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Where to even begin our Utah adventure? It was absolutely, genuinely amazingly unforgettable and an opportunity to quite literally do it all. I’ll split Utah into two blogs because this really was two trips mashed into one, you could follow exactly how we did or do one of the two blogs as a complete trip. So…to begin, let’s head to the wonderland that is Zion National Park!

Zion National Park

We decided to fly into Salt Lake City and begin our trip in Zion, we rented a car directly from the airport (Check Expedia for awesome rental car deals) and took off to Zion on our first full day, about a 4-hour trip from SLC. We settled on staying at the Fairfield in Virgin, instead of a cool yurt, airstream, or wagon, mainly because we knew we would be hiking Zion all day and didn’t want to pop for the more expensive options on this leg of our trip. We were beyond happy with our choice. The brand-new hotel had spectacular views, a super large hot tub that we definitely made use of in the evenings, very comfortable king beds (yes, two king beds in the room!) and was an easy 20-minute drive to the Zion entrance. Plus, the rate that we got was very budget friendly.


Now this part is important because of all the blogs I read, nobody once mentioned that Zion had a bus season, so we were very surprised to learn you couldn’t really drive and park and hike many of the trails in Zion on your own, you instead had to park in general parking (which was packed) and take a bus to your various hiking points. If you’re visiting during their bus season, arrive early and plan out your route in advance! Zion was way more crowded than we anticipated so knowing this ahead of time would have saved us a ton of time. I also recommend parking at their museum parking lot and taking the bus back down to the visitor center and then hopping on the main bus from there, instead of fighting with all of the other vehicles parking in the visitor center. The museum lot was completely empty.


On our first day, since we didn’t know about the bus situation, we drove around the park and did smaller hikes where parking was available, and it turned out wonderfully. We hiked many trails that were completely empty that we otherwise would have never found, and we drove through the Carmel Highway Tunnel, which was also very cool, seeing a ton of goats on the other side. We stumbled across wildlife, streams, hiked over the riverbeds, found some awesome smaller climbs, and literally walked off the beaten path.

Ask for a map when you arrive, or peep at the online map so you can better attack your hiking plan and know what stop to begin and end at, also pay attention to the times of the hikes so you can plan your day accordingly. We each had hiking bags with our water bottles, sandwiches, and some granola bars. There are a ton of bottle filling stations around the park, which was super helpful.

On our next day we really hit the ground running. We had our parking plan in place, and we knew the hikes we wanted to do in advance. A great way to begin your day, especially if you have little ones and want to start on an easier hike, is to hike to the entrance of the Narrows, the Temple of Sinawava. The hike itself is easy and beautiful and you can hike to the end where you can watch people in their wet gear venture off into the picturesque Narrows. I’d love to go back and do that hike, but the water was high the day we went, and we had the kiddos with us, so we opted out. You’ll also need to rent or purchase gear to do this hike, so plan in advance. Another hike you’ll need to plan ahead for is Angel’s Landing- the most difficult hike in Zion that you will need both a permit and reservation for.

After the Temple of Sinawava we had a lovely picnic (in some light rain) with lots of squirrels and turkey running around us. There are numerous beautiful picnic areas throughout Zion to enjoy, most with clean restrooms and bottle filling stations. From there we ventured off to the Emerald Pools Trails which is a series of 3 different hikes. At this time, it was steadily sprinkling on us, making the hike fairly slippery and slightly scary but still completely do-able, even with kids. There are some points that are pretty straight up, so if you have difficulty with climbing lots and lots of steps, this might be a harder hike for you.

The Emerald Pools Trails were also very crowded, something we weren’t expecting, so after we finished the lower and middle trails, we ended up hiking past the waterfall and upper pools trail and onto another path (that happened to also be a horse path) that spat us out further down and it was lovely, quiet, and gorgeous. You’ll think you’re walking nowhere, but you’ll eventually get to a bridge that leads you back to a bus stop, so don’t panic, just stay on the course, and enjoy.

I am sure you could spend many more days in Zion hiking, but we were pretty happy with our two days and ready to move on to our next destination after our trails.

