Looking to spend a week on the open roads of Southern Utah? Spend your Utah destinations vacation at The Mighty 5® — our iconic national parks — and at the equally majestic national monuments and state parks in between. We don't use “iconic” and “majestic” lightly. These are the standard bearers of Utah, the giants whose splendor has inspired humans for centuries.
From the start, you’ll be transported to a new world with massive expanses of technicolor cliffs, brilliant-hued hoodoos and wide-open spaces around Bryce Canyon National Park. After dark, you’ll be treated to a stellar night sky — the Milky Way streaking across it so brightly that it seems you could walk the stars like a trail.
Ride horseback through stone spires, hike to stone arches, or hop around stone goblins seemingly frozen in time. Revel in the majestic view of Delicate Arch, one of the most famous geologic features in the world. Test your mettle with slickrock mountain biking. Gape at the towering stone sentinels of Monument Valley that have long defined the world’s image of the American West.
Summit to impossibly high — even heavenly — perches, where you’ll get a vertiginous view into the heart of Zion Canyon National Park. Then, from the depths of a gorge, gape upwards at the sheer scale of the narrow walls that surround you as you wade through the river that carved them.
Nowhere else will you find such varied desert terrain in such a concentrated area. You’ll get a huge taste of Utah’s inspiring beauty and outdoor adventure. Peruse our inspirational itineraries, based on mileage, provided below which include lodging and accommodations suggestions.
Read these resources to learn how to travel thoughtfully and experience Utah most fully.
- Snow Canyon State Park
- Kolob Canyons
- Cedar Breaks National Monument
Devote your first day to touring the intersection of the lofty Colorado Plateau of southwest Utah and the fascinating Mojave Desert. You’ll start in the warmer, lower elevations exploring the domes and dunes of Snow Canyon before catching views from the Kolob Canyons scenic drive in the northwest corner of Zion National Park. Don’t worry; we’ll return to the main canyon of Zion later on this journey. Finish the day with a drive to 10,000 feet and soak in majestic sunset views over the red rock amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument. Camp here or overnight in Panguitch.
Cut by water, sculpted by wind and time, Snow Canyon’s Navajo sandstone cliffs share the same history and geology as Zion National Park, one hour to the east. It is a national park-caliber destination in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve that is popular with road cyclists, hikers, climbers and families.
The Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway (5 miles one way) in the northwestern corner of Zion National Park accesses the dramatic desert landscape associated with the main section of the park: towering colored cliffs, narrow winding canyons, forested plateaus and great trails, but fewer visitors.
This majestic 2,000-foot deep natural amphitheater calls to mind its big brother Bryce Canyon to the east with huge spires shaped over millions of years of wind blowing through the canyon. Because it’s an official Dark Sky Park, camping nearby is a must do, especially if you can attend a ranger-led stargazing program during the summer months at this certified Dark Sky Park.
- The All-American Road Scenic Byway 12
- Queens Garden to Navajo Trail
- Dark Skies of Bryce Canyon
The western introduction to the All-American Road Scenic Byway 12 includes the famous red rock arch tunnels near Red Canyon. Mountain bikers can stop to ride Thunder Mountain, and everyone can shuttle in for today's marquee hike: Bryce Canyon’s iconic 3-mile Queens Garden to Navajo route. Other hikes in Bryce Canyon include the excellent Bristlecone Loop at the 9,000-foot-level of Yovimpa Point. As beautiful as Bryce Canyon is during the day, some believe the show really starts at night. This grand sanctuary of natural darkness serves up pristine dark skies. Plan an overnight in the lodge, Bryce Canyon City or camping under the stars.
Discover two national parks, the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the tranquil beauty of Boulder Mountain along with national forest lands and state parks unlike anywhere else. While you can complete the whole drive on one scenic three-hour tour, even a four-day itinerary only cracks the surface.
