utah road trip with kids

Utah National Parks Road Trip-Visiting the Mighty 5 with Kids

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Are you planning a Utah road trip with your kids to see the 5 National Parks? You’ve come to the right place, we have the perfect two week Utah road trip itinerary for you! The Mighty 5, aptly named by Utah’s Office of Tourism, includes 5 National Parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands. This is one of the best US road trips for families with young kids, exploring lots of beautiful outdoor sights. Read on for our two week Utah National Park road trip with kids itinerary and see why you should make Utah your next family vacation destination.

Many people start their Utah road trip itinerary either in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, the closest major airports to the 5 National Parks. Your best option would be to fly into one and out of the other, to limit driving, however the car rental one way fees were insane during our visit so we had no choice but to start and end our trip in Las Vegas. If you’re looking for the best Utah road trip itinerary with kids, keep reading! And be sure to read each individual park guide we have linked to find out what to do in the 5 National Parks you’ll visit.

utah road trip with kids itinerary

How long does the Mighty 5 road trip take?

Many people spend a week exploring the 5 Utah National Parks and while that may be doable, you are going to feel rushed. I can’t imagine one week and driving 2-3 hours between each park and then actually exploring the parks. You’ll have just enough time to get out of the car, snap a photo in front of the National Park sign and rush to your next destination. We spent 2 weeks and felt like it was enough time at each park to truly enjoy each one.

We covered over 1500 miles and nearly 20 hours of driving, which would have been a lot in just a week especially if you are traveling with young kids. If you have a week, I’d stick to 2, maybe 3 parks otherwise aim for 2 weeks and 1-3 days in each park, depending on the park. Road trips with kids are much more enjoyable when you aren’t forcing them to sit for 8 hours a day while you drive! This schedule allowed us to truly enjoy the trip, stop where we wanted to stop and not feel rushed.

utah road trip with kids
mighty 5 road trip with kids
2 weeks, 5 National Parks.

Best time to visit Southern Utah

The best time for the Mighty 5 road trip will be in the spring (April through May) and early fall (September through October). The temperatures are mild and not yet super hot and it’s not as crowded as the more popular summer months. It’s totally doable to do this family friendly road trip in the summer, but expect hot temperatures and lots of pool time!

We visited in early June and some of the parks were downright cold in the mornings! It was freezing in the mornings at Zion, Bryce Canyon (30s) and Arches and hot in the afternoons, when we were done with our hikes for the day. The other 2 parks were hotter (90s), but the hikes were totally doable. We had to wear sweatshirts at 3 of the parks for our mornings hikes in June, it was that cold.

Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1: We started our trip in Las Vegas after taking a 40 minute flight from our house in Orange County. From there, we rented a car and drove the 2 hours to St. George, UT for the first night.
  • Day 25:Drive from St. George (1 hour) to Zion National Park and explore Zion National Park.
  • Day 6-8: Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and explore the park. (1.5 hours)
  • Day 9-11: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park and explore the park. (2 hours)
  • Day 11-13: Drive to Moab, UT and explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. (3 hours)
  • Day 14: Drive from Moab to the Caboose Village where we slept in a train car. (3 hours)
  • Day 15: Drive to the Best Friends Animal Society for a cat world tour, then to St. George for the final night before heading back to Las Vegas. (3 hours)
  • Day 16: Drive from St. George to Las Vegas and fly home from Las Vegas. (2 hours)

Stop 1-St. George, Utah

Our first stop on the Mighty 5 road trip was St. George Utah. It was hot! At 7 pm, it was still 114 degrees. We only spent our first night and one night on the way back here, so not much time to explore. This was the hottest place on our trip, the rest were much cooler!

What to do in St. George with kids: Visit Pioneer Park for some fun red rock hiking. Go in the evening if you’re coming in the summer! We started and ended our trip here and it was 114, even in the late evenings.

