View of canyon in Zion Park from Observation Point

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5-Day Itinerary of Utah National Parks From Las Vegas

If you’re planning to visit Utah’s Mighty-5 National Parks, allocate around 7-10 days to make the most of your trip. However, if you have limited time off or are in Las Vegas for work or leisure, you can still explore the parks with this 5-day itinerary. It’s important to note that Utah is a vast state, and driving is necessary to reach the parks. The total driving distance from Las Vegas to the parks is approximately 968 miles, with a total drive time of approximately 16 hours. And this distance does not include driving within the parks or taking other scenic routes. This distance only accounts for the driving you’ll need to do to reach your nightly home bases. So, use your time wisely and enjoy the stunning natural beauty on this 5-Day Itinerary of Utah National Parks from Las Vegas.

The Utah Mighty 5 National Parks are a magnificent collection of natural wonders that will take your breath away. These parks include Arches National Park, with its stunning rock formations and arches, Canyonlands National Park, with its rugged canyons and mesas, Capitol Reef National Park, with its colorful rock formations and historic homesteads; Bryce Canyon National Park, with its incredible hoodoos and amphitheaters, and Zion National Park, with its towering cliffs and narrow slot canyons. A road trip to these national parks in Utah is truly an iconic journey that offers some of the best hikes, one breathtaking observation point after another, and several national monuments along the way. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or just looking for a memorable adventure, visiting the Utah Mighty 5 National Parks is an experience not to be missed.

Google map of the driving route to tour all of the Mighty 5 parks in Utah
Best Time Of Year To Do This Trip

The best time of year to make this Utah National Parks road trip is fall – spring, when you will find fewer crowds. Since time is limited, avoiding the crowds of the crazy summer high season is the best way to make the most of it. Summer at these parks means a lot of tourists, heavier traffic, and higher prices. Labor Day to Memorial Day is the time to visit.

If you want to save money on your upcoming trip, consider purchasing an America The Beautiful Pass from the National Park Service. This pass will allow you to enter all the parks, each of which usually charges between $20 and $35 per vehicle. This can add up to around $150, so purchasing the pass can save you significant money. An adult annual pass can be purchased for $80, while seniors over 62 can obtain the same pass for just $20. With this pass, you’ll enjoy free access to over 2,000 recreational sites throughout the United States, making it an excellent investment for any traveler exploring the country’s natural beauty.

Double red rock arches against blue sky
Day One: Las Vegas To Arches

To make the most of your first day on the trip, I highly recommend an early start and embark on your journey before sunrise. Your initial stop should be at Arches National Park, which can be easily accessed via the highway. It’s worth noting that Arches is the third most visited national park on this tour and the only one that uses a timed entry system. If you plan on visiting between April 1st and October 31st, it’s essential to reserve a specific entry time in advance. However, if your arrival is before 7 a.m. or after 4 p.m., you can avoid the reservation requirement and enter the park without hassle.

Arches National Park is an awe-inspiring terrain filled with peculiar rock formations and, of course, arches. The park offers a plethora of short hikes that are perfect for visitors with limited time. With only an afternoon to spare, here is the perfect itinerary to make the most of your visit.

Our first recommendation is to embark on the Devil’s Garden Trail, a beautiful out-and-back hiking trail spanning 1.6 miles. This trail leads to the most iconic spot in the park, Landscape Arch, which is undeniably a very crowded spot. The Devil’s Garden Trailhead is located at the furthest point along Scenic Drive in Arches and is the perfect starting point for your adventure.

Before heading to Devil’s Garden, make a few quick stops at lookout points and interesting formations. You will first encounter Park Avenue, which requires a short walk to reach the viewpoint. This lookout offers a stunning view of a canyon and is a must-see. Additionally, you will come across La Sal Mountains, Courthouse Towers, and Three Gossips lookouts, which are worth a quick stop if you have time.

As you make your way towards Devil’s Garden, you will also find great photo opportunities at The Great Wall, The Phallus Pillar, and Balanced Rock along the way. These natural wonders are a sight to behold and are perfect for capturing fantastic photos.

