Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks is a Utah road trip that everyone needs to experience at least once in their life. Utah is filled with so much beautiful diversity from red rock canyons and striated hills to sharp jagged mountains and geological wonders, it’s no wonder that visiting Utah’s Big 5 is on so many people’s bucket list.
We first visited Zion National Park in 2014 and fell in love with it so much that it certainly influenced our decision to move into the RV the following year. While many people love Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks, there’s a spiritual connection that I always feel in Zion National Park. Let me know in the comments if you feel it too.
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.
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
These three national parks can be visited year round however, they are best in spring and fall. Spring has nice temperatures but you might get rain and the trails will often still have snow on them early in spring so be sure to have ice spikes with you.
Personally, I prefer to be bagging peaks in the summer which is why we have actually never hiked the popular Narrows trail in Zion. Summer can be very hot in southern Utah and one of the best ways to cool off is to float the Virgin River in Zion or hike up it to the Insta famous Wall Street. This is a 6 mile round trip hike in often knee deep water.
We’ve also done this road trip in Winter and while we couldn’t do as many hikes, seeing the stark contrast of the red cliffs to white snow or oragnd hoodoos towering a blanket of fluffy white powder is a great way to spend a winter 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?
Of course you could spend an entire month enjoying Utah and these three beautiful national parks but at a bare minimum, I’d say you need 4 days not including your travel days to get to the national parks.
Zion National Park is so amazing that you really need at least 2 days here. Bryce Canyon can be condensed into a half day and so can Arches however, if you’re going to do this Zion to Bryce to Arches National Park road trip you really should consider adding in at least Capitol Reef National Park.
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)
Driving a Big RV in Zion to Bryce to Arches National Park Road Trip
There are a few different routes you can take on this road trip. The easiest way to drive this is 89 to 70. But even this isn’t easy. Highway 70 has a lot of grades to tow over. Granted they are short, but they never seem to cease.
The most beautiful route for driving from Bryce to Arches National Parks is to take UT Highway 12. I know some RVers do drive this way but it windy and has a few steep grades.
Where To Fly In For This Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip
If you live on the east coast, you may not want to drive all the way across the midwest to do this national parks road trip. While I do love Nebraska state park campgrounds, driving across the midwest is not only long, but seems to always be full of extreme weather especially in Wyoming!
The most efficient way to do this road trip is by flying into Salt Lake City. It’s four and a half hours from Zion and five and a half hours from Arches.
Although, depending on the time of year and how much time you had, you could start and end this in Las Vegas or Denver. In the summer, the mountains along highway 70 and 50 though Colorado are so beautiful that it might be worth the extra few hours of driving.
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.
However, if you do this Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip, you are better off buying the America The Beautiful Pass which covers entrance fees at ALL national parks, national wildlife refuges, day-use fees at national forests and grasslands, and BLM areas. It’s only $80 for an entire year!
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.
I encourage everyone to hike Angel’s Landing. This hike has made it into so many “best hikes in the world” lists that you really should see for yourself how fabulous it is. It’s a steep climb and yes, you do have to hold chains for the final mile of the hike, but it’s really only scary if you have a fear of heights. And if this is you, know that you will get great views if you choose to do the first part and skip the chains. Also, the most dangerous part isn’t the exposure, it’s navigating the crowds on the chain so try to do really early or late.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Zion
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.
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.
While we normally travel in our 30 foot class C and can easily fit in the campgrounds in the park, if we were traveling with our monster sized fifth wheel, we would stay at the RV park attached to Ruby’s Inn instead. It is easy to get in and out of and has full hookups.
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
With 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks, Arches is an incredible geologic wonder to be seen.
While I do think it can be experienced in just a half day, if you are a desert rat and absolutely love the wide open spaces and uniquely sculpted rock formations that Arches Np is made up of, then you might want to stay much longer.
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.
There is a lot to do and see in the Moab area. To be honest though, we’ve only explored a fraction of the area mostly because Moab seems to be too crowded for our taste whenever we are there. Plus, visiting Moab in a class C is limiting because a lot of the fun adventures require 4wd to get to.
Exploring Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse SP is on most people’s to do list, however, we still haven’t made it out there because the driving can take up most of your day and I’d rather spend more of my day hiking, biking, and climbing.
The Island of Sky area in Canyonlands NP sounds fabulous and way less crowded, but you need 4wd to get there.
