If you're a fan of stunning scenery and incredible natural wonders, then the short but sweet road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park is a real back to nature adventure. Leave the bustling city behind and embark on this epic journey through Utah's best forests and landmarks.
The 310-mile road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park takes over 4 hours to drive. Stops include Dixie National Forest, Cedar Breaks National Monument, plus Capitol Reef, Canyonland, Bryce Canyon National Park and Arches National Park.
To help you make the most of your adventure, we've set out the best routes and places to stop overnight, as well as our favorite things to see and the best time of year to make the trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park.
How far is Zion National Park from Salt Lake City and how long will the road trip take?
|The Direct Route||310 miles||4 hours 30 minutes|
|The Scenic Route||650 miles||12 hours|
A straightforward road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park will take 310 miles. If you stick to the interstate, this can easily be done within 5 hours without making any stops. It isn't a long trip but there are so many amazing places to see along the way.
Another option is to follow our longer route. Spanning a distance of 650 miles, this option will instead take 12 hours of non-stop driving to complete. Though the extra miles will more than make up for it in terms of additional attractions and views en route.
While you could complete the Direct Route in a single day, our recommendation would be to stretch your journey over at least three days. This will give you the opportunity to have a couple of overnight stops along the way, and to explore all the breathtaking forests and parks through Utah.
Best road trip route from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park
There's no single best road trip route from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park. Instead, the preferred option will vary greatly depending on how long you have to spend on the drive, and which attractions are yet to be ticked off your bucket list.
Our Direct Route is the quickest drive of the two. Taking you more or less directly south from Salt Lake City, you'll mostly follow one interstate before reaching your destination.
That said, the most direct option still promises to take you on an exciting adventure. You'll pass through Provo and Beaver, as well as alongside the Twin Peaks and Dixie National Forest.
If you have a little extra time to spend on this great road trip, then you should consider following our Scenic Route. Though longer in both distance and time spent on the road, it will provide you with the most awe-inspiring sights.
The extra miles will offer you more views of the beautiful Utah landmarks and exciting attractions, including the Midway Crater, Canyonland National Park, Arches National Park and Capital Reef National Park.
If you really can't decide between the two, there's always the option of following one to Zion National Park, and then taking the alternative route the final leg back to Salt Lake City. That way you'll get to experience both routes without compromising on sights along the way.
The Direct Route
Take Interstate 15 (I-15) South out of Salt Lake City, passing through Murray and alongside Twin Peaks. Follow the road between Mt. Timpanogos and alongside Utah Lake.
The road will take you through Provo, a small city that's worth a stop to explore its museums and art collections. You can also take a hike up nearby Provo Peak.
Continue heading south on I-15, making stops along the way to visit Spanish Fork Peak or Loafer Mountain. You'll pass through several more towns along the way, before reaching Mt Nebo and Salt Creek Peak.
Still heading south, you'll pass Mine Camp Peak and Joseph Peak. It's worth taking a detour at this point to stop to visit Fishlake National Forest for some breathtaking views.
Take your time and enjoy all the forest has to offer before taking Route 25 and then Route 100 which will lead you back onto I-15. Next, take Exit 112 to drive through Beaver before continuing to head south.
From here you can make your way to Cedar Breaks National Monument, stopping along the way at Dixie National Forest, before taking Exit 27 to join UT-9 east which will take you to Zion National Park.
The Scenic Route
The longer and more scenic option of the two begins by leaving Salt Lake City on I-15, heading south. At Exit 297 follow signs for Veterans Memorial Park, before switching to Interstate 215 (I-215) East, before taking Exit 2 to join Interstate 80 (I-80) through Summit Park.
Next take Exit 146 for US-189 where you can enjoy the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains, before arriving at the Midway Crater. From here you'll take UT-113 south, before switching to US-189 all the way to Provo.
Merge onto I-15 a short distance, before taking US-6 east, taking you alongside Spanish Fork Peak and Loafer Mountain. Continue heading east, through Price Canyon Recreation Area, before switching to US-181 and several small towns.
Merge onto Interstate 70 (I-70) East to Exit 182, where you'll take US-191 south to visit both Arches National Park where you can see geological wonders like Delicate Arch.
Once you are done enjoying the breathtaking views, you can take a short drive on UT-313 to Canyonland National Park where you can go for a hike and try to spot some desert animals.
Retrace your drive back to I-70 to Exit 149 where you'll take UT-24 west. Follow this road past a couple of towns before making a stop to visit Capitol Reef National Park for some more amazing views.