Food & Shopping

Zion was by far the most expensive place we landed on our Utah trip. The restaurants and grocery stores were overpriced, I believe we spent $80 just on some granola bars, bread, peanut butter, and jelly for our to-go-lunch hiking supplies. The restaurants had very long waits, no matter how early you tried to eat dinner and we were even turned away from two places because we didn’t have a reservation.  One evening we ate at a nearly empty hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called Bamboo (that was very tasty!) after giving up on waiting at a restaurant next door.

The next night, we ended up driving a little further to a grocery store in Virgin, David Food & Drug and having dinner in their deli restaurant area- and it was actually good! The staff was also super friendly and for sure hooked us up with some extra sides and such. We left full and happy. So the restaurant scene was a bit of a bust but if we had stayed longer perhaps it would have been less crowded during the week and we would have learned about some lesser-known hangouts.

There were various small shops near the entrance of Zion as well, souvenir shops, art galleries, bakeries, etc. but we really didn’t peruse too much and were exhausted and ready for food after our days of hiking. But there are many walkable and quaint shops and eateries to enjoy all around Zion.

Now onward and upward to Moab to explore Arches!

Arches National Park

Our original plan was to hit Bryce Canyon National Park, but it was freezing and snowing the morning we departed from Zion, so we made the difficult call to continue to Moab instead, taking in a few stops along the way, rather than chance the dance of hiking icy trails. It was disappointing, but we got to enjoy Moab for a little longer, so no regrets.

Before you begin your highway journey, be sure your vehicle is fully gassed up. You will be driving along gorgeous winding roads with minimal exits and lots of pullover panoramic viewing areas.

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

I highly recommend stopping at Parowan Gap Petroglyphs on your scenic drive from Zion to Moab. A gentleman on the bus with us in Zion recommended it so we went ahead with the detour, and it did not disappoint. We were also treated to fresh snowfall, making the stop that much more magical. We arrived early in the morning (about an hour drive from Zion) so we were the only ones there. Here you’ll find various petroglyphs along rock walls to admire, a beautiful canyon gap to gaze at and there’s even a picturesque hiking trail to hike to the peak of the rock formation with gorgeous views. There are plaques where you can read about the petroglyph meanings, ample parking, and a nicer portable style restroom.  You’ll love this little detour.

Salt Wash View Area

Another phenomenal stop is the Salt Wash View Area that you’ll pass (and pull over) on I-70. We spent a little time exploring this viewing area, climbing some rock formations, and taking some photos. Sadly, you’ll find some carved vandalism on these formations, but the views are insane and it’s worth a stop. There are also restrooms, and a few travelers were even having picnics on the rocks- a wonderful place to stop and take a little break. The kiddos really enjoyed this as a nice break from driving.

Little Grand Canyon

Not far from the Salt Wash View Area is a gorgeous area called “Little Grand Canyon” and while we didn’t get to stop here, it’s worth mentioning, especially if you’re camping and dedicating most of your trip to hiking. Here you can do day hiking or overnight hiking on their 18-mile trail that should take 2 or 3 days.

With trailheads and a campground, Little Grand Canyon is a great destination to add either a day or a couple of nights to your Utah adventure. During certain seasons you can even tube through the canyon on the San Rafael, mountain bike, camp, and star gaze.

Where to Stay

When planning our trip to Arches, we decided to stay in Moab, and we absolutely loved this quirky small desert town. It offered plenty of restaurants, bars, grocery stores and shops- and all regularly priced without jacking up their prices, like Zion. We stayed in a beautiful two-story home just a little past downtown with multiple patios, the home was divine. I recommend staying off the beaten path just a bit and enjoying a rental home if you plan to stay a couple of nights in Moab. We were hopeful to be able to stargaze from our rooftop deck, but sadly for us each night was cloudy. But you’ll want to find a property where some stargazing areas are accessible.

But if hotels are your preference, there are dozens of options right downtown where you can walk to just about anything. Arches National Park was a quick 15-minute drive from our vacation home and we opted to drive so that we could easily access the trail heads.


Very Important– we (thankfully) learned ahead of time that the park newly introduced timed entry, so you must reserve your park admission time online in advance. They open a few weeks at a time, and we had to reserve our timed entry the night before our hike because time slots were opening (they were otherwise full), so we were all on our phones right when those time slots were released and able to grab first of the morning admission. While a bit of a pain, this was WONDERFUL considering just how packed Zion was and what a headache parking was, with Arches’ timed admission, you won’t have any problems getting in or finding parking. We were very appreciative of this and easily worked our way to the various trails we planned on hiking, saving us a ton of time.

