2 Days in Sedona: Your Expert Weekend in Sedona Itinerary

Sedona holds a special place in my heart. The first time I ever stepped foot in Sedona, Arizona two years ago I knew it held some type of magic.

I love the red rock formations that tower over the city. Artsy, handmade shops line every street and some of the best cuisines can be found tucked away on unassuming street corners. I loved it so much that I’ve returned multiple times since. 

I have perfected the two days in Sedona itinerary and I’m excited to share a piece of the magic with you!

PLANNING FOR SEDONA  AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: Sedona is beautiful all-year-round but Spring brings the best out of it since the weather is perfect to enjoy all the outdoor activities it offers. And since it gets a bit chilly in winter, the best time to visit Sedona is during spring, summer, or fall. 

Where to Stay: Sedona has endless options when it comes to accommodation. From the budget-friendly bed and breakfast, the sumptuous resorts that will make you feel like a million bucks to the secluded log cabins in the woods!   

If you want to splurge and take in all the luxuries of Sedona, I recommend staying at Amara Resort and Spa in Uptown Sedona. It might be a bit pricey but the soaring views will make up for that. If you're all about privacy with a homey feel, Casa Sedona Inn checks all those boxes — serenity is what you can expect here. 

And if you want to stay on a budget, I recommend staying at Sedona Uptown Suites (not much of a low budget per se but cheap on Sedona standards.) 

However, if your plan includes staying in a log cabin, you'll love this rustic cottageHow to Get Around: You can take a shuttle to get from Phoenix to Sedona but that can be very limiting or you'd have to rely on tours which can be a bit costly, so I recommend renting a car. If you're renting a car, compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodation.

Don't want to drive or plan? You can book a nighttime stargazing tour, a Jeep Broken Arrow Tour or even a Scenic Rim Tour.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack: Binoculars are key for spotting wildlife like Mule deer, javelina, and coyotes -- I suggest these Nikon binoculars. For hikes, you'll want a sturdy pair of hiking boots -- I love my Ahnu boots -- and some bug spray to keep away bugs. 

Know Before You Go: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will save you a bundle! It costs $80 for an annual pass (for an entire vehicle traveling together) to all US national parks and federally managed sites.  

How to Get to Sedona, Arizona

Sign that reads "Sedona founded 1902" with red rock formations and trees in the foreground of the photo

Sedona is located a 2-hour drive from Phoenix International Airport, which is the biggest flight hub in Arizona and where most Sedona weekend getaways will begin!

While there is a shuttle to get from Phoenix to Sedona, being without your own car in Sedona will definitely limit you in terms of what you are able to do and see, and it will make you more reliant on tours (which can up the cost of your trip). 

I recommend renting a car at Phoenix Airport and driving to Sedona — it’ll save you money and headache!

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Kayak as the best car rental search aggregator – it sifts through dozens of trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from Phoenix Airport on Kayak here!

Visiting Sedona as Part of a Larger Arizona Itinerary

view of the Grand Canyon at sunrise with the sun cresting over the valley and river with brilliant red and orange colors

Some people may opt to spend a weekend in Sedona as a single getaway; others may be looking to combine more Arizona sightseeing into their trip!

If you want to see more of Arizona, I have this 7-day road trip itinerary which will walk you through spending a week in Arizona, including Flagstaff, Scottsdale, the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park, Page (and Horseshoe Bend / Antelope Canyon), and Tuscon. 

There are other ways to structure a trip to Arizona. If you have less than a week, I’d suggest flying into Phoenix, basing yourself in Sedona, and doing day trips to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon from there.

Alternately, perhaps you could do a vacation rental or glamping site near the Grand Canyon for a few days to reduce your driving time while still getting to see a lot of this section of Arizona.

Wait, What About the Sedona Vortexes?

Falling light of the sunrise or sunset casting a glow on the red rocks of Sedona overlooking the Verde Valley with green trees in the valley

Any post about Sedona should mention the vortexes that the city is known for. Whether it’s a marketing strategy or magic is up to you to decide!

According to the Visit Sedona website, vortexes are:

“swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.”

Sedona’s four best-known vortexes are identified as Airport MesaCathedral RockBell Rock, and Boynton Canyon.

This post doesn’t have you visiting all the vortexes, as you’re limited by time since this is just a 2 day Sedona itinerary.

However, if you’re curious what this whole Sedona vortex thing is all about and want to do a vortex tour, there are vortex tours by Jeep and guided meditation tours at some of Sedona’s vortexes.

Where to Stay in Sedona

The red rock formations of Sedona with the afternoon light on the rocks, a green tree in the foreground to add contrast.

Sedona has endless options when it comes to places to stay. From resorts that pamper to quaint bed and breakfasts, there’s plenty of resorts that will cover your every desire.

If I’m visiting Sedona and want to splurge a little bit, I always book a few nights at Amara Resort and Spa in Uptown Sedona. 

My absolute selling point of staying at Amara is it is smack dab in the middle of Sedona so everything is within a short walking distance. The actual resort itself is absolutely stunning. Amara is tucked away off the street in an oasis of trees along the banks of Oak Creek. 

You’re greeted at the door by a complimentary valet so the stress of parking is immediately taken off your hands!

Huge wooden French doors remain open to the airy artistry of the lobby that’s always bustling with relaxed social guests. Each room has weirdly relaxing neutral colors that are splashed with vibrant modern art and accents. 

The grounds are kept immaculate and each balcony looks out towards the common grounds where you can relax in oversized Adirondack chairs, take a dip in the infinity pool or catch a sunset dip below the red rock canyons.

All my bougie needs are filled at Amara and the staff is exceptional!

Book your stay at Amara today!

If you’re in Sedona and are looking for something a little more private, homey, and reasonably priced, I’ve found that the Casa Sedona Inn is just the place. 

Casa Sedona is just outside the main downtown area of Sedona in the West Sedona area. A car or bike will definitely be needed if you want to stay here and explore downtown. 

But don’t let that deter you from staying here! If I’m being honest, I’d rather stay outside of town at Casa Sedona Inn because of its private beauty and location to the nature of the Verde Valley.

It’s an adobe-style mansion tucked away in the juniper forest with exceptional views of Sedonas desert. The Inn resembles the layout of an actual house. With rooms tucked away in art-filled hallways and every door has its own ornate design. 

Each uniquely decorated room has its own fireplace, private terrace, and a huge master bathroom. Casa Sedona is the ultimate escape for romance, privacy, or just relaxation off the beaten path.

Book your stay at Casa Sedona Inn today!

If you’re looking for something more along the lines of an Airbnb/VRBO/private vacation rental, I have a dedicated post to that on the way!

What to Pack for Sedona

For a complete packing list, you can check out what to pack for a road trip here but below is a quick overview of what to pack for Sedona.

Travel Guides: This Sedona itinerary is packed with so much useful information but sometimes guide books provide way more since they dedicate so much time and resources to research. So together with my personal experience and this Sedona: Treasure of the Southwest guide, you can be assured of having an amazing time.

Layered Clothing: Depending on the time of the year you visit, you’ll want at least 2 shirts (synthetic or wool, long and/or short sleeve depending on the season), 2 pairs of leggings or pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 fleece outer layer, a waterproof jacket, beanie, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks.

Comfortable Footwear: Enjoying the great outdoors of Sedona means hiking and a sturdy pair of hiking boots is worth the investment. I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest the KEEN Durand boot.

However, if you choose to go with sneakers, make sure they have good traction and are comfortable enough to walk in for a couple of miles.

Sunscreen: At an elevation of 4,500 feet, it’s easy to get burned even on cloudy days! Trust me — I’ve learned this the hard way. Pack and wear sunscreen while in Sedona and reapply every couple of hours. I suggest taking this chemical-free organic sunscreen especially if you plan on swimming in one of the water holes — you don’t want to pollute the water with a sunscreen full of chemicals.

Sunhat: I suggest taking a lightweight and packable hat like this one. It has a strap to avoid being blown away by wind and if you get tired of wearing it on the head, you can easily wear it on your back.

Day pack: A day pack is essential when visiting Sedona so you can keep all your day’s essentials in a place that can easily be reached! But don’t just take any day pack — I like this inexpensive and lightweight Osprey day pack. The best part is that it has mesh panels on the back to allow for proper airflow.

Snacks: None of the trails in Sedona are extremely hard but you’ll still need to recharge when you get hungry especially if you don’t want to waste time sitting down for a long lunch.

I recommend packing or picking a picnic or have lots of snacks before you make your way into Sedona. I always take various protein bars (I love CLIF bars), nuts, and other energy-giving snacks.

Camera: I love my Sony A6000! I never go anywhere without it. It’s lightweight and takes even better photos compared to other heavier D-SLR cameras. But since this is just the body, I suggest taking a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes, as the kit lens is OK, but nothing to brag about.

First aid kit: Things like blisters are likely to happen while in the outdoors but don’t let them ruin your Sedona trip. I recommend always keeping a first aid kit like this HART Weekend First Aid kit in your daypack. It’s lightweight and has everything you might need should that time come.

Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you plan to go stargazing (which I highly recommend), I suggest bringing a headlamp like this Petzl headlamp.

Water filter bottle: While there are water fountains around Sedona, I still suggest having a water bottle with a filter so you can fill up anywhere there’s a water source.

There are a wide variety of water filtration systems and treatments, but I love the GRAYL Geopress. It’s compact, easy to use, and filters out 99.99% of microplastics, viruses, bacteria, and other nasty particles, making the water instantly safe to drink without plastic waste.

Sedona Travel Tips

Book in advance. Sedona is one of the most popular getaway destinations in Arizona. Many of the best hotels book up early, as this is somewhat of a bucket list destination.

Booking in advance will save you a headache down the road picking second- and third-best options.

Pack appropriately. You’ll want to be sure to bring your hiking boots, that’s for sure! If you’re visiting in summer, you’ll want to pack lightweight, breathable materials like linen and silk, as well as breathable hiking clothes. 

Know that it gets cold! That said, be sure to bring some layers for night: Sedona’s elevation is 4,350 feet above sea level and it’s located in the high desert. That means cold temperatures overnight! 

Especially if you’re doing the stargazing tour (a must in my book!) you’ll absolutely want some warm layers. Jeans and a fleece should be fine in summer, and you’ll want something a bit heavier for winter.

Book your activities early. There are several activities in Sedona that book up quickly — namely, the Pink Jeep tours and the stargazing tours.

If you’re visiting in the peak season (April through October), you’ll want to book this in advance!

Day 1 of Your Sedona Itinerary

Spiky cactus with pink flowers on the cacti, red rocks with green shrubs in the distance, a typical Sedona landscape you'll see on this Sedona itinerary!

As soon as you step into Sedona you find out how trendy, artsy and incredibly healthy the city is.

I know you’ve heard about the weird mythical positive vibes that Sedona radiates but it’s so true!

Blame it on the Vortexes, the red rocks, or the stars but the air is truly different here and you’re sure to feel it!

Have coffee and relax

Sunrise over the red rock formations of Sedona with trees in the valley and shrubs below

Your first morning should be spent in your room watching the sun rise from your own balcony while sipping a pot of fresh coffee.

I know you’re thinking “Wait what? I want to get out!” But hold on! Sedona is all about recharging, relaxing, and taking time to appreciate the sights before mingling among the masses.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the quiet time in your own humble abode.

Have breakfast at Chocolatree

Perfect latte art in a cup on a pink plate with a gold spoon on a table.

 Get yourself together and put on your cutest comfortable day dress!

Head over to Chocolatree for a mid-morning breakfast to fuel your day and take in more of nature’s sights.

Chocolatree is the perfect spot for its light breakfast options, cold pressed juices, and restorative coffee shots.

All of their menu options are 100% organic, farm to table. My favorite item on the menu is the avocado toast topped with chipotle paneer.

Chocolatree also has a small on-site garden that they pull their ingredients from making it a one of a kind restaurant that really makes me appreciate the food.

To top it off, they have an outdoor cafe with exceptional views!

Before you head out, stop by their in-house chocolate shop and grab a to-go box.

Each chocolate is sweetened with honey or maple syrup giving it a sweet twist on traditionally made chocolate with sugar.

Sip and shop

adobe and mosaic masonry of the tlaquepaque arts and shopping center

Work some of your breakfast off at the outdoor market called Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

Tlaquepaque is such a fun place to shop! It’s a Spanish-inspired outdoor market (they call it a crafts village, which just about sums it up!)

It’s filled with handmade shops, art galleries, and music. The beauty of Tlaquepaque is worth seeing! 

As soon as you walk under the adobe-inspired gateway you’re transported into a beautiful garden area with ivy vines growing on every wall, water features flowing from the courtyard and decorations strung high above the walkway. 

It’s easy to spend hours here soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the treasures you’ll find in the small shops. 

My favorite shop is Natural Wonders. I’ve always been a rock geek, collecting weird-shaped rocks as a kid, Natural Wonders is like an adult rock shop. 

It’s full of beautiful crystallized rocks, precious gems. and ancient fossils. It’s part gallery, part store and it always leaves me in awe at how beautiful the world is.

Note: If you want to buy Native American jewelry, be sure to buy it from a Native artist who will benefit from the purchase. Unfortunately many white artists in Sedona and elsewhere steal Native designs and sell their intellectual property for profit.

In Tlaquepaque, the best place to buy Native American art pieces is at Ninibah. The shop itself is not Native-owned as far as I can tell, but all the artwork is certified to be crafted by Native jewelry designers, and the Native artists earn a fair price for their work. 

Trolley over to The Chapel of the Holy Cross

A church in the red rocks of Sedona with a large cross and stained glass

 After you’ve done a bit of shopping, wander over to The Chapel of the Holy Cross for some magnificent sightseeing.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a staple on Sedona’s skyline and worth the trip to see. Hop on the Sedona Trolley and take in the various sights across the city as you make your way towards The Chapel of the Holy across.

It’s every bit of a work of art as it is a church. A uniquely designed church with a 90-foot iron cross sits beautifully among the Sedona landscape.

On the inside, massive windows fill the southern side of the church allowing tremendous views of the desert landscape. It’s truly a work of art and will leave you speechless.

Relax at Amara Spa

Stones on a woman's back as she lays face down on a massage table

 A trip to Sedona isn’t complete without some type of spa and massage experience.

Amara Spa continues to be my go-to place for a mid-day massage. Their masseuses are world-class and the atmosphere exudes relaxation.

Amara has everything from therapeutic massages to guided meditation. The comfortable atmosphere puts me at ease and leaves me feeling recharged.

Have some pre-dinner drinks

Four hands holding colorful drinks including one with watermelon and one with lime.

 As a Texan, I’m all about a pre-dinner margarita! Javelina Cantina is the perfect spot for a sweet and sour libation on your walk back to town.

They have an awesome happy hour that runs every day from 3-6 PM, and they can mix up a mean margarita. Grab a basket of chips and head to the patio.

Javelina Cantina is full of Mexican-inspired flare and surrounded with patio views that are classic Sedona.

It’s fun to soak up some late afternoon sun while sipping a cold margarita just before heading back to the hotel to clean up for the night.

Have dinner with a view

The colors at sunset in Sedona over the red rocks of the landscape

Every successful day on vacation ends with a good dinner and a sunset. My favorite restaurant in Sedona, hands down, is Elote.

Elote is beyond famous for their cuisine and is well sought after by almost every visitor in Sedona. I’ll be honest, it’s incredibly hard to snag a seat as they don’t accept reservations and the establishment is small and intimate.

But their Southwestern-inspired cuisine is to die for. Elote takes pride in their wild game offerings and handcrafted appetizers.

I love saving some room for their Mexican chocolate pie after dinner. It’s an incredibly dense chocolate pie topped with Mexican chocolates and whipped cream. It’s close to the best thing I’ve ever tasted!

Since Elote is so difficult to find seating at, I always have a backup plan. Cucina Rustica always saves the night and its cuisine never disappoints.

Cucina Rustica features Italian-inspired dishes and has a long list of wonderful Sedona wines. They take pride in the farm-to-table approach and it shows in the freshness of their plates.

They have indoor and outdoor seating options as well as live music that sets the tone in a warm, romantic atmosphere. The Filetto di Manzo is to die for!

Although a little on the pricey side, Cucina Rustica is worth every bit of the splurge.

Do some stargazing

The Milky Way shown in the night sky above the red rocks of Sedona's landscape with light trails from a plane or shooting star

Ending your first night in Sedona should always include viewing the galactic magic that hangs in the sky. 

Sedona is one of 20 communities in America that is a Certified Dark Sky Community. There’s plenty of dark sky viewing areas around Sedona including Two Trees Observing Deck and Crescent Moon Picnic Site. 

But if you’re looking for a professional service to help guide your stargazing adventure — with a little UFO spotting on the side — then check out this nighttime stargazing tour! They take small groups out to stargaze and look for UFOs in the night sky.

Aided by UFO spotting and stargazing professionals and armed with binoculars and night-vision goggles, you’ll be able to navigate the night sky and catch some of the most amazing stars and night sky gazing you’ve ever seen.

 I can’t recommend this experience enough! It’s one of the most fun and amazing experiences I’ve had in Sedona. It is a little pricy, but I can attest that it’s worth every penny.

Book your stargazing tour here!

Day 2 of Your Sedona Itinerary

A colorful sunrise over the red rock formations of Sedona and the trees in the valley

I always feel more comfortable and ready to go on my second day in Sedona. I’m filled with the city’s energy, I’ve learned the flow and I’m ready to go! 

Day two of this Sedona itinerary is totally dedicated to the outdoors: hiking trails, Jeep tours through red rock formations, and cooling off in the river. 

Throw on your best athleisure outfit because today is the day to experience Sedona’s adventurous landscape!

See the sunrise from Devil’s Bridge

The natural bridge of Devil's Bridge in Sedona with red rocks and green trees all over the valley

Okay listen, it’s imperative to set an alarm and prepare for an early morning hike!

Devil’s Bridge is on the agenda and given it’s the busiest trail in Sedona and generally quite full of fellow hikers, you’ll want to be one of the first ones out there. 

Check out the sunrise times on Google and prepare to start your hike about 30 minutes prior. When I was there, 6 AM seemed to be the perfect balance between enjoying sleep and catching the sunrise.

Head out to the Dry Creek Road Trailhead and snag a parking spot. Devil’s Bridge is a 4-mile out-and-back hiking trail and the Dry Creek Road Trailhead offers the shortest length. 

