Utah is a must on any traveler’s bucket list. Its fascinating landscapes, alluring rocks that seem from another planet, countless hiking options, and plenty more desert highlights and adventures make road tripping through this state a unique experience.
With that said, though, planning a road trip through Utah can get pretty overwhelming due to the endless amount of options of things to see and do.
In case you’re currently struggling to plot the perfect route, here’s a list of the best destinations that are absolute non-negotiables while tripping through the state!
National Parks fan? You may also want to jump over and check out our road trip itinerary for Utah’s “Mighty 5”
The Ultimate Utah Road Trip for Some Serious Desert Magic
The best thing about Zion National Park is that it offers something for every type of traveler. Think multi-colored sandstone cliffs, spectacular desert wildlife, and unequaled jaw-dropping views, and you’ve got yourself plenty of reasons to pay this gem of a park a visit.
Whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, or rock climbing, Zion National Park is just right for you. And, hey, if your jam is taking awesome Insta pics, Zion’s got a ton of spots to do just that!
Bryce Canyon’s magic lies in its beautiful amphitheater of hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon boasts the largest collection of them in the world, which guarantees unique views that you won’t soon forget, if ever.
Bryce Canyon also houses magnificent woods, unbelievable wildlife, mysterious caves, and tons of trails that make this location a hiker’s heaven, especially if you’re new to hiking in the desert!
As one of the most iconic landmarks in the US, Monument Valley is symbolic of Native American and Old West history, making its beauty even more valuable. The place brims with alluring hiking trails, sandstone buttes, and horseback riding locations, all of which add to the Old West flavor of the region.
Capitol Reef National Park
If you’re one to look for off-the-beaten-path places to visit to explore backcountry hiking trails, you’ll fall head over heels in love with Capitol Reef. Plus, this gem of a park also offers great options for rock climbing and mountaineering.
While it is not as popular as other national parks in Utah, visiting it is a must on your itinerary. The landscape at Capitol is unique because of the so-called Waterpocket Fold that was formed millions of years ago, creating a Mars-like rocky terrain that today is home to a huge natural arch, ancient petroglyphs, and a varied wildlife that you probably don’t expect to find in the middle of the desert.
There are roads that cover all three sections of the park, in case you’re not up to doing too much exercise and would much rather explore from the comfort of your car.
If you want to bring out the cowboy that lives inside you, Dead Horse Point State Park is definitely for you. The beautiful setting of this park will make you feel like you’re in some Western movie (in fact, 1991’s Thelma and Louise’s final scene was filmed in this state park in the Moab Desert!). There’s plenty to do here, including hiking, mountain biking, cave exploring, and even sleeping in yurts!
Dead Horse Point also has lots of grand overlooks, and the fact that it’s very close to the more popular Canyonlands and Arches National Parks practically guarantees an amazing visit without the crushing crowds of tourists.
Arches National Park is another must in any Utah road trip itinerary. Its spectacular desert views, natural arches (over 2000 of them!), and numerous rock formations are the main attractions here. Although it is relatively small compared to other national parks, there are tons of fantastic sights here, and its size makes it easy to explore the highlights in a day or two.
Whether you prefer hiking or taking in the views from your car, both are options to get acquainted with this enchanting park in the middle of the desert.
Vast canyon vistas, sweeping views of the desert, and strange red rock formations that line the sky are what make Canyonlands National Park one of the most incredible places to visit in Utah, if not the entire world.
This national park is so huge that it’s impossible to visit it all in one trip (or even a hundred). You could devote a year of your life to exploring it and still never really get to see it all, so be sure to dedicate at least two days to visiting its highlights!
Canyonlands is divided into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. If you’re a first-timer or don’t have too much time, Island in the Sky is your best bet to start exploring Canyonlands. The trails here are relatively short and easy.
If, on the other hand, you prefer more challenging hikes and want to have the sights pretty much to yourself, the Needles is guaranteed to please. The Maze is the ultimate adventure for experienced and fearless travelers, as this is considered one of the most remote areas in the US.
Hopefully, this shortlist of the best destinations in Utah helped you plot the perfect road trip for you! This wonderful state makes it hard to narrow down a list of attractions, but these destinations are pretty iconic, and a good way to get acquainted with the best wonderful Utah has to offer.
Continue your Journey – Road Tripping Beyond Utah
- If you want more desert action in the Southwest, then why not extend your trip further into Arizona, or mountain lovers keep heading east for the magic of Colorado and some seriously scenic mountains.
- You can find our suggested itinerary for combining the best of Utah’s National Parks with Grand Canyon National Park over here.
- Want to tackle all the highlights of southern Utah in one trip? You need our Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Map & Itinerary
Top Tips for Road Tripping in Utah
- You’ll be covering several National Parks so it is well worth investing in your America the Beautiful annual pass, which covers entrance fees at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and more. At just $80 for 12 months of visits, it’s one of the best investments a traveling family can make.
- Utah observes Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) – daylight savings – from roughly mid-March to Mid-November.
- Summer’s in the desert can be brutally hot. Always set out with plenty of water and observe our desert driving tips.
- Never forget a road trip essential again with our downloadable family road trip checklist.
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