Plan a Utah to Arizona road trip with at least five stops at some of the most beautiful places in the entire country including Grand Canyon, Sedona, Moab and Salt Lake City. Explore the best things to see, eat and stay at these on a trip that is great for anyone!
Hello, Spoonful of Flavor readers! It’s Aubrie Gerber here ready to share the ins and outs of road tripping through Utah and Arizona.
This summer, my fiancé and I drove throughout Utah to Arizona and it turned out to be the most memorable vacation to date. Lots of research ensued prior to putting the pedal to the metal (plus we learned some lessons along the way), so I’m excited to share this knowledge with you. I’ll be highlighting can’t-miss national parks, breathtaking places to stay—both budget-friendly and indulgent—and eateries worth paying a visit.
Some might argue that once you see a desert landscape, you’ve seen them all. That’s far from the truth. From red rock formations and plateaus to Canyonlands and forestlands, there’s such diverse scenery. I promise you won’t get bored looking out your car window.
That being said, in order to see all that these areas have to offer, driving is the best option. It also allows you to tailor the trip to your price point. If you don’t live near the region, I suggest finding an affordable flight to any of the major airports, such as Salt Lake City, Las Vegas or Phoenix. From there, you can customize the trip to your liking. The national parks listed below are open year-round, making this road trip possible during any season.
My fiancé and I made a counter-clockwise circle when mapping our trip, which allowed us to explore both west and east sides of Utah and Arizona. Below is a detailed route we highly recommend:
- Part 1: Salt Lake City to Springdale, Utah (Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park)
- Part 2: Page, Arizona (Pit stops at Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon)
- Part 3: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Part 4: Sedona, Arizona
- Part 5: Moab, Utah (Arches National Park)
Tip: Depending on the number of national parks you plan on visiting, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass. For $80, the pass covers the entrance fee of a vehicle (or up to four adults at parks that charge per person) into 2000 national parks for the year.
Utah to Arizona Road Trip
Part 1: Salt Lake City to Springdale
After landing in Salt Lake City, make your way Springdale, Utah. You’ll want to allocate time to stop at interest points along the way and snap a few photos. The four-hour drive will go by in no time.
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in Springdale, the base camp to Zion National Park. I can’t stress how beneficial it is to stay at a hotel in Springdale. We opted for Bumbleberry Inn, an economical motel located along the free shuttle route that takes you to the entrance of Zion National Park. From there, another shuttle will take you into the park during peak season (April through October). The accommodation overlooks Zion National Park and includes hot breakfast at Porter’s Smokehouse & Grill. (Don’t overlook the Frosted French Toast coated in Frosted Flakes and topped with seasonal berries.) It’s also walking distance to all the cute cafes and shops Springdale has to offer. After a long day of hiking, the ease of catching the shuttle into town is so rewarding. While the motel isn’t the fanciest, it has everything you’d need from an accommodation— clean budget-friendly rooms, friendly staff and spectacular views.
Zion National Park is a sight to be seen. You’ll want to designate a couple days to see a variety of what the park has to offer. The Narrows and Angels Landing are the two most popular hikes. Angels Landing is a five-mile round trip trail with sweeping views of the park. It’s switchbacks and steep drop-offs are not for the faint at heart. The Narrows takes you into the narrowest part of Zion Canyon. Be sure to bring (or rent) a hiking stick and waterproof shoes as you trek through the icy blue water while surrounded by incredible rock formations. It’s absolutely breathtaking and my favorite hike to date.
(Tips: Before departing, check the weather for rain. The Narrows will close due to flash flooding. If the weather is good to go, arrive either early in the morning or later in the afternoon, as the trails get quite crowded around the middle of the day.)
While staying in Springdale, hit two birds with one stone by taking a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park . In less than two hours, you’ll find yourself marveling at amphitheaters of hoodoos, eroded spikes of red rocks. We didn’t make time for this, but it’s a must next time we’re in town.
Part 2: Page, Arizona
Once you’ve experienced all that Zion National Park has to offer, you’re ready for the next leg of the trip. Check out of your hotel first thing in the morning and depart for Grand Canyon National Park. This four and a half hour drive will be a highlight of the trip.
Halfway through your drive, stop in Page, Arizona—home to Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. On your way to town, you’ll drive right over Glen Canyon Dam, one of the largest man-made reservoirs that formed Lake Powell. Park along either side of the bridge and marvel at the 710-foot high structure.
