Utah is brimming with diverse landscapes, extraordinary national parks, and endless sightseeing opportunities. One of the most notable highlights in the state is Zion National Park, known for its towering canyons and breathtaking sandstone cliffs. However, with so many unique parks to explore nearby, it’s worth veering off course on your way to Zion to explore some of the other incredible sights along the way.
On this unforgettable road trip through Utah, explore three of the state’s “Mighty 5” national parks. Marvel at the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park, gaze at the vibrant red hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, and experience mesmerizing hikes in Zion. Get ready to load up your campervan and embark on the ultimate 6-day Salt Lake City to Zion National Park road trip!
Travel Time from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park
This camper van road trip follows a 729-mile route to Zion National Park, starting and ending at the Escape Campervans location in Salt Lake City. The drive would take approximately 12 hours and 25 minutes to complete without stopping, and we recommend at least 6 days to complete it.
This itinerary takes you down US-89 to Capitol Reef National Park, which is a more scenic route and will lead you through many rural, charming towns. However, to shave off about 45-60 minutes, you could take I-15 instead.
Additionally, while this round trip itinerary loops back to Salt Lake City from Zion, you could make it a one-way route by driving straight to the Escape Campervans location in Las Vegas instead.
TOTAL MILES: 729 miles
TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 6 days, driving 12 hours and 25 minutes
Best Time of Year for a Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Road Trip
Late Spring and early Fall are the best times of year for a Utah National Parks road trip. The weather is optimal, most campgrounds are still open, and it’s an ideal time for wildlife sightings.
Summer is the most popular time to visit any of the parks, but the crowds are extreme and it can be incredibly difficult to find available camping spots inside the parks. Plus, the summer heat can be quite intense.
If you’re planning a winter road trip, keep in mind that weather conditions could disrupt your plans, many campgrounds will be closed, and not all hikes will be possible. For example, hiking the Narrows in Zion is only available from the summer to early fall. To avoid altering your itinerary during the winter months, you might consider road-tripping through Arizona instead.
Preparation for a Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Campervan Road Trip
Start your campervan road trip off on the right foot by planning ahead and ensuring you have everything you need for a smooth trip. These are a few things we recommend considering before hitting the open road:
Camping: If you’re hoping to camp inside any of the national parks, then try to book as early as possible. Many of these campsites can be booked up to 6 months in advance, and reservations fill up immediately during peak season. If you’re unable to book ahead of time, we recommend looking into Utah’s dispersed camping (or free camping) options near the parks.
Food and Supplies: Since this route includes long periods on the road, make sure you have all your camping necessities before leaving Salt Lake City. Along with road trip snacks and a well-stocked fridge, pick up any of our extra add-ons that you may need. A solar shower will come in handy since many of the campsites by the parks are primitive, and a National Parks Pass will also be necessary to save on entrance fees.
GPS and Phones: Since you’ll be driving through some remote areas without cell reception, make sure you download the offline map on your smartphone or add in a GPS with your camper van. Likewise, since you won’t be able to charge your phone when the campervan is turned off, pack portable chargers.
Park Maps: It’s also worth picking up a printed map from each park when you arrive. If your cell reception is spotty, these can be a big help when trying to find your way to your next destination or campsite.
Choosing the Best Campervan for your Zion Road Trip
From our Salt Lake City location, you have three excellent Escape Campervan models to choose from. The Del Mar, Mavericks, and Mesa all sleep up to 5 people (with a rooftop sleeper), have queen-sized beds and kitchenettes, and can fit into most tent sites. Take some time to compare these models on our site, and choose whichever one best suits your road trip needs!
Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Campervan Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Salt Lake City to Capitol Reef National Park
After picking up your Escape Campervan in Salt Lake City, begin your journey with a long drive through scenic Utah! Your first stop will be Capitol Reef National Park, one of the famous Mighty Five. This breathtaking national park is renowned for its unique geology, particularly a nearly 100-mile “wrinkle” in the earth, known as the Waterpocket Fold. The drive from Salt Lake City to Capitol Reef National Park is approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes, or 224 miles.