Devil’s Bridge Trail is absolutely delightful and energizing. It’s surrounded by red rocks, vortexes, amazing cliffs, and an overall stunning desert landscape. 

Interested in learning more about the Sedona vortexes? Try this vortex and guided meditation experience!

It’s an enjoyable hike but a bit on the moderate side as there is a slight climb as you ascend to the actual bridge.

To see Devil’s Bridge in real life is absolutely tremendous! I feel like it’s the 8th wonder of the world and pictures just don’t do it justice. 

As the sun begins to peek into the sky, the desert below lights up and almost sparkles. Take a second to bask in the quiet morning. It’s a surreal experience that’ll kick your day off right.

 When finished, head back the same way you came on the hiking trail — it’s an out-and-back trail.

Have breakfast in the Secret Garden

A colorful cactus, green with purple spikes, on the ground of a garden

 After you’ve worked up an appetite on your early morning hike, head over to Secret Garden Cafe for breakfast.

This is my all-time favorite breakfast spot and it’s perfect for continuing the outdoor theme of the day!

I still remember the first time I walked into Secret Garden two years ago. I was blown away by the beauty of the patio.

It’s literally like dining in a beautiful, lush garden. There are flowers in full bloom, deep green grass cut to perfection, and colors popping all around.

To top it off their food and specialty drink menu is out of this world. As with most Sedona restaurants, Secret Garden features farm-to-table ingredients and locally grown produce.

The “world famous” deep dish quiche is truly world-famous!

Top that off with their locally distilled prickly pear vodka drink called Trouble On the Rocks and you’ve got the perfect breakfast combination!

Take a Pink Jeep tour

Allison standing on a pink jeep in the red rocks of Valley of Fire while on a pink jeep tour in Vegas - the same company runs tours in Sedona
On a Pink Jeep tour (same company) outside of Vegas

Everyone knows about the Pink Jeep Tours of Sedona. If you haven’t heard of them, surely you’ve seen them all around town by now!

 Well, join the Pink Jeep Movement because this tour company knows how to put on a good time! Pink Jeep Tours is just what it sounds like. Hop inside a bright pink Jeep, top-down, and have a heck of a time as a tour guide drives you through the Sedona backcountry. 

Book a tour with Pink Jeep Tours and be prepared for an adrenaline rush surrounded by views on views! 

Pink Jeep Tours offers several different tours but my favorite of them all is the Broken Arrow Tour. 

It is the “most extreme” option and it’s exclusive to Pink Jeep so you’re guaranteed to be the only ones exploring the desert roads.

There are also other tours like the Scenic Rim Tour which are a little less extreme if you’re on the nervous side.

Don’t let the words ‘most extreme’ scare you though. It’s not that extreme but it’s fun to take tight turns and smash over boulders while gazing out into the infamous red canyons.

You’ll definitely want to throw on comfortable shoes for the ride as you’ll be stopping and hiking very short distances to get better photographs and get closer to more scenic outlooks. 

Book your Broken Arrow Pink Jeep tour here!

[Editor’s Note: I took a Pink Jeep tour in Valley of Fire, Las Vegas and can second Sabra’s recommendation of the company — they’re excellent!]

Here are a few different versions of the Pink Jeep tour you can take:

Get your tarot read.

Tarot cards with a lit candle and flowers

 By now, you know that Sedona has some weird spiritual vibe that’s contagious. It’s not a myth, this feeling is real!

Last time I was in Sedona I took a chance at getting my Tarot cards read. When in Rome, right?

I’ve always been a little hesitant about this ‘woo woo’ magic but what better of a place to try it out than Sedona?

As you head back to town stop by Mythical Bazaar and get your Tarot read. The ladies at Mystical Bazaar are incredibly friendly and helpful.

I was there more for the experience than the actual future reading but it was a fun thing to do and I actually highly recommend it!

If you’re a little hesitant to look into the future, the storefront shop itself is worth stopping in.

They have wonderful healing crystals, handmade jewelry, and gemstones that make great gifts or memorable trinkets to take back home.

Cool off before dinner

River next to red rocks with lush trees around it and lots of shade

Oak Creek River runs the length of Sedona: a beautifully clear, ever flowing river that deserves a dip. 

Head out to Oak Creek Canyon near Grasshopper Point to soak in the cool waters and recharge your body. It’s beautifully serene and quiet!

The river is shaded by an oasis of trees and birds are singing on every branch. It’s basically magic.

Huge smooth red cliffs surround the river with rock perches that are perfect for sprawling out and catching a late afternoon nap!

Find some enchantment at the Enchantment Resort

Shrubs and high desert flora in the red rocks of Sedona

 The Enchantment Resort truly lives up to its name!

It’s a beautifully crafted resort surrounded by stunning views, and it offers three different restaurants on the property, Che Ah Chi, Tii Gavo, and View 180.

I’ve only had time to visit the Tii Gavo restaurant but from what I experienced, it may be the best and the most moderately priced.

Tii Gavo offers a seasonal menu presented by their world-famous chefs all in a fairy tale setting of massive outdoor fire pits with perfect views for a Sedona sunset.

My favorite and most unique experience from Tii Gavo is the tequila flights. If you’ve never had a tequila flight, you’re missing out!

No, it’s not the ‘hold your nose, take a shot’ type of tequila!

These tequilas are top-shelf sipping tequilas presented in a fashion that really shows off the nuance of flavor.

Everything from hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and orange can be found in these incredible tequilas. It’s a great way to warm up the night next to the fire!

Indulge in a sweet end to the night

hand holding an ice cream cone dipping in caramel

 As the night is coming to an end, stop in Rocky Rd Ice Cream Co for one last dabble in Sedona cuisine.

Rocky Rd is a family-owned ice cream shop that specializes in small-batch ice cream with Sedona flair. They have in-house custom flavors such as Mexican coffee and sea salt caramel cheesecake.

They also have seasonal flavors listed on their ice cream board but my favorite flavor continues to be the bourbon pecan. It’s exceptionally delectable!

The ice cream shop is super cute to boot!

You can tell it’s family-owned with touches of handcrafted decor hanging from the walls and faux ice cream cones decorating the walkway as you enter.

It’s a great way to top off your walk home under the dark Sedona sky.

***

the famous chapel in the rocks of sedona which blends into the natural scenery after dark

Sedona remains one of my favorite cities in the great American Southwest. It’s the perfect combination of relaxation and activity that leaves my spirit feeling recharged and energized.

Its cute, casual, and funky vibe will always draw me in and leave me wanting more, and after two days in Sedona, I expect you’ll feel the same!


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The Perfect Weekend in Salt Lake City Itinerary

Salt Lake City may just be one of the most picturesque cities in America: a gorgeously constructed town in the Salt Lake Valley, set amongst the towering Wasatch Mountain Range and bordered by the blue waters of the Great Salt Lake. 

The city itself is a beautiful mixture of turn-of-the-century architecture and a modern landscape that offers indoor and outdoor activities year-round.

I’ve put together a 2 day Salt Lake City itinerary that highlights the best of what the city has to offer when you’re visiting SLC for just a weekend. 

SLC is a young and vibrant feeling city, with lots of student culture due to the presence of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University (BYU).

Whether you’re flying into SLC for a quick city getaway, are combining it with the ski resorts of Park City, or are making SLC just one stop on a long road trip including Utah’s 5 national parks, this itinerary is a great place to start.

Whether you’re seeking solitude in nature or looking to dive into the latest up-and-coming cocktail bar, this SLC itinerary covers it all — so let’s get started.

Day 1 of your SLC Itinerary

Salt Lake City - Temple Square at night with lights on and focus on church

Check into your hotel.

Start your two-day Salt Lake City adventure by checking into one of the most well-known hotels in the heart of downtown SLC, The Grand America

Located on 10 acres of immaculately kept gardens, The Grand America is a sight to see and experience! 

The building itself soars over downtown in grand opulence with its 24-story Old World-style architecture. This is no average run-of-the-mill hotel!

The lobby is decorated with hints of grandiosity, as ornate marble floors give way to classical French-style furnishings and beautiful works of art. 

The attention to detail bleeds into the guest suites, as floor-to-ceiling windows offer unrivaled views of Salt Lake City’s natural outdoor beauty! 

Complete with a spa, dining room, and luxury shops, The Grand America is an entire entertainment venue in itself! 

The hotel is in the perfect location for exploring the downtown area and its surrounding landscape, so let’s drop off your bags and get to exploring downtown SLC!

If The Grand is all booked up, Hotel Monaco is another great option.

The skyline of Salt Lake City in the afternoon light with autumn trees and green trees

Grab breakfast at Penny Ann’s.

Downtown Salt Lake is extremely easy to navigate, and most places are very easy to get to by foot or bicycle. The city also offers a bike-share program that simplifies transportation! 

Once you’ve dropped off your bags at the hotel, hop on one of the city bikes and set off biking to Penny Ann’s Cafe for breakfast! 

This classic American diner serves hearty plates of some of the best breakfast foods in Salt Lake. Deemed home of the “heavenly hot cakes,” everyone comes for a massive stack of their famous pancakes! 

My absolute favorite thing on the menu is their hot cake sandwich. Bacon and eggs are sandwiched between three of their famous hotcakes and drizzled with syrup. 

It’s a decadent breakfast meal that can only be experienced at Penny Ann’s. Top that off with their bottomless house coffee and you’re ready to explore the city!

A stack of many pancakes with blueberries, strawberries and bananas.

Wander around Temple Square.

Salt Lake City has a gorgeous downtown that is every sightseer’s dream! 

On my first day in a new city, I like to spend the afternoon getting to know the vibe of the city and seeing some of the most famous architecture that surrounds the city. 

Temple Square is number one on my list of where to start your Salt Lake City sightseeing because of its rich art, culture, and history. 

Temple Square is a beautiful complex of more than 10 acres of meticulously-groomed grounds that will take your breath away, including the main Mormon temple, Salt Lake Temple.

It’s owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church, who play a huge role in SLC history), but now, the name has changed to include other churches adjacent to the area of the Mormon Temple.

It’s easy to spend a solid hour walking the grounds or discovering the beauty inside. If you time it right, you can catch a free performance from the Tabernacle Choir or just spend time delving into the elaborate architecture of its interior. 

There’s also the Family History Library on one side of Temple Square, which is run by volunteers from the Mormon Church who will help you research your family history and genealogy.

If you happen to be visiting at Christmas time, you can catch the array of festive lights and nativity scenes displayed from around the world!

The giant Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City with flowers in the foreground

Wander the shops at City Creek Center.

After you’ve had your fill of architectural beauty, make the short walk over to City Creek Center for an amazing upscale shopping opportunity. 

City Creek Center is lined with over 100 stores and restaurants and caters to provide entertainment in its open-air atmosphere complete with a retractable roof for the days of inclement weather. 

Even if you’re not into shopping, it’s easy to enjoy City Creek Center for its foliage-lined walkways and babbling creek that runs the entire two blocks of the mall. 

It’s reminiscent of The Grand Canal Shoppes in Vegas with water shows and various art exhibits lining the pathways. There is always some sort of entertainment to compliment your spending spree!

Several jet fountains in the middle of a pedestrian walkway on a SLC itinerary

Grab a drink at Quench It.

All the walking and shopping calls for a unique Utah treat! Lying just a mile down N West Temple Street is Quench It soft drinks. 

You’re probably thinking soda? Really? But hang in here with me! Quench It isn’t just your regular soda drink. 

They serve what the locals call dirty soda and it’s a must-try! Dirty sodas have garnered a cult like following in Salt Lake and their shops offer a fun, colorful atmosphere for enjoying the bizarre drink. 

Dirty sodas are a combination of your favorite classic soft drink and spiked with a shot of flavorful Torani Syrup with a splash of coconut cream.

It’s a wildly delicious combination that’ll supply you with a good shot of sugar to amp up your afternoon!

Check out the local street art.

With sugar running through your veins, continue through downtown to snap some pictures in front of Salt Lake’s famous street art! 

Street murals have begun to take the city by storm and there are some incredible works of art hiding around street corners. 

My favorite way to spend the late afternoon is seeking out some of these works of art. Here’s a list of my favorites and their locations to help you navigate around the city!

The Magic School Bus: Where aremy fellow 90’s babies? So you remember watching The Magic School bus in science class? Well, this mural is über reminiscent of those days! 

Located at 800 S 15th E, this mural will bring back all the wonderful memories of Mrs. Frizzle and her magic adventures complete with a DJ dragon and floating candy!

The Book Wall Mural: Located at 222 South Main Street, this massive book mural has some of the world’s most famous books painted in gigantic form! 

You’ll find the spines of Harry Potter, Gone With the Wind, and The Scarlet Letter painted in meticulous detail. It’s a super fun place for a colorful photoshoot!

Rock Legends: I love rock music so the Rock Legends Mural is my favorite mural in downtown Salt Lake! Located at 162 400 W on the side of the famous Gateway shopping center, this colorful iconic mural is worth the visit. 

The faces of eight rock legends are painted in bright, colorful fashion. I can’t help but bust out an air guitar while I walk past the faces of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix!

Grab a fancy dinner.

Head back to the hotel and clean up for a five-star dinner at Current Fish and Oyster

Current serves up the best seafood in downtown Salt Lake City! 

If you’re wondering about seafood in a landlocked state like Utah, don’t! Their menu is full of the freshest seafood flown in daily from around the world. 

Start off with their smoked clam dip as an appetizer and move on to their caramelized salmon for the main course. Not only are the dishes plated to appeal to the eyes, but the food itself will blow you away! 

Set in a vintage brick building, Current has kept the simplicity of its original construction with brick walls, concrete floors, and hundreds of Edison lights that warm up the space. 

Massive black booths and a sprawling bar add a trendy, welcoming feel that really sets the tone for enjoyment. 

I tend to hold out on cocktails here as their neighboring restaurant, Undercurrent steals the cocktail show! 

Plate of oysters in SLC

Grab drinks at Undercurrent or go see a show.

After dinner, spend the rest of the night one of two ways to see nightlife done SLC-Style

If you want to have a low-key night with a few drinks, walk across the street to their sister cocktail bar, Undercurrent.

Here you’ll find carefully crafted cocktails in a contemporary but comfortable setting. The entire interior has a nautical theme vibe that carries over into their drink selection. I love their Hanzo Steel cocktail or their Sea Legs cocktail! 

If you find yourself stumped on what to order, tell the bartender you want to Walk The Plank and they’ll decide the fate of your drink.

If you feel like listening to some rock and roll music, Salt Lake is home to a few music venues that are well-known in the industry! 

If you want to catch an intimate show, check out Kilby Court. Kilby Court is tucked away on a side street that was once a garage and offers an extremely private setting showcasing small acts. 

Although big names such as The Head and the Heart and The Shins have played at the venue, it caters to the more up-and-coming artists now. 

It’s a fantastic way to discover new music or to hang out in a friendly environment that offers entertainment in an intimate but inviting setting.

Man's hand serving an orange drink with crushed ice and mint

Day 2 of your SLC Itinerary

Your second day in Salt Lake City is all about the great outdoors! 

Salt Lake offers unrivaled views of Wasatch Mountains, the Great Salt Lake, and miles and miles of the beautiful Utah landscapes! 

Hike up Ensign Peak.

Wake up early and start your day with a short hike up Ensign Peak! 

Ensign Peak lies in the foothills of Salt Lake and offers an entirely different view of the city. The trailhead starts off in a residential area just behind the Utah State Capitol building. 

The trail is an easy and enjoyable half-mile ascent that reveals the city from the perspective of 5,400 feet! 

If you time it right, it’s the perfect way to catch a Utah sunrise or to just enjoy watching the city wake up from above the horizon.

The view from the top of Ensign Peak in SLC looking over the State capitol building

Stop by the Utah State Capitol building.

Descend Ensign Peak and consider stopping at the State Capitol Building since you’ll be so close!

The grounds surrounding the building are beautiful and the Capitol itself is something to marvel at, so it’s absolutely worth some time on your weekend in Utah to dedicate to exploring the area.

Sitting on top of a hill, the ornate beauty and storied history of The Capitol building are captivating. 

You can hop inside for a free tour or guide yourself through the magnificent hallways and overlooks at your own pace!

state capitol building on a sunny day in slc with the words "STATE OF UTAH" written in front of the building

Grab a cup of coffee (and some breakfast) to fuel your day.

After an early morning, head straight to Salt Lake Roasting Co. for a fresh cup of coffee and homemade pastries! 

Salt Lake Roasting Co instantly became one of my favorite coffee shops in Utah because of their warm, inviting atmosphere. 

You’ll feel instantly welcomed into the quaint coffee shop beginning with the inviting blue and yellow bricked building that’s impossible to miss! 

The interior is a gigantic two-story roastery with a steampunk flair. All their coffee is fresh roasted daily and the pastries are made in-house by their pastry chef. 

If you’re in the mood for a more substantial breakfast, you’ll want to try out The Park Cafe.

 Located in the Liberty Wells area of Salt Lake next to Liberty Park (which you should totally check out!) it’s the perfect place to enjoy a comfort-food-style breakfast. 

Their breakfast omelets are to die for and their French toast tastes just like grandma’s! 

The Park Cafe has been a family-owned staple in Downtown Salt Lake since the 1980s which gives it that welcoming feel.

cup of coffee on a table at a cafe

Check out the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island.

You can’t come to Salt Lake City and not experience the Great Salt Lake! 

I’ve found the best and most beautiful way to do this is to spend the afternoon exploring Antelope Island State Park. What makes this park so unique is its location and the hundreds of free-roaming buffalo! 

Antelope Island is a small peninsula jutting out in the middle of Great Salt Lake. My favorite way to explore is to take the hiking trails around the park. 

My favorite two trails are the Buffalo Point Trail and Frary Peak

Buffalo Point Trail is an easy 1-mile hike that has incredible views of Great Salt Lake and tons of wildlife. 

Frary Peak is a little more intense at 6 miles but because of its elevation gains, the views are incomparable! 

Another way to enjoy the afternoon is to take a dip in the Great Salt Lake at Bridger Bay Beach

This large sandy beach is located on the banks of Great Salt Lake and offers easy access into the water. 

The experience of swimming in the Great Salt Lake is unlike any other because you can effortlessly float due to the high salt content. It’s definitely a must-do Utah bucket list activity!

a buffalo on antelope island in great salt lake

Grab a local beer.

Head back into the city and grab an afternoon beer at Proper Brewing

I know Proper Brewing is the top brewery in Salt Lake because the locals could not stop talking about this place! It turns out, their suggestion was right! 

