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July 2019
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A Southern Utah Itinerary

Zion National Park


(NOTE: This is the first of a series of posts providing a short itinerary for exploring Southern Utah. Over the coming weeks, I will add posts on all the destinations listed below, including maps, directions, photos and details. As I add the new posts, links from this post will go live.)

Zion.  Arches. Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Goblin Valley. Bryce Canyon. Natural Bridges. Grand Staircase – Escalante. Kodachrome Basin. Dead Horse Point. Canyonlands. The Grand Canyon.  There is more national park, monument, and forest land in Utah than in any other State of the United States (with the exception of Alaska – hardly a fair comparison).  If you haven’t been, you need to go.  These are some of the most spectacular locations on earth.

Most of my travel posts have provided information on how to get to places that few westerners have visited in exotic countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia.  These will be different.  There is a great deal of information available online and in books on traveling in Southern Utah.  I won’t try to duplicate that information, but I think a simple itinerary for the tremendous travel opportunities in Southern Utah could help people visualize the possibilities.  Here’s my version of that itinerary.

First, a word to the wise. The date on this blog post is in 2019, but most of the information was gathered on my last trip through the area, in 2016. I guarantee that it was what I believed to be the case back then.  Beyond that, I’m sure my information is worth at least as much as you have paid me for it.

The Itinerary, in Short

While there are some options, and this loop itinerary can be started at any point along the way, the broad outlines of the itinerary are pretty clear.  I’ll start in Las Vegas, since it is the closest major gateway to the region.  I’ll put optional stops and routes in parentheses (but, of course, all the stops are optional). Here’s the itinerary:

Full Itinerary

Overview Map

Outbound Half

First Half of the Trip

Las Vegas

(Side Trip to South Rim of the Grand Canyon)
Zion National Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Bryce Canyon National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Goblin Valley State Park

(Green River Melon Festival)

Dead Horse Point State Park
Arches National Park

The Return Leg

The Return Trip (view image to see larger version)
Canyonlands National Park

Bears Ears National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

Monument Valley

The Damn Dam

Grand Canyon, North Rim

(Colorado City)

Las Vegas

All of these destinations are within easy driving range of each other (the itinerary contemplates about 2-4 hours driving between destinations).


This itinerary is intended for a road trip.  You can rent a car in Las Vegas and return it there when you end the trip. A SUV is not necessary for most of this trip, but you might feel more secure in a capable SUV with good ground clearance on some of the dirt roads.


The best way to visit these locations is by camping in them.  Generally, there are no accommodations (beyond camping) at the locations themselves, so if you stay in hotels/motels that means more travel time and less time in the parks themselves.  Also, you will likely miss the beauty these places represent during the “golden hours” at and around sunrise and sunset and at night.

If you plan to camp, many places require advance reservations.  However, there are generally alternatives for the late planners among us.  Information on some of these locations is included below.  For camping, seriously consider the State Parks.  Utah State parks generally feature flush toilets and hot showers, neither of which are available on the Federal properties. Also, while the Feds allow reservations up to a year in advance, and are often all reserved shortly thereafter, the State parks only open for reservations three months in advance (but you better be online when they open up, if you are going at a busy time).

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