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Like Wisconsin to Utah, we have driven from Florida to Utah and vice versa I don’t even know how many times at this point. Almost every time we did the drive, in either direction, we would try to make it into a road trip and see some things.
So today is all about the great stops on a Florida to Utah road trip. For this post, I’m making the start/end points Gainesville, Florida and Kanab, Utah. Of course you can adjust it to wherever you are leaving from, that’s just my Florida destination/starting point.
Most of the stops are on the West Texas to Utah portion, but I have included some on the Florida side, too. This isn’t one straightforward route, it is a little all over the place, but you can mix and match to make the perfect route for you.
This is mostly outdoor focused, but there are a few towns and cities here. I’ve been to all but one of these stops between Utah and Florida (New Orleans) but will hopefully make it there soonish now that I live in Florida.
There aren’t any major national parks until West Texas but after that there are quite a few that would make the national park pass totally worth it. So here is a giant list of great places to go driving from Florida to Utah. It could also be done in reverse.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! If you want one for all of the NPS sites (400+!) then this one is for you!
- Before your trip, get some national park apparel for your trip! Homage is donating 5% of sales from the national park collection to the National Parks Conservation Association this year. Buy national park shirts here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
The first stop on the drive to Utah from Florida is a nice little state park in Tallahassee. The Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park is a great way to spend a few hours taking a nice stroll.
It feels a bit like an Alice in Wonderland garden but there is one catch. The flowers aren’t blooming year-round I’m sure it’s a nice walk when they aren’t blooming, but it’s best when they are.
They bloom from January to April and it’s beautiful walking through all the blooming flowers. Plus they smell wonderful! Also, I would skip this if you don’t plan to go into the garden area.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
On the other side of Tallahassee you’ll find the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This is a fun stop to look for wildlife, see a lighthouse, and do a little hiking. It’s not my favorite wildlife refuge in Florida, but I did like it and we got to see a bunch of ADORABLE baby gators.
I would plan to spend a couple of hours here and if you wanted to visit the refuge and the gardens above in one day, you definitely could. We hiked the Tower Pond Trail and I enjoyed it. It’s not too long, but not too short and was good for bird watching.
Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas is just a short drive from the town of Port Saint Joe and is a great stop if you want a quiet relaxing beach getaway. It would be a great place to spend a night or two to really enjoy the beach.
If you don’t have the spare days for that, just spending a day shelling here would be fun, too. There are plenty of places to shell and there is also a short walk on the bay side that is really nice.
Ok, this picture is technically not Apalachicola but it is close to it. We went through it to get to St. George Island and it is cute. Apalachicola is Old Florida. Spend a couple of hours walking around town, browsing the shops, getting a coffee, enjoying a beer at Oyster City Brewing Company.
You could spend a day or two here and easily visit Cape San Blas and St. George Island one day while exploring Apalachicola the other.
The first out of Florida stop is good old New Orleans. I would definitely set aside at least a whole day to enjoy the city, eat everything, and do a ghost tour. Maybe an extra day if you want to get out into the swamp, too.
While you’re here, visit the French Quarter, ride a streetcar, visit Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, take a ghost tour, and don’t forget to eat all the beignets. This is definitely a southeast bucket list topper.
New Orleans tours
- Ghosts, witches, vampires, and voodoo walking tour
- Haunted New Orleans tour with exclusive access
- French Quarter sightseeing carriage ride
- Airboat tour
- Bayou boat tour (not airboat)
- Cajun and Creole cooking class
- French Quarter food walking tour
Our next stop isn’t until Amarillo, Texas where you can stop and see Cadillac Ranch, a bunch of Cadillacs stuck in the ground. These bad boys have been here since 1974 when Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels made the art installation.
This is a fun roadside stop but I won’t lie, it was a little underwhelming. When we went there were paint cans all over in the mud but I think that’s been improved (from what I’ve read, let me know if it’s not) and they actually sell paint there now.
While it wasn’t my favorite road trip stop it doesn’t take long to see and it’s free so it’s still worth it if you’re passing through Amarillo. I wouldn’t go too far out of my way for it.
Big Bend National Park
Now for a road trip stop between Florida and Utah that is definitely out of the way but entirely worth it: Big Bend National Park. This park is huge and I would try to spend two whole days here.
Definitely go in with a plan because it’s overwhelming to just show up and try do decide what to do. Trust me. We did that and definitely missed out on a lot. For real though, this park is huge and it takes forever to drive from one side to the other.
While you’re here, be sure to see the rock art and hot springs, hike into Santa Elena Canyon, hike the Chisos Mountains, and (if the border is open, this may take most of a day) visit Boquillas, Mexico! There is so much more to do but those are a good start.
Next up just before crossing into New Mexico is Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a hidden gem with tons of hiking. Most of the trails are pretty long, so it’s a great park for backpacking, but it’s still worth going for a day.
We just did part of the Manzanita Spring Trail at Frijoles Ranch and the McKittrick Nature Trail but I enjoyed them. I really liked the park and want to go back to hike more. The Devils Hall Trail looks really cool.