From there, stop at a local grocery store to pick up food for a picnic at Horseshoe Bend. It’s located just south of Page on Highway 89 to between mileposts 544 and 545. (You’ll most likely notice a substantial amount of cars, so it can’t be missed.) After a short hike from the parking lot, you’ll feel your heart sink as you marvel at the green water flowing through the horseshoe-shaped canyon. You can spend anywhere from a few minutes to all day here, so it’s up to you how much time you’d like to allot.
Antelope Canyon is another popular attraction, though we opted not to visit since it was peak summer season. That being said, I’ve heard great things. Just remember that you can’t visit without booking tour and are required to make a reservation prior. There are two types of trips, Sightseer’s Tour (90-minutes) or Photographic Tour (160-minutes). For those looking for images of the canyon without people filtering through, the Photographic Tour is highly recommended. (Note: You must have an SLR or mirrorless camera to take part in this tour.)
Part 3: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
After an adventurous pit stop in Page, make your way to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Lodging inside the park is sometimes booked a year in advance. If you can’t snag a room, don’t panic. The Grand Canyon Village located in the town of Tusayan (15 minutes from the park) is the next best option. Try to arrive before sunset, as the drive will take you through a portion of Grand Canyon National Park during golden hour. It’s stunning!
There are a variety of two and three-star hotels located in Grand Canyon Village. Based on availability and reviews, we chose Red Feather Lodge, which is coincidently located next to RP’s Stage Shop, the best deli and coffee shop in town. Start your day with a maple spice coffee and purchase made-to-order box lunches to enjoy inside the Grand Canyon.
Once you’re in the park, take a deep breath and enjoy your surroundings. Spend the day at the top of the rim taking photos from various lookout points or hike one of the many trails. The Bright Angel Trail is a personal favorite and begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge. The 12-mile hike will take you down the side of the canyon on a steep dirt trail. You by no means have to trek that far. Just be sure to save double the energy for walking back up. There’s an ice cream parlor right off the trail’s exit, making for the perfect reward.
Part 4: Sedona, Arizona
Next, travel south to Sedona, a spa and relaxation mecca. If there was ever a place to pamper yourself and renew your energy, this would be it. Enchantment Resort allows you to reconnect with yourself in a Native American-inspired setting that blends within the red rocks of Sedona. Its guest rooms are casitas (Southwestern-inspired little homes) with fireplaces and private decks that overlook Boynton Canyon. Guests are free to use Mii Amo’s spa facilities (Named number one by Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2018), including its indoor and outdoor pools, crystal grotto and daily meditation classes. Check out our Weekend Guide to Sedona Arizona for more fun things to see and eat!
Work up an appetite hiking Boynton Canyon Trail or golfing at the Seven Canyons Golf Club before dining at one of the resort’s restaurants—Che Ah Chi, a more upscale setting, and Tii Gavo, a casual gathering place. Both eateries provide panoramic views of the canyon while its menus showcase the area’s local growers. I’m still dreaming about Tii Gavo’s Steet Tacos and Che Ah Chi’s charcuterie board with an accompanying prickly pear margarita.
Part 5: Moab
You’ll likely recognize Monument Valley if you’ve ever watched a Western movie. This nostalgic location was (and continues to be) the set for numerous movies and TV shows. It’s worth a stop for an iconic roadside photo on your way from Sedona to Moab.
End your night at one of the many hotels in downtown Moab, the base camp for Arches National Park. Spend the day climbing the towering arches while soaking up your last day in the desert before ending your trip in Salt Lake City the following day.
That’s a wrap!
This itinerary is by no means the only option when traveling throughout Utah and Arizona, but my hope is that it serves as a helpful reference when creating your own unique trip. No matter the budget or time of year, this trip is doable.
If you visit Utah or Arizona, don’t forget to tag @SpoonfulFlavor and #SpoonfulTravel in your social media posts so that we can follow along. Or come back here and share your thoughts about the trip.
All photography by Aubrie Gerber. Aubrie is a travel contributor who writes for publications such as Rachel Ray Everyday, United Hemispheres, Luxe Getaways and more. Visit AubrieGerber.com or follow on Instagram to read more about her travels.