Places to See in Capitol Reef National Park
Scenic Drive: Beginning from the visitor’s center, this legendary drive is a great way to get your bearings in the park. The drive is only 7.9 miles long, but it crosses through some of Capitol Reef’s most picturesque landmarks. This route will also take you past several marked trails and incredible hikes.
Grand Wash Trail: There’s no shortage of incredible hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, though this is one of the most popular. This 4.7-mile, out-and-back trail takes you through a narrow path lined by looming canyon walls, and is an excellent area for spotting bighorn sheep!
Hickman Bridge: For an easy hike, this 2-mile round trip loop brings you to an impressive, naturally formed arch. This is one of the most classic sites in the park, and offers sweeping views of Capitol Reef’s stunning landscape.
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita Campground-Camp Ground Rd, Torrey, UT 84775: Open year round and the only developed campground within the park, this is an ideal base for exploring Capitol Reef. Reservations must be made from March 1- October 31, though the site is first come, first served the rest of the year.
Cedar Mesa Campground-Torrey, UT 84775:This is one of two primitive campgrounds within the park, and is open year-round. There is no fee and reservations aren’t accepted, though you will need to check in at the visitor’s center to ask about road conditions beforehand.
Sunglow Campground-FR143, Bicknell, UT 84715: Located in Fishlake National Forest and only 20 minutes from Capitol Reef’s entrance, this is a great alternative during high season when spots inside the park tend to fill up quickly. This site is open from May through September, and reservations can be made online.
Where to Eat Near Capitol Reef National Park
Rim Rock Patio $$-2468-2512 UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775: Choose from delicious pizza or mouthwatering BBQ at this laid-back restaurant, which the owners describe as a “spaghetti western cafe.” Take in the breathtaking desert scenery from their large deck, where you can also enjoy live music during the weekends.
The Pioneer Kitchen $$-2600 UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775:Soak in views of the Colorado Plateau while indulging in comfort food at one of the most frequented restaurants in the area. Their breakfasts are especially popular and perfect for fueling up before a long day of exploring!
Bonus: While there aren’t any restaurants inside Capitol Reef National Park, there is The Gifford House, which is part of the historic Gifford Farm. Make a pit stop here for one of their famous, locally baked fruit pies!
Day 2: Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park
After a hearty breakfast and possibly exploring more of Capitol Reef in the morning, pack up your camper van and get ready for your most scenic drive yet! Today, we’re taking the long way to Bryce Canyon National Park, along Scenic Byway 12. This route takes about 2.5 hours to complete and crosses through part of the enchanting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If you’re not in a rush, then leave extra time to take in the breathtaking landscapes around Escalante.
Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Amphitheater: Drive straight to this classic viewpoint to admire a vast field of jagged hoodoos. There are several easily accessible viewpoints along the amphitheater to choose from, all of which are particularly rewarding during sunrise and sunset.
Navajo Loop Trail: Hike among the towering hoodoos on this popular, 1.3-mile trail. Keep in mind, this is only a loop trail during the summer, as part of the path is inaccessible in the winter months.
Southern Scenic Drive: This 15-mile road begins after the Bryce Amphitheater, and consists of 9 scenic overlooks. The drive takes about 40 minutes without stopping and is a great way to see unique areas of the park, especially if you don’t have time for a long hike.
Where to Eat Near Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon $$-The Lodge at, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: This is one of the few food options within the park, and offers a wide selection for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The stone fireplace creates a welcoming ambiance and is perfect for warming up after a long hike.
Bryce Canyon Pines $$-2476 W UT-12, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764:Enjoy classic western fare at this cozy restaurant, which has been in business for over 50 years. Try one of their delicious homemade soups and leave room for dessert, as they’ve got an extensive selection of pies to choose from.
