Ultimate Winter Utah Mighty Five Road Trip

Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip

The Mighty 5 Road Trip through all of Utah’s 5 National Parks is considered one of the most scenic road trips in the world. 

Anyone who has spent time in Southern Utah can tell you the Red Canyons and sweeping vistas make for a breath-taking road trip. At times you will have a hard time believing you are actually on planet Earth! …Yes, we mean that, every turn we made, every look out the window, we were just taking in the views.   

We took this trip during our Winter Holiday and, while Spring and Fall might be better times to visit due to the cold weather, we both agree that snow covered Bryce Canyon and Scenic Byway 12 might be some of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen. You will find most blogs about this area of the country cover the trip during a summer vacation but we saw an opportunity during our Winter Holiday and took it. And it was worth it! You will get to experience fewer crowds, avoid the awful summer Utah heat and the Red Canyons covered in snow are just Breathtaking! 

Vic and Gus on Scenic Byway 24 Utah

The Might 5 road trip is a road trip for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers that offers something very few places in the world can compete with. In the course of a week, you are able to cross through 5 of the world’s most amazing National Parks and drive through some of the most beautiful scenic byways we have ever seen. 

Keep reading for itinerary ideas, accommodations and route planning! If you would like to see our top tips for this road trip check out our post HERE!

What is the Mighty 5 Road Trip

This road trip is widely known as one of the most scenic road trips in the country and one that will take you across some of the best National Parks in the world.  

The Mighty 5 road trip is comprised of all 5 of the Utah National Parks: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.  

The variety of National Parks that you will see through your time in southern Utah is what makes this road trip so unique. Capitol Reef and Canyonlands might be some of the lesser known and visited National Parks in Utah, but we highly recommend not missing out on these! 

How long does the road trip take

If you are like us, we like to get as much done in as little time as possible since our vacation days are definitely not unlimited. While everyone will vary on how long they want to stay in each National Park, we do think at a minimum one full day per park is necessary. Simply put, plan for 7 days of driving and hiking, but, if you have more time then even better! 

Sadly, we had to shorten our visit at two parks due to a snow storm that we did not anticipate but cannot wait to go back and spend more time there.  

Best time to do the Mighty 5 road trip

As we pleasantly discovered on this trip; the Mighty 5 road trip can be done year-round without many issues. Since we do not always get to decide when we can get large chunks of time off, we ended up doing our Mighty 5 road trip during December to January, and if you ask us, we couldn’t have had more fun! (including the unpredictable snowfall, but we’ll get into that later). Even with a chill in the air, once you get moving it is shockingly warm. 

Spring and Fall are definitely the most recommended times to visit Southern Utah to enjoy great weather. For us, summer is sometimes just too hot and too packed with summer tourist to truly enjoy the parks.  

We did worry at first about hiking in the mountains when the temperature would be in the 30s and 40s but we quickly started to shed layers as our bodies warmed up from hiking up and down trails.  

Keep reading for our full itinerary! 

Best Places to stay during the Mighty 5 road trip

The route you take to start your Mighty 5 road trip will dictate the lodging you choose at beginning and end of your trip.  We do recommend making 2 key home bases: one in Moab and one in Glendale.  

By making these two cities central, we were able to be within an hour of two parks at each location, which we highly recommend. We also feel that having a place to come back multiple nights in a row lets you enjoy the area more and ease some of the travel stress.  

Moab and Glendale set us up perfectly to tackle all the parks. If you have time to add one or two days to your schedule there is one more town we recommend as a pit stop so you can enjoy the trip a bit slower.  

Moab, Utah

The first town we stayed in was Moab which was the home base for Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Moab is called the Adventure Capital of Utah, and it definitely lives up to its name.  

Moab Utah Welcome Street Sign

When it comes to lodging, you will have no shortage of options for in Moab. We highly recommend the Hyatt Place Moab which we discovered on Holtels.com by happenstance. The entire staff was very friendly and that truly cemented why this is our top choice in Moab for our future visits. We also really liked the fact that the hotel wasn’t in the center of Main Street but just far enough down the street to be quiet at night but a quick walk or drive to everything you need. The local supermarket was 5 minutes away by car, which was helpful to prep some hiking snacks as well as check out some local brews! 

Hyatt Place Moab

The hotel is located on Main Street and has quick access to all the shops and restaurants that you will want to visit. We normally love staying at Hyatt’s on trips due to them normally having a living room section of the room which works great to setup our gear and be able to lounge comfortably in the evenings. On top of a great room, the hotel had a HUGE hot tub, laundry facilities and delicious breakfast.  

If you are traveling with a big group, they do offer what are essentially apartment units in the back with its own parking lot, multiple bedroom options and private entry.  