If you arrive early, you can venture down the road to Double Arch and Turret Arch. However, chances are these breathtaking sights will have to wait for another trip due to the lack of time. On your way back from Devil’s Garden, stop by Sand Dune Arch. A leisurely stroll along a sandy trail will lead you to this beautiful attraction. It typically takes about 30 minutes to visit Sand Dune Arch.

Our ultimate destination today is the magnificent Delicate Arch for the sunset. To get there, head back towards the park entrance using Scenic Drive and then turn onto Delicate Arch Road. If you have extra time before sunset, you must stop by the Garden of Eden viewpoint, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the entire Arches National Park. Looking for more options for sunrises and sunsets in Arches, then read my post The Best Spots For Sunrise And Sunset In Arches.

Park at the Delicate Arch parking area, our starting point for a 3-mile hike on a moderately challenging trail. The path mainly consists of uphill terrain, eventually leading us to the arch’s viewpoint. It is important to keep in mind that this hike will take approximately 2 hours, and you should make sure that you have enough time to complete it before sunset.

Looking for things to do an night in Moab, check out my post The Best Tours And Activities To Do In Moab At Night.

The must-see things in Arches in one day:

  • Delicate Arch in the late afternoon (the light is best, and it’s cooler). A 3-mile hike will take 2-3 hours.
  • Landscape Arch walking the 1.6-mile trail round trip. Allow about an hour.
  • Balanced Rock and Park Avenue are two viewpoints that are easy to access and take little time.
Travel Tips:

Make your base camp in Moab. It is very close to Arches and Canyonlands, so plan to stay two nights here. The small town of Moab has many restaurants and a wide variety of accommodation options.

A few accommodation options:
Canyonlands Arch with hiker
Day Two Canyonland

Canyonlands National Park covers a vast area, much larger than the relatively compact Arches National Park. With over 330,000 acres of remote landscape, it can be challenging to explore Canyonlands fully in just one day. However, if you only have one day to spend in the park, it’s recommended that you focus on exploring the Island in the Sky district. The park entrance is about 30 miles from Moab, making for an easy drive.

Let’s explore some scenic spots and go on a few brief hikes today. Begin your day at Mesa Arch, but remember that it can get quite busy, so arriving early is best. The parking lot is limited, so arriving early will save you time and avoid inconvenience. Mesa Arch is just a quick walk of less than a mile round trip. The perfect time to visit is sunrise, as it offers a breathtaking view that’s truly unforgettable.

As you go through the stunning scenery of Canyonlands National Park, be sure to include the White Rim Overlook in your itinerary. This hike is relatively easy, stretching just under 2 miles round trip and taking around an hour to complete. The highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the breathtaking views it offers, making it well worth the effort.

What sets the White Rim Overlook apart from other popular viewpoints in the park, such as Grand View Point, is its relative lack of crowds. This means you can take your time to soak in the stunning vistas without feeling rushed or jostled by other visitors.

Of course, if you’re feeling pressed for time or simply not up to the hike, you can skip the White Rim Overlook and head straight to Grand View Point. However, if you have the opportunity to take in this impressive vista, I highly recommend you do so.

Before you head back to the visitors center and Shafer Canyon Viewpoint, check out Buck Canyon Overlook, a quick and enjoyable stop that’s well worth the detour.

View of vast Canyonlands National Park

Finally, two more stops to consider on your way back include Whale Rock and Aztec Butte. These hikes are relatively short, taking just 1.5 hours combined, and offer unique views and experiences. However, I recommend Aztec Butte for its fascinating geological formations and rich history, if you only have time for one.

The Shafer Canyon Viewpoint is truly breathtaking. It only requires a short walk to reach a spacious plateau that offers panoramic views of the White Rim. In the distance, you can even see Dead Horse Point State Park. To cap off your day, be sure to visit the Visitor Center viewpoint on your way out of the park.