Proper Brewing takes pride in their microbrews and innovative beer combinations such as the beertini (just try it, as weird as it sounds!). 

The atmosphere is your quintessential brewpub with arcade games and pool tables for entertainment. 

Large bay windows look out to the city of Salt Lake and every soul in the joint seems to be having a lovely time! 

When I visit a brewery for the first time, I always pick up a flight so I can sample most of their menu. 

While I loved all the samples, their Belgium Dubbel really stood out to me. It’s a wonderful mix of low-key malty herbs and spice. 

To make an afternoon here, grab a burger from their onsite kitchen and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere with a beer in hand. 

tasting flight of different beers

Check out Gilgal Garden.

On your way back to the hotel, stop at Gilgal Garden. Gilgal Garden is a hidden gem in the middle of Salt Lake City and is most enjoyed after a beer…seriously! 

It’s a weird place and to enjoy it, you’ll need an open mind. Located at 749 East 500 South, Gilgal Garden sits in an unassuming lot in a residential neighborhood. It’s easily missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

Gilgal is a sculpture garden created by Thomas Childs that consists of 12 sculptures and dozens of stone engravings depicting poems, scriptures, and texts. There’s some funky stuff there, like a Sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, the famous founder of the Mormon church.

It’s a fun and free way to experience some of the culture that lies in the heart of Salt Lake City.

A statue of scattered parts of a body an interpretation from a biblical story

Stop by Red Butte Garden.

This is a great place to stop on your way to your next SLC hike, the Living Room. The trailhead is right nearby so it’s a quick and convenient stop.

In the Red Butte Garden, you’ll find the Natural History Museum of Utah (a great place to stop if you are traveling with kids) as well as several trails lined with beautiful flowers. 

This is where the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre is as well, named for the park, where you can often find larger acts when they pass through SLC on tour. 

Another interesting place to visit while here is the Water Conservation Garden which creates a beautiful, rich-feeling environment that is truly sustainable and shows that drought-resistant plant life can be absolutely beautiful. 

red butte garden utah

Hike to the Living Room for sunset.

Hikers love the Living Room for its epic views over SLC which are particularly beautiful at sunset!

This 2.2-mile out-and-back hike leads to incredible views of Downtown and the surrounding landscape.

Sit above the horizon on “chairs” made from surrounding rock and enjoy the afternoon high above the city.

Landscape of salt lake city living room trail

Have a delicious dinner out.

 After your full day of enjoying the outdoors, head back to the hotel and clean up for dinner. I love exploring cities and trying different cuisines that are unique to the area. 

On my last trip to SLC, I found the most delicious Mediterranean food in Downtown called Spitz in the Sugar House neighborhood. As soon as you step foot into Spitz you’re having a good time! 

The ‘order in line’ restaurants creates a fun atmosphere with splashes of color through the entire interior and decks of cards stacked up on every table. 

I usually order one of their famous doners wraps. If you’ve never had a doner wrap before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise!

These massive wraps are stuffed with every type of Mediterranean meat and veggies curled up in a delicious tortilla-like wrap. I always order the Berliner Doner, a combination of feta, carrot slaw, cucumber, and tzatziki! 

Not only is each entree tasty, but it’s also served in a way that is every bit worthy of the ‘gram. They also have house specials such as their Street Cart fries and doquitos (fried lavash bread stuffed with feta and aioli, like a Mediterranean taquito).

You’ll never leave this place hungry and you’ll be dreaming about it long after you leave Salt Lake City!

Sate your sweet tooth.

You can’t leave Salt Lake without experiencing the decadence of their dessert scene! Like my main meal, I love exploring the latest and greatest dessert hangout throughout the city.

 I’m so glad I stumbled upon The Dodo, also in Sugar House. Without question, The Dodo serves up THE best pie in the world among other desserts! 

When I walked into The Dodo I could smell the sugary delights right away. They have 12 staple pies that can be ordered all year round, including peanut butter cream cheese, chocolate almond moose, and key lime. 

I ordered the Caramel Coconut Coffee Cake and to this day, I still think about it! 

They also serve up ales, cocktails, and wines to go along with dessert. The Dodo is a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy the beautiful Utah night on their warmly lit, comfortable patio.

a slice of key lime pie covered in lime zest

Finish the night under the stars.

Wrap up dinner and dessert and get ready for a night under the stars at South Physics Observatory

South Physics Observatory offers star parties that are open to the public on clear nights! Armed with professional astrologers, you can gaze up at the universe in their beautiful planetarium and learn all about the planets and galaxies!

They also open up for special celestial events such as meteor showers and comets. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Salt Lake during a time like this you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! 

All their events take place outside, so come prepared, as Utah’s night can get a little chilly.

Utah night sky with lots of stars

More Time in SLC? Utah Day Trips Worth Taking

If you go a little further afield, there’s so much to see in the rest of Utah. (You can check out my 7-day Utah itinerary for some inspiration).

Just want to do a quick day trip? Just about 20 minutes from SLC, you can head to Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range. This is a great place to visit in fall when the beautiful quaking aspens change colors! 

The Bonneville Salt Flats are another must-see just an hour and a half outside of SLC — there’s no place quite like it in the US!

Of course, in winter, there’s no place like Park City Mountain ski resort, home of the Sundance Film Festival and lots of great winter ski trails and activities!

For typical red rock landscapes, head to Moab for both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, or head towards Las Vegas where you can see the beautiful Zion National Park.

The Perfect 7-Day Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip Itinerary (2021)

Anybody who loves the outdoors needs to visit the incredible state of Utah!

Utah has so many options including phenomenal national parks (five of them!), hot springs, ski resorts, and more!

Pack your bags and your camera because this 7-day Utah itinerary has all of Utah’s unique destinations laid out in the perfect order.

I’ve ensured you hit all the top attractions and snag some of those drool-worthy Instagram pictures you see plaguing your feed, as well as suggesting a few off-the-beaten-path gems, while road tripping the Mighty 5 in Utah!

PLANNING FOR UTAH AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: With mellow summers and stunning snow-covered winters, Utah is beautiful all year round but since you'll be spending a tremendous amount of time in the outdoors, I suggest going in the months of April-May and September-October. But if I had to pick just one month to go, I'd choose October — the crowds are fewer, the weather is appealing, and fall foliage is in full swing. 

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Salt Lake City, Moab, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Springdale or Zion.

For the first overnight stay in Salt Lake City, I recommend staying at Kimpton Hotel Monaco for a luxurious stay in downtown SLC.

Moab has several accommodations but for something exclusive, I suggest staying at either Moab Red Stone Inn or Moab Springs Ranch. And if you prefer glamping, Under Canvas Moab is unmatched when it comes to comfort and style.

And for a sleepover near Bryce Canyon National Park, Stone Canyon Inn or Bryce Canyon Log Cabins in nearby Tropic is what I recommend or you can even opt for camping within the park itself at any of its 2 campgrounds.

And as for your last days on your Utah road trip in Springdale, you can either choose to camp inside Zion but if you can't find a campsite or just don't want to, then you can stay at either Cable Mountain Lodge or Springhill Suites in Springdale. Both of these places offer incredible Zion views.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Utah. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Want to fully enjoy your Utah road trip without the hustles of planning? Booking some activities will help you with that. You can book a horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride, an ATV tour, a Bryce Canyon National Park guided Tour, or a Moab Sound and Light Show tour.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

When to Plan Your Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip

Empty road going through Zion National Park with mountains on either side and orange autumn trees alongside the road

Utah is incredible any time of the year. With tepid summers and gorgeous snow-covered winters, there is never a season that doesn’t reveal jaw-dropping landscapes.

But since you’ll be cruising the highways and spending enormous amounts of time in the outdoors if you’re doing a Mighty 5 road trip, I suggest the months of April-May and September-October.

Late September and early October is a great time if you want to see some fall foliage in places like Zion!). If I had to pick the best month to visit Utah, I’d pick October — fewer crowds, better weather, and gorgeous foliage!

Going in the shoulder season will allow some crowds to dissipate at the popular sites and puts you ahead of snow closures. These months are considered the off season for crowds, and the weather has never failed me during these months.

Tips for Planning Your Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

green tent outside of the landscape of zion national park a beautiful red rock landscape in utah

Prep for the parks. This Utah road trip means you will need to pay for entrance to at least 4 separate national parks, 5 if you also visit the interior of Capitol Reef and don’t just pass through. Each park can easily charge a $30 admission fee, so if you’re planning to enter more than two parks, an America the Beautiful pass will save you money! Buy it online at REI.

Time it wisely. Spring and fall, in my opinion, are the best times to visit Utah! Skip summer unless you’re willing to handle the heat (and school vacation crowds), and winter unless you’re a confident winter driver as many parts of Utah experience snow.

Cell service is spotty. Don’t always count on having cell phone service while driving in Utah! There are many long stretches of highway with very little service. Be prepared by having your maps downloaded offline.

Places on the map are not always as direct or close as they look. There are many routes that, at first glance, appear to be doable… but when you plug it into your maps app, you find they’re rather far apart! I’ve omitted a few notable places from this itinerary for that reason, such as Monument Valley, which is hard to squeeze into a 7-day Utah itinerary.

Utah Road Trip FAQs

Allison visiting Mesa Arch in Canyonlands national park sitting in the middle of Mesa Arch

How many days do you need to visit the Utah National Parks?

There are five incredible national parks in Utah (hence their collective nickname, the Mighty 5!). One week in Utah is enough time to catch a glimpse of each of the five national parks, but to see them in full, you could easily spend a month in Utah’s national parks and not see it all!

What are the best national parks to visit in Utah?

All of them, but this itinerary focuses the most time on Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park, with briefer part-day trips to Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.

How do I plan a road trip to Utah?

The first step is to determine your itinerary: where are you flying or driving into, and how many days do you have from there?

Below, I’ll offer a few different routing ideas for driving around Utah, but generally, this itinerary assumes you’ll fly into Salt Lake City and then have seven days to explore Utah by car. 

If you have longer, you can absolutely spend more time at each site, but 7 days is the bare minimum to complete a Mighty 5 road trip!

The Mighty 5: Your Perfect 7 Day Utah Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Salt Lake City

A view of the skyline of Salt Lake City with enormous mountains towering over the city.

Salt Lake City International Airport is a hub for flights and car rentals as well as the perfect starting and ending point for exploring Utah.

I suggest booking your arrival and departure tickets from here, as it creates the perfect loop for your 7 day Utah road trip. 

Another option would be to fly into Las Vegas, in which case, your route itinerary would look like the following: Las Vegas – Zion – Bryce Canyon – Capitol Reef – Moab – back to Vegas or SLC. 

You could also add on a few days at the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well Page, AZ easily with this kind of itinerary. 

If that sounds more like the itinerary you want to follow, check out my Southwest road trip post, which does a roundtrip from Las Vegas to Moab and back, touching all Mighty 5, the Grand Canyon, and Page’s landmarks like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

However, for the purposes of this 7 day itinerary, let’s assume you’re flying into SLC, as it’s the easiest for routing purposes, plus SLC is a great airport hub!

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

Salt Lake City is in the heart of Utah, nestled among the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountain Range it is surrounded with fantastic opportunities for fun.

Here’s how you should spend your day in SLC! If you have two days, read our two-day Salt Lake City itinerary.

Check-in to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City

This luxury hotel is such a delight for the eyes!

Swirling colorful carpet draws you into the warm space of the lobby while modern vintage furniture gives the Kimpton Hotel Monaco an inviting atmosphere.

The rooms are adorned in old-world style with flashes of flair from the 1950s.

Hotel Monaco is perfectly situated in downtown SLC, making exploring the city extremely accessible.

Book your stay online here!

Grab a coffee and start your day

Begin your morning by making the 3 block walk to Campos Coffee.

Snag a seat in their stylish cafe and order up a delicious cappuccino with a side of Cran-Apple Toast.

Campos coffee offers an inviting, wide-open atmosphere adorned with a steampunk theme. Enjoy a quiet morning here as the city will quickly wake up.

Wander around downtown SLC

Giant Mormon church with cherry blossoms blooming in the spring and other spring flowers

Salt Lake City is known for its outdoor squares and parks. Once you’ve properly caffeinated, head to one of the year-round farmer’s markets for food, fun, and Utah flair.

There are several downtown areas that offer farmers’ markets at different times a year. A couple of options include Liberty ParkSugar House, and Downtown Farmers Markets.

Most of these markets only take place on Fridays and Saturdays but if you’re lucky enough to catch one, they’re worth the visit.

Fresh fruits and vegetables line the streets along with homemade gifts and local artists displaying their talents. It’s easy to spend a few hours wandering the streets.

While you’re on foot, consider seeking out some of Salt Lake’s most known and gorgeously constructed monuments such as the Mormon Temple, the State Capitol, and Temple Square. There’s a ton of historical sightseeing in downtown SLC, so be sure to pack your most comfortable shoes.

Hit the hiking trails

View of Salt Lake City in the far distance from the trail to the Living Room on a partly cloudy day.

Salt Lake City is filled with tons of outdoor options as well!

One of the most fun and accessible hiking trails is The Living Room. Lying just 10 minutes from downtown, this 2.2-mile out-and-back hike leads to incredible views of Downtown and the surrounding landscape.

Sit above the horizon on “chairs” made from surrounding rock and enjoy the afternoon high above the city.

If you desire some trails that require a bit more of a time commitment consider looking into Mount Timpanogos Trail or summit Grandeur Point. Both of the trails lead to exquisite views.

If you’re visiting in the fall, the colors of the changing leaves along both trails are breathtaking!

I also have a full guide to the best hikes near Salt Lake City here in case you want to extend your trip a bit and do a day hike or two!

Grab a delicious dinner in the city

Head back to the city and clean up for dinner.

Salt Lake is filled with phenomenal restaurants that’ll please any palate. A few of my favorites are Settebello for pizza or Red Iguana for Mexican.

Settebello offers insanely delicious Neapolitan style pizza wood-fired to perfection with a fluffy, buttery crust. Their bruschetta is simple and delicious, piled high with fresh tomatoes on divinely toasted bread. 

If a cuisine south of the border sounds more enticing, Red Iguana is the hot spot for you. Dubbed as Utah’s “killer Mexican food,” they have all the specialties including chimichangas and indulgent Mexican desserts that go down well with a custom-made margarita!

Day 2: Moab

Sign for the town of Moab which reads "Moab Again & Again The Adventure Never Ends" with a desert landscape in a background.

Day two of this Utah road trip is all about hiking and soaking up some of Utah’s most iconic scenery in Moab!

3.5 hours south of Salt Lake via an incredibly scenic drive lies 3 parks that are so breathtakingly beautiful, it’ll take two days to explore.

Dead Horse Point State ParkCanyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park all lie within miles of each other but the landscapes of each are so totally different.

Here’s how you should spend your first day in beautiful Moab.

Start the day with a delicious breakfast

As you roll into the quaint city of Moab, consider stopping for breakfast at the Love Muffin Cafe to fuel your hiking day.

They have all the breakfast classics including breakfast burritos, quiches and scones set in a brightly colored, eclectic cafe.

I’ve also heard rave reviews of Moab Cafe. Although I’ve never personally visited, it sounds like it’s worth checking out!

Head to Dead Horse Point State Park

An overlook in Dead Horse Point State Park where you can see a bend in the Colorado River that has hollowed out a canyon, with red rocks in layers on the sides of the canyon.

Dead Horse Point State Park is the perfect introduction to the beauty of Moab.

It’s a sprawling 5,000-acre park set high among the desert landscape with towering cliffs and unrivaled views of the Canyonlands in the distance.

There are several pull-outs along the drive to the parking lot that are all worth the extra stops.

But to truly experience the spectacular sights, hike the Dead Horse Rim Loop Trail. This trail is a 5-mile loop that canvasses the rim of the canyon.

The most prominent view from the trail is hands down the overlook at the point of the Colorado River — it’s stunning!

Dead Horse Point also has a trail system for mountain bikers as well. If you’ve come prepared to bike, the park Intrepid Trail is a 16-mile single-track trail on dirt roads that offers the same unrivaled views with a bit more adrenaline.

Head towards Canyonlands National Park

A view of Canyonlands National Park as seen through the empty space of a rock arch, Mesa Arch, looking out onto the landscape.

Rest your feet and make the short 12-minute drive over to Canyonlands National Park to the park entrance at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

Canyonlands is a massive park that has 3 different districts. For the sake of time, I recommend visiting the nearest and most accessible district called the Island In The Sky.

Here, you’ll find a comprehensive visitors center with rangers who are more than willing to help you plan your afternoon. 

The Island In The Sky is the only paved district in Canyonlands National Park with easy access to well-marked trails; the Needles is beautiful but more remote and not quite suited for such a quick trip to Utah, and the Maze and the Rivers (consisting of the Colorado River and the Green River) are even more remote.

On your drive into the park stop at the Grand View Point Overlook. The overlook totally lives up to its name as it reveals jaw-dropping views into Monument Basin as you ascend via a scenic drive. You can also take the trail, which is an easy 1.8-mile hike.

Another iconic sight is Mesa Arch, a short and easy 0.7-mile trail that leads you to an arch that’s perched perfectly on the edge of Canyonlands Cliffs.

After a few dramatic photos of Mesa Arch, head over to Upheaval Dome, the last trek of the day. Upheaval Dome is attractive because of its odd geology and wild folklore that surrounds its creation.

An easy 2-mile wide trail takes you along the rim of the Dome and gives you a panoramic view of just how weird and wonderful the geology truly is.

Grab a drink to toast your hikes

After an entire day of hiking, you deserve a beer!

Back in the city of Moab is Moab Brewery. The perfect place to end your first day in the spectacular Utah desert. Moab Brewery is always fun, always lively, and always has plenty of beer!

The atmosphere is a fun mix of outdoorsman bar vibes. Kayaks hang from the ceiling and pool tables fill the corners.

You’ll find a massive selection of microbrewed beers including ambers, lagers, Hefeweizens and IPAs.

They’re also a full-service restaurant, so grab dinner and hang around for a bit.

Check into your Moab accommodations

A lit up canvas glamping tent with a dark night sky with lots of visible stars.

There are several different options when it comes to accommodations in Moab. These include hotels, Airbnb, glamping, and camping.

If you’re wanting more of the comforts of home, there are plenty of commercial hotels located in the heart of Moab.

For something more unique look into the Moab Red Stone Inn or Moab Springs Ranch. Both offer a more low-key, secluded fee.

