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Take This Road Trip To See The ‘Mighty 5’ National Parks Of Utah

All five of Utah’s national parks are located across the southern end of the state in Red Rock Country and can easily be seen on one road trip. The total driving time only takes about six-and-a-half hours, but of course you’ll want to spend a few hours at each one to marvel over the deep narrow canyons, natural arches, towering buttes and cliffs. Check out the directions below along with each park’s best hike and top-rated campground.

1. Zion National Park

Utah national parks
Photo by John Fowler on Flickr
Zion by John Fowler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Take this hike: Angel’s Landing

Where to camp: Watchman Campground

Kick off your trip at Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. The landscape here is dominated by massive reddish sandstone cliffs and unusual plants, thanks to its unique location at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions. In fact, Zion was the first national park established in Utah and holds a rich history with paths where native people once walked.

Utah national parks
Photo by Alex Proimos on Wikipedia

During the day, the park has something for everyone: hiking paths of all difficulty levels (Angel’s Landing is our favorite for dramatic views), and a 25-mile scenic drive on Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel Highway.

If you’re looking to stay the night, book a tent or RV site at Watchman Campground. Reservations aren’t required but strongly suggested because of the park’s popularity. The campground’s very well-kept and only a quarter-mile walk to the South Entrance.

2. Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah national parks
Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr

Take this hike: Navajo Loop Trail

Where to camp: North Campground

A half-hour east from Zion, Bryce Canyon has a landscape reminiscent of Mars. The scenery is defined by “hoodoos” which are essentially spire-shaped rock pillars that are still standing after years of erosion.

Utah national parks
Sunrise Point at Bryce Canyon. Photo by faunng’s photos on Flickr

Drive the park’s main road for sweeping views of these crimson-colored formations in Bryce Amphitheater. Along the road you’ll also pass several overlooks (like Sunrise Point and Sunset Point) where you can find great photo ops.

To see the hoodoos up close, hike Navajo Loop, beginning at Sunset Point down into the main amphitheater. Near the Visitor Center, North Campground provides a well-maintained home base while you take off to explore the area. Hookups aren’t available, but the campground’s prime location puts you within a close distance of many trailheads.

3. Capitol Reef National Park

Utah national parks
Photo via Ian D. Keating on Flickr
National Parks by GPA Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Take this hike: Capitol Gorge Trail

Where to camp: Fruita Campground

Continuing east, you’ll reach Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah. This park in the heart of Red Rock Country is defined by a long wrinkle in the earth known as the Waterpocket Fold. For almost 100 miles, this geological feature runs from north to south with deep narrow canyons and unique rock formations.

Utah national parks
Capitol Gorge Trail at Capitol Reef National Park. Photo by Ian D. Keating on Flickr

Hike the Capitol Gorge Trail by the end of the park’s Scenic Drive for an easy family fun trip. This mile-long route follows a dirt road with narrow rock walls featuring ancient petroglyphs and famous potholes filled with water (known as “The Tanks”).

There are tent and RV sites available at Fruita Campground. The sites don’t have hookups but you’ll be right by the park’s key attractions and hiking trails.

4. Arches National Park

Utah national parks
Photo via Ethan Trewhitt on Flickr

Take this hike: Delicate Arch Trail

Where to camp: Moab Valley RV Resort or Devils Garden Campground

Next up, you’ll reach the iconic Arches National Park. It’s home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches but Delicate Arch (pictured above) is the most recognizable. The park has hiking trails from easy to difficult, and by night the dark skies provide the perfect backdrop for stargazing.

Utah national parks
Arches National Park in Utah. Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr.

If you’re looking to camp, the park only has one maintained campground: Devils Garden. However you can still find tent & full hookup RV sites close-by at Moab Valley RV Resort.

5. Canyonlands National Park

Utah national parks
Photo by Alan Eng on Flickr
Canyonland National Park 1 by Alan E is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Take this hike: Grand View Point Trail

Where to camp:  Willow Flat Campground in ‘Island of the Sky’ section

Though only about a half-hour from Arches National Park, Canyonlands doesn’t get nearly as much attention. This equally-amazing park has lots of hiking trails, sheer sandstone cliffs, the Colorado and Green Rivers snaking their way through the park, and expansive views that go on for miles.

Utah national parks
Photo by faungg on Flickr

Canyonlands is divided into three districts, but only two are easy to access: Island in the Sky and The Needles. Camping is scarce here but sites without hookups are available at Willow Flat Campground. After hiking in the park, you may want to drive a half-hour east to Canyonlands RV Resort in Moab for sites with full hookups and amenities like a swimming pool.

The total entrance fee for all of these national parks adds up to about $120. You can save money by purchasing an $80 annual ‘America the Beautiful Pass’ from the National Park Service. Read our post here for more info.

RV LIFE Trip Wizard is owned by Social Knowledge, the parent company of Do It Yourself RV

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