Take a second and add Southwestern Utah and Northern Arizona to your bucket list. Ready to start planning your trip? In this post I lay out an EPIC 10-day Utah to Arizona road trip itinerary, plus planning tips and how we booked 9 out of 10 nights for free with points!
I’ve explored these otherworldly areas a couple times now and each time got better! My first trip was an extended long weekend over Thanksgiving weekend in 2017 and more recently, over 4th of July week in summer of 2021. The first trip was a 5-day roundtrip out of Vegas with stops at Zion, Bryce Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Upper Antelope Canyon. This 10-day itinerary is a bit more of an adventure from Salt Lake City to Vegas with all the stops from the first trip plus Bonneville Salt Flats, Lower Antelope Canyon, and the Grand Canyon! If you only have 5 days, you can still pack a lot in but if you have 10 days, you’ll have more time to explore and enjoy each stop.
Best Time for a Utah + Northern Arizona
You’ll have to decide what time of year you want to go, depending on your preferences and what you want to get out of your trip.
My first trip in November was COLD (Bryce Canyon was covered in snow) and my trip in July was HOT (upwards of 100◦F+ everyday). If I went again, I think late spring/early summer or early fall would be the best time to go!
10-day Utah to Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
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Day 1 – Salt Lake City
Day 1 began in Salt Lake City. We flew in the night before on a direct flight from Boston and picked up a rental car from Avis at SLC International Airport. We booked a late flight so we didn’t have to take off work an extra day, but we’d be there for a full first day.
Stop 1 – Breakfast at Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade
Breakfast was buttery biscuits at Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade. I had the St. Francis (avocado toast), Chad had Conspiracy Cakes (wheat pancakes), and we split a Biscuit Bar (two fluffy biscuits).
Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade location: 54 W 1700 S Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Stop 2 – Mormon Church Headquarters
After breakfast we made our way over to the Mormon Church Headquarters. The Temple is stunning and the grounds were beautiful for late morning walk. There’s also a nice mall shopping center across the street if you need to kill some time or forgot to pack anything.
Stop 3 – Bonneville Salt Flats
Hop on I-80 W, drive an hour and a half west and you’ll end up at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the flat salty surface remnants of the ancient Lake Bonneville. You can walk and drive out onto the flats, unless there are closures for standing water. We went midday in summer so it was dry enough to walk on but it’s also an incredibly photogenic spot if you’d rather go for sunrise or sunset, especially if there’s a thin layer of reflective water (November-May)!
Stop 4 – Park City
After the flats, we tacked an extra 30-minutes to our drive to back to end the day in Park City. We drove by Utah Olympic Park and did a little more walking through the shops around town before grabbing a late lunch at Harvest. I had a Buddha Bowl and Chad had chicken noodle soup, which he hasn’t stopped talking about since.
Harvest location: 820 Park Ave #101, Park City, UT 84060
Salt Lake City Accommodation
We stayed at the SpringHill Suites Salt Lake City Sugar House. It wasn’t right downtown or anything super fancy but it was new and clean, we were able to book 2 free nights with Chad’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card points and it was right off the highway for easy travel.
SpringHill Suites Salt Lake City Sugar House location: 2206 S 1300 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Other Salt Lake City accommodation options:
- Courtyard by Marriott Salt Lake City Downtown – hotel
- Holiday Inn Express Salt Lake City Downtown – hotel
- Hilton Salt Lake City Center – hotel
- 1906 APT | Designer Gem 💎 – Airbnb
- THE ART COTTAGE at historic Baldwin Radio Factory – Airbnb
- Tree House Retreat, City Farm & Fitness! – Airbnb
Day 2 – Bryce Canyon
Stop 1 – The Park Café
Before leaving SLC, we stopped for breakfast at The Park Café – one of the busiest breakfast joints in town! We were there by 7:30 AM and it was already hopping. We were able to grab a table on the patio and had a nice homestyle breakfast before getting on the road for a 5-hour drive south.
The Park Café location: 604 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Stop 2 – Meadow Hot Springs
On your drive from SLC down to Bryce Canyon, you’re going to want to stop at Meadow Hot Springs just south of Fillmore, a little over 2 hours into your ride. There are 3 geothermal pools for a warm dip among a stunning backdrop of mountains. The springs are on private property but open to the public, so be respectful of the rules and read the signs! Off the highway, you’ll travel down dirt roads until you reach a parking area and then continue on a half-mile walk past the fence posts until you reach the pools. Luckily, it was pretty quiet while we were there and we had a pool to ourselves!
