Utah: Mighty 5 Roadtrip

Starting Point: Phoenix, AZ

You can, of course, adjust this itinerary to fit other starting points.

Day 1: Driving to Utah and Seeing Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges NM (c) ABR 2017

    It is about a 6-7 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ; if you are leaving from there and want to explore Natural Bridges in one day, please be sure to leave early in the morning. Be well rested, and have a driving partner to help you make it up. Some of the roads on the way to Natural Bridges can be a little difficult (winding dirt roads along cliffs).

Natural Bridges NM has a very nice visitor center and a loop drive for those of you looking for a relaxing view into the canyon. For the hikers among you, my travel partner and I hiked down to each of the major bridges and then back out, but there is a trail that runs the whole length of the canyon if you have the time and energy for that.

Bear Ears National Monument is fairly close to Natural Bridges, so if you want to explore there as well, you may consider camping nearby and adding a day onto your itinerary. We were unable to visit Bear Ears on our own trip.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Canyonlands Motor Inn in Monticello, Utah)

Humble accommodations, but with friendly staff and comfortable rooms.

 

Day 2: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands NP (c) ABR 2017

There are several entrances to Canyonlands NP, but due to bad weather, we skipped the southern one. Again, for those of you looking to get some more hiking in, you may consider spending an extra night in Monticello to explore the area near the southern entrance.

Following our schedule, however, day two involves a drive up to Moab (about 1.5 hours) and then to the northern entrance. Again, there is a great visitor center and a very nice drive in this part of Canyonlands. Some of the shorter hikes that we stacked here were Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock, Aztec Butte, Grand View Point Overlook, and Mesa Arch. All of these were short, although Upheaval Dome has a longer trail that requires more expertise. See park materials for details on the trails and what fits your needs best.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Lazy Lizard Hostel, Moab, Utah

Private rooms available, great atmosphere for mountain bikers.

 

Day 3: Arches National Park

A double arch at Arches NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is a short 15-minute drive from the southern end of Moab to the entrance of Arches National Park, but depending on the time of year, you may want to plan on getting there early as Arches is quite popular and gets very busy.

There are tons of amazing views and formations that you can see from the car in this National Park, so be sure to plan time for all the sights even if you don’t think you will hike. If you are up to hiking, I would highly suggest that you do the Delicate Arch hike, as this will take you to some great views of the arch that is on all of the Utah license plates. Of course, there are plenty of other trails throughout the park that also are worth visiting. Devil’s Garden and the Windows Section are a couple others that we did and enjoyed, but I would have liked to have planned ahead and gotten a permit for the Fiery Furnace as well.

It is about a 2.5 hour drive to Bricknell, Utah and the road gains some altitude so check the weather for sure in the winter, and be sure that you have the energy to drive safely to your next destination.

Budget Stay Suggestions:

Aquarius Inn, Bicknell, Utah

Not my favorite in terms of atmosphere, but the room was comfortable enough.

 

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park

Awesome mountains in Capitol Reef NP (c) ABR 2017

It is only about 30 minutes from Bricknell to Capitol Reef, and this is one of the quieter parks, so you don’t need to be in quite as much of a rush to get out as I would suggest for Arches, Bryce, and Zion. There are no major attractions in this park, and the drive is mostly on a highway or a very small road and dirt road extensions. Be sure to check out the petroglyphs here and definitely do stop to see all the huge rock formations along the highway.

In terms of hiking here, I really enjoyed the walk to Hickman Bridge; the trail up to here has some good views of Capitol Dome as well as the other surrounding mountains. My favorite hike, however, was the walk through Capitol Gorge. I would have also liked to have walked through Grand Wash, but we ran out of time.

It is about a 2.5-3 hour drive into Panguitch near Bryce Canyon, so again, be safe and give yourself time to make it over there.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Quality Inn Bryce Canyon, Panguitch, Utah

Pretty unique for a Quality Inn, with an old west character.

 

Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon (c) ABR 2017

It is a nice 25 minute drive from Panguitch to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. Again, this is a busier park, so be sure to plan to get there early, and take a look at park andbus schedules if it is the high season.

For those non-hikers among you, you will fall in love with Bryce Canyon from all the lookouts. While I think that anyone who is able should hike into the canyon a bit, there are some great views from the road. For those of you looking to hike but with limited time, be SURE to hike the Queen Garden, because you will be right among the hoodoos and it is unforgettable. Tower Bridge is another option for a shorter hike and has some very unique vistas. For those faster hikers or people with more time, there is a long rim trail, as well as a variety of backpacking trails in the canyon that can make for a long day hike.

It is about 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon to Cedar City.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Motel 6 Cedar City, Cedar City, Utah

Pretty nice, but no microwaves in the rooms!

 

Day 6: Zion National Park

Zion NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is about an hour from Cedar City to Zion on a good day, but you should know that Zion is EXTREMELY busy, so much so, that in the high season you have to take a bus into the park. Please plan ahead for congestion depending on when you go, and if you want to hike, get an early start.

There is a good reason for this park being popular, it is beautiful, and I think that anyone could spend a several days there, let alone one, with or without hiking. Of course, the hike that every knows is Angel’s Landing, and I really loved hiking this trail, but it is absolutely not for everyone. First off, it is a very steep climb to the saddle, and then the hike out to the landing as cliffs on both sides and is very narrow. This is dangerous for anyone with a fear of heights or unsteady feet. Furthermore, do not hike this when there is snow and/or ice on the trail. Emerald Pools is a shorter, much easier alternative, and there are tons of other trails for anyone that Angel’s Landing isn’t a good fit for.

When you drive out of Zion, towards Page (2.5 hours), the park extends down the highway for a time, offering some more great views, but this stretch of the freeway will have lots of slow drivers that see fit to take pictures while they drive. Please don’t be one of these; if you want to take pictures on the way out, be sure to pull over. There is also a long, cool tunnel on the way out, but again, follow signs and do not stop in the tunnel for pictures.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Knights Inn, Page, AZ

 

Day 7: Back to Phoenix

5-6 hours!

 

Disclaimer:

Nightborn Travel covers some off-the-beaten path locations, sometimes focuses on solo travel, and often includes outdoor exploration such as hiking. So, please be aware of the following (adapted from HikeArizona.com): Hiking, traveling and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends. It is your responsibility to travel and explore responsibly and take care of your own safety.

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8 thoughts on “Utah: Mighty 5 Roadtrip

  1. I would love to be able to take that trip! It looks so peaceful. Probably wouldn’t be with my 3 kids though! Great tips, maybe one day I’ll be able to do it.

  2. These are beautiful pictures. I haven’t traveled to that side of the country and so the opposing landscapes from the east coast is so interesting to me.

  3. Your article made me remember my missed chance of migrating to Utah.My husband was supposed to have a job post there but didn’t push through. I hope I’ll be able to see those scenery someday as a tourist.

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