As for glamping, Under Canvas Moab knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort, style, and entertainment, and is frequently cited as one of the best glamping lodges in the entire United States.

Book your stay at Under Canvas Moab here!

If you’re wanting to go all in and camp under the stars, there are plenty of campgrounds dispersed in and around the city.

To find these, I recommend checking out my entire write-up on Utah’s incredible dispersed campsites or by using some well-known campground finder apps including The Dyrt, iOverlander, or  rec.gov website.

Day 3: Arches National Park

Wake up early while the city of Moab is still sleeping and get a head start on Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is one of Utah’s top attractions and draws over 1.5 million visitors a year. Because of its popularity, it’s important to beat the crowds if you want to experience Arches in all its glory.

Start with a sunrise hike to Delicate Arch

A view of the famous Delicate Arch, a Utah road trip must, taken at sunrise with the light falling on the left side of the arch.

The iconic Delicate Arch should be your first destination and you should plan to hike it before the sun rises.

To make this possible, check the local times of the sunrise and plan to head out about an hour and half before this.

You’ll need a headlamp or flashlight for the first part of the 1.5-mile hike to Delicate Arch, as it will still be dark outside.

If you timed it correctly, you’ll reach Delicate Arch just as the sun begins to beam on its east side.

It’s an amazing experience to see the surrounding landscape wake up and to watch Delicate Arch glow under the newly risen sun.

Wander the Devils Garden

A nearly empty trail in Devils Garden in Arches National Park with red sand on the trail and views of the red rocks and arches around it.

After you’ve captured photos of Utah’s most iconic arch, continue driving on Arches Entrance Road until you reach the Devils Garden Trailhead.

This 7-mile trail can easily be broken up into something more manageable (2-3 miles) while still offering insane views of the otherworldly landscape.

Massive boulders, tunnels, and arches are the highlight of this trail, as well as its tranquility.

Devils Garden is much less crowded than the surrounding trails and offers a great opportunity to bask in the uniqueness of Utah in peace.

On the way back, be sure to stop in Fiery Furnace which has some of the best views and reddest rocks in Arches.

Snap some final photos of Arches

A trail leading up to a red rock formation which features a rock "balancing" on top of another rock, with the moon rising in the background.

As you meander your way back to the entrance, take this chance to capture some stunning photos at the multiple pull-outs spread throughout the park.

Balanced Rock, the Windows, Double Arch, and Petrified Dunes Lookout are just a few spots worth a quick stop.

You also should make sure to visit the longest arch in the entire park, Landscape Arch, which is accessible via an easy 1.9-mile out-and-back trail.

The day should still be early enough to capture the stunning lighting and natural beauty of the surrounding rock formations.

Grab lunch and gas before hitting the road

Highway 70 going through Moab with red rocks and desert landscape around it.

Stop off in Moab for a bite to eat and gas up the car before you hit the road again to head towards your next destination.

The afternoon will be spent driving to Bryce Canyon National Park. The 4-hour drive from Arches National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park is absolutely stunning.

You’ll leave Arches and head West on highway 70. As you leave the desert landscape of Moab you’ll be transported into the mountainous scenery as you head south through Highway 24.

If you don’t want to visit Capitol Reef National Park, you can shave an hour or two off your drive time by skipping Highway 24, instead going a more direct route to Bryce via Highway 72 and Fishlake National Forest. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll go the scenic route so you can visit Capitol Reef!

Stop quickly in Capitol Reef National Park

the sign to enter capitol reef national park

With only 7 days in Utah, it’s hard to tackle all of the Mighty 5 and do them proper justice. 

This Utah itinerary focuses more heavily on the Southern Utah national parks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pop into Capitol Reef on the way to Bryce from Moab!

We won’t have time to take on some of the best hikes in Capitol Reef, but we can definitely see a few of the most beautiful landmarks there that are easy to access by car.

As you near Torrey, be sure to stop off at Factory Butte, a stunning and off-the-beaten-path land formation that looks like it could be something out of Mars. It’s right off Highway 24 so you can’t miss it.

For a quick but scenic spin through the park, stick to the parts of the park near Torrey that are accessible via Highway 24, all centered around the Visitor Center. 

This includes the Fruita Schoolhouse, the Petroglyphs, Hickman Natural Bridge, and the gorgeous views at Panorama Point.

If you have a national park pass, as you should, then you can also visit a few places within the park within an easy drive. That would include Fruita Barn, the Gifford Homestead, and if you have time for a hike, the Cassidy Arch Trailis a phenomenal 3.1-mile out-and-back with one of the best views in all of Capitol Reef, rated as moderate.

Arrive in Bryce Canyon National Park

allison looking over the edge of bryce canyon and its orange hoodoos

As you turn south and head towards Bryce, the topography changes one final time into a mix of bright red cliffs, canyons, and hoodoos.

The first sighting of a hoodoo along a scenic drive is a great indication that Bryce Canyon is just around the corner!

The city of Bryce is a small, quiet town that lies minutes outside the National Park. Although limited on hotels and restaurants, it’s easy to find a place to have dinner and a warm place to sleep.

You can also stay in nearby Escalante, which is halfway between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon and is home to Yonder Escalante, a great accommodation choice with cute cabins and Airstreams available for rent.

Grab dinner and hit the sheets

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Big Fish Family Restaurant and Stone Hearth Grille are a few restaurants that cater to weary travelers looking for a hearty meal.

As far as hotels, check out the Stone Canyon Inn or Bryce Canyon Log Cabins in nearby Tropic.

Each resort is immaculately maintained and offers stunning views of Bryce Canyon in a private setting.

Of course, Bryce Canyon is also brimming with campgrounds. There are two campgrounds inside the park, North Campground and Sunset Campground, as well as options for backcountry camping.

Day 4: Bryce Canyon

A brilliant view over the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos are vertical finger-like rock formations formed by erosion over time.

Bryce Canyon is purely about the landscape!

With the largest concentration of hoodoos and brightly colored cliffs, Bryce Canyon is a geologic wonder that resembles Mars. 

Hikers will adore the plethora of beauty that is easily accessible via the trails in the park! 

While the classic Bryce Canyon Rim Trail would be amazing to do, at 11 miles roundtrip, it’s not doable for this itinerary, so save it for a return trip. We’ve listed a few shorter day hikes that are better suited for one day in Bryce instead.

Do a hoodoo hike

the hoodoos of bryce canyon

There are several different ways to enjoy one day in Bryce in an adventurous and active way!

Hike the Navajo Loop Trail or Queens Garden Loop inside the core section of the park to experience the topography from within the canyon.

Navajo Loop is a personal favorite and you’ll enjoy absolutely stunning views from everywhere on this canyon trail!

… Or hop on a horse or ATV!

Man on a brown horse wearing a cowboy hat and looking over the canyon views.

If your feet are exhausted from the previous days’ hikes, no worries — there’s still plenty of ways to experience Bryce Canyon without needing to hike.

Hop on a horse for a horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride or pump up your adrenaline with an ATV tour!

Either is a great way to stay active and see the best that Utah’s Mighty 5 have to offer without overexerting yourself.

Book your horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride now!

Get the best sunset view in Utah

Sun setting over a canyon full of red and white hoodoo landforms.

As the sun begins to set, head to Sunset Point to watch the most phenomenal sunset cover the canyon.

It’s probably the best place to catch the sunset in all of Utah, with its hoodoos, red rocks, and wide-open skies.

As the skies begin to darken, catch the glory of the stars, as Bryce is part of the world-renowned International Dark Skies club.

Of course, if you’re too tired for sunrise — or you just want to double up on the beauty of Bryce — another option is to do an early wakeup call the following morning at Sunrise Point, which offers a great vista from a viewpoint better oriented for the rising sun.

Day 5: Springdale and Zion

Wake up early and start the 2 hour drive to Springdale, Utah.

What makes the Beehive State so unique is the opportunity to experience dramatic landscape changes over the miles and the drive from Bryce to Springdale is a prime example of this.

Start at the East Entrance of Zion

A sign which reads "Zion National Park, National Park Service" on the road leading to the national park with mountains in the background.

Head south down highway 89. From here, you’ll hit the East Entrance of Zion National Park first.

I recommend coming in from this direction because it allows you to drive through the entire length of Zion before hitting the main headquarters of the Park.

There are no words to describe the beauty of Zion. Sky-high mountains loom over deep purple slot canyons, multi-layered rock formations weave among the cliff sides, and wild animals can be seen crossing the street.

The beauty will captivate you all the way to the visitors center where you’ll catch a park shuttle to the epic water hike of The Narrows.

Hike to the Narrows

People hiking in knee-deep water in hiking sticks in a slot canyon with purplish rocks and pale green water.

The Narrows is by far the top trail in Zion for discovering the interior slot canyons, and it’s a must-see on the bucket lists of hikers everywhere.

Some visitors rent waders and gear from the nearby Zion Outfitters but I don’t see this step as absolutely necessary. If you’re wanting to save money, it’s perfectly acceptable to hike without being outfitted.

Waterproof hiking shoes, however, are absolutely needed, or you’ll be regretting it. Trust me.

Jump on the shuttle and head to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. From here, make the 1-mile paved hike into The Narrows.

The beauty of this hike is you can make it as long, or as short as you desire. The entire trail will be water wading while you explore between two towering canyon walls that tend to change color as the sun orbits over.

Get in as much, or as little, hiking in as you like and head back to the visitors center to claim a campsite.

Grab a campsite or check into a hotel

Lime green camping tent contrasting against the red and orange rock landscapes of Zion with Watchman mountain in the distance.

The Watchman Campground is the only public campground in the park and fills up quickly.

This is a gorgeous, shaded campground sitting at the foot of the Mountains with a paved walking path along the Colorado River and within walking distance to the bustling city of Springdale.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) snag one of the limited campsites in Zion, there are plenty of wonderful hotels in Springdale.

I recommend Cable Mountain Lodge or Springhill Suites, with their stunning floor-to-ceiling windowed lobby with incredible Zion views. Another classic is the Zion Lodge which must be booked months and months in advance.

Head to the city and grab a bite to eat at The Spotted Dog (American), Zion Pizza and Noodle (pizza), or the Whiptail Grill (Mexican).

Shop around the many unique, handcrafted stores and head back to camp to enjoy a night under the stars or to your hotel for some creature comforts in a beautiful setting.

Day 6: Zion National Park

Grab a delicious cup of coffee before hitting the trail

Woman hiking Angels Landing, a ridge hike with a chain assist, with views of the valley in Zion National Park on all sides.

Wake up early and hit Deep Creek Coffee for a pre-hike meal and hand-crafted coffee. You’ll need the energy for this hike!

Today’s trail, Angels Landing, is a strenuous uphill hike to the tops of Zion so you’ll need to properly fuel your body.

If you’re feeling extra energized this morning, rent a bike from Zion Cycles and skip the shuttle!

You can bike to the trailhead of Angels Landing as well as the rest of the park. Although a big undertaking, it’s a great alternative to beating the crowds.

 Angels Landing is arguably THE top hike in Zion and for a good reason. This 5-mile trail climbs up and over the canyons of Zion and gives you a birds-eye view of the true beauty of the park.

Summiting Angels Landing is an exhilarating experience! As you ascend, you’ll be assisted by chains that are hanging off the sheer cliffside offering a heart-pounding experience.

Once at the top you’re greeted by the most epic view on earth. Catch your breath and enjoy the beauty before you.

Want a different view? Head up to Observation Point. While normally this is a harder hike than Angel’s Landing, the East Rim to East Mesa approach is closed due to the danger of rockfall.

 The easier route via East Mesa is still accessible though, and is only rated as moderate. It involves a 6.7-mile out-and-back trail with only 700 feet of elevation gain (the hard Observation Point trail involves well over 2,000 feet of elevation gain!). 

For this trailhead, I suggest you park at the intersection of Beaver and Fir Roads if you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle.

 Celebrate your summit with a drink

Descend Angels Landing and head back to town for a celebratory beer at Zion Brewery.

Located creekside to the Colorado River, Zion Brewery has the perfect patio to enjoy the afternoon while you recharge and reminisce.

Once you’ve had a beer… or three, cool off at the riverbank or tackle a shorter Zion hike around sunset for even more epic views.

Hit Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset

For a great view worthy of the final full day of your Utah itinerary, head to Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset.

It’s a super short trail, less than 1 mile out-and-back and rated as easy, though there is about 400 feet of elevation gain. It’s absolutely worth it!

Parking is limited so you may have to circle around for a spot. Give yourself some extra time to find parking if you’re going at sunset as it is a popular sunset spot.

Day 7: Back to Salt Lake City

Brilliant turquoise hot spring in the middle of nowhere in Utah.

The last leg of your journey will be spent making the 4.5-hour drive back to Salt Lake City.

Don’t let the longer drive intimidate you, there are plenty of stops you can make along the way to break up the drive.

A few options I recommend are visiting the ghost town of Grafton, stretching your legs at Cedar Breaks National Monument or soaking in the natural hot springs along the way.

As you head north to Salt Lake City, you’ll conveniently pass two opportunities to soak in Utah’s many natural hot springs.

Mystic Hot Springs and Meadow Hot Springs are both located off Highway 15 and welcome tourists to enjoy the soothing heated waters. It’s the perfect ending to your 7-day road trip across Utah.

I hope this 7 day Utah itinerary inspires you to get out and enjoy this beautiful and truly unique state!

What to Pack for an Utah Road Trip

I have a complete USA road trip packing list that you can go through before your trip to know everything to take but below is a rundown.

Travel guides

This Utah road trip itinerary is packed with so much useful information but Travel guides are useful resources to have for deeper insights as they dedicate more time and resources to research. So, to fully arm yourself with knowledge and tips before doing the mighty 5 Utah Road Trip, I recommend combining my personal experience with this highly-rated Fodor’s Utah travel guide.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

Though cell network is not the best while road tripping Utah, you’ll still need your phone whether it’s to check maps or take photos, so it’s essential to have a car charger. And for navigating, a phone mount is gold! It takes away the pressure of having to check your phone while driving (which you shouldn’t do btw) or even asking your front-seat passenger all the time. I honestly can’t imagine going on a road trip without this dual-purpose phone mount and charger!

Snacks

Road trips just go better with snacks and let’s not forget how quickly hanger can kick in especially if you don’t want to keep stopping just to get something to eat. Pack a few snacks — and not just the sweet ones but a mix of sweets and salty ones too.

Rehydration packets

Rehydration packets are life savers when it comes to road trips! From long hikes, fatigue, uncoordinated meal times, scorching sun, there are so many incidences that can cause dehydration.

I always carry some rehydration packets for every road trip I go on and they’ve been great at keeping me hydrated. There are quite many on the market but I recommend these ones.

Bug spray and after-bite care

Nothing takes away the fun of enjoying a scenic hike like bug bites. I know it and I’ve been there — nowadays I never leave home without this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent, it’s a natural and DEET-free solution that works well on even the most stubborn mosquitos!

Unfortunately, it is sometimes inevitable to avoid bug bites regardless of how committed you were to applying and re-applying bug spray every couple of hours. In that case, this After Bite itch eraser will instantly soothe any bug bites.

Sunscreen

Most people don’t know this but the windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays. While they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer and that’s why it’s important to wear sunscreen even when driving.

On top of that, you’ll need it on hikes, beach days, or every time you go under the sun. You could probably get away with a cheaper sunscreen but since my face is kind of sensitive to chemical sunscreens, I need something gentle and I found that in this sunscreen.

And unlike the myth that some skin tones and races don’t need sunscreen, I am here to tell you that you need it as sun cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone. So whether you’re white, pale like me, Black, Latina, or Asian, you need sunscreen!

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!

Rain jacket

Do you hate hiking in soaked clothes? Me too! You could have the perfect Utah road trip itinerary but that won’t stop it from raining but that also doesn’t mean you should just waste your day and wait for it to end while hiding in your hotel room!

Get yourself the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I’ve used mine for years doing all sorts of activities, from biking to hiking and traveling.

And the best part about this jacket is that it keeps me dry when it rains without making me uncomfortably hot like other rain jackets due to the zippered arm-pits which provide ventilation.

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Read Next

I have so many posts to help you plan an epic trip through the Southwest, from general packing guides to quotes to inspire your trip to detailed itineraries just like this one for neighboring states!


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

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Here are my suggestions for where to go next.

What to Pack for a Road Trip: The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List
Road Trip Quotes: The Best Road Trip Quotes & Instagram Captions
Arizona Road Trip: The Perfect 7 Day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
Southwest USA Road Trip (Nevada, Arizona, & Utah): The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip Itinerary for 10-14 Days
Idaho Road Trip: The Best Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Montana Road Trip: The Perfect 10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary

The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip: 7 Perfect Days in Arizona

Road tripping in Arizona is a dream. With miles of open road, endless desert skies and natural wonders around every turn, it’s no wonder Arizona tops the list as one of America’s most visited states.

I’ve put together a comprehensive one week Arizona road rip itinerary for you to steal and replicate for yourself.

In this post, I’ve highlighted the best Arizona road trip spots, including the most lively cities, tastiest restaurants, and — of course — the state’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders!

You’ll begin in the warm southern climates of Tucson and make your way north through Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, the Canyon Canyon, and eventually loop your way back.

So pack up the car with all your road trip essentials and hit the road to experience everything The Grand Canyon state has to offer!

PLANNING FOR ARIZONA AT A GLANCE:  

When to Go: With over 300 days of sunshine, Arizona is perfect for visiting all year round! But even with that, some months are better than others! So if I had to choose, I'd say May through October are the best months to visit this beautiful state.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have overnight stays in Tucson, Scottsdale, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon.

For your first night in Tucson, I recommend staying at historic Hotel Congress, a luxurious hotel, The Downtown Clifton Hotel for a more affordable option, or this Charming Southwest-Style vacation home if you want a homey atmosphere. 

And while in Scottsdale, I recommend staying at The Westin Kierland if you're all about being pampered or The Hermosa Inn if you prefer a more solitary option. 

For Sedona, I recommend staying at one of its most unique accommodation options like this Turtle House or this dome-shaped home that comes with stunning views.

And for your last overnight stay in the Grand Canyon, you can camp at one of its beautiful campgrounds if you didn't book the lodges in time.

How to Get Around: You'll need a car while road tripping Arizona. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Want to fully enjoy your Arizona road trip without the hustles of planning? Booking some activities will help you with that. You can book a Pink Jeep tour through the Red Rock Canyons, a Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, or a helicopter ride over Horseshoe Bend.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual-purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

When to Plan Your Arizona Road Trip

Brilliant sunset in Tucson with pink and orange sky in a desert landscape with silhouetted cacti.

