Discover the diverse state of Utah and the ‘Mighty 5’ National Parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion – that it contains. On this extended road trip around the state, take in more than the famous though. See amazing sites all over such as Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and state parks like Snow Canyon, Kodachrome Basin and Dead Horse Point. This is an adventurers paradise; hike in the national park trails, get on a mountain bike and follow the intrepid riders of the Red Bull Rampage or walk through the narrow slot canyons dotted around. And don’t be surprised if you recognise the landscape; Utah has been the back drop for film and television from the early westerns, including legendary John Wayne movies, to modern day productions such as Westworld.
Our expert tour specialists can tailor this trip to exactly meet your needs. We make the suggestions but the decision is yours
Travel from the UK to the USA. Travel indirect to St George via either Salt Lake City or Denver to cut down on some of the driving or fly direct into Las Vegas. The drive from Vegas is around 130 miles and would take around two hours. Collect your hire car at the airport and head into St George and once there, enjoy the small town feel with plenty of options for dining.
Drive distance – 60 miles
Today, enjoy you first experiences of Utah and its impressive landscapes. St George is surrounded by stunning Red Cliffs and enormous flat-topped mesas. Explore the varying landscapes at your own leisure but don’t miss the stunning petrified sand dunes of Snow Canyon State Park. Tonight, experience something slightly different with a camp set on the western edge of the National Park.
Drive distance – 30-70 miles
Wake early to catch amazing sunrise over the surrounding vistas. Located on the quieter western fringes of the park, take today to explore in relative solitude. Head into the park for some hiking along several trails which begin just inside the park entrance or travel north to see the impressive Kolob Canyons. End the day by travelling into the mouth of Zion Gorge and overnight in quaint Springdale.
Spend two full days exploring all this wonderful and diverse National Park. A highlight is hiking ‘The Narrows’ if the weather allows. Other trails offer amazing views and great glimpses of the park from varying angles, especially if you are not feint hearted head up the narrow switchbacks to the top of Angels Landing for a panorama high above the top of the gorge, nearly 5800 ft (1770 metres) above the Virgin River below.
Drive Distance – 45 miles
Today will take you along a stunning drive as you travel out of Zion National Park along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. A series of switch backs in the road take you high above the valley floor for sweeping views as you leave Zion behind before entering the Mount Carmel Tunnel, built in the 1920s. After you exit the National Park, the road and scenery change as you head south to Kanab, home and base for the next two nights.
Spend a full day exploring the great and interesting places around Kanab. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is close if you fancy trying your hand at sandboarding, drive across more sand in a huge 4x4 Hummer if you wish to access Peekaboo Canyon or for the real hiking enthusiast, enter the draw for a permit to hike the Wave Trail.
Drive distance – 75 miles
Head north from Kanab towards Bryce City, a small town located just outside the park and home to most of the lodging options for Bryce Canyon. Head straight into the park if you wish or see some the lesser known sights located close to the Canyon such as Kodachrome Basin State Park or check out one of many natural rock arches across the state at Grosvenor Arch, part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
This stunning piece of nature is like a work of art. Spend as much time as you can in and around the naturally formed hoodoos – tall thin spires of rock, formed over millions of years due to the weather and melting glaciers. Arrive early to see the sunrise slowly alter the colour of the canyon from dull grey to stunning bright oranges and yellows. During the day, follow the trails and see the canyon from the bottom and look up to give you a different perspective before returning to the rim to watch the sun drop down and give you another wonderful colour display. Even after dark, Bryce has plenty to offer as a designated Dark Sky Place; star gazers will love the night sky and clear views of the billions upon billions of stars, planets and galaxies that fill the night sky.
Drive distance – 250 miles
Head away – possibly reluctantly – from Bryce Canyon and head north. Take the direct route if you prefer but why drive around more stunning scenery when you can drive leisurely, take your time and see more amazing sites. Head through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to see slot canyons and more stunning scenery all around. A highlight is the Calf Creek Falls, be sure to check them out if you can.