We have mountain biked up near Dead Horse SP and really enjoyed the area up there. Camping at Dead Horse SP sounds really is nice too, but it’s a little hard to get a site for.
Last, we like rock climbing Potash Road although climbing sandstone is a killer to the ego!
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Arches
Where to Stay or Camp near Arches National Park
While I love Arches NP and the mountain biking in Moab is awesome, camping near Arches has been stressful for me.
For starters, it seems to always be crowded in Moab so I have trouble finding camping spots. While there is a lot of free or really cheap camping, it’s often full or you have to camp far from the fun.
Devils Garden Campground inside Arches National Park is a fabulous place to camp but it’s hard to get. You can try to reserve it here.
There are quite a few RV resorts in town but I’ve never stayed at them so I can’t really say much about them. One of our favorite spots to find camping is along Highway 128 which follows the Colorado River. We’ve camped up at Big Bend before and just loved it.
There are a lot of options for hotels near Arches in the town of Moab. My suggestion is to choose a hotel on the west side of town because traffic going into Moab can get really bad and this way you spend less time sitting in traffic and more time playing.
3 Day Itinerary From Zion to Bryce To Arches National Park
Three days is very rushed for this road trip however, I wanted to include it because I know alot of people only have a short time for trips like this and I wanted to show that it is doable, especially in summer when you have longer days.
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
Road Trip Tips
After all these years of RV travel, I’m a minimalist. We travel light, fast, wing it, and boondock (free camp) most nights. But if this is your first road trip or you tend to get anxious easily, you need to respect that and move slower, plan a detailed itinerary, and get a campsite with full hookups. Here are some blogs that might help you with planning your Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks road trip:
- 14 Tips For Planning
- Your First Road Trip
- How To Plan A Successful Road Trip
- Tips for Road Tripping on a Budget
- How to Find Free Camping
- Road Trip Pack List
- Car Camping Essentials
- Stock up at Costco
- Pack these hiking snacks
Last, you might want to add these apps to your phone:
- iOverlander- Helps you find free campsites,
- Allstays- Lists campgrounds, truck stops, Costco, Camping World, and more
- Gas Buddy- Find the cheapest prices on gas, however, if you have a Costco card they are typically the cheapest gas in town
Hiking Pack List
You can’t go on a Zion to Bryce to Arches National Parks Road Trip without hiking! Here are some of our favorites that we pack for hiking adventures:
- REI Co-op 22L Pack: In 7 years of serious hiking this is the best day hiking backpack we’ve ever used. The REI Co-op 18L is also great but it doesn’t have water bottle holders on the outside or the zippered pocket on the top.
- La Sportiva Bushidos: Our all time favorite hiking shoes for both men and women. Read why we love them here!
- Hydroflask water bottle [w/ Defy the Norm Stickers]
- Stance Socks: Our favorite absorbent and warm socks for hiking.
- [Womens] Hylete Fleece-Lined Leggings: Stylish, sturdy, and warm. They are great for hiking, climbing, and yoga.
- [Mens] Kuhl Renegade Pants: Sturdy and midweight for rugged mobility and warmth.
- [Women’s} Kuhl Splash Roll Up: I’ve hiked all over the planet with these awesome pants. They’re durable, comfy, and also great to rock climb in. We also love Kuhl’s Trekkr sytle pants.
- Hoodie: Check out durable Defy the Norm hoodies and spread good vibes while staying warm and in style out on your hike!
- Defy the Norm long sleeve sun layer: A lightweight long sleeve is essential in the summer to protect and you can do so in style with our Defy the Norm series.
- Patagonia Nano Puff: We carry these jackets with us on all our hikes and travels because they pack down really small and are warm and comfy. If you tend to get cold easily, I recommend getting the Patagonia Down Sweater.
- Sun Bum sunscreen: Lightweight and protective. Great for when you have to re-apply often because it’s not goopy or oily.
- The only women’s hiking shorts you’ll ever need.
- [Mens] Black Diamond Notion Shorts: The boys’ favorite sturdy and lightweight hiking shorts.
- Lightweight Defy the Norm tee or tank: Early in the morning before the sun gets harsh, you’ll want to have apparel that keeps you cool. Check out our radical line of outdoor apparel to Defy the Norm with us.
- Hat & Sunglasses
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.