Salt Lake City to Zion National Park Road Trip


Embarking on a road trip is an adventure like no other. The freedom of the open road, the wind in your hair, and the promise of discovery around every bend—there’s something inherently exhilarating about a road trip. In this article, we will guide you through a captivating journey from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, unveiling the hidden gems, scenic routes, and must-see attractions along the way.

Preparing for the Road Trip From Salt Lake City to Zion National Park

Embarking on a road trip demands meticulous planning. From packing essentials to charting out your route, being prepared ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are the key essentials to consider:

Planning Your Route: Scenic Drives and Pit Stops

Choosing the right route can transform a road trip from a mundane drive to a breathtaking adventure. We’ll outline the best scenic drives, including the iconic Zion Park Scenic Byway, and suggest charming pit stops where you can stretch your legs and indulge in local delicacies.

2.1 Scenic Drive Highlights

Zion Park Scenic Byway: The Zion Park Scenic Byway is a masterclass in nature’s artistry. This mesmerizing route unveils panoramic views of red-rock canyons and dramatic cliffs, each curve offering a new perspective of Zion’s geological wonders. As the sunlight dances on the vibrant sandstone formations, you’ll find yourself immersed in the sheer grandeur of the landscape.

Kolob Terrace Road: For travelers seeking solitude and unspoiled beauty, Kolob Terrace Road is a hidden gem. This less-traveled route leads to the mesmerizing Kolob Canyons, where towering sandstone monoliths stand sentinel over lush meadows. Driving along this road feels like entering a natural cathedral, where peace and serenity reign supreme.

Utah State Route 9: Utah State Route 9, also known as the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, is the gateway to Zion National Park. This route is a testament to the harmony between human engineering and natural splendor. As you navigate through the switchbacks and tunnels carved into the canyon walls, you’ll be awestruck by the sheer beauty of the surroundings. The highway showcases the geological wonders of Zion, leaving an indelible mark on every traveler’s soul.

2.2 Pit Stops and Local Flavors

Kanarraville Falls: Kanarraville Falls is more than just a pit stop; it’s an oasis of natural beauty. The refreshing hike leading to picturesque waterfalls is a delightful adventure for nature enthusiasts. The trail, adorned with charming wooden bridges and lush greenery, culminates in a mesmerizing cascade of water, inviting weary travelers to rejuvenate in its cool embrace.

Thunderbird Restaurant: Indulgence takes on a new meaning at Thunderbird Restaurant. This culinary gem seamlessly blends classic American cuisine with a touch of southwestern flair. Each dish is a celebration of flavors, combining fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create culinary masterpieces. Dining here is not just a meal; it’s a sensory experience that captures the essence of the region’s rich culinary heritage.

Fueling Your Adventure: Best Eateries En Route

A road trip is incomplete without indulging in local flavors. Savor mouthwatering delicacies at these renowned eateries:

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm is a sanctuary for food enthusiasts. Nestled in the heart of Boulder, Utah, this establishment offers farm-to-table cuisine that tantalizes the taste buds. From seasonal vegetables to delectable pies, every dish is a celebration of locally sourced ingredients, served with a side of warmth and hospitality.

Oscar’s Cafe

Oscar’s Cafe, located just outside Zion National Park in Springdale, is a culinary haven with a view. Here, you can enjoy hearty meals that reflect the region’s flavors while savoring breathtaking views of the surrounding red cliffs. The menu is a blend of comfort food and gourmet delights, ensuring a satisfying culinary experience amidst nature’s grandeur.

The Vagabond Kitchen 

Cedar City, a charming town en route to Zion National Park, is home to The Vagabond Kitchen, a culinary gem that delights the senses. Here, creative dishes and artisanal treats take center stage. The menu, crafted with passion and ingenuity, offers a diverse culinary journey, making every bite an adventure.

Packing Smart: Your Travel Checklist

Packing efficiently is the key to a hassle-free road trip. Here’s your ultimate checklist:

  • Clothing: Pack weather-appropriate attire, including layers for chilly nights and light clothes for daytime explorations.
  • Snacks and Water: Carry a variety of snacks and ample water to stay energized and hydrated.
  • Emergency Kit: Include a first aid kit, flashlight, and basic tools for unexpected situations.
  • Navigation Tools: GPS, maps, and a reliable smartphone with navigation apps are essential.

