If we had to choose a favourite USA self-drive, this Utah round-trip would be a serious contender. It’s hard to compete with five national parks, non-stop awe-inspiring backdrops and one of the world’s must-see natural wonderlands: Monument Valley.
Suggested route & duration
10 nights from Salt Lake City
• Salt Lake City: 2 nights
• Moab: 2 nights
• Monument Valley: 1 night
• Kanab: 1 night
• Zion National Park (Springdale): 2 nights
• Torrey: 2 nights
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• Take in the epic landscapes from the mountains outside Salt Lake City to the arches, mesas and canyons of southern Utah
• Visit the ‘Mighty 5’ national parks: Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion
• Listen to Navajo stories and wake early for a blockbuster sunrise in Monument Valley
• Drive Scenic Byway 12 through beautiful canyon landscapes
• This itinerary can also be done in a motorhome.
Suggested self-drive details
Day 1: Salt Lake City Begin your Utah adventure in Salt Lake City, an intriguing city surrounded by mountains that is the home of The Church of the Latter Day Saints. Stay 2 nights at Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites Salt Lake City.
Day 3: Moab Red rock-encircled Moab is a nature lover’s dream. It’s the gateway to two of Utah’s five national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and the mighty Colorado River (of Grand Canyon fame) winds its way around the north of the city. Stay 2 nights at Hyatt Place Moab.
Day 5: Monument Valley This iconic spot on the Utah-Arizona state line has alienesque landscapes of towering red rock buttes and mesas rising sharply up from the valley floor. Stay at Gouldings Trading Lodge.
Day 6: Kanab Spend a night in the desert outpost of Kanab which sits in the shadow of the multi-coloured cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Stay at Best Western Red Hills.
Day 7: Zion National Park (Springdale) This ever-popular national park is centred on the striking 15-mile-long Zion Canyon which is lined with towering Navajo sandstone canyon walls over 900 metres high. Stay 2 nights at La Quinta Inn & Suite Zion.
Day 9: Torrey Visit Bryce Canyon and drive Scenic Byway 12 on your way to the city or Torrey, the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park. Stay 2 nights at Capitol Reef Resort.
National park gateway
The adventure-focused town of Moab is gateway to two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands
Epic sandstone vistas and Navajo culture meet in this breathtaking tribal park
By day, walk in the shadow of the towering hoodoos and by night gaze at the star-scattered sky
Scenic Byway 12
Follow the Hogback section of Route 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Tailor your tour
Make it your own
We’ve crafted this self-drive based on our own experiences and customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip.
Where to stay
The hotels we’ve included in this itinerary are simple in style but well located. In Monument Valley we highly recommend upgrading to The View, where each room has views of the iconic buttes and mesas. They’re particularly spectacular at sunrise so remember to set your alarm.
Out of the many experiences this amazing journey could include, the drive along Scenic Byway 12 has to be our high point both literally and figuratively. Over 120 miles of blissful driving take you through the painter’s palette-coloured cliffs of Grand Staircase–Escalante.
10 nights is the minimum time you should set aside for this road trip. If you like to hit the trails, extend your stay in Zion or Torrey. An extra night in Moab would mean you don’t have to choose between city’s nearby parks: Arches and Canyonlands.
As the itinerary skims the Utah-Arizona state line, a Grand Canyon detour is a great addition. The less-crowded North Rim (open May-October) is the easiest to add to your trip but you could always head to the South Rim and Las Vegas before re-joining the original route in Zion.
Good to know
When to go
• Travel in the shoulder seasons to see this region at it’s best. In spring you can see flowers blooming against a red-rock backdrop
• In the autumn, enjoy the cooler temperatures that follow southern Utah’s high-summer monsoon season
• If you travel in winter (when we recommend looping round from Las Vegas instead of Salt Lake City) you should be prepared for some snowfall in Bryce Canyon which is about 2400 metres above sea level