Planning a 7-day Utah road trip? I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I’m saying if you follow these rules you are going to have an epic Utah road trip! This is one of the most FUN trips we have had, including US AND international trips we’ve taken! Loads of people do the same thing each year, so there is a ton of information out there regarding road-trips through Utah. However, I am here to thoroughly explain what we loved about this trip and why it is high on our “top trip” lists! How to concoct the best trip:
- Have a great itinerary
- Have the perfect mode of transportation
- Go the perfect time of year
- Tap into your inner “early bird”
The Utah Itinerary
This itinerary is a loop, starting and ending in Salt Lake City and includes:
- Arches National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Monument Valley
- Page, AZ (Slot canyon and Horseshoe Bend)
- Zion National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Bonneville Salt Flats
Fly into Salt Lake City, pick up the RV, buy groceries and drive straight to Moab.
- Recommend taking an early flight to factor in the time it will take to land, Uber to the RV, listen to the instructions of how to drive/manage the gadgets of the RV and get groceries.
- It is also a 3.5 hour drive from SLC to Moab, so don’t schedule much besides dinner day 1!
- Arches National Park
- Sunrise at Balanced Rock then drive to Double Window Arches to finish the early morning
- Delicate Arch hike
- Recommend getting to this hike mid-morning because it is popular
- If you are going during the summer, I recommend starting with this hike because there is NO shade!
- Devil’s Garden
- These trails are a bit more spread out and less popular, so save these for last
- Canyonlands National Park- Island in the Sky
- We didn’t drive down into the canyon due to driving a 32′ RV, but if you have a 4-wheel drive it may be worth it to spend more time to do this!
- Recommend going to the two overlooks in the Island in the Sky portion and doing the short hike to Mesa Arch
- The Needles section is about an hour and a half drive from this portion of Canyonlands.
- Dead Horse Point State Park bend overlook (honestly recommend skipping this for this particular trip)
- Drive from Dead Horse to Monument Valley (3 hour drive)
- Watch sunrise at Monument Valley
- I recommend driving the 17 mile loop through the monuments if you aren’t in an RV! (RV’s can’t drive through, and we learned this the HARD way)
- If you are in an RV, you can do guided tours through the monuments, but you will have to alter this itinerary for the time
- Drive 2 hours to Page, AZ
- Slot canyon hike
- Horseshoe Bend overlook
- Drive Horseshoe Bend to Kanab (Hour and 15 minutes)
- We opted to drive closer to Zion rather than stay near Page, AZ due to wanting to do Angel’s Landing EARLY
- Drive Kanab to Zion National Park (35 minute drive)
- I recommend getting up EARLY to catch the first 6am shuttle to Angel’s Landing!
- Angel’s Landing Hike
- After Angel’s Landing, make time to pick up gear to hike the Narrows the next morning
- You will have time for another short hike afterward
- Early morning wake-up call to hike The Narrows (again, recommend catching the FIRST shuttle to beat the crowds!)
- After finishing the Narrows hike, drive Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park (1.5 hour drive)
- Catch sunset in Bryce Canyon
- Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Hoodoos
- To get a LOT of hoodoo in one hike, shuttle to Bryce Point and start on the Under the Rim trail and go left toward Peekaboo Loop
- Take a left on Peekaboo Loop, and lefts at the next two Y’s to the Navajo Loop
- Take a left on Navajo Loop and end at Sunset Point (this hike was recommended to us by a park ranger and is more clear when you get a map of the Bryce trails!)
- Drive to SLC after finishing the hike (3 hour and 45 minute drive)
- Brunch in SLC
- Drive to Bonneville Salt Flats (1 hour and 40 minute drive).
- Stay for sunset! It is GORGEOUS here
- Head back to SLC for the night- fly out the next day
- We opted to skip Capital Reef National Park and went south to Monument Valley and Page, AZ
- Honestly, thought Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend were worth it! But if you want to hit all of the “Big 5” in Utah, then go to Capital Reef on Day 3
- In hindsight, I would have skipped Dead Horse Point State Park because it looks very similar to Canyonlands.