There is a small (few dollars) fee for your admission timed ticket, so have your credit card handy. You’ll also still have to pay the regular park admission fee upon entering.


Hiking Arches National Park, Delicate Arch Trail in particular, was probably the highlight of the entire trip for me. I enjoyed hiking here much more than Zion, the rock formations, red rock, and cliffs were surreal and while Zion is of course gorgeous, I enjoyed the lesser crowds and ease of moving around to various trails here immensely more.

Be sure to pack a ton of water. You’ll find a bottle filling station at the entry point to the park at the visitor center but unlike Zion, there are no other bottle filling stations at the trail heads. So, pack a bunch, especially if you’re planning to hike during the hot weather. We went through all our water even in the cooler temperatures!

We opted to pack our lunch and snacks again and found a beautiful picnic area at the lower viewpoint in the shade after hiking Delicate Arch. Hiking Delicate Arch first is probably a good idea, since it’s one of the more popular hikes and there are various narrow paths throughout this hike, so the least amount of people, the better. We were hesitant to do this hike because we did have two older adults and one 7-year-old in our group and were warned that it’s a more difficult hike than most people think. It was challenging for sure but completely do-able. I do think in the dead heat of the summer, however, it would make this hike much more difficult. And boy, I am so glad we did this hike. It was breathtaking (and slightly terrifying- in a good way).

Just watch your step, take your time, be considerate of others around you and enjoy the unreal surroundings and arch. It should take you between 2-3 hours to do this hike and it was absolutely worth every drop of sweat- it was gorgeous!

After lunch we completed the Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch hikes, which begin at the same trail head. Sand Dune Arch is the quickest and easiest hike but stunning, you’ll walk through some narrow passageways that feel supernatural, while enjoying the soft sand throughout the hike. We quickly realized this was where families with small kiddos were hanging out, relaxing in the shade, and playing in the sand. If you have young kids- this short hike was meant for you.

Broken Arch was also a very easy and relaxing 1.3 mile, yet still picturesque hike. There was hardly anyone on this trail, I think by this point of the day everyone was at Delicate Arch, so we thoroughly enjoyed the peace of this hike.  We also hiked the gorgeous Double Arch trail, short and sweet and crowded, but still worth it. We admired Balanced Rock and hiked parts of Devils Garden Trails.

We quite literally spent the entire day hiking and were thoroughly and completely exhausted by the time we made it back to our rental home. You’ll want to be sure you don’t begin any of these hikes too close to sunset, we heard many stories of people getting stuck in the pitch-black trails after dark because they tried to view the sunset and couldn’t make it back to the trail head before dark. This is a regular occurrence with Delicate Arch, people underestimate just how dangerous and long this trail is, and you do not want to find yourself in the dark on this trail. I am talking straight drop-offs. If you’re planning to view the sunset, I recommend picking an easier and shorter trail. And if you must watch the sunset from Delicate Arch, please bring plenty of flashlights, head lamps, etc. so you can find your way back.


Again, I just loved Moab! It was such a cool town and the most incredible experience we had was off-roading with Big Iron Tours through Moab’s insane Red Rock at sunset. This will be something I will, and I know my kids will always remember. The guide, Mike, is crazy- in all the best ways. This trip was terrifying, thrilling, awesome and completely breathtaking. We are all about sunsets at Sublime Rides, and this sunset was one of the top 10 I’ve seen in my entire life. Remarkable and unforgettable.

Not to mention we were in an insanely huge rig traveling over narrow canyons and drives with names like “devil’s backbone” – I was kept on edge the entire time. This also allowed us to see the off-road paradise that is Moab, we passed dozens of campers, mountain bikers and off-road vehicles having a blast out on the Red Rocks. If you’re into off-roading, Moab is a must visit destination. The campers, Jeeps, RVs, bikers, and rigs are out in the middle of absolute nowhere, among gorgeous landscapes, enjoying comradery and daring to ride along death defying ridges. It was quite a sight! Big Iron Tours made our Arches/Moab trip that much sweeter- book yours, you’ll be just as obsessed as I was. Mike even pointed out actual fossilized dinosaur footprints among one of our stops- I mean how cool is that?? Seriously. Awesome.

