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The Ultimate Southern Utah Road Trip

Utah is by far one of Jake’s and my favorite states to visit. We spend some time exploring Utah at least once every year.

If you get the opportunity to travel for a week or so, we created the perfect Southern Utah road trip that will help you experience all of our favorite spots!

The best time to do this Southern Utah road trip is Spring or Fall because the weather is not too hot or too cold.

This Southern Utah road trip is designed for coming from Colorado (because that’s where we’re from). But you can jump into the road trip from whichever location you are traveling from (Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc)

We feel starting in Moab, UT is a great way to kickstart the Southern Utah road trip and grow the excitement along the trip

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-If you are flying into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City → Jump into the roadtrip on Day 5

-If you are flying into Phoenix, AZ → Jump into the roadtrip on Day 6

To find the best deals on flights, use Going to save $100’s of dollars!


Little Wild Horse Canyon

Renting A Car For This Southern Utah Road Trip:

If you do choose to fly in for this Southern Utah Road Trip, you will want to find a good deal on car rentals. Jake and I use Kayak and they always have good deals!

IMPORTANT NOTES before traveling on this southern Utah road trip

You will need PERMITS and RESERVATIONS for some of these activities/accommodations. So be sure that you plan ahead so that you don’t miss out.

We recommend lots of slot canyon hikes, which can become dangerous if there’s flash flooding. If there’s precipitation anywhere nearby in the forecast, then slot canyons should be avoided. It’s best to check with visitor centers or local ranger stations for the best information about trail safety conditions.

This road trip is very much designed around camping, and lots of primitive camping too (e.i. no facilities, bathrooms, water, electricity, etc). This is how we prefer to travel because it saves hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.  And you really get to enjoy the natural beauty of Utah.

We will provide a campsite we personally stayed at or another valid option. But if you prefer to find your own campsites or the ones we provide are full, check out our article: 3 Great Websites For Free Camping

Or if tent camping isn’t your style, a great option is to rent an RV, van or overland vehicle. Our favorite websites to find RVs, vans, or overland vehicles for rent is or

But if you’re more comfortable in hotel rooms, please feel free to modify the trip. We suggest using to find the best deals on hotel rooms or rental cars. Or if you prefer staying in a home. 

This Southern Utah road trip won’t be for the faint of heart. It is action-packed and designed to show you the greatest places in southern Utah!

** This trip will include multiple locations where you will be in National Parks or National Forest Lands so we suggest purchasing a National Parks Pass! You will easily get your money’s worth in just this trip, but it’s valid for 1 year. 

Southern Utah Road Trip Itinerary:

Lake Powell

Day 1

  • Arches National Park
  • Moab, UT
  • Peace Tree Cafe
  • Hike Corona Arch or Grandstaff Trail
  • Camp: Moon Flower Canyon (Crowded)

Day 2

  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Hike Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon
  • Camp: Temple Mtn Rd

Day 3

  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hike Sulphur Creek 
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Camp: East Fork Dispersed Area

Day 4

  • Hike Kanarra Creek
  • Zion National Park
  • Camp: Kolob Terrace Road

Day 5

  • Hike Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, The Subway or The Narrows
  • Camp: Kolob Terrace Rd

Day 6

  • Hike The Wave or Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend
  • Lake Powell
  • Camp: Lone Rock Beach

Day 7

  • Monument Valley
  • Head Back Home
  • Or Camp: Sunset campground

Day 1: Arches National Park/ Moab

Delicate Arch: Arches National Park

On Day 1 of the Southern Utah Road Trip, if you are heading in from Colorado, your first stop will be Arches National Park. In my opinion, it is a great park to drive around to all the amazing arches. But you don’t have to dive too deep to explore some of the National Parks most popular destinations. 

Definitely, the most iconic arch is Delicate Arch. You will notice this arch on most of Utah’s license plates. The hike is 3.1 miles with 631 feet in elevation change. If you aren’t up for the hike, you can also get a view from a distance of Delicate Arch from the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. This viewpoint is only .7miles with 141 feet in elevation change.

