The Mighty Three– Experiencing Southern Utah on a Time Crunch

Southern Utah boasts striking landscapes, sweeping vistas, unforgettable national parks, and otherworldly views. Aside from natural wonders, Southern Utah’s appeal lies in towns such as Springdale, Colorado City, and Kanab serving up unforgettable meals paired with local adventures and cozy lodging.

The Mighty Five Loop is iconic and allows adventurers to immerse themselves in five magnificent national parks: Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Bryce Canyon. From Las Vegas, this trek is roughly 1,000 miles and may take more time than you’ve allotted for your stay, which is why we’ve created a guide to exploring three of the five parks and fully soaking up each one in a time crunch.

Southern Utah - Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

Looping from Zion to Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon North Rim and back to Zion will showcase the unique geology and views that encapsulate the area. While this isn’t an extensive itinerary that clearly outlines your trip, the information provided is a general idea of what to do, visit, and eat from a local’s perspective while you’re traveling between parks. Don’t forget to use this video directory of local attractions and businesses while you’re in Southern Utah!

Begin at Zion National Park:

Southern Utah - Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Zion National Park is an adventurer’s dream. Sheer sandstone cliffs tower over slot canyons, winding switchbacks, and an untouched natural landscape. If you’re looking for our recommended hikes and activities in the park itself, don’t forget to read our other blog posts.

The town of Springdale sits at the mouth of the park and encapsulates the appeal of a quaint small town with local personality. World-class dining is set against the timeless scenery and lodging options are nestled against the canyon and showcase the view.

Fantastic Lodging:
  • Cable Mountain Lodge– Located just steps away from the entrance to Zion National Park, Cable Mountain Lodge offers spacious rooms and suites with modern amenities. Some rooms provide stunning views of the surrounding red rock cliffs.
  • Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton– This upscale hotel features luxurious rooms, suites, and riverside villas. The property offers a relaxing riverside setting with access to a private beach along the Virgin River.
  • Zion Canyon Lodge– Situated along the Virgin River, Zion Canyon Lodge provides cozy accommodations and a convenient location near the park entrance. The lodge offers a relaxing courtyard and outdoor seating areas.
Unforgettable Restaurants:
  • Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon– This popular restaurant offers a blend of Southwestern and international cuisine, with dishes like chile rellenos, steaks, and seafood. The outdoor patio provides beautiful views of Zion Canyon.
  • Oscar’s Cafe– A local favorite, Oscar’s Cafe serves up delicious burgers, sandwiches, and Mexican-inspired dishes. Don’t miss their famous homemade pies for dessert.
  • King’s Landing Bistro– King’s Landing Bistro offers a diverse menu featuring American and international cuisine. Enjoy their outdoor patio with views of the Virgin River.
  • Cafe Soleil– A charming café that specializes in healthy and organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Indulge in their crepes, sandwiches, and freshly baked pastries.
  • MeMe’s Café– This cozy café is known for its homestyle breakfast and lunch options, including hearty omelets, sandwiches, and salads. Their outdoor seating area offers a lovely setting to enjoy your meal.
Top Attractions:
  • Zion National Park– As the main draw of the area, Zion National Park is a must-visit destination. Explore its majestic red cliffs, stunning canyons, and scenic hiking trails, including the famous Zion Narrows and Angels Landing.
  • The Narrows– This iconic hike within Zion National Park takes you through the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon. Hike along the Virgin River, surrounded by towering walls, and experience the unique beauty of the slot canyon.
  • Emerald Pools– The Emerald Pools trail offers a series of pools and waterfalls amidst lush greenery. It’s a relatively easy hike with beautiful views, making it a popular choice for visitors.
  • Observation Point – For a breathtaking panoramic view of Zion Canyon, hike to Observation Point. This challenging but rewarding trail provides incredible vistas of the park’s stunning landscape.
  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive– Take a scenic drive through Zion Canyon on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This route offers stunning viewpoints and opportunities to stop and explore the beauty of the park.
  • Grafton Ghost Town– A short drive from Springdale, the Grafton Ghost Town offers a glimpse into the past with its preserved historic buildings. Learn about the town’s history and enjoy the picturesque setting.
  • Kolob Canyon– Located in the northern part of Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons boasts stunning red rock formations and picturesque viewpoints. It offers a quieter and less crowded experience compared to the main canyon.