This must-hike trail descends from the rim at Sunrise Point down to the floor of Bryce Canyon past Gulliver’s Castle and Queen Elizabeth herself. Close the loop on Navajo and visit favorite hoodoo formations such as Wall Street and Twin Bridges. One of the best 3-mile hikes anywhere.
As an accredited International Dark Sky Park, Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to experience the splendor of the night sky. Protected by a special force of park rangers and volunteer Utah astronomy enthusiasts, Bryce Canyon is known as the last grand sanctuary of natural darkness and has one of the nation's oldest astronomy programs.
Photo: Prajit Ravindran
- Kodachrome Basin State Park
- Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Hell's Backbone Grill
The journey east on the All-American Road continues. Kodachrome Basin State Park offers a photogenic snapshot of Grand Staircase geology, particularly on the excellent Panorama Loop Trail. Continue to Calf Creek Falls for a 6-mile, round-trip hike to a true oasis in the desert. You’ll also pass a mighty pictograph on the canyon wall, evidence of early travelers here. The next stretch of Highway 12 is the famous Hogsback, a winding feat of civil engineering along a razor-thin ridge. Cap the day with a farm-to-table dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill. Overnight in Boulder or nearby Torrey for quick access to Capitol Reef tomorrow morning.
The first official name, “Chimney Rock” reflects the area’s 67 monolithic stone spires, part of a multicolored landscape so beautiful it earned the nickname “Kodachrome” after a popular Kodak film. The name stuck and today visitors enjoy camping and hiking across 2,240 acres of photogenic, geologic wonder. Nearby Grosvenor Arch (pictured) offers a quick glimpse into Grand Staircase, but check road conditions before traveling.
At the lower falls of Calf Creek, a clear stream descends 126 feet into a pool, where happy folks take a swim after a 3-mile hike that is relatively flat, but frequently very sandy. It’s 6 miles total, and a great introduction to the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.
An iconic meal for an iconic road trip. This Zagat-rated, organic-farm-to-fork restaurant in Boulder, Utah, serves regionally-based cuisine. The varied menu receives rave reviews from happy patrons for its blend of Western Range, Pueblo Indian and Southwestern flavors. The proprietors source from their own organic farm and heirloom fruit trees. Reservations are recommended, so call ahead before you decide to stop in.
- Hickman Bridge + Navajo Knobs
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Delicate Arch Hike
You could spend days in Capitol Reef National Park and still have plenty left to explore. Consider touring the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive behind the visitor center and stopping to pick fruit in-season at the park’s historic orchards. Today’s featured hike, however, is a 1.8-mile round-trip journey to the 133-foot Hickman Bridge — a breathtaking natural bridge. Well-conditioned hikers may also opt to climb even higher toward Navajo Knobs. Continue along S.R. 24 through Capitol Reef Country along the colorful Fremont River toward Goblin Valley for a romp with the martian hoodoos. Finish the day with a sunset hike to Delicate Arch and overnight in or near Moab.
These front country hikes in Capitol Reef National Park lead to amazing rock formations and panoramic views of Southeastern Utah. Hickman Bridge is a short out-and-back (about 2 miles). The Rim Overlook and/or Navajo Knobs add 2.3 and 4.7 miles (one-way), respectively, for an elevated 360º panoramic view of Capitol Reef’s tilted landscapes.
So far this trip we’ve stepped back in time, but now it’s time to set foot on an entirely different world. Goblin Valley is unlike any other place in the world, and it's a place that captures and stretches the imagination, challenging you with its geologic whimsy. Bring the family and experience this amazing place by hiking, camping, mountain biking, and exploring the surrounding canyons. "Galaxy Quest" fans may recognize the landscape too.
When you come around the corner and see the full breadth of Delicate Arch, you’ll know why this is such a classic hike. At 3 miles round-trip, the hike is no simple stroll, but it’s worth every step. Carry water, hike early to race the sunrise, or stay late for the sunset. Be sure to bring a headlamp.