Double Arch

Another great arch to check out while you are in Arches National Park is Double Arch. It is a very short hike of .5 miles and 32 feet elevation gain. And to experience two other beautiful arches, you don’t even need to hop back in your vehicle. You can continue the trail to Windows Loop and Turret Arch

Windows Arch

After you leave Arches National Park, you will be heading toward Moab, UT.  Moab is super popular for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and in the climbing community. 

We suggest grabbing lunch at Peace Tree Cafe. We don’t go out to eat much, but whenever we are in Moab we stop here! They have great juices, but we love their pesto chicken sandwich!

Corona Arch

For the remainder of the afternoon, we suggest choosing between these 2 hikes just outside Arches National Park. 

Corona Arch: 2.3 miles with 469ft elevation change 

Grandstaff Trail: 4.3 with 387ft elevation change 

Grandstaff Trail

To help you conquer the desert, check out our article: 10 Tips for Hiking and Camping in Desert Climates

Camping In Moab, UT:

Depending on what time of year you are in Moab, we suggest locking down a campsite as soon as you get into town. Lots of the cooler primitive campsites around Moab are first come first serve. 

One amazing spot to camp is Hunter Canyon Campground, the drive down to this campsite is gorgeous, but the campsites can sometimes be hard to come by. The campsites are $20/night. There’s Kings Bottom Campground at the top of the canyon you can usually fall back on if it is full down below. The cost is $20/night. 

Another great option is the Sand Flats Campground which is first come, first serve. The cost is $15/night. 

Sand Flats Campground

Day 2: Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

For Day 2 you will be heading West toward Dead Horse Point State Park. We suggest waking up early and watching a beautiful sunrise over the canyon. There is a short 1 mile loop along the rim that is very easy and a great way to see the state park.

Little Wild Horse Canyon

After you enjoyed the beautiful sunrise over Dead Horse Point State Park, continue toward the San Rafael Swell. Today you will be doing one of our favorite canyon hikes: Little Wild Horse Canyon/ Bell Canyon

The full hike for Little Wild Horse Canyon/ Bell Canyon is an 8mi loop hike with 787ft elevation change.  But if you want a shorter version of the hike, just hike into Little Wild Horse Canyon and turn around once you feel like it. 

The coolest parts of Little Wild Horse Canyon are within the first 2 miles.  So an out-and-back hike would only be about 4 miles.  If you are up for a longer hike, then the full loop is definitely worth it, but this road trip has a lot of great hikes and we don’t want you to get burnt out at the beginning of the road trip. 

Temple Mountain Road Campground

Camping Near Hanksville, UT:

A great place to camp for the night is at Temple Mountain Road. Camping here is free. There is dispersed camping along this road. The best spots are tucked in next to the tall canyon walls! 

Day 3: Sulphur Creek and Bryce Canyon National Park

sulphur creek: one of the best hikes in utah
Sulphur Creek

Today, the adventure continues onward toward Capitol Reef National Park on this Southern Utah Road Trip. If you didn’t already know, Capitol Reef National Park is HUGE! There’s such a crazy diversity of things to do and see there.

From picturesque cliffs, canyons, and domes, to rivers and fertile farmland. We definitely have it on our “bucket list” to explore this National Park more, but in our short time there we found a somewhat “secret” hike that will blow your socks off! 

Sulphur Creek is a hidden gem in Capitol Reef National Park. It does come with its challenges though, because you need to hitchhike for a portion of this hike, and it’s sometimes not safe to hike because of the level of water flowing through the river.

Don’t let this scare you off, because it will be well worth it, and hitchhiking is common for this hike. Be sure to check with rangers at the visitor center to ensure that it’s currently safe to hike.

Sulphur Creek is 5.75 mi with 702 ft elevation change, but it’s all downhill if you hitchhike the highway. You can do this hike as an out-and-back, but it becomes much more strenuous because you will be hiking upriver and climbing up obstacles on the way out. 

For more information on Sulphur Creek check out our article: Unique Hike In Capitol Reef National Park

Venturing On To Bryce Canyon National Park:

After hiking Sulphur Creek we suggest venturing on to Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is a great National Park to see the famous “hoodoos”.  We suggest choosing a viewpoint along the rim to get a stunning view of Bryce Canyon. 

