Backpacking

An Overview of My Southern Utah Road Trip to Some of the Area’s Amazing Yet Under-Appreciated Gems

Since I had to push back my plans to visit the Middle East this autumn, I have decided to take another road trip out West to visit some of the lesser-known spots in Southern Utah that I have been want to visit for a while. On this Southern Utah road trip, I plan on spending some extra time to see some of the harder to reach places that I haven’t had the time to see in the past. Places like the incredible Reflection Canyon and the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Southern Utah Road Trip - Bryce Canyon

We hit the road early this morning and are officially on our way to Southern Utah. During this Southern Utah road trip, I plan on providing regular blog journal updates as well as Instagram and Facebook posts that you can follow. If you would like to learn a little more about these attractions and get some other ideas on places you can visit in the area, I have also included a link to my article on the Top 15 Places to See in Southern Utah below for you to review.

READ MORE:
Canyonlands National Park
The Top 15 Amazing Southern Utah Attractions

Southern Utah Road Trip Overview

Southern Utah Road Trip Itinerary Map

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The route that I plan on taking thru Southern Utah is essentially a big circle. The only national park that I plan to stop at is Bryce Canyon National Park, so my loop thru the area will be a bit different than the route that many take and that I have taken in the past. Most of my time on this trip will be spent in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and some of the other state parks and national monuments in the area. For a better idea of what my Southern Utah road trip looks like, please refer to the map above and the itinerary below for more details.

Day 1: Drive to Moab, Utah
Day 2: Goblin Valley State Park
Day 3: Leprechaun Canyon, Natural Bridges NM, Goosenecks SP, and Forrest Gump Point
Day 4: Alstrom Point and Lower Antelope Canyon
Day 5-6: Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Day 7: Reflection Canyon
Day 8: Reflection Canyon and Bryce Canyon
Day 9: Cedar Breaks National Monument (Reflection Canyon Backup Day)
Day 10: Goosenecks Overlook on Drive Home

Goblin Valley State Park

Southern Utah Road Trip - Goblin Valley State Park

The first stop on my trip will be to the beautiful Goblin Valley State Park, which is located a short distance from Moab, Utah. Goblin Valley is known for its incredible rock formations and hoodoos, much like you see in Bryce Canyon, but also different in many ways. The park has plenty of incredible hiking paths and viewpoints that I would love to check out and hopefully get some great sunset shots in the park.

Leprechaun Canyon

Southern Utah Road Trip - Leprechaun Canyon

On the third day of my Southern Utah road trip my first stop will be to one of the lesser-known, but incredible, slot canyons in the area. The hike to Leprechaun Canyon is relatively short and easy, but the canyon itself takes some climbing skill and time to fully explore. There are beautiful parts of the canyon that you don’t need to worry about navigating steep climbs and drops to see, but if you would like to fully explore this beautiful slot canyon, you will need climbing equipment. I am going to bring some gear, but we may be short on time with so much to see this day. My goal is to at least explore part of this slot canyon and to photograph it.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Southern Utah Road Trip - Natural Bridges National Monument

After exploring Leprechaun Canyon, the next stop on our Southern Utah road trip will be to the Natural Bridges National Monument. There are some absolutely incredible natural bridges within the national monument that I cannot wait to photograph. We won’t have a ton of time there, so I won’t be able to do quite as much hiking and exploring as I would like, but I do want to make sure that I am able to get some great photos of the bridges.

Goosenecks State Park

Southern Utah Road Trip - Goosenecks State Park

Moving on from Natural Bridges National Monument, the next planned stop on our Southern Utah road trip will be to another one of Utah’s incredible state parks. Located near Mexican Hat, Goosenecks State Park is well known for its beautiful gooseneck turn of the San Juan River. In many ways, it is very similar to more infamous Horseshoe Bend in Northern Arizona. My hope is to get some great golden hours shots within the state park before moving on to our final stop for the day.

