Utah is a gorgeous state and one of our final states we visited together. We took a Utah Road Trip in 6 days when we did. We visited in June of 2017 for 6 days total. Why June? Isn’t it hot? Yes, very hot but it’s a dry heat. haha I had to say it! It was well into the 100s the whole time. However, it was a much cheaper time to visit and the time we had open to be able to go, so it worked for us. This was more of a budget trip for us, we tried to make it reasonable to squeeze it in to complete our last of the 50 states. I would suggest spring or fall for cooler weather but it was still a great time to go if summer is the only time you can.
6 Day Utah Road Trip Guide
We flew Southwest Airlines, which is our go to for our personal travels. We have only paid for two flights so far: Canada & Europe, otherwise we always use miles on various airlines. Southwest only charges you tax when you book a flight with miles, so we paid $22.40 plus 37,824 miles for these flights from Charlotte to Salt Lake City. If you don’t have a Southwest Credit Card yet and like to travel I’d highly encourage you get one. We fly almost exclusively with them. If you use this link you can earn 40,000 to 65,000 for a personal card or 60,000 to 80,000 for a business card: https://www.referyourchasecard.com/226f/HV290GUGZX (the range depends on the special offers at the time, click the link to see) You can sign up for both cards, which we have both for our business travels as well. With the personal card amount though, it would be enough to get you to Salt Lake City for this trip most likely!
A car rental is essential to a Utah Road Trip! We usually wait until close to the last minute to commit to a car rental. They usually get cheaper the closer we get to the trip. Sometimes we will book a free cancellation car rental and keep checking until the date get’s closer. We ended up having to pay a little more for this trip for the car rental since some of the companies closed before our flight got in. Make sure to check that when you book a car when you have a late arrival. We rented through Avis Car Rental for $248.65
Day 1 on the Utah Road Trip: Fly into Salt Lake City
We opted for a later flight into Salt Lake City as it was the cheaper option with miles. Then we arrived in at 11:30pm and stayed in an AirBnB near the airport. That night we stayed in AirBnB a lot for our trips and it has really opened up the amount of places we can stay. Depending on the trip and the budget will determine if we do the entire place or a room in a house. This was one of our more budget trips so we opted to just stay in private rooms in the house. If you haven’t signed up for AirBnB you can sign up here and get $55 off your first stay: https://www.airbnb.com/c/heatherb745?currency=USD
Our first AirBnB this trip was a private basement in a house and we paid $44 for the night. Here is a link to it: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17330092. One thing you need to check if you are having a late flight in, is that the AirBnB you book has self-checkin. This one did and had a keypad to let ourselves in. You don’t want to pick a place that doesn’t and have your host have to wait up for you and some won’t let you check in after certain times.
Day 2 on the Utah Road Trip: Drive to Zion National Park
We got up early the next morning to make the 4.5 hour drive to Zion National Park. This is one of the longest drives of the Utah Road Trip. There is very little lodging in Zion itself so we opted to stay in a nearby town called Hurricane, Utah. It was about 30 minutes outside of the park entrance. It was $116 for 2 nights in this AirBnB here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13331479. This AirBnB was also a private room in a house. The hosts in this house were very nice and helpful.
Odd Utah Alcohol Laws
One of the most helpful things they told us was about the odd Utah alcohol laws, which we knew nothing about. They brewed their own beer because there are laws in Utah that doesn’t allow beer to be sold over 3.2% ABV in grocery stores, liquor stores, or breweries. For those that don’t know beer, a normal Bud Light even has 4.2% and most beers are around 5% or higher. The laws are changing later this year to go to 4% ABV, but still odd for those of us from other states. We bought a pack of Shock Top at the grocery store and it was remade to be less ABV. Also if you go to a restaurant to get a drink you must order food in addition to alcohol. Also the legal limit to drink is .05% rather than the standard .08% so you can only have about one drink while out. Just some tips we did not realize before talking to our hosts.
Kolob Canyon Entrance of Zion National Park
On the way in to Hurricane we stopped in the Kolob Canyon entrance of Zion National Park. It is a very gorgeous but very unused part of the park. The entrances to the two parts of the park are 2 hours apart, but this entrance is right off Interstate 15 that you will be driving from Salt Lake City. Definitely stop, the main areas of Zion are very crowded and it is great to see a part of the park with very few people around before the crowds hit the next day. We did the Timber Creek Canyon Overlook Trail which was an easy 1 mile stroll to a perfect overlook of the canyons. This is an easy trail that anyone could do.
