Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Ultimate One Week Vacation Itinerary: Utah

The Valley Floor Zion National Park
You've probably seen the commercials by now and don't really need me to convince you that Utah's state parks are a bucket list item.  But how do you make the most of your time?  Unless you are retired or working a really sweet job, you might have 15 vacation days all year long.  Throw in a few weddings and you're lucky to get away at all.  While I would love to spend a month (or more!) traipsing across the southwest jumping from park to park, I just don't have that luxury.  Luckily you can cram a lot of incredible experiences into one week in Utah, as long as you don't want to sleep in, and you know, take it easy.

Day One: Fly into Vegas at McCarran International Airport and drive 2.5 hours to Zion National Park

Eating is on the to-do list day one.  @ Bachi Burger
  • I love flying into Vegas because the flights are typically cheap and you can often score a direct flight since it's such a popular destination. Also a great place to rent a car, again because of the prices.  By the way, I'd definitely recommend an SUV on this trip because you're going to be logging some miles on tougher terrain from time to time.
  • Another great Vegas perk: you can get some really great meals in before you embark on a more strenuous, less foodie adventure for the rest of the week. Eat your fill, and also stock up on supplies at a local Target.  
  • If you have extra time on your hands you could add a day and experience Vegas for a night, but we decided to just swing through, eat, fill up our vehicle with a week of supplies, and hit the road to our first state park!
  • We hiked Angel's Landing (above) in the morning and then took some smaller hikes like the Emerald Pools trail in the afternoon
Day Three: Zion National Park
  • The Narrows Hike -- be prepared to get wet and pack the correct supplies for this one.  You can rent a walking stick at the entrance to the park, but you will definitely need to bring your own water shoes.
Day Four: Drive to Antelope Canyon  (just under 2 hours from Zion) then head to Monument Valley (about 2 hours from Antelope Canyon) -- try to make it before sunset!

Horseshoe Bend
  • Wake up early, and enjoy the scenic drive through Zion as you head towards Page, Arizona.
  • Make sure you schedule your guided tour of Antelope Canyon in advance as times fill up quickly around the more popular viewing hours (10 AM to 1 PM)
  • If you have time before or after your scheduled Antelope Canyon tour, make sure you head to Horseshoe Bend while you're in Page for a breathtaking view!
  • If you time it just right, you can make it to Monument Valley, check in at The View Hotel, and watch the sunset over the scenic mittens for a view that makes this crazy day totally worth every second in the car.
Day Five: Monument Valley Tour in the AM, then head to Moab, Utah (about 2.5 hours)
  • We watched the sunrise at The View Hotel, then took a horseback riding tour with Black's Tours in the morning that was my favorite part of the entire trip!
  • Make sure you drive through Monument Valley before you hit the road for Moab for some incredible photography spots!
  • If you time it just right, you have plenty of time to settle in at your hotel in Moab and then make it to Arches National Park for an incredible sunset at Delicate Arch.  

Day Six: White Water Rafting in Moab
  • We used the Sherry Griffith Experience -- it was an all-day affair and a ton of fun!
  • That night head back into to Arches for stargazing at a easy to navigate trailhead like the Windows Loop Trail.  Flashlights recommended.
Day Seven: Up Early to Hike Devil's Garden in Arches National Park then drive to Salt Lake City, Utah (3.5 hours drive)

The Devil's Garden trail is 3 miles of brutal sun and incredible views. Somehow I managed to finish it at a grandmother's pace.
  • Just a heads up, this hike at Arches is blazing hot and totally kicked my butt.  We were probably on the trail for over 4 hours and didn't get into Salt Lake City until late afternoon. Just in time to hit some serious work traffic.
  • Treat yourself with a fancy dinner in SLC.  You deserve it.
Day Eight: Walk around Temple Square and get a nice breakfast, then drive to Big Cottowood Canyon for more hiking (about 30 minutes from downtown o the Lake Blanche Trail Head).  End your day with sunset on the Salt Flats (about 1.5 hours from SLC).

Your reward for Lake Blanche Trail is  totally worth every second of uphill brutality.
  • More hiking?  But yes, the Lake Blanche Trail is totally worth every miserable second of screaming thighs to the top.
  • You can rest your throbbing feet as you drive to the Salt Flats that night for one last incredible sunset.
Sunset on the Salt Flats

Day Nine: Fly home out of Salt Lake International Airport with pictures and memories that will last a lifetime. 

Keep checking back because I will be linking to full posts about the details of each day so you have even more ideas for making this the best trip you've planned so far!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Garima! I'm going to try to get the individual trip components fleshed out in full posts in the next month or two if you are planning a trip out west and need any help!