The Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip might be one of the most iconic and memorable road trips in the United States. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned hiker or if you are new to the outdoors, the Mighty Five Road Trip has something to offer everyone.
While the Mighty 5 Road Trip is very accessible to even the newest outdoor enthusiasts, there are always items you can bring and routes you can take (ignoring Google Maps) to make the trip that much better.
Road trips require quite a bit of planning in order to make sure you don’t end up in a bad spot while in the middle of nowhere without cell service. While we love the feeling of being on the open road without seeing other cars for hours, we also know how fast it can go wrong.
None of us want to plan on getting a flat tire while on a long road trip but those are accidents and we must be ready for anything.
1. Road Trip Gear and Hiking Essentials
The first thing we need to recommend before going further is for everyone to go through our “Ultimate Road Trip Essentials Checklist”! We know for a lot of people this might be their first multi day road trip and there are a lot of things that you will not know you need until it’s too late. So go ahead and check out what we always take on our road trips and always make sure we have on hand to make sure we are comfortable and most importantly safe.
If this is your first-time hiking in a National Park or even the first time venturing on a trail there are definitely a few things you should bring with you. Check out our “Essential Hiking and Gear List” to make sure you have the basics to be comfortable and safe on the trail. We do not think you need an extensive list or high-end gear for you first trip into National Parks but the bare minimum will go a long way in helping you enjoy the hikes.
Nothing is worse than being the person rocking some Yeezy’s while slipping on ice and potential breaking your tail bone. Trust us get the basics and be safe!
We do know some of these items can add up in cost, but thanks to the internet you are able to find some shockingly good value. Also do not worry on getting every item we take on our trips for your first trip since we have slowly added to our gear as time goes on and you can too!
2. Road Trip Navigation Tools
Many of us are probably used to just opening Google Maps on our phone and going on our way when driving somewhere. While this might work while navigating between some major cities for short trips, you will run into some issues if doing this for a major road trip like the Utah Mighty 5.
This is not to say that Google Maps cannot get you from Point A to Point B, but we have to say there are so many things you will miss if you always take Google’s “preferred/fastest” route. A great example of this issue is if you look at our post on the Utah Winter Mighty 5 Road Trip and most of the routes, we took on our road trip.
If you were to stay at what we call our “homebases” for the length of the trip but just use Google Maps to navigate from Point A to Point B you will certainly miss out on many things. Google for instance will tell you that the fastest way to get from Moab, UT to Glendale, UT is to Highway 70 West and then Highway 89 South. Now this is definitely the fastest route but for just an extra 30 minutes to your total trip time you could add Scenic Byway 24 which is arguably one of the most amazing drives in the United States.
We are also big proponents of downloading Google Maps for offline usage and making sure to do it correctly. The best method is to follow the official Google instructions HERE at the Maps website. You might need to download a few map versions since it only lets you select a specific area instead of an entire state. On most of our trips we normally download offline maps between major cities and at any National Park or State Park we might visit since those normally are no signal areas unless they are extremely popular parks.
Lastly, also think about purchasing paper maps for the area you are visiting. This might be something new for many people but it is a low-cost way to save yourself from a bad experience. It has only been on the rare occasion that we have needed to rely on a paper map but it has definitely come in handy during many trips.
Google Maps is arguably the best method of navigation for almost all cases but even with offline usage there are times your phone will just do an oopsies and not work!
3. America The Beautiful Pass
National Park fees vary per park and while you might never visit another National Park again (we highly advise against this) the annual park pass might be the best deal out there. Let’s just say this is the only week you visit National Parks for an entire year but you do visit all 5 Utah parks. If we break it down the Annual Pass comes out to just $80 for an unlimited year of park visits.
If you were to pay for the park fees at Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches you would already be paying over $90! This is why we recommend the pass to anyone taking this road trip or anyone who lives near a National Park. Most of the major U.S. National Parks have a fee around $30 per vehicle for 7 days, so if you visit just three parks in one year you already paid for the pass and more!
4. Utah State Parks Annual Pass
This is a bonus item and only really necessary for those spending plenty of time in Utah during a Mighty 5 Road Trip or residents of the state. Just like the America The Beautiful Pass for National Parks, the State Park Pass will allow you to enter all Utah State Parks for a onetime fee for an entire year!
If you have the time to spare and have the opportunity to visit some of the amazing State Parks in Southern Utah during your trip then count yourself lucky. The State Park Pass is more expensive than the National Parks Pass but if you are visiting a few parks then it is completely worth it.
At the moment on the Utah State Park website, you are looking at $100 for in-state residents and $150 for out of state residents. This might seem steep but if you consider a day pass for Goblin Valley State Park is $20 a day then you can see how fast the Annual Pass can pay for itself.
5. National Park Visitor Centers
We always start our National Park hikes at the Visitor Center to check in with the rangers, make sure the hikes we want to do that day are accessible and of course check out the gift shop!
The most important reason for checking in at the visitor center with the park rangers is to check trail conditions as well as any surprise warnings that could change your plans and the trails you take. Depending on the time of year, some roads might be closed due to snow, some trails could have been washed away due to rainfall or construction could have shut down certain parts of the park. Rangers will always have the most up to date information and if you are lucky might have tips to make the most out of your day at the park!
We can’t count the number of times that we have had to shift our plans due to closed hikes but also the number of new hikes and even local State Parks we have discovered because of Park Rangers. One of our favorite examples was during our hike at Canyonlands during Christmas and we got stuck due to a surprise snow storm. The Park Ranger was incredibly helpful and while all the trails were closed at the park, he recommended a trail and local park we had never heard of before. You can get more into that story and details on that hike on our Canyonlands and Moab Trip Review!
Lastly, we always recommend to use the restrooms at visitor centers, since there might only be pit toilets later on depending on what trail you will be starting at there. At Zion, like many parks in Utah, during the winter season a lot of toilets at smaller trailheads might be closed completely due to maintenance.
Rule of thumb in our book is when you find a good toilet use it like it might be your last!
Mighty 5 Road Trip
The Might 5 road trip is a road trip for outdoor enthusiasts 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 country’s most amazing National Parks and drive through some of the most beautiful scenic byways we have ever seen.
Southern Utah is a place that cannot be easily described but once you have visited it, you will always have a soft spot for It.
We cannot recommend enough the Mighty 5 road trip 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 tourists 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 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!