Stop 3 – Bryce Canyon National Park
Arriving in Bryce Canyon National Park with the entire afternoon left leaves plenty of time for a hike! For an easy afternoon hike/walk, you could start outside of the main amphitheater at the Mossy Cave Trail for a short 1.0 mile out-and-back to a little waterfall and cave.
We opted for one of the park’s best hikes, the Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is a moderate 5.2-mile loop and it was amazing but felt extra tough in the afternoon heat. If you’re there in the summer, I’d recommend getting this one done early in the AM before the sun gets hot!
Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center address: UT-63, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764
Day 3 – Bryce Canyon
Stop 1 – Inspiration Point
One of the cool things about Bryce Canyon National Park is that all of the trailheads start from the top of the canyon and you hike down in. This means that you’re able to drive to all of the different trailhead points (bonus: there’s parking at each one) and see incredible views from the top without doing any hiking if you’d rather not! To start of day 3, we caught sunrise from Inspiration Point.
Stop 2 – Navajo Loop & Queen’s Garden
Just after sunrise we scooted over to Sunset Point to hike the Navajo Loop Trail (via Wall Street) to Queen’s Garden Trail up to Sunrise Point and along the Rim Trail back to Sunset Point. This is a 3.2 mile heavily trafficked loop but if you get there early, you can beat the crowds and have a nice quiet hike.
With much of international travel cutoff in 2021, Americans flocked to the US National Parks and there were off-the-chart record crowds. For the most part, we tried to get started by 7:30 AM at the latest to beat the crowds (AND the heat). That early, we had the trails at Bryce to ourselves with a few other early risers and by the time we finished our hike and got back to the parking lots, you couldn’t find a spot.
Other Bryce Canyon National Park trail options:
- Navajo Loop Trail – moderate – 1.5 miles
- Tower Bridge Trail – moderate – 3.4 miles
- Fairyland Loop Trail – moderate – 7.8 miles
- Rim Trail – difficulty and distance vary between points
Bryce Canyon Accommodations
I stumbled upon adorable log cabins at Bryce Country Cabins when searching through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel platform. The cabins are located on a 20-acre farm in Tropic, UT on the backside of Bryce surrounded by mountains and each cabin has a porch with authentic rocking chairs to appreciate the view. We were able to book 2 nights free with Chase Rewards points I earned using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
Bryce Country Cabins location: 280 N Main St, Tropic, UT 84776
Other Bryce Canyon accommodation options:
- The Lodge at Bryce Canyon – hotel (in the park)
- Bryce Cabin Villas – cabins
- The Cottages at Bryce Canyon – cabins
- Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn – hotel
- Bybee’s Nest “2” – Airbnb
- Bryce Vistas Apartment – Claron Suite – Airbnb
- Luxe Bryce Canyon Home w/ Fireplace, Patio & Grill – Airbnb
Day 4 – Zion
Stop 1 – Mossy Cave Trail
To start off day 4 we popped back over to the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon just after sunrise to get some photos of the trail and waterfall without the crowds that had been there our first afternoon. This is such a peaceful and serene little hike to take first thing in the morning.
Stop 2 – Zion National Park
The drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. During peak park hours, it took us 2 to drive from Bryce through the east entrance of Zion National Park and out the south entrance. On my previous trip to Zion I hadn’t come through the east entrance but damn, I was missing out. The drive down into the canyon on the switchback road is unreal!
Finding parking in Zion after about 9 AM is practically impossible so we drove through but kept going to grab lunch in Springdale and then continue on to check in at Under Canvas Zion (more on that later). Spring through fall, most of Zion is only accessible by shuttle bus along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. You can also get to the most popular trails and reach the end of the park by foot or bike, but that’s a whole workout in and of itself. Getting a parking spot at the Visitor Center early in the day is vital if you want to enjoy Zion Canyon, the main part of the park.
Zion National Park Visitor Center location: 1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767
Stop 3 – Northgate Peaks & Kolob Reservoir
After a quick lunch in Springdale, the town just outside of Zion, we made our way to Under Canvas to check in and ask for some less-popular recommendations, given the time of day. The staff was excellent and recommended a hike on the Northgate Peaks Trail and we rented a stand up paddleboard to take to the Kolob Reservoir. The Kolob side of Zion is in the northwest corner of the park and is truly a hidden gem.