When you leave, you'll continue on UT-24 to Lower Calf Creek Falls where you can enjoy the beauty of the perennial waterfalls, before continuing to head west.
Past the town of Tropic, you can take a short detour to visit the spectacular Bryce Canyon National Park, before taking US-89 south and then UT-9 to your final destination of Zion National Park.
Best places to stop between Salt Lake City and Zion National Park
Despite this not being the longest road trip you might ever embark on, given the sheer number of great places to visit and stunning scenery you'll pass, it's a great idea to plan at least one overnight stop to help break up the journey.
There might not be many cities between Salt Lake City and Zion National Park, but there are still some great hotel options. Here are a few of our recommendations for a great night in Utah:
A desert stay in Moab
Almost halfway on the Scenic Route and ideally positioned just over 7 hours from Zion National Park, a stop at Moab is a great way to break the trip into a couple of days, as well as giving you the chance to enjoy everything the desert atmosphere has to offer.
Known as the gateway to the massive rock formations in Arches National Park, Moab is also well placed to explore Canyonlands National Park, as well as to discover dinosaur tracks at Bull Canyon Overlook.
The town itself offers plenty for the visitors, especially the mountain bikers who take to the Slickrock Trail. Aside from the famous red rock formations surrounding the landscape, you can take to the river on the Colorado River.
After a day of hiking and exploring, an ideal hotel for rest is the Springhill Suites by Marriott Moab. Here you'll be spoiled with beautiful mountain views, a hot tub, and a fabulous swimming pool to relax after your adventures.
Ideally situated just a short drive from Mesa Arch, this hotel also offers free parking, comfortable and modern rooms and a buffet breakfast. Given its popular location, we'd recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
After a relaxing night, you can then explore Arches National Park where you can see a variety of natural sandstone arches, bridges, windows and balanced rocks.
Discover hot springs in Fillmore
If you've opted for the Direct Route, then a great halfway point and just 3 hours and 40 minutes from Salt Lake City is the small town of Fillmore. Given that you'll be driving through this city anyway, it's an ideal place to rest and enjoy more of this epic trip.
The small city of Fillmore was once the territorial capital of Utah. Its original Statehouse building still stands today as the oldest existing government building in Utah. It's now maintained as a historic site and museum.
An ideal place to rest for the night is the Best Western Paradise Inn and Resort. This hotel offers a welcome outdoor pool and spa centre. The hotel itself is centrally located in Fillmore, making it an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area.
Nearby you can enjoy a swim at Meadow Hot Springs, a stunning place with three pools which are situated in the middle of a cow pasture and open to the public to enjoy.
You're also just a short drive from Fishlake National Forest where you can spend a whole day there, taking in all the scenic beauty the forest has to offer. You can hike around the great expanse and even do some fishing and kayaking.
As well as offering great location, Best Western has free parking, exceptional breakfast and a beautiful garden surrounding the property. It's also conveniently placed to rejoin the interstate and continue with your drive the next day.
Mountain views in Springdale
Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the US, and it's easy to see why. Offering fantastic hiking opportunities through its park and swimming in its river, the highlight of the natural wonder is its expansive canyon which averages 2,000 feet deep.
Given the fact that you could easily spend up to a week exploring Zion National Park, an ideal base to make the most of this fantastic destination is Springdale.
There are so many great hotels you can choose from, but our favorite has to be Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton. With incredible mountainous views, stunning balconies, an outdoor pool and free parking, this resort has everything you could possibly need.
Situated a short drive from Zion National Park, you can hike or just take a leisurely stroll around the hotel's own gardens, before enjoying a relaxing drink by the pool or taking a soak in the hot tub. The 4-star hotel also offers relaxing, modern rooms and an excellent view to enjoy a sunset or two.
Things to see on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park
There's so much to see on the road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, that you could easily spend a month visiting them all along the way. But if you are pressed for time, here are some of the highlights of this trip:
- Big Cottonwood Canyon - A 15-mile-long canyon where you can hike, picnic, rock climb or fish. There are beautiful lakes and you can view some rare endemic plants.
- Twin Peaks - Also known as Broads Fork Twin Peaks is the highest and most prominent mountain in this part of Utah. They rise 7,000 feet above the valley floor and are a stunning sight.
- Utah Lake - This shallow freshwater lake has an average temperature of 75 degrees and offers opportunities for swimming, boating and paddle boarding.