However, if you are there in the summer like us bring plenty of water still. It was 116 degrees by the time we arrive, we still drank 2 bottles on water on this short walk and had our FrogTog towels (Get one here: https://amzn.to/2LZD4Bx) around our necks the whole time to stay cool.
They have In-N-Out!!
For any In-N-Out (http://www.in-n-out.com/) lovers like we are, they have one in St. George, so we obviously had to stop there for dinner after exploring Kolob Canyons. If you haven’t ever been to this amazing place, it’s from California and they have super fresh amazing food. From the amazing Double-Double burgers (aka double meat & cheese) with their special spread to their fresh cut fries, it is a must stop for good and reasonable food!
Grafton Ghost Town
Our next stop was a town called Grafton Cemetary (Ghost Town), it is right off Highway 9 on your way in to the main entrance of the park. It is a really neat stop as you have amazing views and a neat little ghost town to explore. The cemetery was one of the most interesting spots. There were only a few graves but it had an info-graphic with the names, dates, and cause of death which gave a lot of insight into the little town.
The town itself was really neat as well and has been used for some old movies before. There were about 4 standing buildings you could look around. Plus, Walter found a swing, which we hoped wasn’t the swing from the accident listed in the cemetery! On the way out there was a neat sculpture made of painted chairs as well!
Sunset at Canyon Junction Bridge
We headed next to see sunset at the Canyon Junction Bridge right after the entrance of the park. You will need to pay the $35/car fee and this is valid for 7 days. It was a bit crowded when we got there but we were able to find a parking spot. The sunset here is a don’t miss! The best view is actually on the bridge looking out on The Watchman. It was crowded but there was plenty of room to still get the photos you want.
After you catch the sunset head down to the river access to the Virgin River right below. It’s a nice place to stick your feet in the water and relax for a minute before heading in for the night.
Day 3 on the Utah Road Trip: Exploring Zion
Some tips before going into the park that we wish we knew!
1. Get up early, very early. We arrived at 9am and it was very crowded already. If not be prepared to wait in line for a while when you get into the park. We had to wait about an hour in line to board the shuttle. No cars are allowed in the park, only shuttles. Once you are in every one spreads out a lot but it takes a while to get on the first shuttle.
2. Bring lots of water bottles. We only brought 2 16oz bottles and had to pay a high price to get a 40oz and 32oz Nalgene once we got into the park because we needed so much water in the heat. There are a lot of places to fill up bottles on the trails but you need bigger bottles for times there aren’t. It was 115 degrees the whole day hiking this day and we drank through these bottles multiple times.
3. If you want to hike the Narrows, come prepared with a hiking stick, waterproof shoes, and extra clothes to change into. It costs a LOT to rent the equipment once in the park. We didn’t do either and got lucky to find a walking stick left at the entrance. Come prepared and don’t hope to be lucky like us!
Zion Shuttle Stops
Once you finally make it onto the bus, there are 9 Stops you can make:
1. The Visitors Center
2. Zion Museum
3. Canyon Junction (where we saw the sunset the night before)
4. Court of the Patriots
5. Zion Lodge
6. The Grotto
7. Weeping Rock
8. Big Bend
9. Temple of Sinawava
Our stops we focused on were Stop 5, Stop 7, & Stop 9.
We stopped at Stop 2 & 4 but didn’t find much we wanted to do on these stopped so we moved on to Stop 5: The Zion Lodge. This is a cute little lodge with a nice front lawn that we stopped to go ahead and eat lunch, since it had taken so long to get into the park.
Emerald Pools & Kayenta Loop
After lunch we filled up our water bottles again, and headed across the street to The Emerald Pools trails. We did 2.5 miles total on these trails to see the Lower Emerald Pools, Middle Emerald Pools, and Upper Emerald Pools, The Grotto, and the Kayenta Loop. This trail was a bit tough but one of our favorite hikes of the day. You pass through multiple pools and a small waterfall with lots of scenic views throughout. The Kayenta trail takes you through to Stop 6: The Grotto. This stop is also the start of the Angel’s Landing Hike. This is one of the most popular hike, but also a more dangerous one too. We skipped this hike because of how crowded the park is. We had read it is dangerous at the top when over crowded since there are chains and areas you have to jump over. If you plan on taking the hike, this is the stop though!
We then headed to Stop 7: The Weeping Rock. This hike is a simple .4 mile hike, which was nice after being a bit tired from the previous hike. It is exactly what it says, a weeping rock. Which in the 115 degree heat, it felt great to sit in the little cave that was much cooler than everywhere else. Take a nice little break here for sure! You will need it before the next stop.