If you want to immerse yourself in all that Canyonlands National Park has to offer, consider joining a 4×4 jeep tour departing from Moab. This option is especially great because it allows you to access remote areas within the park that are otherwise inaccessible to most travelers. With several tour companies to choose from, you can opt for a 4-hour or an 8+ hour tour, both of which will take you on a journey into the heart of the park. Along the way, you’ll get to explore the breathtaking Needles area of the park, which is home to some of the most stunning and unique landscapes you’ll ever see.

The must-see things in Canyonlands in one day:

  • Mesa Arch – try to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
  • White Rim Overlook – This short hike is a better choice than Grand View Point.
  • Shafer Canyon Viewpoint – Offering breathtaking views of this vast park.

After a day of exploring Canyonlands, you will return to Moab for another night.

Barn at Gifford House in Fruita with horses and rock formation in background
Gifford Barn
Day 3 On The Road To Capitol Reef

Rise and shine…we have some traveling to do today. The journey from Moab to Capitol Reef National Park takes around 2 hours, most of the day will be spent traveling on Highway 24, which cuts through the park. It’s a picturesque drive from Moab. Looking for info on how to spend 1 perfect day at Capitol Reef, then check out my post The Perfect Itinerary For One Day In Capitol Reef.

The first destination for today is Hickman Bridge, a hike that is roughly 2 miles long and takes nearly 2 hours to complete. The hike leads to the back section of a canyon, where you can catch a glimpse of the Hickman Bridge. It’s a unique perspective of yet another arch.

Make a stop to view the fascinating petroglyphs on your itinerary. This is a must-see attraction on your route to the renowned Gifford Homestead in the park’s charming Fruita district. The homestead is truly a gem, as it’s one of the few remaining historic buildings and is famous for its tasty pie. To get there, all you need to do is continue heading south on Scenic Drive, and you’ll soon come across the park fee station. If you prefer to avoid paying the entrance fee, stay on Highway 24. The scenic drive spans around 8 miles and is widely considered one of the park’s most iconic routes, so take your time and soak in all the stunning sights along the way.

If you’re looking for a great hike in the area, the Cassidy Arch and Grand Wash trail is a must-visit spot. The Cassidy Arch trail leads to one of the park’s most beautiful photo spots. This hike is a moderate 3.3-mile out-and-back trail that will take you through stunning red rock formations and offer you stunning views of the surrounding area.

If you’re up for more adventure, you can also take the Grand Wash trail, a dry canyon surrounded by towering walls. This hike is a bit longer, at just over 4 miles round trip, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll be surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the area.

Sunset Point is a must-visit spot for a beautiful end to your day. This short hike is less than a mile round trip, and it will take you to a breathtaking viewpoint where you can take in the area’s stunning beauty. The view from Sunset Point is genuinely awe-inspiring, and it’s the perfect way to end your day in the park.

Plenty of towns nearby offer comfortable accommodations if you’re looking for a place to spend the night. Torrey and Escalante are great options, offering a range of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals.

Get more details about Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon in my post, Drive Moab To Capitol Reef To Bryce Canyon National Park.

The must-see things in Capitol Reef in one day:

  • Hickman Bridge – a short but rewarding hike.
  • Cassidy Arch – one of the most photographed spots in the park.
  • Scenic Drive – 8 miles of stunning scenery.
Here are some accommodation suggestions:
View from lower in canyon up to rim of Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 4 Bryce Canyon

It’s another early morning, depending on where you chose to spend the night, it is a 1-2 hour drive to Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park is a relatively small park that can be easily explored in just one day. It’s like stepping into another world with its amazing rock formations and towering hoodoos. These hoodoos are tall and thin spires of rock, and Bryce is home to more of them than anywhere else on Earth.

To begin your adventure in this park, head over to Sunset Point. This overlook will surely ignite your desire to explore more. Take a stroll along the Rim Trail on your way to Sunrise Point. As you walk, you’ll have ample opportunities to take in various scenic viewpoints.

If you’re looking for an easy trail to start with, try the Queens Garden/Navajo Look Trail. This trail will take you down into the breathtaking garden of hoodoos. By combining this trail with another, you’ll eventually end up back at the rim. Remember to check out Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, and Rainbow Point from here – they’re all fantastic viewpoints.

