If you’ve been following me on Instagram the past two weeks, You will know I’ve had a fabulous time, adventuring through Utah on the ultimate road trip… But if you haven’t, Check my IG which is linked above for the full photo series.
Utah is a dream for people that love the outdoors as not only is it home to The Mighty Five National Parks of Canyonlands NP, Arches NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP and Zion NP, It also houses 45 incredible State Parks. Whether you like to hike, rock climb, mountain bike, fish, swim, ski, camp or stay in lodges… Utah has got it all and more.
Here is the low down on where we drove, hiked, stayed and ate over our ten days on the road.
The 19th century Salt Lake Temple is pretty impressive, right?
Salt Lake City
The capital is walk-able, easy to navigate and has spectacular views of the Wasatch Mountain Range and Great Salt Lake. Downtown is home to a ten acre complex named Temple Square which is headquarters of the Mormon Church, The monumental Salt Lake Temple, Assembly Hall and Tabernacle where the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform (You can also catch them for rehearsals on some Thursday evenings that are open to the public).
Apart from the Temple Square complex, Salt Lake City is well positioned to visit a slew of different parks, hikes and ski slopes. Park City is an easy 30 miles South – East of the city. Check out a Ballet West performance, A Utah Jazz game, The Great Salt Lake, The Utah State Capitol building or one of the cities museums.
The Roof Restaurant – Make a reservation and visit this famous buffet for sunset as the views over Temple Square and Salt Lake City are the best in the city, The food and service also match the spectacular back drop. Being on Church property, The restaurant is dry but they do have a great mocktail list.
Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek – I spent my first night in Utah here and the location could not be more perfect for exploring the city. It is next door to the fabulous City Creek shopping complex which by the way, has a natural creek routed through the centre and it is also less than a block from the Temple Square Complex.
RL by Red Lion – I wound up my time in Utah with two nights at this urban hotel in the downtown area that has a unique living stage on entry – This stage is home to artists, musicians, authors, community leaders and start ups who perform here on various week nights. The hotel is a short 15 minute walk to Temple Square.
Seriously, How magical is fall in Utah? I want to see every season here
Green River, Emery County
A three hour drive from Salt Lake City is the small town of Green River which is a good place to base yourself for a couple of impressive State Parks.
It is all about San Rafael Swell where you experience three completely different sights; The Wedge which is also known as little Grand Canyon has incredible views over the valley, Rochester Rock Art Panel is well known for its historic petroglyphs and there is more than one panel within The Swell, Goblin Valley State Park is the perfect place for a game of hide and seek on your hike amongst the hoodoos, We even caught a group of Uni Students from Colorado having a fun (and loud) game of Jailbreak.
Tamarisk is where it is at, I loved everything about this diner including the food and incredible views of the river at sunset. We were lucky enough to eat with one of the owners, Josh, who gave us a rundown of Tamarisk’s history and gifted us some gorgeous local Utah products including chocolate from Ritual, Bees Brothers Utah Honey Caramels and Queen Farina Busy Hands Lemon Lavender Hand Balm (My hands have seriously never felt so smooth after using this).
River Terrace Inn – I stayed in a Single King Room that was HUGE and had impressive views over the beautiful Green River and a wonderful breakfast service. It’s handily located next to Tamarisk Restaurant which also has three stylish guestrooms available to book.
I could of spent hours wandering around these impressive hoodoos.
Oljato – Monument Valley
A 3.5 hour drive from Goblin Valley is the breathtaking Monument Valley within Navajo Nation Reservation which straddles the borders of Utah and Arizona. My top tip here is to detour and experience the Moki Dugway, A graded dirt switchback road that is carved into the sheer cliff face of Cedar Mesa with spectacular views over the Valley of The Gods on your 1200 foot descent (Check conditions before you do this).
Jumping for joy because I am ticking Monument Valley off my bucket list.
You HAVE to do Monument Valley as part of a tour (You can do the big sights yourself but you will miss the best parts which can only be accessed with a local guide). I did an all day tour with Gouldings and our guide, Leland, made this experience exceptional. We spent the morning visiting a Navajo Hogan, hiking natural arches, viewing rock art and Anasazi Ruins that are not accessible to the wider public in Mystery Valley before having an incredible barbeque lunch. After lunch we continued onto Hidden Valley to see all of the well known formations such as The East and West Mittens viewpoint, John Ford’s Point & Three Sisters viewpoint, the Totem Pole viewpoint, Artist’s Point, and the North Window viewpoints.
Just checking the view from one of the restricted arches we got to access.
Stagecoach Restaurant – We had an a la carte dinner and breakfast included here at Goulding’s Dining Room and both were fantastic. Not only that, We were able to have breakfast with Ronnie & Scott who were able to relay tales from Goulding’s hey day and how Harry & Leone ‘Mike’ started their business in tourism after getting wind of Hollywood wanting to make a Western movie in the area. They travelled with the last of their money all the way to Hollywood to convince the famous director, John Ford, That Monument Valley should be the location for the John Wayne movie, Stagecoach, and the rest is magical history – You need to go and hear this for yourself if you can.
Goulding’s Lodge – I stayed in a Suite but they also offer rooms in the lodge, houses and a RV park and camp ground to fit all budgets.
No trip to Monument Valley is complete without getting your shot on the iconic Hwy 163
Bluff, San Juan County
Just over an hour drive from Monument Valley is the small town of Bluff in San Juan County which is the perfect place to base yourself to see Bears Ears National Monument. A nice way to beak up the drive is to stop into Goosenecks State Park at the halfway mark. Similar to Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, The San Juan River has carved some pretty impressive tight turns deep into the Canyon that you must see.