I had been dreaming about staying at an Under Canvas. They are canvas glamping tents with locations at most of the major national parks in the US (Acadia, Bryce, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountain, Yelllowstone, Grand Canyon, etc). That said, I nearly died when Under Canvas Zion came up on Chase Ultimate Rewards! Though it’s a tent, they typically go for $400+ a night and that’s just not something I can justify – unless it’s free! We stayed here 1 night with points and it was a dream come true.
Zion was about 100◦F while we were there and only cooled to about 75◦F at night but each tent has a misting system and tiny battery-operated fans that made sleeping quite comfortable. We were there for the night of 4th of July and they had ice cream s’more sundaes, t-shirt tie-dying, and other fun activities that made the experience unforgettable.
Under Canvas Zion location: 3955 Kolob Terrace Rd, Virgin, UT 84779
Other Zion accommodations options:
- Zion Lodge – hotel (only one inside the park)
- Watchman Campground – camping (inside park)
- South Campground – camping (inside park)
- Zion Wildflower – glamping
- Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale/Zion National Park – hotel
- SpringHill Suites Springdale Zion National Park – hotel
- Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites – hotel
Day 5 – Zion
Stop 1 – The Narrows
On the morning of Day 5 we start at the famous Zion Narrows, a gorge with walls 1000 feet tall where you hike through a river running through. This calls for waterproof footwear and a walking stick which we rented from Zion Adventures and picked up the day before. We picked up the equipment the day before because getting to the Narrows to take the hike without swarms of other humans requires a 4 AM wakeup call so you can be in line for the shuttle bus well before the first one departs at 6 AM. We hike in about 2 miles before turning back short of Big Springs (where you must turn around if you don’t have a permit), at points wading through waist deep water. I’m glad we checked this one off the bucket list but I don’t know that I’d do it again.
Stop 2 – Canyon Overlook Trail
We got lucky on our way out of the park (East) for the day and found a spot in the very limited parking lot at the trailhead for the Canyon Overlook Trail. This is a short, moderate 1.0 mile out-and-back hike for some instant gratification and an incredible view of the canyon.
Stop 3 – Kanab
For our second night at Zion, we changed locations to a hotel in Kanab. We took the ride over to check in, grab lunch, and some much-needed showers.
Kanab is a cute southwestern town that makes a great basecamp for Zion if you don’t want to stay in Springdale. We were hoping to be able to hike The Wave – Coyote Buttes but there are a very limited number of permits available via a lottery system and unfortunately, we didn’t get them.
Stop 4 – Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes hadn’t originally been on our itinerary, I hadn’t even known about it, but we saw a sign on our drive earlier in the day and decided to go back. The dunes were well worth it and you could see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the distance!
Another night booked with points, this time at the Hampton Inn Kanab with my Hilton Honors Surpass credit card points. We love accommodations where we can do a load of laundry and always try to find at least one place with laundry machines in the middle of the trip.
Hampton Inn Kanab location: 98 S 100 E, Kanab, UT 84741
Other Kabab accommodation options:
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Kanab – hotel
- Red Canyon Cabins – cabins
- Kanab Casita – Airbnb
- Hubble’s Hideaway – Airbnb
Day 6 – Zion
Stop 1 – East Mesa Trailhead to Observation Point
Don’t sleep on this trail!! On our first trip to Zion, we hiked the Observation Point Trail from Weeping Rock in Zion Canyon but didn’t quite make it to the top because someone *cough, Chad* had a little bout with fear of heights. I was so excited to get back and try again but come to find out, this trail has been closed for a couple of years now due to a massive landslide.
After a little research, I found out we could still get to Observation Point via the East Mesa Trailhead on the outskirts of the park. It’s a 7-mile out-and-back trail mostly flat through ponderosa pine trees, until you emerge out to Observation Point – hands down the best view of the canyon. You can even see people hiking Angel’s Landing from there!
This trailhead is on the east side of the park, before the east entrance (you don’t enter the park), so we saved it for our final morning at Zion when we were coming from Kanab.