From the arid, dry climate of Tucson to the snow-covered mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona has weather for everyone.

In fact, Arizona sees about 300 days of sunshine a year making any time of the year great to visit!

But, if I had to nail down a few months that stand out in terms of temperatures, it would be May through October where temperatures generally range from 90 degrees in the day, down to 66 degrees at night.

As you cruise from the South end of the state to the North end, be prepared to experience ever=changing temperatures and be sure to pack layers, as a 40-degree temperature drop is quite normal for this mostly desert state!

Your Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Start in Tucson

It’s only natural to begin your Arizona road trip by flying into the Southern Arizona city of Tucson.

Tucson International Airport offers multiple flights a day to connecting cities and is a hub for tourist activities.

It makes the most sense to go ahead and book a rental car and pick it up at the many rental car companies that are connected to Tucson International.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

Tucson prides itself in its Southwest style which shows in its local street art, restaurants, and surrounding desert landscape.

Buildings that make up the skyline of Tucson Arizona with mountains in the background - your first stop on this Arizona road trip itinerary.

Check into your cool hotel

As you land in Tucson, check-in to the historic Hotel Congress. This luxurious hotel has kept its vintage vibes and makes for a great central location in downtown Tucson.

As you walk into the foyer of Historic Hotel Congress you can’t help but admire the Southwest charm that decorates the walls. A perfect mixture of wood and turquoise gives this hotel a quaint but hip feel. It’s guest rooms also hold on to the vintage vibes with stylish old-world radios, antique iron bed frames, and classy black and white tiled washrooms.

The Historic Hotel Congress will sweep you back into the Jazz Age and captivate your imagination!

>>> Book your stay at the Hotel Congress here! <<<

However, if you’re looking for something on the lower end of the budget, I recommend The Downtown Clifton Hotel. The hotel is highly rated with previous residents raving about its charming ambiance, spacious and clean rooms, welcoming staff, and a general warm feel that will relax you from a long day of activities.

With a mix of woody and colorful decor, this hotel is bound to make you feel comfortable.

>>> Book your stay at the Downtown Clifton Hotel here! <<<

Forget the home away feel in a hotel when you can feel right at home in a real home! Yes, this charming vacation home guarantees that and much more.

Located next to Tucson Mountains and in the middle of saguaro and cacti, this home will give you the ultimate dessert and mountainous vibe while still enjoying the modern finishes on the interior.

>>> Book your stay at this Vacation home here! <<<

Grab enchiladas at El Charro

Every weary traveler knows that airplane rides are exhausting, but El Charro Cafe has just the antidote.

After you unpack and unwind, take a 15-minute walk from Historic Hotel Congress to El Charro Cafe. El Charro has some of the best Sonoran-style Mexican food in downtown Tucson.

Located in a charming historic home in its original location, El Charro is still run by the same founding family so you know the food is top-notch.

Try their Bandera Enchiladas. A trifecta of enchiladas each flavorfully colored with their in-house green, red, and white sauce. Top it off with their Prickly Pear Margarita and you’re fueled up to hit some of Tucson’s iconic sights.

Go for a cacti-filled hike in Saguaro National Park

To walk off some of your Sonoran style indulgences make the half-hour drive over to Saguaro National Park for some sightseeing and easy hiking.

Take the Tanque Verde Falls Trail hike to see some of Tucson’s stunning Saguaro cacti. These cacti dominate the mountainsides and stand at a whopping 40 feet tall!

Tanque Verde Falls is an easy 1.8-mile hike that really highlights the best of Tucson’s beauty. Waterfalls, swimming holes, and canyons are set among the desert landscape making it the perfect place to snap some unforgettable pictures.

Hiking path in Saguaro National Park near to Tucscon with cacti and mountains in the distance.

Grab some chocolates at Monsoon

As you head back to Historic Hotel Congress stop at Monsoon Chocolate for some sweet treats to take back to your room.

Monsoon Chocolate makes some of the most colorful award-winning chocolate in the world. Located just six blocks from Hotel Congress, Monsoon Chocolate is a fun place to shop for chocolates.

This quaint, bohemian style shop offers specialty chocolates, desserts, and beverages that are the sweetest ending to your first day of this Arizona road trip!

Day 2: Head to Phoenix and Scottsdale

 Rise and shine, because your next destination is 1 hour and 40 minutes away in the state’s capital city of Phoenix.

Phoenix is known for its year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. Often referred to as the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is a mecca for all things cultural including historic neighborhoods, an outstanding selection of attractions, and a diverse array of food.

Architecture of downtown Phoenix: blue, brown, and white buildings in a desert landscape.

Grab breakfast at Songbird

As you roll into the sprawling city of Phoenix, stop at Songbird Cafe for your daily dose of coffee and nostalgia.

Songbird is a brightly lit cafe located in a small historic house built in 1904. The owner takes pride in sourcing its coffee and teas from local roasters located in the Tempe and Tucson area.

Because it’s located in the Arts District of Downtown Phoenix there is a good chance you’ll find a local artist displaying their craft. Try Songbird’s Golden Milk Latte on their outdoor porch and enjoy a warm, sunshine-filled morning in the heart of Phoenix.

Visit the marvelous Desert Botanical Garden

 After a kick of caffeine, take the 15-minute drive over to Desert Botanical Garden. This botanical garden is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

Desert Botanical does a wonderful job of combining art and nature throughout their miles of trails that wind along the desert landscape. It’s best to arrive early as Phoenix gets hot rather quickly.

Pack a good pair of shoes, sunscreen, and of course your camera because you’ll be wandering around this desert oasis for hours!

If you’re fortunate enough to arrive in the springtime, the colors of the cacti are blooming and hummingbirds can be seen buzzing around the entire complex.

Bench in the Desert Botanic Garden with a tree and red flowers in the foreground.

Grab a burger in Scottsdale 

Wrap up your morning at the botanical garden and head to the neighboring city of Scottsdale for some delicious food and shopping.

Just a 12-minute drive down N Scottsdale Road is the best burger joint in Arizona. Rehab Burger Therapy is not your typical run of the mill burger joint. Rehab Burger Therapy is the be-all and end-all of burger places.

Each burger is a towering, carefully crafted masterpiece that’s not only pleasing to the eye but is exploding in taste. Their menu is expansive with wild combinations such as the peanut butter jelly bacon burger and the mac and cheese burger.

They deliver on satisfaction and to top it off, they serve everything in a beach-themed atmosphere that ensures you’re having a good time!

Shop til you drop

With a belly full of burgers, burn some calories in downtown Scottsdale by shopping around the world-class shopping districts.

Scottsdale has multiple different shopping squares to please every type of spender.

If money isn’t a consideration, head to the upscale district of Fashion Square where you’ll find name brand designers such as Prada and Gucci.

If you’re more into the boutique type stores, hit up Old Town Scottsdale where you’ll find more locally-owned, unique-to-Arizona type stores.

Square in Old Town Scottsdale with three greenish turquoise horses in a water fountain

Check into your chic Scottsdale hotel

Wrap up your shopping and drop your bags in one of Scottsdale’s beautifully designed hotels. Downtown Scottsdale also has some of the most lovely resort spas in the area: a great way to end your second day of an Arizona road trip!

If you’re in the mood for a head to toe pampering experience check out The Westin Kierland.

This place has everything you need all packed into one resort. You’ll find delectable dining, a world-class golf course, full-service spas, and bougie bars. It even has a 900-foot-long lazy river!

>>> Book a stay at the Westin Kierland <<<

If you’re more of the laid back, solitude-seeking type check out The Hermosa Inn. The Hermosa Inn was once a Western studio — now it’s been converted into a 43-room boutique hotel.

The grounds are perfectly manicured with native flora, speckled with elegant water features and paved walkways to show off the gardens. It’s easily one of my favorite places in the Valley of the Sun!

>>> Book a stay at The Hermosa Inn <<<

Day 3 & 4: Sedona

The vortex vibes will lead you out of Phoenix and two hours up the road to the red rock city of Sedona.

This fun and funky place is definitely a top place to visit on your Arizona road trip itinerary!

With beautiful weather, endless outdoor activities, and some of the most stunning sunsets in the world, it’s easy to fall in love with Sedona. If you plan to spend more than a day here, check out my two day Sedona itinerary for a more detailed guide.

The traditional red rocks of Sedona with a stream in the foreground reflecting the red rocks

Start the morning at Indian Gardens

Hiking and restaurant hopping is what Sedona is known for, so start your day with a fabulous breakfast and hike it off at one of the many trails around Sedona.

Grab breakfast at Indian Gardens. This picturesque restaurant is located right on Oak Creek Canyon and serves some of the best health-conscious breakfast in town on a beautifully shaded patio.

The breakfast burrito is an absolute must, or if you’re more of a morning sweets type, the homemade muffins with espresso are delightful.

Hike the West Fork

A short 15-minute drive up Sedona’s scenic 89A highway is the top hiking trail of Sedona, West Fork of Oak Creek.

This 7-mile trail winds and weaves through the towering canyons and follows a shaded stream through some of the most beautiful landscapes.

West Fork is a highly sought-after trail, so if the trail seems too populated for your liking, head back to town to conquer Cathedral Rock Trail or Seven Sacred Pools.

Both of these trails have exquisite views of the surrounding canyons and are easy enough to tackle both in the same afternoon.

Trail through a slot canyon with greenery and red rocks in Sedona -- a must-visit place to stop on an Arizona road trip

Hop in a swimming hole

If you’re visiting Sedona in the spring and summer months, consider finding a swimming hole to cool off in.

Sedona has tons of natural swimming holes filled with cool, clear spring-fed water. Grasshopper Point, Slide Rock Park, and Red Rock Crossing are a few popular spots for an afternoon dip.

If you’re in for more of an adventure, try hiking the 3.3 miles to “The Crack” at Wet Beaver Creek, which is an absolutely gorgeous spot where you can lay out in the sun, cliff jump, or explore the surrounding waterfalls.

Choose your own adventure

There are several other options for outdoor adventures just outside of Sedona as well.

These include horseback riding through the Sonoran desert with Wild Western Horseback Adventures, Pink Jeep Tours through the Red Rock Canyons, and hot air balloon rides with Red Rock Balloons company.

Yellow hot air balloon rising over the red rock landscape of Sedona, Arizona

 Check into a scenic resort spa or cool Airbnb!

Sedona is a hotspot for resort spas as well. Check out the Kimpton Amara or L’Auberge de Sedona for some top-quality spa treatments.

Alternately, if you’re truly in the mood for a unique Sedona stay, check out the hundreds of Airb&bs in the area.

Many residents rent out their one-of-kind mountainside hideouts and creekside stays for a truly secluded atmosphere. Many of these Airb&b provide unrivaled views, private pools, and patios that’ll amaze.

Check out this Turtle House, or stay in a dome-shaped home like this one

Grab a delicious Southwestern dinner 

After a long day of outdoor activities consider some fare at Mesa Grill (southwestern style).

Two other great options include Oak Creek Brewery and Grill (American with a Taproom) or 89Agave (great margaritas and Mexican).

Stargaze at Airport Mesa

To seal the deal on an epic Sedona day, end the night at Airport Mesa for a sunset and stargazing.

A short hike to the top of Airport Mesa will give you uncompromised panoramic views and the dark skies offer unrivaled sights of the desert stars!

Stargazing at Airport Mesa - sky in Sedona at night with the city lights off in the distance.

Day 5 & 6: Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

The landscape dramatically changes as you head up 89A to Flagstaff in one of the most dramatic scenery changes on this Arizona road trip.

In an instant, the red rock canyons give way to towering pine trees as you enter the Coconino National Forest. This is one of my favorite highways in America because of the stark contrast of landscape.

Take time to soak in the views as you wind your way up the mountain and away from Sedona and into the boisterous young town of Flagstaff. Flagstaff is the perfect stopping place for breakfast before heading to the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff experiences actual season changes so depending on the time you’re there, you may get to experience the changing of the colors in fall, ski season in the winter, or hiking in the spring.

But since you’re on a limited timeframe with just one week in Arizona road tripping, I suggest just a quick breakfast stop before heading out to the Grand Canyon.

Town square of Flagstaff with orange-brown architecture buildings and a partly cloudy sky.

Grab breakfast at the Toasted Owl

 The Toasted Owl is a phenomenal breakfast joint that embodies the funky college vibe of the city.

Located in what looks like a vintage antique shop, The Toasted Owl is a total owl-themed restaurant that brings out your best mood!

Their menu features the typical breakfast fare with a twist of Southwest options along with mimosas and Bloody Marys. Their indoor and outdoor seating is extensive and the service is excellent.

Head to the Grand Canyon 

The Grand Canyon lies just a short 1.5-hour drive from Flagstaff. Just enough time to sip on a to-go coffee and enjoy the open road into The Grand Canyon!

The South Rim of The Grand Canyon is the most visited, most awe-inspiring rim. It has multiple accommodations (check out these Grand Canyon Airbnbs for inspiration!), look-out points, and amenities.

Your first stop upon arriving at the park should be the Visitor Center. The park itself is vast and bustling, so it’s best to get a decent idea of where you are and where you want to go.

I recommend the Rim Trail for everybody who’s newly arriving to the park. This paved hiking trail traverses the rim of the trail and offers several look out spots for all the fantastic pictures you see speckling your social media.

You can also rent a bike through Bright Angel Bicycles and take the 7 mile route from Hopi Point to Hermits Rest. It’s a fun way to skip the long shuttle rides and not worry about limited parking.

Woman hiking below the Rim in the Grand Canyon wearing a blue jacket.

Hike below the Rim

One of the most exciting experiences is hiking below the rim. There are plenty of trails that will take you down into the canyon for a one of a kind view.

Look into the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (12 miles) or South Kaibab Trail (7 miles). Both of these trails offer viewpoints broken into several sections if you don’t want to tackle the entire length of a trail. I cover several of the best day hikes below the Rim in this post.

 If hiking isn’t your forte, consider taking a mule ride down into the canyon! Xanterra is a company based in the South Rim that offers mule rides on a lottery-type system.

Alternately, you could fly high in the sky with one of the Grand Canyon helicopter tours that leave right from the South Rim — this is the helicopter tour I recommend, which flies over the canyon first before descending into the canyon and touching down at the bottom for incredible views!

>>> Book this helicopter tour! <<<

View from helicopter cockpit of man and woman in helicopter wearing headphones with Grand Canyon in background.

Stay the night at the Canyon

The Grand Canyon has five different accommodations scattered throughout the park. These include the Thunderbird Lodge, Kachina Lodge, Maswick Lodge, El Tovar, and Bright Angel Lodge.

Each lodge has its own flair and amenities and can be booked months in advance. If you find yourself without accommodations, I recommend camping in one of the many beautiful campgrounds in the area or checking Airbnb instead.

Some of the campsites require online reservations but they also have a few first-come-first-serve sites.

If you decide to camp on a whim, visit the Canyon Village Store to stock up on food and supplies. This old-timey grocery store has everything you need for a successful night under the stars!

Alternately, you can book an RV or camper stay on Airbnb or pick an Airbnb outside the park but close to the Grand Canyon.

Day 7: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon

 Three hours north of the Grand Canyon is your last stop on your Arizona road trip!

Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are both located in Page: a once in a lifetime destination that is going to leave you speechless.

A man standing with a view of Glen Canyon's glassy still water and red rock landscape in front of him at Reflection Canyon.

Start the day at Glen Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Wake up early and head out to the Glen Canyon Recreation Area of Page, Arizona. The drive will take you back through Flagstaff and straight up highway 89.

This highway passes through the glorious south end of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument so there’s no lack of views as you meander your way through Northern Arizona.

Horseshoe Bend has become one of the most recognized destinations on social media,a so be prepared for a small crowd. Don’t let this deter you, you absolutely need to visit Horseshoe Bend as it’s absolutely awe-inspiring.

A short half-mile walk (now paved) will take you to the rim of Horseshoe Bend. Here, you can sit in silence as you take in the massive stillness of this natural phenomenon or get creative with pictures that you will remember for a lifetime.

You can also take a helicopter ride over Horseshoe Bend for amazing views!

Dusk at Horseshoe Bend with epic sunset colors and a  sunburst illuminating the red rock landscape where a river bends sharply, creating a horseshoe shape.

Head to Antelope Canyon on a tour

After you’ve soaked in Horseshoe Bend, take the 30-minute drive down to Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is the famed slot canyons located on the Navajo reservation near Page.

You can pick Upper, Lower, or both: I went with Lower and loved it, but Upper is supposed to be beautiful as well.

A reservation is required for these canyons, so be sure and reserve your spot a couple of weeks in advance. Note that it is impossible to visit without a tour guide, and that you will have to pay both for the tour and for a tribal land permit, about $8.

A Navajo Guide will take you into the depths of the canyon and give you a safe, educated tour through the slots. Antelope Canyon is pure magic!

The way the water has carved out these beautiful slot canyons is absolutely incredible. Be sure to have a camera on hand because the slots are worth every picture.

View of the famous Antelope Canyon slot canyon, striated orange rock with sandy floor with brilliant colors.

Hit the road heading back to Phoenix or Tucson

After seeing Arizona’s finest natural wonders, make the 4-hour drive back to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport or Tucson for your departure back home.

As you make your way back home, you’ll pass through the major cities of Flagstaff, Sedona, and Phoenix so if there are any restaurant, shopping center or activity you didn’t get to hit earlier in your trip, you’ll have a second chance to do it now!

 Arizona is full of endless exploration. It’s a state with the perfect balance of city and nature. Hopefully, this one week Arizona road trip itinerary will spark your imagination and lead you through the Grand Canyon State.

What to Pack for Your 7-day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

You can check out my USA road trip packing list for a complete guide on what to pack for your trip.

Travel guides

On top of my detailed guide, I recommend taking this Arizona guidebook! This guidebook explains every little detail you might want to know while road tripping in Arizona. Together with my first-hand experience I’ve shared in this article plus all the details of the guidebook, you can be assured of an amazing trip to this beautiful state.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

Whether it’s listening to your favorite playlist or taking photos, you’ll drain your phone battery while road tripping Arizona, so it’s important to have a car charger. And for navigation, a phone mount is a lifesaver and it takes away the pressure from the front-seat passenger. But taking 2 different gadgets is not practical when you can just take this dual-purpose phone mount and charger! I’ve used it on all my road trips and it has never let me down!

