Utah, a land of rugged landscapes, towering red rocks, and breathtaking natural beauty, is a haven for adventure lovers. If you are looking to escape the crowds and explore everything this incredible state has to offer, this blog post is for you!
On this 14-day road trip itinerary, we will take you to all of our favourite places in Utah. This post caters to hikers, outdoor enthusiasts and van lifers. Because of that, we are going to focus on epic activities, fantastic hikes for all skill levels, and the best driving route through the state.
For simplicity’s sake, we will start and end in Salt Lake City. However, this adventure can be easily adapted for travellers from Vegas, Phoenix, or anywhere else.
Get ready to embark on the road trip of a lifetime filled with natural hot springs, iconic national parks, and hidden gems that will blow your mind.
If you are planning to travel around in a campervan, which we would highly recommend, check out the blog post below. It goes over how to find free camping spots, the rules for wild camping on BLM land in Utah and practical tips for showers, laundry, etc.
We wild camped and cooked almost all of our meals which saved us a ton of money on our road trip through Utah. If you are looking to eat out, Trip Advisor is a great place to find restaurants. In terms of finding free camping spots, we typically use iOverlander.
The America The Beautiful Pass is an excellent option that allows unlimited access to all National Parks in the US for 1 year. It costs $80 USD and is 100% worth the money.
Now that we’ve got the housekeeping out of the way, lets get into it! Here is the only Utah road trip itinerary you will ever need.
- Day 1: Salt Lake City + Bonneville Salt Flats
- Day 2: Fifth Water Hot Springs + The Delicate Arch
- Day 3: Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park
- Day 4: Arches + The Needles District
- Day 5: Valley of the Gods
- Day 6: A Detour into Page, Arizona
- Day 7: Horseshoe Bend + White Pocket
- Optional: The Wave (Permits + An Extra Day Required)
- Day 8: The Great Chamber + The Coral Pink Sand Dunes
- Day 9: Zion National Park
- Day 10: Bryce Canyon National Park
- Day 11: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Day 12: Capitol Reef National Park
- Day 13: Bentonite Hills + Factory Butte
- Day 14: Moonscape Overlook + Meadow Hot Springs
Day 1: Salt Lake City + Bonneville Salt Flats
After arriving in Salt Lake City, stock up on groceries, water, and any supplies you will need in the coming days. While there are grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants scattered throughout Utah, Salt Lake City is by far your best option. Once you’re all set, drive 1.5 hours west to the Bonneville Salt Flats for sunset.
Located west of the Great Salt Lake near the Nevada border, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a vast deposit of white salt that stretches as far as the eye can see. There are several pull-offs and areas to stop along the highway where you can admire them.
Depending on the recent weather and rainfall, there are typically both flooded and dried salt flats in this area. We visited a flooded section at sunset and could not believe how beautifully the surface mirrored the colourful sky above. The salt can be sharp so bring water shoes or something else to cover your feet.
*When we visited, there were several stuck vehicles being towed off of the salt flats. We would not recommend attempting to drive on them. It’s just not worth the risk!*
After sunset, drive 2.5 hours east to a town called Provo and spend the night.
Day 2: Fifth Water Hot Springs + The Delicate Arch
Day 2 begins with an early morning soak in one of Utah’s most beautiful natural hot springs. Tucked away in Diamond Fork Canyon, Fifth Water Hot Springs offers a secluded and soothing escape. These tiered natural hot springs, surrounded by a turquoise blue river, provide the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind.
We would recommend going as early as possible as they get very busy. The hike is 7.2 kilometres roundtrip with 194 m of elevation gain.
Once you’ve enjoyed your time here, hike back to your vehicle and make the 3-hour drive to Arches National Park. After arriving at the Delicate Arch Trailhead, pack some snacks and hit the trail.
The Delicate Arch is the tallest and most famous free-standing arch in the park. It has become a widely recognized symbol of the state of Utah and it lights up at sunset. This hike is 5.1 kilometres and 192 m of elevation gain round trip.