- We didn’t plan to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats originally, but after hiking about 5-6 miles through the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, we felt like the salt flats would be a good addition rather than another hoodoo hike in Bryce. DEFINITELY do not regret adding the salt flats to the itinerary!
- I also don’t recommend spending too much time in Salt Lake City on this trip, especially if it is a first-time trip. There is just better ways to spend your time!
- Definitely recommend going with a “soft” itinerary; don’t over-plan!
The best way to get around Utah/Arizona
In my humble opinion, the best way to get around Utah (and take care of accommodations) is to get around via an RV! We rented one through Outdoorsy, picked it up in SLC and drove it all around Utah and Arizona.
Why I think this is the best option for getting around Utah:
- The flexibility of the itinerary.
- This was one of the highlights of the trip. It isn’t every day that you can “go with the flow” as much as you can with a road trip where you drive your accommodation around. BEST way to do it.
- We had an idea of what we wanted to see, but didn’t know exactly when and how many days we needed in each place. The convenience of the RV is that accommodations don’t have to be pre-booked. Therefore, you can visit a place, see what you want and then mosey to the next destination. anticipated.
- Convenience of being close to the parks.
- Maybe it was because we were looking a little too close to the trip, but accommodations were NOT ideal prices and were also farther than we wanted to be from the park entrances. We got up EARLY to enter the parks before sunrise and didn’t want a long drive to get to the park.
RV vs camper van vs car camping
There are obviously other options than an RV that will give you the flexibility of the itinerary and the location independence. Car camping is definitely the cheapest option and a camper van will definitely be easier on gas. However, we chose an RV for these reasons:
- Having a toilet
- We only had access to a restroom one night; the other nights we were “boon-docking” and honestly wanted the convenience of having a toilet.
- Also, there were three of us, so we wanted room
- Many camper vans have a toilet, so if you are traveling as a couple a camper van may be a better option for you!
Whatever you choose for your priorities, I definitely recommend choosing one of these rather than booking hotels/VRBOs for the trip!
The perfect time of year
Going to Utah during shoulder season will be the cherry-on-top to your perfect RV itinerary.
- The weather
- Crisp mornings, sunny, warm afternoons and minimal rain. We went in September and had the BEST weather for hiking. I highly recommend visiting Utah during shoulder-season. The summer gets HOT and the best things to do in Utah are in the great outdoors.
- Be aware that the Spring will have great weather like the fall, but the rain can be more problematic. If you plan to hike The Narrows in Zion (which you should!) it can close down QUICK with flash flooding.
- The crowds
- Also, going in September, the crowds were much more manageable. Yes, popular hikes such as Angel’s Landing will have crowds, but they will be more tolerable!
You’ll have a good time in Utah in the summer; but you’ll have a GREAT time during shoulder season 😏
be an Early bird
I don’t care what time of year you go, but if you try to sleep in and then try to do some of the popular things like Angel’s Landing and the Narrows hike you will NOT have the best experience you can have. The crowds grow EXPONENTIALLY (even during shoulder season) starting fairly early in the morning. So, even if you are not typically a morning person, it is WORTH IT to enter parks prior to sunrise to begin popular hikes and to visit popular sights without SO MANY people around.
Be strategic in what you choose do first thing in the morning. Do all of the popular things first and do some of the other things that are more spread out afterward. Horseshoe Bend has plenty of space for everyone and Canyonlands is pretty spaced out which makes them good afternoon options (although parking may be difficult during summer months).
Why this contributes to the best Utah road trip
I have yet to take a Utah road trip that didn’t involve an RV or with a different itinerary, so I don’t have a personal comparison. But seeing and doing what we did while having a slumber party in an RV every night made for the most FUN trip!
Curious how much our 7-day road trip through Utah cost? Click here for the dirty details.