The “Mighty Five” National Parks in Utah are made up of Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion, and are best visited on a road trip.
There is so much to see in each of these national parks, and you could spend a week in each, but it is possible to see them all in 7 days. You can even hit some other popular spots and state parks along the way.
In this guide, I share our exact itinerary for a one week campervan road trip to the Mighty Five along with lots of tips for visiting the parks.
The best way to see the Mighty Five is to drive yourself, and my preference is to do so in a camper van.
The benefit of the camper is that you have more freedom to adjust your itinerary, there are many places to park and camp legally, and you have everything you need with you on all your days out.
Renting a campervan gives you much more flexibility to plan your itinerary as you want, plus you will save money over the course of the trip by being able to make your own meals in the van and sleep in the van each night.
Restaurants and hotels can be extremely expensive near the national parks, so having the option to make your own food and not worry about hotels makes it so much easier!
Plus, you can get an early start on the day by waking up and immediately driving to the national parks to be the first ones in. Once in the parks, you can get ready for the day in your campervan instead of having to spend time each morning getting ready before entering the parks.
Picking your Campervan Rental Company
Ahead of my road trip, I researched the different van companies to rent a van from Salt Lake City and came across Kellville Vans, a family operated business that rents luxury campers. (In full disclosure I partnered with Kellville vans for this road trip, as always, I am sharing my true experience here.)
Kellville has a range of very high quality vans that include amenities not found in other more basic vans. We rented their Winnebago Solis 59P, a 19.5 foot van that sleeps 4 people.
In our particular van, we had a built-in 2 burner stove, a toilet, an interior and exterior shower, plus plenty of USB and electrical plugs which made keeping cameras charged a breeze.
There was also both an air conditioner and a heater, and we wound up using both during our trip because of the wide range of temperatures we experienced in Utah!
Kellville sets you up with everything you need for your trip, including extra bedding, pillows, pots, pans, utensils, and most importantly, excellent insurance included in the rental fee.
Many van companies charge a significant extra fee for insurance, but Kellville includes comprehensive insurance as part of the rental fee on all of their vans.
When you add up the insurance savings, it can even make renting from Kellville more cost-effective than some of the other budget van options, plus you get a much nicer van!
I was extremely impressed with my campervan rental from Kellville, and I highly recommend you book with them for your own Utah campervan rental.
Entrance To The National Parks
Each national park in the itinerary can cost $35 to enter, but you can save a ton of money by buying the “America the Beautiful” national parks pass for $80.
This pass includes unlimited entrance into all of the national parks in the US, and considering you will be visiting at least 5 in this itinerary alone, the pass pays for itself very quickly.
Plus, we were able to avoid the line of cars at several national parks by flashing the pass to the park ranger at the entrance, who sent us to our own line to get into the park.
You can buy the “America the Beautiful” pass at each national park entrance, but I would highly recommend buying it at REI before your trip.
Buying the pass at REI is the same price, and you know you will be good to go as soon as you arrive on your trip. By bringing your pass, you won’t have to waste time buying the pass and instead enjoy the national parks as quickly as possible!
REI also donates 10% of the proceeds from the sale of each pass to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
For an extra tip, try to buy the pass near the 1st of the month. The pass is good for a full year from the month you buy it, so if you buy it at the beginning of a month, it will be good until the end of that month the following year.
Day by Day Mighty 5 Itinerary
Day 1: Salt Lake City To Moab
Depending on your arrival time in Salt Lake City, you may want to check into a hotel for the night before day 1 of your road trip.
We arrived late on a Friday night, checked into the Hilton Garden Inn Airport hotel for the night, and then picked up our campervan from Kellville on Saturday morning.
Once we had collected the van and stocked up on food at a local supermarket (Target worked well to stock up on essentials), we were on our way to Moab which is around 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City.
If you arrive before sunset, I recommend heading straight to Arches National Park that evening to see the sunset at one of the popular sunset spots: Delicate Arch (3 mile roundtrip hike) or Balanced Rock (easy short walk).
We chose to see Balanced Rock for sunset because of the later time in the day that we arrived and then start the following day with Delicate Arch.
Campsites in Moab:
- Sun Outdoors Canyonlands Gateway
- Sun Outdoors Arches Gateway
- Devil’s Garden Campground (inside Arches National Park)
Hotels in Moab:
Day 2: Arches National Park
Day 2 is essentially your first full day, and today you will explore Arches National Park.
