By Angela Shelley
Aug 11, 2019

Going on a National Park Road Trip Adventure in Utah? Try this…

Looking to experience Utah’s world-famous national parks but also want to create some adventures of your own? Then check out our base camps! You can hit the Utah national park of your choice and take the adventure to the next level by camping out at our three beautiful base camps.

Which National Park?

Zion National Park is ideal for views of incredible sandstone monoliths, magical hanging gardens, and bucket-list hikes. Zion Base Camp is close enough for the adventure, but with a little distance to explore. Check out places like Sand Hollow Reservoir and Quail Creek State Park. Both are beautiful, hidden-gem reservoirs for various types of water fun. And you can extend the adventure by going west to Flaming Gorge or southeast to the north rim of the Grand Canyon! It’s a great location for any number of epic summer adventures!

Campsites, facilities, and recreation areas at Zion Base Camp

Bryce Canyon National Park offers surreal views of the hoodoos that you can explore on hikes that descend into maze-like valleys. Beaver Base Camp is a little more than a hop-skip-jump away from Bryce Canyon National Park, but it does put you in the middle of popular ATV and mountain biking trails. And if water action is what you crave, Three Creeks Reservoir is an easy distance from the camp.

Moab Base Camp

Despite being relatively near each other, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are so geologically different that you’ll want to experience both! And Moab Base Camp is the primitive camping adventure you didn’t know you always wanted. Moab area is where your eyes can be bigger than your stomach for adventure. Make sure you prioritize and organize for everything you have in mind and maybe even a little extra for unexpected adventures as well.

Moab is not just for national parks. Don’t forget opportunities for world-famous canyoneering, rock climbing, Dead Horse Point State Park, and whitewater rafting on the Colorado River. And if you have an extra couple of days, this is also a great trip to add on area-favorites: Goblin Valley State Park, Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument, Four Corners, Mesa Verde National Park, or Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Itinerary Ideas

As you can see, these three base camps open endless opportunities for adventure in southern Utah. You can take 5-7 days for an epic road trip to see most or all of them, split them up over three separate weekends, or create multiple trips and include some detours through other recreation areas nearby! It’s up to you to decide where and how fast, but see below for some suggested itineraries. Feel free to contact us with questions on how to create your ideal adventure.

*Confirm fees, safety info, weather, and requirements for all parks, monuments, reservoirs, activities, etc. for the areas you’re planning to visit.

Zion Base Camp Highlights Tour (Zion National Park, Quail Creek Reservoir)

Arrive at Zion Base Camp Thursday evening, set up camp, dinner.

Friday: Pack a lunch and plenty of water before heading into Zion National Park. Depending on the time of year, you will likely need to park in Springdale or at the Visitor Center to ride the shuttle into the park. Go early to beat the crowds to the trailheads and enjoy a day of incredible views and hiking. Check out Easy to Moderate hikes like the Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and Riverside Walk OR go for more extreme hikes like Observation Point, Angels Landing, and Hidden Canyon Trail. Keep an eye out for wild turkeys, deer, and squirrels.

Zion Base Camp Bathroom with Shower

Friday evening: Come back to Zion Base Camp for a refreshing shower (yes, running water!) and a relaxing evening around the campfire.

Saturday morning: Pack a lunch and head to Quail Creek State Park for a fun way to spend a hot day on the lake! Remember to check all State Park Reservoir rules like taking all flotation devices (kayaks, canoes, blow-up floats, etc.) through the boat check station.

Dutch Oven Cooking Platform

Saturday afternoon: Next, head back to camp a little early to make an awesome Dutch oven dinner and dessert in Zion Base Camp’s Dutch oven cooking platform (left) behind the enclosed pavilion. Take some time to enjoy some stories and smores around the campfire and don’t forget some stargazing before getting some well-deserved sleep.

Sunday morning: Finally, clean up, pack up and head home with memories to last a lifetime.

Suggested adjustments: Go out the opposite entrance of Zion to access Coral Pink Sand Dunes or do more great hiking and sight-seeing in Zion Saturday as well.

Beaver Base Camp Highlights Tour (Bryce Canyon National Park, Mountain Biking, and Water Action)

Arrive at Beaver Base Camp Thursday evening, set up camp, dinner.

Friday: Pack a lunch and head out early to Bryce Canyon National Park. Enjoy the different views and moderate hikes like Navajo Loop or more difficult hikes like Fairyland Loop. Head back to camp for dinner and stargazing. At Bryce Canyon, keep an eye out for squirrels, deer, and the Utah prairie dogs.

Saturday: Spend the morning mountain biking the network of trails in the area and spend the afternoon at Three Creeks Reservoir. Head back to camp to enjoy dinner and a night around the campfire before some well-deserved sleep.

Sunday: Finally, clean up, pack up and head home with memories to last a lifetime.

Moab Base Camp Highlights Tour (Arches and Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park)

Arrive at Moab Base Camp Thursday evening, set up camp, dinner.

Friday morning: Pack a lunch and head to Arches National Park – feel free to head out early for prime hiking before the midday heat. Make sure you have a hat, sunscreen, and PLENTY of water! Keep an eye out for snakes and lizards while in the desert.

Landscape Arch in Arches National Park

Saturday morning: Get up early for a morning of rock climbing and canyoneering near camp. Pack a lunch before heading to Dead Horse Point State Park for a quick view. Then head to Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky entrance. Here you can enjoy great views and perhaps a short sunset hike. Head back to camp for dinner, campfire time, and incredible star gazing. Then get to bed for some well-deserved sleep.

View from Dead Horse Point State Park

Sunday morning: Finally, clean up, pack up and head out with memories to last a lifetime.

Suggested adjustments: Use Saturday for mountain biking or ATV time in the Needles area of Canyonlands. OR add a ½-1 day whitewater trip on the Colorado River.

The Five and More (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks)

Sunday night: Arrive at Zion Base Camp, set up camp, dinner.

Monday: Zion National Park hiking followed by Dutch oven dinner, campfire and stargazing

Tuesday: Clean up, pack up and head to your camp of choice in Capitol Reef. Capitol Reef is a bit far from our Base Camps, so I recommend finding a camp with easy access to Capitol Reef National Park. Fortunately, it’s Utah’s most underrated national park and less crowded. Set up camp and enjoy an evening around the campfire.

Wednesday: Capitol Reef National Park history and hiking (petroglyphs and amazing hikes!).

Thursday: Clean up, pack up, and head to Moab Base Camp.

Friday: Arches National Park hiking and sightseeing.

Saturday: Canyonlands National Park hiking, mountain biking or off-roading. (Consider opting-in some rock climbing and canyoneering.)

Sunday: Finally, clean up, pack up, stop by Dead Horse Point for a final view of inspiration, and head home with memories to last a lifetime.

Author: Angela Shelley| is a writer, traveler, and Program Assistant for the Utah National Parks Council, BSA.

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