Something to note, is that this is a town that is seasonal. During winter, we noticed there were several restaurants and shops that were closed, as this is not their usual high season. However, it is definitively a great spot to check out with some plenty of open delicious local restaurants and shops during the winter season. 

If you do come during the summer season, there are a multitude of tour companies that will take you canyoneering, sky diving, jeep tours, etc. So, make sure to check those out to get ready for an adventure filled time in Moab. 

Glendale, Utah

The second town we stayed at during our Mighty 5 road trip was Glendale and it was our home base for visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Glendale is the middle point between the two parks, so a perfect spot for home base to stay for a few days. Depending where in the town you stay you will be about 30 minutes from the East Zion Entrance and then about an hour from Bryce Canyon main entrance. We really like this because it is more efficient and we feel gives more down time to relax instead of being on the go all the time, especially if your stay is limited like ours.  

We love staying at unique spots, and Glendale has a lot to offer, with places to stay including tiny homes and cabins. We chose Cliffside Cabins and RV Park located right between Glendale and Orderville, UT. They have a few options for lodging including RV spots if you are bringing your own home. We stayed in one of the three cliffside tiny homes and they were AMAZING!  

Tiny Cabin Glendale Utah

The tiny home has everything you need to enjoy yourself for a few days. Our cabin came equipped with a fully stocked kitchen, microwave, Keurig and small mini fridge. The only thing the tiny home was missing was a freezer but we wouldn’t say that is a deal breaker. Overall, the place was extremely clean, and included plenty of towels and sheets which is something a lot of Airbnb’s we have stayed at in the past lacked. 

New Years Eve Tiny Cabin Glendale Utah

One piece of advice for anyone staying in one of these cabins or in the surrounding towns is to make sure you have food to cook, booze to drink and a tank full of gas. Depending on what time of year you come by this area most places will be closed early and options will be limited outside of Springdale and Bryce City.  

Torrey and Escalante Utah

Now if you were paying attention you might have noticed we did not mention a home base for Capitol Reef National Park. We did stop at Capitol Reef and actually loved every minute at the park but did not spend the night at or near the park.  

We will explain our route for the trip shortly but if you have the time and can spare an extra night or two then we would encourage you to. A night in the town of Torrey would allow for more time to explore Capitol Reef and some of the surrounding state parks like Goblin Valley State Park which are all highly talked about.  

Torrey and Escalante are both great towns located near Capitol Reef or on the way to Bryce and Zion which makes them great stops on the road.  

Mighty 5 One Week Itinerary

The itinerary you can take for your Mighty 5 road trip will vary by a few things, the main one will be where you are coming from. If you are like us, coming in from Texas, you are either entering from Colorado or Arizona into Moab.  

If you are coming from Texas like we did then you have a few options on your route depending what part of Texas you are coming from. We all know you can drive 12 hours and still be in Texas so this will be a general guide if you are coming from the East.  

We recommend driving straight to New Mexico and staying in Albuquerque if you are just spending the night. If you are looking to explore the area, then Santa Fe, NM is relatively close and is definitely a more fun option if you have spare time. 

Monument Valley Scenic Drive

While driving might not be for everyone since that is one aggressive road trip at over 3,000 miles in one week. Flying into Salt Lake City, UT or Las Vegas, NV are probably the most popular flying options since both cities have major international airports and you are able to score relatively cheap flights. The other upside to both airports is the decent proximity to a section of the Mighty 5 road trip.  

Las Vegas to Springdale (Zion) 2.5 hours 

Salt Lake City to Moab (Arches) 3.5 hours 

The good thing about the Mighty 5 road trip is that it doesn’t matter where you start from or where you end up at. The Mighty 5 is a sort of loop road trip meaning you are able to start at any of the National Parks and do a circle around them all.  

The drive above for the Mighty 5 is a perfect option for those on limited time but still wanting to explore as much as possible. We love this itinerary since it gives you 3 nights at each “home base” which we think is ideal for getting to know a city or town. There are plenty of options to shortened or extend this trip but in our reality a week-long trip hits the sweet spot. 

Before we get a ton of comments saying 1 day per park is not enough, we know, and if it was up to us, we would spend a whole week per park. For us, our time is limited because of PTO, which I’m sure many of you can relate to. We wanted to make the most of the time we had. We also want these itineraries to be realistic for most of the people who follow us. While one day is not enough to see everything, we think that it is enough to see the highlights of a park and enjoy some amazing sights.  

We cannot recommend  the Mighty 5 road trip enough for anyone wanting to explore the outdoors. The best thing about the Mighty 5 is that you do not need to be an avid hiker wanting to chase the highest summits. Every park on this trip will offer easy to moderate hikes that most first timers should be able to access and still get to enjoy the beauty of these parks.  

Make sure to check out our in-depth guides to each park and ask us any questions on modifying the itinerary above to fit your time frame or hiking needs.  

