Road Trip: National Parks of Utah & Arizona

A 11-day/1600-mile road trip covering National Parks of Utah and Arizona – including Zion, Bryce, Arches and the Grand Canyon. Travelers included our family with 3 kids ages 6-13. Enjoyed hiking among and above hoodoos, canyons and arches. Stayed in a variety of accommodations. (Early April, 2016)

southwest map

Itinerary

Day 1 – Late flight to Las Vegas / Rent car / Check into hotel (1 night)

Day 2 – Drive to Zion National Park (2.5 hours) / Check into AirBnB (2 nights)

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Day 3Zion National Park

Day 4 – Drive to Bryce (2 hours) / Explore Bryce Canyon National Park / Check into hotel (1 night)

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Day 5 – Drive to Moab via Route 12 (4.5 hours) / Detour to Peek a Boo Slot Canyon (allow minimum of 3 hours for drive + hike) / Check into glampsite (3 nights)

Days 6/7 – Explore Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park & Moab

Day 8 – Drive to Grand Canyon National Park (6 hours) / Check into lodge (1 night)

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Day 9 – Grand Canyon sights / Drive to Sedona (2.5 hours) / Check into lodge (2 nights)

Day 10 – Enjoy Sedona

Day 11 – Drive to Phoenix (2 hours) / fly home

Travel Tips

  • Perfect Timing – If you hate heat and crowds, April is a perfect time to do this trip. I cannot imagine attempting some of these hikes in the blazing sun and heat. Most of Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce did not have any shade whatsoever. Parking in all of the parks – even in April – fills up early. Plan to be anywhere by 9:30am at the latest in order to get a parking spot. I’m assuming this is even earlier in the summer.
  • Desert Weather – At this time of year, make sure to bring lots of layers. We wore everything from shorts to vests+hats+gloves. Elevation at Bryce is 8000 feet; there was still snow in some places. Evenings in the desert get really chilly and days can get HOT.
  • Precarious Heights – There are cliffs and drop-offs EVERYWHERE. If you are even moderately afraid of heights, some of these hikes and activities will be tough for you. If you are a parent, be prepared to be a fun-killer and tell your kids 100+ times to not get so close to the edges or climb so high.
  • Amazing Drives – I never thought I would say this, but you MUST drive these routes. 1) Leave (or enter) Zion on Highway 9 (via Orderville) on your way to Bryce for sweeping canyon views, multiple switchbacks and a chance to see Checkerboard Mesa. 2) Most of the drive from Escalante to Moab via Highways 12 and 24 are like nothing I’ve ever seen. The landscape changed several times as we drove through birch forest and Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Other Activities – Our family prefers hiking (and it’s free!), but every area we went had opportunities for other adventures (usually at a price) if you want to vary your activities. We rafted in Moab and biked in the Grand Canyon to break up the time on our feet. Choose from Jeep tours, canyoneering, horseback riding, and more.

Trip Essentials

A few things we could not live without are pictured below – kids on the left; adults on the right.

  • Kids – Invest in quality hiking shoes (and socks) for your kids. We hiked almost every single day of this trip and I did not hear one complaint about sore/tired feet. Bring a couple portable games for down-times in hotel rooms. Pack a couple books or maps for your kids to follow along and read about where you are headed. Have your kids carry their own water, if possible. That mini-camelbak pack was perfect for our 6 year old. Not pictured: Download podcasts about the parks or audio books for the long drives.
  • Adults – The REI Flash 18 Pack was one of the best last-minute purchases before our trip. It is super comfortable and can incorporate a hydrating system (i.e. Camelbak bladder); with room for snacks and other day hike essentials. We brought a small dry-bag for our rafting trip and hike into the Narrows at Zion. Purchase at least one quality road/topographical map – cellular service was extremely limited in most areas so you can’t rely on your phone to get you places. Other essentials: camera, portable/rechargeable battery, reusable wine glasses (by Govino) and a corkscrew. Not pictured: Selfie stick (yes, you read that right) and a laundry bag.

Is a road trip to the Southwest on your list? Subscribe to the blog for upcoming posts about each park and details on hikes and activities we loved.

Have you done this trip? I would love to hear your comments!

 

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34 thoughts on “Road Trip: National Parks of Utah & Arizona

  1. Fantastic Photos! One of my favorite parts of the country!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this!! I have done Zion and some others a long time ago but have been meaning to make it out that way again. Absolutely beautiful views and great tips 🙂

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  3. Looks beautiful! I have driven through the southwest but I’ve never had an opportunity to visit the National Parks there, which is definitely on my bucket list! When my son was 6-ish he had a Camelbak and he had a terrible habit of chewing on the mouthpiece out of boredom until it didn’t work anymore, so if you have little kids who might also do this, it’s not a bad idea to carry an extra mouthpiece! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so pinning this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s so much of the U.S. I haven’t seen! Whenever I return home I plan on driving cross country and this is a great guide for some of the National Parks. Definitely saving this for later!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rightkindoflost

    I almost went to Utah this winter, but we ended up getting a deal at a ski resort instead. Thanks for the great post! It’s definitely still on my list. Great pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really enjoyed the read and the photos were great. Thanks for putting this together; makes me want to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Life, Other Than

    Great post. Love the pics – they are very creative. My favorite is the one with the shadows on the cliffs at Zion.

    I made a similar trip – just in the reverse order back in 2010. I’m headed back there this year to spend a bit more time. I agree that this is something worth telling everyone about. World class scenery all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This looks absolutely amazing! I have only been to Utah once in the winter but this confirms that I need to go back there one day. Stunning pics!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Glad you had a great trip, thanks for the advice on highways 12 and 24! Peek-a-Boo Canyon looks like a great destination!

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  11. What a fantastic trip! I have been wanting to do a trip like this!

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  12. So beautiful! I’ve only ever explored California’s National Parks, but have wanted to see Zion for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Incredible photos! I would love to explore some of the US’s western parks. I almost made it out to Sedona this year but ended up in Mexico instead (ehm, intentionally). Sedona’s staying high on my list, though!

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  14. I am so coming to the US of A oneday! Love your photos, would love to visit all these parks!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Utah has some great parks. I’ve been to Zion a handful of times and it never disappoints. And, Arches, wow! Bryce too! I haven’t been to Sedona yet, but I really want to go there. Thanks for sharing your travels and photos!

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  16. I loved this article! Being from Saskatchewan, I’ve never seen anything like this before. Your pictures are incredible and it sounds like you have an awesome time! 🙂

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    • Thanks Kenton – we did! I hope you can make it out to some of those places some day – they are all amazingly impressive! I had no idea, even after looking at photos online. Thanks for reading!!

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  17. Stephanie Lonetti

    Can’t wait to read details of the hikes. Hiking is a great activity for families. How did your little one keep up with his big brother? Was that ever an issue?

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  18. Absolutely love reading this, what a great road trip! Can’t wait to read more from you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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