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Plan a family road trip to Utah’s national parks – all 5 of them in about 5 days! From camping to hiking, if you love the outdoors this is a family road trip your family will never forget.
My husband is a teacher which means we have all summer long to travel. One of the things I love most about living out West are all the national parks. Utah, which is just a few hours north of Nevada, is home to 5 stunningly beautiful national parks. We have been to only 2 of the 5, but are planning a family road trip to Utah’s national parks.
1. Buy A National Parks Pass: When heading out on a road trip to national parks, the best deal is to get a national parks pass. Most parks cost about $20 for a five day pass, but a national parks pass is only $80 and it is good for a year.
If you are a senior citizen, the deal gets better as a national parks pass is only $10 and is good for life! If you are military, you get a pass for free. The pass is good for your entire car for every national park in the U.S.
2. Set Your Itinerary: It’s really important to be realistic about how long your kids can drive in the car without driving you crazy. My kids are good for 2-3 hours and then they need to get out and move. I also like to stop and smell the roses a lot!
My suggested itinerary spans over 5 days and your family may need more or less time. The five parks in Utah are Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. Check out my suggested itinerary:
Day 1: Start your road trip getting to Zion National Park. There are several easy hikes to do at Zion – even with a stroller! My favorite is the Riverside Walk that follows the Virgin River. You can get right in the river and play when the weather is warm.
Day 2: Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park (1 hour, 20 minutes on Highway 12). Spend afternoon or evening hiking at Bryce. We did a rim hike but you can actually go down in to the canyon and hike among the Hoodoos!
Day 3: Drive from Bryce to Capitol Reef National Park (about 2 1/2 hours). The main attraction at Capital Reef is the Waterpocket Fold, a buckle in the earth’s surface, almost 100 miles long.
Day 4: Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab. (about 2 1/2 hours). From Moab you can visit two national parks – Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. One of the main attractions in Canyonlands National Park is Mesa Arch. Arches has many hikes and areas to see including Broken Arch and Wolf Ranch Rock Art.
When you aren’t sure what to see just ask a park ranger for suggestions given your party’s age and physical ability. It can get very warm in the summer at Arches so plan ahead for the weather.
Day 5: Visit either Arches or Canyonland, whichever park you didn’t see on Day 4.
3. Prep Your Car for the Trip: The worst thing that can happen on a road trip is to have car trouble. Before we head out on a long trip we always make sure to get our fluids checked and our oil changed.
My husband is a car guy and while he likes to change the oil on the car himself, getting ready for a road trip is super busy so he takes the car to the Walmart Automative Care Center for an oil change.
4. Shop for food and equipment: We usually camp when we visit national parks. We tend to camp outside of the park as these sites provide more amenities and are easier to book than the camping sites within the parks. Last summer we camped in a teepee at a campground right outside of Bryce National Park and it was so cool! But it was still camping so we brought in all our food to cook.
While your oil is getting changed, you can head in to Walmart and pick up your camping supplies and groceries for the trip. If you are planning to hike you want to make sure to take lots of water along, too. The national parks all have small towns just outside their gates so you can also stay at a hotel if you aren’t the camping type.
5. Choose accommodations: We love to camp so we usually camp at national parks. National parks all have camp sites right in the parks, but we prefer to find a site just outside the parks. The campgrounds outside the parks generally have more amenities like a pool and playground for the kids. The national parks all have small towns just outside their gates so you can also stay at a hotel if you aren’t the camping type.
Hopefully this tutorial on how to plan a family road trip to Utah’s National Parks will help your national parks road trip run smoothly.
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