This post may contain affiliate links, please see the privacy policy for details.

If you’re itching to get out and explore the great outdoors, you have to put a Southeast Utah road trip on your bucket list! The colorful terrains, unique rock formations, and otherworldly landscapes make this one of the most scenic drives in the world. There is so much to see and do traveling from Moab to Monument Valley, with stops in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the Grand Canyon South Rim.

Girl standing in Monument Valley on sunset.

This road trip, which spans Moab to Monument Valley, will take your breath away with its amazing rock formations, hikes, beautiful scenery, and scenic drives. From giant natural arches to out-of-this-world stargazing, this southeast Utah road trip will be a vacation to remember for years to come.

Recently, I made this road trip with my brother Tristan, his girlfriend Annika, and my friends Joel and Josh. Here is my guide for everything to see and do along the way.

How Many Days Are Needed For this Southeast Utah Road Trip?

natural rock arch on road trip from moab to monument valley.

The Moab to Monument Valley road trip was a long weekend getaway for us. We had four days to explore this magical region of the United States. With this being said, this particular road trip can be done in four days. However, if you are able, I would recommend adding a few days to be able to fully explore all this Moab to Monument Valley road trip has to offer.

Moab to Monument Valley Quick Overview

  • Arrival Airport: Salt Lake City
  • Departure Airport: Flagstaff, AZ or Pheonix, AZ
  • Number of Days: 4-7
  • Best Time of Year: April-May or October-November
  • Distance from Moab to Monument Valley: 148 miles (+ any extra detours)

Getting to Moab

Moab has a tiny airport you can fly into, but flying to Salt Lake City (SLC) will give you the most options. We flew into SLC and picked up our rental car. It takes a little over three and a half hours to reach Moab from the airport.

A woman sitting on tub at Mystic Hot Springs.

Optional Detour! Along the way, we stopped off at Mystic Hot Springs, which is just under three hours from SLC. Most of the trip to Mystic Hot Springs is along highways 15, 50, and 118, with scenic mountain views. It will add about 2 additional hours to your drive.

Stops from Moab to Monument Valley

It’s time! I’m so excited to share this Moab to Monument Valley itinerary with you. I hope it makes planning your Southeast Utah road trip as seamless as possible.

Stop 0: Moab (The Day BEFORE The Road Trip Begins)

Moab is the official starting point of this Moab to Monument Valley, Southeast Utah road trip. Its history goes back centuries to the mid-1800s. What was once a Mormon settlement and farm is now a thriving tourist center. Its name comes from an ancient Biblical civilization, also called Moab.

Arch landscape at sunset.
Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock

While Moab’s recorded history started only a few centuries ago, evidence of human life goes back to ancient times. There are remnants of petroglyphs nearby from when woolly mammoths roamed this earth. Today, people love visiting to spend time at nearby national parks and go mountain biking.  

After arriving in Moab, check into your hotel and get a good night’s rest, because tomorrow you have a day full of adventure!

Where to Stay in Moab:

Moab has quite a few places to stay, but we needed to find somewhere to accommodate our relatively large group.

We stayed at the Expedition Lodge because they offer rooms for six. It’s an excellent option for parties who want to stay together in one room. Not only did it logistically work out for us, but it was also a fun and quirky place to stay with beautiful views. The décor had a retro feel, with vintage records adorning the walls and colorful fixtures throughout the space.

Stop 1: Arches National Park

Person standing under Delicate Arch at Arches National Park.

A few miles north of Moab is Arches National Park, one of Utah’s “big five” national parks. This unique natural wonderland encompasses nearly 120 square miles of land. It is most famous for its red rocks, over 2,000 natural arches, and rock formations.

There are countless arches you can see that are easy to moderate hikes. Each one has distinct features that come in all shapes and colors.

The most popular arches you can visit are Devil’s Garden, Balanced Rock, Skyline Arch, The Windows, and Delicate Arch. I recommend getting to the park as early as possible to ensure you have ample time to explore!

Important! If visiting from April 1st – October 31st, you will need to secure your timed entry reservation before visiting the park.

Stop 2: Moab Off-Roading

While we were in Moab, we tried out off-roading with Outlaw Jeep Adventures. It was a thrilling adventure with steep climbs and rugged terrains. The drive was nerve-racking, but our guides helped us see some incredible sights.

During our experience, we saw some impressive vantage points. Our guide led us to the Hell’s Revenge Trail, which had sheer drop-offs next to the vehicle. We soaked up all of the unobstructed views along the way. During our tour, we passed by the La Sal Mountains and Grandstaff Canyon. In addition, we were able to stop and capture some photos of Grand Country and the Colorado River.

off-roading in Moab during southeast utah road trip.

