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Grand Circle: more than just national parks

Difficulty

1293 miles/2080 km

Distance

12 days

Recom. Days

Adventure

Trip type

Europe trip
Anna Bujas

Anna has traveled to over 35 countries and is always looking for the next adventure for her and her dog.

Grand Circle Road Trip

an itinerary on google maps showing a road trip in Utah

Google Maps

Utah and its surroundings are some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. From its towering rock formations to its picturesque waterfront scenery, there’s something for everyone who wants to jump in their RV and explore everything this area has to offer.

One route you can take through Utah to get the most out of what makes this great state famous, the big 5 national parks, then pop into the Grand Canyon, and round everything out with some true backcountry experience.

Salt Lake City is the perfect jumping-off point for your grand circle road trip. It’s a central hub of transportation and offers a friendly, laid-back atmosphere to get you into the spirit of RVing.

Before you leave, why not explore the Utah Olympic Park to try your hand at bobsledding or ski jumping? More a fan of sitting back and enjoying a show? The Redwood Drive-in Movie Theatre is perfect for you.

No matter your proclivities, you’ll find something to do in Salt Lake City. From there, it’s a simple matter to hire an RV and get your trip underway.

Utah billboard in the desert
Pick-up in
Salt Lake City Pick-up center
1

Stop One: Explore the contrasts of Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a landscape of contrasting landforms, colors, and textures that are unlike anything you will have seen before. The park has over 2,000 naturally-formed stone arches (hence the name) but also plays host to hundreds of massive rock fins, soaring pinnacles, and giant balanced rocks.

The park is crisscrossed with numerous walking and hiking trails, all of various grades. For some of the most spectacular views of the area, be sure to get up before sun up and perch yourself among the rocks for a front-row seat to one of the most beautiful sunrises you’ll ever see.

empty desert route with canyons on the back

Whether you’re into hiking or just enjoy a spectacular sunset, this red-rock wonderland will be sure to go down as one of the highlights of your road trip around Utah.

Visiting

Arches National Park

1

Recom. Days

Main route

230 miles

from Salt Lake City

3h35min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Park Avenue

A short, easy hike that wanders past impressively massive rock formations

The windows and turret arch

See the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch all in one hike

Double Arch

The tallest arches in the park, this double formation will take your breath away

Delicate Arch

The main attraction of the park, the Delicate Arch isn’t to be missed

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Eat at

98 Center Moab

$$

Vietnamese-inspired soups and sandwiches with vegan and gluten-free options available

Moab Kitchen

$$

A vegan food truck that turns out wraps, soups, and other bites

RV icon

Parking

Devils Garden Parking Lot

$

Park here for the trail to Landscape Arch and beyond. 10 oversized spaces are available

Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot

$

The three-mile roundtrip hike to Delicate Arch starts from this car park. 28 oversized spaces are available

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Stay at

Arches National Park

$$

The park itself has camping facilities and does accommodate RVs up to 30 meters in length

Archview RV Resort & Campground

$$

A chic camping area with an old west theme

Seven Mile RV Park

$$

Just five minutes from Arches National Park and flush with amenities

2

Stop Two: Wonder at the diversity of Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is the largest in Utah with a diversity that will stagger your imagination. Made up of different districts, you want to choose which to visit ahead of time as they’re not very accessible once you’re in the park proper.

The easiest district to experience is the Island in the Sky district which is the closest to Moab and offers panoramic views of the park’s spectacular landscape.

Canyonlands National Park

Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful from the park. Simply perch yourself at one of the many lookouts and let nature put on a show for you. The park also offers multiple hiking trails for those more adventurously minded.

Visiting

Canyonlands National Park

1

Recom. Days

Main route

26 miles

from Arches National Park

30 min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Grand View Point

Offering some of the best views in the park, this lookout isn’t to be missed

Mesa Arch

This natural arch gives Arches National Park a run for its money

Green River Overlook

Another excellent viewpoint from which to gaze in awe across the park

Shafer Canyon

Just a short walk into the park, the Shafer Canyon outlook is one of the best in the area

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Eat at

Moab Diner

$$

A traditional American diner with a homey feel

Thai Bella Moab

$$

Spicy curries and other Thai favorites are served in a chic atmosphere

RV icon

Parking

Visitor center

$

Parking is limited at the visitor center

Island in the Sky

$

The most RV-friendly campground parking in the park itself

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Stay at

Canyonlands national park – Island in the Sky

$$

This campground is dry and can accommodate vehicles up to 28 feet in length

Canyonlands national park – Needles

$$

The second RV campground in the park. This one is also dry and can accommodate vehicles up to 28 feet in length

