Road Trip: National Parks of Utah and Arizona

An 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. Month of travel: April.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Travel Day

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

Day 2/3 – Zion National Park

Drive to Zion National Park (2.5 hours) / Hike to Lower Emerald Pools + Upper Emerald Pools / Check into AirBnB in Hurricane (2 nights)

Hike the Narrows Trail / Late lunch at Zion Canyon Brewing Company / Hike Angel’s Landing

Day 4 – Bryce Canyon National Park

Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park (2 hours) / Visit Sunrise Point / Hike Navajo Trail + Peekaboo Trail / Visit Inspiration Point / Dinner at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon / Check into hotel in Bryce (1 night)

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Day 5 – Travel Day

Drive to Moab via Route 12 (4.5 hours) / Stop at Kiva Coffeehouse / Detour to Peek a Boo Slot Canyon (allow minimum of 3 hours for drive + hike) / Check into Moab Under Canvas (3 nights)

Days 6/7 – Arches, Canyonlands and Moab

Arches National Park: Explore the Windows Section / Hike Devil’s Garden Trail / Drive to Grand View Point overlook, Canyonlands National Park

Breakfast at Eklecticafe / Half-day white water rafting trip on the Colorado / Hike to Delicate Arch to watch the sunset

Day 8/9 – Grand Canyon National Park

Drive to Grand Canyon National Park (6 hours) / Hike the Rim Trail / Check into lodge (1 night)

Rent bikes and bike to Hermit’s Rest / Drive to Sedona (2.5 hours) / Check into Sky Ranch Lodge Resort (2 nights)

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Day 10 – Sedona

Hike the West Fork Trail / Rest and explore Sedona

Day 11 – Travel Day

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.


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Road Trip_ National Parks of Utah & Arizona

 

37 thoughts on “Road Trip: National Parks of Utah and Arizona

  1. 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! 😉

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!!

  6. 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!

  7. 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! 🙂

    1. 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!!

  8. 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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