Where to stay in St. George with kids: There are tons of hotels in St. George, go with what you have points/status with. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn St. George using points, and it was a great stay. They do have free breakfast, but we aren’t fans of the typical pancakes/cereal/waffles that these places always offer so we went out for breakfast instead.

Where to eat with kids in St. George: One of our favorite chains is Texas Roadhouse and since we don’t have one back home, we went there for dinner. For breakfast, we went to First Watch. Milana loves their fruit crepes and I had the power wrap. First Watch uses great ingredients and lots of healthy options for breakfast, so if there is one where we are traveling, we are sure to go!

things to do in st george utah with kids
Pioneer Park
things to do in st george utah with kids
Breakfast from First Watch

Stop 2-Zion National Park

We recommend at least 2 full days to explore the park or you really won’t get to see anything. We had 3 and felt it was perfect. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites and had a great stay. It’s a great family friendly hotel in Springdale, super close to the park entrance.

Be sure to read our full Zion National Park with kids itinerary to see all the details of our trip and tips for visiting Zion with kids!

Mighty 5 road trip with kids

Stop 3-Bryce Canyon National Park

There are multiple ways to drive to Bryce Canyon from Zion, we recommend taking the scenic route via US 89. The drive took around 2 hours, and there were some beautiful red rocks and drive thru arches along the way.

We spent 2 days exploring the park and felt it was the perfect amount of time. Be sure to read our full Bryce Canyon National Park with kids itinerary to see details of our trip and help plan your Bryce Canyon with kids itinerary.

utah mighty 5 road trip with kids

Stop 4-Capitol Reef National Park

From Bryce Canyon, it takes 2 hours to reach Capitol Reef. Make sure to take the scenic road, it was gorgeous on the drive down! There aren’t many things along the way however be sure to stop at Kiva Koffeehouse, about an hour into the drive. They have great coffee, pastries and some food items with amazing views. We shared their breakfast burrito which was really good and some raspberry lemonade.

To see what to do in Capital Reef National Park with kids, read our fully itinerary. We stayed at an awesome hotel with teepees you can sleep in and llamas on site, so be sure to read our post!

mighty 5 road trip itinerary
mighty 5 road trip scenic drive
Breakfast from Kiva Koffeehouse

Stop 5-Moab, Utah

This is where you will visit 2 National Parks, Canyonlands and Arches, so plan a bit more time for Moab. It took 2.5 hours to drive from Capitol Reef to Moab. The first hour, you will be driving through areas with absolutely nothing but views, so make sure you have gas and snacks for the kids.

We stopped in Hanksville to get gas after an hour of driving and to visit Stan’s Burger Shak. We broke our family’s cardinal rule of not fueling your body where you fuel your car, but we think the exception was worth it. While the burgers were just ok here, the shakes were amazing! Tons of flavors to choose from, Milana had cookie dough and I had banana. It’s a great way to break up your trip.

Be sure to read our full Arches National Park with kids itinerary and Canyonlands National Park with kids itinerary to help plan your trip and find out what to do in Arches and Canyonlands with kids.

where to stop mighty 5 road trip
Shakes from Stan’s Burger Shak
mighty 5 road trip with kids
Burgers from Stan’s Burger Shak

Stop 6-Caboose Village

On our way from Moab, we decided to break the trip up so that we weren’t driving over 5 hours in one day. We stopped at Mom’s Cafe in Salina to have lunch and it was a cute little town with surprisingly good food! Across the street from Mom’s was a shaved ice hut, with some really good and cheap ($2 each for what Milana is holding!) shaved ice, in many flavors.

utah mighty 5 road trip itinerary
Mom’s Cafe in Salina.
southern utah road trip itinerary

We found the Caboose Village while searching for unique hotels near Zion National Park and spent one night sleeping in a train car. This train hotel is 3 hours from Moab and right by the river, so your kids can play in the water. There isn’t much in terms of restaurants here, so be sure to bring lots of snacks! Also the only wifi available is down the road at the gas station, so keep that in mind in case you need to stay connected.

train hotel in utah
Milana chose the yellow train car.
utah road trip with kids
Inside of our train car.