White Crack Campground

$$

Super close to the park proper, it sports some of the best views of the area

Maze Overlook Campground

$$

A stunning campground just minutes from the Canyonlands National Park

3

Stop Three: Take a trip back in time in Capitol Reef National Park

It’s difficult to rival Capitol Reef National Park’s sense of expanse. A wonderland of broad, sweeping vistas and seemingly endless landscape, it gives you a real sense of what Earth must have been like before life appeared.

The park itself is host to a slew of walking and hiking trails as well as some of the most impressive lookouts in the area. It also holds a number of ancient petroglyphs – engraved etchings into rock walls that date back to 600 - 1300 A.D.

capitol reef sign in the middle of the deserts

Whether you’re into hiking, taking in a view, or want to delve into the history of the area, Capitol Reef National Park is a great day trip for you and your family.

Visiting

Capitol Reef National Park

2

Recom. Days

Main route

167 miles

from Canyonlands National Park

2h52min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Highway 24

The main highway that runs through the park, it offers some spectacular views

Panorama Point

This lookout is located just off Highway 24 and offers some of the best views of the area

Sunset Point

A lookout that lives up to its name, you should experience the sunset here

Petroglyphs

Free

Ancient pictures carved into the stone walls of the area

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Eat at

The Gifford House Store and Museum

$$

Sells baked goods, coffee and tea, ice cream, and other snacks during the spring and summer seasons

RV icon

Parking

Visitor center

$

Parking is limited at the visitor center

Pullouts along Highway 24

$

Oversize/RV parking is available in pullouts along the highway

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Stay at

Fruita Campground

$$

This campground is within the park itself and is an oasis in the desert

Group Campsite

$$

Also within the park itself, this campsite is notoriously busy so you should book in advance

Wonderland RV Park

$$

Located just a stone’s throw from the park proper, the Wonderland RV Park is the best in the area

Thousand Lakes RV Park

$$

A homey RV park with plenty of amenities including a pool

4

Stop Four: See the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a red, orange, and white wonderland that provides spectacular views for park visitors. Smaller than its brother, the nearby Zion National Park, it nevertheless packs a real punch in terms of sights.

The cornerstone of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite the name, is actually not a canyon. Rather, it’s a collection of massive natural amphitheaters along the east of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures named hoodoos. These structures are formed by steam erosion and frost weathering of the lake bed and river sedimentary rocks.

landscape picture of rocks in Bryce Canyon during sunset time

The park is crisscrossed with numerous walking and hiking trails that lead to various lookout points throughout the area.

Visiting

Bryce Canyon National Park

1

Recom. Days

Main route

112 miles

from Capitol Reef National Park

2h10min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Inspiration Point

Home to three levels of lookouts, this is a great way to experience the amphitheaters

Rim Trail

One of the best ways to view the area’s hoodoos

Bryce Point

One of the best viewpoints in the park and a great vantage from which to watch the sunrise

Sunset Point

Home to the Silent City – a maze of ancient hoodoos

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Eat at

The Lodge

$$

The lodge is open seasonally for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

RV icon

Parking

Additional Parking Lot

$

Located across from the visitor center it’s the easiest way to park

The Lodge

$

The only place to lodge in the park, the Lodge also provides parking

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Stay at

North Campground

$$

Located in the park proper, it’s one of the best ways to experience the area

Sunset Campground

$

The park’s second campsite, it’s a great overnight experience

Bryce Canyon Pines Campground

$$

All the amenities you need with scenic canyon views

Escalante View Ruby's Inn Employee RV Park

$$

Large pull-through sites with all major amenities

5

Stop Five: Zion National Park – the cream of the crop

Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park is a mecca of hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, and more. Its highlight is an expansive canyon that averages 2,000 feet deep. Offering hiking opportunities along its floor, you can opt to explore The Narrows or a more challenging area known as The Subway.

Other awesome features of Zion National Park include its natural rock arches. Two of the most impressive are the Kolob and the Crawford, each visible from some of the many hiking trails that cross the area.

landscape of zion national park

If you’re traveling in summer then you’ll be excited to know that swimming is permitted within the park areas of the Virgin River.

