Utah’s road trip from Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks is an essential experience for everyone. The state’s stunning diversity, from red rock canyons to sharp jagged mountains, makes visiting Utah’s Big 5 a bucket-list must. The transition from one landscape to another, filled with geological wonders and striated hills, showcases the breathtaking beauty Utah has to offer.
Respect Nature: Stay on marked trails to preserve delicate desert ecosystems. Avoid disturbing wildlife or climbing on fragile formations.
It is 70 miles from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon. It is 250 miles from Bryce to Arches.
Bryce. It is more stark and impressive. While the arches at Arches are cool to see, the vastness of the area doesn’t have the same WOW factor that the condensed canyon and hoodoos of Bryce does.
Zion. There is a lot more to do in the area surrounding Zion than there is Bryce. Between Kolob Canyon, St George, and Hurricane, you could spend a month by Zion and never be bored.
Yes, especially if you just want to see Bryce Canyon and not hike it. We’ve done it this way and started our day watching the sun rise over the Court of the Patriarchs, did a few short hikes in Zion, then made it to Bryce by the late afternoon.
A half day is enough time in Arches. See itinerary below.
In 2014, our initial visit to Zion National Park left an indelible impression, influencing our subsequent decision to embrace RV living the following year. While Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks garner adoration from many, Zion holds a unique place in our hearts due to a profound spiritual connection. Join the conversation in the comments below if you, too, sense this ethereal bond.
Here are some of our tips and insights that we’ve learned over from our past Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks road trip.
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Top Highlights of Each Park
- Hike either Angel’s Landing, The Narrows, or The Subway in Zion National Park. Drive or ride the shuttle on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive all the way to Temple of Sinawava. Also, drive through the tunnel and hike out to the Canyon overlook. If time permits, or you prefer less crowds, explore the Kolob Canyon side of Zion.
- Photograph Bryce Canyon from Sunset Point, where you get the best views of the amphitheater. and great views of the Silent City and Thor’s Hammer. If you have time, add in the Fairyland Loop hike.
- Drive out to Devil’s Garden trailhead in Arches NP & hike out to Double O arch (or at least to Landscape Arch). If it’s not a busy time of year, add in the hike to Delicate Arch, otherwise, just grab a pic from the upper viewpoint. On the drive out, stop and explore more of the other viewpoints.
Planning Your Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
Best Time For a Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
The national parks are open year-round, but spring and fall offer the best experiences. Spring brings pleasant temperatures, occasional rain, and snowy trails, requiring ice spikes early in the season.
Summer gets scorching in southern Utah; cooling off by floating or hiking in the Virgin River at Zion is a great option. The Insta-famous Wall Street hike spans 6 miles round trip in knee-deep water.
In winter, despite limited hikes, the striking contrast of red cliffs against snow or orange hoodoos amidst white powder makes for a mesmerizing road trip.
Average highs and lows in Zion & Bryce Canyon National Park:
- Fall and Spring high’s range from mid 40’s to mid 60’s; lows in the 30’s
- Summer highs in the 70’s to 80’s; lows in the 50’s
- Winter high’s in the 30’s; lows in the 20’s and teens
Average highs and lows in Arches National Park:
- Spring high’s range from mid 60’s to mid 70’s; lows in the 40’s to 50’s
- Summer highs in the 90’s; lows in the 60’s
- Fall high’s start warm in the 80’s but can get down to the 50’s by November; lows in the 30’s to 50’s
- Winter high’s in the 40’s; lows in the 20’s
How long do you need for a road trip from Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks?
While a month in Utah to explore these national parks would be ideal, a minimum of four days, excluding travel time, would suffice to experience them.
Zion National Park warrants a minimum of 2 days, offering an amazing experience. Bryce Canyon and Arches can be condensed into half days each. For a road trip from Zion to Bryce to Arches, consider adding Capitol Reef National Park to enhance your itinerary.
Other stops to consider on a Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
- St George (check out these amazing hikes and all this great rock climbing)
- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
- Zebra Slot Canyon (YouTube)
- Dead Horse State Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Lake Powell
- Antelope Canyon
- Kanab (YouTube)
- Rappel Morning Glory Arch in Moab
Driving a Big RV in Zion to Bryce to Arches National Park Road Trip
There are various routes for this road trip. The simpler path involves taking 89 to 70, yet even this has its challenges with numerous grades on Highway 70, albeit short.
