Are you looking to embark on a thrilling adventure through the scenic landscapes of the United States? Look no further than a road trip to Utah from California! This route offers many breathtaking sights, ranging from towering red rock formations to shimmering Pacific coastlines.
With so much to see and explore, it can be overwhelming to plan the perfect itinerary. Read on, and we will guide you through the must-see stops and hidden gems, ensuring that your road trip brings unforgettable experiences and memories. So buckle up and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!
California to Utah stats
The distance between California and Utah (Salt Lake) is 814 miles via I-15 N Route 89 and 860 miles through US-6.
Whether you take the I-15 Route 89 or Highway 6 for your road trip to Utah from California, you’ll need to drive for around 13 and a half hours.
Recommended Road Trip Time
You can ofcourse drive nonstop for 12 hours, but it wouldn’t be much of a road trip. We recommend taking at least three days to see and do most of the adventures while you’re on the road.
Several popular checkpoints are along the I-15 route between Fresno, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Here are some of the most notable:
- Seven Magic Mountains: This is your first stop after around 6 hours of driving and a welcome from Las Vegas and its vibrant culture. These towering and colorful boulders are free to visit, but visitors are encouraged to respect the artwork and not climb or deface the rocks.
- Zion National Park: Zion National Park is a stunning natural area in southern Utah, featuring towering sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons, and diverse flora and fauna.
- Kanarra Falls: This gem at Kanarraville offers a trail leading to cascading waterfalls. The falls are surrounded by towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and dramatic rock formations, creating a picturesque and serene natural setting.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Known for its distinctive hoodoos – tall, thin rock spires. It offers hiking trails, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing.
- Mystic Hot Springs: Natural thermal pools with mineral-rich water that has therapeutic properties and is perfect for soaking and relaxing. Visitors can enjoy vintage bathtubs, a communal pool, and camping on the property. It also has a music venue for concerts and festivals.
If you’re short on time and need to cut down on stops, we recommend keeping these checkpoints part of your itinerary.
States you drive through
You could take several routes from California to Utah, but one standard route is Interstate 15 (I-15) North. You would drive through four states on this route: California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. The same goes for the US-6 E route.
Most Scenic Route
I-15 Route 89: Starting in Southern California, this route takes you through the heart of Utah’s national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. The road offers stunning views of red rock formations, canyons, and desert landscapes.
All routes mentioned above are generally safe for travel, as they are major highways and well-maintained roads. However, as with any road trip, taking certain precautions is essential to ensure safety.
Stay updated with the weather and watch for news about road conditions, especially during winter. Double-check (if not triple) your vehicle’s condition before hitting the road.
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California to Utah: Route l-15
Where to Start in California
Taking the I-15 route, start from Avocado Lake Park in Fresno County and follow the N Piedra Road. You’ll find the Tivy Valley Market on the right side of the road, so if you need to grab supplies, you can get them here. Then, keep driving until it merges with CA-180 E King Canyon Road and turn right at S Reed Ave. Continue cruising until you reach Highway 99 and exit at 24 to enter CA-58 E. Stay on the road until you’re at 234A and follow the signs leading to I-15 N.
Where to end in Utah
End your trip in Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital. This way, you can replenish your supplies again and continue your adventure around Utah. And if you’re still unsure about what to do once you reach your destination, check out our recommendations on the best hiking spots near Salt Lake City.
Which Route to take
Taking the I-15 Route 89 journey is the best option for your road trip to Utah from California. Packed with plenty of sights to see and experiences to try, this route also has plenty of establishments in case you need assistance.
What to see
Seven Magic Mountains
After roughly six hours of driving and 369 miles from the jumpoff point at Fresno, the Seven Magic Mountains at the Mojave Desert is your first stop. This group of 7 boulder installations towers between 30 and 35 feet and is painted brightly, giving visitors a taste of Las Vegas colorful culture.
You can wind through them and experience the magic they bring, allowing you to see things from various angles and perspectives, tricking your eyesight into believing that they seem to appear and disappear depending on where you are. Want to see how small your problems are? Take a stop and capture snaps with these giant boulders!