There is a ton of BLM Land outside of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks where you can stay for free for the next few nights.
Day 3: Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park
As the largest national park in Utah, Canyonlands offers a diverse range of landscapes, trails, and activities. The Colorado and Green Rivers divide the park into three distinct districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles District, and the Maze.
The Island in the Sky is famous for its short trails and panoramic views. You can visit this area in one day and all of the viewing platforms are fairly easy to access. Some highlights include:
- Shafer Canyon Overlook
- Mesa Arch
- Buck Canyon Overlook
- White Rim Overlook
- Grand View Point Overlook
- Green River Overlook
For more detailed information on all of these stops, check out the blog post below.
Day 4: Arches + The Needles District
On day 4 of your Utah road trip, wake up early and explore the Window Arches, the Turret Arch and the Double Arch in Arches National Park. All of these rock formations can be explored within a few hours from the same parking lot.
The Window Arches and the Turret Arch are located on the same trail which is 1.9 kilometres & 49m of elevation gain. One of our favourite photos from this spot is of the Turret Arch through the North Window Arch, shown above. The Double Arch Trail, which leaves from the opposite side of the parking lot, is 1 kilometre with 29m of elevation gain.
Once you’re finished, drive 2 hours south to the Needles District of Canyonlands. Here you will embark on one of our favourite hikes in all of Utah. Druid Arch Trail is 17.4 kilometres roundtrip with 153m of elevation gain. It begins at Elephant Hill Trailhead and winds you through a landscape that looks like a different planet.
We stayed at the Druid Arch for sunset and had the place all to ourselves. If you have headlamps and are an experienced hiker, this is something we would highly recommend. If you have time, you can choose to make this a larger loop including Chesler Park.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to bring plenty of food and water on all hikes in Utah. The desert is a different kind of wilderness and it is easy to become dehydrated or disorientated.
Day 5: Valley of the Gods
There is so much fuss about Monument Valley that hardly anyone talks about Valley of the Gods. While it is known by some as a smaller and quieter version of Monument Valley, we were absolutely blown away! This area is full of towering red rock formations and the scenic drive is a photographer’s dream.
On top of that, it is less busy, free to visit, and offers a plethora of INSANE wild camping spots. We would recommend a day of taking in the drive followed by a night under the stars. Please remember to be respectful campers and leave no trace!
Day 6: A Detour into Page, Arizona
On day 6 of this Utah road trip you will actually cross the border into Arizona. Page, located 3 hours from Valley of the Gods, is home to some incredible stops you do not want to miss.
First, check out Antelope Canyon. There are a few different ways to go about it, but we would highly recommend skipping Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. These tours are filled with hundreds of people being syphoned through each area with no time to stop and enjoy the views, no photo ops, and no personal space.
For us, that was a huge no thank you.
After a little bit of research, we found 2 different ways to access the canyon that did not involve taking the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. The first is a third tour, called “Antelope Canyon X”. The second is a free method of accessing Antelope Canyon on your own via Lake Powell. Obviously, we tried both. For more information on each option, check out the blog post below.
After Antelope Canyon, grab some dinner and drive to a hidden gem called “The New Wave”. This sandstone formation is absolutely gorgeous, featuring unique wave-like patterns that make for incredible photos. It is only a 10 minute drive northwest of Page and is 100% worth a stop.
TIP FOR VAN LIFERS: As of 2023, you can stay overnight for free in the Walmart parking lot in Page. As always, please be respectful and leave no trace so that we can all continue to stay here for years to come.
Day 7: Horseshoe Bend + White Pocket
Get up nice and early on your second day in Page and start your morning at Horseshoe Bend. At sunrise, the warm hues of the first light reflect off the canyon walls creating a picture-perfect moment.
We recommend arriving 30 minutes prior to sunrise for the best experience. The hike to get here is 2.4 kilometres + 42m of elevation gain roundtrip. We promise, it’s a view worth waking up early for!
