best of utah national parks, utah mighty five road trip

Utah Mighty 5 National Park Road Trip: 10 Things You Can’t Miss!

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My 2-week southwest road trip through Utah and Arizona has been one of my favorite trips in my life thus far.

The plan was to see as much as I possibly could during those two weeks.

I visited the Utah Mighty Five National Parks and some other super cool places along the way.

After doing the Mighty Five loop, I decided to put together a list of the absolute MUST-SEE things along the way.

This post will tell you 10 things you won’t want to miss on your Mighty Five road trip!

Obviously, these are not the only amazing things you will see. You will see a LOT of cool things on a road trip like this. But these are 10 things I wouldn’t have wanted to miss during my trip!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through a link, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read full disclosure here.

If you want more information on traveling to Utah and Arizona, check out these travel reference books.

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Utah Mighty Five FAQ’s

What are the mighty five National Parks in Utah?

  • Arches
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Canyonlands
  • Capitol Reef
  • Zion

Best Time to Visit Utah National Parks

I personally think fall is the best time to visit the Utah National Parks. We visited during October and it was perfect! The temperature was great for layers. I don’t remember it being super hot to the point where I was miserable. That being said, Bryce Canyon was very cold due to the elevation.

Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Map

The map below is a route to hit all 5 National Parks in Utah. Of course, this is not the only way to do it. This is just how I did it after flying into Salt Lake City.

Utah National Park Itinerary

If you choose to follow this map, you will visit all Mighty Five National Parks plus two additional awesome stops that are on the way!

According to this map, the itinerary is as follows:

  1. Arches National Park
  2. Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky District)
  3. Monument Valley
  4. Antelope Canyon
  5. Horseshoe Bend
  6. Zion National Park
  7. Bryce Canyon National Park
  8. Capitol Reef National Park

Remember, this is NOT the only way to do this loop! I am just sharing this specific way because this is how I did it.

A more detailed Utah Mighty Five itinerary is outside the scope of this post, but I made this entire loop in a little under 2 weeks.

If you want to read more details about my Utah National Parks road trip, see my posts below:

Utah National Parks Pass

Something you will need in order to visit the parks is a National Parks Pass.

There are several options for passes. I would suggest the America the Beautiful Pass, which covers everyone in your vehicle for any NPS site for an entire year from when you get it. You can purchase these at any site of the National Park Service.

Must-See Places on a Utah Mighty Five National Parks Road Trip

#1- Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

delicate arch in arches national park

No trip to Arches would be complete without visiting Delicate Arch! This is more than a must-see in Arches National Park, it’s a must-see in Utah period. It’s the iconic arch of Utah!

This 3.0-mile roundtrip hike starts out a little daunting: having you climb up a steep rockface. Once past that, the trail is much better and the reward is 100% worth it!

Coming in at 46 feet tall and 32 feet wide, the grandeur of Delicate Arch does not disappoint.

The view of snow-capped mountains through the arch is simply beautiful!

Check out my post on hiking to Delicate Arch for more information!

Location: 12 miles past the visitor center, turn right towards Wolfe Ranch. About 1.2 miles down the road on the left is the trailhead parking lot.

#2- Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

underside of Mesa Arch is orange
The glow under Mesa Arch at sunrise is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!

When researching my trip to Canyonlands, I knew this was something I wanted to witness but had no clue truly how amazing it would be! This is another Utah must-see! (Click here to read about the full Mesa Arch at sunrise experience)

Make sure you get there early if you plan on setting up a tripod to photograph this. We’re talking like at least an hour before sunrise. Seriously, we got there about an hour before sunrise and there were already 22 cars in the parking lot.

But don’t let the popularity of this trail deter you!

Even if you show up right at sunrise you will still be able to get a shot, you may just have to wait your turn.

The trail is only 0.5-mile, so, fortunately, you won’t have to hike very far in the dark.

Location: When driving into the park, the parking lot and trailhead are located a little over 6 miles past the Island in the Sky Visitor Center on the left.

TIP: If you are bringing your camera, a wide-angle lens is a MUST! I cannot stress this enough. You will understand when you get there.

#3- Grand View Overlook & Hike in Canyonlands National Park

snow-capped mountains behind canyons in national park
Grand View Overlook

But seriously, how beautiful is that view?

This was my absolute favorite viewpoint in Canyonlands and I consider it a must-see if you are visiting the Island in the Sky District.

You can do the 2-mile roundtrip hike that gives you views of the Maze district, the Colorado River, and the Green River.

If you have children, be careful because there are no railings along the cliff edges!

Location: About 12 miles past the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, at the very end of the road.

#4- Monument Valley

orange brown buttes sit on the desert floor in arizona

While Monument Valley is not part of the National Park Service, it is already on the path of your Utah Mighty Five road trip and delivers some pretty amazing views.

We realized we were going to pass right by Monument Valley & decided to add it to our itinerary at the last minute and I’m so glad we did! It turned out to be one of my favorite stops on the road trip!

TIP: If you do the self-guided driving tour, an SUV or truck is suggested.

Note: A National Parks pass will not work at Monument Valley, since it is Navajo Land and NOT a part of the National Park Service. The entrance fee was $20 when we visited.

