We spent 17 days in Utah exploring the National Parks; this two week Utah itinerary can easily be shortened into a 10-12 day trip as well! By spending fewer days in each area and cutting out the extra stops at some National Monuments and other wild spaces you can make this trip exactly what you’re looking for.
Fly into Salt Lake City, Utah and drive to Lake Blanche Trail Head
Upon landing in Salt Lake City, your two-week Utah itinerary fun will begin after picking up the rent-a-car. Once you’re situated, take a stop wherever you may need to for gear (REI!?) or food and snacks before taking the 20-minute drive to the Lake Blanche Trailhead. From here, pack your bags for an overnight and hike the 3 and a half steep, completely uphill, miles to Lake Blanche where you will camp for the night. Expect the trail to take you about 2 hours to hike with overnight gear in your pack – unless you are in absolute unbelievable shape. It is a constant uphill but provides stunning views as you walk through different styles of forest.
Find a great campsite, enjoy the sunset, and hang out on the rocks but keep your distance from grazing moose in the Twin Peak Wilderness! They may be in the meadow to feed at dusk, we were lucky enough to spot two large bull moose from a safe distance. Please Leave No Trace by camping on durable surfaces and carrying out everything you carry in!
Salt Lake City to Moab
Wake up, enjoy breakfast in an alpine paradise, and hike back down to the car. Enjoy the trail on the descent, it’s truly beautiful, but a tad difficult to appreciate when you’re struggling up it. Although there is no swimming in Lake Blanche, Big Cottonwood Creek at the parking lot makes for a great place to wash off before climbing in the car for the 4 hour (287 Miles) drive to Moab.
Where to Eat.
Breakfast: Sweet Cravings Bakery and Bistro and Wake Bake Cafe
Dinner: Milt’s Stop & Eat, Sunset Grill
Where to Stay.
The Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab is an amazing budget option that includes running water, air conditioning, and good company! With the ability to utilize the kitchen, the amount of money you will spend on meals will decrease as well. We paid $46 a night for a private cabin. Splitting the cost among the three of us made it dirt cheap and well worth it. If air conditioning and four walls aren’t a necessity for you, Canyonlands and Arches each host Campgrounds that can be reserved in advance at Recreation.gov.
As always, BLM land in the Moab area is available for primitive camping options. It is free and provides perfect solitude from the summer crowds of Moab. There are a variety of hotels in Moab as well for those who prefer all the amenities. This two-week Utah Itinerary will include hotel suggestions based mostly off of research; to keep on our budget we camped for about 12 days of our 17-day stay.
Canyonlands National Park: The Needles District
One hour and twenty-five minutes from Moab you will find the visitors center for The Needles District. Along the way you will drive right by the Wilson Arch to the East of highway 191; take a stop on your way back and climb on up. Although it is simply a drive-by attraction 24 miles south of Moab, this impressive arch would easily be a state park if it were somewhere else.
The Needles District is more primitive in nature and a great place for an overnight backpacking trip or a long day hike. I suggest Cave Springs and Pothole Point for a short and sweet day hike due to their simplicity and unique landscapes; if you’re looking for a more difficult hike, Druid Arch or Peekaboo Springs are at the top of my list!
Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky
A mere half hour from Moab and full of amazing hiking opportunities, Island in the Sky is certainly the busiest of Canyonland’s three districts. Arrive early in the morning, preferably before sunrise, to have the famous Mesa Arch to yourself. After welcoming the sun embark on further adventures within the park to complete your day.
Upheaval Dome, White Rim Overlook, and Aztec Butte are all great moderate level hikes for you to move onto after Mesa Arch. If you’re feeling full of energy and ready for a challenge, complete all three before hiking out to Murphy’s Point for a gorgeous sunset. Don’t forget your headlamp, a sunset worthy snack, and be sure to look out for low flying bats. We were able to complete all of these hikes without arriving at Mesa Arch until about 9:30 AM!
Arches National Park
The best part of Arches National Park is that it is right outside of Moab and only one, 18-mile road long. Another early start can bring you a full day of amazing hikes. Definitely stop at the visitor center in Arches; it has so much information on the geology of the park!
We started with Devil’s Garden, taking the primitive trail around and through to hit all of the beautiful arches along the way. From here, we mosied around and checked out Double Arch, North and South Window, and balanced rock. Heading to Delicate Arch for sunset is a great way to end your day in Arches National Park.
