5 National Parks. 80+ hiking miles. 10 incredible days. Time to finally tackle that Utah roadtrip that has been on your vacation to-visit-list since forever. You’ve seen a taste of the glory through Instagram, so now it’s time to go experience it for yourself. And trust us, it’s even better than you could have imagined! What you’ve found here is our epic, wish-we-had-known-before-we-went Utah National Park 10 day travel guide made with the active, yet time-constrained adventure in mind. Let’s do this!
Disclaimer: This is not your typical relaxing, I-have-all-the-time-in-the-world travel guide. Ya it would be awesome to spend 2-3 days in each Utah National Park, but let’s be honest, no American traveler has the time to do that and see them all while holding down a full time job! So this guide is written to the frugal and practical American traveler who has planned ahead and squeezed this adventure into a week + an extra weekend (probably with a holiday in the middle somewhere to save that vacation day). All our American Travel Guides are short on park descriptions (you’ll learn all the same fun facts about the park while you’re there) and heavy on the hiking and efficient time planning. Little to no time is set aside for restaurants. It is assumed you’ll make a stop or two at a grocery store to pick up everything you need to eat on the trail or at your campsite. Our goal is to help you pack as many (usually free) fun-filled things into your cherished vacation time and make the most of potentially a once in a lifetime visit to these spectacular places. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, their are plenty of other awesome travel guides out there for you!
We’re just going to dive right into it. This itinerary assumes that you’re flying into Salt Lake City after work on Friday and then back to wherever home is from Las Vegas the next Sunday. Be sure to buy that America the Beautiful National Park Pass in advance and get ready for an incredible adventure!
FYI: Clicking on any of the links in the itinerary below will take you to our detailed 1 Day travel guides to help you make the most out of your time at each National Park!
- Friday (Day 1)
- Flying into Salt Lake City after work
- Get your rent-a-car, stop by the grocery store and pick up any additional gear you need.
- Camp or stay in an AirBnB in Salt Lake City
- Saturday (Day 2)
- Get any other gear you need in the morning and then drive to Moab (~3.5 hours).
- Find a campground in Moab on HWY-128 (check out the Canyonlands – Island In The Sky or Arches post for more Moab camping information) and reserve it for 4 nights
- Book any organized jeep or river rafting tours in Moab for either this afternoon or your open day on Tuesday
- Hike the Grandstaff Trail (which starts across the street from the Grandstaff campground on HWY-128) to Morning Glory Arch (2 hour round trip)
- Sunday (Day 3)
- Monday (Day 4)
- Tuesday (Day 5)
- Open for other Moab activity such as mountain biking, river rafting, stand up paddle boarding, ATVing. See “The Extras” section below for more details.
- Wednesday (Day 6)
- Wake up early and drive to Canyonlands – The Needles (~2 hours)
- Find a campsite in or around National Park for 1 night
- Canyonlands – The Needles 1 Day Itinerary
- Thursday (Day 7)
- Drive to Capitol Reef (~4 hours, drive south on I-191 and go westward on I-95)
- Capitol Reef 1 Day Itinerary
- Camp near Capitol Reef for 1 night
- Friday (Day 8)
- Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2.5 hours via HWY-12)
- Get campsite in or around Bryce Canyon for 1 night
- Bryce Canyon 1 Day Itinerary
- Saturday (Day 9)
- Drive to Zion National Park (~2 hours to main entrance in Springdale, Utah)
- Zion National Park 1 Day Itinerary
- Camp in Zion (get reservation in park at South Campground two weeks in advance) or drive ~30 minutes outside the park to find a campsite for 1 night
- Sunday (Day 10)
- Drive to Las Vegas (~2.5 hours from Springdale, Utah)
- Optional: Time permitting go check out the Hoover Dam (40 minutes from Las Vegas)
- Fly home!
No, you do not need an SUV to do this roadtrip! You can rent a sedan and you’ll be just fine. Within the parks, you’ll find some well maintained dirt/gravel roads in the canyon section of Capital Reef and a short section of Canyonlands – The Needles. If you end up camping on federal land (free, but no running water), you can expect to drive short distances down less maintained gravel roads. We never ran into a pot hole we couldn’t handle (or drive around) and saw plenty of small cars whenever we went!
