Utah-Travel Guides

7-Day Road Trip To Utah National Parks

April 27, 2021

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7-Day Road Trip Itinerary To Utah National Parks | Zion | Bryce Canyon | Little Saharas

Photography by The Dani Creative

Zion National Park has been on my bucket list and I finally crossed it off! We went on a 7-day road trip in a camper van to explore the national parks in Utah and LOVED the experience. We rented our camper van from Outdoorsy – the booking process so easy to find the right camper van to fit our needs for this trip. From Austin, we flew into Salt Lake City to pick up our camper van and then set off on the road. Utah’s National Parks are also known as the Mighty 5 (Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park) featuring red rock scenery, twisting slot canyons, buttes, mesas, and dramatic viewpoints.

Read on for our 7-day Utah national parks road trip itinerary through Utah to Little Saharas, Mystic Hot Springs, Pando, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Bonneville Salt Flats!

10% off Outdoorsy with code: KOKO

 

Packing list

  • National Park Annual Pass – highly, highly recommend purchasing a National Park Annual Pass for only $80! You can purchase this at any visitors center or online
  • Skyroam – we were shocked by how well this worked and allowed us to upload photos and answer emails on our laptops while on the road
  • Hiking boots – a must for any hiking/camping trip
  • Puffer jacket
  • Baby wipes/hand wipes – you’ll need these especially if you don’t have access to showers 
  • Hand sanitizer + mask
  • Lip balm – the climate in Utah is dry so we were constantly reapplying
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle – I like Hydroflask for the easy to hold handle & you’ll need plenty of water on this trip!
  • Hand warmers (winter)
  • Toaster oven
  • Coffee maker or tea kettle 
  • Firewood – purchase at any gas stations so you can make a fire at the campsite at night
  • Mesquite wood chips – a fellow camper told us to use mesquite wood chips to start a fire and makes the food taste good!
  • Blanket – I get cold easily so I did pack my own blanket to keep me warm at night
  • USB charger for car

 

Grocery list

We bought all of our groceries from Trader Joe’s.

  • Frozen packs of quinoa
  • Organic half & half
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Breakfast chicken sausages
  • Chicken sausages link (sweet apple & Italian)
  • Asian stir-fry veggies (in the produce section)
  • Zucchini
  • Broccolini
  • Pre-sliced apples
  • Bananas
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Almond butter
  • Salted butter
  • Minced garlic (jar)
  • Tikka masala (shelf-stable packet)
  • Salt grinder
  • Pepper grinder
  • Zatar – or any other seasoning that you like
  • Mesquite smoked almonds
  • Dried mangos
  • Granola

Day one – Salt Lake City

Cherry blossoms at Utah State Capitol

Utah State Capitol

The cherry blossoms happened to be blooming while we were here in Utah (mid-April)! 

350 State St, Salt Lake City, UT


Day two – Salt Lake City

Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah

Little Sahara Recreation Area

Little Sahara Recreation Area (LSRA) is 60,000 acres of sagebrush flats, juniper-covered hills, and free moving sand dunes located in Juab County, Utah. This was our first stop on our trip that’s just an hour and a half drive from Salt Lake City. When we pulled up and saw the Little Sahara wifi network, we thought we were seeing a mirage! We did just go to White Sands National Park in New Mexico but were still in aw of how beautiful the dunes were.

Visitors frequent the recreation area for the challenges of climbing the 700-foot tall Sand Mountain, network of dirt trails around Black Mountain, low-lying dunes for beginners, and the White Sand Dune bowls.

Cost: $18 per car

 27020 W Sand Mountain Rd, Nephi, UT, blm.gov/learn/interpretive-centers/little-sahara-recreation-area

 

Mystic Hot Springs in Utah

Mystic Hot Springs

Mystic Hot Springs was truly a mystic wonder – we were blown away by the beautiful views of Utah while soaking in the hot tubs on the top of the mountain. You are soaking in the elements so it can be really cold but Mystic Hot Springs tries to maintain their water temperatures between 100-110 Fahrenheit. There is a bathhouse that you can rinse off and shower in afterward.