Drive From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park:

Southern Utah - Red Canyon
Red Canyon

The drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is leisurely and offers spectacular views with few interruptions. The drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon covers approximately 85 miles and takes you through picturesque landscapes, showcasing the diverse beauty of southern Utah.

As you leave Zion, you’ll pass through the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and head north at Mt. Carmel Junction. Enjoy the drive through the small towns of Orderville, Glendale, and Alton as you approach the Bryce area!

Fantastic Lodging:
  • Zion Mountain Ranch– Located near the junction, Zion Mountain Ranch offers rustic and charming cabins amidst picturesque surroundings. Enjoy the peaceful ambiance and stunning views while being conveniently situated for exploring both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.
  • Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge– Situated in Mount Carmel, this lodge offers comfortable rooms and convenient amenities such as a pool and an on-site restaurant. It’s a great choice for those seeking a comfortable stay before heading to Bryce Canyon.
  • Bryce Canyon Inn– Just outside of Bryce Canyon, the Bryce Canyon Inn provides cozy and well-appointed rooms. The inn has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and it’s conveniently located for easy access to the national park.
Unforgettable Restaurants:
  • Thunderbird Restaurant– Located at Mount Carmel Junction, Thunderbird Restaurant offers a diverse menu of American and Southwestern cuisine. Enjoy their hearty meals, including steaks, burgers, and salads, in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
  • Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill– Located just outside Bryce Canyon National Park, Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill is a unique dining experience. Enjoy a Western-style dinner show with live music and entertainment while savoring a delicious meal.
  • Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant– Situated near Bryce Canyon, Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant is a family-owned establishment serving American comfort food. Indulge in their tasty steaks, burgers, and homemade pies.
Top Attractions:
  • Red Canyon– Located just before Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon is a smaller-scale version of the dramatic hoodoos found in Bryce. Enjoy scenic drives, hiking trails, and stunning rock formations.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park– The main attraction on this journey, Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique hoodoo formations. Take in the panoramic views from Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Bryce Point. Hike the famous Rim Trail or venture into the amphitheater for an up-close experience.
  • Mossy Cave Trail– Located just outside the main area of Bryce Canyon National Park, this short and easy trail takes you to a small waterfall and a moss-covered cave. It’s a serene and lesser-known spot.
  • Dixie National Forest– As you drive between Zion and Bryce, you’ll pass through the scenic Dixie National Forest. Take advantage of various pullouts and viewpoints to enjoy the expansive forested landscapes.
  • Scenic Byway 12– Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, Scenic Byway 12 takes you through stunning landscapes, including red rock canyons, forested mountains, and high plateaus. Take your time to appreciate the scenic vistas and potential stops along the way.

Drive From Bryce Canyon National Park to The Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Fantastic Lodging:
  • Bryce Canyon National Park Lodges– The national park offers a range of accommodations, including the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge, cabins, and campsites. Staying within the park allows for easy access to the stunning landscapes and hiking trails.
  • Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn– Located just outside the national park, this hotel offers comfortable rooms, an indoor pool, and various amenities. It’s a convenient option for exploring Bryce Canyon.
  • Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim– This iconic lodge is located right on the North Rim and offers rustic cabins and motel-style rooms. It provides unparalleled access to breathtaking views of the canyon and features a main lodge with a restaurant, coffee shop, and gift shop.
  • Jacob Lake Inn– Situated about 45 minutes from the North Rim, Jacob Lake Inn offers comfortable rooms and cabins. It’s a popular choice for travelers seeking lodging close to the national park and also serves as a convenient stop for dining and provisions.
  • Kaibab Lodge– Nestled in the forested Kaibab Plateau, Kaibab Lodge offers cozy cabins and a rustic atmosphere. It is located about 18 miles from the North Rim and provides a peaceful retreat amidst nature.
Unforgettable Restaurants:
  • Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room— Enjoy a hearty Western-style buffet with a variety of dishes, including barbecue, fried chicken, and a salad bar.
  • Thunderbird Restaurant– Known for its delicious Southwestern cuisine, including Navajo tacos and fry bread.
  • Jacob Lake Inn Restaurant– Enjoy a hearty meal at this rustic lodge known for its home-cooked meals, including their famous cookies.
Top Attractions:
  • Kodachrome Basin State Park– Known for its unique rock formations and vibrant colors, this state park offers hiking trails, camping facilities, and scenic viewpoints. Don’t miss the iconic Chimney Rock and Shakespeare Arch.
  • Escalante Petrified Forest State Park– Discover a fascinating collection of petrified wood and ancient fossils while enjoying scenic hiking trails. The park also offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and camping.
  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument– This stunning area boasts dramatic cliffs, colorful rock formations, and unique geological features. Highlights include the famous “Wave” formation (permit required), Paria Canyon, and Buckskin Gulch.
  • Lee’s Ferry– Located on the Colorado River, Lee’s Ferry is a historic river crossing and the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Enjoy scenic views, take a guided rafting trip, or simply relax by the water’s edge.
  • Marble Canyon– As you approach the North Rim, drive through Marble Canyon, a deep and narrow gorge carved by the Colorado River. The views of the towering cliffs and the river are breathtaking.