There was so much to write on What to Pack that it deserved its own post. Check out our What to Pack for a Car Camping roadtrip for more info!
We get it. Hiking and moving around everyday can be exhausting. But at the same time, we (and you) don’t want to sit around and do nothing all day during our cherished adventure vacation time. Below are a couple of activities that you can work into your itinerary to allow you to stay an extra day in your favorite place while you rest your legs.
Moab sits right on the Colorado River and river rafting in a popular activity. The rapids are a roughly 1.5 hour drive from Moab so the experience will take a full day. Unfortunately, you don’t get to paddle as your raft is guided by a caption with two large oars, however the scenery is absolutely spectacular. If you’re exhausted and want to relax it’s a good option. You can expect river rafting to cost ~$200/person.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
You can also rent stand up paddle roads and cruise up and down the Colorado River. It would be a great way to rest the legs while still soaking in the incredible sites. If we were to do it all again, we would chose stand up paddling boarding on the Colorado River instead of river rafting.
We had no idea but Moab is one of the off-road vehicle capitals of the world. The streets are full of people in rented ATVs and lifted Jeeps. We’re going to assume you’ve got no ATV experience and don’t plan to rent one for multiple days (power to you if that up your alley). So for ATV tours, you have two options (both great): drive yourself or go with a professional. Regardless of your choice, you will be going to an off-round area aptly named Hell’s Revenge!
If you want to drive your own ATV, you will be in a group of 5-10 other ATVs with a lead guide. The guide to take you around the off-roads obstacles in Hell’s Revenge. Pro, you get to drive. Con, you skip hard obstacles and always go the easier way. Do some research on cost but you can expect to pay around: $100+/person
If you choose to go with a professional, it will be the driver, you and up to 2 more people in a lifted Jeep, torn down and built back again for this terrain. Pros, you get to do all the crazy obstacles in Hell’s Revenge. Cons, you don’t get to drive. We went with Dan Mick’s Jeep Tours and it was awesome. You can expect to pay $350+tip per jeep.
We had no idea but Moab is also one of the most popular places to go mountain biking in the US. If trading in your boots for a bike for a day is of interest, a quick google will provide you with plenty of options and bike shops!
Zion / Bryce Canyon
If you’re looking to do something truly crazy, how about exploring some off-the-beaten-path canyons. Canyoneering involves dropping down via ropes into backcountry slot canyons to have a look around! They’re called slot canyons since they are so narrow! This is definitely more dangerous than hiking so you would need to do it with a guide. If your trip would not be complete without canyoneering, the most popular area in this itinerary to go is the area around Zion National Park.
Wishing this travel guide included a little more information and fun facts about the parks? No worries, we left that up to the experts. GyPSy is a location based guide service that will provide you with awesome fun facts and park navigation directions as you drive. It costs a total of $20 to download Canyonlands – Island In The Sky, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon and Zion guides and it is 100% worth it. We named the guide Roger, he sounds like a Roger. So say hi to him for us!
Probably our favorite travel app ever made. It has all the hiking trails and walking paths clearly marked and has easy to download offline maps. Whether we are in Colombia or Glacier National park, we know we’ll never be lost with Maps.me. Plus, it’s completely free!
Be sure to open the app and download the map when you have WiFi. You download regional maps by zooming in on a certain area. There’s nothing worse than opening up Maps.Me once you’re on trail and realizing you forgot to download your map!
An app that gives you trail distances and recent reviews for hiking trails. It’s worth checking AllTrails a day or two before you do a longer hike as it is updated frequently for hikers. It’s basically Yelp for hiking. Plus, it’s free too!
You’re good to go for your Utah National Park adventure. You’ve got an itinerary broken down into power-packed yet manageable days. Plus, you’ve got all our lessons learned!
So there you have it, our epic Utah National Park 10 Day travel guide! From us to you, happy adventuring!
All prices and information is current as of September 2020.