The state of Utah contains five breathtaking national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. Collectively, these parks are known as The Mighty 5, and each one offers entirely different experiences, landscapes, and activities. From desert canyons and sandstone spires to tree-lined hikes and jaw-dropping geological formations, this unforgettable road trip takes you through these five striking national parks. Begin your journey in Salt Lake City, and get ready to embark on the ultimate, 7-day Utah Mighty 5 road trip!
Travel Time From Salt Lake City to The Mighty 5
This Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary begins and ends at Escape Camper Vans’ Salt Lake City location, traveling through each of Utah’s national parks. The trip would take 15 hours and 5 minutes to complete without stopping, covering 914 miles. We recommend at least seven days to complete this road trip.
This itinerary begins by driving from Salt Lake City to Arches National Park, with Zion National Park being the last stop. However, you could do this trip in reverse, beginning with Zion, and the driving times and distance would not change.
Additionally, you can make this a roundtrip route from Las Vegas rather than Salt Lake City. In this case, your first national park would be Zion, and the total driving time would be 16 hours and 1,031 miles.
TOTAL MILES: 914 miles
TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 7 days, driving 15 hours, 5 minutes
Preparation for a Utah Mighty 5 Camper Van Road Trip
Because this Utah road trip takes you through 5 national parks, all with varying climates and landscapes, a bit of extra preparation is required. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important factors to consider so that you’re guaranteed to enjoy each and every stop on your Utah itinerary.
Camping: All of the campgrounds inside Utah’s national parks are notorious for filling up quickly, especially during the summer months. Many sites can be booked up to 6 months in advance, so we recommend reserving your spots as far ahead as possible. Thankfully, dispersed camping (or free camping) is permitted in many parts of Utah. If your trip is more last minute, these free spots can be a huge help during the high season.
Food: This Mighty 5 itinerary involves long stretches of time on the road, and some of the national parks you’ll be visiting are far removed from any nearby restaurants or towns (particularly Canyonlands). Before getting on the road, we recommend stocking up your camper van with some groceries and snacks. There are several places near our Salt Lake City location to pick up groceries, just make sure you add a kitchen kit so you’ll have everything you need for food prepping at your campsite!
Supplies: Escape Camper Vans has loads of extra adds on to make things more convenient during your road trip. Instead of paying 5 different park entrance fees, add in a National Parks pass, along with some camp chairs for extra comfort when you’re at your campsites. A solar shower is also a good idea, considering many of the parks’ campgrounds are quite primitive.
Important Navigation Tools
Phones and Chargers: Your smartphone can serve as your GPS during the trip, so make sure you have phone chargers handy. Pack some portable chargers as well, so that you can use them when your camper van is turned off.
Maps: Many of the campgrounds and areas surrounding these national parks have little to no cell reception. As an extra precaution, grab a free paper map from each of the Utah Mighty 5 parks.
Which Camper Van is Best for Exploring Utah’s Mighty 5?
Your adventure begins at the Escape Camper Vans location in Salt Lake City. After picking up your camper van rental, it’s time to hit the open road and make your way to Moab. Utah’s captivating desert city is the gateway to two of the state’s jaw-dropping national parks, and the drive from Salt Lake City will take about 3 hours and 40 minutes (227 miles).
Once you arrive, head straight to Arches National Park (or your nearby campsite) to begin exploring the 2,000+ natural sandstone arches that comprise the area. An 18-mile scenic road passes through the park’s geological wonders, and will lead you to several of the top overlooks and trailheads within Arches.
What to See in Arches National Park
Balanced Rock- This towering rock boulder is one of the most well-known landmarks within the park, and a must visit. While the 128-feet structure can be seen from the road, a quick hike will lead you to the base of the striking boulder.
Delicate Arch- Perhaps the most notable site within Arches, this is the largest free-standing arch in the park. This impressive geological structure is reachable by a 3-mile, uphill trail, which also passes a wall of petroglyphs.
Devils Garden- This vast landscape of narrow rocks, arches, and spires is situated at the very end of the park road. There are several trails throughout the area to explore, as well as Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America!
Places to Eat Near Arches National Park
The Cowboy Grill $$– milepost 14, 14 UT-128, Moab, UT 84532: Take in a picturesque view of the Colorado River from this restaurant’s stunning deck. Located within the Red Cliffs Lodge, this popular eatery requires dinner reservations, although walk-ins are welcome for breakfast and lunch.
