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(Last Updated On: January 14, 2021)

Summary: camping spots, hiking, National parks and more on this spontaneous Utah Road trip.

My friends and I had permits to Havasupai in Arizona…that is until the flash flooding that shut it down. It left us scrambling to figure out what the heck we were going to do with our plane tickets into Las Vegas. Luck obviously wasn’t on our side, so we weren’t about to hit up the Vegas Strip. So, why not wing it on a spontaneous Utah Road trip?!

We created a loose itinerary a couple days before we left, having no idea this would end up being one of our favorite trips of the summer.

spontaneous utah road trip mapCheck out the interactive map HERE.

 

sunset

Thursday Night:

Arriving in Las Vegas late Thursday night, we grabbed our rental SUV and headed towards our first camping spot. We used this website to find free camping at Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites.

We stayed at Leeds Canyon HERE.

At this point it was almost 2:00 am and we were exhausted. This put us a couple hours from Bryce Canyon the next morning. It was also one of my favorite sunrises of the trip.

Friday:

Bryce Canyon

1. Bryce Canyon National Park

I have been to Bryce Canyon National Park before and it is definitely one of my top 5 favorite national parks. Two of the four of us had never been to Bryce Canyon, so we made a stop at Inspiration Point to give them a taste of what Bryce Canyon was like. This viewpoint allows you to see expansive views of Bryce Canyon National Park and the various rock formations. We spent an hour here.

Spontaneous Utah Road Trip

2. Zebra Slot Canyon

This was a contender for my favorite spot on our spontaneous Utah road trip. I had never spent time in the Grand Staircase- Escalante area and was excited to spend some time exploring – especially since Trump has downsized the National Monument.

This was a scorcher. I recommend doing this hike earlier in the morning to avoid some of the heat. Also, be prepared for the possibility of flooding. There was chest deep water in the canyon when we hiked in.

Along the trail, we passed a couple groups that were having trouble finding their way to the canyon. My group used the All Trails App to have access to a map/GPS while having no phone service. We spent roughly 4 hours total with the hike and time in the canyon.

canyon Utah Road trip

3. Food

Being in the heat drained us. We stopped at 4th West Pub in Escalante where we had some delicious tacos. There was also a great Natural/organic grocery store called ‘Escalante Mercantile & Natural Grocery’ where we stocked up on healthy snacks for lunch earlier.

tent Utah Road trip

4. Camping 

We found a spot that was only a 15 minute drive from where we wanted to hike the next day and had expansive canyon views for the sunset. We enjoyed dinner, sunset, boxed wine and a fabulous star show. I believe this is the spot we camped at HERE.

Saturday:

waterfall Spontaneous utah road trip calf creek falls1. Lower Calf Creek Falls

This was the crowd pleaser. A mild hike in of 5.5 miles with a 214-foot waterfall waiting for you at the end? Yes, please.  This was our first “shower” of the Utah Road trip. Lord knows we needed it. We hung out at the falls for a while and had some snacks. It began to get crowded as we were packing up to head back.

Utah Road trip

2. Capitol Reef Visitors Center.

We then made the gorgeous drive into Capitol Reef National Park. We hit up the Visitors Center to get maps and plan out our time there. We decided on the Temple of the Sun and Moon for night one and obtained backpacking permits for Cathedral Valley for the second night (that we didn’t end up using).

3. Gifford House

We drove a few minutes from the Visitors Center to a historic house in Fruita where we purchased an obnoxious amount of pickled foods. The apple orchards nearby are self-serve and you can eat any apples you want for free in the orchard.

4. Scenic Drive.

Yes, the road is called Scenic Drive. Named well. This is an out and back road that we spent a good hour on. The rock formations vary throughout the drive. Perfect Utah Road trip add on. Especially if it’s mid day and it is too hot to hike. 

Spontaneous Southwest Road trip5. Capitol Gorge Hike.

In search of water, we completed the Capitol Gorge hike (Located at the end of Scenic Drive) where we ended at some water pockets. Swimming was prohibited, and they were too nasty for it to be appealing anyway. It was a warm 4.5 mile hike with a lot of history as it was the gateway for pioneers. Petroglyphs were still visible from the pioneers etching their name and the year they came through.

When plans for Havasupai fall through due to flash flooding…just wing it with the best spontaneous Utah roadtrip with the best girls. Crew: Laura, Brenna, Rachel

6. Temple of the Sun and Moon.

Cathedral road was something wild. We thankfully rented a large SUV with decent clearance. This rough dirt road was loaded with potholes and obstacles.

The drive itself took at least an hour to get to the Temple of the Sun and Moon. Dispersed BLM camping is nearby. Because of the intensity of the drive, a lot of people go without seeing this part of Capitol Reef. This was my favorite night, and it happened to land on the Perseid Meteor shower, as we were conveniently in one of the darkest parts of the USA.

Utah Road Trip Capitol Reef national park

Sunday:

1. Sulphur Creek Trail.

Located right behind the visitor’s center, this was an easy 3-5ish mile hike (depending on how far you go). We hiked to the first waterfall and turned around and felt good about that.

Check with the visitor’s center for the flash-flood risk before going out. It felt so good to hike in the creek as the desert was starting to get to us.

Spontaneous Utah Road Trip Hot Springs

2. Mystic Hot Springs.

We were ready for water. We drove a couple hours to Monroe where we landed at the quirkiest hot spring spot. Bathtubs that are continuously filling full of hot springs water. $16 per person for the day. There were shower houses, so we were finally able to have a real shower. Cabins and camping are available at the hot springs, but we decided to get some miles under our belt and drove back to our first camp spot from Thursday night.

3. Food.

We held out until Maria’s Cocina in Beaver, Utah. It was a quirky restaurant located in an RV park. No alcohol, but we smashed some large quantities of very tasty Mexican food.

4. Camping.

We made it to our Thursday night camping spot in Leeds at dark, set up camp, and watched more of the meteor shower. We counted 40 shooting stars.

Monday:

1. Breakfast

We drove into Saint George for a real breakfast. We grabbed food at The Egg & I Restaurant, which appeared to be a chain. It was perfect for what we needed.

2. The Narrows.

We hiked the Saint George Narrows. I shouldn’t say “hiked”. It was more of a drive up. We took our coffee while we checked out our last Utah nature spot before heading back to Vegas.

3. Las Vegas. Luxor Hotel & Casino

One of the group members were flying out the next morning and booked a room at the Luxor (as it was the cheapest she could find). This gave us access to a hotel room and a pool to hang out and relax in until our flights. We were all pretty worn out by this point and it felt great to soak and nap and watch Keeping up with the Kardashians haha.

Utah will always be one of my favorite States to visit. I have yet to go to Canyonlands, and will be back next May for a second attempt at Havasupai.

What are your favorite spots in Utah??

Click to see how my Havasupai trip went HERE

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7 Comments

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  5. Siri on October 14, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    Hello Miss Rover. I was trying to find the exact camping spot that you camped on the Thursday night (Leeds Canyon). I tried to click on the hyperlink you gave but it gave me a combination of campgrounds. But other hyperlinks were directly open the exact one except the Leeds. Thank you in advance and I really love your all your works!

  6. Sara Peterson on April 17, 2024 at 10:27 am

    Sounds like such a fun weekend! We’re going to be getting our carpets cleaned soon. Taking a trip to explore southern Utah while the carpets dry sounds like a perfect weekend! We’ll definitely check out some of the spots you visited, thanks for the great post!

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