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Monument Valley   |  Sandra Salvas

7 Days   •   1275 Miles

The Best Week of Your Life

Grab a national parks Annual Pass for the best access to The Mighty 5.
SALT LAKE CITY

The approach to Moab from Highway 191 becomes gradually — then rapidly — visually dramatic. This is red rock country. Each new road reveals new natural phenomena: the distant monoliths of Monument Valley, the rising walls of Capitol Reef, the hoodoos of Red Canyon or the sudden appearance of Zion’s deep canyon from high on the east rim. A week long road trip through Utah's national parks is the best way to stop and take it all in. Enjoy each moment of rest. There’s so much more yet to see.

What makes up The Best Week of Your Life? Let’s run the numbers for this one: five national parks, two national monuments, five scenic drives including one All-American Road, two national forests and up to six state parks, including the photogenic Dead Horse Point and Kodachrome Basin.

From the starting point in Moab you’ll explore Arches and Canyonlands national parks before a journey through prehistory south to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. You’ll have the option to see Natural Bridges National Monument or save extra time for the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow: Capitol Reef National Park.

Then, things get really, really interesting. It’s Utah’s All-American Road Scenic Byway 12 from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon. More than 100 miles of unique landscapes over Boulder Mountain through Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and up the high plateau to the amphitheaters of Bryce Canyon.

The journey ends in the desert southwest of Utah, where the slickrock plateau meets the Mojave Desert and the Virgin River continues to create a landscape of fascinating adventure in Zion National Park.

Day 1

Salt Lake City to Arches National Park

230 Miles

Linger for breakfast or brunch in Utah's vibrant capital city or get right to this adventure through The Mighty 5® national parks. 300 million years of erosion carved unbelievably dramatic landscapes that look like they were sculpted by giant mythological beings rather than the processes of time. Arches contains about 2,000 windowed arches, towering spires, harrowing hoodoos, and precarious pinnacles on display, including Delicate Arch, perhaps Utah's most iconic feature, which is a must-hike destination in the park. A paved 36-mile scenic drive from the park entrance provides numerous parking areas for trail access and scenic overlooks. Overnight in Devils Garden Campground or Moab.

Day 2

Arches to Canyonlands National Park

100 Miles

Imagine wave after wave of deep canyons, formed by the currents and tributaries of Utah's Green and Colorado rivers, divided with towering mesas, pinnacles, cliffs and spires, and spread out over tens of thousands of acres of some of the world's most breathtaking red rock country. Though Canyonlands National Park is made up of three distinct land districts, today focuses on the photogenic Island in the Sky and neighboring Dead Horse Point State Park. Camp in the parks or return to Moab.

Day 3

Canyonlands to Monument Valley

230 Miles

The large petroglyph panel of Newspaper Rock is on the scenic road to the the Needles District of Canyonlands. It’s worth an early start to sneak in a hike here, but be warned: You may not want to leave so soon. Except what awaits is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, an iconic symbol of the American West and the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation. The rugged landscapes are infused with ancestral spirits, yet they are hauntingly familiar thanks to Hollywood's long love affair with this land. Tour Edge of the Cedars State Park and Bluff Fort along the way. Overnight in Monument Valley.

Day 4

Monument Valley to Capitol Reef

200 Miles

Head north on S.R. 261 up the switchbacks of the Moki Dugway (restrictions on trailers or large RVs) and across Cedar Mesa for a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument, time permitting. Even if you only stop at the scenic overlooks, the three massive bridges are a wonder to behold. Next up, Capitol Reef National Park splashes color for 100 miles through an inviting wilderness of sandstone formations, rock art petroglyphs telling the story of the early indigenous people of the Fremont Culture, and the large fruit orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement. There are miles of unique trails in the front country along S.R. 24 and the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. With a high-clearance vehicle and a permit, you can explore the backcountry. Overnight in Torrey.

Day 5

Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon: Highway 12

115 Miles

On the All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12, travel over the high-alpine Boulder Mountain and traverse the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Introduce yourself to the unique communities of adventurous and welcoming folks who call it home. Uncover a sense of prehistory that strengthens the fabric of this memorable road trip. While the destination of this itinerary is Bryce Canyon, to drive straight through would miss must-see outdoor experiences like Calf Creek Falls and Kodachrome Basin State Park, dining destinations like Kiva Koffeehouse, Hell's Backbone Grill and the Burr Trail Outpost, and geologic history and heritage hotspots like Anasazi State Park Museum and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. In short, if you can, slow down today — even give yourself an extra day or more. And for the best lodging or campsites, book well in advance.

Day 6

Bryce Canyon to Zion

90 Miles

Bryce Canyon National Park is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock "hoodoos." The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Summertime offers a myriad of walking and hiking trails and a 37-mile scenic drive overlooking incredible vistas (with a summer shuttle option to avoid driving in traffic). Historic Bryce Canyon Lodge’s location within the park means great access to the sites, hikes and starry skies of the park. Overnight in the lodge or Bryce Canyon City.

Day 7

Zion National Park

310 Miles

Zion translates to "The Promised Land." For you that means some of the most spectacular hiking of your lifetime and impossibly beautiful landscapes you will never forget. Carved by water and time beyond the stretch of the imagination, Zion National Park is a sanctuary of the highest natural order. While many visitors opt for the popular Angels Landing or Riverside Walk/Gateway to the Narrows, hikers looking for a little less traffic will seek out Hidden Canyon, the longer and more strenuous Observation Point, or even a visit to the Kolob Canyons section of the park. If you're looking for a little more adventure, consider hiring a local outfitter and guide well in advance and plan for an unforgettable canyoneering experience in the moderately technical Orderville Canyon.

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