The last stop was Stop 9 which is for the Riverside Walk & The Narrows. The Riverside Walk is a 2.2 mile loop that takes you to the start of the Narrows. The whole Narrows hike is another 10 miles total. We decided to just do a bit of the beginning of the hike. The Riverside Walk is a very easy paved walk that anyone can do, The Narrows is much more strenuous. You definitely need sturdy shoes and a walking stick to do this hike. You will be hiking in waist deep water against the stream the majority of the time.
We really loved the Riverside Walk, but The Narrows was so crowded, especially with inexperienced hikers and young children. We only did a small portion because it was somewhat dangerous with so many bodies in the water. You are walking on large stream rocks and it’s easy to slip, fall, or twist your ankle. When you add people bumping into you, it makes it a hard hike. We enjoyed the bit we did and we were getting tired so we headed back. Bring extra shoes after this because it was not fun to hike back in wet hiking boots. We headed out to have dinner (we went to Texas Roadhouse, our fav place) in St. George after this long day of hiking. There are a lot of dining options in this town and it’s about an hour from the park entrance.
Day 4 on the Utah Road Trip: East Side of Park & Bryce Canyon
Canyon Overlook Trail
On the way out of Zion we stopped at the Canyon Overlook Trail. It is RIGHT AFTER the East Side Tunnel. I say this because you have to be prepared to turn into the parking lot immediately. Don’t be like us and miss it, it’s not easy to get back to it. This tunnel is a 1.1 mile tunnel and pretty neat to drive through!
The Canyon Overlook Trail was our favorite trail of the whole park. It gives you an incredible view and it’s only a 1 mile loop total. It’s a pretty easy hike as well. Its fun because they had some interesting ways around the canyon to hike up. Like a kind of scary wooden bridge sticking out over the canyon. We saw some people canyoneering down this. This trail was very uncrowded and nice. The view was gorgeous and honestly not too different than the Angel’s Canyon hike, so we were glad we did it.
After this stop, we headed to the secret Petroglyphs and they were so secret we almost did not find them! These are located about 2 miles past the East Park Entrance and you will stop at a wooden fence I pictured above to park. There is no trail marker so it’s a bit hard to find! There is also no address, it’s about 1.3 miles from the exit of the second tunnel. The coordinates are 37°13’29.2″N 112°54’33.2″W for your Google Maps.
Once there it is still a bit hard to find the petroglyphs but you are going to head down the hill past the wooden fences you parked at. You turn right on the creek wash path and head on a tunnel under the road. Keep following this path and the petroglyphs are on the canyon wall to your left with some fences around them. It’s about 1/2 mile total there and back.
Once we finally found it, and it’s there we promise with a brown fence in front of it, it is very worth it. We had never seen petroglyphs before and these were very well preserved. Their age is not known nor is their meaning but so neat to see a piece of history from long before this park was ever formed.
Brian Head Fire
We then started the 2 hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. On the way there we saw some smoke in the distance and then drove through it at one point with very little visibility. Unfortunately this was the day the 2017 Brian Head Fire got out of control. This was a devastating fire that burned 63,000 acres that started through an accident doing yard work during a drought. It was a crazy experience to drive through and gave some interesting smoke clouds you will see for the rest of this day.
On the way to Bryce Canyon you will pass through the Red Canyon that is gorgeous to see. There is a rock bridge you actually get to drive through right before you arrive on Scenic Route State Road 12. Definitely stop and take a photo and enjoy this before you head into the park.
The Entrance Fee to Bryce Canyon National Park is also $35. If you are going to any more national parks this year, I would suggest getting a national park pass which is $80 and will get you in both plus any more parks for 12 months. We arrived and the smoke from the wildfires was covering the canyon which left us really dissapointed be we decided to drive up to the furthest point and there was no smoke. Luckily the smoke lifted later in the evening to see the canyon. So you might want to do the opposite path we did in this park, we were doing it to avoid the smoke!
Upper Bryce Canyon Stops
We headed up to the Natural Bridge first and were greeted with the first sunshine we had seen since pulling into the canyon. So that was wonderful! This is a gorgeous spot. Next we headed further up the road to Agua Canyon which was equally as breath taking. Neither of these involve hikes, you just park and walk out. Ponderosa Point is right after this and was our first real glance of the hoodoos that make up Bryce Canyon. Black Birch Canyon is also right after this stop. It’s another gorgeous view of the canyon.
You are steadily gaining elevation as well. Natural Bridge is 8227 going up to Rainbow Point at 9115. Rainbow Point is the highest point and a gorgeous panoramic view of the area. It is a short walk out to see lots of wonderful views of the hoodoos and canyon. There are bathrooms and facilities up here as well if you were needing them by this point.