Next, make your way to White Pocket. This remote destination, about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Page, offers a surreal landscape of swirling, multi coloured rock formations. The journey is a bit rugged, but you will be glad you made the trip.
A 4X4 vehicle is non negotiable as you will be traversing uneven sand roads for the last 1/3 of the drive. We rented a jeep from Turo and had a great experience. Alternatively, you can hire a driver or take a tour to get here.
As you explore the wonders of White Pocket, every turn reveals a new, otherworldly sight. The unique rock formations, including brain rocks and petrified sand dunes, will have you feeling like you’ve landed on another planet. There is no set hiking path here and you can explore the area for as long or as short as you would like.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to bring plenty of food and water along on this adventure. The desert is known for its ability to dehydrate and disorientate even the most prepared hikers.
Optional: The Wave (Permits + An Extra Day Required)
The Wave is an iconic sandstone rock formation located in northern Arizona. Situated on the slopes of Coyote Buttes in a protected part of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) wilderness, it requires a permit for access.
There are two ways you can obtain a permit, through the advanced or daily lottery. With only 64 spots available each day and thousands of applicants, getting permits to the wave is a game of chance.
If you do happen to luck out, you can access the trailhead on your way out of White Pocket. This hike is 10.8 kilometres + 367m of elevation gain, so you will likely want to add an extra day here.
Day 8: The Great Chamber + The Coral Pink Sand Dunes
A trip to the Great Chamber near Kanab was at the top of our list for our Utah road trip before visiting. Although this natural amphitheatre takes some planning to visit, it is sure to leave you awestruck. The best way to get here is by tour or to rent a 4X4 Jeep.
Because you are driving through deep sand for 17 miles, a 4WD with high clearance is a must. We aired down our tires to 20 PSI before embarking across a river and onto the sandy roads.
The access point is located HERE, just off Johnston Canyon Road. You will need an offline map to follow as nothing is labelled in this off-road area. Once you arrive, there is a short 1 kilometre hike with 89 m of elevation to enter the chamber.
Next, drive 1.5 hours to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This enchanting natural wonder showcases massive sand dunes that are pink in colour, providing a stark contrast against the surrounding forest.
Visitors can hike, sandboard, or even ride off-road vehicles on these ever-shifting dunes. There is a campground available if you would like to stay the night.
Day 9: Zion National Park
Zion National Park is famous for its towering sandstone cliffs, lush canyons, and world-class hiking trails. Beat the crowds by starting early and explore iconic trails like Angel’s Landing, The Subway or The Narrows. NOTE: All of these hikes require a permit which you can apply for on the National Parks website.
If you are unsuccessful in your attempt, we would recommend Timber Creek Overlook or Watchman Trail. These hike does not require a permit and offer beautiful views. Remember to follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s natural beauty.
*If you are able to get more than one hiking permit, you may want to add an extra day or two in Zion National Park.*
Day 10: Bryce Canyon National Park
On day 10 of your Utah road trip, drive 1 hour 45 minutes from Zion to reach Bryce Canyon National Park. Here, you can hike along the rim to witness the mesmerizing hoodoos and unique rock formations that have been shaped by erosion over the centuries.
A few of our favourite hiking trails and viewpoints here include:
- Queens Garden Trail (2.9 km + 137m) *can be combined with Navajo Loop Trail*
- Navajo Loop Trail (4.6 km + 191m)
- Peek-A-Boo Loop (8.9 km + 474m)
- Sunset Point (Drive up Access)
In the evening, drive approximately an hour to Hole in The Wall Trail. There are several free campsites along this BLM road. The desert here is incredibly sensitive and it is important that we all do our part to take care of it.
Day 11: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The rugged wilderness of Grand Staircase-Escalante offers ample opportunities for off-the-beaten-path exploration. Most of our favourite stops are along Hole in The Wall Trail, which is a long, unmaintained gravel road heading south.