Snacks

There is a hilarious road trip quote I read once — I can’t remember the exact words but it was something like “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.”

I am yet to find out who said it but it’s 100% true! Road trips are no fun when you’re hungry! Pack up a few snacks, but don’t just take only sweet ones — throw in a few salty ones as well. You don’t want to have major headaches from only sweet snacks or get dehydrated from salty ones if you didn’t carry enough water.

Rehydration packets

Scorching sun, long hikes, overly salty snacks, there are so many ways to get dehydrated while road tripping in Arizona. And if you’re like me who gets nasty headaches from dehydration, you’ll want to avoid this at all costs by taking rehydration packets. These are the ones I recommend.

Bug spray and after-bite care

They might be tiny, but those little bugs don’t joke around when it comes to biting. And if you have sweet blood, they’ll be all over you as soon as you step foot in the outdoors — and that’s no fun at all. Take this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent which is a natural DEET-free solution that works even on the most persistent mosquitos!

Sunscreen

If you’ve been sunburned before, you probably know the use of sunscreen! But do you know that you need it even when seated in your car driving under the sun? Yes, you do! What most people don’t know is that while windshields block UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most don’t block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer.

And of course, you’ll need it when you go hiking or spend some time on the beach. I love this sunscreen as it prevents my face from breaking out but I also know that it’s pricey, so I use a cheaper one for the rest of my body.

If you go into the outdoors, don’t forget about your scalp! A burned scalp is no fun and it can lead to a headache. Take this special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid that.

External batteries

Of course, you can charge your phone with the car charger we talked about earlier! But what happens when your camera, drone, portable speakers, an e-reader, etc, run out of battery or if you’re out hiking and your phone runs out and you can’t run back to the car to charge? That’s why you need external batteries and this Anker external battery pack is a must-have regardless of where you go.


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

Pin This Arizona Road Trip Guide!

5 Day Trips from Austin Worth the Trip

Each year, millions of tourists flock to the eclectic city of Austin to experience its funky music atmosphere, miles of pristine hiking trails, and endless options for swimming and soaking up the Texas sun.

But if you’ve grown tired of the lively city, these five Austin day trips are a great alternative to slow down and experience just what the Texas Hill Country has to offer.

Whether you’re looking to sip some of the finest Texan wines or spend the day dipping in the cool waters of the Guadalupe, you’re sure to find an appealing place on this list. So fill up your gas tank, roll down those windows and get out of town on these incredible day trips from Austin.

The 5 Best Austin Day Trips!

Driftwood

Distance from Austin: 24 miles

Highlighted Activities: Eat, Drink and Sightsee

Driftwood, Texas is known for beer, BBQ, and beautiful wildflowers! Located just 24 miles southwest of Austin, Driftwood is the perfect town to kick off a day tripping adventure.

If you’re staying in downtown Austin, wake up early and grab a quick coffee at Cuvée Coffee Bar and hit the road!

Your first stop in Driftwood should be Lady Bird Johnson Gardens. Lady Bird Johnson Gardens is the perfect way to see the Texas wildflowers in all their glory. Known as the botanical garden of Texas, Lady Bird Johnson is an active wildflower conservatory with miles of trails and educational museums that’s perfect for soaking in some Texas beauty.

After walking around the fields of wildflowers, you’re going to be ready to eat. In true Texas fashion, BBQ is what’s on the menu. Driftwood is home to one of the world’s most famous BBQ joints, Salt Lick. When you arrive at Salt Lick you better be ready to eat! They offer all you can eat options as well as meats by the pound. Bring cash, as that’s all they accept!

Take a walk around Charro Park to empty your belly a bit and then head over to Jester King Brewery for a Texas brewed beer. Jester King Brewery has a great community atmosphere with amazing views of the surrounding Hill Country and even has a garden area where you can hang out with the local goats!

Local Tip: If beer isn’t quite your thing, Driftwood is full of wineries, distilleries, and amazing restaurants!

Comal River

Distance From Austin: 48 Miles

Highlighted Activities: Float the River

Every true Texan has floated the river. There are several different float rivers to choose from but if you’re day trippin’ from Austin, the Comal River is the best choice.

Not only is it one of the closest options to Austin, it allows the perfect amount of float time. At just 3 miles long, it generally takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to float.

The Comal River is crystal clear, mostly shaded, and maintains a consistent temperature of 72 degrees. It’s the perfect way to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights.

If you’re considering tubing the Comal River there are several different companies that can assist you in making the most of your trip.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $30 to float the river. This includes your tube and a shuttle drop off/pick up.

If you’re really wanting to elevate your tube game, rent a cooler tube! River companies have tubes specifically for your cooler so you can bring your own food and drinks. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing more refreshing than sipping a cold Texas beer as you float down the river!

Local Tip: If you’re looking for food post-float, it doesn’t get much better than Alpine Haus for authentic German food. Or before heading back to Austin, stop in at the Red Oak Bakery for some pastries to take back home.

Bastrop

Distance From Austin: 34 miles

Highlighted Activities: Shopping, historic museums, restaurants and libations

Texas Hill Country is surrounded by small towns but Bastrop takes the cake when it comes to Texas history. The streets of Bastrop are lined with brick storefronts, cozy diners sit at every corner, and charming local artistry fills every shop.

As you cruise into Bastrop, one can’t help but notice the meticulous historical properties that welcome you into the town. You can easily spend an hour winding down the friendly streets taking in the beauty of history.

In fact, there are more than 100 homes that are Nationally Registered Historic Properties. While you’re soaking up the history, consider stopping in at the Bastrop County Museum and Visitors Center. Displays and exhibits abound in this original 1930’s fire station.

If you’re looking for some true Texas swag to take back home, head to the heart of Downtown Bastrop. Not only will you feel like you’ve been transported back in time, you’ll be delighted to find local handcrafted goods in every store. From home decor to homemade jewelry, there’s something for everyone in the 30 plus shops that line Main Street.

You can’t visit a small Texas town without trying some local cuisine. The local cuisine of Bastrop comes in the form of comfort food!

Paw Paws Catfish House reigns supreme when it comes to true comfort food. Located in the heart of downtown, Paw Paws specializes in serving up seriously good catfish.

The walls are lined with family pictures, the menu is simple and the atmosphere is inviting. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the swanky restaurants of downtown Austin.

Bastrop also has an endless array of beer, wine and spirits to top off your dining experience. My favorite place to experience local wine is Colorado River Winery. Located on the banks of the Colorado River, this local historic American winery offers a collection of rotating, small-batch wines for tasting.

If you’re looking for something a little harder than wine, head over to Copper Shot Distillery. Copper Shot is known for whipping up their own handcrafted distilled spirits that are sure to please. They have a wonderful patio area where you can enjoy different flavors of moonshine, vodka, and in-house bourbon.

McKinney Falls State Park

Distance From Austin: 13 Miles

Highlighted Activities: Water, Hike, Fish, Picnic

There’s no better way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city than by connecting with nature. McKinney Falls State Park is the perfect way to do this!

Located just 20 minutes southeast of the Capitol, McKinney Falls is a great option for a day of relaxation. There are tons of options when it comes to activities in this 641-acre park. McKinney Falls welcomes visitors with hiking, biking, birdwatching, fishing, and of course plenty of cool water to swim in to beat the heat.

If you’re considering making the trip to McKinney Falls, grab a swimsuit and pack a lunch basket! The shores of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek are lined with smooth boulders that are perfect for stretching out a blanket and dining on some fresh-packed snacks.

After lunch, hit the trails for some light (or long) hiking. The park is covered in beautifully maintained trails that range from 0.7 to 7 miles long. When you return, head straight for the water and soak your tired feet in the clear cool water that pours over the small waterfalls.

If you plan on visiting McKinney Falls State Park I recommenced visiting the State Park website first so you can plan your trip accordingly. There is a $6 dollar guest fee for using the park as well as State Park rules that all visitors need to be aware of. You can learn more here.

Georgetown

Distance From Austin: 30 miles

Highlighted Activities: Family-friendly town square with shopping, observatories, and swimming

Thirty miles north of Austin lies Texas’ “Most Beautiful Town Square.” Georgetown is a great town if you’re visiting Austin with a family in tow.

There’s no shortage of entertainment in this small Texas town. Much like Bastrop, Georgetown has its own historical downtown speckled with brick storefronts, local shops and mom and pop restaurants.

The gems of Georgetown, however, lie outside of Main Street. Georgetown has some of the most iconic swimming holes, such as Blue Hole Park and Lake Georgetown.

Blue Hole Park is an oasis-like lagoon surrounded by towering limestone ledges and abundant waterfalls. Shallow wading areas make it perfect for families with young children or adults wanting a place to lounge.

Not much further up the road is Lake Georgetown. Lake Georgetown is known for its clear waters, cliff jumps, and water activities. Miles of trails surround the area and even lead to a breathtaking waterfall known as Crockett Falls. There’s no lack of water around Georgetown, so be sure to pack a bathing suit and expect to get wet in this classic Texas town.

Another option for a family-friendly adventure is the Inner Space Caverns. A perfectly preserved cave that’s over 10,000 years old. You’ll find prehistoric remains, beautiful cave formations and cave rooms large enough for an entire party! Inner Space Caverns offers several tour options differing in lengths. You can find more information here.

 As the sun begins to set, continue your spacey adventure with a trip to the Fountainwood Observatory. Gaze at the stars, moon, and other galaxies through a research-quality telescope. Southwestern University periodically allows free public viewing nights throughout the year. Learn more about their program here.

***

 As you can see, Texas is filled with magical small towns hidden all along the miles of backroads, many of which make perfect day trips from Austin!

So put on your boots, blast some tunes and get ready to experience the true charm of the Lone Star State!

Camping Tips for Beginners: 10 Rookie Camping Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

 The word camping evokes thoughts of simplicity, connecting to nature and relaxation. However, if you’re not prepared or adequately equipped your dreams of a peaceful night out in nature can quickly turn into a night of discomfort and despair.

Take it from me, an avid camper who’s spent hundreds of nights under the stars. I’ve made mistakes, learned my lessons and I know that every trip out into the great unknown brings an unexpected lesson that I can help you avoid.

10 Essential Camping Tips for Beginners: Camping Mistakes NOT to Make!

Camping Mistake #1: Not researching the area where you will be camping

Researching the area where you will be camping is pivotal for having a successful time in nature.

Looking at pictures, or having previous experience at a particular campsite is not enough. You need to invest time into picking a campsite just as you would finding a hotel. You need to understand the permits, booking instructions, sanitary facilities, and even particular closure dates of established campgrounds.

 If your idea of camping lies more into the dispersed category, you need to be aware of the legalities of camping, fire restrictions, road conditions and more.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: The best way to research a campsite is doing an internet search, calling rangers stations, and speaking to individuals who have knowledge of camping sites.

Camping Mistake #2: Arriving at your campsite too late

Establishing your campsite after dark can be incredibly difficult and potentially dangerous.

Of course, you can set your tent up with the help of a headlamp, but knowing your surroundings is the more important purpose. A headlamp can help you see what’s directly in front of you, but to truly be safe and ensure a peaceful night of sleep, you need to know what kind of terrain surrounds you.

For example, many campsites are marked with signs warning of flash floods, dangerous cliffs and other potential hazards. Signs like this can be difficult to spot after dark.

It’s a great idea to arrive at a campsite well before sunset so you can have the knowledge of locating restrooms, gathering water from streams, and packing food appropriately from animals. Another plus to setting up camp at an adequate time is you get to enjoy your evening, and you won’t be the noisy campers who shine lights into fellow neighbors’ tents!

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: The best practice for arriving at a campsite at an adequate time is doing appropriate research on how long it will take you to arrive at the destination, knowing the terrain of the trail leading into the site, and being realistic on how long it will take you to set up your gear. All this should be done at least an hour before the sun begins to set.

Still, be safe and have a headlamp and flashlight as backup!

Mistake #3: Not testing old gear or packing untested new gear

 Packing for a camping trip is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. But the most important thing to remember is to test your old gear. I call this the “gear shakedown.”

Shaking down the gear means making sure headlamps have batteries, your propane tanks have propane, doing a quick inspection of your current tent set up to make sure there are no new rips or tears, and that all required items are present for a successful trip.

 Another camping mistake is packing new gear before understanding how to use it. It’s crucial to set up your new gear at home before heading into the wilderness.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: A good example would be setting up your new tent prior to your trip. Set it up outside or even in your living room. You need to have an understanding of how to use your gear and if your product came with all the appropriate parts. You don’t want to wander into nature and discover you have a lack of knowledge that leaves you vulnerable to the elements.

Mistake #4: Not storing food properly

Storing food properly is often overlooked. However, it’s vitally important for health and safety.

From a health standpoint, it’s important to keep the temperature of foods within its safe limits. This means keeping frozen foods frozen, storing leftovers properly, and cooking food to the prescribed temperature.

In terms of safety, it’s important to store food away from the wildlife, especially bears.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: You need to understand what animals are roaming around the terrain of your campsite. Will you be in bear country? You’ll need to hang a bear bag.

Will you be near the beach where birds can ransack your site? You’ll need to keep trash and food in plastic containers. Understand your surroundings and prepare your food properly. I use a YETI cooler with bear-resistant locks to keep food cool and safe and away from scavengers.

If you don’t need a bear-resistant cooler or fridge, one of these camping fridges would be perfect.

Mistake #5: Not bringing enough water

 As a camper, you should never assume that your campsite is going to have water.

Many campsites have potable water or natural sources, but never assume that these sources are in working order. I’ve gotten to the campsite before, banking on a spigot at the site, only to discover that the site was under water restrictions.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: It’s always a safe idea to pack at least 1-3 gallons per person per day. You’ll be using water for drinking, cleaning dishes, cooking food, and possibly washing up at night. Pack more than you think you’ll need! It’s essential to keep yourself hydrated as you’ll be spending all day outside.

While it’s no substitute for packing adequate water, I suggest also bringing a Life Straw in case of emergencies, which will allow you to drink from unknown water sources safely, filtering out bacteria and viruses which could make you seriously ill.

Mistake #6: Failing to tell others where you are going

 It’s absolutely essential to let others know where, when, and how long you will be camping.

Camping is typically a safe activity but you have to understand that you’re still wandering out into nature. You’ll be dealing with the weather, animals, and possible trail hikes. Cell service is typically spotty to non-existent.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: There are a lot of dangers in nature and it’s a good idea to let friends and family know exactly where you intend to be and for how long in case anything is to happen they know where to look.

Another safety tip? Throw a cheap safety whistle in your bag. You’ll likely never have to use it, but better safe than sorry! In case you get hurt or lust and need to call attention from far away, or want to warn off an animal, a safety whistle can come in handy.

Mistake #7: Relying on a campfire for food and warmth

 A campfire is the essence of camping! There is nothing greater than sitting by a warm fire, roasting hot dogs, and watching the crackling embers burn well into the night.

But you should never rely on a fire as your sole source of warmth or source for cooking. Many times you’ll run into fire restrictions, wet wood, or lack of materials to build a fire.

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: It’s smart to always have a portable grill for food and always pack enough layers to stay warm in case you find yourself without a fire.

I love my Coleman grill/stove combo, but you can also get a cheaper propane gas stove.

For layering, a thermal base layer with warmer outer layers and a well-rated sleeping bag is key.

Mistake #8: Forgetting insect repellent or sunscreen

Sunscreen and insect repellent are life savers when camping outside. I remember leaving for a Colorado camping trip in July. Having never been to Colorado in July, I failed to pack the bug spray. (I thought bugs only existed in Texas).

I arrived at the campsite, high up in the San Juan Mountain Range, and was immediately attacked by every bug known to man. I spent the rest of the evening bundled up in long sleeves and long pants in an attempt to keep the bugs off my skin. I was sweating, swatting, and terribly annoyed. My fun time was quickly reduced to trying to just get through the night.

Don’t forget about preventing ticks as well as mosquitos! Both are pests which can easily ruin your camping trip.

How to Avoid this Camping Mistake: I now always have insect repellent and sunscreen in my camping bag no matter what time of year, no matter where the destination takes me.

Here’s a good bug repellent and the mineral, water-safe sunscreen I use.

Mistake #9: Not packing adequate clothing

 Packing the appropriate clothing is absolutely essential to survival and comfort in the wild. This means you need to research the weather before setting out into the great unknown.

You need to know what the low and high temperature is going to be, whether there is rain or snow in the forecast and also being prepared for extreme wind. It’s easy to be ill-prepared for the elements. Underestimating how cold it can get in the middle night is a typical mistake I make, even as an experienced camper!

How to Avoid This Camping Mistake: Pack plenty of warm clothes for layering, an appropriately rated sleeping bag, and don’t forget to cover your head with a hat as most heat escapes through the top of your skull.

A 30-degree sleeping bag is usually good, but if temperatures may dip below freezing, go for a 15-degree rated sleeping

Mistake #10: Refusing to follow the “Leave No Trace” guidelines

 Camping etiquette is essential if you’re going to be sharing the land with fellow campers.  This includes following the “Leave No Trace” rule.

Leave No Trace means you are responsible for disposing of any trash you may produce. Nothing ruins your escape into the wild more than stumbling upon someone else’s trash that they left behind. Not only is left over trash ugly and gross, it’s dangerous to the environment and wildlife.

How to Avoid this Camping Mistake: Most campgrounds have large bins to help reduce litter, but if you’re dispersed camping, please pack up your trash and dispose of it at your earliest convenience.

***

 Camping trips are the quintessential way to experience the great outdoors. Like me, I’m sure you’ll run into your own camping and packing mistakes.

The best way to survive your camping mistakes is to embrace them, make the best of your situation, and write down your mistakes so you’ll be prepared for next time!

Pin These Beginner Tips for Camping & Common Camping Mistakes!

50 Essentials for Car Camping: Checklist & Packing List For Car Camping

There’s nothing better than classic smell of a warm campfire crackling under a blanket of twinkling stars and waking up to a soft glowing sunrise as dawn breaks the horizon.

Camping is all about those moments of peace and serenity. When your pace for the day is slow and peaceful, and you truly embrace what it means to be a part of nature.

But, as my fellow campers know, not all moments are pure bliss and comfort. Sometimes you wake up to powerful thunderstorms that wipe your camp out, or you come back from a long hike and find your campsite has been invaded by ants.

But one thing is for sure, every trip is an epic adventure with hidden lessons that bring memorable stories for years to come.

