On a recent road trip, I made my way from Wyoming to Salt Lake City to commence a week-long road trip from Utah to Nevada. The more than 6-hour drive was one of the prettiest stretches of roadway I’ve ever experienced, featuring mountain ranges, sleepy towns, and all of the Western landscapes that this Midwesterner doesn’t get to see on a daily basis. However, I eagerly kept my trek moving—only stopping for gas—as I was picking up two roadtripping companions, my wife and a friend, from the airport in Salt Lake City.
The best road trip stops and routes in the West
Once reunited, the exploring began. From e-biking alongside bison to traversing the Narrows, sleeping in a treehouse, and being fully immersed in the weird world of Omega Mart, there’s no shortage of activities in the 400-mile span between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Here are a few detour-worthy stops to add to a road trip in this region.
Salt Lake City, Utah
If it’s your first time visiting Salt Lake City, spend some time exploring downtown. My trip was during the spring—which locals refer to as mud season—meaning the time between winter and summer outdoor activities when tourism is light, and skiing, mountain biking, and hiking areas are, well, muddy. So instead of heading into the mountains, visitors can imbibe and dine at local eateries and breweries and check out some of the city’s many murals and street art.
Favorite stops include T.F. Brewing, Lake Effect, Ivy & Varley, and Rawbean Coffee. Also spend some time wandering around The Gateway, which is an open-air dining, shopping, and entertainment area built around the city’s historic Union Pacific Depot.
Antelope Island State Park
Don’t sleep on this state park. While Utah is filled with some of the most popular national parks in the U.S., Antelope Island offers an incredible experience of its own. For a different way to see the park, you can take an e-bike tour through Antelope Ebikes. A tour guide will take you around the park to check out roaming bison, antelope, and see incredible views of the Great Salt Lake.
You can explore numerous landscapes on the island, ranging from rocky peaks to prairie-like grass fields and beaches outlining the lake. Antelope Island is the largest island on the Great Salt Lake, spanning 42 square miles. This is a great stop for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping. Whether you’re looking for a place to park your RV or a day trip excursion, this park is a must when visiting Salt Lake City.
East Zion Resort
After leaving Salt Lake City, head to Zion National Park. If you arrive later on your first day, hike the shorter Watchman Trail before heading to your accommodations.
We stayed in a treehouse in Orderville, Utah at East Zion Resort. Located less than 20 miles from Zion’s eastern entrance, Orderville is smaller and quieter than Springdale, Utah (located outside of Zion’s main entrance). The resort also has yurts, glamping tents, tiny homes, and a lodge for larger groups. Enjoy watching the sunset from the pool area and your own personal fire pit— the resort is the perfect glamping location for those looking to break away from the crowds and traffic near busier areas of the park.
If you stay here, stop at The Shop Coffee Co. in the morning to fuel up on caffeine and breakfast before heading to Zion. This local eatery offers amazing food and unique coffee creations.
Plan your visit accordingly so you can trek one of the coolest hikes in the park—if you’re lucky. The trail can be closed when it rains due to dangerous flash flood risks. Thankfully it was 90 degrees and sunny during my visit, and the cool springtime waters of the Virgin River were a welcome reprieve from the day’s heat. This hike was everything I expected and so much more. Staring up at the towering cliffs overhead as you make your way through the winding slot canyon is truly a magical experience.
Even if you aren’t looking to hike long distances, you can still visit the opening of the trail via a paved, wheelchair-accessible path for views into the canyon. My group opted for an 8-mile trek, venturing 4 miles into the canyon before heading back to the shuttle bus stop near the trailhead. At times, the water can be waist-high, so be prepared to get your shoes and clothing wet. Also be sure to bring plenty of food and water. Hikers can rent canyoneering shoes, socks, dry bags, and hiking poles at Zion Outfitter located at the park’s main entrance, which makes the hike more comfortable and enjoyable.
The best part about the Narrows is that it can be as easy or adventurous as you want. However, if you choose to through-hike all 16 miles of the trail, you’ll need a permit and transportation arrangements for the end of your journey.
Zion Canyon Brew Pub
After your Narrows excursion, kick back with a visit to the Zion Canyon Brew Pub, Southern Utah’s first microbrewery. Whether you want a bite to eat or a pint to celebrate an eventful day of exploring, this stop is the perfect place to unwind and reminisce on the day’s adventures. The restaurant even offers misting showers outside, a patio and beer garden, live music, and incredible views of the Watchman peak sitting just behind the pub.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Before making your way to Las Vegas, make one more park pit stop in Utah. While the state is filled with parks and outdoor recreation opportunities, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park offers the unique experience of sandboarding. You won’t regret booking an excursion with Coral Pink ATV Tours—this might’ve been the best decision of our entire trip.
Whipping around the dunes on rugged, off-roading ATVs is as educational as it is thrilling. Our tour guide explained how the pink sand of the dunes was created by eroding Navajo sandstone and high winds from surrounding mountain ranges. This unique geologic process creates an otherworldly landscape that you wouldn’t expect to find in the midst of Utah’s red rocks.
Before the end of the tour, stop at the bottom of the park’s dunes for sandboarding and sledding. Just like kids at a snow hill, you can hike up the dunes with sledding gear to cruise down the cool, pink sand.
St. George, Utah
After working up an appetite shredding through sand dunes, continue toward Nevada, making a stop in St. George, Utah, for lunch. This is a great city for outdoor enthusiasts with numerous parks nearby, including Sand Hollow and Snow Canyon state parks and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Primarily known as a gateway town to Zion, St. George is becoming a destination of its own, offering dining options, cocktail bars, museums, art galleries, and more. Its year-round warm climate also makes this a popular destination for golfers. If you only have time for a quick bite, eat at George’s Corner Restaurant, or if you have more time, this area is worthy of an overnight stay.
If it’s your first time to Las Vegas, indulge in the typical touristy activities like lounging by the pool, seeing the Las Vegas Strip, going to casinos, and dining at amazing restaurants—including Ayesha Curry’s International Smoke.
A guide to visiting all three Meow Wolf locations in one road trip
When it’s time for another adventure (or if you need to escape the heat), book an indoor expedition to Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart in AREA15. While venturing through the weird, mind-boggling world of Meow Wolf is an unforgettable (and at times unsettling) experience, you can spend an entire day exploring the many immersive entertainment options inside AREA15. From cocktail bars and restaurants to virtual reality experiences, art installations, arcades, and more, this venue is worth the trip away from the Strip, and it has something to offer visitors of all ages.