Our off-roading adventure gave us a chance to see sights we wouldn’t have seen on our own and was a fun adventure with friends. If you plan on organizing a jeep tour for your trip, there are other experiences than the one we did. Outlaw Jeep Tours personalizes each experience for their groups.  

Brave drivers can get behind the wheel and drive a jeep under the instruction of an experienced guide. Those who own a 4×4 can also take a guided tour in their vehicle. Finally, if a smaller vehicle is more your speed, you can take a UTV (utility task vehicle) for a spin in Moab. 

Stop 3: Canyonlands National Park

About 30 minutes southwest of Arches, you’ll find the equally amazing Canyonlands National Park. While it is another “big five” park, people often overlook it.

This park has three regions – Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze/Horseshoe Canyon. Island in the Sky is closest to Moab and has some fantastic viewpoints you can see from your car or are an easy walk away.

Mesa Arch is easily accessible and has incredible views of the canyon below. Additionally, Grand View Point is a spectacular sight with a pleasant 1.8-mile round-trip hike.  

stargazing at canyonlands national park during moab to monument valley road trip.

However, the star (no pun inented) of the show at Canyonlands is the pitch black sky that allows for out-of-this-world star-gazing. We saw the stars as we had never seen before. I highly recommend staying until after dark. Just be sure to pack extra layers and a blanket or two!

Other Things to do in Moab:

Depending on the number of days you have to complete this Moab to Monument Valley road trip, you may or may not have time to squeeze in a few more Moab adventures. Here are some of the best things to do in Moab.

Natural rock arch in utah.
Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock
  • Canyoneering: Moab’s canyoneering adventures offer an exhilarating way to explore the region’s stunning slot canyons, combining hiking, rappelling, and sometimes swimming to navigate these natural wonders.
  • Dead Horse State Park: With its breathtaking overlooks of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park provides visitors with some of the most iconic views in the American Southwest.
  • White Water Rafting: The Colorado River near Moab offers thrilling white water rafting experiences, with rapids ranging from mild to wild, suitable for families and adrenaline junkies alike.
  • Mountain Biking:  If you’re a mountain bike enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the Sand Flats Recreation Area. This 9,000-acre space has camping, jeep trails, and biking.   
  • Ziplining: Ziplining in Moab gives you a unique perspective of the desert landscape, allowing you to soar above the canyons and red rocks for an unforgettable aerial adventure.
  • Hike to Corona Arch: One of the top hikes in the area is the Corona and Bowtie Arch. This moderate 2.4-mile hike will take you to red sandstone arches and impressive landscapes that are a prime photo destination.
  • Drive the La Sal Mountain Loop: Just 8 miles south of Moab, you’ll find this scenic 60-mile paved loop complete with some of the best rugged views.

Restaurants in Moab

Once you finish with all of your outdoor adventures, you can enjoy Moab’s quaint downtown area. This town has charming restaurants and exciting events. Moab is the perfect base for the first few days of your Moab to Monument Valley adventure.

Here are the top restaurants to check out during your time in Moab!

  1. The Desert Bistro: Known for its elegant ambiance and creative Southwestern-inspired cuisine, The Desert Bistro offers a sophisticated dining experience in Moab.
  2. Hidden Cuisine: Located a bit away from the downtown hustle, Hidden Cuisine presents South African flavors alongside hearty American breakfast choices, all complemented by a selection of wines in a cozy setting.
  3. 98 Center Restaurant: Situated in the heart of downtown Moab, 98 Center Restaurant offers a diverse menu with Viatamese-inpsired dishes.
  4. Milt’s Stop & Eat: For a taste of nostalgia and some of the best burgers in town, look no further than Milt’s Stop & Eat. This charming diner has been serving up classic American fare since 1954 and continues to delight customers with its friendly service and mouthwatering comfort (and affordable) food.
  5. Quesadilla Mobilla: Known for its casual outdoor dining atmosphere, this spot specializes in hearty quesadillas filled with fresh, flavorful ingredients and homemade guacamole, with gluten-free options available​.
Red rocks in southeast Utah.

Stop 4: Newspaper Rock Historical Monument

Your road trip to Monument Valley continues! Your first stop after leaving Moab will be at the Newspaper Rock Historical Monument.

Situated in the Indian Creek area within Bears Ears National Monument, Newspaper Rock is a fascinating petroglyph panel featuring over 650 ancient designs carved by Indigenous peoples over 2,000 years ago.

These carvings depict animals, human figures, and various symbols, providing insight into the cultural and historical life of the region’s early inhabitants. Visitors can easily view the rock from a close-up viewing platform, making it a quick and accessible stop for all ages.