Other trail options in Zion Canyon:
- Angel’s Landing – hard – 4.4 miles (permit required after April 1, 2022)
- Scout Lookout – hard – 3.6 miles
- Riverside Walk – easy – 1.0 mile
- Emerald Pools – moderate – 3.0 miles
Stop 2 – Page
Oh, Page. Page, AZ in the middle of summer is a scorcher. I’m talking 110◦F by noon. After our last hike in Zion, we drove 1.5 hours to Page, checked in at the hotel, and immediately jumped in the pool which was surprisingly cool against the hot air. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and grabbed dinner at Big John’s Texas BBQ – the apple crisp was banging!
Big John’s Texas BBQ location: 153 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page, AZ 8604
Day 7 – Page
Stop 1 – Horseshoe Bend
To start day 7, we were up before the sun but that was nothing new on this trip. We pretty much stayed on East Coast time so getting up early wasn’t too hard, especially when we crashed by 8 PM each night. We started with sunrise at Horseshoe Bend. I was surprised how built up it’s become. When we were there in 2017, it was a random pull-off parking lot on the side of the highway and a half mile walk straight out to the ledge.
Now, there’s an official parking lot, it costs $10 to enter (it’s not covered by a National Park Pass), and the walking path is a well-maintained paved path winding through the underbrush they’re trying to preserve. All in all, it’s absolutely worth visiting at least once because it’s just too impressive to skip. Visiting at sunrise proves to have much smaller crowds but the first light can be tough to photograph – try to get there pre-sunrise! Mid-day is best if you don’t want any of the river to be in the shadows.
Horseshoe Bend location: 1001 Page Parkway, Page, AZ 86040
Stop 2 – Lower Antelope Canyon
During our first trip to Page, we paid for a Navajo-run tour of Upper Antelope Canyon – this is the only way to enter the upper part of the canyon. The upper canyon is shaped like an upside-down V, skinny at the top and winder at the bottom, so the light beams that come through are magical. Upper Antelope Canyon is another experience that’s totally worth the money, at least once.
On this trip, we decided to visit Lower Antelope Canyon for 2 reasons: 1. Upper Antelope Canyon had been closed for well over a year due to COVID (it literally opened the day we left) and 2. We wanted to have a new experience. We rented kayaks from Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks and paddled ourselves into the lower part of the canyon from Lake Powell, but you can also book a guided tour. The Lower Canyon is operated by the National Park Service and entry is covered if you have a National Park Pass. The water can get very choppy before you enter the calmer canyon so be prepared to work and get a tandem kayak rather than singles if you’re with a buddy!
Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks location: 836 Vista Ave, Page, AZ 86040
Stop 3 – Sunset 89
Dinner was at Sunset 89, a pacific island fusion on the edge of the canyon off Highway 89. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area if you’re there when the weather is nice, for us it was too hot.
Sunset 89 location: 724 US-89, Page, AZ 86040
Stop 4 – The Cookie Jar
Our final stop of the day was at The Cookie Jar for some ice cream and cookies in Lake Powell (Wahweap) Marina. Entrance to the marina is also covered with a National Park Pass!
The Cookie Jar location: 100 Lake Shore Dr, Page, AZ 86040
In Page, we used Chad’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card points again to book 2 more free nights at Courtyard Page at Lake Powell. There was a nice pool, beautiful views, and it’s centrally located to everything in Page.
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell location: 600 Clubhouse Dr, Page, AZ 86040
Other Page accommodation options:
- Home2 Suites by Hilton Page Lake Powell – hotel
- Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell – hotel
- Wingate by Wyndham Page Lake Powell – hotel
- Best Western View Of Lake Powell Hotel – hotel
- Under Canvas Lake Powell – Grand Staircase – glamping
- Cozy Industrial Tiny House – Airbnb
Day 8 – Grand Canyon
Stop 1 – Grand Canyon Village
On our second to last day, we drove 2.5 hours from Page to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. On our way into the park through the East Entrance, we stopped at all of the scenic viewpoints along the route until we reached Grand Canyon Village for some lunch.
As many times as I’ve been out West, the Grand Canyon has never been on my list to see. I always felt that it was a tourist trap that was too hyped up and I wanted no part. There are definitely lots of tourists, but holy shit is it remarkable. It’s just so, vast. So, bottomless. So, majestic.