For a more scenic drive between Bryce and Arches National Parks, UT Highway 12 offers breathtaking views. While some RVers opt for this route, it’s known for its winding roads and occasional steep inclines.
Where To Fly In For This Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
Embarking on a national parks road trip from the East Coast through the Midwest might feel daunting due to the long drive and Wyoming’s unpredictable weather, despite the allure of Nebraska’s state park campgrounds.
An alternative, more time-effective route involves flying into Salt Lake City, just hours away from Zion and Arches National Park. Depending on the season and available time, starting and ending the journey in Las Vegas or Denver could also be a feasible option. Exploring Colorado’s picturesque highways 70 and 50 during the summer offers breathtaking mountain vistas, possibly justifying the extra travel time.
America The Beautiful Pass For Your Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
Each one of these National Parks costs $35 per vehicle to enter. This fee is good for 7 consecutive days and covers all the passengers in your vehicle and is good for motorhomes as well. If you were only going to one park, this would be the way to go.
For a road trip covering Zion, Bryce, and Arches National Parks, consider getting the America The Beautiful Pass. It’s $80 for a year and covers entry fees for all national parks, wildlife refuges, day-use fees at national forests, grasslands, and BLM areas. It’s a cost-effective choice for multiple park visits.
You can purchase it online but it’s easier to just buy it when you get to the entrance of your first national park.
Related Blog: Travel Guide to Zion National Park
Tips for Zion National Park
There are free shuttles to get around both the town of Springdale and Zion National Park. In fact, during the busy season, most of Zion is only accessible through the shuttle system and no private vehicles are allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Angel’s Landing is a must-do hike, often praised among the world’s best. The steep ascent involves holding chains for the final mile, mainly challenging for those with a fear of heights. Skipping the chains still offers fantastic views. Timing matters due to crowd navigation on the chains; early or late visits are advised for a safer experience.
Where to Stay or Camp near Zion National Park
Camping in Zion is such a magical experience, it’s no surprise that Watchman Campground made our list of the Top Campgrounds in Utah.
Personally, I think staying inside any of the national parks is the absolute best way to experience them. If you feel up to being outdoorsy, there are two campgrounds inside the park.
South Campground, which allows tents and RVs but doesn’t have hook ups or Watchman Campground which allows tents and RVs and has electricity in site.
If you want to camp inside Zion at Watchman or South Campground, you can reserve your campsite here.
If camping isn’t your thing, the absolute best place to stay in the heart of Zion NP at Zion Lodge.
However, this is one of the few national parks that is equally as beautiful to stay just outside the park. Like I mentioned earlier, Springdale is super close to the entrance and the shuttle system makes it easy to get in and out of the park quickly. Zion is also one of the few national parks where you still feel connected to the beauty of the area while in town.
Tips for Bryce National Park
Bryce is interesting to me because you could easily spend days or weeks here and just sit in the amazing energy or you can be in and out in a few hours and feel like you’ve experienced it all.
The must do is to drive to each to the 4 main viewpoints- Inspiration, Bryce Point, Sunrise, and Sunset and snap a shot of the hoodoos. If you have more time, you could drive the drive the entire 18 miles, and stop at the other 10 Agua Canyon viewpoints or choose a hike.
Our favorite hike at Bryce Canyon is Fairyland Loop. It’s 8 miles with 2300 feet of elevation gain so if you choose to do this in the summer, start early (we started at 5:30am) and be sure to carry a lot of water, sunscreen, and light layers of clothes.
If you visit in the winter, the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center offers free 1-mile snowshoe tours. There are even full moon guided snowshoe treks from November through March, conditions permitting. Get all the snowshoeing details here.https://nomads-with-a-purpose.teachable.com/p/fit-to-hike
Where to Stay or Camp near Bryce National Park
My preference is North Campground because it is closest to the Bryce Canyon rim and also sits at the trailhead for my favorite hike, fairyland loop. There is a general store, which has laundry and showers, and is close to both campgrounds.
For our 30-foot class C, national park campgrounds suffice. But for our larger fifth wheel, Ruby’s Inn RV Park, with its easy access and full hookups, becomes the preferred stay due to convenience.
There is a smallish town right outside of Bryce Canyon that has a few hotel options. The biggest and most popular is the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, which has family suites that sleep up to 6. Be sure to check out their superior rooms which feature a spa bath or a hot tub.