There is plenty to see in the park and you cannot go wrong with the order that you see things in the park, but you should definitely plan your itinerary around where you want to watch sunrise and sunset in the park.
One must-see arch is Delicate Arch, which I recommend seeing at either sunrise or sunset.
Sunrise is less crowded but the sun comes up behind the arch which can make photographing it a little harder. Sunset is generally thought to be the best time to visit for photography, but expect it to be busy!
We started our day with Delicate Arch, then after this hike made our way to Fiery Furnace Overlook to take a break and enjoy the view. Note that you do need a permit if you want to do this hike, but you can take in the viewpoint from the nearby parking lot.
Finally, end your day at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and Park Avenue which are close to the entrance/exit of the park. Both spots can be viewed from easy-to-reach lookouts or you can hike an easy trail between the two along Park Avenue which is a pleasant area to be in for sunset.
If you have more time then you can easily spend 2 days in Arches.
For the second day, hike the Devils Garden Trail which is a 7.8 mile hike that is classed as difficult and can take around 5 hours to complete.
Plus, there are lots of other arches to see, depending on how much time you spend at each spot you should be able to fit in some others during the day!
Recommended Arches National Park 1 day itinerary:
- Delicate Arch (3 mile roundtrip hike)
- Fiery Furnace Overlook (viewpoint + permit hike)
- Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch hike (3 mile roundtrip hike)
- Double Arch and the Windows (0.3 mile hike)
- Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and Park Avenue (viewpoint)
- Extra for day 2: Devil’s Garden Trail (7.8 mile hike)
Campsites in Moab:
- Sun Outdoors Canyonlands Gateway
- Sun Outdoors Arches Gateway
- Devil’s Garden Campground (inside Arches National Park)
Hotels in Moab:
Day 3: Canyonlands National Park and Drive To Capitol Reef
Day 3 is dedicated to Canyonlands National Park, which is about 30 minutes from central Moab.
Again, I highly recommend getting up early to enjoy the sunrise in the park (and avoid long waits at the entrance).
Check the time of sunrise depending on the time of year and aim to be at the park entrance about 30 minutes or more before sunrise.
The most popular place to watch the sunrise is at Mesa Arch, but you will need to arrive early to avoid disappointment!
The parking lot at Mesa Arch is very small, and if you are in a camper van you may struggle to find a spot. Some smaller vehicles and cars ignored no parking signs and lined the edges of the lot, but this is not possible in a larger campervan.
If you can’t find parking at Mesa Arch or want to avoid the crowds, you can continue driving into the park and stop at Buck Canyon Overlook, which was absolutely stunning glowing pink as the sun was coming up. Plus, you will very likely have Buck Canyon all to yourself!
Grand View has plenty of parking and is stunning place to watch the sunrise. There is a cliffside trail that runs 1 mile along the canyon and then back the way you came.
After watching the sunrise, you are now free to explore the park in whatever order you prefer. One of the nice things about Canyonlands is there are lots of very easily accessible viewpoints so you don’t have to walk or hike into all of them.
We preferred to keep our Canyonlands day a bit shorter and travel while it was light to Capitol Reef, but you could stay in Canyonlands until sunset and then drive at night to Capitol Reef.
Recommended Canyonlands 1 day itinerary:
- Mesa Arch (0.7 mile hike)
- Buck Canyon Overlook (viewpoint)
- Orange Cliffs (viewpoint)
- Grand View Point. (viewpoint or 1 mile hike)
- Green River Overlook (viewpoint)
- Candlestick Tower Overlook (viewpoint)
- Island in the Sky Visitor Center (viewpoint)
Driving from Canyonlands (or Moab) to Capitol Reef
After your day in Canyonlands, you will make your way to Capitol Reef. The total drive time is about 3.5 hours, but depending on what time you start driving, you may be able to make some stops along the way.
If you leave in the afternoon you can stop at Goblin Valley State Park, which is on the way to Capitol Reef.
The drive is absolutely beautiful between Moab and Capital Reef which unusual rock formations, towering mountains and valleys.
End the day in Capitol Reef and head to Panorama Point and Sunset Point for sunset (0.3 mile hike).