Moab Food Truck Park $-$$– 39 W 100 N, Moab, UT 84532: This laid back setting contains 14 different food trucks from local businesses, along with picnic tables set up throughout the park. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, sushi, or dessert- you’re bound to find something to satisfy your craving!
Jailhouse Cafe $$– 101 N Main St, Moab, UT 84532: Although this building served as the County Courthouse back in 1892, today it is one of Moab’s most coveted breakfast spots. Open everyday until noon, come enjoy this cozy cafe’s wide selection of eggs, waffles, and delicious coffee.
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Arches National Park
Devils Garden Campground– Arches Entrance Rd, Moab, UT 84532: This is the only campground inside the park, making it the ultimate site for maximizing your time in Arches. The campsite is open year-round, and requires reservations from March 1 through October, but becomes first come, first served in the off-season. During the peak months, sites can be booked six months in advance and fill up extremely quickly.
Courthouse Rock Campground– Moab, UT 84532: This convenient campground is open year-round, and located only 15 minutes away from Arches. While two of the campsites must be reserved in advance, the rest are first come, first served. If you’re a dinosaur enthusiast, the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is also only a short walk away!
Hal Canyon Campground– UT-128, Moab, UT 84532: Placed along the Colorado River Canyon, this incredibly scenic campground is just a short drive away from the entrance of Arches National Park. There are 11 individual campsites, all of which are first come, first served.
Day 2: Canyonlands National Park
After a hearty breakfast in Moab, it’s time to load up your camper van and get back on the road- although this time, you’re in for quite a short drive. Canyonlands National Park is only 26 miles away, and takes just under 30 minutes to reach from Arches.
Canyonlands is the largest of Utah’s Mighty 5, and spans over 527 square miles. The massive park is divided into 4 districts, and this itinerary focuses on Island in the Sky, the park’s most popular and easily accessible area. However, if you have extra time you could explore The Needles, a district known for its otherworldly sandstone spires.
Spend your day here traversing through the park’s phenomenal desert landscape, which is only enhanced by the gorgeous Colorado River that weaves through the center of the park.
Places to Visit in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch- A short, 30 minute hike will lead you to this 27-footlong natural arch, along with expansive views of the canyon down below. This highly-frequented spot is especially magical at sunrise, as a warm glow drapes over the breathtaking setting.
The Shafer Trail Viewpoint- This jaw-dropping road descends 1,500 feet, winding through an enormous sandstone cliff. While driving on this trail can be quite a feat, this viewpoint near the visitors center allows you to take in an impressive view of the iconic road.
Grand View Point- Mesmerizing views of canyons, mountains, and The Needles district can be seen from this impressive overlook. From here, you can venture on a 1.8-mile hike for even more magnificent views along the canyon’s edge.
Places to Eat Near Canyonlands National Park
Jax Restaurant $$– 96 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532: This beloved restaurant has been serving pizza and burgers to Moab residents and visitors for the past 20 years. Their laid-back watering hole also offers various locally brewed beers from Utah.
Gloria’s $$– 20 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532: Known for its gorgeous patio, this charming cafe is a great option if you need a break from greasy road trip food. Fresh fruit smoothies and acai bowls are popular choices, though they also have a long list of sandwiches and burgers to choose from.
Pro Tip: There are no restaurants inside Canyonlands, and your closest options will be about 30-40 minutes away in Moab. We recommend loading up on groceries ahead of time and using this as an excuse to put your kitchen kit to good use!
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Canyonlands National Park
Island in the Sky Campground– Green River Overlook Rd, Moab, UT 84532: This is one of the two campgrounds inside the park and is centrally located within the most frequented district of Canyonlands. This year-round campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis and has toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables.
Horsethief Campground– UT-313, Moab, UT 84532: Just 11 minutes away from Canyonlands National Park, this scenic campground is open year-round and can be booked up to 6 months in advance. This site is only 25 minutes away from Arches National Park, making it a great base if you prefer to camp in the same spot for both parks.
Day 3: Capitol Reef National Park
After breakfast at your campground, it’s time to get back on the road and head towards your third national park of the trip! Capitol Reef National Park is located 144 miles away from Canyonlands, and the drive should take about 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete.
Capitol Reef is a fascinating geological playground known for its Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the earth’s surface that runs through the park. Spend your day exploring the many viewpoints, rock formations, and ethereal hikes the park offers.
