Road Trip'ing Arizona & Utah: Zion & Bryce National Parks, camping, hiking, and stops along the way
Updated: Apr 21
Looking for vacation getaway ideas in Arizona and/or Utah?
This road trip is full of fabulous photograph opportunities, fresh air, nature, and as an added bonus you'll burn a ton of calories on these magnificent world class hiking trails!
If that sounds like a great time, check out this
4-day road trip itinerary
from Phoenix Arizona to the National Parks in Utah
including stops at:
(click any selection to skip ahead to that section)
Here is the route that we took.
****** Day 1 ******
Brief stop overs in Sedona and Flagstaff Arizona
We headed out from Phoenix early in the morning, making stops in Sedona and Flagstaff to take in some of the beautiful scenery and snap a few photos.
First stop Sedona, known for its Red Rock formations.
Flagstaff, with its abundant pine trees and babbling brooks, is a cool oasis in the midst of the Arizona desert. I'd love to go back and do some camping and hiking here!
Next stop, Horseshoe Bend Arizona, a horseshoe shaped bend in the Colorado River, which from this vantage point appears a shade of bright emerald green. From the parking lot, it's a .75 mile walk through the sand to get to the scenic observation area that overlooks the bend. Note that the 1.5-mile round trip walk through the sand can be taxing, and it will likely be very hot and crowed, bring water. See their website for flyover and rafting tour information.
Zion National Park
Next stop, Zion National Park.
The drive into the park is beautiful. The road winds around through towering mountains and rock formations.
Zion National Park-Emerald Pools Trail
Immediately upon arrival, we then caught the free park shuttle to the Emerald Pools hike, an easy paved 3-mile loop with a waterfall.
Accommodations just outside the park
On the first night, stayed at the La Quinta in Springdale, a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains!
Total Miles Hiked for the day: 3.8
(add on for the horse trail I'll discuss further in my Zion NP post)
Total Drive time for the day:
****** Day 2 ******
Zion National Park-Canyoning in The Narrows
The Narrows hike goes right straight through the Virgin River. You'll trudge your way through water in a narrow river gorge, at the base of a deep canyon. This is a once in a lifetime bucket list hiking opportunity!
Want to know more about this hike and Zion National Park?
Subscribe at the bottom of the page and you'll get an email when a new blog publishes!
Zion National Park-Pa 'Rus Hiking trail
Pa 'Rus trail is a 1.7 mile one way paved trail, the perfect way to end your day!
Other Popular Hikes in the Park:
Camping in Zion National Park
We spent our second night camping in the park, surrounded by mountains.
The Zion Canon Brew Pub....jalapeno bacon jam, Swiss, and garlic Aioli burger…need I say more? If you're doing all this hiking, you can afford the calories!
total miles hiked for the day: 6.7
The Narrows: 5 miles, Pa’ Rus 1.7
total drive time for the day:
****** Day 3 ******
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is about a two-hour drive from Zion.
Bryce was my favorite of the two parks. I'm not a fan of the heat, and it was much cooler here. BUT the biggest thing that was so alluring about Bryce is that I felt like I'd landed on another planet! a definite out of this world destination!
Bryce Canyon National Park-Combo hike: Tower Bridge Hike/ Queens Garden Hike/Navajo Loop Trail
Here is the route we took:
From the North campground we entered the Rim Trail and headed to Fairyland Loop Trail. We did the Tower Bridge Hike on the Fairyland Loop trail (out to Tower Bridge, doubling back to the Rim Trail.) Then we headed south to Sunrise Point, then on to Queen's Garden, Navajo Loop and then Wall Street, a serious of switchback that will take you straight up and out of the canyon, ending at Sunset Point. From there we took the park shuttle back to our campsite.
This map might explain things a bit better: See our route highlighted in yellow.
Here are a few pictures of sights along the way but make sure you check back for my full article on Bryce!
total miles hiked for the day:
Total drive time for the day:
Other hikes in the area:
Camping in Bryce National Park
This time we snagged a cozy little campsite under the pine trees.
Want to know more about Bryce Canyon National Park?
I have a full article on this amazing park in the works. Sign up at the bottom of the page and I'll notify you when a new blog publishes.
German pastries? YES PLEASE!
Forscher German Restaurant and Bakery in Oderville can be found between Zion and Bryce. Stop in for some delicious German pastries!
****** Day 4 ******
Toadstool Hoodoos Hiking Trail
It was time to head back down south and we had Antelope Canyon on our radar. Because we had plenty of time before our canyon tour, we decided to stop off at Toadstool Hoodoos Hiking trail, if for no other reason than its cool name! A hoodoo is a column shaped rock with a larger rock on top that produces something of a capped look, like a mushroom or a toadstool! It was a neat trail, but it was REALLY hot, and not really any shade. I would recommend avoiding this trail in the heat of the day. 1.5 miles round trip. The trailhead is located off Highway 89, 45 miles east of Kanab.
Upper Antelope Canyon
We toured Upper Antelope Canyon, a sandstone slot canyon with gorgeous wave-like rock formations, located on Navajo land outside of Page Arizona. You can also tour Lower Antelope Canyon. If you tour both on the same day you only have pay the reservation entry fee once.
There are other tour operators, but we took our tour with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours. The tour is a bit pricey, somewhere around $85 per person inclusive, but worth the money. Our guide offered to take everyone's photos throughout the tour, made sure we all got all of the pictures we wanted, and advised on where to get the best shots inside the canyon. This is a really popular tourist destination, so don't expect to have it all to yourself. They squeeze tour groups going both ways through the canyon all day. See their website for information on other tours in the area, including Lower Antelope Canyon, fly-over and boat tours.
They drive you, in the back of a truck, about 15-miles out into the desert.
Word is that Upper Antelope canyon is best at 10:30 am or 1:30 pm.
total miles hiked for the day: approximately 3
(we didn’t make it to the end of the Toadstools hike because it was HOT)
total drive time for the day:
7 hours 15 minutes
hiking: approximately 22
driving: 15.5 hours
Packing list suggestions:
Synthetic jacket for the narrows hike (keeps you warmer when wet),
headlamp if you want to do some night-time exploring
waterproof backpack. You'll need it in the narrows. I fell into the water at least once.
band-aids (although I didn’t need them! No blisters! Merrell hiking sandals are my secret!)
baby wipes (bathed with these both camping nights-works like a charm!)
blow up mattress if your camping (I slept like a baby! Get the pool mattress floats, they are cheap, easily fit in your luggage, and are perfect for one person!)
Other things of interest in the area:
If you find yourself on highway 89 between the Utah border and Flagstaff, you'll only be about an hour's drive from the Grand Canyon.
Seen in the photo below, read all about The Wave here.
Lake Powell Arizona
Lake Powell is a beautiful man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, outside of Page Arizona.
Giving credit where credit is due....
I can't take any credit for planning this fabulous trip. My sister-in-law did all the planning, and her efforts were greatly appreciated. I got to skip the tedious planning process this time! all I had to do was show up with my sleeping bag, hiking shoes, a good attitude, and an adventurous spirit. Thanks other Angie!