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 colourful terrains, unique rock formations, and otherworldly landscapes make this a unique place to visit. There is so much to see and do travelling from Moab to Monument Valley, with stops in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and the Grand Canyon south rim.
This road trip, which spans Moab to Monument Valley, will take your breath away with its incredible sights. Along the way, you’ll pass through several national parks and monuments. These include Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon South Rim.
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.
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 rented a car. It takes a little over three and a half hours to reach Moab from the airport.
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.
Then, it is another three-hour drive along I-70 to Moab. The journey is primarily flat, but there are some interesting rock formations along the way.
About my Road Trip from Moab to Monument Valley
The Moab to Monument Valley road trip was a long weekend getaway for us. You can visit countless places in the area, but we only had four days to see everything!
Our journey started with a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Vancouver to Seattle and then a flight to Salt Lake City.
During our trip, we soaked in hot springs, hiked at some of the best spots, went off-roading, took incredible photos, and gazed up at the stars. There were remarkable views everywhere! By the end of our trip, we had seen many out-of-this-world landscapes. Finally, we flew back home out of Phoenix, Arizona.
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.
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.
About 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.
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.
What to See and Do on a Southeast Utah Road Trip
Mystic Hot Springs
After seeing so many beautiful pictures of Mystic Hot Springs, I knew we had to add this place to our list. Mystic Hot Springs is a unique natural hot spring and resort located in Monroe, Utah. It has an artistic vibe because Director, Producer, and Artist Mike Ginsburg purchased the resort in the 90s and added his creative touch. Here, nature and art come together as one.
You can enjoy a secluded soak in mineral-rich waters, appreciate the views, and listen to live music. Then, when the sun goes down, you’ll have unobstructed views of the Milkyway Galaxy. Our group loved soaking in these naturally heated pools and wandering around the property.
We caught glimpses of the water flowing down the hill into other springs. The warm mineral water soothed our tired muscles from the plane ride and long drive. Additionally, we enjoyed seeing some cute animals on the property. There were ducks, peacocks, llamas, and even an emu. We didn’t spend the night there, but you can stay in a cabin, refurbished bus, campsite, or RV if you do. Overall, it was a refreshing first stop that set the tone for the rest of our trip.
Moab is the official starting point of the Moab to Monument Valley, Southeast Utah road trip. While Moab is most famous for its easy access to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, it has plenty to do on its own. The area is a haven for outdoor lovers. Here, you can find world-class hiking, biking, paddling, and ziplining.
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. 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.
Another activity our group thoroughly enjoyed was 4WD (four-wheel drive) off-roading in a jeep. This outdoor adventure is a great way to explore the surrounding area and see some unique sights. It was an incredible experience that I’ll get into a little bit more later.
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.
Arches National Park
A few miles above 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.
We saw arches by parking our car and hiking through the park. There are some incredible hikes here. This article about the best hikes in Arches National Park was very helpful for planning our trip. If you’re travelling there in the winter, you’ll also want to check out this Arches National Park winter guide.
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. Arches isn’t a massive park, so that you can get the highlight reel in one day. The most popular arches you can visit are Devil’s Garden, Balanced Rock, Skyline Arch, The Windows, and Delicate Arch. I will talk about Delicate Arch in the next section because it deserves its own review.
We had so much fun exploring this park’s natural wonders and seeing all the viewpoints. Some exciting views you can see are the La Sal Mountains, the Tower of Babel, and the Three Gossips. Our group stayed here quite late to capture the perfect sunset shot and see the stars without any light pollution.
One fascinating place to visit within Arches National Park is Delicate Arch. It is one of the park’s most famous arches for a reason. Delicate Arch is an impressive free-standing arch that towers over the landscape. It is so iconic that it appears on Utah’s license plate.
Since it is so popular, expect some crowds. However, its fame didn’t take away from this incredible sight.
Timing is everything when visiting this landmark. You’ll want to allow 2-3 hours to hike up to the arch. It’s a long trek, but it is well worth it for the breathtaking views. Standing under the 45-foot tall arch is an awe-inspiring sensation that you’ll never forget. In addition, you’ll capture some fantastic Instagrammable shots on a Southeast Utah road trip.
It’s a highly recommended bucket list item that won’t disappoint.
Canyonlands National Park
About half an hour from Arches is Canyonlands National Park. We decided to visit this park on the same day as Arches National Park because we wanted to capture some out-of-this-world (literally) photos of the stars.
While it is another “big five” park, people often overlook it. Since it’s only thirty minutes from Arches National Park, we wanted to make sure that we included it on our itinerary. It was well worth visiting. The sky at Canyonlands National Park was pitch black, and we saw the stars as we had never seen before. Although it was a little bit busy, that didn’t take away from the incredible views.
You really need to make sure you stay up to see the sky at Canyonlands National Park.
While we only went at night, there are many more things you can do at Canyonlands National Park.
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.
Canyonlands is an outstanding place to go 4WD off-roading if you get a chance. You can either drive yourself or take a tour. You shouldn’t overlook Canyonlands National Park if you have the chance to explore it.
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.
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.
I would highly recommend this unique Moab experience as a fun way to see the area’s natural beauty.
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.”
We knew we had to add the Grand Canyon south rim stop to our Moab to Monument Valley road trip because of its reputation. 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.
There are many ways you can explore the Grand Canyon. The visitor’s center has intriguing exhibitions that will give you an overview of the area’s history and geology.
Those who want some adventure can go for a hike. Some of the top trails include the South Rim Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Bright Angel Trail, Ooh Aah Point, and the hike to Shoshone Point.
Three hours south of Moab is Monument Valley. There is a more direct route between the two areas, but taking the scenic detour is worth it. This route goes through Bear Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Moki Dugway, the Valley of the Gods, and Gooseneck State Park.
Along this route, you’ll see landscapes that are so magnificent they don’t seem real. Then, you’ll drive through a switchback road carved out of a picturesque cliff. It sounds scary, but it’s not as bad as it seems. When you enter Monument Valley, you enter into Navajo Nation. As long as you’re respectful, you are welcome here.
In the valley, you’ll see sights that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. The impressive towering sandstone rocks have a red hue caused by iron oxide. Additionally, there are rocks with blue-gray colors containing manganese oxide.
Monument Valley National Park has a driving loop that will take you through the park. 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.
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 colourful fixtures throughout the space.
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.
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
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.
Thanks to Joel Schat for all the trip photo during this Southeast Utah road trip.
Here is what to see and do if you have more time during your Moab to Monument Valley 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.
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 spots, and a cute town.
It’s a great place to discover any time of year because each season has unique and intriguing landscapes.
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. Everything about this trip was magical. We loved the scenic
While some popular tourist areas had large crowds, it was all worth waiting for because we got to see spectacular scenery. I know that if you visit this region, you will also love it!
If you take a Southeast Utah road trip through Moab and Monument Valley, let me know what you did. I hope you had time to check out Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon south rim. You might also like these 70 Road Trip Instagram Captions and Puns to Drive you Wild for all your road trip photos.
If you plan a trip from Moab to Monument Valley, let me know in the comments below what other details would be helpful to you.