Las Vegas to Salt Lake City: A Swift, Stimulating 4-Day Road Trip

Clear skies, smooth, open roads, and a backdrop of distant mountains peppered around you. The temperatures are just right – pleasantly warm – and you’re enjoying the company of the road. 

Las Vegas to Salt Lake City: A Swift, Stimulating 4-Day Road Trip 1
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Somewhere along timeless Route 95 in Southern Utah | Photo by Stefan.

Sounds like a road-trip of a lifetime, no?

That’s the kind of scenery you can expect to see on your road trip to Salt Lake City from Las Vegas.

There’s a lot to see along the way, too! The region is all about wide-open roads, thrilling views, and fantastic food, and comprises some of the country’s most ethereal structures.

While there are plenty of towns and rest-stops along the way, you will encounter long stretches of empty roads on the ≈800-mile trip. Wi-Fi will be hard to find, and you will go hours without seeing anyone.

But all things considered, it’s a relatively easy yet stimulating road trip. The experiences you have will make it worth the while.

While it is possible to make the trip in a day, taking four to do it is the best way to enjoy what the region has to offer.

We went ahead and broke the four-day trip down for you – including the spots you could stop and check out, the best restaurants you could eat at, and the best hotels you could stay at.

TABLE OF CONTENTS hide

Summary

The four-day trip will have you covering 800 miles, give or take, and coupling the fuel costs, hotel charges, and food prices, you can expect to spend around $500 on each leg of the trip.

Las Vegas to Salt Lake City: A Swift, Stimulating 4-Day Road Trip 2
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Photo via Unsplash

It’s not the most expensive of trips, but the sights you’ll see and the experiences you’ll have are worth a lot more than the ~$2,000 you’ll spend.

The roads are wide-open for most of the trip, and there are several hiking spots along the way. You’ll be getting a lot of exercise, and the scenery and locale will make the hikes feel liberating.

There’s also a lot of adventure to be had other than hiking. You could do everything from jet-skiing to ATV-riding to ski-jumping on this one trip.

Pack clothes for cold climate, and make sure you always have some food and a lot of water in the car.

Then brace yourself for a swift-yet-stimulating trip.

Day 1: Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you embark on the first leg of your trip to Salt Lake City. Even though it’s one of the smaller legs of the journey at ≈160 miles, you’ll need your energy to enjoy it.

The first leg of the trip ends at Zion National Park, which is an excellent spot to camp for the night. However, there are many great hotels in the area where you could stay the night, too.

The park has an expansive, 2000-feet deep canyon. We recommend camping at the park because the canyons’ view is best enjoyed at the crack of dawn.

The park’s natural rock arches are among the most spectacular sights to see in the entire southwest region.

If you love to hike, you cannot miss hiking along the floor of the Zion Canyon. There are two hiking areas at the canyon – The Narrows and The Subway. If you love a challenge, make sure you hike on The Subway.

The trip to the park will take you about three hours from Las Vegas, but there’s a lot to see on the way. There are also some excellent restaurants in the towns en route to Zion National Park, some of which we’ve highlighted below.

What is the drive like?

As you leave Las Vegas, the roads will slowly begin to open up, and you’ll be in cruise control in no time.

The road to the park is fairly straight-shot – it’s the easiest leg of the journey and will get you warmed up for the long stretches of road you’ll be up against on day 2.

At first, you’ll only see mountains far-off in the distance, and the roads will be lined with dirt and a little shrubbery.

However, when you cross the Arizona State Line, you’ll notice a lot more greenery around you. The mountains will be closer in view, too!

There are loads of gas stations and rest stops along the way, and finding food and gas shouldn’t be a problem.

But you better fuel up in Mesquite, Nevada, since there’s a large stretch of road that you’ll find empty till you reach St. George, Utah.

However, in the middle of these two cities, you’ll come across the beautiful Virgin River Canyon – which is one of the places we recommend you check out.

Where should I stop?

Lake Mead

If you want to start your journey with a refreshing dip in the water or some adrenaline-pumping jet-skiing, visit Lake Mead as you leave Las Vegas.

Lake Mead is a human-made lake about 24 miles from the strip. You can rent jet skis, boat through coves, go scuba diving, or raft through the Black Canyon.

There’s also a lot to do on land at Lake Mead – you could go horseback riding, biking, or go for a hike.

It’s a great spot to kick-off your trip.