Campsites in Capitol Reef:
Hotels in Capitol Reef:
Day 4: Capitol Reef and Drive to Bryce Canyon
Start your day in Capitol Reef with sunrise at Panorama Point, Goosenecks, or Sunset Point, all of which are close to each other. Bring your coffee and breakfast, and take in the cotton candy skies as the sun rises.
While these are typically thought of as sunset spots, they were equally beautiful at sunrise (and much less crowded!).
After breakfast head to Cassidy Arch, a popular hiking trail that is 3 miles in and out, with around 1,000 ft of elevation.
I recommend Cassidy Arch as your morning hike because you will get to hike a good portion of the uphill hike in the shade before the sun comes over the mountains.
To reach Cassidy Arch, you will drive a small portion of the scenic route drive, and pass by Gifford House where you can grab a bite to eat to prepare you for the moderately difficult hike.
After Cassidy Arch, you can relax and enjoy the rest of the 8 mile scenic drive, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the views along the way.
After the scenic drive head to Hickman’s Bridge, which is a shorter 1.8 mile hike. The hike is pretty, but does feel a little underwhelming after the Cassidy Bridge hike.
If you have more time then you can see more in Capitol Reef, there are many more scenic hikes and viewpoints, but if you are following this itinerary to see the Mighty 5 in 7 days, then it’s time to drive onto Bryce Canyon!
Recommended Capitol Reef 1 day itinerary:
- Panorama Point, Goosenecks, and Sunset Point (0.4 mile hike each way)
- Cassidy Arch (1.5 mile hike each way)
- Scenic Drive (8 mile drive)
- Grand View Point. (viewpoint or 1 mile hike)
- Hickman’s Bridge (0.9 mile hike each way)
Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon
The journey from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon is about 2.5 hours and is another beautiful drive lined with bright yellow leafed trees if you are travelling in the fall.
Once you reach Bryce Canyon, head straight to the park putting Sunset Point into your navigation.
There is a reasonably sized parking lot, but as I have mentioned before, you should arrive at least one hour before sunset to ensure you can get a parking spot.
Alternatively, there is also a shuttle that leaves from a number of points near the national park that you can hop onto to avoid the parking problem.
From the sunset point parking lot, I recommend walking the rim trail past sunset point and onwards to Inspiration Point.
You can watch the sunset from anywhere along the rim, but it was nice to get away from the crowds and view the sunset at Inspiration Point, and you get the benefit of walking the rim trail and seeing the Amphitheater from lots of different angles.
Spend the night near Bryce Canyon so you can be up and early for sunrise tomorrow!
Campsites in Bryce Canyon:
- Ruby’s Inn RV Park
- Bryce Canyon Pines Campground
- North Campground (inside Bryce Canyon National Park)
Hotels in Bryce Canyon:
Day 5: Bryce Canyon
Wake up before sunrise and head straight to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Park in the parking lot at sunset point and get ready for your day!
From here, you have the option of watching sunrise from Sunrise Point, anywhere along the rim, or down in the Amphitheater.
I recommend watching inside of the Amphitheater, so head towards sunset point and then follow the signs to the Navajo Trail.
During the first part of the trail, you will have plenty of opportunities for some amazing sunrise photos.
The sunrise is stunning as it hits the hoodoos across the Amphitheatre, and you can continue your way along the Navajo Trail as the sun continues to rise.
My favorite part of the trail is as the path winds down between the rock faces.
At the bottom of this part of the Navajo trail, you will pass the double bridge and then the area will open up and you can choose to continue on the Queens Garden Trail or finish up the Navajo Trail and Wall Street (if it’s open at the time of your visit).
We continued on the Queens Garden trail which ends at Sunrise Point.
There are other hikes in Bryce Canyon you can take, or if you want to take it easy then do the scenic drive up to Rainbow Point and stop at each viewpoint along the way. One must-see viewpoint along the drive was the Natural Bridge.
Recommended Bryce Canyon 1 day itinerary:
- Sunrise Point (viewpoint)
- Navajo Trail (1.4 mile loop)
- Queens Garden Trail (1.8 mile loop)
- Inspiration Point (1 mile each way)
- Scenic drive to Rainbow Point
Bryce Canyon to Zion
From Bryce Canyon you will drive to Zion National Park which is around 1.5 hours.
