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The Ultimate National Park Road Trip: Explore 4 Parks or More!

 

by, Ariele Rachel | American Woman Blog

 

Welcome to the ultimate road trip adventure! If you're looking for an unforgettable journey filled with stunning landscapes, rich history, and endless adventure, keep reading.

In 2021, I went a road trip through several of America's most iconic national parks, and let me tell you, it changed my life. Join me as I share the highlights of this epic journey and why exploring multiple national parks in one trip is an experience like no other!

Starting Point: Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada, is the perfect place to kick off your adventure. It’s an international airport with flights coming in from almost everywhere.

Whether you're arriving from across the country or around the globe, you'll find convenient transportation options and plenty of excitement to start your road trip in style. 

Stops Along the Way:

The journey begins with two must-see stops just a short drive from Las Vegas:

1. Hoover Dam:

Just a quick 30-mile drive from Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is a marvel to behold. Standing on the edge and gazing at this massive structure is truly awe-inspiring. This engineering masterpiece holds back the mighty Colorado River, creating Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. 

Take a guided tour to learn about its history, construction, and impact on the region. Spend 1-2 hours here soaking in the views and appreciating the sheer scale of this incredible structure.

2. Valley of Fire State Park:

Located about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is a photographer's dream come true. 

The fiery red sandstone formations create a surreal landscape that's absolutely breathtaking. Named for its stunning red rock formations that appear to be on fire during sunrise and sunset, this park offers unique geological features, ancient petroglyphs, and a variety of hiking trails. 

Spend 2-3 hours exploring ancient petroglyphs, hiking through slot canyons, and marveling at the natural beauty of this desert oasis.

The Great Western Adventure: Road Trip Route

Now let’s some of America's most breathtaking national parks!

1. Zion National Park, Utah:

Distance from Valley of Fire: Approximately 150 miles (2.5 hours)

Zion National Park is a place of unparalleled beauty. Whether you prefer cozy accommodations or rustic camping, Zion has options for everyone. Spend 2-3 days hiking through lush canyons, admiring towering cliffs, and soaking in the stunning vistas. Some of the must-see spots include Angels Landing, a challenging hike that rewards you with breathtaking views, and The Narrows, where you can hike through the Virgin River in a deep slot canyon.

Where to Stay: Zion National Park Lodge or Watchman Campground

Where to Eat: The Switchback Grille & Trading Company After a day of hiking, the Switchback Grille was a great find. Their Southwestern-inspired dishes are not only delicious but also hearty and satisfying.

2. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah:

Distance from Zion: Approximately 72 miles (1.5 hours)

Bryce Canyon National Park is a sight to behold. Spend 1-2 days exploring the park's unique hoodoos and natural amphitheaters. The vibrant red, orange, and white spires create a landscape unlike any other. Enjoy hiking trails such as the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trail, which offer close-up views of the hoodoos and stunning panoramic vistas.

Where to Stay: Bryce Canyon Lodge or Sunset Campground

Where to Eat: The Stone Hearth Grille The Stone Hearth Grille offers a warm and inviting atmosphere with mouthwatering dishes that celebrate local flavors. Their homemade pies are a must-try!

3. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah:

Distance from Bryce Canyon: Approximately 115 miles (2.5 hours)

Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Spend 1-2 days exploring rugged cliffs, colorful canyons, and historic orchards. 

Don't miss the scenic drive along the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway and the hike to Hickman Bridge, a natural rock arch. The Fruita area is particularly charming, with its orchards and historic structures.

Where to Stay: Capitol Reef Resort or Fruita Campground

Where to Eat: The Rim Rock Restaurant The Rim Rock Restaurant serves up delicious meals with a side of stunning views. Their seasonal menu features locally sourced ingredients that truly capture the essence of Utah.

4. Arches National Park, Utah:

Distance from Capitol Reef: Approximately 160 miles (3 hours)

Arches National Park is home to iconic arches and red rock formations. Spend 2-3 days camping under the stars and exploring the park's breathtaking landscapes. Don't miss the Delicate Arch hike, a moderately challenging trek that rewards you with one of the most photographed arches in the world. Other highlights include the Double Arch and the Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow canyons and towering fins.

Where to Stay: Moab Under Canvas or Devils Garden Campground

Where to Eat: The Moab Brewery The Moab Brewery offers a relaxed atmosphere with a fantastic selection of craft beers and delicious comfort food. Their patio is the perfect spot to unwind and share stories from the road.

Ending Point: Moab, Utah

After exploring the wonders of Arches National Park, our journey comes to an end in the charming town of Moab. 

Moab is a great place to unwind, with plenty of outdoor activities like mountain biking, river rafting, and more to enjoy.

Road Trip Duration and Mileage

Allow at least 7-10 days for this road trip, covering approximately 650 miles. This timeframe provides ample opportunity to soak in each park's highlights, go hiking, enjoy scenic drives, and indulge in local cuisine along the way. 

Remember, you can split this road trip up! Hit half of the parks on the way there, and the rest of the parks on the way back.

Here's a quick overview of the distances and travel times between each stop:

  • Las Vegas to Hoover Dam: 30 miles (45 minutes)
  • Hoover Dam to Valley of Fire State Park: 50 miles (1 hour)
  • Valley of Fire State Park to Zion National Park: 150 miles (2.5 hours)
  • Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park: 72 miles (1.5 hours)
  • Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park: 115 miles (2.5 hours)
  • Capitol Reef National Park to Arches National Park: 160 miles (3 hours)

Options for Different Road Trip Lengths

Whether you have a weekend to spare or a few weeks to wander, there's a road trip itinerary to suit your schedule:

Extended Adventure: Extend your road trip to include additional national parks like Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone for a 2-3 week journey of a lifetime. 

For example, you could continue from Moab to the Grand Canyon, adding another iconic destination to your adventure. Or, head north to Yellowstone National Park to witness its geothermal wonders and abundant wildlife.

Shorter Trip: Focus on exploring one or two parks closer to your starting point, like Zion and Bryce Canyon, for a memorable weekend getaway. These parks are relatively close to each other and offer plenty of natural beauty and adventure for a shorter trip.

Camping Options

For those seeking a closer connection to nature, camping is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the national parks:

Zion National Park, Utah: Watchman Campground: Located within the park, this campground offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and is conveniently close to the park's shuttle system and visitor center.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: Sunset Campground: Located among the pines, this campground provides a peaceful retreat and easy access to the park's famous viewpoints and hiking trails.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah: Fruita Campground: Situated in a picturesque orchard setting, this campground offers a serene atmosphere and the chance to pick fresh fruit in season.

Arches National Park, Utah: Devils Garden Campground: This campground offers a unique opportunity to camp among the park's iconic rock formations and enjoy the star-filled night sky.

Final Thoughts

This road trip changed my life, and I know it can change yours too! There's so much beauty in our backyard, and exploring these national parks is an incredible way to start seeing a lot of it. 

Each park has its own unique charm and character.

From the awe-inspiring cliffs of Zion to the surreal landscapes of Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef's rugged beauty, and Arches' iconic formations, every stop on this journey offers something special.

 

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Ariele Rachel is the talented content creator and blogger behind the popular American Woman Blog. Ariele's passion for travel and storytelling has garnered her a dedicated following, with her blog featuring insightful tips, breathtaking travel destinations, and empowering narratives. After connecting at the TGA Show, Ariele has partnered with us to bring her unique voice to our community. Discover more of her inspiring content and travel adventures by visiting her blog at American Woman Blog.

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