Valley of Fire State Park

You’ll need to travel about 15 miles from the I-15 exit to get to the Valley of Fire State Park. It’s best-known for the beautiful red sandstone formations that were formed over 150 million years ago.

You must make sure you hike on the Fire Wave formation – the mesmerizing patterns and the sheer beauty of the place are worth taking the detour for.

You’ll also get some cool pictures out of the little detour.

Virgin River Canyon

The Virgin River Canyon is another spot where you can take a lot of great pictures.

The best part? You don’t need to take a detour to get there – you just keep going on the I-15, and about an hour and a half into the trip, you’ll see it.

The red cliffs contrast beautifully with the river, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most stunning canyons you’ll see on the entire road trip.

Where should I eat?

Chicago Greek – Mesquite, Nevada

The Chicago Greek is a cute mom-n-pop restaurant that serves some of the best Greek food in the region.

Some of their best dishes include the Greek salad, the veggie pita, and the Greek fries. The Greek fries are the highlight of the place.

You could dine-in, but they also offer takeaways if you want to eat on the move.

Viva Chicken – St. George, Utah

If you’re craving some delicious chicken but don’t want to eat unhealthily, Viva Chicken at St. George won’t disappoint.

It’s a nice sit-down restaurant that offers gluten-free options and some delicious sauces. They also have drinks and provide some tasty vegetarian options too.

The prices are reasonable, and they’re a local favorite – when you’re in St. George, make sure you check out Viva Chicken.

Sakura Japanese Steakhouse – St. George, Nevada

If you’re feeling an urge to get some good Japanese food, or maybe have never tried it before and want to, Sakura Japanese Steakhouse is the right restaurant to eat at.

They’re one of the best-rated restaurants you’ll get the chance to eat at on the entire trip.

The prices are reasonable, and their service is excellent – you can expect to have a first-class experience in every way.

Where should I stay?

Day 2: Zion National Park to Monument Valley

All the hiking and eating on day one will leave you relaxed and bring you great sleep. Rest well because the second leg of the journey is where things start to get serious.

The ≈230-mile journey will take you about four hours to complete, and the roads won’t be straight and easy to navigate like the first leg.

However, you’ll be surrounded by nature, and you’ll see a lot more greenery than you did on the first leg of the trip.

The second leg ends at Monument Valley, a modest and quiet town. Wi-Fi access will be very limited in the area, which you’ll need to be prepared for.

But there’s a lot to do at Monument Valley. You could drive through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and take a look at some of Utah’s most magnificent sights. You’ll feel like you’re in a classic Hollywood western!

You could also take a jeep tour and view the 11 scenic viewpoints of the area. But two things you shouldn’t miss when you’re at Monument Valley are the sunrise and the sky-gazing at night – it’s an experience like no other.

What is the drive like?

You’ll be up in the mountains – and driving in the mountains is as stimulating as it is difficult. Unlike the first leg of the trip, you will need to make many turns when you leave the park for Monument Valley.

However, the climate there is pleasantly cold, and the air is fresh. The first few miles will feel liberating and invigorating at the same time. You’ll be tempted to roll down your windows and enjoy the soft, cool breeze!

As you leave the mountains and get on highway 89 via Mt. Carmel Junction, the weather will slowly begin to get warmer.

However, you’ll still be surrounded by mountains and greenery, which, coupled with the clear skies, will make it one of the most refreshing drives of the trip.

Make sure you fuel up when you reach the town of Kanab, and prepare to enjoy the wide-open road that follows for about 80 miles till you reach Page.

Page marks the halfway point of the trip, and you’ll get there in about two hours. You will see more of the same – clear skies, wide-open roads, and some fantastic scenery – till you reach Mountain Valley.

Gas stations are easier to find in the second half of the trip, which, coupled with the smoother, comparatively straighter roads, make for a more relaxed drive.

There are many attractions to check out and some great food to try along the way – the second day will undoubtedly be a lot more fun than the first!

Where should I stop?

Kolob Canyons

The Kolob Canyons are technically a part of Zion National Park, but they’re separated and made into their own park.

If you love to hike and enjoyed the terrain of Zion National Park, you cannot miss going to the Kolob Canyons.

You’ll get an intimate look at the park’s diverse, colorful landscape if you decide to hike on one of the three trails.