As you might have guessed, this is another stunning drive where you will pass through gorgeous landscapes such as the Dixie Forest Red Canyon.
You will arrive at Zion from the east of the park meaning you will need to go through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel if you are staying in Springdale, which is west of the park.
If you are in an oversized vehicle (over 13 feet tall) you will need to pay $15 to go through the tunnel. Our Solis P campervan was only 9.5 feet high, so you likely will not need to worry about the height requirement unless you are driving a very large RV.
What you do on arrival in Zion will depend on the time of day. Before and after the tunnel there are stops on the side of the road to get nice views of the park, or you hike some of the popular trails such as Canyon Overlook.
If you want to go on famous hikes such as The Narrows or Angels Landing, you will have to wait until the next day.
Not only because it’s better to arrive at these trails early in the day, but also because you will need to take the shuttle to reach these and the shuttle going into the park from the visitor center ends at 5pm.
So where to end the day? We got settled at our campsite Zion Canyon Campground and after several days of hiking enjoyed the sunset from the comfort of our camping chairs by our campervan!
Springdale also has some excellent restaurants if you do want to eat out. We had very good meals at the Spotted Dog, Brew Pub, and FeelLove Coffee (bonus: FeelLove coffee has extremely fast wi-fi, which is hard to find!).
Bonus tip: After 3pm on your arrival day, go to Zion Outfitter and rent water boots and a hiking pole if you are planning to hike the Narrows the next day.
The price is the same as renting the same day (approximately $35) if you rent after 3pm (you just have to return the equipment by 7pm the following day), and having the water boots and hiking pole made the Narrows hike significantly more enjoyable!
Campsites in Zion:
- Zion Canyon Campground
- Zion River Resort and RV Campground
- South Campground (inside Zion National Park)
Hotels in Zion:
Day 6: Zion
Get up before sunrise and go to the Zion visitor center to pick up the first shuttle into the park. The first shuttle time will depend on the time of year. Typically, the first shuttle is at 6:15 am in summer months and 7 am in winter months.
There are two free shuttles in Springdale: The Zion Shuttle (Green line) and the Springdale Shuttle (Brown line).
You want to take the green line Zion shuttle into the park, as the brown Springdale shuttle does not run into the park. You can pick up the green line Zion shuttle from the visitor center.
There is a large car park at the Zion visitor center but it will fill up after sunrise, so you may need to walk or take the Springdale shuttle to the visitor center instead. Our campsite was just 10 minute walk to the visitor center so we walked from there.
Getting on the first shuttle will guarantee you are part of the first group that reaches The Narrows, meaning you can enjoy this stunning and unique hike in relative quiet!
The shuttle will make multiple stops throughout the park. If you are planning to do the Narrows hike, you will take the shuttle to the last stop: Stop 9 at Temple of Sinawa.
I highly recommend waking up early to be on one of the first shuttles. We took the first shuttle leaving at 7 am, arrived at Temple of Sinawa at around 7:45 am, and got started on the riverside walk which takes you to the foot of the Narrows.
The Narrows can take up to 4 hours each way, which can be longer or shorter depending how quickly you go.
The water level can also very greatly depending on the time of year, and even with lower water levels, the hike is wading through rock filled water that got up to waist deep at sections.
We went as far as Boulders which took around 2 hours (with photo stops) and on the way back (turning around at about 10:30 ish) it was so much busier.
The crowds make it much harder to navigate the rocks and river, as you wait for other people to do the same, so I highly recommend doing the hike as early as possible!
After The Narrows, you can stay in the park and shuttle to another smaller hike, but we preferred to bring out water boots back and grab lunch at the Brew Pub by the visitor center and reward ourselves with a burger and fries, and then a chilled out afternoon.
Day 7: Zion
A popular activity all over Utah is to drive UTVs, so on our last day in Zion we booked a GetYourGuide UTV and slot Canyon tour east of the park in Orderville.
This was such a fun tour and unique as we had not had the chance to see slot canyons like these so far in the trip!
If you book this same tour, then after the tour enjoy lunch at The Shop Coffee Company cafe where the tour leaves from. I recommend the pesto balsamic grilled cheese which was absolutely delicious!
At the cafe, you can pick up some things in the shop from local artists and farms.
