Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Home Road Trip Utah National Park Road Trips With Scenic Stops

Utah National Park Road Trips With Scenic Stops

by Staff

Summary

  • There are plenty of scenic Utah national park road trip routes, especially since the state offers unique national parks with dramatic formations like arches, bridges, and canyons.
  • Invest in an America the Beautiful Parks pass for $80 to save on entry fees at multiple park sites.
  • Explore themed national park road trip itineraries in Utah, with routes featuring multiple park stops all in one trip.



Utah is one of the top destinations in the US for outdoor adventurers, home to many of America’s bucket list hiking trails. With five national parks and 11 other national park sites (including national monuments, recreation areas, and conservation areas), it’s no surprise some of the most bucket-list-worthy national park road trips take place in Utah.

Utah’s national park sites protect some of the most unusual formations in the world. Hoodoos, natural bridges, mineral caves, and sheer canyon walls are just some of the dramatic structures road trippers can expect to find on a trip around Utah. From weekend loops to treks across the state, these Utah national park road trip routes are excellent ways to explore the national park sites in the Beehive State.


Related

10 Dog-Friendly State Parks In Utah

Utah’s state parks are for everyone, humans and pups alike. Check out these state parks in Utah that allow dogs to enter and go hiking!

7 Arches & Bridges Of Utah

National Park Sites Visited: 4

Arches National Park may host the highest concentration of natural arches and bridges in the world, but there are actually three national park sites in Utah dedicated to these natural formations. Both Natural Bridges National Monument and Rainbow Bridge National Monument also protect one-of-a-kind arch formations, and they combine nicely with Arches National Park for a themed Utah national park road trip itinerary.

Starting in Moab with Arches National Park, Utah road trippers move south towards Natural Bridges National Monument. This is where the road trip takes a bit of a turn. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, meaning that guests can enjoy two national park sites at once.


However, while this may be a road trip, getting to the Rainbow Arch itself won’t be that easy. The only way to see one Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the world’s largest natural bridges, is to catch a boat ride from Lake Powell or take the multi-day 14-mile (each way) hike through the Navajo Nation. As the last stop of this national park road trip route in Utah, these exhausting excursions may be the perfect escape from the car for a grand road trip finale.

  • Road Trip Route: Moab → Arches National Park → Natural Bridges National Monument → Glen Canyon National Recreation Area/Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  • Recommended Time: 3–4 days


6 The Alpine Loop

National Park Sites Visited: 2

The Alpine Loop is a favorite for local Utahns looking for an afternoon drive, but with the right stops, this drive can easily become an exceptional national park road trip in Utah.

The entirety of the Alpine Loop is, in fact, in Uinta National Forest. Camping opportunities along the Loop, which stretches from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon, are plentiful, as are scenic hiking trails through the Aspen trees. The steep canyon walls also lend themselves to dramatic waterfalls, like the scenic Stewart Falls Trail.


As a Utah national park road trip, however, there is one more can’t-miss stop on this weekend getaway. Timpanogos Caves National Monument in American Fork Canyon is one of Utah’s most unique national park sites, requiring a moderate hike up switchbacks before reaching the caves themselves. Timpanogos Cave can only be explored as part of a tour, but the stalactites and stalagmites in the damp mountain caves are well worth the effort.

  • Road Trip Route: Alpine Loop Byway (American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon)
  • Recommended Time: 1–2 days

Related

10 Affordable Small Towns To Retire In Utah

Mountains, high plateaus, and deserts form most of Utah’s landscape, and its affordable and charming small towns offer a nice, adventurous retirement.


5 Southeastern Utah Road Trip

National Park Sites Visited: 3

There are countless scenic Utah road trips, ranging from just a few miles to all-day drives across the state. If even exploring half of the state isn’t quite possible, one of the shorter Utah national park road trip itineraries through a small region may be the perfect solution. The Southeastern portion of Utah is rich in national and state park sites, ideal for a smaller-scale road trip.

Moab makes an excellent home base for this road trip, sitting just outside Arches National Park and just an hour from Goblin Valley State Park, one of the many Utah state park alternatives to Zion National Park and the perfect substitute for making the drive to the other side of the state.

At just 370 miles to drive, this loop is far more manageable for those looking for a long weekend-length road trip through Utah’s national parks.


  • Road Trip Route: Moab → Arches National Park → Canyonlands National Park → Goblin Valley State Park → Natural Bridges National Monument → Moab
  • Recommended Time: 3–4 days

Scenic National Park Stop

Entrance Fee

Top Things To See and Do

Arches National Park

$35/vehicle (reservations required)

The Delicate Arch, Windows Section Scenic Drive, Hiking Trails

Canyonlands National Park

$30/vehicle

Mesa Arch, Green River Overlook, The Maze District

Goblin Valley State Park

$20/vehicle

Scenic Drive, Wander through the Goblins, Mountain Biking, Stargazing

Natural Bridges National Monument

$20/vehicle

Owachomo Bridge Viewpoint, Stargazing, Birdwatching, Horse Collar Ruin Overlook

4 Utah National Monuments Road Trip

National Park Sites Visited: 8


Utah has eight dedicated national monuments, in addition to the famous national parks. Seven of these national monuments work nicely to create one of the most unique and varied national park road trips in Utah from Salt Lake City. Following I-15 from Salt Lake to American Fork, road trippers will first detour to the Alpine loop to explore Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Uinta National Forest. A challenging hike to a mountain cave, Timpanogos Cave is the perfect first stop before heading to the rocky terrain of the rest of the trip.

