Are you planning a national park mighty 5 Utah road trip? Awesome, this is going to be a trip you won't forget. These West Coast national parks are amazing! We are going to create a Utah mighty 5 road trip itinerary!
The 5 Utah national parks are often referred to as the big 5 Utah national parks. I am a Utah resident and we call them mighty 5. I will use these terms interchangeably. You know which parks I'm talking about!!!
In this post, we will discuss starting points for your Utah mighty 5 road trip itinerary, Big 5 Utah national park itineraries, and some of the highlights of each park.
Utah is my home state and I have visited the Big 5 in Utah many times. I'm excited to share with you some of the best things to do and see on your Utah mighty 5 road trip!
If you did not know Utah is home to 5 national parks and 7 national monuments. Visiting the national parks in Utah is an adventure you are going to love.
Let's explore the mighty 5 National Parks Utah has and plan a Utah mighty 5 road trip!
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Best Time to Visit Mighty 5 Utah National Parks
You might be asking, “what is the best time to plan a Utah national park road trip?” All parks are open year-round but anytime from March – to October is the best time depending on which park you visit.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is really busy from March – to October. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit. In the summertime temperatures exceed 100 degrees. Temps are lower in the morning and at night.
Canyonlands National Park
The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park is similar to Arches National Park, so anytime from March – to October is a great time to visit. Temperatures are the same as Arches National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park
The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is March – October. Although it is still pretty cold until May.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park has great weather all summer long. The high is about 79 degrees in the heat of summer. The park is open year-round. However, May- September is the best time to visit Bryce. May is still a little chilly.
Zion National Park
The best time to visit Zion National Park is Spring and Fall. The temperatures are perfect. In summer it gets hot, close to 100 degrees. The shuttle that takes you to destinations throughout runs from March through October.
My Favorite Time to Visit the 5 Utah National Parks
Utah winter is not my favorite time but I have friends that put on their spikes and love hiking during this time of year. Summer is pretty hot but if that is the only time you can visit, it is still worth visiting.
Admission to Utah National Parks - National Park Pass
The entrance fees to the big 5 Utah national parks, per vehicle, are as follows:
- Arches National Park $30
- Canyonlands National Park $30
- Capitol Reef National Park $20
- Bryce Canyon National Park $35
- Zion National Park $35
National Park Pass
If you are planning on visiting more than 3 parks in the next year purchasing the American the Beautiful Pass is worth it. We have had this pass this last year and it has been worth it to us.
Do You Have a 4th Grader?
Just a reminder if you have a 4th grader you can get a free annual pass.
Where to Start your National Park Utah Mighty Five Road Trip
When starting your big 5 Utah national park road trip realize, that there are five national parks spread out across Utah. It is a lot of driving!
What Airport Do I Fly Into to See the Big 5 Utah National Parks?
You have four options.
- Salt Lake International Airport
- St George Regional Airport
- McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Grand Junction Regional Airport in Colorado
Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages of flying into the international airports are that car rentals will be less expensive. The disadvantage is the extra distance you will have to drive to get to your first Big 5 Utah national park.
St. George is 45 minutes away from Zion National Park. This is the closest airport to any Utah National Park.
Grand Junction is about 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Arches and Canyonlands National Park.
The regional airports will save you time but they will cost you a little more.
Car and RV Rentals for your Big 5 Utah National Park Road Trip
Renting a car at any of the airports listed above is very easy and convenient. Most of the car rental companies are located onsite. I typically use Priceline to book my car rentals.
In Salt Lake City and Las Vegas your inventory may be larger to choose from and slightly less expensive than the regional airports.
Rent an RV
If you have thought about renting an RV for your Big 5 Utah national park road trip, that is a great idea. You have lodging and transportation set up all at once.
I recommend checking out RVShare. If you want to experience something more like Airbnb where you rent your RVs from individuals RVShare is great for a mighty 5 Utah road trip. This is a fun way to visit the big 5 national parks Utah has.
Plan Your Big 5 Utah National Park Itinerary
Once you have arrived in Utah and decided what transportation option you want, the next step is to plan your Mighty 5 Utah national park itinerary.
You can either start north to south or vice versa depending on which airport you fly into or the direction you are coming from.
Mighty 5 Road Trip
The Utah national parks are called the Mighty 5 or Big 5 which include:
- Arches National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zion National Park
This list is the order I would take if choosing the option from north to south. If you plan to go from south to north, this list can be used from the bottom to the top.
In this post, we will start the mighty 5 Utah national park trip beginning north to south starting in Arches National Park.
Plan a Trip to Moab Utah
Your first two parks to visit on your mighty 5 Utah National Park adventure will be Arches and Canyonlands. They are 30 minutes apart from each other. Before we discuss the parks, let's explore the area so you know what to expect.
Moab, Utah is the main town near both of these parks. There is a ton of outdoor activities in this area such as:
- Mountain Biking
- Off-Road Jeep Tours
- River Rafting
- Hiking in and out of the National Parks
- Repealing Adventures
- Rock Climbing
- ATV Tour
- Petroglyph Tour
Best Place to Stay
Moab is actually really nice and has lots of options for lodging. There are camping options of all kinds such as tent sites, yurts, cabins, and RV spots.
If camping isn't your thing no problem! The Marriott has three really nice hotels in Moab with amazing pools.
1. Arches National Park
Starting your Big 5 Utah national park road trip at Arches National Park is a great place to start if you are coming from the north.
If you look at the license plates in Utah you will see an arch on many of them. This Arch is called Delicate Arch and is located at Arches National Park.
Most Known For
The Delicate Arch hike is the most famous hike at Arches. It is short and family-friendly. There are also many other natural arches located throughout the park.