Good viewpoints are Sunrise Point, Sunset Point or Bryce Point. But if you are looking for a hike check out Navajo Loop Trail or Queens Garden.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Camping Near Bryce Canyon National Park:

We camped on East Fork Dispersed Area. Camping here is free. There are many designated campsites along this road. Bryce is known to have great astronomy due to the lack of light pollution! So be sure to check the night sky for some stellar views. And just a heads up, this spot is pretty high in elevation so expect some colder temps.

Day 4: Kanarra Creek

Kanarra Creek

Day 4, you will be exploring Kanarra Creek which is another river hike. If you couldn’t tell, we like hiking near water. Not only does it carve out amazing canyons and nourish life, but they also provides some shade from the heat!  Kanarra Creek is 4.3 miles with 734ft elevation change. 

To learn more details about this hike check out our article: Kanarra Creek

After finishing Kanarra Creek, you will be sending it into the coolest National Park in our opinion (but I think a lot of others agree too). If there is still time in the day, ride the bus that loops around Zion National Park. Also, think about which hike you would like to do most on Day 5. You might need to apply for a walk in permit for some of the hikes listed on Day 5 so it’s best to plan ahead.

Camping Near Zion National Park:

Our favorite campsite is Kolob Terrace Road which is right outside Zion National Park. Camping here is free. It’s privately owned land, but the owner lets you stay there. Please be respectful of the area and follow the “leave no trace” principles. We have gone a couple times, and sometimes there is a porta potty, but other times there isn’t, so I wouldn’t count on it.

Day 5: Zion National Park

There are many great hikes in Zion National Park, which are all unique in their own way. We suggest choosing one of these 4 listed below. None of these hikes are easy, so it would be hard to cram two hikes in one day. If your trip includes an extra day, we suggest using it here, because Zion is a magical place!

View of Zion Canyon from Angel’s Landing

Angel’s Landing

If you are a daredevil, then Angel’s Landing is the perfect hike for you. It is 5 miles roundtrip with 1630ft in elevation change. It is no joke when it comes to some serious incline and for a portion of the hike you will have thousand-foot cliffs on either side of you. Despite the very real dangers, it has become the most popular hike in the entire park, so don’t expect to have it to yourself. But with all that said, it is an incredible hike.

Observation Point: looking down on Angel’s Landing poking in from the right

Observation Point

This hike gives you an incredible view down Zion Canyon. But it’s an even bigger climb than Angel’s Landing at 8 mi roundtrip and 2100 ft elevation change.  But you may enjoy less crowds, and get views from an even higher point than Angel’s Landing

Check out our article Angel’s Landing VS Observation Point to decide which one is best for you. 

The Subway

The subway hike is one of a kind, but you need a permit to hike this. There are two ways to hike the subway: bottom-top or top-down. If you are planning this trip well in advance, then we suggest applying for a permit as soon as you can. But you also have the opportunity of getting lucky and scoring a walk-in permit. 

The Narrows
The Narrows

The Narrows:

There are two different routes for The Narrows hike. You can backpack it overnight (top-down) over  or day-hike out and back from bottom-up. You don’t need a permit for the latter. But if you get the opportunity, we highly suggest backpacking it because you get to experience the whole canyon in a much more private way and camp in the middle of this beautiful canyon! If you don’t score a permit, hiking up from the last stop on the scenic bus route is still spectacular.  The farthest you are allowed to go is to “Big Springs” (pictured below) 

Do be aware that hiking this takes extra preparation. Many people rent socks, shoes, and a walking stick from nearby companies because you will be hiking through the river for the majority of this hike. Plus the rocks are very slippery, so the shoes provide extra grip. 

Big Springs: The Narrows

The backpacking trip for the Narrows is 16 miles and the out and back hike is 8.6 miles. For this roadtrip we suggest just doing the out and back hike to save time and then you don’t need to bring backpacking equipment. But for those who make the extra preparations for the overnight backpacking trip, it may be your favorite experience of the whole trip.