Stop 5: Bluff Fort

Bluff Fort Historic Site is a reconstructed pioneer fort and settlement in Bluff, Utah, offering a glimpse into the lives of the early Mormon settlers in the region. The site includes original and replica buildings, such as cabins, a schoolhouse, and a meeting hall, with interactive displays and artifacts that tell the story of the fort’s establishment in 1880.

Guided tours are available, and visitors can participate in hands-on historical activities, making it an educational experience for families. It is free to explore, but donations are greatly appreciated. Hours slightly differ depending on the season and the site is closed for 2 weeks at Christmas time.

Stop 6: Valley of the Gods

The Valley of the Gods, offers a less crowded but equally stunning alternative to its more famous neighbor (Monument Valley). This secluded valley is located on BLM land and features a scenic loop drive that will take you through towering sandstone formations.

The formations are set against a backdrop of majestic mesas and buttes, with the La Sal Mountains visible in the distance on clear days.

This area is accessible to most vehicles under good weather conditions, but I would reccommend 4×4 as it can be pretty rough. It’s important to note that there are no marked trails, campgrounds, or facilites, but it is an excellent spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowds that you met at other spots on this Southeast Utah road trip.

Stop 7: Mexican Hat Rock

Just 39 minutes from The Valley of the Gods, you’ll find the famous Mexican Hat Rock. Named for its sombrero-like appearance, Mexican Hat Rock is a distinctive, sombrero-shaped rock formation located just north of the San Juan River in southeastern Utah.

This natural landmark is easily visible from the highway, and there are opportunities for visitors to pull off the road to take photographs. The rock stands as a testament to the erosive forces that have shaped the region’s landscape, offering a quick but memorable stop on the road to Monument Valley.

Stop 8: Goosenecks State Park

Girl standing at a viewpoint at Goosenecks State Park.

Goosenecks State Park features panoramic views of the San Juan River as it carves deep canyons through the desert landscape. The overlook provides a dramatic vista of the river’s tight loops and bends from a vantage point 1,000 feet above the river.

The park has minimal facilities, but it’s an ideal spot for photography, picnicking, and camping under the stars. This would be a great place to stop for a picnic on your way from Moab to Monument Valley!

Scenic Detour! 41 miles North of Goosenecks State Park, you’ll find Natural Bridges National Monument. If you have extra time (or a full day), it’s definitely worth the detour. Natural Bridges National Monument is a great place to set up camp, as the stargazing is equally as amazing as it is at Canyonlands.

Stop 9: Forest Gump Highway

Man skateboarding along Forest Gump Road on the way from Moab to Monument Valley.

Officially known as U.S. Highway 163, this stretch of road gained fame from its appearance in the movie “Forrest Gump” as the location where Forrest ends his cross-country run.

The highway offers breathtaking views of Monument Valley’s towering sandstone buttes and mesas. The specific point for the iconic movie scene is marked, and visitors often stop to recreate Forrest’s run with the stunning backdrop of Monument Valley.

However, it is a heavily trafficked road so be sure to be careful when snapping those quintessential Southwest Instagram shots!

Stop 10: Monument Valley

If you’ve seen a Western movie, you’ve probably seen landscapes that look like Monument Valley. Films like Stagecoach, starring John Wayne from 1939, had set locations here. This final destination on our Southeast Utah road trip embodies everything you’d imagine the American Southwest to be and more.

A woman standing in Monument Valley at sunset.

Monument Valley is a gift of nature that belongs to the Diné (Navajo) people, who have lived there for countless generations. The sights you’ll see there are truly monumental. There are stunning natural spires that loom over 1,000 feet over the valley. The landscape will make you feel like you’re on a different planet.

Monument Valley National Park has a driving loop that will take you through the park and to many viewpoints. If you’re not in an SUV, the circle may be a little rough on the car, depending on the conditions. Tread carefully.

If you want the best pictures of Monument Valley, the ideal time to photograph it is late afternoon to sunset. That is when its famous “mittens” rock formations have a spectacular glow.  

A woman sitting at viewpoint at Monument Valley.

Where to Stay in Monument Valley

In Monument Valley, we opted for a rustic cabin at The View Campground. It had great access to everything we wanted to do and see. This majestic place belongs to the Diné (Navajo) people. We were lucky enough to stay on this sacred land and experience its incredible surroundings.

You can stay at one of their premium cabins or The View Hotel. We loved everything about our stay. Our cabin had multiple beds, an en-suite, and a private porch overlooking the valley.

This accommodation gave us access to guided tours, day trips, the best hikes, and stargazing, which was ideal for us.   