The Neon Museum
Around half an hour from Seven Magic Mountains and exiting at 24B, entering the 515 and going to Las Vegas Blvd. N, The Neon Museum welcomes you. AKA the “Neon Boneyard,” it’s home to over 200 vintage signs popping with neon colors, many of which underwent restoration to their former glory. You can either stroll around on your own or join a guided outdoor tour that tackles the pieces in the museum and some of the landmarks in the area and their significance in the history of Las Vegas.
Valley of Fire
Heading back to I-15 and driving for another 40 minutes (43.4 miles), the unique beauty of Valley of Fire will captivate you. Hailed as the oldest state park in the state, its name was due to the red sandstone formations throughout the area. You’ll also see some petroglyphs as ancient as a couple of millennia ago.
Hiking and photography are both a must-do while on Valley of Fire. However, the weather can be brutally scorching, so remember to wear proper clothing, stay hydrated, and wear protection. If you’re caught by the unforgiving sun, taking in the view and grabbing your camera for some photos will be a rewarding alternative.
An hour and a half from The Valley of Fire, St. George is a great place to spend the night or get additional supplies. The area is full of restaurants and accommodations. St. George Children’s Museum and Fiesta Fun Family Center are just around the corner, an ideal detour if you’re with family.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
After leaving St. George, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is just over an hour away. The dunes in this place are no joke. They’re massive! And the pink in its name is the real deal as well. You’ll probably end up with pink on your skin and clothes if you decide to try out the adventures here, such as sandboarding and ATV rides.
Hiking and camping are also welcome. Wildlife like deer are also usually spotted in the area, but you must also be mindful of reptiles like snakes. The Moquith Mountain range is also within sight, adding more beauty to the views. Stay hydrated and have sun protection. It’s better to be here as early as possible or late afternoon to avoid the burning sun.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is 30 minutes from Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Just follow Hwy 49 until you reach Hwy 89 and then turn left at UT-9 W. Cliffs, waterfalls, trails, canyons, and arches, you can camp, hike or go rock climbing to your heart’s desire. The diverse wildlife in the area is also a sight to see.
You can join a tour that winds through the most famous spots at Zion National Park, such as The Grotto, Zion Stop 6, and 9. Some might find the trip a bit challenging, with the sun’s heat adding to the physical demands of the hikes. So pack some snacks and drinks, wear comfortable clothes and your favorite hiking shoes. This stop is a total treat for you all adventure seekers!
You can also opt for the Kolob View Point just right off I-15. It’s a crowd-free spot and still offers incredible views. For those short on time or too exhausted to hike, Kolob ViewPoint is the solution.
Following Hwy 9 back to I-15, driving for 2 hours, and exiting at Hwy 42, the refreshing Kanarraville Falls will surprise you with its beauty. Prepare your water shoes! Most of the hike to the falls is a bit flooded with water and can take up to 4 hours of roundtrip. The cold waters will revive your exhausted body.
Even when the sun is out, you won’t be bothered by the landscapes and canyon views. Once you reach Kanarra Falls, there’s a ladder you can climb to get to the top. Just a note: get a permit in advance to avoid trouble if you stop by during your road trip to Utah from California.
Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
A collection of sacred petroglyphs carved into sandstones and boulders is what’s waiting for you at Parowan Gap in Red Hills, roughly 40 minutes away from Kanarra Falls. The “Zipper Glyphs” looks exactly like its name, running up the sides of the cliffs. Looking at this fascinating evidence of the past will keep your mind going with interpretations. But no worries, there are info boards to help you understand what the glyphs mean.
If you visit during the summer solstice, the sun tends to set behind the rocks, giving the petroglyphs a whole new vibe. To reach Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, just follow I-15 and turn left to UT-130 N and right at 12800 N.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Here’s another treat for outdoor enthusiasts, the hoodoos, mesas, trails, canyons, and bridges of Bryce Canyon National Park, an hour and a half away from Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. Hoodoos- those thin towering formations with caps harder than the rest of the column.
Seeing them piled in the area is a sight you’ll only see in Martian movies. Seeing them up close with various red, orange, and brown palettes is one of the best statements of the southwest’s beauty.
