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15 Places You Must Visit on a Utah Road Trip

Woman in the road in Utah on a road trip
View on a Utah road trip

I still can’t believe all of this is in one state! Utah was one of my favorite trips of the year. This state is incredible and completely blew me away. A Utah road trip is the best way to see all the state has to offer, especially for anyone who loves the outdoors.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Utah on a road trip including a map to make it easier to plan your trip. This list includes national parks, Instagrammable places, hot springs, and more, so get ready for a Utah road trip adventure!

Map for an Epic Utah Road Trip

Utah is an amazing state with so many options to see that you could easily spend weeks exploring. Use this map to plan out your road trip in Utah and to figure out the best order for your trip.

The Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary

Below you can find the best stops for a Utah road trip, but if you are looking for a full Utah road trip itinerary, I wanted to show you how we managed to fit so much into a 7 day Utah road trip. More information on each of our stops is below in my top 15 list.

Day 1: Salt Lake City

On the first day, we flew into Salt Lake City late and stayed in the Grand America Hotel. We enjoyed dinner at Zest Kitchen and Bar and met the group including the team from Instasize.

Day 2: Bonneville Salt Flats and Park City

Day 2 started early with sunrise at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then we headed to Park City and checked into Stein Erikson Lodge where we had lunch at the Glitretind Restaurant. We spent the afternoon exploring Park City and the ski areas and then met up again for dinner at Fletcher’s.

Women posting for Instagram at Bonneville Salt Flats on a road trip in Utah
Bonneville Salt Flats

Day 3: Little Sahara, Mystic Hot Springs, Pando Aspens

Day 3 was filled with photo ops at some of the most Instagrammable places in Utah. We started the morning at Little Sahara taking pictures on some epic sand dunes. Then we enjoyed the late afternoon sun soaking in the Mystic Hot Springs.

We ended the evening among the aspens in Pando where we also started the next morning with an early photo shoot. Our hotel for the night was the nearby Fish Lake Lodge.

Day 4: Moab & Arches National Park

On day 4 we headed to Moab where we had lots of adventures. We stayed at Sorrel River Ranch for our time in Moab and enjoyed lunch there our first day. That afternoon we hiked to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park and drove through the park to enjoy the views. After our hike, we deserved our carb heavy dinner at Pasta Jay’s.

The hotel is a little more on the expensive side but from the food to the property views, it was so worth it!

Day 5: Hot Air Balloon Ride, ATV Tour, Dead Horse Point

We started day 5 with an incredible hot air balloon ride over Moab and the surrounding areas. After our ride, we stopped for brunch before our next adventure.

That afternoon we took off on ATVs to explore Hell’s Revenge. We returned just in time to clean up and head to Dead Horse Point for sunset. Dinner that night was at Miguel’s Baja Grill.

Woman sitting on the edge of the canyon at Dead Horse Point in Moab, Utah
Dead Horse Point

Day 6: Arches National Park & Horseback Riding

Day 6 started with a little bit of down time to recover from our adventures. We stayed around Sorrel River Ranch, exploring the property for the morning.

Later in the day we headed back to Arches National Park to drive through the park and stop at Balanced Rock and Park Ave. Trail. Then it was back to Sorrel River Ranch for a sunset horseback ride.

Woman with a horse outside of Moab Utah
Sunset horseback ride in Moab

Day 7: Back to Salt Lake City

On our final day, we headed back to Salt Lake City where I spent some time with friends before flying home. It was a busy week, but such an amazing trip. It definitely makes me want to go back and see more of Utah in the future!

Best Stops for a Utah Road Trip Itinerary

Now that you have the itinerary, it’s time to get into the details of our one week Utah road trip. With so much to see in Utah and everything so spread out, the best way to see the state is on a road trip.

If you plan to do a road trip through Utah, you can use a 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle. A 4-wheel drive gives you more options to explore if you want to go off road. Some areas and roads are marked 4-wheel drive only. In the national parks especially, there are 4-wheel drive only roads you can explore. If you plan to rent a car, pick a 4-wheel drive to keep all the options open.

Now to plan your road trip through Utah. Here are the top 15 places to see in Utah that you won’t want to miss!

Lisa Homsy at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

The Mighty 5 Utah National Parks

No trip to Utah is complete without visiting the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah. These parks are beautiful and diverse, making them the perfect road trip stops.

As a bonus, they are laid out in a way that makes it easy to drive between them. Most of the parks can be explored in a day if needed, but you may want to spend more time in them if possible.

The national parks are open 24 hours a day, but fees are charged from close to sunrise to close to sunset. If you enter the park before sunrise but leave before sunset, they charge you the fee when you exit the park.

If you plan to visit multiple parks in a year, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass for $80. This pass is valid for more than 2000 parks across the country. The year starts the day you purchase the pass, so purchase it the first time you have to pay an entry fee.