Location: Click here to see the location on Google Maps.

Click here to see more photos of Monument Valley and to learn more about the self-guided driving tour.

#5- Antelope Canyon

red orange slot canyon walls

Antelope Canyon is right by Page, Arizona. You have several tour options to choose from: Upper Antelope Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon, photography tours, regular tours, the list goes on. There are also other tours in the area such as Canyon X and Cardiac Canyon.

We chose the regular tour of Lower Antelope Canyon and could not have been happier with the experience. Dixie Ellis Tours is fantastic! We were very pleased with the price, our tour guide was awesome, and it is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in life.

If you have some extra time in Page, check out my post on how to spend a day in Page, Az.

Location: Click here to see location on Google Maps.

Next is another site that is one of the most beautiful places I’ve EVER seen….

#6- Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe bend in Page, Arizona. The colorado river creates the shape of a horseshoe through the canyon

Again, not a part of the Utah Mighty Five, but it’s in the middle of nowhere & is already on the route so you may as well stop. And it makes a great pair with a tour of Antelope Canyon.

It was raining in the photo above but it still was a fantastic experience. The short hike to the overlook is definitely worth the walk. Horseshoe Bend is way more impressive in person. It’s hard to explain how HUGE this is until you see it with your own eyes.

Click here to read more about my visit to Horseshoe Bend.

Caution: There are many places that do NOT have any type of guardrails. Please use caution if approaching the edge. The 1000-foot drop will probably not end in your favor.

Note: This IS a site of the National Park Service but there is an entrance fee of $10 that goes to the city of Page, Arizona.

Location: Click here to see location on Google Maps.

TIP: Again, a wide-angle lens is a MUST for capturing the entire “horseshoe.”

#7- Navajo/Queens Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon

hiking trail switchbacks down between the towering orange hoodoos in bryce canyon
Switchbacks leading down the Navajo Loop Trail

Seeing Bryce Amphitheater from above is one thing, but hiking down into the hoodoos is another experience altogether.

Yes, parts of the trail are steep and the elevation might make you short of breath, but where else will you get to hike down into fiery orange, towering hoodoos?

If you are up for the elevation and heavy breathing, this is considered by many to be the best hike in Bryce Canyon National Park.

This trail also gets you a close view of Thor’s Hammer!

Location: You can start at the trailhead at Sunrise Point or Sunset Point.

Want to see more photos of Bryce Canyon? Check out this post full of photos that will inspire you to visit this unique National Park!

#8- The Narrows in Zion National Park

small river running across stones through tall canyon walls on each side
One of my favorite pictures from the hike. The canyon walls literally tower over you.

The Narrows is one of the iconic Utah National Park hikes.

Hiking up the Virgin River with canyon walls towering overhead is an unforgettable experience the entire family will love.

The best part?

You don’t have to hike very far to get the experience.

Of course, if you want the full experience, hike the 5 miles upriver until you can’t go any further. But doing a 10+ mile roundtrip hike isn’t necessary to come away with some amazing memories.

For more info, see this post about hiking the Narrows. It includes everything you need to know about the hike, the water, what you need, etc.

Location: Shuttle stop #9 (Temple of Sinawava). Walk to the end of the Riverwalk trail, about 1 mile. The end of the Riverwalk trail has steps leading down to access the river where you can start hiking the Narrows!

#9- Get a View of Zion Canyon

looking down into a canyon/valley in Zion National Park.

Zion is one of the best National Parks in Utah.

Whether you hike Angels Landing, Observation Point, or Canyon Overlook Trail, you MUST get a view of Zion Canyon.

The canyon provides breathtaking views that are worth the climb!

For locations and more info, see Angels Landing, Observation Point, Canyon Overlook Trail in my post on the 10 Best Things to Do in Zion National Park!

#10- Hickman Bridge in Capital Reef

natural bridge with rocks below that have tumbled down

This 1.8-mile moderately-easy hike leads you to a natural bridge spanning 133 feet!

Of note, the trail has minimal shade. If it’s a sunny day, you may want to consider a hat, sunscreen, & water.

Hickman Bridge is one of the most popular hikes in the park. If the lot is full, overflow parking is allowed on the side of the road along the highway.

Click here to read more about hiking to Hickman Bridge!

Location: When entering the park, just past the visitor center keep left at the fork. About 1.5 miles past the visitor center there will be a sign for the petroglyphs and a parking lot on the left. Just past the petroglyphs, on the left side of the road.

Bonus Must-See: The Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef

petroglyphs on sandstone wall

Native Americans of the Fremont Culture that inhabited this area between about AD 600- 1300 are believed to be the main contributors to these petroglyphs.

Location: When entering the park, keep left just past the visitor center. In about 1.5 miles, there will be a sign for the petroglyphs and a parking lot on the left.

Click here to read more about Capitol Reef’s early inhabitants!

I hope this post helps you plan your Utah Mighty 5 road trip! It was hard to keep this list at 10, as there were MANY beautiful things in each park and along the way.

What are your favorite things about the Utah Mighty Five? Let me know in the comments below!

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10 Must-See Things on Your Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip

Utah Mighty 5 Must-See

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