The Ultimate Road Trip: Utah & Arizona

6 National Parks, Monument Valley & Slot Canyon makes for an epic road adventure.

This travel itinerary covers my recent trip to the Might Five National Parks in Utah, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley and other points of interest on the way. This journey was an all about road trip starting and ending in Houston, Texas. This itinerary will cover all the awesome spots worthy to be in your bucket list. So lets get started!

Utah-Arizona Road Trip

Day 1 Monument Valley (Utah-Arizona border)

Drive to Monument Valley (Address: Indn Rte 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536). Stay at the Gouldings Lodge which is located north of Utah-Arizona border. Take the 17 mile scenic drive and see one of the most photographed places in the country. Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Tribal park which requires a fee of $20 per car to enter the park. (They do not accept national park pass.)

Take the main road through Mexican Hat (US 163) towards Moab and stop by Valley of the Gods which is a smaller version of Monument Valley.

Day 2 Moab – Explore Arches National Park 

Moab is the gateway city to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park is also nearby so it makes sense to put up there. Stay: (inside the park) The Devils Garden Campground. Moab hotels – Red Cliffs Lodge, Days Inn Moab. Get the National Parks Annual Pass for $80 that covers all national parks in the USA for a year.

Spend a day exploring Arches National Park. Main points of interest – Balanced Rock, Windows Section, Park Avenue, Double Arch, Delicate Arch (hike) and Devils Garden Hike (Landscape Arch). 

If you have time Dead Horse Point State Park is nearby that offers views of Colorado River and Canyonlands NP.

Day 3 – Canyonlands National Park- Island in the Sky District (2-3 hours)

There are 3 districts that form part of Canyonlands National Park. The popular section – Island in the Sky District is around 32 miles from Moab. Drive the paved scenic drive inside the park and stop by these main points of interest – Mesa Arch, Grandview Point, Green River Overlook, Upheaval Dome. Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome are some of the short hiking trails.

Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (145 miles)

Inside the park, takes the scenic drive ($10 fee) the first stop being the historic town of Fruita, which is very scenic especially during spring and fall season. Popular hike – Hickman Bridge (1.8 mile round trip). Stay: Fruita Campground inside the park offers a picturesque setting near the historic fruit orchard and homestead. Capitol Reef Resort offers cabins, rooms and glamping options.

Day 4 – Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park 

Drive to Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints to see the hoodoos. Must do the Navajo Trail that begins at Sunset Point and goes down into the main amphitheater. Combine it with the Queens Garden Trail. Drive south of the visitor center and stop by the viewpoints – Fairview point, Natural bridge, Agua Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon, Rainbow point and Yovimpa point. Stay – Bryce Canyon Lodge inside the park, Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

Day 5 & 6 – Zion National Park

This has to be my favorite park on this itinerary because Zion simply wins you over. Give yourself at least 2 days here. Scenic drives in the park – Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The classic Zion hikes include – Angles Landing, Riverside Walk, The Narrows, Emerald Pools, Hidden Canyon, Canyon Overlook, Observation Point.

Parking is very limited inside the park so use the park shuttle which runs through fall. Zion has 3 campgrounds inside the park and a lodge. The town of Springdale located just outside the park entrance to the south is connected to the park shuttle and has many options for lodging. Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens at Zion National Park, Hampton Inn & Suites.

Day 7 – Arrive in Page, AZ

Page is about 104 miles from Zion National Park, an easy 2 hour drive. Once you arrive at Page head to Antelope Canyon, a popular slot canyon located on the Navajo land. You need to have an authorized tour guide with you to enter the slot canyon. There are two sections the Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon. I went for the Lower section because it less crowded and inexpensive compared to the Upper Canyon. You pay an $8 fee to enter the Navajo land plus the tour fee, there is a walking tour and a photography tour. Book tour here – For Lower – Dixie Co, Ken’s tours;  Upper Antelope Canyon tour.

After the tour head to Horseshoe Bend, a side trip that doesn’t cost anything and gives you rewarding views. Depending upon the weather, head to Lake Powell which is also part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

After a half day of exploring Page, I headed towards the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. 

Day 8 – South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

For a first time visit to Grand Canyon you have to go to the South Rim which is open all year round. Catch the sunrise at Mather’s Point which is often crowded. If you can’t find parking there head to Yavapai Point. Drive along the rim on the Desert View Drive and stop by the overlooks to view the Canyon. Take the free shuttle to the main points on Hermits Road west to the park village. Hike – South Kaibab trail. Stay – For lodging inside the park, book well in advance. Outside the park, the village of Tusayan has many options –  Red Feather Lodge, Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

And that’s a wrap, time to head home. P.S. Stay tuned for detailed travel guides to these places.

Photo Credits – Vikram Khangarot Photography