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This is basically going to be the hub of all things Utah to help you plan the best Utah road trip ever. It will be the home of all Utah content sorted by national parks and monuments, state parks, scenic drives, and other hikes or helpful things. I will be adding to this as I go and write more posts. If there is a picture that you can’t click, I’ve been there but haven’t written the post yet and it’s a work in progress, so check back. Also, all links will open in a new tab for easy browsing. This is not a Utah road trip itinerary, but it will help you plan a road trip to Utah’s national parks, state parks, and other awesome sites.
Logistics of a Southern Utah road trip
This is where you’ll find more of the boring stuff, like what kind of car would be right for you, where you should stay, what to pack, and weather.
Vehicle for a Southern Utah road trip
You’ll have a few choices depending on travel style, budget, number of people you’re traveling with and what you want to do on your Utah road trip. There are four main options. I will be assuming in this that you are driving yourself around.
This is just a regular ‘ol rental car. Or just a regular ‘ol car if you’re not renting one and already live in the US. For your average road tripper, this will be sufficient. It will be fine on all of the main roads and park roads, but you’ll still be able to do some of the back roads, like Burr Trail. Perks of a regular car: less room so you don’t bring so much unnecessary stuff, gas will be cheaper (better mileage), and way easier to park. I miss you, Meredith! That’s my old Smart car.
If you plan to do lots of backroad driving or off-roading, you’ll need a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. If you just want to do a little bit of this, I’d recommend getting a regular car, then maybe in Moab rent a Jeep for a day or two. Pro: you’ll be able to see a lot more stuff. Con: you’ll spend way more on gas.
This is a great option for a solo road trip in Utah if you’re camping or if you’re going with one or two other people. It will be more expensive than a regular car, but you can sleep in the campervan and cook which helps cut down on food and accommodation costs. This allows you to camp on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land for free as well. I think this is a good option for longer road trips, since you’ll spend less on hotels, and outdoor-oriented road trips. I would love to do a campervan Utah road trip someday.
If you’re going as a group or just want to be more self-sufficient, an RV is a great option. These will be the most expensive but you’ll really have everything you need in it. Your options for scenic roads will be fewer, but you can always rent a car/Jeep for a day or two to get off the main roads. This would be a good option for long trips since you can easily sleep, relax, and cook in it. And unless you need/want hookups, you can free camp in RV’s as well.
How long for a Southern Utah road trip
That all depends on how much time you have and where else you are going. If you’re just going to Utah, I would say at least two weeks. Of course, you can do shorter trips, too, like a long weekend (four days) but then I’d just pick one area like Moab or St. George.
If it’s part of a bigger Southwest road trip, I’d say one full day per national park and you’ll have to be choosy about other things you see along the way. State parks tend to make great stops to break up long drives. You can see a lot if you’re willing to get up really early and get on the road before everyone else.
What to pack for a Southern Utah Road Trip
This is not a definitive packing list, but some things you should definitely bring that you may not think of. They are things I personally wouldn’t want to go without. Some you’ll probably bring with you, others you can get once you’re there (if you’re flying). You can find a national park road trip packing list towards the end of this post.
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
Warm hat – You’ll definitely want a warm hat for a winter Gooseberry Falls trip. I have a different color of this hat and love it.
Gloves – If you plan on being outside all day, you’ll probably want thicker gloves, but these are perfect for a few hours.
Hand and toe warmers – If you don’t want to get thicker gloves, bring some hand warmers. If your feet get really cold really easily, definitely bring toe warmers. They’re a game-changer.
Warm socks – Smartwool socks are always a good choice, but I also love my Farm to Feet socks. I usually just get hiking socks and might wear a lighter pair underneath. I don’t have one brand I stick to, I tend to try a lot of different ones.
Warm boots – I love my Sorel boots. They’re cute, comfy, and warm. Plus, there is room under my toes for toe warmers.
Cozy Sweatshirt – I have a few different Patagonia sweatshirts and love them all. They’re great for layering in cold weather. I have two Re-tools, a Better Sweater, and a Synchilla. Sometimes you can find them on sale on REI or Backcountry. I also like to keep an eye out for them on Poshmark (use code REDAROUNDWORLD for $10 off your first purchase) and Mercari (you can save $10 with that link as well!) I’ve found some really good deals on both.
Long sleeve shirt – I just have one that’s like Underarmour but not. I think I found it at TJ Maxx. I also just like these from Parks Project.
Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy! The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar. It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way. Buy the sleeping pad here.
Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow. This is a good non-inflatible option. Here is a good inflatable option.
Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it. Buy the LuminAID lantern here.
Where to stay on a Southern Utah road trip
There are plenty of options for accommodation on a Utah road trip, but these are the most common, so that’s what I’ll be covering.
This is the budget option and can be done for free on BLM land or you can stay in actual campgrounds. Some of the national parks need camping reservations (like Arches) so plan way ahead of time to get those if you can. This is one park I would highly recommend camping in. It will let you see things and get on the trails a lot earlier than people staying over in Moab. There are like, a million campgrounds and options for camping in southern Utah, it’s crazy. Camping is a great option for more remote places, like Bears Ears, too. And you can do it with a car, campervan, or RV. I am working on a post about camping in Utah, so stay tuned. If you want a little more than camping, but a little less than hotel, try glamping in Utah!