Stop 7-Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

After leaving the Caboose Village, we drove 2 hours to Kanab Utah to visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Before our tour, we had lunch in downtown Kanab at Houston’s Trail End Restaurant, followed by ice cream at The Soda Fountain.

utah road trip with kids
Lunch from Houston’s.
utah road trip with kids
The Soda Fountain has lots of ice cream creations to choose from!

If you’d like to do a tour, be sure to reserve online. We did the Cat World Tour and got to see how well taken care of their cats are. We foster bottle fed kittens for our local shelter, so cats have always been something we love! Milana loved seeing the cats and really loved how amazing this place is for all sorts of animals. This is a nonprofit, no kill animal rescue center with tons of different animals from pigs and horses to cats, bunnies and dogs. It’s a must see! Be sure to make a donation or purchase something from their gift shop to support their cause. We bought some toys for our Pug puppy, Frankie, in the gift shop.

utah road trip with kids
utah road trip with kids

Stop 8-St. George

Before heading to Vegas for our last night before our flight home, we stayed in St. George again. And again, it was 114 at 7pm, I guess they love their summers hot! We didn’t get to our hotel til closer to 8pm with all of the stops we made after the Caboose hotel, so it was a good thing we didn’t decide to drive to Vegas on the same day.

We had breakfast at First Watch again, this time I had the avocado toast and Milana chose the superfood bowl with chia pudding, fruit and almond butter toast.

best breakfast st george utah
Breakfast from First Watch.

Stop 9-Las Vegas

We made it to the end of our trip! Over 1500 miles, 5 National Parks and lots of memories later we made it to Vegas. We stayed at a Hilton property this time sine I had points, the Home 2 Suites Las Vegas City Center. We could see MGM Grand and NYNY from our window at this hotel, but these rooms are huge in comparison to those hotels and parking is free and super close to the door and elevator, so you don’t have to walk a mile before getting to your room. It’s a great option if you are only staying one night, much easier than dealing with the Strip hotels!

where to stay in las vegas with kids
Home 2 Suites Las Vegas City Center
best family hotel las vegas
Kitchen area in our room.

If you have some time to spend in Vegas, check out our post on what to do in Las Vegas with kids for lots of indoor and outdoor ideas. And if you want yummy dessert, check out Pinkbox Doughnuts. They have a ton of different flavors to choose from, one of the most extensive selections we have seen! Milana chose the pink poop donut, because why not!

best dessert las vegas
Pinkbox Doughnuts.

For dinner, we wanted something healthy and one of our favorite restaurants is Flower Child, which happens to have a location in Vegas. They serve healthy, made from scratch food using local ingredients. Milana loves salmon so she ordered that and I got salmon as well. This is definitely one of the best kid-friendly restaurants in Vegas!

best kid friendly restaurant las vegas
Yummy dinner from Flower Child.

The next morning, before heading to the airport, we headed to Chinatown for some dumplings. We went to Shanghai Taste and loved their xiao long bao. In the same parking lot is Sul & Beans, with some great dessert options. Milana loves taiyaki and we shared a strawberry bingsoo, which was amazing! If your kids like shaved ice, this is so much better than the American/Hawaiian type. The ice is like snow and absorbs all the flavors really well.

best dessert las vegas
Nutella and custard taiyaki.
best dessert las vegas
So delicious!

Our flight was in the evening so we decided to visit the new Meow Wolf during the day. We have been to the one in Santa Fe and it was a huge hit with our entire family. It’s hard to explain exactly what this place is, they call it an immersive art experience. You have to see it for yourself, we highly recommend coming to the new Meow Wolf in Las Vegas!

We hope that our Utah road trip with kids itinerary helps you plan your trip to the Mighty 5 National Parks with kids. We had a blast exploring Southern Utah and seeing the different National Parks along the way. Want to save this post for later? Pin one of the images below!

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