Escalante also makes for a great home base and is close to another one of our favorite hikes, Zebra Slot Canyon (blog coming soon). Check out the highly rated Canyons Bed & Breakfast, which serves gluten-free and dairy-free menu options, or stay in the rustic, centrally located, and family-friendly cabins at Escalante Cabins & RV Park.
Related Blog: Bryce Canyon Travel Guide
Tips for Arches National Park
Arches National Park boasts 2,000 natural stone arches, numerous towering pinnacles, colossal rock fins, and impressive balanced rocks, creating an awe-inspiring geological spectacle.
While a half-day visit can be satisfying, those enamored by the expansive vistas and unique rock formations might find immense value in prolonging their stay to truly immerse themselves in the park’s captivating landscapes.
The most popular hike is Delicate Arch. Even though this is only a 3 mile round trip hike, it’s not what I’d consider super easy. It has a section up steep slick rock that will certainly wake up the thighs.
My favorite hike was Double O Arch and while I think it is much easier than Angel’s Landing in Zion, many might feel like this is too strenuous or exposed.
Pack Essentials: Comfortable hiking shoes with good traction are a must, especially for trails with slick rock sections.
Our exploration of Moab remains limited by crowds and vehicle constraints. Although intrigued by Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse SP, long drives deter us from focusing on preferred activities like hiking, biking, and climbing.
While the secluded Island of Sky in Canyonlands NP entices, it’s inaccessible without 4WD. Near Dead Horse SP, mountain biking thrilled us, yet securing a campsite proved challenging. Additionally, rock climbing along Potash Road is a favorite, despite the humbling nature of tackling sandstone for climbers.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Arches
Where to Stay or Camp near Arches National Park
While I absolutely adore Arches NP and revel in the exceptional mountain biking Moab offers, camping near Arches has often been a stressful experience due to frequent crowding. Finding spots in the often-full free or low-cost camping areas can be quite challenging, sometimes resulting in camping far from the action.
Securing a spot at the popular Devils Garden Campground within Arches National Park can be tough; however, reservations are possible through their website. While there are RV resorts in town, I haven’t personally stayed at them.
Opting for camping along Highway 128 by the Colorado River, such as at Big Bend, has been a favorite for us. Moreover, hotels near Arches in Moab offer various options; I highly recommend west-side accommodations to avoid heavy traffic and maximize playtime.
3 Day Itinerary From Zion to Bryce To Arches National Park
A three-day road trip might feel rushed, but it’s included to demonstrate its feasibility for those with limited time, especially during summer’s extended daylight hours.
Day 1: Hike Angel’s Landing early and then drive or shuttle out to Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park. Stay in Zion for the night.
Day 2: Catch sunrise pics at Court of the Patriarchs in Zion NP. Drive the tunnel and hike out to the Canyon Overlook. Drive to Bryce Canyon NP (about an hour and a half drive). Explore the different viewpoints or squeeze in a short hike. Then, photograph sunset from Paria Viewpoint (not Sunset point). Stay in Escalante for the night.
Day 3: Drive to Arches (about a 4 hour drive from Escalante). If you get going early, you should have time to stop by Capitol Reef for an hour or two. Once you arrive in Arches, head to the Devil’s Garden Parking Area (which is 18 miles from the entrance), stopping at all the major viewpoints along the road including windows, fiery furnace, panorama, and sand dunes arch. Hike to Landscape Arch or Double O Arch. Drive to and hike Delicate Arch (or choose to go to the viewpoint instead).
7 Day Itinerary From Zion to Bryce To Arches National Park
For a longer Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip Itinerary, check out this Utah Road Trip blog where I go into details about the following 7 day Utah Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City and explore Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons
Day 2: Zion National Park
Day 3: Zion NP in the morning + Bryce Canyon NP in the evening
Day 4: Zebra Slot Canyon + Calf Creek or Capitol Reef
Day 5: Arches + Moab
Day 6: Dead Horse SP and/or Canyonlands NP
Day 7: Park City
Related Blog: Best Utah Campgrounds
Hiking Pack List
You can’t go on a Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip without hiking!
- Download our free adventure bundle filled with pack lists, gear reviews, and hiking trail guides.
- Get Fit To Hike
- Order your Defy The Norm swag
Phew, I think that covers the essentials of a Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip. If you have any questions or if this was helpful, please, let us know in the comments below.