Everything You Need To Know To Plan A Southern Utah Road Trip

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This is basically going to be the hub of all things Southern Utah travel to help you plan the best Utah road trip ever. 

It will be the home of all my 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 for even more Utah road trip ideas.

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 through Utah’s national parks, state parks, and other awesome sites. Think of it more as a Southern Utah travel guide than anything.

Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.

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.

It’s not the fun section but it’s helpful, so we’ll get it over with first. I mean, you want to plan the ultimate Utah road trip and this is all part of it. And really, sometimes this can be a fun part!

Best type of car 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.

Passenger car

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.  Book a rental car here.

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.

kanab dinosaur trail view of hog canyon


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.

catstair canyon utah stacked cars in canyon

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.  It’s hard to narrow down ALL the Utah road trip stops, but it’s unfortunately necessary.

State parks and random hikes 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.

Southern Utah road trip packing list

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.

inside the nautilus utah

What to pack for a Utah national park trip

NatGeo National Parks Book – This is one of the best national park guidebooks and I take it on all my park trips.  Plus, it’s got the nice glossy pages.  Buy the book here.

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.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, or a visor.  A baseball hat should be fine but I like my giant sun hat, too.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case. 

catstair canyon utah

What to pack for Utah in the winter

Warm hat – You’ll obviously want to keep your ears warm in the winter. Check out the hat here.

Microspikes – These are very handy to have for hiking in the desert in winter. They aren’t always necessary but if trails are icy and steep, these make hiking much easier. Buy microspikes here.

Gloves – If you plan on being outside all day, you’ll probably want thicker gloves, but these are perfect for a few hours.  Buy my gloves here.

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.  Buy hand warmers here.

Warm socks – I love my Darn Tough socks. I only have one pair right now but I think next time I need hiking socks, I’ll get these again.

Warm bootsI love my Sorel boots.  They’re cute, comfy, and warm.  Plus, there is room under my toes for toe warmers.  Buy my boots here.

Patagonia Synchilla – I think of my Patagonia sweatshirts, the Synchilla is the warmest. I have two of these and really like them.

cedar breaks national monument utah

Utah camping packing list

Kammok hammock – I have a Roo single that I love. It’s the color of mac and cheese and pretty light weight. I don’t think as light as Eno if that matters though. But it’s perfect for just regular camping.

RTIC cooler – We have one of those giant coffin sized Yetis, which is great, but this 20 can soft RTIC cooler is a lot more convenient for small trips with easy access to a fridge and ice.

REI Passage 2 Tent – Our tent isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  We’ve used it quite a few times and it’s been great.  It’s good for two people, but can be a little cramped if you move around too much.

NEMO Viola sleeping bag – Mine isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s very good in cold weather, not freezing, but in the 40s with leggings on, I was totally fine.  It has zipper vent things on the top that are supposed to help it cool down when it’s hot.  I don’t know if it really did that.  When we camped in south Florida, I was still pretty warm with them open and it was probably in the 60s. 

LuminAID lantern – I love this lantern.  It’s great for getting around your campsite in the dark, lighting up campground bathrooms at night, and even during power outages at home.  You can plug it in to charge it or just let the sun do the work. 

REI Ruckpack 18 – This is the daypack I have and it’s awesome.  It’s lightweight, has water bottle pockets that my 40-ounce Hydro Flask fits in, and it comes in nice colors. 

REI Camp Wrap – This is totally unnecessary, but I love it.  It’s basically a blanket poncho and it doubles as a good blanket for sleeping in warmer weather.  I used it two nights in south Florida and it was perfect for when my sleeping bag was too hot.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts 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.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Dramamine – this is a must if you get carsick.

Vermillion cliffs Utah

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!

overlook in monument valley utah


If you’ll be staying somewhere for a longer period of time, VRBO is a great option.  Especially if you want to be able to cook for yourself.

This is a great option for big groups or families since you can rent a whole house instead of multiple hotel rooms. Check out VRBO here.

view from the nautilus utah


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 VRBO depending on how long the road trip is and where I’m going.

Utah hotels by towns

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.

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.  A Utah summer road trip is most popular, but also the hottest.

Potash road moab utah


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.  This is my favorite time to do a road trip through Utah and always when my parents come to visit.

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. I do love me a good winter Utah road trip.

River drive Moab Utah scenic drive la sal mountains and fisher tower

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. You drive or fly, though you could take a train to Salt Lake or Green River but you need to drive after that.


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.

Paria townsite utah

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 gasless on the side of the road on one of the 110-degree days.
  • If you’re going to more than three parks 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 Stops 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. The lines are how I divide the regions in my mind.

Highway 276 Utah things to see

My Favorite Coffee Shops and Restaurants in Southern Utah

the windows area of arches national park view of the la sal mountains at sunset moab utah

Utah road trip stops

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, a jumping off point for planning a road trip though Utah.  You can find all posts related to national parks (in Utah, out of Utah, and general national park tips) here.

Henry Mountains Mount Hillers Utah

Tours in Southern Utah

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. 

This should help you nail down the perfect itinerary for a road trip through Utah parks.

Since this post is mostly about logistics, you can find every post I have about things to do in Utah here. And it’s a lot.

Books to read before your trip (or on it!)

Pin it for later!

14 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know To Plan A Southern Utah Road Trip

  1. We’ve lived in and out of Idaho for a long time and somehow, we’ve never done anything besides just drive through Utah. I can see we need to change that the next time we are in the area. There are some great trips and tips here. Thanks for that. Have you been to Antelope Island, just north of SLC? I haven’t yet, but I want to go.

    1. I hope you make it soon! I haven’t been there yet. I work at Lake Powell in the summer and it’s almost five hours up to SLC so we don’t go too often and we usually go if we have to do something or go somewhere specific, but hopefull this year!

  2. Utah is one of my favorite places to visit – there’s so much to do! I love this post and will be saving it for future trips.

  3. Wow! Utah looks absoultely spectacular! I knew of the place but not really much about it. Thanks for adding it to my radar, definitely going to put it on my list now! Great post and tips.

  4. great site – and informative. Heading out to Lake Powell area soon and then up to Moab

  5. I’ve lived here in Southern UT for years & still have so much to see, If I don’t make it to Arches & Canyonlands this summer..it’s on my bucket list for next. I have a friend coming to visit in a few weeks & we will be doing some hiking, kayaking/paddleboarding at lake powell, so excited for that! & of course Angels Landing in Zion, I’ve already done it a handful of times, but she’s coming from out of state so it’s a must to for her. Good note about the flash flooding in the slot canyons, I still have never done the Narrows because it seems it’s always closed. Another great, lesser known hike that’s definitely worth checking out is Kanarra Falls in Kanarraville, just south of Cedar City. I don’t know if you’ve already written about that area or been, but I highly recommend it! It’s absolutely beautiful. Thanks for the informative post!

    1. That’ll be such a fun trip! I’ve done the Narrows, or part of it, but still not Angels Landing. I haven’t made it to Kanarra Falls yet, but I would love to go! It’s just a little too far to easily get over there for a weekend trip, so I’m not sure when, but hopefully sooner than later.

  6. Wow Megan ! This page has so much and crisp information, especially the “America the Beautiful” pass .. I did not even know about it before.
    I’ll be driving Vegas -> AZ -> UT for a week and I think this blog got me prepared even better. I’d write back after my trip for sure.

    1. Aww, thank you! That always makes me so happy to hear! I love the pass and think they’re perfect for road trips in the area. I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

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