Restaurants near Monument Valley

  1. The View Restaurant: As its name suggests, The View Restaurant offers stunning panoramic views of Monument Valley while you dine. Specializing in Navajo-inspired cuisine, this restaurant provides a cultural and culinary experience, with dishes like Navajo Tacos and fry bread served with various toppings. It’s a must-stop!!
  2. Goulding’s Stagecoach Dining Room: Located within Goulding’s Lodge, the Stagecoach Dining Room offers a rustic yet comfortable atmosphere and a menu featuring hearty Southwestern fare. From savory stews to grilled meats, each dish reflects the flavors of the region.
  3. Twin Rocks Café: Situated near the famous Twin Rocks formations, Twin Rocks Café is a cozy spot known for its homestyle cooking and friendly service. Whether you’re craving a hearty breakfast or a satisfying lunch, this cafe offers a menu filled with comfort food favorites.

Moab to Monument Valley Sample Itinerary (4 Days)

Group on a road trip from Moab to Monument Valley.
  • Day 0: Fly to SLC and drive to Moab. Check in to Moab Hotel.
  • Day 1: Explore all Arches National Park has to offer, then check out a sunset off-roading tour in Moab.
  • Day 2: Choose a morning Moab activity (Rafting, ziplining, etc) then head to Canyonlands National Park. Make sure to stay until after dark to see the amazing dark sky!
  • Day 3: Start the drive south to Monument Valley. Make stops at Newspaper Rock, Bluff Fort, Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat Rock, Gooseneck State Park, and The Forest Gump Highway. Check into Monument Valley Hotel.
  • Day 4: Drive the Monument Valley Loop at sunrise and then head to the Flagstaff Airport for departure (be sure to book a late-night flight).

Moab to Monument Valley Road Trip Vlog

You can watch my Moab to Monument Valley road trip vlog below or directly on YouTube for better quality.

Have More Time? Trip Add-ons (Southeast Utah and Beyond)

Our group only had four days to explore all of this territory. We saw a lot, but there is certainly more to discover. If you have a little more time in the area, you can add a few other sights to your experience.

Travel blogger, Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella standing on rock at Monument Valley at sunset.
Thanks to Joel Schat for all the trip photos during this Southeast Utah road trip.

Capitol Reef National Park

A great stop you can add between Mystic Hot Springs and Moab is Capitol Reef National Park. This scenic destination will make you feel like you’ve landed on Mars.

There is a driving loop on a dirt road you can use to see the park. Along the way, you can stop at points of interest. You can also take your time and spend a full day hiking and enjoying the views. The drive time between Capitol Reef to Moab is a little over two hours.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Another great place to stop on your road trip if you have time is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Here, some points of interest include impressive cliffs, rugged plateaus, and diverse geologic landscapes.

The drive time is about 3 ½ hours from Canyonlands, three hours from Monument Valley, one from Capitol Reef, and three from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. It is a scenic drive you may want to check out.

Sedona, Arizona

A place you can add to your trip in Northern Arizona on your way to Phoenix is Sedona. This picturesque destination has spectacular scenery, intriguing vortexes, top hiking trails, and a cute town.

It’s a great place to discover any time of year because each season has unique and intriguing landscapes.

A natural bridge at sunset.

Grand Canyon South Rim

A 5 ½ hour drive south of Moab is the Grand Canyon South Rim. The Grand Canyon is one of those places you think of when you think of a “grand American road trip.”

While it is a little far from Southeast Utah, it’s on the way to Phoenix and worth visiting. If you can get up early, a Grand Canyon South Rim sunrise will take your breath away. The light hits the rocks and reveals spectacular red, pink, and orange hues.

However, no matter what time you visit, you’ll see impressive views. Since it is one of the most popular US natural wonders, it is a bit crowded. But, like many other places we visited on this trip, that didn’t detract from the overall experience.

Southeast Utah Road Trip Wrap-Up

My Southeast Utah Road Trip from Moab to Monument Valley was a trip of a lifetime. With careful planning, we hit everything we wanted to see and do in just four days. It was such a great experience. From hiking to Delicate Arch to running down the Forest Gump Highway, this is a quintessential road trip that I hope everyone can experience! Visiting Monument Valley needs to be on everyone’s USA bucket list!

You May Also Like

Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.


You Might Also Like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Wow, this place is interesting. I have never heard of it before, I’m not very familiar with the US. Your stunning photos are making me want to go there.

  2. What an awesome place! It looks like you are the only human beings there. Especially, the off-roading is very exciting. It feels like another planet!

  3. Wow! Stunning photos of Moab – I was planning to visit this Fall for my birthday but had to re-schedule. Thank you for the inspo, definitely saving this for next year when I’m ready to plan and go!

  4. I especially love the twilight shots! Moab Monument Valley is officially on my bucket list of place to see now!

  5. This is on my dream road trip bucket list! The star in your photo look like you can just reach out and touch them. Looks like you have a great time!