Hopefully you get to enjoy the Mighty 5 soon and please let us know how you much you liked it! 

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25 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t mind doing this road trip, what’s there not to like…easy highways with epic views? It’s such a great feeling of freedom to have a general destination but also stop when you want to stop and explore where you want to explore. And, it sounds you did just that!

    1. It was truly one of our favorite road trips of all time, nothing beats driving those open highways for miles on end with land that hasn’t been touched!

      1. Do you have to drive through mountains at all? I am thinking of doing this end of January in my Prius. Would it be able to make it through?

        1. Hi! So the entire drive is doable in a Prius without issue but Utah weather is always all over the place so late January could be mild snow or a full blown blizzard! We highly recommend keep an eye on the weather and if it looks bad turn around. Luckily the roads are very well kept through the main highways and interstates.

  2. Congrats on the new site! Awesome to see more of your adventures as a couple – and this one looks pretty epic! I’ve never been to Utah but would love to visit one day. This road trip sounds so fun and I really love that tiny house you stayed at in Glendale. Good advice to pack in everything you need!

    1. Thank you! Utah is such an amazing place and we cannot recommend it enough! We also loved our tiny house and hope to stay at it again sometime soon!

  3. I really want to do the Mighty 5, and your road trip itinerary is so helpful for when I can go. I never thought of going in winter before but it looks lovely. The slight dusting of snow is so pretty

    1. We where afraid of the winter travel but where surprised and how awesome it was! Besides a rough day at Canyonlands the rest of the trip was amazing and the snow made everything even more magical!

  4. I have not visit any of the US National Parks, but can’t wait to be able to travel again and see some of these places. I will save this very helpful post for the future. Here in England we are just slowly coming out of lockdown and I don’t expect we will be able to travel abroad for a while. We do have a road trip planned for May here in England.

  5. Thanks for sharing a great road trip and stories. It brings back memories of visiting some of these beautiful parks when I lived in NC back in 2003.

    I particularly loved staying at Moab, and it was an experience I shall not forget as was travelling around the US.

    1. Moab is such an awesome town and definitely fits the bill as the adventure capital of Utah! We hope you get to explore the U.S. more!

    1. It was so different from our usual trips but so much fun! We cannot recommend a winter trip there enough!

    1. It is such an amazing state and offers so much for people seeking outdoor adventures. We cannot wait to go back and hit the State Parks since we just ran out of time.

  6. Utah is such a wonderful place! I was in Moab in the summer, extremly hot. I didn’t know it’s snowing there during winter.

    1. The summers are definitely a bit rough but you do get some amazing opportunities that are closed during the winter.

      We highly recommend the winter time since snow covered red canyons is just amazing!

  7. The views are just gorgeous and worth exploring even if it impacts one’s bank balance. I am so impressed that I’ve made up my mind to take a road trip of the Utah’s Five National Parks.

  8. Just back in Australia after completing this trip in January. During my research for the trip I came across this website and it helped give us the confidence to do the trip in winter. My wife and I (we’re in our mid 60’s) did a clockwise loop, leaving from Las Vegas in our hire car, a Toyota Rav 4 – we wanted an AWD vehicle for the icy roads and this was a good choice. The parks were stunning and each was different from the others. The weather was fairly mild, there were some good snowfalls at night but the days remained clear. We did have a very icy wind blowing at Bryce Point but had come prepared so it was OK. We stayed a night at the Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey and highly recommend it. Good price, great room and meals and it’s only a few minutes from Capitol Reef National Park. Scenic Byway 12 from Bryce, through Escalante to Torrey was a highlight and at this time of the year it’s very quiet. We took your advice and stayed at Hyatt Place in Moab and it was great, probably our best room on the trip.
    After Moab we went south to Monument Valley, also stunning and everything we had imagined from afar for so many years. The 17 mile loop road was brilliant. We didn’t realise there was accommodation right at the Visitor Centre (which looked really good) in MV so stayed in Kayenta at the Hampton Inn but that was nice anyway.
    Page, Arizona was our next stop for a look at Lake Powell and the Lower Antelope Canyon which was breathtaking, I couldn’t stop taking photographs. I’m sorry we didn’t schedule enough time to do the upper canyon as well. Next stop was Sedona, Az (loved it) for 2 nights then a night in Phoenix, a week at an Airbnb in Palm Springs (what a great place), a few nights in San Diego then up to LAX for our flight home. All in all, a fantastic holiday – 27 days, 4 major cities, 6 National Parks (also did Joshua Tree near Palm Springs), 1 Navajo Park (MV), 4 or 5 State Parks, about 2,500 miles driven and all without any hiccups. We’re very pleased with our choices for the trip and the way everything worked out and look forward to our next time in the States.

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