I.d.k bbq $$-161 N Main St, Tropic, UT 84776:For affordable barbecue in a relaxed setting, head to this counter service spot just 12 minutes away from the park. Dine on long picnic tables while indulging in your choice of pork, chicken, or burnt brisket ends.
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Bryce Canyon National Park
North Campground-North Campgrounds, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: Located inside the park and right by the visitor’s center, this convenient campground is open year-round, and contains 100 sites. Reservations are required from May 19th through October 7th, but are first come, first served the rest of the year. During peak season, reservations fill up very quickly and can be made up to six months in advance.
Sunset Campground-Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: Also located inside Bryce Canyon, this campsite is first come, first served, aside from group sites which can be reserved in advance. Facilities here are very basic, and there aren’t any showers, sewer, water, or electric hook-ups available.
Red Canyon Campground- Dixie National Forest, UT-12, Panguitch, UT 84759:Located along Scenic Byway 12 in the Dixie National Forest, this picturesque campground is a perfect alternative if options inside Bryce are full (or if you need a break from the crowds during high season). The site is open from May to October, is first come, first served, and is only 13 miles from Bryce Canyon.
Days 3-4: Zion National Park
After a last glimpse of Bryce Canyon’s iconic hoodoos, it’s time to get back on the road and explore one more national park. Zion was Utah’s first national park and is renowned for its immense sandstone cliffs, awe-inspiring canyons, and abundant wildlife. The two parks are about 80 miles apart, and the drive from Bryce Canyon should take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete. There is a lot of ground to cover in Zion, so we recommend at least two nights to make the most of your time here.
Things to do in Zion National Park
The Narrows:Aptly named, this famous hike takes you through the narrowest part of Zion Canyon, where you’ll need to wade through the Virgin River. If you hike from the bottom up, you can turn around at any point. However, if you choose to venture on the full 16-mile hike, an advanced permit is required.
Kolob Canyons: This area of the park is located about 40 minutes away from Zion’s main entrance and is far less crowded than the rest of the park (though still just as stunning). Take a scenic drive, or explore one of the district’s trails without the crowds.
Canyon Overlook: This 1-mile, rocky trail over a slot canyon provides amazing views of the Zion Canyon and the Towers of the Virgin. It’s also a prime area for spotting bighorn sheep!
Pro Tip: To accommodate its many visitors and reduce congestion on the road, the park provides a free Zion Canyon Shuttle to the main park areas and trailheads. If you plan to spend the day hiking, we recommend leaving your campervan in the parking lot and taking the shuttle to your trailhead.
What to Eat Near Zion
Whiptail Grill $$-445 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767: Located in a converted gas station, this casual restaurant offers al fresco dining with amazing views of Zion as your backdrop. The menu offers classic Mexican dishes, burgers, sandwiches, and many vegetarian options.
The Park House $$-1880 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Springdale, UT 84767: For a filling breakfast before a day of hiking, head to this unassuming, family-run cafe. Colorful decor, friendly staff, and fresh ingredients make this charming spot a local favorite.
Bit & Spur $$-1212 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767: Southwestern cuisine, a taco shack, and a wide selection of craft beers are all available at this lively restaurant and saloon. Whether you choose to sit inside or dine in their inviting backyard, make sure you stick around for their weekly live music shows.
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Zion National Park
Watchman Campground- UT-9, Springdale, UT 84767:Centrally located inside the park, this popular campground is open year-round, and does not offer full hookups or showers. Reservations are required and can be made up to 6 months in advance. Keep in mind that spots fill up super quickly.
Lava Point-Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767:This primitive campground inside Zion is located off the Kolob Terrace Road, and is usually open from May through September. Only six sites are available, and reservations can be made two weeks in advance via their website.
Zion Wright Family Ranch-Smith Mesa, Virgin, UT 84779: Admire captivating views of Zion National Park from this family-run, 1,200-acre ranch. Located just 40 minutes from Zion’s main entrance, the site is quite primitive, though there are porta potties and fire rings available. Campers also have the option to go horseback riding with the ranch owner!