- Slickrock Trail
- Filmed in Utah: Dead Horse Point
- Mesa Arch
You’ll need an early start to hit Mesa Arch by sunrise — but it’s worth it. Continue exploring Canyonlands on nearly 20 miles of scenic roadways, stopping at overlooks or trying your legs on some of the longer hikes. Don’t miss the Grand View Point’s vantage over the distant confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. Mountain bikers will want to make haste for the Slickrock Trail. There are easy and difficult options, and places to rent bikes in Moab. Overnight in Blanding. Campers may opt for a night under the stars of Natural Bridges, the world’s first certified International Dark Sky Park.
The Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab is a nationally significant public lands treasure at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. It’s also home to the famous Slickrock Bike Trail. There’s a practice loop for beginners and the highly technical 10.6-mile trail known worldwide.
Many visitors find Dead Horse Point State Park to be even more captivating than the views at the Grand Canyon. A visitor center and art gallery provide a wonderful introduction to the park’s geology and key features visible from the overlooks. There are also mountain biking trails and reservable yurts.
This is a perfect trail for newbies to slickrock desert hiking, and one of Canyonlands National Park's most iconic and photogenic vistas. It’s easy and short, and a detailed display at the trailhead explains how to hike the trail. The payoff is huge, especially at sunrise.
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Monument Valley Jeep Tour
- Lake Powell Boat Tour
Whether you start your day at Natural Bridges or Monument Valley, you’re starting a spectacular day. (Note: Large RVs are not recommended on Moki Dugway of S.R. 261) Stick to the scenic overlook at Natural Bridges or try a longer hike. A guided jeep tour at Monument Valley gets you the best access, or consider a self-guided drive. Next, you have early and late-afternoon options to tour Lake Powell by boat. No one will blame you if you decide to extend this itinerary a day by hiking the Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley today, then opting for the full-day boat tour to Rainbow Bridge tomorrow. Overnight in Kanab.
The amazing force of water has cut three spectacular natural bridges in White Canyon. Choose from the 9-mile scenic drive with overlooks to the bridges or moderate to difficult trails, some with metal stairs leading down to each bridge. A longer trail follows the stream bed beneath all three.
Book a tour of Valley Drive (which you can also drive on your own if you have the right vehicle) or a longer trek such as Mystery Valley, accessible only with a licensed guide. A Jeep tour visits the iconic sites, but is accompanied by a Navajo narrative.
The Panoramic Tour takes you in a double-decker boat out to Gunsight Bay and back. This is an excellent option for those who don’t want to deal with the logistics of renting their own boat. Other tours offer half-day adventures or even a full day with a visit to Rainbow Bridge.
- Zion-Mt. Carmel Drive and Hikes
- Angels Landing
- The Narrows
If you're waking up in Kanab, the approach to Zion National Park from the east is the historic Zion–Mount Carmel Scenic Drive. Start early and pause for a sunrise hike at the Canyon Overlook Trail or continue through the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel, a marvel of 1930s engineering. As the sun rises in the east, it pulls back the curtain of night on Angels Landing. Set out early and meet the rising sun at the top. When the canyon warms up with the summer sun, cool off in the Virgin River by hiking as deep into the Narrows as daylight and your legs permit.
The Zion-Mount Carmel stretch of S.R. 9 mixes one part stunning scenic byway and one part feat of engineering. The great state of Utah doesn’t want to brag, but this is one of the most spectacular dives in the world, plain and simple. Zion National Park fees apply.
This classic Utah trail provides a spectacular half-day trip for well-conditioned hikers who have no fear of heights. A series of 21 switchbacks ascend to aerial views of Scout Lookout. Stop here or take on the final hair-raising pitch to the top of Angels Landing. 5.4 miles, round-trip.
An out-and-back day hike in the lower section of famous Zion Canyon Narrows, where the North Fork Virgin River runs beneath thousand-foot walls of Navajo sandstone beautifully sculpted by centuries of erosion. Up to 9.4 miles round-trip, depending on how far you hike.