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Ultimate Road Trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles (Including National Parks)

Want to have an epic road trip adventure from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, but don’t know where to start? Do you love national parks or the beauty of nature? Do you want to visit stops that are quirky and fascinating?

Then, here are my personal recommendations of fun stops along the way for a perfect road trip adventure. Feel free to adjust your itinerary if needed.

Zipline Utah

Zipline Utah, located just outside of Heber City, offers both a combination of challenge course and ziplining. And from what I heard, they opened up the longest zipline in the world at about 2 miles long over the water.

What better way to start the road trip off with amazing views of the mountains and lakes.

To book a tour, make sure to click this link.

Price: $49 for Screaming Falcon, $89 for The Kingfisher, and $149 for the                         Screaming Falcon Full Adventure Tour

Directions: Deer Creek State Park
Rainbow Bay
10 min southwest of Heber, UT 84032 hwy 189 at mile marker 22

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Next up, make a quick stop to Timpanogos Cave National Monument for a cave tour led by park rangers. See formations called draperies, popcorn, helicities, and flowstone, as well as the more well-known stalactites and stalagmites.

A short but strenuous hike of 1.5 miles is required to reach the cave, located 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. (The round trip through the cave and back to the trailhead is about 3.5 miles and takes about 3 hours).

Temperatures inside the caves are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit so a light jacket is recommended. The cave is open mid-May to mid-October.

You won’t regret it!

Prices: $8 for adults (ages 16+), $6 for juniors (ages 6-15), $4 for child (ages 3-5), FREE for infants (ages 0-2), $4 for Golden Age/Access Pass Holders

Directions: 2038 Alpine Loop Rd, American Fork, UT 84003

Dinosaur National Monument

After a fun cave tour, head on over to Dinosaur National Monument. Dinosaur National Monument contains famous fossil finds, dramatic river canyons, intriguing petroglyphs, and endless opportunities for adventure!

For campsites, I recommend camping at the Green River Campground which is the most scenic in my opinion. Plus, the cost to camp is $18 so make sure to split the pay with your travel buddies.

Our campsite

Things to Do: 

  • Hike The Sound of Silence (not the Simon and Garfunkel song)
  • Discover fossils at the Fossil Discovery Trail
  • Check out the dinosaur fossils at The Quarry
  • Check out the petroglyphs at the Swelter Shelter
  • Take the 10-mile auto tour of the Tilted Rocks

Price: $20 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: 11625 East 1500 South, Jensen, UT 84035

Arches National Park 

Next up, visit Arches and discover this red rock wonderland with its amazing landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world.

Plus, did you know that this park has over 2,000 natural stone arches in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks?

Campsite: Devil’s Garden Campground ($25 per night)

Things to Do: 

  • Check out Park Avenue
  • Check out the Petrified Dunes
  • Walk around the Balanced Rock
  • Hike to the Delicate Arch
  • Hike to Skyline Arch
  • Hike to Double O Arch
Michael standing next to the arch

Price: $25 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: Arches Entrance Rd.
Moab, UT 84532

Dead Horse Point State Park

Be sure to stop by at this small, lesser known park before heading to Canyonlands National Park. This park offers stunning views of the deep canyons along with incredible views of the Colorado River (almost like Grand Canyon).

My personal recommendation, try to get there before sunrise or during the sunset to get amazing shots of the mesa.

Price: $15 for vehicle entry fee & $10 for seniors (ages 62 and older)

Directions: UT-313, Moab, UT 84532

Canyonlands National Park (The Island in the Sky)

After Dead Horse Point, visit Canyonlands National Park (The Island in the Sky) where its mesa rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Every overlook offers a different perspective on this park’s spectacular landscape.

Campsite: Willow Flat Campground ($15 per night)

Things to Do:

  • Hike the Mesa Arch
  • Hike to the Aztec Butte
  • Hike to Upheaval Dome
  • Check out the Grand View Overlook

Price: $25 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: Grand View Point Rd, Moab, UT 84532

Hole N’ The Rock

Hole N’ The Rock is a really cool stop along Moab since this unique home was carved out of a huge rock. This historic 5,000 square foot home and unusual gift shop and trading post are open all year.

I recommend taking a guided tour of the home which offers fascinating histories of its founders, Albert and Gladyss Christensen.

We even saw a Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

Price: $10 for the tour

Directions: 11037 US-191, Moab, UT 84532

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument is well-known for its six clusters of pueblo ruins along the Utah-Colorado border. Once you arrive, make sure to walk to the six prehistoric structures. It’s definitely worth the stop!

Price: FREE

Four Corners 

Four Corners, in my opinion, wasn’t very spectacular. However if you love to be in four states at once (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado), then this is a must.

Price: $5 per person

Directions: NM-597, Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514

Mexican Hat Rock

Shaped like a sombrero, Mexican Hat Rock is another quick stop to go! Located close to Valley of the Gods, this rock is a popular spot for landscape photography.