Camping Near Zion National Park

Tonight we suggest camping at Kolob Terrace Road again.

Day 6: The Wave/ Lake Powell

The Wave

Day 6 on the Southern Utah road trip will again depend on getting a permit, this time for The Wave. It’s definitely one of the most visually stunning geologic wonders of the world. But permits are hard to come by because they only allow 20 people to hike it per day. If you are planning this trip in advance, then I would apply for the permit lottery online.

But don’t worry, if you are just coming across this southern Utah road trip itinerary, there is still a chance to score a permit for the wave. On your way to the second portion of this day, you go right through Kolob, UT, which is the town where you can get a walk-in permit for this hike. So swing by and see if you can score a walk-in permit.

Antelope Canyon

If you don’t score a permit for the Wave, then don’t stress, there are two other great destinations to visit while you are near the area. Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are located just across the border in Page, AZ. Both are very easy hikes, but experiencing Antelope Canyon does require an online reservation, so be sure to plan ahead.

horseshoe bend at sunset
Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

If you choose to check out Horseshoe Bend its 1.3 miles with 200 feet elevation gain. It is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so it will most likely be crowded.

The second portion of this day will be spent at Lake Powell, which is our favorite place to vacation. If you get the chance, the best way to explore Lake Powell is by boat, jet ski, or even better, a houseboat.

But for the length of this trip, a houseboat rental isn’t very doable, and rentals tend to be pricey. So maybe bookmark a houseboating trip for a later date with family or friends.

Lake Powell- Photo By: Kate Mahoney

Kayaking on Lake Powell

But a really affordable way to get on the water is to rent kayaks from Antelope Marina and explore up Antelope Canyon from the water. Because while looking out over Lake Powell from the shore is spectacular, it’s even better to experience Lake Powell’s beautiful canyons from the water!

Lone Rock Beach Campground

Camping Near Lake Powell:

Tonight you will be camping at Lone Rock Beach. It costs $14 per night. You can set up camp anywhere along the beach! But be aware, the sand gets less packed down the further down the beach, so we don’t suggest going far if you aren’t in a 4×4 vehicle. You can generally see the unofficial “roads” where the sand is packed down with rocks, so try to stay close to those. There are little bathroom huts with flushable toilets located all along the beach. 

Day 7: Monument Valley

Day 7 will be spent mostly in the car on your way back home. But don’t forget to stop at Monument Valley!

Takeaway | The Ultimate Southern Utah Road Trip:

This roadtrip is pretty intense and has a lot of hiking involved because the best of southern Utah if often off the beaten path. If you want the roadtrip to be a little more laid back, then feel free to put a little more emphasis on some shorter hikes. But if you hit every single activity on this list, you are a LEGEND, and I promise you won’t be disappointed! We hope you enjoy the Ultimate Southern Utah Road Trip! 

If you are venturing north toward Salt Lake City there are tons of fun things to do around the city.

Or consider heading east to Colorado for an epic road trip or heading west for an awesome Los Angeles Road Trip.

Honorable Mention for a Southern Utah road trip:

We tried to fit all our favorites in here, but it’s so hard!  Here are some things that didn’t make the list but you could substitute in if they interest you.


The only reason Canyonlands didn’t make the list is because there are 3 different entrances and they are all hard to access. All the amazing hikes within the park are a decent drive. But if Canyonlands has been on your bucket list, then you really shouldn’t pass it up because it really is beautiful.  Our favorite hike is Chesler Park Loop Trail.

Cathedral Valley (Capitol Reef NP)

The hard part about getting to Cathedral Valley is that it’s a long 17-mile drive down a variable dirt road. It likely requires a 4×4 with decent clearance. This very remote part of the park is home to the Temple of the Sun, and its little brother Temple of the Moon, two sandstone monoliths that appear to have shot out of the earth. They are the lone watchmen over this desert land that feels like another planet. 

And if you’re not too distracted by your surroundings you can find tons of obsidian at your feet. For my Game of Thrones fans, that’s Dragon Glass!

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