Grand Circle Tour Itinerary
11 days, 1,500 miles, 6 National Parks, Monument Valley, adventure towns, giant lakes in the desert, and something about a Dead Horse Point? Yes, please.
Strap your seat belts on for this one. For the next 11 days you are going to cover nearly 1,500 miles of the most scenic highways in the country. Read on.
See Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks in 11 Days, 10 Nights
You will visit six national parks, two national monuments, one Navajo tribal park and pass by several state parks and other points of interest. The canyons, sunsets, trails, colors, arches and rock formations will keep your camera busy so bring lots of film or flash memory and batteries. Millions of years of erosion have created a spectacular display of cliffs, canyons, arches, bridges, red slickrock, and mountains that you will experience during your two-week travels.
Day One: Zion National Park
Drive from Las Vegas (168 miles) or Salt Lake City (314 miles) to Springdale, gateway to Zion National Park.
Park Fees: We recommend that you buy the $80 National Parks Pass that will allow you into all National Parks and Monuments.
Hike Canyon Overlook Trail
(1 hour, 1 mi/1.6 km round trip)
This short moderate hike on a well-marked trail leads to an overlook offering incredible views of lower Zion Canyon. If you time it right, the sunset will light up the whole canyon. The trailhead is at the parking lot just beyond the east entrance of the tunnel. Cross the street and begin the easy 1 mile hike. This hike is great for people who want to see a beautiful overlook of Zion that don't necessarily like long hikes and it's great for kids.
Return back to your accommodations by following highway 9 back into Springdale.
Check into accommodations near Zion National Park
For Dinner, eat at a restaurant in Springdale.
Day 2: Zion National Park
Stop at the local market to get water and snacks for the day. You will want a day pack to carry things in since you will be gone for the entire day.
Explore Zion Canyon
During the summer months, the shuttle runs at six-minute intervals during the middle of the day. Operating from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Parking at the visitors center inside the park can be difficult from May-September, so riding the shuttle into the park is a better option. November through March you can actually drive up the canyon.
- Court of the Patriarchs- (5 minutes .1 mile walk)
- Zion Lodge- Emerald Pools trailhead (1-3 hrs. Lower-1.2 miles rt. Middle- 2 miles rt. Upper- 3 miles rt)
- The Grotto- Angels Landing trailhead (4-5 hrs. 5 miles rt)
- Weeping Rock- Weeping Rock trail. (1/2 hour. .4 mile walk rt)
- Big Bend - View the Angels Landing ridge trail
- Temple of Sinawava- Riverside trail, gateway to the Narrows. (1.5 hours. 2 miles rt)
Add a little extra adventure and incredible scenery by walking up the Virgin River Narrows a mile or two. You might want to bring an extra pair of shoes and a walking stick. The trail is the river and you are walking on slippery rocks as you go up the Narrows.
Grand Circle Tour in Photos
Get spectacular views of Temples of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
Leave for Bryce Canyon National Park (approx. 86 miles). Enjoy the scenic drive through Zion Hwy 9 and HWY 89. Pass through historic towns and the beautiful Red Canyon.
At Bryce Canyon, visit some of the scenic overlooks. If you're looking to relax a little, stay nearby and visit the closer viewpoints. For sunset, we recommend Inspiration Point, Paria View or Sunset Point, and plan to arrive one-and-a-half hours before sunset for the best lighting. If you want to see mostly all of Bryce Canyon, drive or take the shuttle on the scenic loop. It's 38 miles (one way) of pure beauty and you will cover many viewpoints.
View Points of Scenic Loop:
- Swamp Canyon
- Piracy Pointe
- Fairview Point
- Aqua Canyon
- Natural Bridge
- Ponderosa Canyon
- Black Birch Canyon
- Rainbow Point
- Yovimpa Point
Check into accommodations near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Eat at Ebenezer's Barn and Grill and enjoy great Cowboy Entertainment. Or check out other restaurants in the area.
Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park & Highway 12
Get up early and see the sun rise over Bryce Canyon. The two most popular viewpoints for sunrise are Sunrise Point and Bryce Point.
Hike the Navajo Loop Trail
(1.3 mi/2.16 km round trip)
This is hands-down the greatest way to see the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon from the canyon floor. You start by hiking down Wall street a narrow canyon with high rock walls on either side. Soon after you will reach the flat canyon floor with the option to finish the Navajo Loop 1.3 mi round trip.
Drive All American Road Hwy 12
This drive cuts through a corner of Bryce Canyon National Park and then follows a breathtaking scenic route through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is a good, paved highway, but steep in spots. It descends into the Escalante Canyons region and then climbs over Boulder Mountain. From Boulder Mountain you can see the Waterpocket Fold section of Capitol Reef National Park. Stop at scenic turnoffs as time permits. Hwy 12 ends in Torrey near the Capitol Reef National Park entrance.
Highlights of Highway 12:
- Mossy Cave, a sneak peak of Bryce. Drive past Bryce toward Tropic and there is a pullout on the right. Play in the small cave and waterfall down a short half mile path.