If you’ll be staying somewhere for a longer period of time, Airbnb is a great option. Especially if you want to be able to cook for yourself. We stayed here in La Verkin (not far from Zion) and loved it! I would definitely recommend it. You can stay in a private room or have the whole house/apartment. That will depend on how many people are in your group and personal preference. This is a great option for big groups or families since you can rent a whole house instead of multiple hotel rooms.
This is the most common option for your average road tripper. You can find hotels for all budgets all over southern Utah. You can even find the occasional hostel, like the Lazy Lizard in Moab. It’s not the fanciest, but it’s cheap and totally worth it. Whether you want to stay or not, I would highly recommend reading the bad reviews on Google, they’re hilarious. I like using Choice Hotels so I can get points for free stays and they’re usually pretty affordable. They’re all over the country, too. I would probably use a combination of camping, hotels, and Airbnb depending on how long the road trip is and where I’m going.
My favorite hotels in Southern Utah
These aren’t all of the hotels I’ve stayed at, but they are the ones I thought were really fun or that I would stay at again.
- Moab Under Canvas (Moab)
- Skyridge Inn Bed and Breakfast (Torrey)
- Lazy Lizard Hostel (Moab)
- Rodeway Inn (Blanding)
- Rodeway Inn (Hurricane)
- Quality Inn (Moab)
Weather in Southern Utah
These averages are all based on this page, where you can find more detailed temperatures based on region. I figured rough averages between the three southern regions. My personal favorite time for a Utah road trip is either fall or winter.
My parents usually visit in late September or October and it’s still pretty warm, but much better than summer. If you have the time, I would highly recommend a winter Utah road trip. It’s probably going to be a little cheaper, the weather will be so much cooler and perfect for hiking, and the best part, the crowds are so much smaller. The no crowd thing alone makes it worth it.
Weather in Utah in spring can be all over the place. It’s usually pretty windy (April and May) which can make hiking rather unpleasant because of sand blowing around, but temperatures are really nice at around (these are averages of March) 65/35 F or 18/2 C. It rains occasionally but not too often. Bring layers and a rain jacket just in case.
Weather in Utah in summer is hot. Extremely hot. And sometimes rainy. Monsoon season is roughly July and August. It isn’t constant rain, but it rains a lot more frequently. It doesn’t usually rain steadily all day, but more of a torrential downpour for 5-15 minutes. This can vary. Temperatures average (July averages) 100/65 F or 37/13 C. Every now and then we get even hotter days (110+) but plan for low hundreds. Drink more water than you think you should and wear lots of sunscreen.
Weather in Utah in fall is perfect. The wind is gone. The rain is mostly gone. There’s no snow yet. Water is still warm and everyone is back at school. September averages are still hot at 90/54 F or 32/12 C. I would go in October if you have a choice in the fall. Like spring, bring layers and still bring the rain jacket just in case.
Weather in Utah in winter is perfect if you like cold, but not too cold. January averages are 48/21 F or 9/-6 C. It can snow in southern Utah in winter, but it doesn’t usually stick around too long. Before leaving, check the forecast to see if you’ll need to bring winter boots or not. Either way, I’d pack warm clothes, a hat, and gloves.
How to get to Southern Utah
There are really only two ways to get to Utah, it will depend on where you’re coming from and where you want to go.
If you’re limited on time and way on the east coast, I would recommend flying in and renting a car. As for where to fly into, that will depend on where you’re going. For a general southwest US road trip or a Southern Utah road trip, I would fly in and out of Las Vegas, Nevada or Flagstaff, Arizona, maybe even Denver, Colorado. If you are doing just a full Utah road trip (including the north) I’d recommend flying in and out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
If you’re already in the US (or maybe even Canada) I’d drive. I wouldn’t really want to drive in for anything under two weeks though unless you’re already in the midwest/west because it’s just so far to drive and will take up a lot of time. For longer road trips though, it’s totally doable. I think this would also depend on how many people are going with you and how comfortable you are with long haul drives.
Other important things for a Southern Utah road trip
- You won’t have cell phone service a lot. Like, only if you’re in a town. On the Interstate you’ll most likely have it (not everywhere) but on side/back roads, in parks, out hiking, you won’t. Just remember that and be prepared.
- In the summer it gets very hot, so stay hydrated and don’t push yourself too hard. If you need to rest, rest. Ain’t no shame in that.
- Take the scenic roads as much as possible. The Interstates aren’t bad as far as Interstates go, but take the scenic roads when you can.
- If you are planning on seeing any slot canyons, don’t go if it’s recently been very rainy or if it is currently raining. Flash floods aren’t something to mess with. So pay attention to the weather and check conditions with rangers or BLM offices if possible before going.
- Similarly, dirt roads can become impassable during and after heavy rains, so be careful of that and check with rangers or visitor centers about conditions.