Directions: From Salt Lake City, I-15 south to the Scipio exit number 188, take Hwy 50 east (aprox. 25 miles) to I-70 west, proceed to exit 31, go left at bottom of the off ramp, continue for 2 miles, then go right on Hwy 118 for 3-4 miles to center of Monroe, turn left on 100 North and go up the hill 5 blocks to the Mystic property and follow signs for check in location.

Check in: 3-9pm
Check out: 11am

Cost: $25 per person

475 E 100 N, Monroe, UT 84754, mystichotsprings.com

SEE ALSO: 14 Best Hiking Trails In Austin TX

 

Overnight in Mystic Hot Springs

Mystic Hot Springs also has a campground if you want to stay the night in a tent or camper van. The pull-through spaces can accommodate up to 40-foot rigs and each site has electricity hookups and water and sewer hookups from April to October.

We did stay the night and enjoyed the privacy of the campground. We made breakfast on the picnic tables and were thankful for the power box to charge our devices before setting off on the road.

Cost: $25 per person

475 E 100 N, Monroe, UT 84754, mystichotsprings.com


Day three – Pando

Outdoorsy Camper van

We took a slower morning to make breakfast on the picnic tables with the portable butane stovetop that came in the camper van we rented from Outdoorsy.

 

Pando National Forest in Fishlake National Forest, Utah

Pando (Trembling Giant)

Pando is about an hour drive from Mystic Hot Springs in Fishlake National Forest and I do highly recommend visiting. Pando is supposedly the single largest living organism in the world that’s a single male aspen tree spanning over 100 acres of 40,000 trees!

Cost: free

Richfield, Utah, 84701

 

Overnight in Wander Camp

We snagged a night of booking at Wander Camp – a glamping site located in Zion Wright Campground right outside of Zion National Park by the Virgin River. The glamping tents are completely offline – no wifi and no electricity – but do have a down comforter to keep you warm during the colder months. There are several fire pits on the property to light a fire and there are two glamping bathrooms with a toilet, sink, and shower.

We woke up to the most beautiful view of Zion National Park and made breakfast on the campsite before heading into the camp.

Smith Mesa Road, Springdale, UT 84779

 

Other campgrounds in Zion:

  • Zion Canyon Campground & RV Resort
  • Doctor Creek campground
  • Mackinaw Campground
  • The Bowery Creek

Day four – Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah

Explore Zion National Park

&& we’re here at Zion National Park!! I’ve been wanting to visit Zion for several years now and I can’t believe we made it! 124,000 acres of colorful canyons, forested mesas, and striking deserts, Zion National Park is the biggest park in Utah and you can easily spend two to three full days here.

Private vehicle pass: $35 

Type of rock: Navajo Sandstone

Elevation: 4,000 feet zionlodge.com

Popular activities:

  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Canyoneering
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding

Best hikes:

  • Angels Landing
  • Weeping Rock
  • Emerald Pools Trails
  • The Narrows
  • Observation Point
  • Court of the Patriarchs
  • Kolob Canyon

Zion Park Blvd, nps.gov/zion/index.htm


Day five – Zion National Park

Hike East Rim Trailhead at Zion National Park in Utah

Hike East Rim Trailhead

About a 15-minute scenic drive from the Zion National Park entrance, East Rim Trailhead was recommended to us for the ever changing landscape of forest and petrified sand dunes. The photo above was shot 5 minutes before the trailhead so look out for this shot on your left.

 

Overnight at Rubys Inn RV Park and Campground

Originally we were going to drive to Moab from Zion but the five-hour drive was just too much so we switched to Bryce (2 1/2 hour drive). We pulled into Rubys Inn RV Park and Campground on a whim when we got into Bryce National Park. Rudy’s has more than 200 shaded campsites and full RV hookups set among the Ponderosa pines. Cabins and tipis are available. 