The Timber Creek Overlook trail is the shortest of the three, and hiking to and fro should take about thirty minutes. The short hike will give you a quick look at the Kolob Canyons, the Kolob Terrace, and the Pine Valley Mountains.

The invigorating sights and the beautiful display of desert wildflowers on the trail make it one of the most enticing spots to visit.

But if you’re tired and don’t want to hike or want to spend more time at the other attractions, you could take a five-mile scenic drive in the canyons and take some pictures of the beautiful landscape.

The fascinating natural arrangement of the canyons makes taking the 40-minute drive from Zion National Park worth it.

Antelope Canyon

If there’s one thing you need to see in the entire American Southwest, it’s Antelope Canyon. It’s one of the most photographed slot canyons for good reason.

The canyon is a forty-minute drive from Page, and we recommend you grab a bite there before you leave (you can find our recommendations below).

The surreal sandstone canyon is divided into two areas: Upper Antelope Canyon (“The Crack”) and Lower Antelope Canyon (“The Corkscrew”).

You cannot visit either of the areas alone, and you will need to go with a guide. Tours start from around 8 a.m. and fewer visitors tour in the morning.

However, tours continue well into the evening, each lasting between one and two hours, so you can visit whenever you find comfortable.

We recommend that you visit the canyons between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. since that’s when the canyon is best-lit. Taking pictures in the ethereal light shafts will be super refreshing, especially if you hiked in the Kolob Canyons early in the morning.

This is one of the most enthralling attractions on the entire trip, so make sure you don’t miss it.

Where should I eat?

Zion Pizza & Noodle Co – Mount Carmel Hwy, Springdale

If you’re in the mood for pizza after hiking at Zion National Park, getting a treat at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co is a great idea.

You can dine-in or order takeout, and since they serve customers in 15 minutes flat, it’s an excellent restaurant to visit if you’re really hungry.

Happy customers report devouring the Thai Chicken pizza, so consider ordering one the evening you’re at the park.

Stage Coach Grille – 99 N State St, La Verkin

If you’re not in the mood for pizza and want to eat at a proper sit-down restaurant when you’re up in the mountains at Zion National Park, Stage Coach Grille is worth checking out.

The wood-filled mainstay has a unique, rustic charm. They serve crafted beer and wine and are best-known for their cooked-to-order steaks. The classy atmosphere and the excellent western menu make it an excellent spot for a filling meal.

Big John’s Texas BBQ – 153 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page

Eating your fill at a retro BBQ joint is never a bad idea – and that’s exactly what Big John’s Texas BBQ is.

The drive to Antelope Canyon will take you about forty minutes from Page, and if you decide to tour both the parts of the canyon, you’ll likely be there for at least five hours.

Getting their well-cooked brisket or any other slow-smoked meat of choice will not only uplift your mood and satisfy cravings but also give you the energy to enjoy the long tours at Antelope Canyon.

It’s an excellent spot for crafted beer, too, and we highly recommend you check it out.

BirdHouse – 707 N Navajo Dr, Page

BirdHouse’s Honey Butter Chicken is one of the most popular foods in Page.

Locals and tourists alike love the crispy fried chicken, and some even come back to Page after visiting Antelope Canyon to have the mashed potatoes and get another taste of their excellent selection of sauces with some juicy chicken.

Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant – Kayenta, Arizona

So, you hiked in the morning, visited the canyons in the afternoon, and are driving to Monument Valley tired. A good meal and a warm bed are what you’ll want.

Blue Coffee Pot is by far the best restaurant one could eat at on their way to Monument Valley.

The locals comprise a big chunk of their clientele, which says a lot. If you miss eating their Navajo Taco and Pie, you’ll be missing out on half of what Monument Valley is about.

Plus, you can’t beat a locally-owned restaurant when you want to get a feel for the local culture!

Where should I stay?

Day 3: Monument Valley to Hanksville

The third leg is the shortest leg of the trip at ≈150 miles. You’ll be traveling to Hanksville, which is another small town in Utah.

Make sure you get some sleep on the night of day 2. While you’ll need to drive less, the roads aren’t straight-shot, and there’s a lot for you to see. The three-hour drive can get straining if you’re tired.

There aren’t many restaurants between Monument Valley and Hanksville, so make sure you grab a bite at Monument Valley before you leave. Carrying a little extra food is also a good idea.

Wi-Fi will be a rare find at Hanksville, even more so than it was in Monument Valley. But the town has some great food and even better sights to enjoy, which will keep you occupied.