- If you are renting a car, check to see if you can take it on dirt roads before actually taking it on dirt roads.
- Things are really far apart out here. Don’t forget to plan for the driving time between parks and things.
- Get gas all the time. Like I said, things are really far apart here so if you’re at half a tank and see a gas station, fill up. You don’t want to end up gas-less on the side of the road on one of the 110 degree days.
- If you’re going to more than three parks, definitely, get the America the Beautiful pass. It’s $80, but if each park is $20 (or close to) then it’s totally worth it. It also works at national monuments.
- Bring lots of snacks and extra water for in the car and on hikes. A lot of towns don’t have good snack options and like I’ve said, things are really far apart.
- Pets will be allowed on some trails and not others so I would recommend looking up each trail or activity you want to do ahead of time.
- Some trails and drives are handicap accessible and others aren’t. It all depends on where it is, really. I would recommend looking those up before going. If you want to know about a specific one, leave me a comment or send me an email and I can let you know if it is (if I know) or not.
I wanted to include something about traveling respectfully through this area, but I couldn’t have done anything better than this post, so read this before you go.
My Southern Utah Road Trip Map
I’ve included a map marking everything on this page as well as a few other things that I just mention but may not have done yet. As I do things I will add them to the map and this page. I hope this helps give you an idea of where things are in relation to each other to help plan your trip more efficiently. This will be very helpful for planning a Utah national parks road trip.
I got locations as close as I could on here, but things may be off, like trailheads, because Google isn’t great with those, so check on those before you go.
My Favorite Coffee Shops and Restaurants in Southern Utah
- The Spoke – Moab
- Pasta Jay’s – Moab
- 98 Center – Moab
- Moab Garage – Moab
- Love Muffin Cafe – Moab
- Main Street Cafe – Hurricane
- River Rock Roasting Company – La Verkin
- Oscar’s Cafe – Springdale
- Cafe Soleil – Springdale
- Switchback Grill – Springdale
- Burr Trail Grill – Boulder
- Hells Backbone Grill – Boulder
- Kiva Koffeehouse – Escalante
What to do on a Southern Utah road trip
I will continue to update this as I do new things and write new posts. Each picture is of the place so you get a sneak peek at what the place is. I will not be posting specific things here about the parks and hikes as text, but linking to already written posts. Like I said, this is more of a hub post. You can find all posts related to national parks (in Utah, out of Utah, and general national park tips) here.
National Parks and Monuments in Southern Utah
The national parks are definitely the highlight of most Southern Utah road trips, and for good reason. In this section, you’ll find all of Utah’s national parks and monuments linked to all my posts about each one.
How long do you need for each Utah national park?
It depends on the park, how much time total you have, and what you want to do in each park, but I would use the following as a general guideline: Zion – 2-3, Bryce Canyon – 1-2, Capitol Reef – 2-3, Arches – 2-3, Canyonlands – 1-3. Of course, the longer in each, the better, but I think Zion and Capitol Reef deserve the most time. There are different areas to all the parks aside from the main drive that definitely deserves to be visited as well and that figures into which ones deserve more time.
State Parks in Southern Utah
While they don’t have the best state parks in the US (I think Florida gets that well-deserved title) they are still totally worth visiting. My personal favorites are Snow Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Goblin Valley. These are great ways to escape the crowds of the national parks themselves and to get to know Utah a little more.
Other Hikes in Southern Utah
And finally, the other hikes. This is where you’ll find hikes that are awesome but not in state or national parks. This is also where you’ll find the hikes to ruins and rock art. This is a section that I would like to add more to, so if you have any suggestions on must-do hikes outside of the parks, let me know! A lot of the rock art posts aren’t up yet, but will be over the next couple of months, so check back!
Scenic Drives in Southern Utah
You could probably drive across Utah just on scenic back roads, but it might take you a while. Here you can decide which ones you want to do the most! Some are great for getting from place to place, like Burr Trail, and others are great side trips between other activities, like Potash Road in Moab. Not all scenic byways and backways are accessible by passenger car, but you can find out in each post. Just be sure to not drive on any roads your car can’t handle and that you’re not comfortable driving on. If you do take a lot of back dirt roads, make sure you’re prepared.
Other posts you might find helpful
And finally, we have the posts that aren’t directly about Utah but will come in handy for road trips and your time in the parks. This is where you’ll find packing lists, bucket lists, road trip tips, seasonal tips, and general national park tips. If there anything specific you’d like to see in the future, let me know below!
I love Geocaching and think Utah is an awesome place for it. There is an unreal number of them all over. I think these are great ways to break up the long drives. You can find them just along the side of the road, near the national and state parks, and by other really cool stops. You can always try it at home with the Geocaching app to see if you like it. If you do, I’d get the premium version so you can make lists for your road trip and save them for offline use. That way you can see hints, logs, and all other information without cell phone service.
If you have more questions, definitely, leave a comment or send me an email. And don’t forget I’ll keep updating this page as I see and do more around southern Utah. Follow along on Pinterest for more Utah road trip ideas.