Places to Visit in Capitol Reef National Park
Explore the Fruita Historic District- This central area within Capitol Reef offers a wealth of scenic hikes, viewpoints and petroglyphs. You can also stop by the Gifford House’s museum to learn more about the area’s history. If you go, be sure to pick up one of their famous fruit pies!
Hike Cassidy Arch- This 3.5-mile hike will lead you through striking geological features, before arriving at the majestic Cassidy Arch. Make sure you snap a classic photo while standing on the imposing arch before heading back.
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive-This 7.9-mile road through the park is absolutely breathtaking and a great way to get acquainted with Capitol Reef when you arrive. Several trails and overlooks stem from this scenic drive, so leave time for plenty of stops along the way.
Places to Eat Near Capitol Reef National Park
The Rock Garden $$– 670 UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775: This charming restaurant in Torrey offers exceptional views of Capitol Reef National Park while serving up a delicious, seasonal menu. Both breakfast and dinner are served here, although they are closed during lunch.
The Wild Rabbit Cafe $$– 135 E Main St, Torrey, UT 84775: This family-run coffee shop serves breakfast all day, as well as delicious sandwiches and salads. Their fair trade coffee and freshly baked pastries are also popular menu items!
Broken Spur Steakhouse $$– 955 East UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775: Located in a quirky inn in Torrey, American Western dishes are served in a laid-back environment with stunning views. They age their meat for 21 days and take their steaks very seriously.
Campervan Friendly Campsites Near Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita Campground– Camp Ground Rd, Torrey, UT 84775: This centrally located campground is the only fully developed campsite in the park. It operates all year, and reservations must be made in advance from March through October, although it becomes first come, first served during the winter months. The site does not offer any hook-ups or showers.
Cedar Mesa Campground–Torrey, UT 84775:This primitive campground within the park sits on an elevation of 5,500 feet, offering stunning, panoramic views. This basic, first come, first served site is open year-round, although it is advised that you first inquire about road conditions at the visitors center.
Today is as much about the journey as it is the destination. After an early wake-up and breakfast, get back behind the wheel for a 2.5-hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. From Capitol Reef, take Scenic Byway 12 to Bryce. This scenic drive is one of the most picturesque roads in the country, so allot extra time to pull over and take it all in.
Once you’re settled in Bryce Canyon, drive straight to the Bryce Amphitheater for an awe-inspiring view of scarlet-colored hoodoos that span as far as the eyes can see.
Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Rainbow Point– As the highest viewpoint in the park, this spot offers an impeccable vantage point of all of Bryce Canyon. There’s also an easy 1.3-mile trail you can take, which will lead you to Yovimpa Point, the other highest peak in Bryce.
Thor’s Hammer– This is Bryce Canyon’s most notable hoodoo, and a must-visit! Located in the Bryce Amphitheater, you can reach this iconic rock formation via a short hike from Sunset Point.
The Fairyland Loop- Get up close to these otherworldly hoodoos on this 8-mile hike. The trail leads you along a plateau rim and through the canyon, providing enchanting views and unique geological formations the entire way.
Where to Eat Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Valhalla Pizza $– UT-63, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: This pizzeria is one of the few restaurants within Bryce Canyon, and is typically closed from October until May. In addition to artisanal pizzas, they also serve salad, pastries and coffee.
Stone Hearth Grille $$$-1380 W Stone Cyn Ln, Tropic, UT 84776: This elevated restaurant is the perfect spot if you want to treat yourself. Dine al fresco for panoramic mountain views as you enjoy a decadent menu with seasonal offerings.
Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill $$– 110 Center St, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: This eclectic restaurant features delicious BBQ paired with live country music. This entertaining evening is a popular choice among visitors, so book a reservation in advance if you don’t want to miss out!
Bonus: On the way to Bryce Canyon, stop at Kiva Koffeehouse off Scenic Byway 12 for a delicious pick-me up. Their coffee is as good as the panoramic canyon views from their deck!
Camper Van Friendly Campsites Near Bryce Canyon National Park
North Campground– Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: This year round campground inside the park operates on a reservation basis from May through October, and is first come, first served the rest of the year. The campground contains 100 campsites, and does not offer any hook ups or showers.
Sunset Campground– Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764: Located inside Bryce Canyon, this site operates from April through October and is first come, first served. Laundry, potable water, and a dump station are all available seasonally.
Kings Creek Campground–King Creek Campground Rd, Bryce Canyon City, UT: Situated in Dixie National Forest, this stunning campground sits atop the Colorado Plateau and provides awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscape. The campground is open from May through September and reservations must be made in advance.