- Provo, Utah -Explore this small city that's worth a stop to explore its museums and art collections. You can also take a hike up nearby Provo Peak.
- Dixie National Forest - The largest national forest in Utah, Dixie National Forest offers great hiking or horseback riding. If you're lucky, you might even get the chance to discover some local wildlife, including golden ages, antelope and wild turkeys.
- The Narrows - The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park. Here you can hike between canyons and through the river in waist-deep water.
The Direct Route
- Museum of Natural Curiosity - Discover this interactive museum where you can explore science with water, learn about nature in the Discovery Garden and even do a canopy tour.
- Salt Creek Peak - The highest peak in the San Pitch Mountain range in Utah, here you can enjoy great hikes and fabulous views. The hikes here are considered to be fairly easy and therefore great for less experienced road trippers.
- Fillmore, Utah - The small city of Fillmore was once the territorial capital of Utah. Discover the original Statehouse building which is now maintained as a historic site and museum or explore nearby attractions such as Meadow Hot Springs.
- Meadow Hot Springs - Despite being located on private property, the owner allows visitors to come and take a dip in these hot springs. You can also camp overnight nearby.
- Fishlake National Forest - A stunning national park where you can hike and see numerous species of animals like shrews, deer, woodpeckers and foxes.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument - Cedar Breaks sits at over 10,000 feet. Here you can take in the breathtaking views of this natural wonder while exploring the forest.
- Beaver, Utah - A small city along the route, Beaver is known for its stone houses and public buildings. You're also just a 10-minute drive away from the mountains, making this a great stopping point along the way.
The Scenic Route
- Midway Crater - A geothermal hot spring where you can swim and relax in the warm water. The hot spring is 65 feet deep and perfect for scuba diving.
- Wasatch Mountain State Park - This 21,592-acre park is a great place to explore. You can enjoy great hikes, picnics, skiing or do some horseback riding.
- Arches National Park - One of the most spectacular sights in Utah, Arches National Park offers incredible scenery of the beautiful natural sandstone arches and bridges. It's also a great place to catch a sunset.
- Moab, Utah - Known as the gateway to the massive rock formations in Arches National Park, Moab is also well placed to explore Canyonlands National Park, as well as to discover dinosaur tracks at Bull Canyon Overlook.
- Canyonlands National Park - View incredible geological wonders as you enjoy hundreds of miles of great hikes through this national park. Its dramatic desert landscape was carved by the Colorado River.
- La Sal Lookout Point - Take in some breath-taking mountain and valley views at La Sal Lookout Point, just a short drive from the great town of Moab.
- Dead Horse Point State Park - Enjoy the sunset at this beautiful park, just a short drive from Moab. There are several viewpoints which offer spectacular scenery.
- Bryce Canyon National Park - Another spectacular park, at Bruce Canyon you can take a scenic drive through the park or enjoy one of the eight hiking trails.
- Capitol Reef National Park - Located in the heart of red rock country, this desert landscape park gives you the chance to do some rock climbing and horseback riding.
- Calf Creek Falls - Enjoy a hike and take in the beauty of two perennial waterfalls. The lower falls are 130 feet high and the entire creek is surrounded by greenery, making it a beautiful spot to visit.
- Hole ‘N' The Rock - Discover this one-of-a-kind house carved out of a huge rock, where you can enjoy a guided tour and visit an exotic zoo where you can feed the animals.
Best time to go on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park
The best time to go on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park depends on what you are looking to do along the way. Zion National Park is accessible during the winter and although it might get a bit chilly, it is an amazing time to hike and enjoy all the park has to offer.
The average temperature in this part of Utah in summer is an impressive 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the fact that there are numerous national parks where you swim, scuba dive and kayak, the high temperatures will likely make this an unpleasant time to visit.
Instead, the best time to visit Zion National Park is generally considered to be between the months of April and November, when the weather is slightly more comfortable at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll also avoid the June and July crowds and the busiest hotel months.
Spring is an excellent time to take in the pretty wildflowers in the forests along the way, while Zion frequenters will insist that fall is the best season, as you'll get to enjoy stunning colors and cool temperatures.
You could plan your trip in winter when the park is quieter. With temperatures averaging between 50 and 60 degrees, you'll still be able to enjoy the outdoor attractions along the way, including Fishlake National Park which is stunning in the winter.
If you'd like to combine your trip with an event or two, there's Zion Canyon Music Festival held in September or America's Freedom Festival, held in Provo.