The drive continues north towards I-70 and takes you through Capitol Reef National Park along another scenic dive – Utah Highway 24. Look out as your drive through the typically stunning red stone landscapes of the area and into the geologic upheaval of Water Pocket Fold. Be sure to take time out along the drive to visit Hickman Natural Bridge.
The final leg of the drive takes you along the interstate towards Colorado before heading south to Moab, conveniently located between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and your base for the next three nights.
Two full days to explore the wonders that surround Moab. To the north lies Arches National park. The name kind of gives the game away; famous for some of the most stunning natural arches anywhere in the world. The Windows Section contains a large concentration of the geological monuments - including North Window, Turret Arch and Double Arch - all found in a two square mile area. The most famous example in the park is Delicate Arch, be sure to check it out.
South West from Moab will take you into Canyonlands National Park, much larger in area than Arches, this immense park, covering over 500 square miles, is home to deep canyons, towering mesas, pinnacles, cliffs and spires all formed by the Green and Colorado Rivers cutting away at the rock over the past few million years. The sites include The Needles, Islands in the Sky – a vast mesa, 1000 feet over the surrounding landscape offering some of the best views of the park, while Mesa Arch offers the most well-known view; hike the various trails to recreate your own image of this wonderful site.
Also, in the area is Dead Horse Point State Park, another must see in an area full of such amazing sites.
Drive distance – 240 miles
Head north west from Moab as today’s final scenic drive takes you towards the states capital and biggest city, Salt Lake City. If time permits, stop of in the city centre to check out the impressive building of Temple Square, the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or head past downtown and take in the awesome sight of The Great Salt Lake. Return your car at the airport before boarding an overnight flight back to the UK, with Delta offering a seasonal service direct to London.
‘Ideally suited to start or end your Utah Adventure’
The Best Western Plus Abbey Inn is one of the foremost hotels located in St. George, Utah: the entry gateway to Zion National Park. Also located close to Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon National Park and Snow Canyon, use St. George as your base or starting point for a trip around this endearing state. The hotel itself boasts comfortable rooms including microwave and fridge for convenience while it also has an outdoor heated pool and indoor spa tub.
‘Join the Glamping Revolution’
An exceptional choice for unique lodging and accommodations near Zion National Park, Utah. The camp seamlessly blends into its dramatic surroundings and Under Canvas Zion's luxury tents offer you the opportunity to enjoy Utah's spectacular desert without giving up all the comforts of home. Deluxe Tents are en suite with private toilet, shower and sink with your very own woodburning stove, if the night or morning get a little too cool!
‘Elegant hotel in and elegant setting, close to the entrance of Zion National Park’
The SpringHill Suites Springdale Zion National Park offers a comfortable, yet elegant setting for travellers seeking inspiration, family adventure or relaxation. Located one mile from Zion's gate, with a free shuttle service through Springdale connecting you to the free service into the park, getting around from this quaint village is very easy. At the hotel, enjoy an outdoor pool and hot tub with amazing canyon views, several balconies, patios and fireplaces to relax, or stroll along the Virgin River. The large suite style rooms are comfortable with plenty of space for couples and families alike.
‘Luxury Boutique Hotel located ideally for exploring Kanab and Southern Utah’
Looking to stay somewhere special while touring southern Utah? Add something extraordinary to your stay by spending a night at Kanab’s Canyons Boutique Hotel! As the town’s only boutique style hotel, the Canyons Boutique Hotel features all the amenities of a large hotel chain, delivered in a more intimate setting. This beautiful hotel boasts well-appointed luxurious rooms, free high-speed internet, flat screen TV's in every room and full hot breakfast every morning, served at the hotels wonderful Sego Restaurant, open for dinner Monday to Saturday.
'Convenient Position; Comfortable Rooms’
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel is set in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. It features a total of 164 guest rooms across two towers, as well as facilities such as a fitness area, swimming pool and whirlpool. Each comes with complimentary breakfast and there is a full service restaurant nearby.