Lower Bryce Canyon Stops
At this point the smoke was finally lifting and we could head down to the headliners of Bryce Canyon, Bryce Point & Inspiration Point. These are both great views and just a small hike up the hill to see. Be careful as the winds get a little high up here. Make sure you hold onto your phones when taking photos.
We enjoyed these as long as we could, but there was ash falling from the fires so we headed out to grab dinner before we came back later. We headed to check into our hotel for the night, the Bryce View Lodge, which was $80/night. It was very close to the entrance of the park and the city of Bryce was very cute to see. We headed into Tropic Utah to a place called the Pizza Place (https://www.brycecanyoninn.com/bryce-canyon-pizza/) for some yummy pizza and a beer waiting out the fires.
Hiking the Navajo Loop
It was finally less smokey and safe enough to hike so we headed to the Navajo Loop at sunset and this was our favorite hike of the whole trip. It’s a 3 mile loops but it is very strenuous with lots of switch backs to get back up. This takes you to the base of the hoodoos and let’s you feel like you are in the middle of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World but in real life. This trail starts at Sunset Point. It takes you through canyons, to narrows, past amazing hoodoos, it’s a MUST DO trail and I suggest it at sunset because it felt perfect. It’s much cooler here than at Zion. Also after you are done go check out the Lodge, it’s really cute and has a nice gift shop if you want souvenirs.
Day 5 on the Utah Road Trip: Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City
We started the 4 hour drive to Salt Lake City early so we had time to explore that day. It is the other long drive on the Utah Road Trip. Our first stop was the State Capitol building. Walter being a Political Science major loves getting to see all the political offices when we travel if we can. This states capitol was beautiful and large to explore. It also was very open and you could see a lot!
After this we explored the downtown of Salt Lake City for a little bit. We stayed parking at the State Capitol Visitors Center and walked to see the Mormon Temple and Temple Square and the few blocks around there. There were some lovely old homes and buildings to see around here. Then drive downtown as well to see more if you would like. We were limited with time so we just saw this area.
Then of course we headed out to the Great Salt Lake. We parked at an odd building that’s a music venue and gift shop called The Great SaltAir to see the lake. The lake is interesting to see but it takes a long walk out on the sand to get the edge. The have these things called Brine Flies that swarm you and follow you the whole time you are there. The beach was neat minus the bugs but I’d suggest going down to The Great Salt State Park instead. The bugs were less and it’s a neat stop.
Next we headed 30 minutes to the Olympic Park to see where the 2002 Olympics took place. This is still a training facility and they have a free museum with medals and paraphernalia from the Olympics. It was a really neat stop to be able to see.
After this we headed into Park City, Utah which is right near there. This is a gorgeous town and a major ski destination in the winter. It’s an old western town and absolutely adorable. It’s a don’t miss. There is even a Banksy Painting on a building there. Not many places can say that. There is a neat brewery in town called Wasatch Brewing (https://www.wasatchbeers.com/). We had a few different testers and enjoyed them all. We loved the 1st Amendment Lager, Apricot Hefeweizen, Evolution Amber Ale, and the Wasatch Hefeweizen. Then we stopped at a Denny’s we passed on the way home to grab some food as we were starving!
Our last stop of the trip was back in Salt Lake City, Uinta Brewing Company (https://www.uintabrewing.com/) We really loved the Golden Spike Hefewizen at this brewery. It has a lot of neat elements in the brewery and a fun hang out. After this we headed to our last AirBnB which was $31 for the night: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14334932 It was nothing fancy but a great spot to sleep for the night before the airport.
Day 6 on the Utah Road Trip: Fly Home
We had very early flights home at 6:30am the next day but it was again the lowest mileage flight and no problem to do!
Want to take your own 6 Day Utah Road Trip on a budget?
Here is the breakdown of this lower cost & budget trip. Most people are, but we aren’t big foodies, so we didn’t spend a lot on food. We got groceries and did peanut butter sandwhiches & chips for lunch. We did eat out for dinner but stuck to lower cost restaurants. You could easily do this as a budget trip!
Trip Cost Total Breakdown:
Car Rental: $248.65
Entrance Fee Zion: $35
Entrance Fee Bryce Canyon: $35
*If you plan to go to any other national parks this year get a National Park pass, they are $80 and that is what we did at the beginning of the trip!
Total Expenses: $612.05 plus food & gas
All photos on this blog post were taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.
See more budget trips here:
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