Most people skip Guadalupe Mountains National Park all together but it’s definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re already going to Carlsbad Caverns. It’s a short drive and even just half a day here is good. Keep this hidden gem on your national park bucket list.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Most of the stops on a Florida to Utah road trip, at least on this list, are in New Mexico and Arizona because they’re so beautiful! The first stop in New Mexico is Carlsbad Caverns. This is a super easy addition to your trip if you’re going through West Texas.
Carlsbad Caverns is one of my favorite national parks, for sure, so I would say it’s worth going out of your way for. The main cave walk is the big draw to the park but there are quite a few more “adventurous” cave tours you can do and even a dirt drive to a view of Rattlesnake Canyon!
I love Carlsbad Caverns and would definitely recommend it. If you’re really determined and up for a long-ish day, you could probably visit this and Guadalupe Mountains in one day. I would just start your day early, probably at the caverns.
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park is New Mexico’s other national park and also definitely worth visiting. I like Carlsbad Caverns more but definitely understand why people would like this more.
There are two main hiking trails here, the nature trail and the Alkali Flats trail. but you can really just hike out anywhere Just be sure to be aware of your surroundings/landmarks so you don’t get lost.
You can also go sand sledding here! I would get a sled at WalMart or something because in the park they’re extremely expensive (like $30 with wax and you only get $5 back when you return it). If the store has wax, too, I’d get it there. I think you definitely need wax for the sleds though.
If you like camping and will be here for a full moon, camping here would be incredible and should definitely be on your southwest US bucket list! I definitely want to do that.
If you like aliens and just generally cheesy stuff, Roswell, New Mexico is for you. One day, maybe even half a day, is plenty of time for this quirky little town. Be sure to stop at the UFO museum to see the aliens up close and personal.
Whether you eat there or not, at least stop by to see the UFO shaped McDonalds. And check out the streetlights, they’re little alien heads! There are tons of alien themed stores for all of your out of this world souvenir needs.
Book Roswell hotels here. (Would not recommend the America’s Best Value Inn.)
The first big city since New Orleans (unless you go to Austin or San Antonio on the way, is Albuquerque, New Mexico.There are two main reasons I included it on this list: hot air balloon rides and Breaking Bad.
Albuquerque area tours
- Hot air balloon ride
- Rio Grand paddleboard tour
- Rio Grande half day rafting tour
- Old Town ghost tour
- Breaking Bad RV tour
- Georgia O’Keefe and Ghost Ranch country tour
Not far from Albuquerque is the beautiful town of Santa Fe, a haven for artists. It would be easiest (and the most exciting) to stay in the main Old Town area. This is the best area to just walk around.
Walk around Old Town to see all the galleries and local shops. Grab some delicious food here, too. If you have time, be sure to go to Meow Wolf, an extremely cool looking interactive art exhibit. I want to go back just for this.
If you want to do a scenic drive, the Turquoise Trail up to Taos is a great day trip. And if you want to hike, a trip to the Tent Rocks is a must.
Bandelier National Monument
Not far from Santa Fe is Bandelier National Monument, a great place to do some hiking and see Native American ruins. Hike the main ruin trail to Alcove Ruin (bottom right picture) and the Falls Trail to see an impressive waterfall!
The Alcove Ruin part of the trail involves some steep ladders but it’s a nice view. The Falls Trail is great for getting away from the crowds and it’s. not too tough. Both trails will have you hiking about six miles.
The first stop in Arizona is going to be Petrified Forest National Park. I love this park. Most people just drive through but this deserves at least one full day because of all the hiking.
You can definitely do all of the main hikes in one day. Those include Blue Mesa trail, Crystal Forest Loop, Jasper Forest, Giant Logs, and Long Logs/Agate House Loop. This is also a great Route 66 stop.
Next up is the old mining town of Jerome, perfect for anyone looking to be spooked. One whole day should be plenty here to walk around town, visit the Jerome State Historic Park, and do a Jerome ghost tour.
To make it the ultimate spooky experience, spend the night at one of the haunted hotels, the Jerome Grand Hotel, The Connor Hotel, The Clinkscale Hotel, Surgeons House Bed and Breakfast, and Ghost City Inn.
Now, I probably wouldn’t spend tons of time in Sedona on the drive from Florida to Utah, but I know a lot of people really love it. And I suppose spending a night or two there would let you hit the trails super early.
The town itself is extremely busy, especially in the summer, fall, and holidays. Ok, all the time, really. But be sure to spend some time walking around town, check out the Amitabha Stupa, and hike all the trails. This is also a great place to do a Jeep tour.
If you like new age-y stuff, this is the place for you. Get a chakra photo, buy all the crystals (or get crystal healing), and visit the vortexes before doing a nighttime UFO tour!
- Vortex Jeep tour
- Red Rock west Jeep tour
- Nighttime UFO and stargazing
- West Sedona Canyon ATV tour
- Scenic rim Pink Jeep tour
- Cliff Hanger Trail
- Soldier Pass Jeep tour
- Diamondback Gulch Jeep tour
Flagstaff is either up next or it could be visited between Petrified Forest and Jerome since you’ll have to go through it then, too. Or you could visit twice.