Days 5-6: Zion National Park
Wake up early and enjoy one last hike to the hoodoos before getting back in your camper van to discover the last of Utah’s Mighty 5! Zion National Park is only 72.4 miles away, and should take less than 1.5 hours to reach from Bryce Canyon. Immerse yourself in nature in Utah’s first national park, where you’ll find endless opportunities for challenging hikes, wildlife sightings, and jaw-dropping vistas.
Note: Because Zion offers so many day-long hikes and outdoor activities, we’ve allotted two nights here to experience all that this stunning park has to offer. However, you could absolutely choose to spend an extra day at any one of the other parks instead.
Things to do in Zion National Park
Hike Angel’s Landing- This is the most popular hike in Zion and it requires permits which must be acquired in advance. The strenuous hike follows a 5.4-mile trail, with a 1,488 feet elevation gain, and is probably not a great fit if you have a big fear of heights.
The Narrows- On this classic Zion hike, you’ll have to wade through the Virgin River through the most narrow point of Zion Canyon. While the full, 16-mile hike requires permits, there is a permit-free option where you’re able to turn around at any point.
Weeping Rock- A short hike brings you to this peaceful rock alcove where a constant flow of water drips down from the above canyons. This unique spot also gives you a fantastic vantage point of the Great White Throne, a striking sandstone monolith.
Where to Eat Near Zion National Park
Red Rock Grill $$- Zion Lodge, Springdale, UT 84767: One of the few dining options within the park, a variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options are offered in this convenient eatery. The restaurant is open year round and their expansive windows offer fantastic views of the canyon floor.
Spotted Dog $$– 428 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767: This laid-back restaurant uses fresh, local ingredients and lines their walls with colorful art. They also have a lengthy wine menu and drinks list to accompany your meal.
King’s Landing Bistro $$$– 1515 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767: From this restaurant’s gorgeous patio, enjoy stunning mountain views while digging into a robust, seasonal menu.
Campgrounds Near Zion National Park
Watchman Campground- UT-9, Springdale, UT 84767: Situated inside Zion, this campground operates year round and requires advance reservations. Sites can be booked up to 6 months in advance, and tend to fill up extremely quickly.
Lava Point-Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767:Zion’s primitive campground is located in the less frequented Kolob Canyons area. The site offers pit toilets but no water or other facilities, and can be reserved up to two weeks in advance.
Zion Canyon Campground– 479 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767: Just outside of Zion’s entrance, this well-developed campground offers showers, laundry facilities, and fire pits. Reservations can be made ahead of time on their website.
Day 7: Drive from Zion National Park to Salt Lake City, UT
After waking up to a glorious sunrise, load up your camper van one last time and prepare to make your way back to Salt Lake City. The drive from Zion National Park to the Escape Camper Vans location in SLC is about 3 hours and 45 minutes, so you’ll want to get an early start. Keep in mind, unless you’ve paid for an additional day, you’ll need to drop your van off by your designated time, usually between 8:30 and 10 am.
Why Rent a Camper Van for a Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip?
Added Mobility: Between all 5 campgrounds on this route, you’ll encounter plenty of narrow roads, populated overlooks, and tight parking spaces. Because our camper vans are smaller and more compact than traditional RV’s, they’re much easier to maneuver in these situations. This will also be a huge help when searching for campsites inside the parks!
No Need for Electric or Sewer Hookups: Most of the campgrounds you’ll encounter on your Utah Mighty 5 road trip do not provide electric or sewer hookups. While this could pose a problem with an RV, our camper vans are designed to be self-contained so this won’t be an issue at all.
Versatility: Escape Camper Vans’ optional add-ons ensure that you have everything you need for your road trip, before you even get behind the wheel. Choose only the essentials, and reduce clutter by skipping any extras that aren’t necessary for your trip. Plus, our individual designs make the adventure that much more fun (and the colors will really pop against those desert landscapes)!
There you have it! We want you to have the most enjoyable adventure possible, and our camper vans are the way to make sure that happens! Reduce the added stress and logistics of a traditional RV, and choose the perfect Escape Campervan for your Might 5 road trip!
Reserve With Escape Camper Vans for Your Mighty 5 Road Trip
Utah’s national parks are some of the most breathtaking in all of the Southwest, so why choose just one? Now that you’re ready to embark on the ultimate Utah Mighty 5 road trip, all that’s left is to load up your camper van and choose which hike you’ll try first. Click the link below to book your dream Escape Campervan and let the adventure begin!