You could also rent out motorbikes or ATVs in Hanksville and get your adrenaline pumping before you mellow out, gazing at the night sky at Goblin Valley State Park.

While Hanksville has a good deal of comfortable hotels, we recommend that you camp at Goblin Valley State Park for the night. The night sky is full of stars at the park, and it’s a view you cannot miss when you’re there.

What is the drive like?

The roads will be wide-open, and you’ll almost always be close to a mountain or a canyon, making the whole drive super stimulating.

There are at least a dozen spots where you can stop and take pictures, and since the road is wide open, you can take it as slow as you like.

As you leave Monument Valley, your surroundings will begin to get less and less green. However, the close look you get at the mountains and canyons in the region more than makes up for the lack of greenery.

While you’ll be covering a shorter distance compared to the other legs of the trip, you’ll need to take quite a few turns to reach Hanksville.

You must fuel up at Mexican Hat since there aren’t many gas stations en route to Hanksville.

The climate will get colder as you reach Hanksville, and the roads are comparatively straighter after you reach the halfway point – which is Fry Canyon.

The second half of the drive will be as relaxing as the first half was stimulating. You’re in for an energizing drive!

Where should I stop?

There are about a dozen canyons and mountains between Monument Valley and Hanksville. Don’t be afraid to stop and take pictures or go for a hike wherever you like.

However, there are three attractions along the way that we think you shouldn’t miss:

Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park is a short drive from Mexican Hat, and the giant, naturally-carved rock formations make the short detour worth it.

You’ll get a sweeping view of the deep canyons and the snaking San Juan river.

It’s beautiful to see how the river meanders through the terrain, and one glance at the canyons will give you a sense of just how small you really are.

Hiking along the edges is one of the most liberating experiences one could have, and the awe-inspiring views make it all the more invigorating.

Natural Bridges National Monument

By day 2, you will start to feel that you’ve seen it all. But the southwest region has many more sights to offer – some of the most riveting of which are at Natural Bridges National Monument.

The park is small but serene and very beautiful. Every trailhead provides a lot of details about the possible paths you could take.

You could spend a day exploring this spot, and the view alone makes it worth visiting.

Goblin Valley State Park

“Otherworldly” is how most would describe their experience at Goblin Valley State Park.

The park has thousands of goblins (sometimes called “hoodoos”), which are mushroom-shaped rock formations. Some of these are several yards tall.

Hiking there isn’t strenuous at all, and even a short hike will give you a feel for the locale.

The park’s expanse contrasts beautifully with the clear blue sky, and the nights get very dark, which makes the star-filled sky look magical.

We recommend camping at the park for the night and not getting a hotel room. Restrooms are available, so refreshing yourself shouldn’t be a problem.

Where should I eat?

Stan’s Burger Shack – 150 UT-95, Hanksville

There’s nothing like a nice, cold milkshake after a long day of hiking. Stan’s Burger Shack is most famous for its excellent milkshakes, so make sure you grab one when you’re in town.

The restaurant also serves some juicy burgers and hot fries – and everything’s always fresh. No wonder the spot is a local favorite!

Outlaw’s Roost – 20 N, UT-95, Hanksville

Outlaw’s Roost has a pleasing ambiance that goes really well with the locale. But what’s even better is the food – the tacos, chips, and burritos are some of the best you’ll ever eat.

They have fantastic salsa too, and you’ll be blown away by the incredible food offered at excellent prices.

Duke’s Slickrock Grill – 275 UT-24, Hanksville

The outstanding ribs offered at Duke’s Slickrock Grill make it a popular spot for both tourists and locals to come to eat at.

They have a nice selection of beer, and the western-style atmosphere finished with the rustic décor gives it an excellent atmosphere.

They also offer a filling and yummy breakfast, and we recommend that you eat your fill here before you leave for Salt Lake City the next morning.

Where should I stay?

Day 4: Hanksville to Salt Lake City

The final leg of the trip is the least straining and most enjoyable. While the drive to Salt Lake City is longer at about 230 miles, it’s also easier and a lot more relaxing.

You won’t be hiking as much, either – you’ll be shopping, eating some fantastic food, and checking out some of Salt Lake City’s best attractions.

Wi-Fi will become increasingly more available, especially in the second half of the journey, and you will see the backdrop transform from massive naturally-formed structures to closely-packed human-made structures.

