It became pretty clear early on in my travel planning that 7 days for Utah was not enough. If you really want to see the state, you need more like 14 days or at the very least, 10 days. Initially, our plan was to stay 3 days in Moab, 3 days in Kanab and 1 day in SLC but that abruptly changed when our airline contacted us literally at the last minute (aka the day before our departure) to inform us that they were delaying our return flight AN ENTIRE DAY. Who does that?! So I scrambled around and found us a hotel for that last night, excited that we were staying an extra day (a full 7 days total) but annoyed that lack of planning on their part meant a more expensive trip on mine.
So you might ask, what’s the best way to see Utah in 7 days? Here are 6 tips to help you make the most out of your trip to Utah…
1. DECIDE WHICH AREAS ARE TOP PRIORITY
Our top priority was the parks, plain and simple. We don’t really have any major parks back home and after seeing countless photos of Utah in all its splendor, I was dying to go on a thousand hikes and see it all in one fell swoop. This wasn’t going to be a foodie trip (heaven knows I love those) or one where I wanted to go city exploring. This trip was based entirely on natural beauty, hiking, and photos. So we kept the entire trip centered on the best places to hike and explore on foot.
2. STICK TO A FINITE NUMBER OF PARKS
Point one leads to point two. There are A LOT of parks in Utah; we only scratched the surface. For example: we missed Canyonlands, Deadhorse Point, and Capitol Reef parks entirely and so before you go, you need to decide which ones are the most important for you to visit and then plan accordingly. I wouldn’t advise trying to visit two parks in one day – it really isn’t doable. By the time you get to the park (which doesn’t include the extra few miles it takes to drive to the actual trailheads) and grab all your stuff for your hike(s), a few hours have passed and before you know it, your day will be gone. Instead, I would recommend allotting at least one or two days per park. If you love the outdoors, I don’t think you’ll be bored with two days per park – there is so much to see. Because of our time constraint, we limited each park to one day and felt pretty satisfied with that timeframe. And note – we didn’t even have time for any fun activities like horseback riding, canyoneering or white water rafting. Next time.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRAVEL TIME
If you’re dying to visit a specific park and there isn’t much time to do so, plan your driving route so that you can at least drive past it on your way to a different destination. Note: we were planning on doing this with Canyonlands. Our original thought was to drive from Kanab to Moab and stop at Canyonlands along the way. Unfortunately, we left too late and decided to scrap that plan. However, it was a great idea since it would’ve been a very minor detour and we could at least get an idea of what it is like.
4. SLEEP IN THE CAR IF NECESSARY
I realize that not many people are willing to sleep in their car but we’ve done it several times if the alternative (sleeping in a hotel) doesn’t make sense. Here’s why we did this in Utah: we arrived in SLC super late, around midnight. Our plan was to get up the next morning and drive to the salt flats in time for sunrise. With the salt flats located about 1.5 hours away from Salt Lake City, that would require us to get up around 4:30am in order to arrive in time for sunrise. By the time we checked into the hotel, it would be well past midnight, probably around 1:00am. Neither one of us could justify paying $100+ on a hotel for 3.5 hours – it just didn’t make sense. So we drove our Jeep to a nearby truck stop, parked it and got comfortable. I had a travel pillow with me that made sleep so much easier and since we had packed a bunch of sweaters, we were able to stay warm. Sleeping in your car in Utah is completely different than the East Coast. You don’t have humidity to worry about (which is what deters me from doing it more often) and at least in October, the weather was mild and bearable.
5. RENT A 4 WHEEL DRIVE
That leads us to this point – 4 wheel drive. Initially, I had rented a Jeep because of the possibility of us hiking the Wave (tragically we did not win the lottery). After a few days driving around (and sleeping in the car), I was so grateful we rented it. It was almost a necessity and most importantly, we were both glad we were driving it as we were clambering over the worst washed out dirt road we have driven on our way to Buckskin Gulch. A car would’ve been fine but we worried less, had way more room and were all around more comfortable throughout our stay. It’s worth pointing out that we did do a lot of driving during our 7 days. If you are staying in one town, you may prefer a regular car.
6. PICK CENTRAL TOWNS TO STAY IN
Finding lodging was probably the most difficult aspect of this trip. I couldn’t figure out the best towns to stay in so I researched, stewed on it and researched some more. I finally decided that staying in Kanab would keep us close to the Wave (so we could enter the lottery multiple days without much driving) and would allow us to easily access Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. It worked out perfectly – Kanab was a cute little town with only a handful of eateries (we ended up eating at the same fast food joint two days in a row) and it felt like a temporary home. After Kanab, we stayed in Moab, probably one of the cutest towns we ran across in Utah. Moab had much more to offer in terms of shopping and food; Arches National Park was a 5 minute drive from our hotel. It couldn’t get any better than that. Our last night was a mishmosh as far as plans go so I decided to have us stay in Park City, a 30 minute drive to the airport. It ended up being the best decision as that made departure day seamless (the old plan was to drive from Moab to SLC the morning of).