We were looking for adventures, breathtaking views and Instagram-worthy stays… and Utah did not disappoint! Here’s why and what we did.
We planned out the big things like parks, routes and stays in advance, and we recommend you do the same to make the most out of your time at The Beehive State. Believe us, there is a lot to see — home to The Mighty Five, Utah ranks third of states with the most national parks. We had an amazing time exploring the city, The Mighty Five, and a few additional gems we found along the way. With one full week of vacation, here’s how we managed to fit a LOT of fun stuff (and around 1,300 miles) into our schedule.
How-and-What to Prepare Tips + Trip Essentials:
- Book your flight and accommodation in advance, would recommend doing the same for the car rental. Utah can get very busy and prices might go up.
- Fall is THE perfect season to visit Utah and its parks… not too hot, not too cold.
- The America the Beautiful (Interagency) Annual Pass will help you save a few bucks in park entrances, plus it gives you an excuse to keep adventuring during the year.
- Do your research: know which parks require shuttle passes, best hours to visit each park, etc.
- You will be driving through multiple areas without service. Make sure you can access your maps offline or use a car GPS to ensure you get to your destination safely.
- Bring a comfortable backpack to fit water (and snacks) for hiking and long hours of driving.
- Stay hydrated while hiking because it gets extremely hot.
- Most of the bathrooms do not have running water, bring body wipes.
- Pack your sunscreen and sanitizing wipes to stay protected while you’re out and about!
Detailed Itinerary — Utah’s Mighty Five, and so much more…
Day 1 — Sunday: Arrival and a little city exploration 🌇
- What We Did: Arrived in Salt Lake City (SLC) mid-morning (10AM), got our rental and booked a brunch reservation. After we ate an amazing brunch at SLC Eatery, we headed to our Airbnb for a much-needed nap before exploring the city and doing some light hiking to watch the sunset.
- Where We Stayed: We stayed at a 1920s Historic Home on Capitol Hill (Booked via Airbnb) — We highly recommend this stay, it was beautiful and in an extremely good location to explore Downtown SLC. Please do not let the lack of pictures keep you from booking this gem! 100% recommended.
- Highlight of the Day: An unforgettable sunset at the Ensign Peak Trail and Overlook. We were looking for a nice place to watch the sunset during our first afternoon in SLC, and this trail definitely made it an unforgettable experience. Although I was not appropriately dressed for a hike (dress and sandals), it was totally worth it. The sun was literally a red sphere over the city — I have to say, it was probably one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve seen.
Day 2 — Monday: Downtown SLC, Moab and wine. Cheers! 🍷
- What We Did: We woke up relatively early (8ish AM) to enjoy the view from our front porch while having breakfast before checking out from our Airbnb. Afterwards we decided to explore Downtown SLC a bit more, so we visited Temple Square and City Creek Center (of course I had to buy something!). We grabbed a quick lunch and then headed south to Moab, where the REAL adventure was going to begin the next day. Lucky us, we found a winery/vineyard in Moab to spend the afternoon there. If you are a wine lover, we definitely recommend the Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery. We did a wine tasting session, met some really nice visitors, and bought a delicious Cabernet, which ended up being our third wheel all trip long! However, if you’re not a fan of wine, we also had some time to visit Moab Brewery to enjoy some good dinner and local beer… and we approve!! 🍺
- Where We Stayed: We stayed at The Gonzo Inn, a stylish boutique hotel with a relaxing heated pool opened until 10PM, perfect to recharge after a long day (Booked via Airbnb).
- Highlight of the Day: The scenic routes. Oh Mighty God, what a great way to start the adventurous part of our trip than to driving south towards Moab. The views were incredible, definitely took us by surprise!
Day 3 — Tuesday: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (1 & 2 /5)
- What We Did: We woke up early to get to Arches first and be able to spend the afternoon at Canyonlands. All of these parks are really big with a wide variety of options to explore. We recommend having an idea of what trails to hike and what monuments to see ahead of your arrival. At Arches we made sure we enjoyed the scenic route, since it was breathtaking and our first encounter with the West scenery. We saw the Balanced Rock, did the Windows Trail, walked to the Delicate Arch View points, and ended the visit with the Landscape Arch trail. Definitely a lot more to do in Arches, but this gave us enough to head to our next adventure! The drive to Canyonlands was about 40 minutes long, which gave us enough time to snack a sandwich. Once we got to Canyonlands, we were tempted by the dirt track on Shafer Trail Road/Shafer Canyon Road. Little did we know that this 18-mile exciting (but scary) dirt track was going to be the highlight of our trip. This is our TOP recommendation! After that adrenaline rush, we continued our trip around Island in the Sky to see the Mesa Arch. Unfortunately, it started pouring as we were leaving Mesa, so we decided to head down south to our stay for the night.
