Utah is a land of awe-inspiring landscapes and unique cultures. Following an exploration of the one-of-a-kind state capital, Salt Lake City, visit the state’s Mighty 5 national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef – as well as the incredible Monument Valley and the kaleidoscopic Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is nature at its finest.
Suggested route & duration
10 nights round-trip 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
SELF-DRIVE Utah's Park's & Canyons self-drive is a recommended itinerary including car hire, accommodation in 3 and 4 star hotels and a personalised documentation pack.
SALT LAKE CITY An intriguing city with a spectacular backdrop, Salt Lake City is the state capital of Utah. Perhaps most famous as the centre of The Church of the Latter Day Saints (a visit to the Salt Lake Temple in the heart of the city is certainly a unique cultural experience), the city is a great start point on an epic western road trip. To the north of the city is the Great Salt Lake, the remainder of the pre-historic Lake Bonneville and the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere.
MOAB Surrounded by red rock formations and with the mighty Colorado River crossing its northern reaches, the city of Moab is a dream if you love adventure sports but it’s also pretty special if marvelling at the wonders of nature at a more sedate place is your thing. Located just ten minutes to the north of the city is the most iconic of Utah’s five national parks – Arches. The park has the highest concentration of sandstone arches in the world which are scattered across the red-desert landscape. A few of the most accessible of these rock formations include the iconic Delicate Arch which perfectly frames the La Sal Mountains in the distance, the fragile-looking Landscape Arch and Sand Dune Arch. A bit further along US-191is the turn off for the Island in the Sky, one of three sections of the region’s lesser-visited Canyonlands National Park. To the south of town, and perhaps best visited en route to your next destination, Monument Valley, is the entrance to the park’s alienesque Needles section.
MONUMENT VALLEY There's nowhere quite like Monument Valley. It has an almost alien landscapes with towering red rock buttes and mesas rising sharply up from the valley floor, wild mustangs grazing the desert scrub and traditional Navajo hogans built out of the terracotta-coloured earth dotting the landscapes. You'll stay at the appropriately named hotel, The View, which perches at the edge of the valley and looks over the iconic Mittens and Merrick buttes. Waking for first light (at 5:30am in mid-June and 7am in mid-December) is an absolute must. There'll be a blanket in your room which you can take out on the balcony to keep you warm as you watch the sun rise. We also highly recommend joining a Navajo guide and following the 17-mile scenic road to get a different perspective on the unrivalled landscapes.
KANAB In the shadow of the multi-coloured cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is the desert outpost of Kanab. It’s a great base to explore the wider area which includes the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (open from mid-May to mid-October), the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, numerous twisting slot canyons and incredibly scenic canyon drives.
ZION NATIONAL PARK This ever-popular national park is centred on the striking 15-mile-long Zion Canyon lined with towering Navajo sandstone canyon walls that rise up to over 900 metres high. The canyon has been carved by Virgin River which runs along its course and is a playground for the park’s numerous visitors, especially when the desert heat gets a little too much. The park’s most unique hike is The Narrows which takes you into the river and through the increasingly tapered canyon. You can get kitted up in Springdale, the park’s neighbouring town and even hire a guide locall if you’d rather not go it alone. There are plenty of other hikes as well as ranger-led talks on the region’s human history and geology.
TORREY The final stop on your epic journey around the Beehive State is the small town of Torrey your base for exploring Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, the final two parks that make up the ‘Mighty 5’. The town is located at the northern end of Route 12, one of the most scenic roads in the USA – and that’s quite something in a country that’s known for its spectacular drives. You’ll have time to marvel at Bryce’s other-worldly hoodoos and perhaps trek down into the canyon, and to marvel at Capitol Reef’s scar on the wrinkle of the earth, the Waterpocket Fold.
Tailor your tour
This itinerary is completely flexible, so you can choose your own itinerary, duration and route, add excursions, and extend your holiday.