There is also a Southeast Utah Park Pass good for Arches, Canyonlands, and the National Bridges National Monuments for one month for $55. Depending on your itinerary, this may be a good option for you.

#1 – Arches National Park

Hours: Open 24 hours a day but fees are charged from around sunrise to sunset
Cost: 7 day pass is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 per individual
Location: Arches National Park

Lisa Homsy at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is best known for the arch formations throughout the park. There are plenty of paths to hike in Arches National Park, but Delicate Arch is the most well-known. If you only do one thing in Arches National Park, hike to Delicate Arch.

To see Delicate Arch there are two options. There is a shorter path that is an easy and flat walk if hiking is difficult for you or time is short. With this hike, you do not go all the way to the arch, just to a viewing area.

Otherwise there is a 3 mile (4.8 km) hike rated difficult to get to the arch. We opted for this hike to make it all the way to the arch. It did not feel that difficult to me though.

We planned it so that we had enough time before the sunset. There were a lot of people when we arrived, but if you get creative enough with your framing you can eliminate most of them.

PRO TIP: If you’re wanting to look cute and less sporty in photos do what I did, hike in sneakers a sports bra and shorts and toss a dress over it once you arrive! 😉

If you plan to take the longer hike and go in the warmer months, take plenty of water. Arches suggests taking 2 quarts or 2 liters of water per person on this hike. This is not an area where you want to dehydrate. Wear comfortable shoes and lightweight clothing too in the warmer months.

Once you reach Delicate Arch, the view is worth the hike. You can climb all the way out to stand beneath the arch. Since this is one of the more popular hikes, there is sometimes a line to take a picture alone under the arch. The good thing is that you can switch cameras with someone to get your picture if needed.

If you have time for some other hikes, check out Balanced Rock, The Windows, Double Arch, and Landscape Arch. If you are up for more of a challenge, try out Devil’s Garden to the Double O Arch. Even if you don’t have time to do any other hikes, enjoy the stunning views driving (plus, some of these are visible from the road!).

#2: Zion National Park

Hours: Open 24 hours a day but fees are charged from around sunrise to sunset
Cost: 7 day pass is $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, or $20 per individual
Location: Zion National Park

We missed going to Zion National Park on this trip, but it is on my bucket list for next time I go to Utah. It has a totally different landscape than Arches National Park and a crazy hike called Angel’s Landing.

Angel’s Landing is one of the top things to do in Zion National Park, but the hike is a scary one if you have a fear of heights. The trail is 5.4 miles or 8.7 km, but the last part of it is along a steep and narrow ridge. The view at the end is supposed to be worth it if you can get through the hike.

Another popular hike at Zion National Park is The Narrows. The Narrows is visible all year from the Riverside Walk which is a paved and accessible trail. If you want a closer look, you can hike up the Virgin River.

If you plan to hike up the river itself, make sure to take appropriate clothing and shoes for the hike. Make sure to also check the current conditions before starting the hike.

If the river is too high such as when the snow melts in spring or if there is a flash flood warning, The Narrows is closed for safety. Check the current conditions for hikes in Zion including The Narrows here.

The views from the roads through the park look amazing. I definitely need to get back to Utah and check out Zion National Park!

#3 Bryce Canyon National Park

Hours: Open 24 hours a day but fees are charged from around sunrise to sunset
Cost: 7 day pass is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 per individual
Location: Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is known for the hoodoo formations seen in most pictures of the park. Again, we did not make it to Bryce Canyon, but I plan to go back and see it one day.

If you only have a short time to spend in Bryce, you can hike in at either Sunset Point or Sunrise Point and then hike out at the opposite one. This trail takes you through the canyon and hoodoos and then back up to the rim. You can also stay long the rim for some stunning views.

Overall, Bryce Canyon is said to be worth a quick visit, but you can spend a few hours and then move on to one of the other many options in Utah.

#4 Capitol Reef National Park

Hours: Open 24 hours a day but fees are charged from around sunrise to sunset
Cost: 7 day pass is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 per individual
Location: Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is another national park in Utah perfect for a quick stop and good views driving through. If you want to try a moderate hike, check out Cohab Canyon for some hidden canyon views.

Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge are two other popular hikes that are not rated as easy. If you are looking for an easier hike, try the Grand Wash trail.

#5 Canyonlands National Park

Hours: Open 24 hours a day but fees are charged from around sunrise to sunset
Cost: 7 day pass is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 per individual
Location: Canyonlands National Park

We missed out on Canyonlands, but the photos of the park look amazing! Make sure to stop and see Mesa Arch as it is one of the most famous photo spots in the park. It is in the Islands in the Sky District, and there are plenty of amazing views to enjoy in that area of the park too. Check out Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, Shafer Canyon Overlook, and Buck Canyon Overlook while you are there.