Monument Valley – Forrest Gump Point

Southern Utah Road Trip - Forrest Gump Point

The last stop on our itinerary for Day 3 will be a short stop, but it is something that I have been trying to work into my Southern Utah itineraries for years. If you are familiar with the movie Forrest Gump, then you will definitely recognize this spot. With the long, straight road heading off into the far away mesas in the distance, the Forrest Gump Point is one of the most breathtaking spots to photograph the beautiful Monument Valley area. Hopefully we will be arriving right around sunset, which should provide some absolutely beautiful light to photograph this iconic spot.

Glen Canyon – Alstrom Point

Southern Utah Road Trip - Alstrom Point

After arriving in Page, Arizona, I will have a full day to further explore the area (which I am already very familiar from past trips) before my hike to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. On this day, I plan on getting up really, really early to make the short, but time consuming drive to a Glen Canyon viewpoint that I have been wanting to visit for years. Alstrom Point is an absolutely stunning location to photograph the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and I should be able to photograph it just as the sun rises above the canyon. I cannot wait to take some shots at this location!

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Southern Utah Road Trip - Rainbow Bridge National Monument

On our second day in the Page, Arizona area I will be completing one of two big back country hikes that I plan on doing on this road trip. This 32-mile round-trip hike typically takes 2-3 days to complete and I am going to shoot for just one overnight. That means it will be two busy days of hiking, which I cannot wait to do. The temperatures are going to be cooler when I get there, with nighttime temps dipping into the 30’s. This means I will need to make sure my gear is up to par for that type of weather. For those of you who might be planning a backpacking trip of your own, you can use my Backpackers Guide and Checklist to make sure you have the right gear for your hike.

Reflection Canyon

Southern Utah Road Trip - Reflection Canyon

After completing my hike to see the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the next day we will get up very early to drive back up North into Utah. The destination is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument where I will be doing my second overnight hike to see the stunning Reflection Canyon. This is a shorter hike, but I still plan on doing an overnight as I will likely be tired from the previous hike. It will also give me the opportunity to wake up next to Reflection Canyon and get some great sunrise shots. This is a hike I have been dreaming about doing for years, so I have built some flexibility into my schedule to shift this hike back a day or two in case there is bad weather.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Southern Utah Road Trip - Bryce Canyon

We will be using the Bryce Canyon National Park area as a base camp for our exploration of the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante and Cedar Breaks National Monuments. This will make it very easy for us to pop in and do some additional exploration of Bryce Canyon when time permits. Bryce Canyon is one of my favorite national parks, so I always love stopping by when I am in the area. Hopefully, I can get some more beautiful sunset shots to share with you in the coming months.

READ MORE:
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Guide

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Southern Utah Road Trip - Cedar Breaks National Monument

While we are in the Bryce Canyon area, we plan on seeing another destination that we have been putting off for years. The Cedar Breaks National Monument may not get the publicity that Bryce Canyon or Zion National Parks get, but it is an absolutely gorgeous area in the western half of Southern Utah. Getting to explore Cedar Breaks will be a nice break from all the hiking we will have done leading up to arriving and I can’t wait to photograph it.

Capitol Reef – The Goosenecks Overlook

Southern Utah Road Trip - The Goosenecks Overlook

The final stop on our Southern Utah road trip will be a stop near Capitol Reef National Park that I haven’t been able to get to the last few times I was in Southern Utah. In fact, I was just at Capitol Reef last year, but spent a majority of my time exploring the back country of Cathedral Valley. This will be a quick stop to photograph the Goosenecks Overlook as we make our way back home.

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4 replies »

  1. Looks FABULOUS! I see you’re taking scenic highway 12. So jealous. While you drive it, spare a though for me thinking of you with envy! Haha. Have a great trip. Can’t wait to read your updates from the road.

    • Thanks so much!!! I’ll think of you guys when we are on Highway 12 for sure!! 😀

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