Amenities:

  • Laundromat
  • General store
  • Hot showers
  • Swimming pool & Spa
  • Free wi-fi
  • Clean restrooms
  • Shuttle pick up outside of the campground

Cost: $40 per vehicle

300 South Main Street, rubysinn.com

 

Other campgrounds in Bryce National Park

  • North Campground
  • Sunset Campground

Day six – Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is located in the Dixie National Forest and is home to the largest collection of hoodoos (irregularly-eroded rock spires) in the world! Situated along the east edge of a plateau, the park has one main 18-mile north-to-south road and only one entrance/exit. As you enter the park, all viewpoints and hikes are on the left.

Shuttle system (April through October)

  • Bryce Amphitheater Shuttle – free with admission and run every 10-15 minutes from 8am – 6pm
  • Rainbow Bus Tour – free twice-daily tour along the 18-mile scene drive from 9am & 1:30pm

There are several restaurants and shops located outside of Bryce National Park and the visitors center has wifi.

Park vehicle fee: $35

 

Bryce Amphitheater 

The most iconic and popular views of Bryce Canyon are found along the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater. The best time to see the Bryce Amphitheater is as early in the day as possible and walk towards Sunset/Sunrise Points and Queen’s Garden.

 

Hike Sunrise to Sunset Point

Park your car at Sunset Point and walk to Sunrise Point – the views are stunning so take a couple of photos! You’ll then see the sign for Queen’s Garden Trail.

Distance: 1 mile

 

Queen's Garden Trail in Bryce National Park in Utah | hiking trails

Hike Queens Garden

Queen’s Garden is the least difficult trail descending into Bryce Amphitheater.

Hike to the very end of Queens Garden to see the structure why it’s named Queens Garden for the statue in London, England.

Distance: 1.8 miles

 

Other hikes in Bryce National Park:

  • Mossy Cave
  • Rim Trail
  • Bristlecone Loop
  • Navajo Loop Trail – you can see Thor’s Hammer along Two Bridges and Wall Street sides of this loop.
  • Tower Bridget
  • Hat Shop
  • Fairyland Loop
  • Peekaboo Loop
  • Bryce Amphitheater 
  • Inspiration Point

 

Overnight in Wendover KOA Journey

From Bryce National Park, we drove back towards Salt Lake City to stay the night near Bonneville Salt Flats to get a sunrise photo. KOA campground is located in Nevada so you’ll pass by several casinos and hotels on the drive in. This campground does have locked showers and restrooms. 

Cost: $35-$40 per vehicle

651 Camper Dr, West Wendover, NV, koa.com/campgrounds/wendover/site-type/rv-camping-sites/

RELATED: 15 Top Things To Do In New Mexico


Day seven – Bonneville Salt Flats

KOA campground is just 15 minutes from the Salt Flats and there are several 24-hour coffee shops located inside the casinos so we got some coffee before heading out.

Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

Bonneville Salt Flats

Located just under two hours from Salt Lake City along I-80 near the Utah-Nevada border is Bonneville Salt Flats. 30,000 acres of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah. The salt flats are about 12 miles long and 5 miles wide with total area coverage of just over 46 square miles. 

How to get there: Drive toward the gas station and drive down the road until you see a fork – go right and drive down that road.

Photo tip: go at sunrise or sunset for photos

Restrictions: No overnight camping on the salt flats. No driving vehicles on salt flats when wet or flooded.

Cost: free

Interstate 80, Wendover, UT 84083, blm.gov/visit/bonneville-salt-flats

 

From Bonneville Salt Flats, you could continue to Reno Tahoe (hours). 


Other spots to add on your Utah national parks road trip in Southern Utah:

  • Canyonlands National Park (the Maze and the Needles District)
  • Mesa Arch
  • Green River Overlook
  • Grand View Point
  • Buck Canyon Overlook
  • Arches National Park (Devils Garden Trail, Delicate Arch hike, Landscape Arch, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Double Arch, Park Avenue Hike)
  • Grand Canyon
  • Capitol Reef National Park (Hickman Natural Bridge, Cassidy Arch, Capitol Dome, and Chimney Rock)
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument

Alternatively, you could drive down to Arizona to visit Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley (17-mile loop), Lake Powell, or Las Vegas to continue your trip!

SEE ALSO: 19 Best Road Trips From Austin

WRITTEN BY:

Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.

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