Traveling From the Grand Canyon Back to Zion National Park:

Southern Utah - Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Driving from The Grand Canyon back to Zion National Park is enjoyable and passes through a few charming small towns including Fredonia, Colorado City, and Laverkin.

Fantastic Lodging:
  • Jacob Lake Inn– Situated about 45 minutes from the North Rim, Jacob Lake Inn offers comfortable rooms and cabins. It’s a popular choice for travelers seeking lodging close to the national park and also serves as a convenient stop for dining and provisions.
  • Kaibab Lodge– Nestled in the forested Kaibab Plateau, Kaibab Lodge offers cozy cabins and a rustic atmosphere. It is located about 18 miles from the North Rim and provides a peaceful retreat amidst nature.
  • Cliff View Cottages– A vacation rental option in Colorado City with brand-new homes all boasting phenomenal views, perfect amenities, and private hot tubs.
Unforgettable Restaurants:
  • River Rock Roasting Company– Situated along the Virgin River, this cozy café offers specialty coffee, breakfast items, sandwiches, and salads. They also have vegetarian and gluten-free options.
  • Sego Restaurant– This upscale dining establishment in Kanab showcases modern American cuisine with a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes frequently to offer the freshest dining experience possible.
  • Stage Coach Grille– Stage Coach Grille is a popular restaurant in LaVerkin, known for its delicious American fare and friendly atmosphere. Their menu features steaks, seafood, burgers, and homemade desserts.
  • Edge of The World Brewery– Located in Colorado City, this establishment offers beer made in-house, mouth-watering pizza, and a cozy quaint patio to lounge on and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains.
Top Attractions:
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park– Located near Kanab, UT, this park features stunning red sand dunes perfect for hiking and photography.
  • Historic Kanab AKA “Little Hollywood”– Kanab is a charming town with a rich film history and serves as a gateway to several national parks.
  • Kaibab National Forest— Drive through this picturesque, forested area, home to wildlife and beautiful vistas.
  • Jacob Lake– A great place to stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding forests.
  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument– Discover unique rock formations, including the famous “Wave” and the colorful Paria Plateau.
  • Water Canyon Hike– Nestled in the canyon in Hildale, Water Canyon Hike is a moderate hike that follows a stream and leads to a small trickling waterfall. This hike is perfect to cool off on a sunny day and is a beloved local attraction.

Lizzie CawleyWhile You’re in Town

While You’re in Town is an online video directory of local attractions, events, and businesses. We aim to promote local economy and business growth by attracting more tourists to the region, giving visitors an amazing experience, and maximizing exposure for local businesses and attractions.

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Categories: Guest Post, Mountain Parks, Mountain Parks Itineraries, National Parks, North America, North America Travel Itineraries, Travel, United States, UtahTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yes, absolutely doable itinerary, as I did this myself. I stayed at Cable Mountain Lodge and highly recommend it. I also added one night at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which was a highlight of the entire trip. You can check out one of their puppies or kittens for the day and night, which we did (an adorable puppy). This is a must-do if you’re an animal-lover.

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