How to Successfully Execute The Utah Road Trip

Stories, Guides and Tips for your Utah Adventure!


First off, this is the start of a series of stories and guides from my 5 month road trip around the United States, Canada & Alaska! If you're thinking about exploring Utah’s national parks and stunning scenery, then you’ve come to the right place!

This story starts off in Salt Lake City. Now, for me the cities aren’t my favorite place to be. They're overcrowded, noisy, and you seem to spend a lot of time in traffic. But! Salt Lake City has a secret spot (maybe not that secret). Just out of the city lies Antelope Island. There're mountains, bison, wide open spaces, and a fantastic view of the city. My tip for Antelope Island is to wake up way too early and head for the trailhead for Frary Peak. We hiked this on a very cold and windy morning but were rewarded with some breathtaking views along the hike and especially from the summit. Pack a jacket, water and a snack, then start hiking! 


Next up we have Utah’s 5 national parks: Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyon Lands, Zion and Bryce. An NPS annual pass is recommended for any US road trip, so make sure you’ve got yourself one of those before heading off or pick one up at the first national park you go to. Here are a bunch of photos from the parks.


I'd say 1-2 days in each park is good amount. Some are bigger then others and offer a lot more to see. My personal favourite was Zion - it's just ridiculous. Please don’t go there without hiking Angels Landing. It's easily one of the best hikes I’ve done, but not for the faint hearted. The 2000ft cliff drops you walk past might make you a little uneasy haha!

Be aware that in summer these parks are extremely busy and if you're planning to stay in one overnight, pre-booking accommodation is vital. Otherwise, get yourself a backcountry permit so you can hike out into the wilderness and sleep under the stars. All the information you need can be found on the each park's website or at the visitor centers.

Now for the finer details of Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef NP. If you're traveling in a car you're comfortable taking off road, then don’t miss this drive. After exploring the park for the day it was time to find a place to park the vans and watch the sunset over the valley. Driving here during the golden hour was unforgettable. The dust from the cars in front of me or passing me created a stunning atmosphere as the golden light hits it, making it all too easy to grab a photo along the way. After an hour or so of dirt roads we reached Temple of the Moon just before the sun had completely set. The perfect place to camp the night. After cooking up dinner and my friend Tim setting up his hammock between our vans, it was time for some stargazing. I can’t say I’ve ever seen so many before in my life. Star photos are something I can’t seem to get into so I can’t really show you how amazing it was - you’ll just have to go there and see it for yourself! 

Not too far from Capitol Reef is Goblin Valley State Park, which has amazing yurts you can sleep in as seen below. I first saw the yurts on an Instagram post and decided I needed to see them for myself! The park also offers a number of hikes and slot canyons to explore. It was definitely worth the trip!

Lastly, we have Monument Valley Tribal Park, This place has got to be on everyone's bucket list but if for some reason it isn’t. Please add it as soon as possible! If you're a fan of the movie Forest Gump or the old western cowboy films, then that should be reason enough to pay the entrance fee and go exploring. As we drove into the park, we stopped on the side of the road, pulled out the skateboards and went for a roll. It was an awesome experience and one I'll never forget. It was here that I also took what might possibly be my favorite photo. Angel the Monument Valley Doggo! You can check it out below. She worked the camera so well. Drive the loop and go find her yourself. She’ll be super friendly and might even let you get a photo like mine. 


I hope this has helped you plan your next adventure to Utah and I'll be sure to write up another Utah adventure in the future. i just cant fit it all into one story!

Published: July 22, 2017

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Brad Willetts

Calgary

Photographer making his way around the world.