The Mighty 5: Ultimate Journey
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Ready for the journey of all journeys? The big one on the bucket list? This 10-day itinerary is the granddaddy of all itineraries. You’ll hit The Mighty 5® — every national park in Utah — as well as state parks, national monuments, Navajo Tribal Parks, and several stunning spots in between.
From reveling in the majestic view of Delicate Arch — one of the most famous geologic features in the world in Arches National Park — to hiking to the impossibly perched Angels Landing in Zion National Park — one of the most famous hikes in the world — you’ll be mighty close to a perfect 10 days.
You’ll find tranquil sunrises, fiery sunsets, and unadulterated views of the Milky Way. You’ll gape at technicolor cliffs, massive arches, and brilliant-hued hoodoos. You’ll discover wide-open spaces, tight slot canyons, and vertiginous views. You’ll experience magical mountain biking, big time off-roading, and monumental Jeep tours. You’ll explore ancient ruins, pioneer homesteads, and slickrock labyrinths. You’ll wind through world-renowned scenic drives, thrilling rapids, and more world-renowned scenic drives.
One day of this trip could set you up with enough adventure for a year. These 10 days will fill you with enough adventure for a lifetime. Are you ready to catch the first few rays of sunlight streaming through Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park and to gape at the sheer scale of the narrow walls that surround you as you wade through the river that carved them in Zion National Park? Get out there.
Read these resources to learn how to travel thoughtfully and experience Utah most fully on your journey.
Consider taking pit stops along your journey. You need to refuel, eat, answer the call of nature, and stretch your legs anyway, so why not make them into mini-adventures?
Moab to Arches
Adventure in Arches National Park where 300 million years of erosion has resulted in unbelievably dramatic landscapes that look like they were sculpted by giant mythological beings rather than the processes of time. Arches National Park 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. (Read: "How to Visit Arches")
Moab to Canyonlands
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.
Canyonlands and the La Sal Loop
A solid hike up Grandstaff Trail will give your legs a good stretch before continuing along a scenic loop into the very mountains that Delicate Arch frames. There’s also access to the thrilling Porcupine Rim Trail from up here. For even bigger adventure, consider a 2–5 day rafting trip on the Colorado River to extend this trip to its logical extreme. (Don’t worry, there’s the popular Moab Daily stretch for just a taste of the Colorado.) Two or more days on the White Rim Trail is another great way to linger in Moab.
Use this additional day in the Moab area to hit the rapids if you haven’t yet, pick up trails you may have missed in either of the national parks, or take an off-road tour with an experienced guide at the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Enjoy the legendary slickrock from the vantage point of an all-terrain vehicle in this off-road enthusiast's paradise. Save time for a relaxing meal in Moab to refresh yourself for the second half of this Ultimate Journey.
Moab to Monument Valley
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.
Monument Valley to Goblin Valley
While Goulding Film and Cultural History Museum at Goulding's Lodge provides a great introduction to the area, guided jeep tours and hikes will get you up close and personal with Monument Valley's incredible landforms. Next, head north on S.R. 261 up the switchbacks of the Moki Dugway and across Cedar Mesa for a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument. You may only have time for the scenic overlooks if you lingered in Monument Valley. Continue to Goblin Valley State Park where you can overnight in a yurt or grab a room in Hanksville or Torrey.
Capitol Reef Country
The contrast of red Entrada and white Navajo sandstones and the magnificent warp in the crust of the Earth create surreal landscapes unlike any you have seen. 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. With a high-clearance vehicle, you can explore the backcountry, but there’s also plenty to see and miles of unique trails in the front country along S.R. 24 and the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. Overnight in Torrey.
Torrey to Kodachrome Basin
Utah's All-American Road Scenic Byway 12 is a spectacular experience by itself, and this itinerary gives you breathing room to slow down and experience a little more of what this stunning route through Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument has to offer. Boulder, Utah, is home to the renowned Hell’s Backbone Grill and the starting point of the Burr Trail Scenic Backway. Consider stops at Anasazi, Escalante Petrified Forest and Kodachrome Basin state parks, and definitely plan time for the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. Charming towns dot the highway for overnight options or land at Bryce Canyon for the night.
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.
Bryce Canyon to Zion
Zion translates to "The Promised Land," and 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 canyon that invites you to participate in the very forces that created it. Park at the visitor center and take the multi-passenger shuttle through the canyon to as many stops as you have time and energy to enjoy.