The change in the setting can be a little overwhelming – it happens in the span of four hours, and letting go of that feeling of liberation that being in nature brings you can leave you a little bitter.

Making the most of the day is really easy, though. We recommend taking it slow and stopping at any canyon you find interesting en route to Salt Lake City – there are quite a few of them.

Eat lunch at Salt Lake City, and check out the shopping centers, the zoo, and the planetarium. You could also go skiing on the mountains in the outskirts of the city.

Ending your day at one of the hotels we recommend below will leave you feeling satisfied. If this is your first road trip, you may end it viewing the world through a completely different lens.

What is the drive like?

While the drive is four hours long, the roads are easier to navigate since they are relatively straight-shot. It will be an easy drive.

But it’ll also be an enjoyable drive – your surroundings will get increasingly greener as you make your way to Salt Lake City. The change of the backdrop from long stretches of sandy roads to loads of greenery will be very refreshing.

During the first half of the leg, you’ll come across a few canyons, and we encourage you to stop and hike if the thought crosses your mind.

In the second half of the leg, rivers will almost always be in view until you begin to enter the city.

It’s undoubtedly the most relaxing drive of the trip.

Where should I stop?

Thanksgiving Point

The Thanksgiving Point complex has a farm, a garden, and a museum – and that’s often enough to convince one to check it out.

It’s a great spot to stop at and explore – the large sprawling gardens make for an excellent change of scenery from the dirt-covered terrain you encountered in the first three legs of the trip.

Visiting The Museum of Natural Curiosity is a must – it has more than 400 interactive exhibits, making it one of the most exciting attractions of the entire trip.

The complex also has the Butterfly Biosphere, which is home to thousands of species of butterflies.

We recommend reserving a few hours in the morning to check it out.

Clark Planetarium

Clark Planetarium is all it’s hyped up to be. It has three floors of free-to-visit exhibits, all of which are interactive. Visiting will give you insight into a scientist’s view of the Earth and the worlds beyond.

The planetarium also hosts a lot of 2D and 3D science and space-themed shows.

Red Butte Garden

If you wish to hike a little more, the Red Butte Garden is worth visiting. It’s the largest botanical garden in the West, spanning over more than 21 acres.

Taking the five-mile hike and getting some fresh air after lunch in the city is an excellent idea.

Utah Olympic Park

If you’re in the mood to get your adrenaline-pumping one last time before you end the trip, visit the Utah Olympic Park. It’s open all through the year and was built especially for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

You can go ski-jumping, bobsledding, extreme tubing, and even have a crack at aerial ski training. The park offers rock climbing, zip-lining, and a handful of other activities, making it worth the visit.

Where should I eat?

Los Jilbertos Mexican Fast Food – 1010 E Main St, Wellington

Treating yourself to a fresh, pocket-friendly, and yummy breakfast burrito is a great way to start your day.

The joint is located in Wellington, which you’ll reach about two hours into the final leg. The several flavor options and excellent prices make it our top breakfast recommendation of the entire trip.

The Other Place Restaurant – 469 E 300 S, Salt Lake City

The Other Place is an old-school diner with a Greek flair. They offer some delicious comfort food, and the helpings are huge, too.

You’ll surely have an appetite when you enter the city, so we recommend that you get your lunch at The Other Place.

Red Lotus Bistro – 329 S State St, Salt Lake City

Both locals and tourists have nothing but good things to say about the Red Lotus Bistro. It’s one of the city’s best restaurants, and undoubtedly the best restaurant to visit for Chinese food.

The bistro also offers the most amazing Vietnamese cold-brew. You cannot go wrong with anything you order – we recommend ending your day with a meal here.

Where should I stay?


The southwest is one of the most underrated regions for road-tripping. You’ll get a lot of exercise, connect with nature, and see some of the most fascinating sights.

The best part about it is that the trip is neither too expensive nor too challenging to make.

Whether you’ve never had a road trip before or have a tradition of road tripping with friends or family, this is a road trip you’ll unlike any other you’ll have.

And our itinerary just made it a whole lot easier to pull off.

Las Vegas to Salt Lake City: A Swift, Stimulating 4-Day Road Trip
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Stefan von Imhof is a travel writer and photographer. He loves going off the beaten path, exploring cities by foot and finding under-explored, hidden gems. After living in California for the past 15 years, he and his wife now live in Melbourne, Australia.

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