Visiting

Zion National Park

2

Recom. Days

Main route

72 miles

from Bryce Canyon National Park

1h18min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Weeping Rock

Free

This dripping stone overhang offers stunning views of the hanging gardens

Riverside Walk

A 2.2-mile round-trip path that winds along the Virgin River

Lower Emerald Pools

Featuring a weeping wall and pools at the base

Canyoneering and rock climbing

The park’s unique landscape makes it ideal for canyoneering and rock climbing

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Eat at

Zion Canyon Brew Pub

$$

Quality pub food just a short walk from the visitor center

Switchback Grille Steakhouse

$$

The most upscale restaurant in the area

Thai Sapa

$$

The best Thai restaurant in the Springdale area

RV icon

Parking

Throughout the park

$

The park has a number of parking stalls throughout the area

Town of Springdale

$

You can park in the nearby town and catch a shuttle into the park proper

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Stay at

South Campground

$$

Informal RV park and campground with water access, shower, and laundry

Lava Point Campground

$$

A primitive campground with pit toilets and striking views

Watchman Campground

$$

Plenty of RV parks and toilets on site

Zion Canyon Campground and RV resort

$$

Family-run RV resort with all the amenities you need

6

Stop Six: Cut loose at Lake Powell

Lake Powell is an artificial reservoir on the Colorado River. A major vacation spot, it’s visited by around two million people each year.

Lake Powell starts in northern Arizona and extends up into southern Utah. At 186 miles long, this man-made wonder covers an immense amount of territory across the American West. Home to 96 major canyons, some of which are 15 to 20 miles in length, this reservoir is on the map as a national recreation destination.

Lake in Utah in the middle of the canyons

With almost 2,000 miles of shoreline, warm water, endless sunshine, and some of the most awesome scenery in the west, Lake Powell is the ultimate outdoor playground. Whether you’re into boating, water skiing, rock climbing, or simply taking in the sights, there’s something for everyone at this national recreation area.

Visiting

Lake Powell

1

Recom. Days

Main route

102 miles

from Zion National Park

1h44min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Kayak the lake

Take in the lake at a slower pace by hiring a kayak

Take a boat tour

For those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the sights

Antelope Canyon

One of the most visited and photographed slot canyons in America

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

The tallest natural bridge in North America

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Eat at

Rainbow Room

$$

Stunning views and spectacular food

Driftwood Lounge

$$

Just a hop from the Lake Powell Resort, this restaurant comes highly rated.

BirdHouse

$

Home of the best chicken roll in the area

RV icon

Parking

Bullfrog Marina

$

Can get busy during the high season so get in early for a spot

Antelope Point Marina & RV Park

$

A great place to explore the area with rentals available

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Stay at

Wahweap RV & Campground

$$

Sturdy RV park with showers and laundry facilities

Bullfrog Basin Campground

$$

RV park with all the amenities you need for a short stay

Stanton Creek Campground

$$

Primitive camping with some of the best views of the area

Page Lake Powell Campground

$$

Stunning views and all the amenities you might need

7

Stop Seven: Explore the backcountry in the Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is a picturesque backcountry area with similar scenery to that of nearby Monument Valley. It offers isolated buttes, massive pinnacles, and wide-open landscapes that seem to go on forever.

While you need a permit to hike the Monument Valley backcountry, the Valley of the Gods offers similar scenery without tribal restrictions. The area is open for hiking, backpacking, and camping.

beautiful sunset desert landscape

The Valley of the Gods has no designated campgrounds or trails, just seemingly endless backcountry for you to explore at your leisure.

Visiting

Valley of the Gods

1

Recom. Days

Main route

158 miles

from Lake Powell

2h57min

drive

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Seven Sailors Butte

One of the first formations you’ll come across and also one of the most impressive

Castle Butte

Resembling its namesake, this formation is something to behold

Battleship Rock

With an outline similar to that of a battleship, this rock formation is well-named

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Eat at

Eating at the Valley of the Gods

The Valley of the Gods is a vast stretch of very little. If you’re wanting to chow down while on your trip you’re better off packing your own meals.

RV icon

Parking

Parking at the Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods really is the wild west when it comes to parking. Simply find a spot off the road and park up.

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Stay at

Staying at the Valley of the Godsㅤ

There are no designated campgrounds within the valley proper, however, the whole area is open to RV camping provided you don’t mind roughing it

Drop-off in
Las Vegas Pick-up center

428 miles

from Valley of the Gods

7h

drive