Day 5: Zion National Park to Utah Lake
Your Zion road trip is sadly coming to an end, and it’s time to begin making your way back towards Salt Lake City. Utah Lake is located just beside the charming city of Provo and is about 3 hours (229 miles) away from Zion. Utah’s largest freshwater lake provides incredibly scenic views and is a perfect place to rest after nearly a week of challenging hikes and long drives. If you’re craving a bit of city life, you can also spend the day exploring downtown Provo.
If you’re short on time, you can skip this stop and head straight to Salt Lake City. However, since you’ll need to drop off your campervan in the morning, this is a great nearby base if you’re craving one more night out in nature!
Pro Tip: If you want to break up this leg of the trip, stop at the Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe, Utah! These natural hot springs are located midway through the drive and a perfect way to decompress after hours on the road.
Where to Eat Near Utah Lake
Black Sheep Cafe $$-19 N University Ave, Provo, UT 84601: Run by two sisters who grew up on a Navajo reservation, this cafe serves up delicious Native American dishes. Nearly all meals are made from scratch at this cozy restaurant in downtown Provo.
Pizzeria 712 $$-320 S State St #185, Orem, UT 84058: Wood-fired pizza made with fresh, local ingredients, along with delicious small plates are served up in this inviting pizzeria. Their craft cocktails and extensive wine lists are also big crowd-pleasers!
Campervan Friendly Campsites Near Utah Lake
Lake Shore Campground-Provo, UT 84601:Located right along the lake, this campsite provides premier access to the water, along with showers, sewage disposal, and fish cleaning stations if you feel like catching your own dinner! Reservations must be made online, and are available on a four-month rolling basis.
Rock Canyon Campground-Untia-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Rock Canyon Campground Rd, Provo, UT 84604: If you prefer to wake up surrounded by lush, soaring trees, this forested campground is placed at an elevation of 6,500 feet and offers outstanding views, along with several trails. Reservations must be made in advance, and the site is open from May through September.
Day 6: Utah Lake to Salt Lake City
After a leisurely morning of packing and loading up your camper van one more time, stop for breakfast in Provo before hitting the road. The drive to Escape Campervans in Salt Lake City is only about 45 minutes, so making your scheduled drop-off time should be a breeze.
Why Rent a Camper Van for a Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Road Trip?
There are several benefits to renting an Escape Campervan over a traditional RV for your Zion National Park road trip. These are just a few of the reasons why a camper van rental is the way to go for your Utah adventure:
Compact: With the majority of this itinerary taking place in national parks, having a vehicle that is smaller than a typical RV is a big help. Not only will you have an easier time exploring more remote areas, but you’ll also fit into most tent camping spots.
No Need for Electric or Sewer Hookups: Because Escape Campervans are made to be self-contained, they don’t require any electric or sewer hookups. Considering that many campgrounds around Utah’s national parks are quite primitive, not having to rely on finding a site with these hookups will be a huge help.
Easy and Convenient: Because your campervan is already set up with a fully functioning kitchenette and queen-sized bed, you can focus more on your adventure. With all your necessary camping gear already set up, you won’t have to waste any time putting up tents or dealing with the extra work of having an RV.
Choosing a campervan for your road trip to Zion National Park will make for an easier, more stress-free adventure. This way, you can spend more time choosing your next hike, and less time worrying about finding a spot to fit your RV!
Reserve with Escape Campervans for your Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Road Trip
Now that you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable road trip, it’s time to rent your dream campervan and let the adventure begin! Pick up your Escape Campervan from Salt Lake City, load up on any necessary add-ons, and hit the road for six days of jaw-dropping landscapes, otherworldly hoodoos, and breathtaking hikes. Click the link below to reserve your Escape Campervan and get ready for the ultimate Zion National Park road trip!