As a very seasoned car camper,  I want to share with you my ultimate guide to car camping: checklist, essentials, packing list, tips, and more.

My guide includes everything from the apps I use for discovering campsites, products that I feel enhance your car camping experience, and of course the car camping essentials like cookware and storage. I have learned nature’s lessons and developed a love for the chaos and order that comes along with wandering into the great unknown.

What is Car Camping?

Home, sweet car!

For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing primarily on car camping. Which means you will be living and sleeping IN your car.

Your car becomes a fully functioning home on wheels. No tent setups, no breaking down campsites, just you and your car exploring all of what the world has to offer!

However, car camping can also be thought of as driving up to your campsite and setting up shop with a traditional tent — and I’ll cover that briefly as well, while I’ll focus more on the logistics of car camping and sleeping in your car.

The thought of sprawling out in your car, protected from the elements sounds simple in theory, right? Hold up!

Logistically, there are a few things to consider if you want to make your car camping experience as comfortable and convenient as you dreamed in your head. With a little bit of knowledge and advanced planning, your dreams of easily escaping into nature can come true!

Car Camping Checklist #1: Finding a Campsite

Car camping should be treated just like any other vacation or getaway.

First, you dream of where you want to go and then second, seek out accommodations.

Finding accommodations, or in this case, a campsite, is not quite as easy as you may assume. Take it from me! I’ve been kicked off public land, asked to leave rest stops, and have even had campsite reservations stolen from me.

But over the years I’ve perfected my system and discovered the best apps and maps for making accommodations easy. Below I’ve provided the names of my favorite apps and links to websites that I use regularly to find my next camping destination.

Best Apps for Car Camping

1) iOverlander. This app is the best kept secret for free dispersed overlanding campsites. iOverlander uses a simple topical map setup, loaded with a database of campsites that are updated by the users. Details are listed for each campsite including coordinates, pictures and amenities.

2) HipCamp. This is another wonderful app and great alternative for discovering campsites. HipCamp allows you to book unique camping experiences on farms, vineyards, and public parks across the country. It’s essentially an Airb&b for land. Owners “rent out” their land for campers so it gives you a more private setting.

Car Camping Essential Website Resources

1) https://www.blm.gov The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  is an agency within the United States that is responsible for public land. Campers can camp for free  on BLM land. This website is a great resource for finding maps that provide locations for public land.

2) https://www.fs.usda.gov Similar to BLM Land, National Forest Land is also public use land. Follow the link provided to download maps of National Forest Lands.

3) https://www.reserveamerica.com Reserve America is the Mecca for campground reservations in the states and federal lands. It’s packed with information including tips on outdoors adventures, searching for sites as well as reserving lodging.

Car Camping Checklist #2: Pack Your Essentials for Car Camping

Not sure what the most important parts of your car camping setup are? I’ll break down your car camping essentials section by section so you don’t forget a thing.

Here’s your complete car camping packing list!

Sleeping in Style

Now that you’ve got your dream location picked out and a sweet campsite to boot, let’s get into the list of gear you’ll need to have the perfect adventure.

We’ll start with the most important pieces of gear, sleeping! Sleep is often overlooked but it’s essential if you want to have a good time! Nothing ruins the next day like a bad night of rest. Here’s my list of essential bedding products that are tried and true.

I’ll present two options to my fellow campers. The first option is the traditional route of tent camping. Traditional tent camping still lets you enjoy all the necessities you have stashed in the car but also enjoy the novelty of sleeping in a tent.

The second option is for more of my “#vanlife”-ers, or the lucky few who have a truck or a large SUV that’s big enough to sleep in. I’d seriously advise those with a large car to fold down the backseats of your car or truck and turn it into a packable sleeping sanctuary!

 We’ll start with a tent set up for my novelty tent sleepers who want to drive into the campsite, unload and set up camp.

Tent

 For those who enjoy sleeping in the great outdoors, the REI Half Dome is a great starter tent.

It packs down small, weighs just under 5 pounds, and can lodge two people comfortably. It’s a great option that doesn’t take up much room and is very simple to construct.

Sleeping Pad

  If you chose to go the tent route, you’re going to need to invest in a good sleeping pad. A sleeping pad will act as your mattress and keep you off the cold, hard ground.

The NEMO Flyer is my favorite to use as it is easy to inflate, packs down nicely, and is relatively quiet if you’re the type that rolls around when you sleep.

Sleeping Bag

When sleeping in the car, most people overlook sleeping bags and opt for blankets. But I’ve learned that a sleeping bag is absolutely essential!

Despite being protected from the elements, your car can still get quite chilly and a good down sleeping bag will save you from a harsh, cold wake up. I personally use the Marmot Trestles Elite similar to this one. I love it because it’s super lightweight, comfortable, and keeps me warm.

Mattress

   If you’re one of the lucky few who has a truck or a large SUV, I’d seriously advise you to turn the back of your car or truck into a packable sleeping sanctuary. The best part about a large car is you can create a sleeping system that is more luxurious than your bed at home!

I’ve been through a plethora of air mattresses, sleeping pads, and foam rollouts. But I have finally settled on the ultimate camping mattress.

I LOVE this tri-fold memory foam mattress. I purchased the queen size for both my Ford Edge and F150. It fits perfectly in the back of both cars and folds up to a small enough size that’s perfect for road trips. It’s integrated with a bamboo covering for breathability and I’m able to easily take the cover off for washing.

Comforter

Yes, my sleeping arrangements are very luxurious for camping standards. Which is why I top my camping bed off with a good synthetic down comforter.

A comforter is the icing to my bed cake. I love cuddling up under a comforter and having that extra layer of warmth during the cold months. I use this simple comforter I got off Amazon. It’s an inexpensive option that provides the comfort and warmth that I need.

Pillows

 As for pillows, I just use regular bed pillows. I do have separate ‘camp pillows’ that are different from my home pillows.

The more of an established camper you become, you begin to realize that most articles of fabrics will begin to absorb a permanent campfire smell. So it’s best to have a designated camp bedding bin (below) to keep your linens at home fresh.

Bedding Storage

Bedding takes up the majority of space in my car. I’ve learned the best way to pack bedding is with these Ziploc totes. I throw my comforter, bedsheets, and pillows inside the Ziploc totes.

They are a good way to compact the bulkiness of bedding. They are sturdy, durable, and have a breathable mesh top so you’re able to air out your bedding as you travel.

Camp Kitchen

After a long restful night’s sleep, you’re going to want to wake up and enjoy the sunrise with a cup of camp coffee followed by a beautiful breakfast spread that’ll fuel your outdoor adventure for the day.

The beauty of car camping is that you’re not subjected to MRE meals or boring bologna sandwiches. When you car camp, the sky’s the limit when preparing food! If you’re worried about how to pack for camping and making magnificent meals, don’t worry! I have all the tips and tricks in the kitchen guide below.

Stovetop

Every good camp meal begins with a source of heat. Of course, the simplest answer to your source of heat would be a campfire. But sometimes you arrive at a campsite and find out there is a burn ban in place. That’s where the Coleman Signature Grill Stove comes in!

The Coleman Grill is the perfect answer to all your cooking needs. I love that one side of the Coleman is a grill and the other side serves as a stove. It’s the perfect combination for grilling bacon and eggs while using the stove to warm up your coffee. It’s one of the most necessary things for camping, so don’t forget it!

Cooler

 I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a well insulated cooler. A well insulated cooler is going to keep your food and drinks cold, thus in turn, keeping you safe and healthy from spoiled food. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the YETI coolers.

I own the Tundra 45 and it’s the perfect size for road trips and holds enough food and ice for at least a 4-day adventure. Plus, YETI coolers are bear-proof so you don’t need to worry about leaving it outside during your stay at the campsite.

Coffee Maker

Every camper knows there’s some magic in that morning cup of coffee. For some reason, being out in nature makes the taste of coffee significantly better. I’ve found that the easiest and fastest way to create a perfect cup of camp coffee is through a small device called a Jetboil like this one here.

The JetBoil is essentially a small cooking stove that can boil water in less than 3 minutes. It folds up to a size smaller than a deck of cards and only weighs .2 kg. I pair the JetBoil with a packet of instant coffee and I’m set for the day.

Utensils

So you’ve got your big ‘kitchen’ appliances out of the way.  Here’s a quick rundown of the small kitchen utensils that’ll make your camping experience more enjoyable.

Cast Iron Skillet. Cast iron skillets were made for the great outdoors! It’s the only material that I’ve found that can withstand the heat of a fire, stays warm after cooking, and requires little cleanup. Plus, it gets better with age! Lodge is the gold standard in cast iron cooking.

Spatula. I like using a metal spatula. If you’re cooking over a fire, it’s the best material to have as plastic spatulas tend to melt… plus, it’s easier to clean than wood. I prefer a fish spatula – perfect for flipping pancakes!

Trash bags. Don’t forget the trash bags! You’d be surprised by how much trash you accumulate during your time on the road. You’re responsible for leaving no trace and leaving campsites better than you’ve found them. Bring biodegradable trash bags if possible.

Reusable bowls and utensils. I like using reusable bowls and utensils as it saves space and decreases waste. I like this simple mess kit from REI. It’s the perfect size for two people, comes in a zippered pouch that’s perfect for packing for car camping and funky colors that make it exciting.

Cutting board and knife. I overlooked the use of a cutting board and knife for the longest time. I found myself cutting up food on random surfaces in nature. I’d advise against this and pack a small cutting board and camp knife, like this one.

Spices, oils and dressing. The best way I’ve found for packing and transporting spices, oils, and dressings is to use travel shampoo bottles. They are the perfect mini size and they have screw-top lids so they’re guaranteed not to leak. For a spice kit, this travel one is super cool for hardcore foodie campers.

Propane. If you opt to use a portable grill then you’ll need to pack propane. Always pack an extra bottle! Nothing is more disappointing than cooking your meal halfway and running out of propane. Buy in bulk to save.

Lighter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a lighter. Put one in the car, put one in your utensils bag, put one in your pocket. Anything you have to do to remember a lighter! If you forget a lighter, you’ll have no ignition source for your grill or a campfire. Buy a 4-pack and stash them around.

Lighter fluid. I love campfires but the actual act of building a fire is quite complicated and is a skill that takes time to acquire. Lighter fluid speeds this process up and keeps a weak fire burning all night long.

Bandana. Bandanas are the quintessential campers rag. I use my bandana for everything! It comes in handy as a dishrag, an oven mitt, napkin, the list goes on! It’s a great environmentally friendly alternative to paper towels and napkins.

Dish Soap. You’re going to want to bring some dish soap for washing up your dishes and utensils. I personally love CampSuds dish soap. It’s biodegradable, has a clean scent, and can also double as a laundry soap in a pinch!

Shovel. I always pack a mini shovel for clearing out overused fire pits or digging a new fire pit.

I keep all the kitchen utensils organized in a large 12-gallon plastic bin. Plastic bins will become your best friend as you get deeper and deeper into car camping. They are a great way to store all your necessities, they’re super easy to clean after a long trip and they last for ages! They also double as ‘coffee tables’ when you’re ready to sit down and eat.

Making Camp Feel like Home

 So you’ve staked out some land to call home. You’ve made your bed for the day, dinner is cooked and you’re ready to relax by the campfire.

I like to compare this stage of the camping experience to relaxing in your living room. You’ll want some chairs, maybe a hammock, some nice mood lights, and a place to sip that well-anticipated whiskey as you enjoy the sunset.

Chairs. There are a million different options when it comes to chairs. What it really comes down to is what is most comfortable for you. What I’ve found that works for me are these steal of a deal chairs from Ozark Trail. The mesh back allows for a bit of airflow, an insulated cooler on the side lets you stash some extra ‘cold ones,’ and a nifty bottle opener is attached to the side.

Hammock. A hammock is the perfect alternative or addition to chairs. Hammocks are the ultimate way to relax. A brand I’ve used and swear by is Wise Owl Outfitters. Wise Owl hammocks are lightweight, easy to set up, sturdy, and they come in so many different fun colors.

Hammock Straps. If you choose to use a hammock, please consider hammock straps much like these. Hammock straps help in preserving the health of trees by minimizing bark stripping that traditional hammock rope tends to leave behind.

Lanterns. When the sun begins to go down in nature, it gets dark fast! I love these little mini lanterns from REI. They’re the perfect size for stashing around the campsite. They emit a soft light that’s perfect for hanging around the campsite or they can also double as a powerful flashlight.

Toiletries and Cleanliness

As you begin to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, you realize how difficult it is to keep everything clean. Including yourself!

As an avid camper, I’ve come to embrace the dirt and the days without showers. But with that being said, I do have a few tips for keeping your body and campsite as clean as possible.

Wet Wipes. Wet wipes will become your best friend! There will be times where you are nowhere near a water source and you can’t stand the thought of getting into your sleeping bag dirty. That’s where these wet wipes save the day! These wipes are great for your face, hands, and body. Not only do these wipes clean, they also moisturize your skin with a clean cucumber aloe scent.

Toothbrush and toothpaste. I like to use dry toothpaste tabs when I’m out in nature. These tabs are a great option as they are made with all-natural ingredients that are safe to spit out on the ground with no damage to the environment.

Soap. If you’re lucky enough to have a campsite next to water you’ll want to take advantage of the free bath. Grab your CampSuds that I mentioned above and use this as your body wash. I know, I know, it’s a little weird washing your body with the same bottle as you washed your dishes with but trust me! It’s an all-in-one product that’ll leave you feeling better and cleaner!

Towel. Regular bath towels take up a lot of room and tend to take forever to dry out. I prefer to use microfiber towels like these as they dry faster, are easier to pack, and tend not to absorb smells.

Deodorant. Please, for everyone’s sake, pack your favorite deodorant (this is mine)

What about my hair? Okay ladies, embrace that second and third-day hair! I’ve found that camping is much easier when you let your locks do their own thing. I like to wet my hair during a bath, throw it in a braid for the night, and be done with it. As soon as you embrace the ‘no poo’ method, the easier your life becomes.

If you just can’t take it, throw your favorite dry shampoo in your bag and call it clean! PS. Your hair is going to smell like campfire every night anyway so just embrace not having to mess with it.

First Aid and Campsite Survival

As you become more accustomed to camping, you’ll learn that accidents happen. No matter how careful you are, you’ll find yourself digging through your backpack for a bandaid or searching for that precious piece of paracord that could double as a spare shoelace.

Chances are, most items in your first aid survival kit will never get used. But these extra items come in handy the one time you’re in a dire situation.

First Aid Kit. Everyone should keep a comprehensive first aid kit on hand when traveling away from home. It doesn’t have to be some sort of mega kit. This kit from Amazon is perfect. It’s a great comprehensive kit for minor cuts and burns and is small enough to stow away in the smallest crevice of your car.

Bug Spray. I live in Texas, so I camp in and around the southern states a lot, which means BUGS! Tons and tons of bugs. I consider bug spray an essential survival tool because without it, you’ll feel like you want to die. I prefer to use a bug spray with natural ingredients like this one from ClimbOn. It has a clean scent and doesn’t leave a greasy residue like most commercial bug sprays.

Paracord. Paracord is a multi-use tool that every camper should have in their survival kit. Paracord has unlimited uses from acting as a tourniquet to simply stitching up a broken hiking boot. If you’re unfamiliar with Paracord, this site has a great guide on the many uses of paracord.

Matches. Even though you should have packed multiple lighters, as mentioned above (hint hint) it’s still smart to throw some extra matches in your survival kit.

Sunscreen. I put sunscreen in the survival section because I believe it is an essential survival tool! A bad sunburn is not healthy and can really ruin a fun trip. My favorite brand is the SunBum Mineral Sunscreen. It’s all-natural, safe for the environment ingredients make it a great alternative to normal household sunscreens. Plus, it has the signature SunBum scent that makes me smile.

Headlamp. You can never have enough light sources after the sun goes down. A good headlamp like this one from Black Diamond is a great choice. It’s lightweight, compact, and powerful enough to navigate through whatever dark situation you find yourself in. Bring extra batteries, too!

Compass and map. A compass and map sound like such an old school tool for survival. But it’s an absolute essential to have in your survival kit. Chances are you will never use it, but it’s a great back up to have if your phone dies and you become lost.

Add some sass to your site!

Now for the fun stuff. Ladies… and some gentlemen, this is your time to shine!

Nothing is more fun than having the best looking campsite in the forest. This comes in the form of unnecessary but totally worth it accessories that add flair to your campsite. I like to add some sass through fun lights, flags that represent your home state, and subtle splashes of color.

String Lights. I love these string lights from REI: they add the perfect amount of accent lighting, plug in through a USB port, and have several different brightness settings to create the perfect illumination no matter what time of night.

Tap lights. These small tap lights are fun to have scattered around the campsite where you need a bit of extra light. A little tip is to put these lights near your shoes at night, so when nature calls and it’s dark outside, you can make a quick quiet escape without waking up the whole camp with a flashlight.

Flag. It’s fun to fly a flag representing your home state. It adds a little flair to your campsite and opens the door to conversations with fellow campers. I’ve sparked a lot of friendships through flying a Texas flag.

Bluetooth stereo. I like this Bluetooth stereo because it’s waterproof, durable, and has a subtle LED light that makes it easy to see after dark. Always remember to be considerate of your camp neighbors and keep your music to yourself.

Camp Games. It’s also important to bring some fun things to bring camping. Playing camp games is a fun, interactive way to pass time. Cards, Uno, and Jenga are some of my favorite games to pack. They are small and compact and can host a variety of people if you find yourself entertaining your fellow neighbor.

Clothes

I won’t go into much detail on clothes as it’s pretty diverse depending on the location you choose. But there are a couple of staple items that I refuse to leave home without no matter what the weather is forecast to be.

Flannel. Flannel is the OG material of outdoorsmen and women everywhere. And if you’ve seen my Instagram, you know I don’t leave home without my one and only flannel. I’ll make a confession, I’ve had this Eddie Bauer flannel for over 10 years. In short, these flannels are indestructible! They are so soft, comfortable and wash up like new. A good flannel will offer a layer of protection from the sun as well as protection from the cold. It’s a great versatile option that should always be packed.

Rain jacket. You never know when the weather’s going to change. Small rain showers can sweep through the mountains or desert on a moment’s notice and it’s best to be prepared. I love The North Face Resolve Wind and Rain jacket. It protects me from the wind and rain and fits like a glove. It’s full of features that are meant to be tested outdoors and it has a lifetime guarantee!