While you’re here, take the short trip out to Walnut Canyon to see some ruins and hike, walk around the charming downtown area, and if you’re visiting in the winter, do some skiing or snowboarding at Snow Bowl.
- Haunted history walking tour
- Hopi lands cultural tour
- Colorado River float trip
- Guided Grand Canyon Railway tour
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
**Sunset Crater is currently closed because of damage from the Tunnel Fire. You can find updates on the park website.**
I love Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It’s so different than other landscapes in the area, I just. love it. This is a great place to do some hiking while feeling like you’re on another planet.
There isn’t tons of hiking here, a couple long-ish trails, and a couple of short ones but they’re all good. Usually you can drive from Sunset Crater to Wupatki but you can’t at the moment.
Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument is a great place to see ruins in the area without tons of people around. They’re also super easy to access. There are multiple sites you can walk to, and into (only some of them), that are pretty different than a lot of Utah ruins.
Instead of the cliff dwellings that are common in southern Utah and Mesa Verde, these are freestanding in an open almost desert prairie. It’s a beautiful area.
Grand Canyon National Park
What kind of southwest road trip would it be without a stop at the Grand Canyon? Depending on how much time you have, one or two days is good here. Of course more is always good, but you haven’t made it all the way from Florida to Utah yet.
You could always do one day at the south rim then one day at the north rim after Lees Ferry. But I’m just talking about the south rim here. Of course, stop at all the overlooks, but if you want to do a hike above the rim, the Shoshone Point Trail is perfect.
Hiking into the canyon is always going to be impressive, but only do so if you’re prepared and remember that however far you go in, you have to hike back out, which is the hard part.
It is not recommended to hike to the river and back in one day, especially in the summer. Even expert hikers can and have died hiking in the canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim tours
- Helicopter and optional hummer tour
- Grand Canyon flight, Antelope Canyon, Colorado River float
- Scenic flight
- Grand Canyon Railway from Williams
- Hummer tour
- Grand Canyon tandem skydive
Between the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon or the south rim and Page, is Lees Ferry in Marble Canyon. Marble Canyon would be a really beautiful place to spend the night.
Lees Ferry isn’t brimming with activities but it is beautiful. And, if you’re there in the fall, you can pick fruit in the orchard! Otherwise you can hike the Cathedral Wash trail or just relax on the beach along the Colorado River.
Ahh, good old Page, Arizona. This is one of those places that could a destination in itself since it’s home to two of the most popular southwest US road trips stops: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.
The town itself isn’t that exciting but it has a lot of things to do nearby. If you’re there the first weekend of November, you can go to the Balloon Regatta. Otherwise there is the Hanging Garden Trail in town or the New Wave Trail with some of the best views in Page.
It’s also a slot canyon paradise but you’ll need a hefty budget to see more than one of the million slot canyons in Page. A few to choose from are Lower Antelope Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Waterhole Canyon, and Antelope Canyon X.
Page, AZ tours
- Upper Antelope Canyon
- Lower Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend half-day tour
- Half-day tour of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons
- Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell Flight, River Rafting
- Horseshoe Bend helicopter flight
- Helicopter tour with Tower Butte landing
- Secret Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
This could probably technically be in the Page section, but it’s not. There are a few options when it comes to visiting Lake Powell. You can rent a boat to drive yourself, join a large public boat tour, or book a small private boat tour.
Which you pick will mostly depend on your comfort level of boating on your own and your budget. If you’re on your own, a public boat tour will be cheapest, but if there are up to six of you (children included) a private tour might come out cheaper.
Or you can just kayak or paddle around the bay or relax at Lone Rock Beach. Another way to enjoy it that doesn’t involve being on the water is driving out to Alstrom Point.
Lake Powell books and maps
- Lake Powell Map (the Stan Jones map is the best one, I have like, three)
- Boaters Guide to Lake Powell
- Where the Water Goes
- Monkey Wrench Gang
- Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water
- Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West
- Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River
- Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West
- Hayduke Lives!
Finally, the last stop on the drive from Florida to Utah, the destination, Kanab! Or at least the destination for this post. An alternate from Page could be going through Monument Valley and Blanding to Moab.
There is so much to do just between Kanab and Page and then right around Kanab itself! Between the towns, you can hike to the Nautilus, hike the Toadstool Trail, hike to Wire Pass slot canyon, and hike Catstair Canyon.
Then, once you’re in Kanab, wander around the main town, enjoy a pain au chocolat and Denali at the Kanab Creek Bakery, visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, hike into the Kanab sand caves, and wander through the Belly of the Dragon.
- White Pocket guided hiking
- Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon hiking tour
- Orderville rappelling and UTV tour
- Yellow Rock hiking tour
- Peek-a-Book Canyon Jeep tour
Well, you did it! You survived the long drive (trust me, I know) and now you get to have the adventure of a lifetime as you explore southern Utah before the long drive back. And, of course, you can always do these road trip stops from Utah to Florida, too, to have a fun drive back.
Utah posts you may also like:
Have you driven from Florida to Utah before? Or Utah to Florida? What was your favorite stop along the way?