You’ve got 5 days and you want to squeeze in as much as possible. In this article, we will share how we were able to see most of the national parks in the Grand Circle in 5 days on the road, by campervan.
Having a campervan allowed us to be on the road a lot longer, eliminating the need to set up and pack down a campsite – we could set off at a moment’s notice and that’s essentially what we did most mornings. We set up the bed on Day 1 and left it set up for the rest of the trip.
24 hours total
State/National Park Entry Fees $190 w/out Annual Pass, $50 with America the Beautiful Pass
We picked up our campervan in Phoenix. The rental company we went with is organized like a hotel, therefore check-in/pick up is after 1PM and check-out/drop-off is before 10AM. To get around this, we booked a full-day either side of our trip to enable an earlier pick-up and later drop-off. This actually resulted in a cheaper day rate, so it didn’t increase the rental price significantly.
Sedona viewpoints = FREE
Slide Rock State Park = $20 entry fee
From Phoenix, we hit the road and headed straight up I89 N towards Sedona. There, we were able to stop at the popular viewpoints, mere steps from the parking lots and overall we spent about 2 hours there. We wanted to check out the famous Slide Rock, though when we arrived there had been flash flooding due to the heavier than usual snowfall and this also meant that the water temp was almost freezing!
Lone Rock Beach Campground, UT
Primitive camping grounds = FREE
From Slide Rock State Park, we headed north towards Page, where we planned to stay the night. The campgrounds there are first-come first-served basis, so we opted for a primitive camping ground just 5 minutes outside of Page (actually on the Utah side of the border) which had greater capacity and a better chance of an available site for us.
Note: Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time (unless on Navajo Nation land, then please double check on the day). Utah is on Mountain Daylight Time depending on time of the year – best to check the clocks regularly.
All in Page and surrounds
20 minutes between Horseshoe Bend and the Antelope Canyons
Horseshoe Bend = $10 entry fee
Upper Antelope Canyon Tour = $108pp
Lower Antelope Canyon Tour = $73pp
In the morning, we drove up to the Gas Station which was about 5 minutes from the campgrounds – there we freshened up in the restrooms, shower in a can style.
There is quite a lot to see and do in Page:
- Horseshoe Bend – expect to pay $10 entry fee, per vehicle (America the Beautiful Pass is not accepted here as it is a State Park)
- Lake Powell – you could spend a day kayaking up the river, which includes the Horseshoe Bend. There is a rental company that will drop you with your kayaks as far up the river as you like (up to 12mi) and then you paddle downstream back to the boat ramp
- Antelope Canyon – the slot canyons can only be visited with an official tour, as these are located on Navajo Nation tribal land. Expect to pay $100 per person, per tour.
Monument Valley, UT
The View Campgrounds = $59 RV site
From Page, we headed East towards Monument Valley so that we would be there and ready for the sunrise. There is a lovely Hotel overlooking Monument Valley, called The View. There is also a campsite adjacent to the hotel, which also overlooks the valley – the perfect spot to see both the sunset and the sunrise.
Monument Valley, UT
All in Monument Valley and surrounds
1 minutes between The View Campgrounds and the entrance to Monument Valley loop road
Monument Valley = $8 entry fee per person
As we were already situated inside the park at the entrance to Monument Valley, we could spend some time to watch the sunrise then get ready and hit the road.
Monument Valley is a 17mi loop road, with one way in and out (conveniently located immediately beside The View Campgrounds – <1 min drive). The road is unsealed, but it is mostly compacted sand so we were able to drive our campervan, but it’s a slow drive never faster than 15mph. So plan for about 3-4 hours here (including your stops at viewpoints), but it could be done in as little as 2 hours.
Canyonlands National Park, UT
Canyonlands National Park = $35 entry fee, or FREE with America the Beautiful Pass
From Monument Valley, we stopped in at Goulding’s for lunch. They have a beautiful view overlooking the valley, it’s a few miles from Monument Valley, not far off the highway.
