Many people who come to explore Southern Utah have a limited amount of time. They want a mini-vacation, and may consider exploring the national parks, but have no definite itinerary. If you can only get away for a few days, here’s what we recommend to give you a good taste of the southern landscape.
If you live in, or are visiting the Salt Lake area, we suggest you make the longest drive first. That way you will be working your way back to your starting point. Take I-15 going south from Salt Lake. Spend the night in Cedar City or Saint George. Ether city will put you within easy reach of Zion National Park. While there, you can enjoy some of the cities’ attractions.
On the next day, drive the remaining distance into Zion National Park. A fee is required for both vehicles and pedestrians entering the park. With a limited amount of time, it is best to stop at the Visitor Center first. The park rangers can tell you which trails or scenic areas are recommended for a quick visit.
After you leave Zion National Park, head north on UT-89. This will take you near Bryce Canyon National Park where you can stop, time permitting. An entrance fee is required here too. Eventually, you will come to the UT-12 junction. Take UT-12 going east. If you follow this route, you will travel through Grand Staircase National Monument. This is a spectacular drive. In fact, it is voted the number one scenic road in Utah. Stay on UT-12 and the road signs will take you directly to Capitol Reef National Park.
Again, it’s a good idea to stop by the Visitor Center first and talk to the rangers about the best sites to see. There are many quick hikes off the main road, which give you a feel for the area in a short amount of time. During the summer and autumn seasons, you can pick your own fruit from the many orchards located within the park. Unlike Zion National Park, there is no fee to visit Capitol Reef National Park.
When you have finished exploring Capitol Reef, continue driving on Highway 24, through the park, until you connect back to I-70. This is another great scenic drive. I-70 will take you to Green River. From there it’s a short distance to Moab.
Moab is known as ‘”Utah’s Playground.” You have easy access to hundreds of miles of open trails and off-road courses. Arches National Park is also nearby, with it iconic scenery. When you have had all the fun you can, backtrack on Highway 191, until it merges into Highway 6. This will take you back to Salt Lake.
The whole trip should take about four days, and will open up an incredible amount of scenery. But be warned, once you have Southern Utah in your blood, you’ll be back for more.