The Ultimate Utah Road Trip For Beautiful Photos

Photo by Tava Hoag

Road trips are a fun way to see a large amount of area in a relatively short amount of time, capturing some beautiful images along the way. I’ve made quite a few trips with friends, and it’s so much fun to have photoshoots in some of the most amazing locations in the U.S. We wanted to put together a road trip guide for Utah. Why Utah? Well, Utah is highly underrated as a place to go and visit. With it’s contrasting landscaped, five National Parks, and endless opportunities for photos, both landscape and portrait, we wanted to make sure you had the best route planned as possible to make your photo adventure a success.

How To Plan Your Utah Road Trip

Travel through five national parks, see the salt flats, visit snowy mountains, and walk through slot canyons. In just a week, you can see some of the gorgeous sights that Utah has to offer. It’s the perfect spring break trip to go on with your friends. Check out our suggested stops and route below. There’s no excuse not to go now because we put it all together for you!

Please keep in mind that the route and time frame below are only suggestions. Feel free to extend your stay and drive any which way you would like.

You could start this trip from Salt Lake City and end in Salt Lake City. It’s also easy to drive from parts of western Colorado to begin your trip in Moab and circle from there. Of course, you could spend a month in any of these places and still not have your fill, but one week should get you the most amount of content for your portfolios.

Stop 1: Park City, Utah

38 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport

Park City is a fun mountain town about 45 minutes southeast of Salt Lake City, and home to two awesome ski resorts. On the town’s doorstep is Park City Mountain Resort, with lifts operating right from town, and just down the road is Deer Valley Resort, one of Utah’s poshest ski resorts. Stop here to grab some winter photos. Use the beautiful resorts as shoot locations, have your outfits planned and strike as many poses as you can think.

Stop 2: Arches National Park

236 Miles From Park City

Arches National Park is a must-see while in Utah (plus, it will be completely different from wintery Park City). The stunning stone arches and rolling petrified dunes, backed by the often snow-capped peaks of the La Sal Mountains, make this one of the most scenic parks in the United States. The most famous of the arches is Delicate Arch, standing like a horseshoe jutting out of the ground, framing the distant mountains. You can do short hikes to many of the most popular formations, but some of the best views can be seen right from the scenic drives. I would suggest going to Double Arch around 3 PM when the light is beginning its descent. There will probably be fewer people than other areas, and the views make for some very cool photos. Arches National Park is also located just outside Moab, a town well-known by mountain bikers and outdoor adventurers. There are plenty of wonderful places to camp in this area.

Stop 3: Canyonlands National Park

27 Miles From Arches National Park Visitor Center

Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s version of the Grand Canyon, without the crowds. The park has three sections, but the main portion, which attracts the majority of sightseers, is Island in the Sky. It is arguably as impressive as the Grand Canyon in its own unique way, and far less visited. One of the main attractions in the park is Mesa Arch. You can catch sunrise here, but you must start your hike during the dark to get a good spot. On your way in or out of this park make sure to take a slight detour to Dead Horse State Park. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset if you can plan your route that way and anyone who sees your photos will assume you are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Stop 4: Goblin Valley State Park

108 Miles From Canyonlands National Park

Journey to this strange and colorful valley, unlike any other in Utah. The landscape, covered with sandstone goblin rock formations, is often compared to Mars. Explore the geology, and camp among the nooks and gnomes, but don’t forget to head here near sunset first so you can see the formations lit by the sun. You may also want to camp out here and witness a night sky the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Goblin Valley is part of the International Dark Sky Association and offers the perfect viewing of our galaxy. It will be an incredible experience and the perfect opportunity to experiment with some nighttime photography.

Stop 5: Capitol Reef National Park

57 Miles From Goblin Valley State Park

Capitol Reef National Park is another great place to explore Utah’s interesting landscapes. Located directly west of Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef reveals a huge wall of banded sandstone rising above the Fremont River. Canyons, rock spires, cliff walls, arches, and gorges dominate the scenery and are an inspiration for anyone with interest in photography. In the distance, the wall overlooks the landscape and glows an almost purple color in the late day sun.

Most people come here for sightseeing, and it’s easy to drive by on the way somewhere else.

Stop 6: Coyote Gulch, Escalante National Monument

111 Miles From Goblin Valley

Coyote Gulch is at the end of Hole In The Rock road just outside of Escalante, Utah. This unpaved road offers a stretch of wild Utah. You don’t have to drive all the way to the gulch. Instead, stop and experience Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons for a beautiful day hike with the perfect lighting and scenery for some pretty amazing photos. We did this after doing the more popular Antelope Canyon, and this was much better. It was pure excitement the entire time we were down there. The hike in may be a little aggressive with all of your equipment and gear, but we promise it’s worth it.

Stop 7: Bryce Canyon National Park

98 Miles From Coyote Gulch

The brightly colored and tightly packed hoodoos that dominate the landscape at Bryce Canyon are what set this national park apart from the rest of the spectacular sites in Utah. It’s much more impressive in person when the sun lights it up during golden hours, creating a magical landscape that begs to be explored. There’s a great drive that runs through the park offering the best scenery if you are tight on time. Make sure to take the Queens Garden route into the canyon. This is short and an easy way to get some great photos in the actual hoodoos as opposed to the same shots above them.

Stop 8: Zion National Park

85 Miles From Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park features some of Utah’s most outstanding scenery, with red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and beautiful vistas. Many of the park’s most impressive sites are found in Zion Canyon, along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which follows the valley floor. While there, make an effort to hike the infamous Angel’s Landing and the beginning portion of The Narrows. These will be two unforgettable hikes that you can complete in one day if you start early. Consider making a quick detour to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to see some cool landscapes. It’s the perfect excuse to try sand surfing as the sun sets and paints the hills orange. Bring lots of outfit changes so that you get a variety of shots during this jam-packed day.

Stop 9: Bonneville Salt Flats

380 Miles From Zion National Park

About 90 minutes west of Salt Lake City along I-80, near Wendover, is an area of flat land, extending off into the distance as far as the eye can see. When the sun sets, the area is breathtaking—a great way to end your trip on a high note. In winter some of the flats are covered in a thin layer of water, which is great for photos. This will be the perfect opportunity to experiment with your photos. Give yourself plenty of time to be here because you won’t want to miss this experience.

Then from there head home, whether it’s back to the airport in Salt Lake City or a long drive somewhere else, your trip as ended…for now.

Sample Itinerary*

  • Day 1: Salt Lake City to Park City (38 minutes); drive to Moab to spend the night (4 hours)
  • Day 2: Morning in Arches; drive from Arches to Canyonlands (30 minutes); drive to Goblin Valley and camp for the night (1.75 hours)
  • Day 3: Morning at Goblin Valley; drive to Capitol Reef (1 hour); spend the afternoon there, then drive to Escalante (1.5 hours)
  • Day 4: Morning drive to slot canyon or Coyote Gulch (1 or 2 hours); hike all day; drive to Bryce for the night (3 hours)
  • Day 5: Spend most of the day enjoying Bryce Canyon; drive to Zion (2 hours); watch the sunset on Angel’s Landing
  • Day 6: Spend a half day enjoying Zion; drive to Bonneville Salt Flats (6 hours); watch the sunset at the flats
  • Day 7: Return to Salt Lake City Airport (1.75 hours)

Total Driving Time: 21 hours | Total Distance: 1,213 miles