- Where We Stayed: We stayed at the Capitol Reef Resort (Booked via Expedia). What an incredible place. If you’re looking for an authentic desert-like stay, search no more. Capitol Reef Resort is a three-in-one resort with: “glamping” teepee tents, “glamping” wagons, and villa/hotel like rooms. Beautiful place with out of this world Red Rocks background. If you’re visiting Capitol Reef National Park, you should stay here.
- Highlight of the Day: The adrenaline rush from the Canyonlands dirt track. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this might be the highlight of your Mighty Five trip as well.
Day 4 — Wednesday: Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks (3 & 4 /5)
- What We Did: With a busy day ahead of us, we woke up relatively early to enjoy a nice morning at the Capitol Reef Resort before checking out. Then we started the adventures of the day at Capitol Reef National Park, which was only 10 minutes away. Most of what we did at Capitol Reef was drive — to be honest, we struggled to find an “actual” entrance or identified trails similar to what we had seen in Arches and Canyonlands. However, that did not stop us from having an amazing experience. We literally spent hours driving around Capitol Reef’s scenic routes because they were breathtaking. We were literally driving in between mountains, feeling so small… small enough to remember how small our problems are and how much there is to be happy and grateful for. We wrapped up our Capitol Reef visit with the Hickman Bridge Hiking Trail — really nice trail, recommend taking lots of water with you because the trail doesn’t offer too much shade. We drove around 2.5 hours after that to get to Bryce Canyon National Park where we spent the rest of our afternoon. By the time we got to Bryce, we were pretty tired and had decided to take this afternoon very softly. That said, we decided to mostly do driving on Bryce and we stopped at most of the viewpoints, walked smaller trails, and then enjoyed the out-of-this-world view at the Rainbow and Yovimpa trails.
- Where We Stayed: We drove to a little town called Hatch, where we stayed at the Mountain Ridge Cabins and Lodging (Booked via Airbnb). Beautiful place, tiny house/cabin look but super comfortable and clean. Another recommendation! We sat down by the fire pit to drink our wine (from Spanish Valley) and saw Mars. Yes, you read that right, we saw MARS! What a show-stopper! We also had dinner at the Outlaw Saloon… probably one of the best dinners we had while visiting the parks.
- Highlight of the Day: The Natural Bridge at Bryce Canyon was the highlight of the day. The view was genuinely impressive — took our breath away.
Day 5 — Thursday: Zion National Park (5/5)
- What We Did: We woke up later in the morning since we were not able to get shuttle passes ahead of time. Make sure you do your due diligence to get shuttle tickets for the time slot you want. Otherwise, you will need to get in line for the 3PM walk-in tickets. That said, we got to Zion National Park around 1:30PM and ended up doing the Watchman Hiking Trail while we waited for the walk-in tickets. Oh Mighty, was that hike h-o-t! We were out walking under 90-something degrees and a burning sun, but the views were worth it. We decided to take some extra time to recover from the trail and waited until 4PM to get on the shuttle. Once we were there we hiked about 2.5–3 miles to see the all three of the Emerald Pools. Definitely a lot more to see in Zion, but you’ll need more than an afternoon for that. With this park, we called the trip a success, five out of five national parks.
- Where We Stayed: We drove around 20–30 minutes to La Verkin, where we stayed at The Dwellings (Booked via Airbnb). This is probably one of the best Airbnbs I’ve stayed at. Incredible views, perfect taste for decorations, extremely Instagram-worthy — this was the PERFECT stay. We would come back to this Airbnb in the blink of an eye!
- Highlight of the Day: The Airbnb exceeded our expectations, we wish we could have stayed longer. Absolutely loved the place.
Day 6 — Friday: Drive back to SLC + Great Salt Lake Park & Marina
- What We Did: We took advantage of the no parks day and slept in a little bit. Then we packed our stuff and headed back to SLC — it was almost a five-hour drive. Once we got to SLC we made a quick stop by the Great Salt Lake Park and Marina to do some sightseeing. Then we headed back to our Airbnb to get ready for a dinner date!
- Where We Stayed: We stayed at a very vintage inspired, stylish, and classy 1bd apartment a few blocks away from the University of Utah (Booked via Airbnb). Beautifully decorated and great dinner recommendations from the hosts. Has our seal of approval!
- Highlight of the Day: The dinner and the beer. We ate at Cafe Trio, an Italian restaurant a few minutes away from where we were staying… and the food was simply delicious. Best food of our trip! And then, we of course headed to one last brewery, Proper Brewing. Great environment, even better beer.
Day 7— Saturday: Tried the famous Red Iguana + Flight Back Home
- What We Did: We slept in a bit, then packed our stuff and headed out to Downtown SLC to find some street art and scoot around the city. Then we decided to grab lunch at the very famous Mexican restaurant, Red Iguana. Loved the service and the authentic food — worth the hype!
We hope you can find some inspiration in our trip to go see the beautiful scenery the Beehive State has to offer. This is undoubtedly a trip everyone needs to make at least once in their lifetime. We had an immense amount of fun, all the memories will stay with us forever. Hopefully you found this helpful, and it eases part of the planning stress. See you on our next trip — Au revoir!