Best places to stop between Salt Lake City and Zion National Park

1. Provo, Utah: The City of Nature and Culture

Provo, nestled between the stunning Wasatch Mountains, is a vibrant city known for its outdoor recreation and cultural attractions. Stop by the Brigham Young University Museum of Art to admire impressive artworks, or take a leisurely stroll in the scenic Provo Canyon.

2. Bryce Canyon City: Gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park

While en route, consider a detour to Bryce Canyon City, the gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park. Marvel at the unique rock formations, or if time allows, embark on a hike along the park’s picturesque trails.

3. Cedar Breaks National Monument: Nature’s Amphitheater

A lesser-known gem, Cedar Breaks National Monument, boasts stunning amphitheaters of red rock formations. The vibrant colors and breathtaking vistas make it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

4. Kanab, Utah: Where Adventure Meets Hollywood

Kanab is not only an adventurer’s paradise but also a favorite location for filmmakers. Visit the Little Hollywood Movie Museum to learn about the area’s film history, and don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

5. St. George: Historic Charm and Outdoor Recreation

St. George offers a delightful blend of history and outdoor adventures. Explore the historic district with its charming architecture, and if time permits, venture into Snow Canyon State Park for scenic hikes amidst red sandstone cliffs.

6. Hurricane, Utah: Home to Quaint Shops and Cafés

Hurricane, a picturesque town, is a perfect place to stop for a relaxing break. Wander through its quaint shops, enjoy a cup of coffee in a local café, and soak in the town’s laid-back atmosphere.

How far is Zion National Park from Salt Lake City

One of the key aspects of planning a road trip is understanding the distances and drive times between destinations. In this section, we’ll unravel the different routes from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, providing you with essential information about distances and estimated driving times.

Routes, Distances, and Drive Times

To make your journey from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park seamless, we’ve compiled a table detailing various routes, their respective distances, and approximate drive times based on typical conditions. Here’s a comprehensive overview:

RouteDistance (in miles)Drive Time (approx. hours)
I-15 S Route304 miles4.5 hours
US-89 S Route324 miles5 hours
I-70 E and US-89 S Route343 miles5.5 hours
I-15 S and UT-9 E Route313 miles4.75 hours
Scenic Route via UT-14 E330 miles5.25 hours

Note: Drive times are approximate and can vary based on traffic, weather conditions, and individual driving speeds. It’s advisable to plan your departure time considering these factors.

Choosing the Best Route

When selecting the ideal route from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, consider your preferences and the scenic beauty you wish to experience. 

The I-15 South route is the most direct and time-efficient, while the US-89 South route offers slightly more extended travel but with captivating landscapes along the way. 

The I-70 East and US-89 South route is a great option if you prefer a mix of interstate driving and scenic routes.

For travelers who appreciate picturesque routes, the Scenic Route via UT-14 East is a delightful choice, taking you through charming towns and diverse landscapes.


What’s the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

The best time to visit is during spring and fall when the weather is pleasant, and crowds are fewer. Avoid summers when temperatures soar.

Are There Camping Facilities in Zion National Park?

Yes, Zion offers campgrounds, but they fill up quickly. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak seasons.

Is the Road to Zion National Park Accessible for All Vehicles?

Most roads leading to the park are accessible by regular vehicles. However, for off-road adventures, consider a high-clearance 4WD.

Are Pets Allowed in Zion National Park?

Pets are allowed in specific areas but must be leashed. Check the park’s guidelines for pet-friendly trails and accommodations.

Can I Hike the Narrows in Zion National Park?

Yes, but be prepared for a challenging hike. Rent appropriate gear in nearby towns and check weather conditions before embarking on this iconic adventure.

What Wildlife Can I Encounter in Zion National Park?

Zion is home to diverse wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, and a variety of birds. Respect their habitat and observe from a safe distance.

Conclusion: Unforgettable Memories Await

As you hit the road from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, be prepared for a journey that transcends the ordinary. Nature’s wonders, culinary delights, and the thrill of the open road await you. So, gear up, follow our guide, and let the adventure begin!

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