- Kodachrome Basin (22 mi/35 km) from Bryce
- Escalante State Park (44 mi/70 km) from Bryce
- Calf Creek Falls (67.6 mi/107 km) from Bryce
- Anasazi Indian Village (80.8 mi/130 km) from Bryce
Check into accommodations near Capitol Reef National Park
Check out the restaurants near Capitol Reef too. Torrey is so small that all you need to do is drive down the main road (Hwy 24) and you'll see all of the restaurants.
Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is amazing in its own special way. The formations you see here you won't find anywhere else in the world.
Drive the scenic drive south from the Visitor Center.
The Scenic Drive is a 10 mi/16 km paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge that, weather permitting, are accessible to ordinary passenger vehicles. In every direction the views are fascinating. From the road you can see sheer sandstone cliffs, uniform layers of shale and rocks that have been lifted and folded and carved into shapes that stir the imagination. The Scenic Drive is not a loop, so you must return on the same road. Entrance fees of $5 per vehicle are charged for the Scenic Drive.
In the afternoon begin your drive to Moab, Utah's Adventure Capital (144 miles).
Check into accommodations near Arches National Park in Moab
Day 6: Moab
Visit Arches National Park
In the morning, pack a lunch and plenty of water, and drive to arches to watch the sunrise over the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches. Drive North on Highway 191 from Moab for 5 mi/8 km. The turnoff for Arches will be on the East side of road. For the more adventurous, get up 1 hour before sunrise and hike the 1.5 mile trail to Delicate Arch and watch the sun rise.
Main Points of Interest:
- Park Avenue
- Balanced Rock
- Windows Section
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint
- Devils Garden- (Landscape Arch)
Eat lunch en route.
In the afternoon drive to Dead Horse Point and to the scenic overlooks in Canyonlands National Park.
Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point State Park offers a spectacular vista providing with views of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. From Arches, drive back to Hwy 191 and head north for about 6 mi/9.6 km to Hwy 313 and take the signed turnoff to Dead Horse Point. Follow Hwy 313 for about 22 mi/35 km as it winds to the top of the plateau and then south to Dead Horse Point.
Tour Canyonlands National Park- Island in the Sky District
Island in the Sky comprises the northern portion of Canyonlands National Park. From Dead Horse Point, return north on Hwy 313 for 7 mi/11 km to the junction with the Grand View Point Road and then drive the Grand View Road south into Canyonlands. Stop at the Visitors Center to pick up a map and information before continuing to the lookout points.
- Mesa Arch
- Grandview Point
- Upheaval Dome
- Green River Overlook
Return to Moab for the night.
Day 7: Moab
Optional day. Engage in one of Moab's many adventure activities; whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, horseback riding among the red cliffs, mountain bike the slick rock trails, take a Hummer 4x4 ride over red rock trails or hike to Corona & Bow Tie Arches.
Moab Guides and Outfitters
Day 8: Monument Valley
Drive to Monument Valley
(150 mi/241 km).
This is a scenic drive; plan to stop at the historic towns and viewpoints and take some pictures.
Eat lunch en route. Drive to the visitors center and sign up for a Navajo guided tour through Monument Valley at Sunset. Check out the amazing overlooks East and West Mitten Buttes, and Merrick Butte. Unique sandstone formations, red mesas and buttes surrounded by desert were used in hundreds of western movies. There is only one hiking path called Wildcat Trail (3.2 mi/5 km rt) that starts at the visitors center and loops around West Mitten Butte. At night the stars are absolutely amazing because of the remote area and no city lights.
Check into accommodations near Monument Valley and eat dinner.
Day 9: Lake Powell
Leave for Lake Powell (132 mi/212 km) in the morning. Lake Powell offers one of the most beautiful views of water and red rock cliffs. Take a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural stone bridge in the world. We recommend bringing tennis shoes or hiking shoes for the trail to Rainbow Bridge (3 miles round-trip). Click here for more information on boat tours: Eat lunch before the tour in Page, AZ or pack one for the boat tour.
Check into accommodations in Page Arizona.
Day 10: Kanab & the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
Drive 110 mi/177 km to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim has the most spectacular views and is surrounded with forest of Ponderosa Pines. The North Rim averages 1,000 to 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim! Perfect for hiking (link) and great photos! Eat lunch and enjoy the view at the North Rim Lodge. From here you can drive to Las Vegas (266 miles) for the night or stay in lodging near the Grand Canyon (77 miles).
Points of Interest on North Rim :
- Point Imperial- Point Imperial, is often considered the greatest viewpoints on the North Rim. It overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon, and different than other viewpoints.
- Bright Angel Point- Bright Angel Point, south from the visitor center, can be reached via a 1 mi/1.6 km round trip hike with a grand view of the canyon.
- Cape Royal (.6 mi/.9 km round trip) Cape Royal is a long peninsula extending from the North Rim out over the Grand Canyon. It offers a phenomenal view, perhaps the most sweeping view of any Grand Canyon vista. You can see much of it from your vehicle, but the best views await those who take the short, easy stroll to the end of the cape.
Check into accommodations near the Grand Canyon
Return home. Home, sweet, home.