If you have already been to Arches National Park and want a completely unique and thrilling experience, reserve a Fiery Furnace Tour. These typically run from Spring through Fall and sell out quickly!
Moab to Capitol Reef National Park
Wake up, grab breakfast, and take the drive to Capitol Reef. After driving through what seems like the driest terrain in all the land, you’ll drive into the Waterpocket Fold alongside the Fremont River where you will find the juiciest U-pick Orchards. As you drive through, stop and hike Hickman Bridge. At just under 2 miles this popular trail brings you to a 133-foot natural bridge with stunning canyon views. After your hike, settle into your new digs and grab dinner just outside the West Entrance in Torrey.
Where to Eat
Breakfast: Castlerock Coffee, Austin’s Chuckwagon Deli
Dinner: Cafe Diablo, Torrey Grill and BBQ, The Rim Rock Restaurant
Where to Stay
The town of Torrey is just west of the Capitol Reef Park Entrance. The Capitol Reef Resort, The Torrey Schoolhouse B&B is seasonal and open April through October, and the Broken Spur Inn are all 4+ star hotel options. There are a number of RV Parks right in and around town as well as the quiet and peaceful Sunglow Campground. About 10 minutes further West from Torrey you will find the Sunglow Campground which encompasses a red rock box canyon with running water, bathrooms, picnic tables, and a fire ring.
If you’re looking to stay inside the park, Fruita Campground is a very family friendly option which you can book through Recreation.gov. If free, dispersed camping is more your style, check out the BLM land that runs along the East entrance to the park down Notom-Bullfrog Road. Free, dispersed camping is definitely the most budget-friendly option for executing your two-week Utah itinerary.
Capitol Reef National Park
There is so much to do in Capitol Reef! If there are no chances of rain or flash flooding take the one-way 5.8-mile hike down Sulpher Creek. The Visitor Centers in all of these parks have weather information up for about two days in advance. Meander through waist-deep water and down waterfalls before hitting your destination of the Visitor Center and hitchhiking, walking, or driving -this requires a two car plan-, back to your vehicle. If this isn’t the hike for you get an early start up to Navajo Knobs, or the easier Canyon Overlook.
Make a day out exploring Capitol Reef from the car, or tack these sights onto your morning of hiking. You don’t want to miss the seasonal fruit from the U-PICK orchards within the park; there is nothing more refreshing after a long, hot hike. Enjoy ranger-led programs regarding the history of the Capitol Reef Area and pastries from the 1908 Gifford Homestead. Let out your inner child at the Ripple Rock Nature Center, and be sure to embark on the 8-mile scenic drive. For a small fee enjoy stunning views and dirt spur roads that lead to Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.
Capitol Reef to Grand Staircase Escalante
Pack up camp and head South to Lower Calf Creek Falls Campground in Grand Staircase Escalante. Stop at Larb Hollow Overlook for a quick break from the desert sand and a beautiful, mountain view! This quick pull off would be a great spot for sunrise. This is a super scenic drive with quite a few pull-off opportunities and I suggest taking them all!
Reach Grand Staircase by noon and snag a campsite at Lower Calf Creek Falls Campground; after setting up camp, take a 5.5-mile round trip hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The trail leaves from the campground and is an absolutely beautiful route with a stunning ending. Take a pamphlet and enjoy an education along the way before meeting the 126-foot cascading waterfall, which is only the lower portion of a larger 214-footfalls. It is the perfect spot for lunch after cooling off with a swim. Be sure to bring your camera because you won’t want to forget this view!
Grand Staircase Escalante to Bryce Canyon National Park
Grand Staircase has so many wonderful hiking opportunities that it wouldn’t be a poor choice to stay and play a day longer! However, if you’re looking to spend a couple of days in Bryce and Zion, you should head that way today. Or, if you would rather spend an extra day in Bryce or Zion, drive right through Escalante on Day 8. This will tack on an extra day in either park.
Upon your arrival to Bryce, check in to your new digs and head out to do some sightseeing! Learn about the eroding plateau that makes up Bryce Canyon National Park at the visitor center before venturing out to see the magic. Enjoy your scenic drive and stop at all the overlooks along the way; notice trailhead parking to be prepared for the next day’s hikes!
Where to Eat.
