Blue skies. Red dirt. And adventure around every weird rock formation. Take your RV on a road trip of a lifetime.
UTAH IS SOMETHING OF A FREAK SHOW in geologic terms. And it has the national parks to prove it. It’s Mighty Five are the nearest thing to a royal flush that nature’s dealt any state. There are Zion’s slot canyons, Bryce Canyon’s haunting hoodoos, and
Capitol Reef’s red rock cathedrals. It’s very nearly art. Every turn at Arches looks like it was dreamt by Salvador Dali. Canyonland’s banded sandstone is a watercolor for centuries in the making. So, yeah, Utah was dealt a pretty good hand. The question is: Do you know how to play it? Because, with the cooler Fall weather moving in, now is your time.
Consider Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Denver as your best starting points. But our preference is SLC. Starting your journey next to the science-fiction surface of the continent’s strangest lake seems right to us. Frankly, it’s a tone-setter for everything you’re about to see from your RV—and never forget. You can always make that move toward Vegas—or better yet, toward Pechanga (Page 48)—when you’re ready to wipe the red dirt off.
The Road Itself Is Worth the Trip
Everyone and their white-haired mama talks about going off-roading in Utah. (And, by the way, we’re all for that.) But don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to go off-road to absorb the shock of Utah’s arresting visuals. You’ll see plenty of jaw-dropping landscapes from the hardball. Rolling south from Salt Lake City on Interstate 15, you can relax and take in the view. You’re on the longest, cleanest stretch of highway that you’ll encounter the whole trip. All 269 miles of it as you make that first big push toward Zion National Park. You’re descending on the western side of the mighty Wasatch Range that cuts North-South down the state. From your windshield, you will see giants. The triple-headed behemoth of Mount Nebo glowers over traffic in Nephi, and Nebo is just one among many along the way.
At Zion—like all the Mighty Five—you could spend ages and never see enough. But if you’re squeezing the trip into Fall break, spend about a day at each national park. Here, the northeastern leg of your route winds its way up UT-20 E and UT-12 E to Bryce Canyon in less than two hours. From there, Capitol Reef is another two hours up UT-12 E and UT-24 E. When you’re ready to move toward Moab, you’ll head up UT-24 E onto I-70 and then down US-191 at Exit 182—with your finish line right by Arches and Canyonlands.
Prepare for Some Park Entry Fees
Wow. I feel like I heard that sigh. (Oh, wait. That was me.) Collectively, all five park entry fees will cost about $150. So save yourself the $70 and get the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 at the first park entrance you hit. You’ll be golden from then on.
Let Science Spark Kiddo Curiosity
Right before kicking off your trip, you want the kids to be pumped! So, while you’re near SLC, devote a morning or afternoon to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper. Before you coop them up in the cabin, they can explore ocean life, watch penguins, touch stingrays, and sprint across a massive playground. So everyone is having fun from the get-go.
Find Moab’s Other Worlds
For decades, Moab’s arresting landscape has been the stage for some of the film’s most otherworldly scenes—from John Wayne Westerns to desert planets in Star Trek. We were so enthralled with it that we explored its rich cinematic history in one of our favorite features.
A Cup of Joe and Helluva View
Just up a dirt drive and tucked into the land itself, Kiva Koffeehouse is an easy place to miss. But don’t. This rustic café is incredible— from the pillars of Ponderosa pine and wide-open vistas to its house-made tamales and eye-opening cappuccinos. Finding places like this is half the joy of RVing.