8-Day Utah’s Mighty 5 National Park Road Trip with Kids

    Utah is home to 5 incredible National Parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. While the parks have a common red rock theme, each park’s beauty is unique to itself. As your family explores each park, you’ll appreciate the different characteristics of each park’s landscape and geology.

    This 8-day road trip is jam-packed with activities. You might want to extend your visit to each park to a second day depending on your family’s travel style. Big outdoor-loving families may not think that one day is enough in each park while those with smaller kids may find that one day is perfect. Read each of our guides to the park to fine-tune your schedule.

    Each day includes some hiking and travel time. We recommend hiking in the morning and leaving the park by 3 pm to drive to the next national park during the heat of the day. Each evening when you arrive at your destination for the next day, visit the park for a few hours visit to drive to a few outlooks, hike an easy trail, watch the sunset, and view the stars.

    Day 1 – Mighty 5 Road Trip, Drive to Moab

    Pack up the kids, your favorite hiking gear, sunscreen, and water bottles. Day one is all about heading to Moab, Utah to start your 5 park visit. If you have time, visit Arches for a few hours in the evening.

    Drive time:

    • From Salt Lake City to Moab – 233 miles or 3.75-hour drive
    • Denver to Moab – 355 miles or 5.5-hour drive

    Day 2 – Arches National Park

    The Delicate Arch famously appears on Utah license plates, but did you know there are more than 2,000 nature sandstone arches in the park? You’ll also see massive fins, giant balanced rocks, monoliths, and pinnacles as your big family explores this grand park. Read our full Arches guide.

    Arches One Day Itinerary:

    • Drive to the Devils Garden Trailhead and hike to Landscape Arch
    • Hike Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch
    • Stop at Fiery Furnace Viewpoint and Salt Valley Overlook
    • View Delicate Arch from Upper and Lower Viewpoints
    • Drive to The Windows Section to view North and South Window, and Double Arch
    • Stop at the Garden of Eden parking lot for 360-degree views
    • Drive to the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint
    • Visit the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint
    • Stop at the Visitor Center to become a Junior Ranger. Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.

    Drive time:

    No drive time today! Stay in Moab and rest up for Canyonlands.

    Day 3 – Canyonlands National Park

    Canyonlands National Park encompasses 257,640 acres of rugged land. Divided into four districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers, two canyons separate the very different parts of the park: The Needles on the east, The Maze on the west, the two rivers, and the most visited area, Island in the Sky on the north. Plan your visit with our Canyonlands guide.

    Canyonlands One Day Itinerary:

    • Hike Mesa Arch
    • Hike a moderate trail or 2-3 more easy trails
    • Visit every overlook
    • Stop at the Visitor Center, open year-round, and earn a Junior Ranger badge

    Drive time:

    Drive the 2.5 hours to Torrey, UT. Eat at Broken Spur Steakhouse for dinner.

    Day 4 – Capitol Reef National Park

    Capitol Reef National Park offers magnificent views of red rock cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges. The star of the park is the Waterpocket Fold. This 100-mile long buckle in the earth’s surface reveals multiple rock layers and creates deep narrow canyons and formations. Read our guide to Capitol Reef.

    Capitol Reef One Day Itinerary:

    • Stop at the Visitor Center to get a map and check conditions
    • Drive back to UT-24 to hike to either Hickman Bridge or Cassidy Arch. If you started early, you might get both of these done before lunch.
    • Eat lunch in the picnic area.
    • Drive the Scenic Drive in the heat of the day.
    • View the Petroglyphs
    • Explore the Fruita Historic District
    • Visit Gooseneck Overlook and Sunset Point

    Drive time:

    Take Scenic Byway 12 to Bryce Canyon, it’s a fantastic 2.5-hour drive. Stay in Bryce Canyon City.

    Day 5 – Bryce Canyon National Park

    Visitors come to see the star of the park, the abundant hoodoos. While you’ve seen pictures of the famous Bryce Amphitheater, there’s nothing like seeing the venue in person. An early morning visit will leave you jaw-dropped by the beauty of red-rock spires, pinnacles, and hoodoos. Plan your visit with our Bryce Canyon guide.

    Bryce Canyon One Day Itinerary:

    • Beat the crowds, head out to Bryce Point as early as possible for your crew
    • Visit Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise Points
    • Hike Rim Trail to all Bryce Amphitheater viewpoints
    • Explore the Navajo Loop
    • Trek up Queens Garden Trail
    • Explore the Scenic Drive during the heat of the day from Yovimpa Point to the Visitor Center
    • Stop at the Visitors Center

    Drive time:

    Short drive today! Drive the 73 miles to Zion, should take about 1.5 hours. Stay in Springdale, UT. Eat at Flanigan’s Spotted Dog Cafe.

    Day 6 and 7 – Zion National Park, 2 days

    Zion National Park’s dramatic landscape offers iconic scenery that calms the soul. Sheer sandstone cliffs, pine and juniper-dotted slopes, waterfalls, and river combine as gorgeous backdrops for a memorial vacation. We loved Zion and think it deserves two days to visit. Read our full guide for visiting Zion.

    Zion One-Day Itinerary

    • Visit as early as possible as any available parking is filled fast. The park will then limit car access to the park.
    • Hike one or two of the easy hikes
    • Eat your packed lunch
    • Drive the beautiful Zion – Mt Carmel Highway and stop at the overlooks
    • Complete a free Junior Range handbook at the visitor centers to earn a badge

    Zion Two-Day Itinerary

    In addition to the above, add some of the following activities for your second day.

    • Hike a harder trail or a more time-consuming trail. We suggest The Narrows first thing in the morning and following it until someone cries. (Just kidding, it’s not that bad.) Remember that when you decide you are done, that point is your halfway point as you have to hike back to the trailhead.
    • Enjoy the Zion Scenic Drive on a shuttle
    • Visit the Zion Human History Museum (closed 2021)
    • Drive through Zion – Mount Carmel Highway again.

    Day 8 – Drive Home

    Depending on where you started, on day 7 you could start driving home or you could stay one more night to relax by the pool and drive all the way home on day 8.

    • Springdale, UT to Salt Lake City – 4.5-hour drive
    • To Denver – 9-hour drive
    • To Las Vegas – 2.5-hour drive

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    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes Yellowstone, London, and anywhere in the Caribbean.