Breakfast: Bryce Canyon Coffee Company
Dinner: Valhalla Pizza (inside the park), IDK Barbeque
Where to Stay:
Bryce Canyon National Park
Wake up early and catch the sunrise at Rainbow Point! From here take the long Riggs Springs Loop down into the canyon below OR drive back over for the more popular, and easier Queens/Navajo Loop. The Riggs Spring Loop will carry you deep, down into the canyon among the bristlecone pines, spruce, and fir among red cliff breaks. The Queens and Navajo Loop both allow you to ‘Hike the Hoodoo’s’ by bringing you down among the orange spires of the plateau. Participate in the Hike The HooDoos Challenge by taking your photo with three different benchmarks found throughout the park. Claim your prize at the visitor center but don’t forget to bring your proof, the Rangers will ask for it!
Enjoy the view from your campsite and stargaze through the night.
The night sky is one of the most beautiful parts of Bryce Canyon National Park!
Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park
Take the trek to Zion early if you’re hoping to secure a first come first serve campsite! We arrived around 10:30 AM on a summer week day and we were able to snag the last of two left. Create as much shade as possible before heading out for a late afternoon hike; we decided to explore the Canyon Overlook Trail on our first day in Zion to see what Zion was all about!
Head over to the visitor center to check the upcoming days’ forecast if you’re interested in hiking the Narrows; there will also be a list of trail closures and the best resources out there – park rangers!
Where to Eat.
Breakfast: Cafe Soleil, Deep Creek Coffee Company
Dinner: Oscars, Bit & Spur, Spotted Dog Cafe
Dessert: Stop by the Bumbleberry Gift Shop for their Bumbleberry Pie & ice cream selection.
Where to Stay.
Zion National Park
Wake up early and catch the first shuttle to Weeping Rock (stop 7) and start the long trek up to Observation Point. Sitting at a higher elevation than angels landing, this viewpoint provides an amazing perspective of Zion Canyon. On your hike you will pass the turnoffs for Weeping Rock and Hidden Canyon; be sure to hit these on your way back to the shuttle to check off everything at top 7! Hidden Canyon is an exciting little side trip that feels like a true adventure!
Upon returning to your hotel or campsite, go for a swim (Virgin River or Pool) to cool off and relax, before returning to the park for a sunset hike. Hike the Watchman trail for a fun, 3-mile round trip, trail for a rewarding sunset of pastel hues cast upon red rock. Don’t forget to pack snacks/dinner and a headlamp! If night hiking is your ‘thing’, hang out up on the edge of Watchman’s Bench for some Zion stargazing.
Zion National Park
If weather permits, hop on the first shuttle to Riverside Walk (Stop 9) to hike The Narrows today. Be sure you have the appropriate equipment; renting boots and a walking stick from Zion Outfitters was a great choice personally but others might not need any equipment or may need more. Hike out to Big Springs and enjoy the lush greenery and water that falls from the canyon walls. On your return be sure to adventure as far down Orderville Canyon as you’re capable and enjoy an adventure free of many other hikers.
If you have been to Zion before and have already enjoyed The Narrows, I would suggest looking into a permit for The Subway! The much more remote and technical version of the Zion Narrows. There are tons of hikes inside and outside of the canyon to look into if you plan on spending more time here at Zion. Talking to the rangers for suggestions is a great start!
Zion National Park to Salt Lake City
While on our adventure, we purchased quite a few souvenirs for family and friends as well as our own mementos to remember a place by. On our way out of Springdale we stopped at the post office and filled up two flat rate boxes with all of the books, patches, t-shirts, artifacts, etc. we had since we travel light! Aside from our duffel full of camping gear for two we each brought our Gregory Daypacks and a small suitcase with our clothes for two weeks. Stopping to ship home the good stuff helped lighten our load and prevented us from going over the weight limit for checked luggage.
Break the drive from Zion to Salt Lake City up with a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument if you have time; it’s about 40 extra minutes of driving but worth the adventure. Sitting at 10,000 feet Cedar Breaks supplies tons of family fun in the form of campgrounds, viewpoints, hiking trails, seasonal mountain biking and/or skiing/snowboarding.
After returning you rent-a-car, grab an Uber to the Airport, enjoy a nice meal, and reminisce on how productive and exciting your last 14 days were! You just saw so many beautiful acts of nature with the perfect two-week Utah itinerary. Enjoy a much-deserved nap on the flight and get home safe!