Consider Peekaboo Look Trail and Fairyland Look Trail if you’re up for more hiking. The former is a 5-mile trail that takes you through a picturesque valley filled with pink and orange hoodoos. The latter is a more challenging 8-mile hike that will take you further away from the crowds.

Tips for a trip to Bryce Canyon include getting there early. Not only do you avoid the crowds of mid-day, but you will also experience the best light in the early morning, making your photos and memories more fabulous.

Bryce does not offer great accommodation choices, so we are driving onto Springdale at the entrance to Zion for our overnight stay. This town offers many options for hotels and dining.

The must-see things in Bryce Canyon in one day:

  • Queens Garden Trail – gives you an up-close experience with the hoodoos.
  • Inspiration Point and Bryce Point – offer stunning views.
Suggestions for accommodations in Springdale:
Groups of people hiking the narrows in the Virgin River at Zion
Day 5 Zion and Back to Las Vegas

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, Zion National Park should be on your list of must-visit locations. This stunning park is a treasure trove of natural wonders that will leave you in awe. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week exploring all this picturesque park offers.

Zion National Park is divided into two distinct areas: the Kolob Canyons and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The scenic drive is where you will spend your time in the park, and it starts at the visitor center and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. The drive is a breathtaking experience that takes you through some of the most awe-inspiring vistas you’ll ever see.

However, as the most visited park among the 5, Zion can get quite crowded. To manage the crowds and preserve the park’s fragile ecosystem, visitors must take the shuttle to explore the scenic drive from February to November. Parking is available in Springdale, and the town operates a shuttle service that will take you to the park entrance. Once there, you must join a queue for another shuttle to take you to the park. Please note that the shuttle queues can be long, especially during peak season, so it’s best to plan your visit accordingly.

If you’re planning a visit to Zion National Park, hiking is undoubtedly the top activity you should engage in. With only a single day to spare, choosing your adventure wisely is important. While the most popular hike is the exhilarating yet treacherous Angels Landing, you should note that a permit is now required as of 2022.

However, if you’re someone who shares my fear of heights, try out the Observation Point trail instead. This trail provides breathtaking views of the entire canyon, and you can even get a bird’s eye view of the Angels Landing trail from your summit.

Another iconic trail is the Narrows Hike, where you’ll hike through a stunning slot canyon in the Virgin River. It’s an experience like no other, but I recommend renting gear in Springdale for your safety and comfort. The footwear package includes canyon boots, neoprene socks, and a hiking pole, which will undoubtedly make your hike more enjoyable and safer, especially when dealing with cold and slippery rocks.

Consider adding short hikes to Weeping Rock or the Emerald Pool Trail to your list of options. Zion National Park offers various hikes, ranging from easy to challenging.

Another option is to rent bikes in Springdale, which will allow you to avoid the shuttle lines and bike directly into the park. Bikes are allowed on the Scenic Drive Road, allowing you to take in the sights and even hike a few trails while experiencing the park from a unique perspective.

For more details on biking in Zion National Park, see my post Essential Guide To Biking In Zion National Park.

Hiker looking out over Utah canyon

The must-see things in Zion in one day:

  • Angels Landing – a daring hike.
  • Hike The Narrows – an iconic hike up the Virgin River.
  • Observation Point – one of the highest point in Zion.
A Whirlwind Tour

After a tiring day, it’s time to head back to Las Vegas. The drive from Springdale to Las Vegas takes a little over 2.5 hours. You could even catch a red-eye flight that night. However, I recommend checking into a Vegas resort and relaxing by the pool for a day or two. You earned it on this whirlwind road trip.

Looking for other itineraries from Las Vegas, check out my post 7-Day Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Sedona Itinerary.

Sitting by a pool holding a beer in a Four Seasons Hotel cup
Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

  • HOTELS and are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

The links above contain product affiliate links. We may receive a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. But your support of Fork & Wander is greatly appreciated!

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