‘Comfortable hotel at the gateway to two National Parks’
The Canyonlands Inn is located at the heart of downtown Moab, Utah. Close to the Colorado River for river rafting adventures, four miles from Arches National Park and 30 miles from Canyonlands National Park, this is the perfect base for exploring this stunning corner of Utah. The hotel offers 80 spaciously appointed, non-smoking rooms and includes a delicious complimentary full hot breakfast buffet. Other amenities include a seasonal pool and year-round jacuzzi, fitness centre, complimentary high-speed internet access, children’s playground and secured bicycle storage.
One of the lesser known parks, Snow Canyon is a great addition to your itinerary as you drive through Utah. With over 16 miles of hiking trails and a wonderful destination to explore on bike or horseback, you will get some wonderful views and stunning photos with a backdrop of towering sandstone cliffs coloured red and white as you explore the ancient lava flows.
Located 40 miles north of famous Zion Canyon, Kolob Canyons offers stunning vistas of crimson cliff walls whether looking from one of many viewing points of hiking within the many trails. These parallel canyons, cut into the Colorado Plateau, have majestic peaks and cliffs wall around 2000 feet high. The scenic drive along Kolob Canyons Road is a highlight of this option too.
A must for people travelling into Zion Park during late spring, summer and early autumn. Hire some wet-trail hiking equipment – neoprene sock, specialised hiking boots, stick (very important!) - from a choice of outfitters in Springdale before boarding the free shuttle through the park to The Temple of Sinawava. Walk the mile or so along the Riverside Walk before entering the Virgin River and following the cool water on its course through a narrow part of the Zion Canyon, all formed by the water at your feet, known as the ‘Bottom Up Hike’. For the more adventurous, get a pass and hike the full length from the ‘Top Down’; an experienced hiker could probably do it in one day, but it is about a 15-hour hike to cover the full length, so many will camp in the park for a night. For the ‘Bottom Up’, spend as much or as little time as you like wading through the river.
For something slightly different amongst all the stunning rock formations, venture to Coral Pink Sand Dunes, located 20 miles west of Kanab. As the name suggests, this park is home to massive dunes, hills and even mountains of soft, warm, pink sand. Hike though the area, hire a board and slide down the ever-moving ground or pick up an ATV and have some high-speed fun dune bashing around this amazing location.
Slot canyons abound in the state and the area. Antelope Canyon is probably the most famous, but that is in Arizona while Blue John Canyon in Canyonlands National Park is maybe more infamous due to 127 Hour, a film about a hiker who became lodge between the narrow walls. Peek A Boo is a great example if you wish to see one. Take a 4x4 excursion from Kanab town centre, accessing the canyon over soft sand trails before walking the mile or so through the tight red rock walls.
This colourful park lives up the moniker, given to it back in the 40’s and named after the famous photography film produced by Kodak. The multi-coloured sandstone layers are a stunning sight and really stand out when the sky is clear and deep blue in colour. Look out also for over 60 monolith stone spires, especially Chimney Rock.
Located just off Utah Scenic Byway 12, as you head through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, stop at the trail head for Lower Calf Creek falls and take a gentle hike to see these 126-foot-high falls, descending the cliffs into a cool pool, perfect for paddling or having a cooling swim.
Located within Capitol Reef National Park, pull off Highway 24 and head into the park along an easy hiking route to see this fantastic natural bridge, a great example of the phenomenon that are so prevalent in the area.
An iconic site and a must when you visit Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch is one of the easier to reach locations in the state, with a leisurely stroll – accessible for families and beginners – to see a wonderful natural arch, perched at the edge of a 500-foot cliff, the view through takes in a wide panorama of the whole national park and an image you are unlikely to forget.
Look out over the canyon country of Utah from any of several viewing points. Exit your car and venture the rim of the canyon and marvel at the views, as the Colorado River, 2000 feet below you, continues to carve out this magnificent landscape.
The most famous landmark in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch is a free standing, 60-foot-tall arch. Access is not easy, a 1.5 miles hike is required over slightly more testing ground, so good hiking footwear is recommended, but the views and seeing the arch up close and personal make it well worth your while.
International flights in economy
SUV car hire with GPS
All accommodation as listed
Meals unless otherwise stated
National Park entry fees
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