The Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary

So you want to take a road trip? I highly recommend road tripping through Utah’s National Parks! Over our 9-day trip, we covered all these places: Albuquerque, Horseshoe Bend, Zion National Park, Scenic Byway 12, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Monument Valley.

I’ve had lots of people asking our exact itinerary, so I thought I’d share it with you all! Below is the quick overview with links to all related blog posts, then below that is the more detailed itinerary!


Ultimate Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Austin, TX > Albuquerque, NM

Hotel: ABQ Casitas Airbnb

Day 2: Albuquerque, NM > Horseshoe Bend, Arizona > Zion National Park, Utah

See More: Horseshoe Bend

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

Day 3: Zion Mountain Ranch + Horseback Trail Ride

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

See More: Horseback Canyon Trail Ride

Day 4: Zion National Park, Utah

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

See More: Canyon Overlook Trail

Emerald Pools Trail

See More: Exploring Zion National Park

Day 5: The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

See More: Hiking The Narrows

Day 6: Zion National Park, Utah > Scenic Byway 12 > Moab, Utah

See More: Scenic Byway 12

Hotel: Expedition Lodge

See More: Sunset in Arches National Park

Day 7: Full Day 4X4 Off Road Tour of Canyonlands and Arches National Park

See More: 4X4 Off Road Tour of Canyonlands and Arches National Park

Hotel: Expedition Lodge

Day 8: Moab, UT > Monument Valley, UT > Albuquerque, NM

See More: Monument Valley, UT

Hotel: Los Poblanos Historic Inn

Day 9: Albuquerque, NM > Austin, TX


Day 1: Austin to Albuquerque

We started our trip in Austin and chose to make Albuquerque a halfway point. Honestly, the drive from Austin to Albuquerque and then on to Zion was pretty miserable. There is not much to see in between and most of New Mexico has a speed limit of 65. I don’t think I would do that drive again, next time I would fly into Las Vegas or somewhere closer and then start the road trip. We did stay in a super cute Airbnb the first night in Albuquerque that I would highly recommend!

Day 2: Albuquerque to Zion National Park

On day 2, we headed out from Albuquerque towards Zion National Park, an 8-hour drive. We made a detour to check out Horseshoe Bend which was definitely worth it!

We finally made it to Zion Mountain Ranch right before sunset!

Day 3: Zion National Park

We took the day to explore Zion Mountain Ranch, the awesome hotel we stayed at right outside Zion National Park.

Zion Mountain Ranch: Where to Stay in Zion | Zion National Park, Utah

READ MORE: Hotel Review: Zion Mountain Ranch at Zion National Park

Zion Mountain Ranch: Where to Stay in Zion | Zion National Park, Utah

That evening, we did a horseback trail ride on the property! It was beautiful and such a cool way to see the canyon! Read more about it here.

Zion Canyon Horseback Riding at Zion Mountain Ranch | Zion National Park Horseback Riding

Day 4: Zion National Park, Canyon Overlook + Emerald Pools Trail

We woke up bright and early to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail — an easy 1-mile roundtrip hike.

Canyon Overlook Trail | Zion National Park | Zion Must Do | Zion Best Hiking Trails

Read More: Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park

Canyon Overlook Trail | Zion National Park | Zion Must Do | Zion Best Hiking Trails

After that, we headed to the Zion National Park visitor center to catch the shuttle bus. Fair warning, in the summer, lines for the shuttle bus are insane and we had to wait for nearly an hour. Get there early to avoid the crowds.

To hike the Upper and Lower Emerald Pool trail, get off at the Zion Lodge stop. It was a fairly easy hike, and definitely very beautiful!

Amazing Photos From Zion National Park-6346

Amazing Photos From Zion National Park-6319

Amazing Photos From Zion National Park-6343

That evening, we watched the sunset from Canyon Junction Bridge.

Amazing Photos From Zion National Park

We also picked up our rental gear for hiking The Narrows. We rented from Zion Outfitters and they let you pick up your gear the night before which is really convenient!

