salt Lake City where you may be surprised by the vibrant craft brewing scene and how easy it is to get around this city framed by the Great Salt Lake and Wasatch mountains. Head south to Moab, home to Canyonlands and Arches national parks. From there stop at Bear Ears National Monument and then to Monument Valley, one of the West’s most iconic landscapes. Then point your wheels toward the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It’s just as beautiful but draws fewer crowds than the South Rim.
Afterwards, head north to the historic town of Kanab, Utah, home to hundreds of film shoots and great restaurants. Zion National Park is a short drive away. Then make your way north to Cedar City to visit the uncrowded Cedar Breaks National Monument. Explore Panguitch and Bryce Canyon National Park before heading to Escalante for a deep dive into spectacular slot canyons.
Next is Capitol Reef and the towns that surround it, including a few that are home to nationally recognized chefs. From there, head to the striking but uncrowded Great Basin National Park.
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TIP: Utah, California and the Navajo nation observe daylight saving time, while Arizona does not.
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
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.
Start: Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City Mythbusting
So you think you know Salt Lake City? We bet you don’t know about it’s thriving beer scene and five more surprises.
Basecamp in Moab for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park are neighbors in the Southeast corner of Utah. 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 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.
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. Learn more.
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. Learn more.
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.
Bears Ears National Monument
Uranium mining in the West, from Bears Ears to the Grand Canyon, threatens Indigenous and public lands. Read more on our sister website.
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 Navajo Country
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. Learn more on our sister website.
Experience Hopi in Tuba City
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
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’s Fab Four Things to Do
Avoid the crowds, enjoy fantastic food and discover the hidden gems along the way to the Southwest’s most popular national parks.
More: Most travelers have heard of “The Wave” but are unaware of the surrounding canyons that are just as jaw-dropping such as White Pocket. Read more.
Zion National Park
Inside this national park, massive canyon walls reach toward the sky. As visitors drive through Zion National Park, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the size and vertical orientation of the canyon walls that are all around you. Read more.
Cedar City and Brian Head
Elevate Your Experience
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 here.
Bryce Canyon National Park
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
Silver State Stopover at Great Basin National Park
In the Great Basin National Heritage Area, you’ll find Nevada’s only national park and surprising history.