Mossy Cave Trail
One of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon, the Mossy Cave Trail, 10 minutes away, offers a peaceful journey next to a creek. The hike will only take around 30 minutes to complete. The trail is so easy that even kids can traverse it with no challenge. You might also be lucky enough to spot the endangered prairie dog along the way.
Mystic Hot Springs
Almost two hours away from Bryce Canyon National Park, the relaxing waters of Mystic Hot Springs will tunnel you back into raggedy nature while enjoying a peaceful dip. The geothermal activity in the area heats the water, which is believed to have healing abilities since it is also rich in minerals. The vintage vibes of the place also add to its allure, with old buses and cabins serving accommodation to guests. To get here, stay on UT-12 W, turn right at US-89 N, and follow the road until it merges with I-70 E. Then, exit at U-118 towards Joseph/Monroe.
Meadow Hot Springs
Roughly an hour and 10 minutes from Mystic Hot Springs, the famous Meadow Hot Springs is another stop where you can unwind and release your tensed muscles after a day of hikes and walking. Known for its blue waters and stunning backdrop of mountains and forests, it can be pretty crowded, so skip weekends. Also, be mindful of your trash and follow etiquette rules. Visitors to Meadow Hot Springs can sometimes be problematic, leaving their trash everywhere, especially when it’s crowded. Please observe the LNT principle you usually would while hiking.
Nebo Loop Road
Head back to I-15 and drive for another couple of hours before exiting at 225 and turning right at UT-132 E for a detour at the scenic Nebo Loop Road. You’ll see the beauty of Uinta National Forest while cruising here, with vistas of mountains, valleys, and forests. All in the comfort of your vehicle. But if you want to explore the area, check out the Devil’s Kitchen Geological Area and Payson Lakes.
Shri Shri Radha Krishna Temple
Following the Nebo Loop Road and exiting right at UT-198 E, the Shri Shri Krishna Temple along Spanish Fork will give you a taste of India without needing to fly out of the country. Aside from being a place of worship, peacocks, llamas, and other wildlife are also on their farm. Stroll around and admire the stunning architecture of the temple itself, give cut apples to the llamas, or have a palm reading. If you fancy, have a Mehndi hand tattoo!
Salt Lake City is only an hour away from Shri Shri Krishna Temple. Keep following UT-198 E until it merges with I-15 again. And if you’re up for the challenge, check out these hikes near Salt Lake City you can jump to as soon as you arrive.
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Where to stay
It will depend on where you choose to stay the night and your preferences, but here are some recommendations:
The Neon Museum
- The Strat Hotel, Casino and Skypod, Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, and Oasis at Gold Spike offer good value for affordable prices.
The Valley of Fire
Sites are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and accessible 24/7. You can choose from two campgrounds with 72 sites combined. Power and hookups are also available at Atlatl Campground, and dispersed camping is prohibited.
There are numerous RV parks at St. George ready to host you, such as St. George RV Park, Hillside Palms RC Park and RC Storage and Tiny Homes, and Twin Lakes RV Park. These are complete with hookups and everything you might need for a comfortable stay overnight.
You can choose from various stays at St. George, and most are just within walking distance from stores and restaurants. Days Inn by Wyndham St. George, Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center St. George, and Motel 6 offers affordable rooms with an outdoor pool and modern amenities.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
If you want to stay here, you can reserve your spot in advance online via the Utah State Parks. The campground at Coral Pink has 17 sites and is divided into two, one with electricity while the other doesn’t have, but both have access to grills, picnic tables, and showers. If you can’t get a spot, surrounding campgrounds and RV parks, such as SimpleLife Campsites and Kanab RV Corral, are just a few clicks away.
Zion National Park
There are 117 sites available at Zion National Park with water and toilet facilities. South and Watchman campgrounds offer little to no shade at all, making it challenging to stay during summer. You might as well opt for a spot at the campground on the banks of Virgin Rivers. You can use picnic tables and grills but no showers or electric hookups.