Our top recommendations in this area are Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons. These slot canyons are known for their unique geological formations. The towering sandstone walls gradually narrow and twist upwards, creating a one-of-a-kind experience.
This hike can be done as a loop that includes both canyons. The total distance is 7.3 kilometres with 178m of elevation gain. Most people begin with Spooky Slot Canyon as there is a bit of a climb to get in at the beginning.
DO NOT attempt this hike if you are claustrophobic or have a fear of getting stuck. We would not recommend bringing small children or pets on this trail.
Below we have listed some other great hikes in the area.
- Reflection Canyon (24.5 km + 477m of elevation) *requires a full additional day*
- Jacob Hamblin Arch (22 km + 170m of elevation) *requires a full additional day*
- Lower Calf Creek Falls (9.8 km + 162m elevation)
Day 12: Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem with less crowded trails and a variety of landscapes. It is easily accessible from Grand Staircase-Escalante and leads us to our next destination. Throughout the area, you can find canyons, arches, historical orchards and mind blowing views from the road.
Here are a few of our favourite stops, viewpoints, and hikes:
- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive (12.5 km drive each way)
- Cassidy Arch Trail (5 km + 210m elevation gain)
- Sunset Point Overlook (1.3 km easy walk)
- Rim Overlook Trail (6.9 km + 325m elevation gain)
- Panorama Point (drive up access)
- Cohab Canyon Trail (4.8km +242m elevation gain)
- Goosenecks Overlook (0.6 km easy walk)
- Navajo Knobs Trail (14.6 km +642m elevation gain)
Day 13: Bentonite Hills + Factory Butte
Day 13 is one of my personal favourites of this journey as you get to visit the beautiful Bentonite Hills. These colourful hills, composed of clay-rich bentonite soil, exhibit an otherworldly palette ranging from vibrant reds to deep blues and purples.
Getting here is a bit of a challenge, but it is absolutely worth the extra effort. You can either take a tour or visit the Bentonite Hills on your own.
If you choose the latter, a 4X4 vehicle is required to make it all the way. You can gain access from the Cathedral Valley OHV Trailhead. We were traveling in our campervan which is not 4X4, so we drove as far as we could and hiked in the remaining 7 kilometres.
Once you’re finished, make your way to Factory Butte for sunset. To get here, drive east from Hanksville on Highway 24. You will turn right (north) onto Factory Butte Road and the castle like butte will be on your left about 8 kilometres in.
As soon as you turn off Highway 24, the roads turn to dirt and cell service disappears. A 4X4 vehicle is recommended and an offline map is essential! As the colours light up the sky, this moody mountain becomes a photographers paradise.
After sunset, turn right off of Factory Butte Road onto Coal Mine Road. You will want an offline map here as the roads are all dirt and there is no signage.
Approximately 4 kilometres further is the Moonscape Overlook parking lot. Here, you can camp for free and set yourself up for one of the most incredible sunrises of your trip.
Day 14: Moonscape Overlook + Meadow Hot Springs
Set your alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise, bundle up, and head outside. Aptly named for its resemblance to the surface of the moon, this off-the-beaten-path lookout was one of our favourite stops on this Utah road trip.
IMPORTANT: This wild camping area has increased in popularity due to social media. It is very important that we do our part to keep it clean and leave no trace so that we can all continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Next, drive 3.5 hours west for a soak in Meadow Hot Springs. Situated in central Utah near the small town of Meadow, this hidden oasis is composed of several pools of varying sizes, each with its own temperature and mineral content.
These hot springs are on private land but the owners kindly allow guests to visit. There is a small donation box near the entrance to help with the cost of upkeep.
After you’ve had your fill, get back in your vehicle and drive 2.5 hours north to Salt Lake City. We would recommend getting a hotel for the night if possible. This allows you to take your time on your final day, have a well deserved shower and explore the city in the evening.