Stop 2 – Shoshone Point Trail
We found GCNP’s hidden gem of a trail called Shoshone Point Trail, which is an easy 2.1 mile out-and-back hike through the pines out to a spectacular overlook. Given it was midday, the pines gave some much needed shade on this secluded and lesser-known trail.
Other Grand Canyon National Park South Rim trail options:
- South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point – moderate – 1.8 miles
- South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge – moderate – 2.8 miles
- 1.5-mile Resthouse via Bright Angel Trail – moderate – 3.2 miles
- 3-mile Resthouse via Bright Angel Trail – hard – 6.0 miles
- Bright Angel Trail – hard – 15.3 miles
Stop 3 – Mohave Point
We took the shuttle all the way out to Hermit’s Rest, the western most point of the South Rim, and got off at Mohave Point on the way back to catch sunset. Mojave Point is a slightly less popular sunset spot than Hopi Point (most popular). Pima Point and Powell point are other good sunset options!
Grand Canyon Accommodations
This is the only night we paid for! We stayed about an hour south of the park at the ‘Red Beauty’ Safari Experience AirBnB in Williams, AZ for another night of glamping. It’s an extremely cute, off-the-grid tent with all the necessities (including “indoor” shower and out-house toilet). We certainly didn’t need the wood-burning stove but there’s one in the tent for chillier nights!
Other Grand Canyon accommodation options:
- Grand Canyon Studio w/Full Kitchen & King Bed – Airbnb
- Grand Canyon Tiny Home R79 – Airbnb
- Wander Camp Grand Canyon – King Tent – Airbnb/gamping
Day 9 – Las Vegas
Stop 1 – Hilton Curio Vegas
Our last full day took us to Vegas to catch a return flight home the next day. The drive from Williams, AZ was about 3.5 hours. We got to the Hilton Curio Vegas, checked in, ate a Mexican lunch at Casa Calavera and headed out to the pool. We lasted as long as we could in 115◦F relaxing in the “adult” pool before grabbing some ice cream at Afters Ice Cream (10/10 recommend) and showering before dinner at Kassi Beach House (all within the hotel).
Stop 2 – Mystère by Cirque du Soleil
This was a last-minute decision. I’ve never seen a show in Vegas but have always wanted to see Cirque due Soleil. They had just started shows again after being shut down due to COVID and tickets were nearly sold out. There were about 3 seats left and they weren’t next to each other. Chad wasn’t sure he wanted to go by I vetoed his “no” and we went but sat in separate rows. He was pleasantly surprised how good it was. I was in awe.
Las Vegas Accommodations
For our last night, it was nice to be a little boujee after all of the hiking and camping we did. The Hilton Curio Vegas is a brand-new Virgin Hotel (the old Hardrock) that still had some restaurants under construction while we were there. This was our final free night booked with my Hilton Honors Surpass credit card points.
Hilton Curio Vegas location: 4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89169
Day 10 – Home
Stop 1 – Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
On the morning of Day 10, we grabbed some breakfast and coffee at the hotel and headed to the airport. Our flight was supposed to depart at 11 AM but it was a record hot day (117◦F) that caused some mechanical and electrical failures with older planes, lucky us. After waiting at the airport for 14 hours and burning through 2 sets of airline crews who timed out, we finally got on a flight at 1 AM the next day! Nothing like the travel gods bringing us back to reality.
If you have extra time before your flight home, there is PLENTY to see in Vegas or you could swing over to Valley of Fire State Park or 7 Magic Mountains!
Packing for a Summer Hiking Trip to Utah + Arizona
Have I mentioned it’s hot? Be prepared to be sweating, day and night. The temperature swing can be quite drastic between day and night once the sun drops but it’s unlikely to get that cool.
Clothing and Shoes to Bring
- Lightweight hiking boots (Recommended: Keen Women’s Terradora 2 Mid-height)
- Quick-drying socks (Recommended: Darn Tough Coolmax® Micro Crew Midweight)
- Hiking sandals (Recommended: Teva Women’s Original Quick-Drying Sandal)
- Tank tops + t-shirts
- Hiking/biker shorts
- Sports bras
Other Items to Bring
- Day pack (Recommended: Osprey Daylite Daypack)
- Hydration pack (Recommended: Water Buffalo 2L Bladder)
- Fanny pack
- Reusable water bottle (Recommended: Hydroflask 24 oz. Water Bottle)
- Sun hat
- Baseball cap (Recommended: Carhartt Canvas Cap)