Then head over to the Needles District to see a different side of the park. Check out Elephant Hill and the trails nearby as well as Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook.

Best Day Trips from Salt Lake City

If you plan to make Salt Lake City the base for your trip, there is plenty to see and do nearby. Take some day trips out and explore more than just the city to see the diversity in landscapes Utah offers.

# 6 Bonneville Salt Flats

Hours: Open 24 hours a day
Cost: FREE!
Location: Bonneville Salt Flats

Woman posing for a Bonneville Salt Flats photo shoot outside of Salt Lake City

From burning orange rocks in the national parks to salt flats stretching over 30,000 acres, Utah offers so many different views. Bonneville Salt Flats is located just off Exit 4 on Interstate 80 in Utah, just before reaching the Nevada state line. It’s approximately a 1.5 hour drive west of Salt Lake City

It was an early wake-up call to get there in time for sunrise, but oh man was it ever worth it. We had the place completely to ourselves!

If you’re planning on going for sunrise, dress warm. Before the sun comes up over the mountains the temperature is freezing! We packed a mini picnic of blankets, pastries and hot cocoa – a perfect way to keep cozy!

Fun Fact: The formation of the Salt Flats began at the end of the last Ice Age, when the waters of ancient Lake Bonneville began to recede.

Visiting is free and you can drive right onto the Salt Flats itself (do not drive on the salt flats when they are wet or flooded from precipitation though).

Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City is a must on a Utah road trip

# 7 Little Sahara

Hours: Open 24 hours a day
Cost: $18 per vehicle good for one night of camping and expiring at dusk on the second day
Location: Little Sahara Recreational Area

Lisa Homsy walking the sand dunes in Utah at Little Sahara

From one landscape to another, Little Sahara made me feel like I was back in Namibia! Little Sahara sits 115 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, less than a two-hour drive.

Once again, we arrived and had the entire dunes to ourselves! We arrived mid-day and spend a few hours shooting and running down the dunes.

If you enjoy camping, there are a few campgrounds, and your pass includes one night of camping in the park. Lots of people bring their ATVs and spend time camping and riding the dunes in the park.

Lisa Homsy on the Little Sahara sand dunes in Utah

#8 Park City

Location: Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah, is just a 40 minute drive from Salt Lake City. While it makes for an easy day trip from Salt Lake City, Park City is worth a few nights if you have the time.

In the winter, Park City is a popular ski destination. For a couple of weeks each winter, the city also becomes a popular spot for celebrities as new movies premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Whether you visit in the summer or winter, check out the Olympic Legacy Park. Here you can zip line down a mountain or take a ride on a bobsled or skeleton. Athletes train here even in the summer, so chances are you can watch some practice.

If you visit in the winter, hit the slopes at the many ski resorts nearby. Some of the best slopes are at Deer Valley, Snowbird, and Alta.

Lisa Homsy on a ski lift in Park City, Utah

Best Things to do in Moab, Utah

Moab has to be one of my favorite places in Utah. It left me completely speechless, and when you see my list of things to do in Moab, you will know why. Take your sense of adventure with you because Moab is made for outdoor adventures from hot air balloons to off-roading in a Jeep or ATV.

Make plenty of room in your schedule to spend time in Moab. With Arches National Park nearby, Moab deserves a few days of your time. We stayed at Sorrel River Ranch, and I’m so glad we had a few days to see the area.

#9: Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride over Moab

Hot air balloon ride over Moab Utah at sunrise

One of our mornings in Moab, we woke up early for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. We went with Sorrel River Ranch, and it was so worth the early wake up. It always is!

The views from above the arches and formations surrounding Moab make for amazing views. It felt like we stepped back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth! Definitely a highlight of my time in Utah!

View from the hot air balloon ride over Moab, Utah

#10: ATV Adventure in Hell’s Revenge

Hell's Revenge off road trail in Moab, Utah

Moab is known to adventure seekers as having some of the best off roading, and Hell’s Revenge is one of the most popular trails. We hopped on ATVs and took off on an adventure I won’t forget.

The area is popular with Jeep Wranglers, but you can also rent other ATVs to use on the trails. We spent a few hours out there, and I loved it!

Four women at Hell's Revenge off road trail in Moab, Utah
Me, Manon, Camilla, Mel

#11: Dead Horse Point

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: $20 per vehicle, $10 for motorcycles, $4 per person on foot or on bicycle
Location: Dead Horse Point

View of Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah

Dead Horse Point is one of Utah’s most spectacular state parks with views that go one for miles. The viewpoint features a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park.

Sunset was the perfect time to visit, it is so pretty with the sunlight fading and painting the canyon in color. I love how you can see the layers of colors through the canyon.