The hotels near Zion National Park tend to be a bit pricey such as the Zion National Park Lodge and Zion Wildflower Resort. Book your room at Gooseberry Lodges or Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort for a slightly more forgiving price.
You can camp or park your RV at one of the 22 sites at Red Ledge RV Park. It’s near Kanarra Falls, well-equipped with showers, a hot tub, internet connection, and clean water. Reserve your spot in advance!
The Little Village Retreat is a lux glamping spot where you can enjoy the comforts of modern living but still enjoy nature.
Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
Dispersed camping is allowed in Red Hills, literally almost anywhere on the dirt grounds. But please help conserve the area’s beauty and stick to campgrounds where it’s established (these are usually near fire pits). Go for higher slopes in the north if rain or snow catches you during your road trip to Utah from California. This way, you’ll spare yourself and your vehicle from the stress of the muddy ground.
Bryce Canyon National Park
There are several campground options in and around Bryce Canyon. Within the national park itself, there are more than a handful. The availability of the sites depends on the season. So stay updated with the camping schedule. Sometimes it’s on an FCFS basis, while others, you can make reservations like in North Campground and Sunset Campground Group Site. If you want the most accessible road to Bryce Canyon NP, stay at King Creek Campground.
Mystic Hot Springs
There’s a small campground where you can park your RV or pitch a tent. Showers, toilets, and the outdoor kitchen are pretty easy to access. It’s best to soak in the pool before it gets dark since the way back to the campground can be tricky to see.
Mystic Hot Springs offers cabins to visitors. You can reserve yours in advance. It is different from your typical modern-day stay. Their cabins are unique with their hippie/vintage looks and feel; some were converted buses. No worries, you’re bound to end up with deep rest since they’re chic and comfy too!
What to bring – Checklist
Here’s a quick checklist of essentials you need to pack to ensure a pleasant road trip to Utah from California:
- Vehicle documents (registration, proof of insurance, driver’s license)
- Maps or GPS device
- Cash and credit cards
- Cell phone and charger
- Snacks and drinks
- Cooler with ice
- Water bottles
- Hat and sunglasses
- Insect repellent
- First aid kit
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.)
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Clothes for different weather conditions
- Rain gear
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Water shoes
- Flashlights and batteries
- Camping gear (if camping)
- Music player or CDs
- Books or magazines
- Travel games or cards
- Portable phone charger
- Portable fan or heater
- Snorkeling or swimming gear (if heading to the beach)
- Travel pillow and eye mask (if planning to sleep in the car)
- Portable stove or grill (if planning to cook meals)
Now, these items are not set in stone. Alter the gear/supply in this list if you have any specific needs and remember to stay practical and pack light.
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California to Utah 3-Day Road Trip Itinerary
- Seven Magic Mountains
- The Neon Museum
- Valley of Fire
- St. George
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- Zion National Park
- Kanarra Falls
- Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
- Mossy Cave Trail
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Mystic Hot Springs
- Meadow Hot Springs
- Nebo Loop Road
- Shri Shri Radha Krishna Temple
From the beaches and bustling cities of California to Utah’s unique and diverse attractions, this road trip offers many opportunities for adventure and exploration.
We hope this guide has helped you plan an unforgettable road trip and provided all the information you need to make the most of your journey.
Happy, Happy, road trippin’!
How to plan a road trip from California to Utah?
Planning a road trip can be exciting and a great way to explore new places. Here are some steps to help you plan your road trip to Utah from California:
– Decide on your route
– Determine your stops
– Book accommodations
– Plan your activities
– Check your vehicle
– Pack smart
– Be flexible
By following these steps, you can plan a successful road trip from California to Utah and make unforgettable memories.
What to see on a Road trip from California to Utah?
Here are some of the most rewarding stops you can take for your road trip to Utah from California:
– Seven Magic Mountains
– The Neon Museum
– Valley of Fire
– St. George
– Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
– Zion National Park
– Kanarra Falls
– Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
– Mossy Cave Trail
– Bryce Canyon National Park
– Mystic Hot Springs
– Meadow Hot Springs
– Nebo Loop Road
– Shri Shri Radha Krishna Temple