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Red River Ranch

Three Park Roadtrip

Three Parks.
One Roadtrip.

This is our recommendation for a perfect week in Southern Utah. Tour three national parks in an epic one-week roadtrip. Experience the majesties of Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

Our itinerary assumes that you are starting this trip from Salt Lake City. However, if you are coming from somewhere else, such as Las Vegas, it might make sense to do the trip in reverse order.

Start Here. Make a Selection.

Standard order starts in Capitol Reef. Reverse order starts in Zion.

Park One.
Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef is the best secret in Utah. It’s definitely worth the trip to see it for yourself. It also happens to be our backyard and the first stop on your Three Park Roadtrip.

Day One.
On the Road.

Drive to Capitol Reef.

Get packed, get ready and come on down. Most people come down from Salt Lake City – since it’s the nearest airport. The drive south should take you about 4 hours.

Check-in to Accommodations.

Whether you’re staying at the Lodge, or somewhere else nearby, it’s time to check-in and get some rest.

Day Two.
Capitol Reef.

Arrive in Capitol Reef.

Stop by the Visitor Center, talk to the rangers, and watch their educational film. You can find out more about the Capitol Reef Visitor Center here.

Take the Scenic Road.

The Capitol Reef Scenic road will take you further into the park, offering even more spectacular scenery. It’s a toll road and will cost you ten dollars for a week’s worth of access. There are a couple of offshoots to the main road, one of them will lead you to Cassidy Arch. (The turnoff is clearly marked.)

Hike to Cassidy Arch.

(Moderate | 3.5-miles roundtrip)

This is one of our favorite hikes in the park. A relatively steep climb will lead you to Cassidy Arch – named after the outlaw, Butch Cassidy – and stunning views of the park. The trail is moderately strenuous, with a large increase in elevation.

Visit the Gifford House.

The historic homestead of Fruita, the Gifford House now serves as a museum and gift shop. It’s got lots of treats for sale, like homemade ice-cream. The perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Have Dinner in Torrey.

Check out this page for dining recommendations

Day Three.
Scenic Byway 12.

Take Scenic Byway 12.

Connect with America’s Best Scenic Byway in Torrey and head south towards the town of Boulder, Utah.

Stop in Boulder.

Have a look around and stop by the Anasazi State Park Museum for a bit of historical context. Then grab something to eat at Hell’s Backbone Grill.

Grand Staircase National Monument.

After lunch, it’s back on the road. Continue south toward the town of Escalante, Utah. You will soon enter the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument.

Hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls.

(Moderate | 5.7-miles roundtrip)

Hiking to Calf Creek is a nice way to break up the drive. Follow the sandy trail until you see the falls. Little to no elevation change makes this trail moderately easy. But you will probably get a little wet.

Drive to Bryce Canyon

Enjoy the rest of the amazing scenery on Scenic Byway 12 as you head to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Hike to Mossy Cave.

(Easy | 0.9-miles roundtrip)

Get your first peek of Bryce Canyon by hiking this short trail. It is located on Byway 12 about 4-miles outside of the main park entrance. Keep your eyes open for the small parking lot that marks the trailhead. A very easy hike leads you to a waterfall and a mossy grotto.

Check-in to Accommodations.

Continue to Bryce Canyon?

You’ve made it through Capitol Reef and the Grand Staircase.
It’s now time to continue your journey in the next park.

Park Two.
Bryce Canyon.

Whether you’re seeing it for the first time, or the hundredth, the otherworldliness of Bryce Canyon never gets old. Go and wander among the hoodoos.

Day Four.
Bryce Canyon.

Arrive in Bryce Canyon.

The park charges a fee of $30 for each entering vehicle. (Motorcycles are slightly less).

Visit the Visitor Center.

Stop by the Visitor Center, talk to the rangers, and watch their educational film. You can find out more about the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center here.

Hike Fairyland Loop Trail.