How Much Time Should I Spend at Arches National Park
1-2 days inside the park is what I recommend. It really depends on how many hikes you want to do.
Arches is one of the best Utah mighty 5 road trip stops
2. Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is a short drive from Arches National Park. Canyonlands does have some arches but is really known for its beautiful panoramic overlooks and dramatic desert landscape.
Most Known For
The Islands of the Sky is the most popular area in Canyonlands followed by Mesa Arch and Grandview Point.
Canyonlands is also really nice because you can enjoy most of it in your car. As you drive through the park there are many stopping points where you can get out and check out the views and participate in short hikes.
How Many Days Do I Need At Canyonlands?
Plan to spend at least a few hours, and as much as 2 days in the park. There are some incredible camping sites at Canyonlands.
If that excites you than you will want to enjoy a little more time in the park. However, you can easily get a taste of Canyonlands with a short visit as well.
Canyonlands is a nice addition to your Utah mighty 5 road trip itinerary!
State Parks Nearby to Add to your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
On your Big 5 Utah national park road trip itinerary I highly recommend visiting two state parks that are near Arches and Canyonlands.
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Goblin Valley State Park
Both of these parks are amazing and not too far away. Goblin Valley is actually on your way to Capitol Reef National Park which is the next stop on this amazing Utah big 5 itinerary.
3. Capitol Reef National Park
As you continue on your Big 5 Utah road trip, your next stop is Capitol Reef. One reason we love Capitol Reef is that it is not as busy as the other national parks in Utah.
Most Known For
We loved hiking at Capitol Reef because of the Canyons. The echo is amazing! It also has a historic flare that is unique. In the middle of the park, there is an orchard, bakery, as well as historic sites. It is really cool.
Of the mighty 5 in Utah, Capitol Reef is one park that is often left off the big five road trip itinerary, but if you have the time to visit, you should.
How Much Time Do I Need At Capitol Reef National Park
1-2 Days is a good amount of time to spend. We were able to do everything we wanted in 1 day.
Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef
The town of Torrey, Utah is a good place to stay. There are plenty of camping sites and hotels alike. The Capitol Reef Resort is incredible! You can stay in teepees, covered wagons, or luxury accommodations with great amenities
4. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is the next stop on your big 5 Utah national park road trip itinerary. It is full of hoodoos! These are rock formations that are tall and thin.
Most Known For
The hoodoos are the highlight of Bryce Canyon. There are many viewpoints with spectacular overlooks. Sunrise Point is probably the most popular. Bryce is a great park to drive around but you can also get down and explore the Garden of Hoodoos at your own pace.
How Much Time Do I Need At Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon is a compact national park. You can easily do everything within 1 day.
Places to Stay Near Bryce Canyon
There are a few hotels nearby but Bryce Canyon is pretty isolated. We have stayed in Duck Creek on a Utah family reunion and loved the cabins and ATV trails in that area.
Bryce Canyon is a Southern Utah national park road trip destination that you will love.
National Monuments Near Bryce Canyon
After you visit Bryce, Escalante National Monument and Cedar Breaks are both worth a visit. Entrance fees are included in your National Park Pass.
Escalante National Monument
Escalante National Monument is about 24 minutes from Bryce. This park is known for its slot canyons. You could spend a day exploring the monument.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
We love Cedar Breaks. It is an easy stop on your Big 5 Utah national park road trip. It is beautiful yet not time-consuming. You can walk the rim and have breathtaking views and be done in about an hour or two. I love this quick stop.
These monuments are perfect to add to your big 5 National parks road trip.
5. Zion National Park
Save the best for last (depending on which direction you start)! Zion National Park is my favorite big five Utah national park. It is so beautiful and has so much to offer.
Most Known For
Zion is one of the best climbing areas in the world. Don't be surprised to hear more foreign languages than English. People come from all over the world to experience this park.
The two most famous hikes are Angels Landing (a hike that you literally have to hold a chain to ascend to the top) and the Narrows (which is a slot canyon with water running through it.) A permit is needed for some hikes.
How Much Time Should I Spend at Zion?
I would recommend 2-3 days at Zion but plan more time in this area to explore.
There is a shuttle that takes you around the park.
Things to Do Near Zions National Park
There are lots of other amazing things to experience in this area as well such as:
Where to Stay Near Zions National Park
St George is a great place to stay. It is the largest city in southern Utah, and as such there are lots of accommodations which include hotels, vacation homes, and camping.
You can also stay east of the park. My favorite place to camp is the Zion Ponderosa Resort.
Springdale is another great location with a Springhill Suites.
Important Tips About Big 5 Utah National Parks
Slot canyons are formed from flash floods. These flash floods still happen today. When you are hiking in these beautiful canyons be aware that if there is any sign of rain, or you hear thunder, get out!
This can occur at any of the mighty 5 Utah national parks however it is most common at Capitol Reef National Park, Escalante, Bryce, and Zion. The Narrows hike at Zion is an area to be aware of because of the danger if a flash flood occurs.
Be careful! Many hikes at the big 5 Utah national parks have 1,000-foot drop-offs. Certain hikes are not okay for kids. Angels Landing is intense with complete drop-offs.
Stay on the Trail or Path
Don't wander off! Stick to the path and you will be safe. A lot of people get in trouble when they start exploring on their own.
Southern Utah is hot! There are extreme temperatures over 100 degrees during the summer months. Always pack enough water for your day.
Are You Ready For A Big 5 Utah National Park Road Trip?
I hope this mighty five guide will help you plan your Utah national park road trip itinerary. You are going to have an amazing time on your Mighty 5 road trip!
The big 5 Utah national parks are out of this world! I would love to hear which one you love the most.
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