Dead Horse Point State Park view at sunset

#12: Horseback Riding in Moab

Book a sunset horseback ride with Sorrel River Ranch. If you go to Moab, it is the perfect place to stay and has so many options for Moab experiences. The area we rode was beautiful, and the golden lighting made it even more perfect.

If you’re a Westworld fan, we actually rode right around the rock. It’s insane and was definitely one of the highlights of my trip!

Photoshoot in Moab, Utah while on a sunset horseback ride
Sunset horseback ride in Moab, Utah

Best Places to Go in Southern Utah

Utah has so much to explore, and the southern part of the state is where you can find plenty of outdoor activities. From hot springs to aspen forests to national parks, Utah’s southern half is made for adventure!

#13: Mystic Hot Springs

Hours: Open 24 hours a day
Cost: $15 for 6 hours (overnight accommodations available)
Location: Mystic Hot Springs

Relaxing in a bathtub at Mystic Hot Springs

This was one of my favorite places in Utah perfect for photos and a few minutes of relaxing on your Utah road trip. Mystic Hot Springs has two concrete pools and six vintage cast iron bathtubs to soak in when you visit.

Mystic Hot Springs is located just south of the center of Utah and not far from Capitol Reef National Park. It is about two and half hours south of Salt Lake City.

Spend a few hours relaxing in the tubs and soaking in the mineral waters. Sunset is the perfect time to visit, but stay and watch the stars come out too if you have time. They even have concerts here sometimes! Book your passes in advance here.

FYI some of the tops are REALLY HOT! I’m talking like 104 F hot! Clearly I was not warned (see below!) hahah

Experiencing the hot water at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah

If you’re going for photos there try to be discrete. We were a group of 10 people and 4 cameras, which was a bit overwhelming for the owners to understand it was just for Instagram and not a commercial shoot.

I always recommend speaking to the owners first to ask if it would be okay. Show them your account and explain that you’re a tourist taking photos. I’ve never had anyone say no as it’s free promotion for them, but they will really appreciate being asked.

Lisa Homsy in a photoshoot at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah

#14: Pando Aspen Grove

Hours: Open 24 hours a day
Cost: $15 for 6 hours (overnight accommodations available)
Location: Pando Aspen Grove

The Fishlake National Forest Pando aspen grove in Utah

Located between Capitol Reef National Park and Mystic Hot Springs, the Pando Apsen Grove is a beautiful area and another perfect photo spot. The grove is in Fishlake National Forest, one mile southwest of Fish Lake.

Pandos are also known as the trembling giant. Pando is an enormous grove of quaking aspens that take the “forest as a single organism” metaphor literally. These beautiful trees make for a perfect backdrop for photos and a beautiful drive.

Lisa Homsy and Mel Vandersluis in the Pando Aspen grove in Fishlake National Forest in Utah

#15: Monument Valley & Forest Gump Hill

Most likely when you think of Monument Valley, you think of the famous scene from Frest Gump! This landscape has to be one of the most famous spots in the USA.

I was so bummed we didn’t get a chance to visit this location, it’s pretty far down the state just bordering Arizona. Next time I am making it there though!

Most of the park is in Arizona, but the famous Forrest Gump photo of the park is in Utah. This is the photo of the road you always see on Instagram. Forrest Gump Hill is near mile marker 13 in Utah on US-163. For the location on Google Maps, click here.

The Welcome to Utah sign is another popular photo spot nearby if you plan to head down to the main part of Monument Valley. While there are signs at each of the main entrances to the state, the most famous one is at the Utah/Arizona line near Monument Valley. If you end up visiting Monument Valley, you can get the photo with the sign and the formations in the background.

Another popular option is on the road from Nevada into Utah. Google Maps even marks this location is you search for Welcome to Utah sign. Thanks to the landscape of Utah, you can’t go wrong at either one. If you are already visiting Monument Valley though, it is easier to get the one at the Arizona border.

Why Everyone Needs to Take a Utah Road Trip

Utah is amazing. As far as road trips in the US go, this is one of the best states to explore. If you love the outdoors, there are adventures everywhere. If you love great backdrops for your Instagram feed, it has that too.

Have you ever taken a road trip through Utah? Anything else I missed and need to add to my list? If not, where were some of your favorite road trips? I’m always looking for more places to add to my list!

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15 Places You Must Visit on a Utah Road Trip

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2 Comments

  1. Kate
    March 28, 2020 / 4:02 PM

    Thanks for this great article!!! Utah is one of my favorite state to visit and I haven’t been to some of the places you listed!! I live in Las Vegas so it’s the perfect day trip destination ✌🏻

    • lisahomsy
      Author
      March 28, 2020 / 6:15 PM

      Definitely the coolest state I’ve visited by far! You’re so lucky you’re so close by

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