In the afternoon, you can take the shuttle back into the park to visit the Grotto which is a short walk from the shuttle stop, and the lower, middle and upper emerald pools. The Emerald Pools are shorter hikes and, depending how tired you are at this point in the trip, you can decide to do just one or all of the pools.
Recommended Zion 2 day itinerary:
- The Narrows hike (2-10 miles)
- UTV Slot Canyon Tour
- The Grotto hike (1 mile round trip)
- Emerald Pools hikes (1.2 to 2.5 miles round trip depending on which pool)
- Angel’s Landing (5.4 miles round trip, permit required)
Other tips to know
At the end of the trip, you will drive back up to Salt Lake City to return your van, or continue on if you have your own vehicle.
If you are headed back to Salt Lake City then you can add on a bonus activity and visit Bonneville Salt Flats. The total drive time from Zion to Bonneville is about 5.5 hours and then back to Salt Lake City is 1.5 hours.
The salt flats were such a different landscape from everything else that we had seen in Utah and were a highlight of the trip!
Best Time Of Year To Visit The Mighty 5
We did our Mighty 5 roadtrip in early October which is considered the shoulder / end of the season.
The benefit of travelling at this time was cooler days and nights and less visitors. I would definitely recommend this as a great time to visit the national parks.
The costs for your trip will vary greatly depending on how long you travel for, if you rent a campervan or stay in hotels, and how long you stay at each national park.
For an idea of costs, these were my actual costs during the 7-day Mighty Five road trip for two people:
- Gas $500
- Campsites total $400 (ranging between $50-90/night)
- “America the Beautiful” National Park Pass $80
- Campervan rental $2,000
- Disclosure: Kellville Vans gave us a complimentary van for media coverage during and after our trip.
- Flights from Nashville to Salt Lake City $500/person roundtrip (but we used Delta miles)
- Food to cook in the van for one week for two people: $300
- One lunch out at Zion Brew Pub: $25/person
- One dinner out at Spotted Dog: $35/person
- Water boot + walking stick rental at Zion Outfitters: $35/person
- ATV canyon tour: $110/person
Total cost for 2 people for 7 days: ~$3,700
Hotels and AirBnBs can be extremely expensive near the national parks, so I highly recommend renting a campervan!
Meals out are also very expensive, so I would recommend cooking for yourself as much as possible if you are trying to keep costs down.
If you’ve never traveled in a campervan before, here are some tips I wish I knew:
- Go the speed limit! Utah has one of the highest speed limits in the USA of up to 80/mph, but people can get tickets for going above that. The speed limits can drop to 65/mph on some freeways, so make sure to always keep an eye out.
- Get gas when you can. Gas stations can be few and far in between, especially when traveling between the national parks, so make sure to fill your tank when you can.
- Stock up on food and essentials in Salt Lake City. If you follow this itinerary and start in Salt Lake City, make sure to stock up on all your essentials including food and toiletries there.
- There are plenty large stores to choose from, including Target, Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club.
- Prices can get very expensive once you leave Salt Lake City and head towards the smaller towns, so it’s best to get a little more than you think you’ll need when in Salt Lake.
- Wine and liquor can be hard to find. Utah has some strange alcohol laws where alcohol over 5% cannot be sold at most stores. If you are looking for wine or liquor you will have to go to a state-run liquor store.
- The state sets the prices on alcohol at these stores, but the prices didn’t seem too outrageous depending on what your drink of choice is.
- Bring external charges and a cell phone mount (or not!). Our Solis campervan from Kellville had more technology in it than most Apple stores, including wireless charging, Apple Carplay, a full LCD screen, solar panels, and USB/3 prong outlets everywhere.
- If you don’t book a luxury campervan with Kellville, then you will want to make sure to bring your own USB charges and cell phone mount to navigate safely while driving.
- Bring layers. Depending on the time of year you visit Utah, the temperature can vary wildly. We had days in the low 90’s and the nights drop into the 30’s, so make sure to bring plenty of layers for all kinds of temperatures.
- Follow the quiet hours. Most campsites had quiet hours from 10 pm to 7 am, and people were very respectful of these hours.
I hope this guide helps you plan the perfect Mighty 5 Utah road trip! Traveling by campervan is one of the best ways to see all the amazing national parks in the US.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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