The next stop is Moab, which gets us right next to the Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. But for this day, we spent the afternoon enjoying the views of Canyonlands.
There are many campgrounds to choose from in Moab. We stayed in Grandstaff Campgrounds which is BLM managed and has a vault restroom on site.
Arches National Park, UT
Duke’s Slickrock RV Park = $45
Arches National Park = $35 entry fee, or FREE with America the Beautiful Pass
Paddle Moab White Water Kayaking = $80pp
Arches National Park requires a timed-entry ticket and can be booked online ahead of time for weekdays, but only at midnight of the day on weekends (due to popularity). The timed-entry ticket is inexpensive, only $2 but it ensures your entry to the National Park – there is a separate entry fee which is $35 per car, but again the America the Beautiful pass will grant you free entry.
If you cannot get a timed-entry ticket, then the next best thing is to enter the park before 7AM. If you can get there early, then no timed-entry ticket is required and you can stay in the park as long as you like.
Arches is a 18mi sealed loop road (36mi return) and services viewpoints very easily. We would recommend to start at the very end of the road at Devil’s Garden – there you can go on a beautiful 12mi (return) hike which will take a few hours and you will see several arches along the trail.
On the drive back to exit the park, be sure to stop at the viewpoints along the way – most are within steps of the parking lot, although some require up to a mile of walking.
On this day, we also found a great tour company offering a white water kayaking tour. This was a half-day tour of the Colorado River with Class-3 river rapids. The River was bulging and the flow was fast, up to 10,000 cubic metres/second, so this made for a very thrilling paddle down the river. We went through three rapids over a 6mi distance. The water was very cold due to the runoff from melting snow.
To get us closer to Bryce Canyon we drove about 1.5 hours to the next town in Hanksville, where we stayed at Duke’s Slickrock RV Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Bryce Canyon National Park = $35 entry fee, or FREE with America the Beautiful Pass
Sunset Campground (BLM) = $30 RV site (within the national park)
From Hanksville, we drove about 155mi to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Note: During the winter months and parts of early Spring, some of the roads in Bryce Canyon can be closed – please check the National Parks website ahead of time to confirm what is accessible.
Bryce Canyon National Park is an 18mi sealed loop road. You may be lucky to see snow during early parts of Spring, which gives the red rock vistas a seasonal point of difference.
If you time it right, you can arrive in the mid-afternoon to check out most of the viewpoints before ending your visit at Sunrise or Sunset Point (both are on the same side of the mountain and offer differing vistas of the Hoodoos).
We opted to stay inside Bryce Canyon National Park, because of the beautiful snow. Although knowing what we know now about Zion National Park and how it operates, we would recommend to travel towards the next stop as close as possible. We still had a great time here in the BLM campgrounds.
Zion National Park, UT
Zion National Park = $35 entry fee, or FREE with America the Beautiful Pass
Zion National Park is set up incredibly well. All visitors must park their vehicles at the Visitor Centre, then make use of the regular shuttle buses that bring you through the national park.
Note: you cannot drive your personal or commercial vehicle into the scenic drive.
On it’s way into the national park, the shuttle bus operates an express route and stops at:
- Stop 4 “Court of the Patriarchs”
- Stop 5 “Zion Lodge”
- Stop 6 “The Grotto”
- Stop 7 “Weeping Rock”
- Stop 9 “Temple of Sinawava” – all passengers must disembark here
On it’s way back to the Visitor Centre, the shuttle bus operates all stops, including:
- Stop 8 “Big Bend”
- Stop 3 “Canyon Junction”
- Stop 2 “Zion Human History Museum”
The Big Drive Back to Phoenix, AZ
This is the tricky part, if you can swing it – an extra day would certainly help break up this drive back to Phoenix into smaller sections. But it is entirely possible to go back to Phoenix on the same day, we certainly achieved it!