We also stopped at a few shops and eateries along the way, easily grabbed groceries and cooked in our vacation rental, walked along the Colorado River bridge, which is part of an awesome bike path, again- if you’re into mountain biking, Moab is your spot. We spent nearly an hour in the Moab Rock Shop, purchasing some rocks, crystals, and fossilized pieces. This shop was fascinating, my kids loved it and they even have a few real dinosaur bones and human skulls on display (and all for a very high price if you’re rolling in cash). Moab Rock Shop will even make necklaces for you from your purchases if you like. It was a cool stop and one you don’t want to miss on your drive downtown.

After departing from Moab, we made our way to Park City for some skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and cavern hot springs and then onward to Salt Lake City where our trip began and ended. But that’s for another day…until then, keep on adventuring!

Top 10 packing list for your Utah hiking trip:

It must first be made clear that we traveled in April, while the weather was still a cool mid 50s each day with colder nights. If your journey takes place during the blistering summer, your list will be very different!

  1. Comfortable hiking shoes: I can’t express enough how you need to make sure to test out your hiking boots and footwear ahead of time to be sure they are comfortable! You will walk miles and miles so this is the number one most important packing item. We opted to purchase (and test out ahead of time) snow/waterproof hiking boots since we were also going to Park City for some snow fun, so we wouldn’t have to pack two pairs of boots. They worked out perfectly.
  2. Sneakers– I also recommend comfortable easy to put on sneakers to slip into after a long day of hiking and to wear when traveling. We often changed into these after hiking all day.
  3. Hiking backpacks– we all own multiple backpacks, but I am so glad I ordered smaller light weight all weather hiking backpacks for each member of our family. Everyone was responsible for their own backpack, and I didn’t have to carry everyone’s crap! The smaller size will also make you edit what you bring along.
  4. Aluminum refillable water bottles– I also purchased smaller sized aluminum water bottles so that, again, everyone had their own water bottles- you will be parched! And bring along some extra water in your car for refills.
  5. Beanies, gloves, rain jacket & warm fleece jacket– In April the weather drastically changes so I am very happy I came prepared to trail heads with layers of beanies, gloves, fleece jackets and a lighter weight jacket. We would often begin with layers, taking them off during the afternoon and putting them back on in the evenings. That temperature drops quickly! But of course, check your weather forecast. In Zion especially we experienced some bouts of light rain and having rainproof light jackets or ponchos is a huge help. You don’t want to be wet during an hours long hike!
  6. Hats– When that sun comes out and is up high, you’ll need a hat to help keep your face cool and so that you can see without being blinded. Sunglasses are great too, but we found them irritating after hours of hiking and sweating and mostly stuck to our hats, replacing our beanies with them once the cold mornings turned warmer.
  7. Hiking pants– I made sure everyone had light weight flexible hiking pants that were waterproof and had plenty of pockets. This became imperative after gloves started coming off and for bringing along snacks, holding phones, cameras, etc. I recommend investing in at least one pair for each family member.
  8. Snacks– It’s not comfortable to eat a large breakfast or meal right before a long day of hiking so you’ll want to be prepared and bring (or stop at a store and stock up on) snacks like granola, dried fruit, PB&J sandwiches, and other snacks to keep your energy up, while not making yourself too full. I don’t recommend anything with chocolate in them, even in the colder temperatures they melted and made a huge mess.
  9. First Aid Kit– You’ll also want to prepare a small first aid kit to put in someone’s hiking pack, including some stomach medicine, medicine to help with possible altitude sickness or headaches and a few bandages and wound cleaner. There are a lot of rocks you can easily slip on, so you’ll want to be prepared for minor injuries- especially when hiking with children.
  10. Camera, selfie stick and tripod– We found ourselves in amazing remote areas and really wanted to capture the whole family within the stunning backdrops, I am so happy that I splurged and purchased a combined selfie stick and tripod so that we could set up for some killer pictures. If you own good camera gear, this is the trip to bring it on!

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