(Strenuous | 8-miles roundtrip)

Fairyland is one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon – and we think it’s a great one-stop shop for all your Bryce Canyon needs. The trail starts at Fairyland Point, situated on the canyon rim. Take a while to admire the view, before heading down into the ampitheatre. As the trail leads you into the canyon, you’ll get to see the hoodoos and spires up close. Pack lunch and eat a picnic on the trail.

Dinner in Bryce Canyon City.

See the Night Sky.

If you time it right, you could be in Bryce Canyon during a full moon. Which means you could go on one of their famous Full Moon Hikes. If you can’t make that work, there are sometimes other astronomically-themed activities to attend. Check with the visitor center. Or simiply do your own stargazing.

Continue to Zion?

You’ve had an awesome day hiking in Bryce Canyon.
It’s now time to continue your journey in the next park.

Park Three.

You’re final stop on the Three Park Roadtrip, Zion is a place of spectacular beauty. From the vistas of Angel’s Landing, to the cool retreat of Emerald Pools, this is the best of Zion.

Day Five.
Zion National Park.

Drive to Zion National Park.

This is another amazingly beautiful section of highway, so take some pictures along the way. Enter Zion at the East Entrance. A $30 dollar fee is required for each entering vehicle.

Drive through Checkerboard Mesa.

Most people miss out on seeing the mesas on this side of the park. Keep your eyes peeled for wild mountain goats.

Mount Carmel Tunnel.

As an added bonus, you’ll get to pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway Tunnel. Constucted during the 1920s and ’30s, it was the most expense mile of highway in the United States at the time. Also kids love it.

Visit the Visitor Center.

Stop by the Visitor Center, talk to the rangers, and watch their educational film. You can find out more about the Zion Visitor Center here.

Take the Shuttle Up Zion Canyon.

Stop at the Zion Lodge.

This historic lodge has a little restaurant. Grab some food – don’t forget the ice cream – admire the view, and get ready for one of the best hikes in the park.

Hike to Upper Emerald Pools.

(Easy | 3-miles roundtrip)

Emerald pools is a pretty easy hike, in fact it’s so easy that the first part is paved. There are three consecutive pools, aptly named Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. Hike to the top, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t want to backtrack, take the Kayenta Trail back down. This will add another mile to the hike, but the views are worth it.

Take the Shuttle Down Zion Canyon.

Go Window Shopping.

After you get back to your car, exit to the south. There are a bunch of boutiques near the entrance. Walk through a gallery or two. You can also watch a film at the nearby IMAX theatre. Plus there are a lot of restaurants, in case you’ve worked up an appetite.

Check-in to Accommodations.

Day Six.
Zion National Park.

Return to Zion.

Try to get there early. Today you’re going to tackle Angel’s Landing, the most iconic hike in Zion. In order to do this hike, you will need to have been awarded a permit. Visit this page to start the process. Since the permit may not be awarded on your preferred day, it pays to be a little flexible. The hike can be pretty strenuous, so an early start will make it more enjoyable. Some people even recommend watching the sunrise from the top.

Take the Shuttle Up Zion Canyon.

Hike to Angel’s Landing.

(Strenuous | 10-miles roundtrip)

The trail starts out relatively easy, with the first section being paved. However, by the time you make it to the last half mile, you will be on a narrow path, close to the edge of the canyon ridge. (Don’t worry. There are anchored chains to keep you from falling off.) The trail’s elevation change is pretty dramatic, so take your time. You will never forgot the view form the top.

Break for Lunch.

You can stop by the Zion Lodge again, or go to one of the many places near the front entrance.

Have Some Downtime.

You’ve earned a reast. Go for a swim, take a nap, or buy some art at a gallery. Just relax for the rest of the day.

Day Seven.
On the Road.

Time to Say Goodbye.

Pack up and head out, it’s time to go home. Just remember, these three awesome national parks will be here for you the next time you want an adventure.

Going in Reverse?

You’ve climbed the peaks of Zion and finished our itinerary.
But if you’re doing things in reverse, or want to customize this trip, go to the next park.