Utah 4/5 National Parks & Escalante
Starting Point - Salt Lake City, Utah
Off to the desert, which offers many of nature's surprises along the way.
We opted to head out to Utah in the month of May, which turned out to be quite a mix of weather considering it's the beginning of summer. Flying into Salt Lake City Airport and making the approx. 3 hour drive to Moab, Utah first. This quaint town has so much to offer including good food, good coffee, and great people watching. Arches & Canyonlands National Parks are only about a 10-20 min drive up the road.
*Quick note about driving in Utah, beware of deer on all highways, freeways and roads! They are everywhere.
Stop 1 - Moab, Utah & Arches National Park
-Camp, if you are up for it, along the Colorado River on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) No service, amazing scenery, and a massive river running alongside your tent. Showers are also available to use just across the main road at the Moab Valley RV Resort & Campgrounds for $6.
-Grab your morning coffees at Moab Garage Co. Hang around and borrow some wifi if you find yourself missing it.
-Grab your Arches National Park Map upon entering and start the easy drive throughout the park. Stop as often as possible to enjoy the beautiful variations in this park's landscape. Play around and guess what the large structures look like, elephants? people? another arch?
-Hike #1 Make sure to take the quick walk to see Double Arch up close. The walk is short but the view of these 2 arches up close prove stunning. It's a nice way to begin the Arches adventure.
-Hike #2 Delicate Arch, which is much further into the park itself is a longer option. Highly recommended and well worth the 1.5 mile trek through the heat. Start early before lunch to avoid the heat of the afternoon. You will wonder the entire way there where this arch is, until you finally turn the last corner and your jaw drops.
-Have a night out and dine at La Sal's. Dinner and Dessert are impressive compared to most of the smaller more casual places around town. This is well worth the price. Make a reservation to avoid sitting at the bar, although we would recommend that option as well.
Remain where you were near Moab, or camp within this park if you choose to. Canyonlands and Arches are only about 30-45 min apart from each other.
We only made it to the northern half of Canyonlands National Parks, locals claim the southern end "the needles" is much more of a hikers paradise.
Stop 2 - Canyonlands National Park
-Again, grab your Canyonlands National Park Map upon entering and start driving through this completely different scene of the Utah desert. Stopping along at each view point to admire the canyons running deep below you.
-Canyonlands has a lot of beautiful easy to access viewpoints, One of the best views being Green River Outlook.
-Mesa Arch has a nicely paved walkway right up to the arch. Great for photos.
Say goodbye to Moab and it's a few hours until you reach Capitol Reef National Park. Bring snacks and water for this drive because there isn't much in-between. Once you arrive and drive straight into Capitol Reef, you feel as though you've completely left the desert. Capitol Reef offers a lush green landscape with fruit trees planted for miles in-between large desert rock walls.
Stop 3 - Capitol Reef National Park
-If you get lucky enough to make it here at 8 am, pick up some freshly baked cinnamon rolls or fruit pies from the famous Gifford House ( Still worth a visit if you get there later in the day, just don't expect there to be any cinnamon rolls waiting for you ).
-Take the scenic drive to Capitol Gorge. Expect tiny roads and slow speeds while you enjoy this secluded experience. We experienced snowfall in the month of May which created beautiful small waterfalls. There is a hike at the end, we didn't have the opportunity to try it due to the surprising snowy weather.
Onward towards our last National Park. Our trip took an unexpected, but highly recommended stop along the way. We drove the Scenic Utah Byway 12 which is a beautiful drive through many different scenes. Deer crossings were frequent and trees lined the roadway until you reached the desert scenery once again nearing the coolest little city of Escalante.
Stop 4 - Escalante
-Find a place to stay somewhere in this small city and stay for at least two days to explore.
-Head over to Escalante Outfitters to grab everything you need, strong coffee, pizza, and snacks and gear too.
-Hike to Peek-a-boo & Spooky Slot Canyons to get the real experience of what it feels like to be climbing through the smallest canyons ever ( spooky at times for sure ). This is a once in a lifetime experience.
-In need of a healthy snack? Sometimes road trips can be taxing on our daily intake considering most of the drives include just gas station stops. Check out the lovely Escalante Mercantile for all your healthy snack desires.
Back on the road to the last stop of the trip, Bryce Canyon National Park. Continuing on the Scenic Utah Byway 12 out of Escalante you pass through more small Utah towns and admire the way of living these locals love. This drive takes you right into Bryce National Park.
*We made this last one a very short day trip, but would love to go back and camp within this beautiful tree covered park.