Directions: Mexican Hat, UT 84531

Goosenecks State Park

Similar to Dead Horse Point, Goosenecks State Park overlooks two bends that meander the canyons and the San Juan River. This is another quick stop for its picturesque sceneries.

The first bend
The second bend

Price: $5 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: UT-316, Mexican Hat, UT 84531

Natural Bridges National Monument

Next stop you definitely should go to is Natural Bridges National Monument. Its three well-known bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home. You can either watch the bridges from an overlook or hike a short, steep trail down to get a closer look.

Price: $10 for vehicle entry free

Directions: Lake Powell, UT 84533

Capitol Reef National Park 

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef is another gem where you can explore its colorful sandstone cliffs, impressive domes, and soaring monoliths.

Things to Do: 

  • Tour the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway
  • Check out the Fruita Historic District
  • Hike to Hickman Bridge
  • Hike to Cassidy Arch
  • Watch the sunset at Sunset Point

Campsites: Fruita Campground ($20 per night & $10 for Golden Access/Access Passholders)

Price: $10 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775

Bryce Canyon 

Next up, head over to Bryce Canyon where you can explore the crimson-colored hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). 

Things to Do:

  • Hike to Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop
  • Hike to Fairyland Loop (if you’re into solitude)
  • Watch the sunrise/sunset from the canyons

Campground: Sunset Campground ($20 per night)

Price: $30 for vehicle entry fee

Directions: UT-63 Bryce, UT 84764

Zion National Park

After Bryce Canyon, mosey on over to Zion National Park. Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks with amazing views of rock formations, slot canyons, emerald pools, and many other captivating landscapes.

Things to Do:

  • Hike The Narrows
  • Hike Angel’s Landing
  • Hike to the Emerald Pools
  • Drive along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway
  • Go on a guided canyoneering tour
  • Explore Grafton (its nearby ghost town)

Campsites: Watchman Campground ($20 per night), South Campground ($20 per night), and Lava Point Campground (free)

Price: $30 for vehicle entry fee

Las Vegas

Known for its city of lights, Las Vegas is a vibrant, pulsating city for everyone to enjoy. Go sightsee. Gamble. Walk along The Strip. Or relax by the pools as you cool off from the desert heat.

Also, make sure to stop by at Seven Magic Mountains after you leave Vegas!

Price: varies

Budget-friendly hotels: Circus Circus, La Qunita Inn & Suites, El Cortez, Excalibur, Stratosphere, Days Inn Las Vegas, Best Western McCarran Inn, The Linq Hotel, Monte Carlo, The Rita Suites 

Joshua Tree National Park

Lastly, conclude your road trip with a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is known for its boulders, rugged mountains, and its abundance of joshua trees which makes this a perfect place to enjoy the vast beauty of California’s desert.

 

An interesting-looking cacti

Things to Do: 

  • Hike Split Rock
  • Walk around Cholla Cactus Garden
  • Hike the Arch Rock
  • Take a photo of Skull Rock
  • Go rock-climbing
  • Hike Barker Dam
  • Hike Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
  • Explore Desert Queen Mine
  • Explore Wall Street Mill
  • STARGAZE

Campsites: Hidden Valley Campground ($15 per night), Cottonwood Campground ($20 per night), Belle Campground ($15 per night), White Tank Campground ($15 per night), Jumbo Rocks Campground ($15 per night) 

Price: $15 for vehicle entry fee

Okay. So now you’re probably thinking this is so damn expensive. Well, I recommend buying a National Park Annual Pass for $80. It’s worth an investment for a road trip stop to these beautiful parks. Or you can try going on fee-free days. If all else fails, make sure to bring your travel buddies and split the costs (the more the better!)

So what are you waiting for? Bring your family and/or friends and hit the road…

 

Have you been to any of the mentioned places here? If so, what is your favorite? Would you ever consider going on a road trip from SLC to LA or LA to SLC? Let me know by commenting down below.

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2 Comments

  1. chris says:

    how long did it take , is it possible to hit all 5 (big five) parks in Utah

    1. Hi Chris,

      That’s a great question. This depends on your pace and how long you want to stay within/in each National Parks. For example, I’ve only been there for a week since I mostly visited during the day. But to truly see the beauty of each park, I recommend camping overnight for at least a night or two to really get a feel for each of the parks. If you cannot stay overnight for all 5, then I recommend either Zion or Arches since they have many places for you to explore/hike/photograph depending on what activity you enjoy. Regardless, they are all beautiful either way. And of course! You can visit all 5 of Utah’s National Parks. This requires some planning and figuring out what you prefer to see (i.e. scenic views, hikes, climb, outdoor activities, night photo, etc.). I hope this helps and good luck on your adventures! 🙂

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