Hiking Boots. Hiking boots are a camping essential. Whether you’re hiking or not, you need a good pair of boots that protect your feet from the landscape of a campsite. Campsites are full of rocks, logs, and possibly snakes and it’s best to protect your feet from your surroundings. I use the Ahnu SugarPines to conquer the world around me. If possible, I suggest going to your local outdoor store and trying on a pair that best fit your feet.

Leggings and Shorts. I always pack both! The night time will always be more chilly than you think so it’s best to have the option of having an extra layer on your legs. I opt for compression spandex leggings and shorts as I find this material to be the most comfortable and moves well as I build fires and tend to the campsite.

Final Essentials for Car Camping

There are always small tips and tricks I learn after every trip I take. Here’s a miscellaneous list of my lessons I’ve learned to pass on so you don’t make the same mistakes!

Campsite Shoes. Campsite shoes are comparable to house slippers. These are the shoes you wear around the campsite that are comfortable and easy to slide on and off. After a long day of hiking or wandering around outside, you’re going to want a shoe that relaxes your feet. I use the Teva Original Sandals. The foam bottoms feel great on my feet and they’re super lightweight, a nice contrast to the heavy hiking boots I wear all day long.

Clothes Pins. A great camping hack is using clothespins to dry out and hang up any article of clothing they may be wet or sweaty.

Eggs. Eggs are pesky when it comes to packing in the cooler. I’ve found the pre cracking them into a large mason jar is the best way to transport them.

Warm Water Bottle. If you’re sleeping in a place that’s colder than you anticipated, JetBoil some water and transfer it into a heat-safe water bottle. Then, place that water bottle in the bottom of your sleeping bag and voilá you have a heated blanket that’ll stay warm for hours.

Cash. Always bring an extra stash of cash. Some campsites require a small cash fee, or you desperately need that last-minute firewood coming into a park. It’s always a great idea to have a little bit of backup.

Notebook. Bring a notebook to write down some highlights of each camping trip. It’s a fun and funny way to reminisce about memories that you may have otherwise forgotten.

Car Camping Checklist #3: Learn How to Pack for Car Camping

 That completes the list of all your car camping essentials. Now that you have an idea of what to pack for car camping, you’re probably asking yourself how all of this is going to fit into your car.

Nothing feels worse than rummaging through your car, searching for that sacred item that you swear you packed but can’t find. To avoid the stress and irritation of having an overwhelming amount of stuff in your car, I’ll give you a breakdown of the easiest methods to keep your car clean, functional, and fun.

 The easiest way to pack your car is to break everything down into stations. Much like a house has different rooms, your car will have different stations. This is where plastic bins become your best friend! Every station has a plastic bin of its own.  Here’s a breakdown of my stations and where I’ve found the easiest locations to store each ‘room’.

Station 1: Electronics. I keep all the electronics in the glove box as I’m constantly charging phones, watches and computers. It’s easy to be driving down the road, plug in your dying phone without having to pull over and dig through weeks worth of camping essentials.

Station 2: Toiletries and Clothes. I keep my toiletries and clothes together as they both are my ‘clean’ items. I store them in pull out style bins behind my front seat. I store them here because It’s easy to create a changing room when both car doors are open and allows a small amount of privacy when brushing your teeth or removing makeup.

Station 3. Survival Kit. I keep my survival kit under the back seat. The survival kit rarely gets used so I try to keep it out of the way. I don’t want one more thing to rummage through if it’s not necessary.

Station 4. Bedding. My bedding is kept in the middle of the car. As mentioned before, the Ziploc Totes hold and compress most of the bedding so it doesn’t take up too much space.

Station 5. Kitchen and food. I keep the grill, cooler, and utensils bin in the very back of the car. I do this because these are the items that tend to be used the most and become the dirtiest. It’s easiest to keep them in the very back as you’ll be unloading these items once to several times a day. This way, when it’s time to eat, you simply pull the specific items out without having to unload your entire car for one meal.

You’ll quickly begin to find that your car fills up fast and every nook and cranny soon has some piece of camping equipment living in it. The best thing you can do is embrace the organized mess! As you become more accustomed to your campsite routine, the easier it will be to pack and create stations of your own.

Car camping is becoming the new way to see the world. Don’t get left behind by being clueless as to what and how to pack. I hope this comprehensive car camping checklist helps you locate, furnish, and create the campsite of your dreams.

Pin This Guide to Car Camping Essentials & Packing List!         

5 Stunning Hikes with Waterfalls in Arizona

The landscape in Arizona is ever-changing. Oases can be found in the middle of the desert, mountains seem to magically appear on the horizon, and the city landscape can quickly disappear into a fairytale forest.

Among Arizona’s grandest landscapes lies hidden treasures: hundreds of turquoise waterfalls and crystal clear swimming holes waiting to be bathed in. If you’re looking for some reprieve from the hot Arizona sun, look no further than these 5 magnificent waterfalls in Arizona, complete with their own natural pools that are perfect for dipping in.

Best Hikes with Waterfalls in Arizona

Romero Pools

Imagine wandering through a desert canyon. You’re surrounded by towering Saguaro cacti, vast desert views fill your vision as you walk, majestic mountains lead you further into the desert and all the while you’re on the hunt for pristine hidden pools flowing with chilly mountain water.

Romero Pools is hidden high in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Tucson, Arizona. It’s a beautiful 6-mile trail that winds through the desert floor and then gradually leads hikers higher and higher into the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

At the end of the Romero Pools Trail is a series of waterfalls that all flow into their own pools perfect for swimming. Romero Pools is a beautiful oasis set among the desert landscape. It’s a large area full of smooth granite boulders that are perfect for sunbathing, cliff jumping, or just enjoying the views of Tucson in the distance.

Trail Specs: The trailhead for Romero Pools lies inside Catalina State Park. A $7 fee is required for visitors to experience the park. The trailhead starts at Sutherland Wash. A small wash that only flows seasonally, and continues for a flat easy 1 mile to the base of the Catalinas. As you get closer to the Catalinas, the trail ascends for 1.7 miles up to Romero Pools.

It typically takes hikers 2 hours to ascend to the Pools but the reward is well worth it. The Pools look like something out of a fairy tale. Crystal clear water with spots deep enough to cliff jump. Huge granite boulders surround the waterfalls that are perfect for sunbathing. Pack a lunch and enjoy this all-day adventure while soaking up some of Arizona’s best views.

Seven Falls

Seven Falls is another breathtaking Arizona waterfall hike lying just outside the busy city of Tucson.

What draws hikers to this particular trail is, you guessed it, the series of seven waterfalls descending from the walls of Sabino Canyon. Seven Falls is a highly popular hike due to its relative ease, beauty, and location. If you decide to do this hike, arrive at the trailhead early, as the parking lot fills up quickly.

Seven Falls is an 8 mile, relatively flat hike through Sabino Canyon. A couple of shin-high water crossings make this hike exhilarating. Throughout the trail, you can find pockets of swimming holes and plenty of places to sunbathe on your way up to the actual Seven Falls. Seven Falls is such a rewarding sight and boasts several pools to swim in.

Trail Specs: Seven Falls is located outside Tucson in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The trail begins in a small parking lot marked as Bear Canyon Trail. The first 3 miles are speckled with creek crossings and are generally flat.

In classic Arizona fashion, you’re surrounded by beautiful desert landscapes and towering canyons. As you enter into Bear Canyon you begin to ascend. As you ascend, Seven Falls becomes visible in all its glory. Seven continuous waterfalls pour from the walls of Sabino Canyon.

Each waterfall catches enough water to make perfect pools to float in. Be sure to pack a camera because Seven Falls is a sight you’re going to want to remember!

Water Wheel Falls

If you’re looking for an easy, quick trail with a rewarding swimming hole, then Water Wheels Falls is the trail for you!

Water Wheel Falls is a short, flat 1-mile trail located in Payson, Arizona. Don’t let the ease of this hike fool you, the waterfalls and the swimming holes are just as breathtakingly beautiful as others that require a more arduous hike.

Crisp mountain water pours from the East Verde River creating deep gorges and dramatic waterfalls. Water Wheel Falls is the perfect spot to spend the afternoon. The entire trail runs the length of the river so there’s plenty of places to take a dip, relax in solitude and enjoy the sights around you.

Trail Specs: Water Wheel Falls is located on the outskirts of Payson, Arizona off of Houston Mesa Road. Ample Parking can be found at the trailhead. As you begin your hike you’ll see the namesake of the trail, a large Water Wheel that used to be a component in extracting gold.

About a quarter-mile into the trail, you’ll get your first chance to dip into the chilly water of Ellison Creek. Most families choose to stop here and play, but keep hiking! Massive granite boulders begin to appear and the small creek turns into a beautiful turquoise river. A half-mile in, the sound of waterfalls fills your ears. Follow the granite boulders that line the river and you’ll end up at the roaring waters of Water Wheel Falls.

Bell Trail to Beaver’s Crack

Beaver’s Crack is Arizona’s ultimate waterfall swimming hole! Bell Trail to Beavers Crack is located on the outskirts of Rimrock, Arizona. This is a perfect day hike for Sedona visitors wanting to get away from the heat and crowded Sedona trails.

Beaver’s Crack is a moderate 7-mile hike through the Sonoran Desert. Everything about this hike is desert so be prepared! Bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen because there’s not much reprieve from the elements.

But your reward is the ultimate swimming hole! Small waterfalls from Wet Beavers Creek feed into “the crack” making a massive emerald swimming hole. Several cliffs surround the area for those looking for an extra thrill, or there’s plenty of flat, shaded areas for the ones who want a more relaxing getaway.

Trail Specs: Bell Trail to Beavers Crack is located off forest service road 618 in Rimrock, Arizona. A small parking lot is located at the Trailhead. The actual trail itself is an easy 3.5 miles to Beaver’s crack.

Halfway through the hike, you’ll experience a small elevation gain into Wet Beaver Wilderness. As you follow the trail the landscape will switch from flat to the classic red rocks of Sedona. As you wrap and weave around boulders and massive saguaros, you’ll begin to approach Beavers Crack. From here, get into your bathing suit and enjoy the icy flow of Wet Beavers Creek.

Cibecue Falls

Cibecue Falls is one of Arizona’s true hidden gems, which is surprising given its outrageous beauty.

Nestled deep in a canyon, this 40-foot waterfall is every bit worth the exhilarating hike. The out and back trail is a 4 mile, rock hopping, river crossing adventure. Arizona’s most impressive landscape is on display as you walk among the towering canyons of the White Mountain Apache Tribal Land.

Trail Specs: Cibecue Falls is located about 40 miles outside the town of Globe, Arizona. It is located on the Fort Apache Reservation which requires a $30 permit for each visitor. A rocky narrow road will lead you along Cibecue Creek to the trailhead.

From the trailhead, the adventure begins! Expect to get wet as you crisscross and boulder jump through the Salt River. As the trail begins to narrow, the roars of Cibecue Falls can be heard echoing off the canyon walls. The massive Falls pours into the turquoise pools below making it the perfect destination after an adventurous Arizona waterfall hike!

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The arid Arizona landscape is speckled with roaring turquoise waterfalls. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous day hike or just to catch the serenity of a magnificent waterfall, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in the Grand State of Arizona.

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5 Incredible Free Campsites in Utah (Near National Parks & Attractions!)

 Utah is home to thousands of campgrounds dispersed all over the state. With nearly 75% of the land being public, campers have an unlimited option when it comes to free campsites in Utah! Yes, free!

Sure, Utah’s State Parks and National Parks have their own beautiful campsites but if you truly want to live life elevated and experience what Utah has to offer then these dispersed campsites are guaranteed to take your adventure to the next level.

No more reservations, lucky lottery drawings, or squeezing your tent in between a mass of loud campers (where it’s hard to socially distance). With this article on the best free campsites in Utah, you will be armed with the coordinates to avoid camping chaos.

These coordinates are a simple navigational tool to help you locate a generalized area that allows dispersed camping. Simply plug it into your GPS or smartphone and go!

If you’re not sure how to find the best free camping in the USA, I suggest checking out this guide to free camping in the USA which lists some of the best apps and tips for finding epic campsites that are completely cost-free.

 In this article, I will outline the 5 best campsites in Utah…. that just happen to be totally free! These campsites are typically unknown, lying just on the outskirts of the most popular tourist destinations like the Mighty 5 and the best part is they are 100% free!

Whether you’re seeking a true wilderness adventure, trying to stick to a budget, or just trying to find a place of solitude, these beautiful Utah campsites are out there and waiting for you!

Considerations Before Camping in Utah

 Dispersed camping is defined as camping outside of a designated campground (also called wild camping). This means that there is limited to no camping facilities available (read: no bathrooms).

Dispersed camping is offered to campers through the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands. These are undeveloped federal lands that are available for public use. When considering a dispersed campsite it is important to remember a few things.

1) A 14 day stay limit is imposed on all public lands. This means you can stay in a particular area for 14 days, after that time is up, you must move 25 miles to your next destination.

2) Dispersed campgrounds do not have facilities. There are no bathrooms, wash rooms / showers, and often limited cell service.

3) Always pack enough water, food, and emergency belongings.

4) Always use the “Leave No Trace Rule.” Pack out what you pack in — even your waste!

With those camping rules in mind… don’t let dispersed camping in Utah intimidate you! It is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to experience all of what Utah has to offer.

The Best Free Campsites in Utah (Near Main Attractions & National Parks)

Best Free Camping Near Zion

Utah Campsite #1: N 37°15.221′, W 112°46.077′

Sunset over Zion National Park with a river and Watchman Mountain

Zion is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Utah, and for a good reason. Zion boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking hikes like Angels Landing and The Narrows.

But if you’re looking for a place to rest your weary feet after your adventures, most tourists are out of luck with only two local campgrounds to choose from which are often extremely full.

However, 16 miles outside Zion National Park is a large area that caters to campers. If you’re going East on Highway 9 out of Zion, you’ll find a small turn off to the right just after Mile Marker 51. An old gravel road will lead you to a ring of campsites with spectacular views!

Fire pits, free firewood and a 360-degree view of the surrounding Zion area await you at this magnificent free campsite in Utah. And if you’re lucky, this mostly unknown campsite will be all yours.

Best Free Camping Near Moab

Utah Campsite #2: N 38°28’7.26″, W 109°22’8.88″

Delicate Arch thin stone arch shown at sunset with red rock background

Moab is the gateway to Utah’s legendary red rocks formations that make up Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Millions of visitors flock to Moab each year to catch a glimpse of its otherworldly sights. Permits and local campgrounds fill up quickly but nestled 5 miles outside the city of Moab lies a campers dream!

Manti La Sal Road is the mecca of dispersed camping in Moab. This long winding road will take you up and above the hustle and busy-ness of Moab. You will be welcomed with expansive sites of the desert on your left and massive mountains surrounding you on your right.

There are hundreds of established yet free campsites tucked away on this well-traveled road, yet you’re still just outside the city to make those emergency grocery and libation runs!

Best Free Camping Near Kanab

Utah Campsite #3: N 37°3.200′, W 112°15.581′

Winding river and red rock banks of Lake Powell in Utah

Kanab is home to some of the most slot canyons in the world. Miles of winding slot trails, amazing wave rock formations, and the beginnings of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can all be found in the heart of Kanab.

But also lying in the heart of Kanab are some of the most alluring, quiet campsites in the world — and some of the best free campsites in Utah!

Spanning from Lake Powell to Hurricane and beyond, Highway 89 is home to hundreds of dispersed Utah campsites that are totally free for campers to enjoy.

If you’re looking to hike the Peekaboo Slots, or grabbing that infamous Instagram picture at The Wave (note: good luck with that permit!), Seamen’s Canyon Road off Highway 89 is the perfect middle ground for your southern Utah adventure.

Located 32 miles west of The Peekaboo Slot Canyon trailhead, Seamen’s Canyon Road offers multiple pullouts underneath the cliffs of Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Best Free Camping Near Salt Lake City

Utah Campsite #4: N 40°36.506′, W 111°7.505′

Woman standing on reflective salt lake with shallow water and clouds

Salt Lake City is the heartbeat of Utah. A colorful, vibrant city that boasts luxury resorts and five-star restaurants… but nestled just outside this stunning, bustling city is a campers paradise!

Miles of trails and millions of acres of dispersed camping await those who want a more primitive adventure camping in Utah but close to the convenience of the capital.

Less than an hour south of Salt Lake, high above Utah Lake, sits a ring of established free Utah campgrounds with breathtaking views. Tent campers and big rigs alike will enjoy this quiet Utah campsite with lakeside views and the city of Provo in the distance.

Located just off Highway 68, West of Provo, this free Utah campsite makes a great location for those wanting a small dose of the big city without the hustle and bustle.

Best Free Camping Near Bryce Canyon National Park

Campsite #5: N 37°40.205′, W 112°12.226′

Woman hiking on Navajo Loop trail in Bryce with red hoodoo rock chimneys in background

 The Alice-in-Wonderland-esque landscape of Bryce Canyon is one of the most underrated parks in Utah, often overshadowed by Arches and Zion.

A picturesque park set among an arid desert landscape, this place resembles something off of Mars. Most visitors will spend the day hiking Bryce Canyons’ Queens Garden and Navajo Loop then retreat back to their hotel rooms for the night.

But if you’re looking for a truly unforgettable adventure, find yourself a quiet and free campsite on the land that surrounds Bryce Canyon and enjoy a night under Utah’s beautiful stars!

Bryce Canyon is surrounded by free public land that is part of the Dixie National Forest. Just to the west of Bryce Canyon National Park lies a plethora of free dispersed campsites.

Heading west on Highway 12 from Bryce Canyon, there is a turn off on E Fork Road. Follow E Fork Road down to Forest Road 088 and make a left. From here, you’ll begin to see pull-outs full of fire rings and free Utah campsites hidden among the pine trees.

This is the perfect spot if you want to spend your day hiking the hoodoos, then rest at night under a blanket of peaceful stars!

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Utah is made to be explored! Whether you are hiking, climbing or white water rafting, you are guaranteed to find a free Utah campsite that’s perfect for your next adventure! So get out there, start exploring, and live life elevated!

 Keep in mind that while you’re visiting Utah’s public lands, you are a guest and need to abide by the rules in order to keep free dispersed camping in Utah open, available, and enjoyable for all.

For more information on the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service Lands, and the Leave No Trace principles, I’ve provided some additional reading resources linked above. Keep in mind that during certain time periods, some restrictions on dispersed camping may apply, so do your research before planning a trip.

Happy and responsible camping!

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