Going on an adventure out west? Here’s how to spend seven days in the spectacular State of Utah.
Day 1 – Arrive in Utah and Head to Moab
When flying commercially to the State of Utah, it’s almost impossible to avoid a long drive to and from a major airport. Depending on where your starting point is, landing in a neighboring state such as Arizona or Nevada might be a better option. In my opinion, however, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is the most pleasant (and beautiful) option. While it is far away from the destinations you’ll be visiting for the week, don’t be scared off by driving a few hours immediately upon arrival. Opt for an early morning flight in order to enjoy the stunning scenery in the daylight as you drive nearly four hours to Moab. Personally, Moab is one of the best cities I’ve ever visited due to its charming downtown area and proximity to two of the best National Parks in the state. I recommend choosing a hotel in downtown so you can easily walk to restaurants or shops when you aren’t busy hiking.
Day 2 – Arches National Park & Canyonlands Island in the Sky
Wake up early for your first full day in Moab and head to Arches National Park. The visitor’s center is only a 10-minute drive from your downtown hotel, making heading out the door by 8:00 in the morning not as painful of a task. The trails in Arches are on the shorter side, in comparison to other parks in the state, and while there are some trails I’d highly recommend (Double O Arch Trail and Delicate Arch Trail), it’s better to save your energy for hiking later in the week.
After exploring Arches for the morning hours, take a break for lunch and head to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. This is the most popular area of the park and is best explored via the scenic drive as well. In my opinion, the best photo opportunities along the scenic drive are White Rim Overlook and Mesa Arch.
Day 3 – Canyonlands Needles District
I cannot stress enough how important it is not to skip this area of Canyonlands National Park. The Needles visitor’s center is a whopping 90-minute drive from Moab, but the views at Elephant Hill are not to be missed. This district is much better suited for experienced hikers, and I highly suggest using a GPS to help you along the trails, as spotting the cairns can be confusing. You won’t have to worry about crowds here, but I would still recommend arriving earlier in the morning.
After spending the day hiking on one of the many strenuous and lengthy trails in this area, head back to Moab for tasty fish tacos and a prickly pear mojito at The Spoke on Center. This is one of the best spots in downtown for tasty food, outdoor seating, and people watching.
Day 4 – Drive to St. George, Utah
Check out of your hotel and enjoy the nearly five-hour drive west to St. George, Utah. This is a much cheaper area to stay when visiting Zion National Park than Springdale, although it requires a short 55-minute drive to and from the park. There are plenty of hotels and family-friendly restaurants in this area to compensate for the drive.
Day 5 – Drive to Zion National Park
Zion is a hot spot for tourists, especially in the summer months. In high season, most of the popular sights in the park are only accessible via shuttle or bike (unless you like walking for hours). Check Zion’s website in advance to purchase shuttle tickets so you don’t miss out on hiking the exhilarating Angel’s Landing trail – one of the more dangerous hikes in the country. If you’re not up for an adrenaline rush, enjoy walking along the Virgin River or hiking along the Watchman Trail for breathtaking views of Springdale.
Day 6 – Downtown Salt Lake City
After your short stay in St. George, drive four hours north to Salt Lake City to prepare for your flight home the following day. Hotels in Salt Lake are plentiful, but I suggest staying downtown for the afternoon to enjoy a break from nature. For dinner, head to Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana for truly some of the best pizza you’ll ever eat (the pear and jalapeño marmalade pizza is much better than it sounds). After dinner, pack your bags and get a good night’s sleep for your long flight home the next day.
Day 7 – Head Home
Drive to Salt Lake City International Airport for your flight home. You can skip stopping for breakfast or coffee prior to arriving at the airport. There’s a great place for coffee and French toast in the charming and quiet airport before you board the aircraft and catch a tailwind home.