From Bluff, We drove just under 1.5 hours to National Bridges National Monument to hike the impressive Sipapu Bridge Trail (Sipapu Bridge is the second largest natural bridge in the U.S) which consisted of stairs, wooden ladders, switchbacks and steep sections of slickrock with an elevation change of 500 feet. Pick up lunch in Blanding on your way there to take with you and have a picnic, We stopped at Clark’s Market.
Sipapu Bridge, Well worth the adventurous hike for this view from the canyon floor
Duke’s Bistro – Located where we stayed at Desert Rose Inn, This was another of my favourite restaurants on the trip – It is a dry restaurant so I ate three delicious dishes at dinner and another satisfying breakfast to make up for no wine 😉
Desert Rose Inn – This was my favourite hotel of the whole trip and I stayed in a Courtyard Queen which was beautifully styled (It’s in the new wing and was modern with a country edge).
I just had to frolic in the fall leaves at Fruita
Torrey, Wayne County
From Natural Bridges National Monument we drove for 3 hours to Torrey and arrived just in time for dinner.
This is your base for Capitol Reef National Park and the numerous hikes on offer like Hickman Bridge, Capitol Gorge Trail and Grand Wash Trail. Make sure you also check out Wayne County’s best known settlement, Fruita. The surrounding orchards are stunning too.
Broken Spur Steakhouse – Possible one of the best steaks I have ever had… Enough said! We also had dinner with the amazing, Clark, from the visitors centre who was filled with so much pride and knowledge of his county, He even opened the centre for us after hours to make sure we had all the guides we needed so we could get on the road early… Talk about VIP treatment!!! Thanks Clark and make sure you go and say Hi to him when you visit.
Broken Spur Inn – A no fuss motel style accommodation and the home of Broken Spur Steakhouse
Daydreaming at the beautiful Calf Creek Falls
Escalante, Garfield County
A one hour drive from Torrey was Boulder, Where we stopped to have lunch at Magnolia’s Street Food Truck – This place is a must visit for burritos!!!
After our lunch we continued on to do the 6 mile round trip hike into Calf Creek Falls and this my friends, Was one of my favourite hikes in Utah for scenery and the reward of the falls at the end… Go here!!!
Circle D Eatery – The portions are HUGE and food delicious plus they had wifi which was welcomed after intermittent service over the past few days (apart from at the hotels we stayed at).
Canyon Country Lodge – This place is gorgeous and brand new, It was only opened just over a month before our visit. I’d love to go back and see it once it is landscaped as it will only get better. The service here was next level, they even called ahead to find a restaurant that would be open on a Sunday (The next day) in another town for us.
Admiring another gorgeous arch in Utah, This one is Grosvenor Arch
Panguitch, Garfield County
From Escalante we drove 30 minutes to explore Devil’s Garden & Metate Arch followed by another drive that was just over an hour to Kodachrome Basin State Park where we saw the beautiful Grosvenor Arch before continuing on to Bryce Canyon. Panguitch is also only an hour from Zion National Park.
Kodachrome Basin State Park has some fantastic sites like Chimney Rock, Shakespeare Arch and Ballerina Geyser, I recommend you do the Panorama Loop Trail that we took, An easy 3.5 miles.
At Bryce Canyon National Park we did the 1.3 mile Navajo Loop which was EPIC and although short, it takes a little longer as there are a lot of switch backs and the trail can feel quite steep, not because it necessarily is but the hoodoos surrounding you are so tall it makes it feel more than it is. This was one of the most breathtaking hikes we did and you can also combine it with the Queen’s Garden Trail.
The Flying M – Another AMAZING diner experience (It doesn’t look like much but that is usually where you find the best food), One of the best burgers EVER and tater tots, I’m obsessed!!! We even skipped the 9am breakfast at our B&B so we could get on the road early and back to this place as soon as it opened at 7am. Brilliant service on both visits.
Panguitch House – A cute little B & B. All of the rooms are styled differently so make sure you choose one you love. The owners kept to themselves and quickly handed over our keys and pointed us in the direction of our rooms as they were very busy prepping for a Halloween party.
It was a 4.5 hour drive from Panguitch to Moab and we could have routed this better and done it between Green River & Bluff so it flowed but it wasn’t originally on our itinerary BUT we just couldn’t miss out on Canyonlands National Park & Arches National Park which are both easily accessible from here – We added on an extra two days to do this and wish we had even more time to do as many trails as possible.
Canyonlands National Park has some really easy trails and we visited the spectacular Mesa Arch and Grand View Point.
Arches National Park, we only had the morning and really wanted to see Delicate Arch which was so worth the 500 foot up rock hike, We got there for sunrise and had the place to ourselves (Most people go to the other Arches which are better for sunrise whereas Delicate is the place to be sunset, I’d love to go back and see that too).
The Moab Brewery – Another awesome burger although I crazily didn’t have a beer because we had more hikes planned.
Pasta Jay’s Moab – Best chicken parmigiana I’ve ever had, Do it!!!
Holiday Inn Express Moab – Really comfortable room, Fantastic breakfast station, friendly staff who gave us plenty of suggestions and they have an arch over their pool that lights up with fire on top at night time… That was fun.
That’s me up the back and my awesome travel squad, @cassandra_travelmanager & @feel.fernweh
The only National Park we missed this time was Zion but I definitely hope to come back and spend a few days there so I can hike all of their incredible trails and explore more of the amazing state of Utah.
Do you have any Utah tips to add or questions about Utah? I would love if you could leave them in the comments below