A Classic Road Trip from Utah to Arizona

Start in the Grand Canyon and wander up to Moab, Utah, with some moonlit camping and excellent mountain biking along the way.

Paddle the bluest waters at Havasu Creek in Arizona.     Photo: David Moskowitz/Tandem

Hit six classic national parks in a ten-day, 862-mile epic through the best canyons in the Southwest.

Packing List: Light hikers, mountain bike, extra camera memory cards 

Highlights: At the Grand Canyon, skip the crowded South Rim and drive to the 8,000-foot North Rim. Give yourself two nights and a full day to explore; be sure to hike seven miles down the North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls.

  Photo: Chris Burkard

Once you cross into Utah, be on the lookout for the Thunder Mountain Trail, part of a 15-mile technical singletrack route with steep drops, tight switchbacks, and a 1,200-foot climb. At Mount Carmel Junction, head 24 miles west to Zion National Park, where the best way to escape ever present crowds is a three-day basic-canyoneering course ($550).

Head 80 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park and pitch a tent at 99-site North Campground ($15), which has a full-moon view of the eerie hoodoos. Fuel up with Pumpkin Jenchiladas at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, then hit the town of Torrey for the Saturday-morning Mesa farmers’ market for fresh peaches and apples before driving through Capitol Reef National Park’s canyons, domes, and arches. 

 

  Photo: Eric Swanson

 

Backcountry-camp in the Maze, the least accessible district of Canyonlands National Park ($30 permit), before driving on to Moab and its ever expanding network of mountain-biking trails—like Captain Ahab, a 4.3-mile rock-benched wonder accessible from the Amasa Back Trail. Hike to the Dead Horse Point State Park overlook to scout 5,819-foot Washer Woman Tower, a 5.10-plus traditional climb on the northern tip of Canyonlands. To explore Arches National Park, crash at Moab Under Canvas, a safari-style luxury camp complete with hot showers and made-to-order breakfast, ten miles north of town (from $89).

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