The Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary

So you want to take a road trip? I highly recommend road tripping through Utah’s National Parks! This 9-day Utah Road Trip Itinerary included 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!

Ps – wondering how to prep for a road trip? Check out this post: How to get your car ready + what to pack with a free customizable checklist!

Ultimate Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary

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Utah Road Trip Overview

Day 1: Austin, TX > Albuquerque, NM

Hotel: ABQ Casitas Airbnb (unfortunately this listing is no longer available, see equally cute alternatives here)

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

See More: Horseback Canyon Trail Ride

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

Day 4: Zion National Park, Utah

See More: Canyon Overlook Trail

Emerald Pools Trail

See More: Exploring Zion National Park

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

Day 5: The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah

See More: Hiking The Narrows

Hotel: Zion Mountain Ranch

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

See More: Scenic Byway 12

See More: Sunset in Arches National Park

Hotel: Expedition Lodge

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 stayed in a super cute Airbnb, but unfortunately, it is no longer available. However, I made a list of equally-cute Albuquerque Airbnbs that are worth checking out!

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
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! 

Horseback Riding zion canyon overlook trail

Read more about it here.

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 view of Zion Canyon
View from Canyon Overlook Trail

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!

That evening, we watched the sunset from Canyon Junction Bridge – I highly recommend it.

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 of photos, but you should definitely check out my whole post on it: What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows.

Utah Road Trip Stop - Zion Narrows
Utah Road Trip - the Narrows
no bathrooms on the narrows hike

Day 6: Zion National Park to Moab, Utah 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.

Bryce Canyon Utah Road trip destination
Itah Road Trip -Scenic Byway 12

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

views from scenic byway 12
Boulder Mountain along Byway 12
Road along byway 12 in utah

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

Capitol Reef along Scenic Byway 12
Driving through Capitol Reef
Road going through Capitol Reef in Utah

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
Photos from visiting Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah
Photos from visiting Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah

In Moab, we stayed at the Expedition Lodge. It wasn’t my favorite, I felt it was overpriced for what was offered, but from their website, it looks like they have done updates since we stayed. 

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.

Canyonlands Utah Road Trip
Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah
Best view in Canyonlands National Park

After exploring Canyonlands for a few hours, we headed into Arches National Park and had lunch before setting off to off-road through the park!

Photos from Visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Park Utah | Moab, Utah
arches national park scenic drive tour
Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

I cannot recommend the tour we did enough, it is the best way to go off-road and see the best sites of both parks! Read more about it here.

off roading tour in arches national park

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

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

Above photo by Shelly Borga. See more photos in this post

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.

Reasons to Stay at Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque, NM
Los Poblanos Stop - Utah Road Trip
Los Poblanos Inn, Albuquerque

The property has huge lavender fields that are absolutely gorgeous! 

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

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.

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

Utah Road Trip Recap

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 be sure to check out my other Utah posts for more info on each destination! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or DM me on Instagram and I’d be happy to help!

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xx Chels

xx Chels

Utah Road Trip Itinerary