Day 5: Hiking The Narrows, Zion National Park

We woke up bright and early and headed into the park to hike the infamous Narrows! I’ll share a couple photos, but you should definitely check out my whole post on it: What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows.

What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

Read More: What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

Hiking The Narrows - Zion National Park-2

Day 6: Zion National Park to Moab via The Scenic Byway 12

On day 6 we said goodbye to Zion and made our way toward Moab! We took Scenic Byway 12 passing through Bryce Canyon first. I recommend taking 2 hours or so to explore and drive through Bryce Canyon National Park.

Driving Utah's Scenic Byway 12

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1006

After Bryce, we traveled along the scenic byway, passing through Grand Staircase-Escalante, The Hogback, and Boulder Mountain.

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1032

Driving the Scenic Byway 12 in Utah

READ MORE: Driving Scenic Byway 12 in Utah: What to Expect

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1164

One of my favorite parts of this drive was going through Capitol Reef National Park!

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1108

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1059

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1145

Scenic Byway 12 - Utah Road Trip-1125

Nearly 8 hours later, we finally arrived in Moab! We were lucky to make it in time to see an amazing sunset in Arches National Park.

Photos from visiting Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah

See More: 21 Photos That Will Convince You To Visit Arches National Park

Photos from visiting Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah

Photos from visiting Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah

Day 7: Full Day 4X4 Off Road Tour of Canyonlands and Arches National Park

If you only have a limited amount of time to see these two parks, I would suggest going with a guided tour. Plus, the best parts of the parks require off-roading, and if you don’t really know what you’re doing, that won’t end well. Navtec Expeditions took us through Canyonlands National Park first.

Photos from Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah-7626

Photos from Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah-7623

See More: 13 Photos That Prove You Need to Visit Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Photos from Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah-7778

After that, we headed into Arches National Park and had lunch before setting off into the park to explore!

Photos from Visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah

Photos from Visiting Arches National Park | Moab, Utah

Photos from Visiting Arches National Park | Moab, Utah

After our full day tour, we grabbed dinner in Moab, and then headed back to Arches National Park for another amazing sunset!

Photos from Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah-7824

Sunset Photos from Visiting Arches National Park

See More Amazing Photos From Arches National Park Here!

Photos from Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah-8075

Photos from Visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah
Photo Cred: Shelly Borga

Day 8: Moab, UT > Monument Valley, UT > Albuquerque, NM

We woke up bright and early to make the 7.5-hour drive to Albuquerque, with a stop at Monument Valley. It adds an extra hour and a half, but I think it’s worth it!

Plus if you go early, there is less of a crowd and you can get much better photos!

After our pit stop at Monument Valley, we headed to Albuquerque and made it to Los Poblanos Historic Inn in the late afternoon. We were given a full tour of the properties and it is just beautiful! This was probably my favorite place that we stayed over the entire trip.

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-9

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-30

Reasons to Stay at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM

The lavender fields on the property were gorgeous!

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-58

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-37

They also have Alpacas and Peacocks that live on the grounds.

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-50

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-48

Read More: Where to Stay in Albuquerque: Los Poblanos Historic Inn

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-45

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-42

Day 9: Albuquerque to Austin, TX

Before heading out, Shelly and I enjoyed Los Poblanos Inn’s delicious breakfast and checked out the Farm Shop.

Reasons to Stay at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM | Campo Restaurant

Reasons to Stay at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM

Hotel in Albuquerque - Los Poblanos Inn-16

And then we began the longgggg drive back home to Austin — we didn’t end up making it back until almost midnight.

Overall, I absolutely loved this road trip and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to see Utah’s National Parks (which everyone should)! The one thing I did not enjoy and would probably change next time is driving all the way from Austin. There really is NOTHING in between Austin and Arizona. Albuquerque was a good middle point, but I would have rather spent two more days in Utah instead.

This is a pretty general overview of our trip, so if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or DM me on Instagram and I’ll try and help best I can!

xx Chels

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