The other four national monuments are in the southern portion of the state. From the ancient structures of Hovenweep National Monument to the red rocks of Cedar Breaks National Monument, this expansive road trip is a chance to explore the hidden gems of Utah, with fewer crowds but plenty of scenic national park views.


  • Road Trip Route: Salt Lake City → Timpanogos Cave National Monument → Bears Ears National Monument → Hovenweep National Monument → Natural Bridges National Monument → Rainbow Bridge National Monument/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area → Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument → Cedar Breaks National Monument → Cedar City
  • Recommended Time: 7–10 days

Scenic National Park Stop

Entrance Fee

Top Things To See and Do

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

from $22/person/tour (reservations required)

Scenic Hike, Guided Cave Tours

Bears Ears National Monument

FREE (fees for Cedar Mesa Area)

Cedar Mesa, San Juan River, Kayaking, Hiking, Rafting, Camping, Stargazing

Hovenweep National Monument

$20/vehicle

Hiking Trails, Square Tower Group, Cutthroat Castle, Visitors Center

Natural Bridges National Monument

$20/vehicle

Owachomo Bridge Viewpoint, Stargazing, Birdwatching, Horse Collar Ruin Overlook

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

FREE

Lake Powell Boat Ride, Hiking Trails

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

$30/vehicle

Hiking Trails, Swimming, Boating, Scenic Drives

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

FREE

Hiking, Rock Climbing, Camping, Stargazing, Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitors Center

Cedar Breaks National Monument

$10/person

Skiing, Snowshoeing, Hiking, Cedar Breaks Visitors Center, Stargazing


3 Zion National Park & Dixie National Forest Road Trip

National Park Sites Visited: 3

Zion National Park is the most-visited national park in Utah and was one of the most visited national parks in the US in 2023. Many travelers recommend spending two or even three days exploring this spectacular park, including taking several scenic drives (or hopping on the eco-friendly shuttle) through the park.

Given the time spent in Zion National Park itself, limiting additional road trip stops might be necessary. By starting in Saint George in southwestern Utah, adventurers on a Utah national park road trip itinerary with scenic stops can stop in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and Snow Canyon State Park on their way to Zion. After spending the desired time in Zion, and potentially even taking on one of America’s most dangerous hikes (Angel’s Landing), the road heads north to Dixie National Forest.


One of the numerous hidden gem destinations in Utah, Dixie National Forest is full of unique attractions of its own, including an arch that travelers can drive through and Red Canyon, one of the most underrated and worthwhile places to visit in Southern Utah.

  • Road Trip Route: Saint George → Snow Canyon State Park → Red Cliffs National Conservation Area → Zion National Park → Dixie National Forest
  • Recommended Time: 4–6 days

Got more time? By ending in Dixie National Forest, Utah national park road trip travelers are well-positioned to add Capitol Reef and even Canyonlands National Park to the road trip itinerary.

Scenic National Park Stop

Entrance Fee

Top Things To See and Do

Snow Canyon State Park

$10/vehicle

Hiking Trails, Mountain Biking, Scenic Drives, Camping

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

$5/person

Hiking Trails, Mountain Biking, Slot Canyons, Petroglyphs, Dinosaur Footprints, Horseback Riding

Zion National Park

$35/vehicle

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Angel’s Landing Hike (permit required), The Narrows Slot Canyon, Camping

Dixie National Forest

FREE

Hiking, Picnicking, Horseback Riding, Birdwatching


Related

10 Hiking Capitals Of America

Hikers don’t need to travel far from civilization to find some of the best hikes America has in store, especially in these US hiking capitals!

2 Route 89 Road Trip: The Utah Stretch

National Park Sites Visited: 2

Route 89 is often considered America’s most scenic road trip, and for good reason. In its entirety, Route 89 visits seven national parks and 14 national park sites between Montana and Arizona. The Utah stretch of this picturesque drive takes travelers from Kanab in Southern Utah all the way to Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho border.

The main national parks along this road are Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, both of which have their own scenic drives and hiking trails. For those interested in going further north, views of national forests as well as opportunities to detour to major cities like Provo and Salt Lake City help balance the attractions along this one-of-a-kind Utah national park road trip route.


  • Road Trip Route: Kanab → Zion National Park → Bryce Canyon National Park → Provo → Salt Lake City → Logan → Garden City/Bear Lake
  • Recommended Time: 4–6 days

1 Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip

National Park Sites Visited: 5

The five national parks in Utah are perfectly spaced for one of the best national park road trips in the US with scenic stops, and it is arguably the most popular road trip route in Utah.


Starting in Salt Lake City, travelers can point their loop toward either Zion National Park or Arches National Park. For those starting in Zion National Park, road trippers will slowly move east across Southern Utah before moving north, ending at Arches National Park and returning to Salt Lake City.

One of the great advantages of the Mighty Five road trip is the ability to add plenty of additional stops, including Snow Canyon State Park near Zion and Goblin Valley State Park near Moab and Arches.

  • Road Trip Route: Salt Lake City → Zion National Park → Bryce Canyon National Park → Capitol Reef National Park → Canyonlands National Park → Arches National Park → Salt Lake City
  • Recommended Time: 5–8 days

There are a variety of ways to enjoy the Mighty 5 Utah road trip. For a more linear route, travelers can start in Salt Lake and go towards Arches National Park, moving westward and ending in Zion National Park. This opens the possibility of heading to Las Vegas, Nevada instead of simply returning to Salt Lake at the end of the trip.


Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends