Empty two-lane road leading into the foothills of Arches National Park on a clear sunny day

Utah’s Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks in One Trip

Empty two-lane road leading into the foothills of Arches National Park on a clear sunny day

Utah’s Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks in One Trip

For your next Utah adventure, here’s a curated guide on how to visit Utah's Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks in one fun-filled road trip.

If you’re looking for the perfect road trip that combines beautiful scenery with ample opportunities for outdoor adventure, you can’t take a wrong turn in Utah. Three of the state’s national parks, Canyonlands, Arches, and Zion, offer stunning red rock scenery, amazing geological formations, and plenty of options for hiking, biking, camping, and more. Map out your Utah national parks itinerary in advance to make sure you hit all the best sites and make the most of this unforgettable road trip.


Canyonlands National Park

Start your journey at Canyonlands National Park to experience Utah’s version of the Grand Canyon. Located four hours south of Salt Lake City, the park is 337,598 acres of colorful mesas, canyons, buttes, arches, and spires in the middle of Utah’s high desert.

Late afternoon sun beats down on red landscape of Canyonlands National Park, Utah, under blue sky
Source: Adobe Stock

What to See

Canyonlands is divided into four sections, and traveling between them can take anywhere from two to six hours on roads that are sometimes difficult. The easiest section to access on a road trip is Island in the Sky, the northern-most district. This area features a variety of hiking trails and numerous scenic overlooks along a paved road. You even have a chance to go four-wheeling on White Rim Road.

If you’re an early morning adventurer, hike the easy Mesa Arch trail for a chance to photograph a beautiful sunrise. You could also stretch your legs on the 2-mile hike to Grand View Point, or get your blood pumping with a climb up Aztec Butte to ancestral Puebloan granaries.

Where to Eat

Dining opportunities aren’t available inside Canyonlands unless you bring your own food. If you don’t want to pack a picnic, it’s a short drive (about 35 minutes) to the town of Moab northeast of Islands in the Sky. Restaurant options include everything from pasta to burgers and steak.

Where to Sleep

Camping is available at Island in the Sky’s Willow Flat Campground, but space is limited to 12 spots on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no water at the campground, but drinking water is available outside the Visitor’s Center from the spring through the fall. If the campsite is full or you simply prefer alternative lodging, Moab offers a variety of hotel options.


Arches National Park

The short distance from Arches National Park to Canyonlands makes it convenient to enjoy both parks over the span of a couple of days. True to its name, Arches is home to more than 2,000 sandstone arches. The red rock landscape, natural stone formations, canyons, and dunes offer breathtaking beauty that almost seems to defy the laws of nature.

Landscape view of rock window at Arches National Park, Utah, on clear sunny day
Source: Adobe Stock

What to See

From scenic drives to strenuous hikes, the options inside Arches are enough to impress any visitor. Take in some of the best views from inside your car along the 18-mile paved drive from the Visitor’s Center to Devil’s Garden. Pull over along the route’s scenic overlooks to truly absorb the beauty of nature. For a longer drive, take side roads to the largest attractions, like Delicate Arch and the Windows Section, which has some of the park’s largest arches.

If you’re up for some hiking, the trek along the 3-mile loop at Delicate Arch is worth every step. This arch’s towering beauty is the image that appears on the state’s license plates. Other popular hikes include the strenuous 4.2-mile Double O Arch hike and the Fiery Furnace, which requires advance tickets and a Park Ranger Guide due to the winding, maze-like trail.

Where to Eat

Like Canyonlands, Arches doesn’t have places to eat, but Moab is just 5 miles outside the park entrance. If you need a quick snack inside the park, the bookstore in the Visitor’s Center sometimes has hiking snacks for sale. The park has four picnic areas, some with fire grates for cooking.

Where to Sleep

There are plenty of hotel and lodging options in Moab, but if you prefer the full outdoor experience, reserve one of the 51 available sites at Devil’s Garden Campground. You can reserve campsites up to six months in advance, and facilities include grills, picnic tables, drinking water, and both flush and pit-style toilets.


Zion National Park

After a day exploring the arches, hop in the car for a five-hour drive southwest to Zion National Park. Known as Utah’s First National Park, Zion features huge cliff walls, steep canyons, lush valleys, and overall stunning beauty. From horseback riding to stargazing, the options for outdoor adventure in the park are magnificent.

Aerial view of steep canyon and lush valleys of Zion National Park in Utah on partly cloudy day
Source: Adobe Stock

What to See

Zion’s spacious landscape gives you plenty to see without even leaving the car. Take a drive along Zion Park Scenic Byway, a 54-mile route that winds along switchbacks that climb all the way from the canyon floor to high plateaus. For another option, try Kolob Fingers Scenic Byway, a 5-mile route filled with desert landscapes, winding canyons, earth-colored cliffs, forested trails, and high plateaus. Finally, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive travels along some of the park’s most impressive outlooks as it follows the Virgin River

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Where to Eat

Unlike the other two parks, Zion offers several restaurant options within the park, including Zion Lodge Dining Room, Red Rock Grill, and Zion Mt. Carmel Restaurant. There are also three picnic areas within the park.

Where to Sleep

If you prefer comfortable accommodations, book a room at Zion Lodge. Located along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the lodge offers hotel rooms, cabins, and suites. Alternatively, camping is available at one of Zion’s three campgrounds: South Campground, Lava Point Campground, and Watchman Campground. Several private campgrounds are also located a short drive from the park.

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