Southwest Utah Stargazing Itinerary

Escape the city’s haze and travel back in time through Utah’s national and state parks, where rugged cliffs, canyons and buttes come alive under starlit skies. For 7 days, wind through the majestic landscapes of the Colorado Plateau by using our sample Southwest Utah Stargazing Itinerary.

Zion’s massive walls tower above hanging gardens while condors call overhead. Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos rise like a stone forest from the canyon floor while Capitol Reef’s folded rocks open to petroglyphs and orchards. Alien shapes abound in Goblin Valley before your gaze turns skyward to a sea of stars. Complete your journey in Monument Valley on the sacred Navajo lands, where buttes and mesas stand like sentinels under the stunning constellations.

This is the trip of a lifetime!

Note: We designed these itineraries for travelers that have limited time and want to see as much as possible in one week. If you have more time, we highly recommend you spend more time in each location get a better feel for each place.

Itinerary Summary

Day Destination Campground Highlights
1 Zion National Park Watchman Campground Riverside Walk, Emerald Pools, Watchman Peak
2 Bryce Canyon National Park North Campground Rim Trail, Navajo Loop, hoodoos
3 Capitol Reef National Park Fruita Campground Hickman Bridge, petroglyphs, pies
4 Goblin Valley State Park Goblin Valley Campground Valley of Goblins, Goblin’s Lair, Three Sisters
5 Natural Bridges National Monument Natural Bridges Campground Sipapu, Kachina, Owachomo bridges
6 Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park The View Campground John Ford’s Point, Three Sisters, Totem Pole
7 Departure from St. George or Las Vegas N/A Cedar Breaks amphitheater, Snow Canyon cliffs and dunes

If you don’t like our suggestions, try our stargazing campground map to brainstorm your own astrotourism trip. It’s the perfect tool for stargazers that love the darkest skies!

Day 1: Arrive in St. George and Drive to Zion National Park

✈️ Air Travel: St. George is the largest city in Southwest Utah and a good base for exploring the region. You can fly into St. George Regional Airport or drive from Las Vegas, which is about two hours away and pick up an RV, rent camping gear, or just bring your own supplies.

🚗 Drive: From St. George, drive to Zion National Park, which is about an hour away. Zion is one of the most popular and scenic national parks in the country, with towering sandstone cliffs, lush valleys, and diverse wildlife.

🏕️ Camp: Stay at Watchman Campground, which is located near the park’s south entrance and offers stunning views of the Watchman peak. The campground has electric hookups, flush toilets, and drinking water.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s trails, such as the Riverside Walk, which follows the Virgin River to the mouth of the Narrows, or the Emerald Pools Trail, which leads to three beautiful waterfalls.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head to Springdale, a charming town just outside the park that has many restaurants and shops. Some of the best options are Oscar’s Cafe, which serves American and Mexican food, or Zion Pizza & Noodle Co., which offers pizza, pasta, and salads.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or join a ranger-led night sky program at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Zion has some of the darkest skies in the country and you can see thousands of stars, planets, and even the Milky Way on a clear night.

Day 2: Hike Angel’s Landing and Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park

🥾 Explore: Wake up early and get ready for one of the most thrilling and rewarding hikes in Zion: Angel’s Landing. This 5-mile round-trip trail climbs up a narrow ridge with sheer drop-offs on both sides and ends at a spectacular viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon. The hike is strenuous and not for those with a fear of heights, but the views are worth it.

To beat the crowds and the heat, start your hike as early as possible. You will need to take the park shuttle bus from the visitor center to the Grotto trailhead. It is free with your park entrance fee.

Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat for your hike. There are no water sources along the trail and it can get very hot during the day. Also, be careful of the steep drop-offs and hold on to the chains that are provided for safety.

🚗 Drive: After completing your hike, you can either have lunch at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. Then, pack up your camp and drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is about two hours away. It is famous for its hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations that create a surreal landscape. The park also has some of the best night skies in the world, with very low light pollution and high elevation.

🏕️ Camp: Check in at North Campground, which is located near the park’s main entrance and has sites with flush toilets and drinking water. The campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis and fills up quickly during peak season.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s trails such as the Rim Trail, which follows the edge of the amphitheater and offers stunning views of the hoodoos, or the Navajo Loop Trail, which descends into the canyon and passes by some of the most iconic formations, such as Thor’s Hammer and Wall Street.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head to Ruby’s Inn, which is a historic lodge and restaurant that has been serving visitors since 1916. Ruby’s Inn has a buffet, a steakhouse, and a pizza place, as well as a general store and a gift shop.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or join a ranger-led night sky program at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. Bryce Canyon has one of the highest concentrations of hoodoos in the world and they create a dramatic silhouette against the starry sky. You can also see the Milky Way, constellations, and planets with the naked eye or with a telescope.

Day 3: Explore Bryce Canyon and Drive to Capitol Reef National Park

🥾 Explore: Wake up early and catch the sunrise at one of the park’s viewpoints, such as Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, or Inspiration Point. The hoodoos glow with different colors as the sun rises and creates a magical scene.

🥾 Explore: After breakfast at your campsite, you can explore more of the park’s trails, such as the Fairyland Loop Trail, which is an 8-mile loop that takes you through a fairy tale landscape of hoodoos, arches, and spires, or the Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is a 5.5-mile loop that passes by some of the most famous formations, such as the Wall of Windows and the Cathedral.

🚗 Drive: For lunch, you can either have a picnic at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. Then, pack up your camp and drive to Capitol Reef National Park, which is about two and a half hours away. This park is a hidden gem that preserves a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold. The park has colorful cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges, as well as historic orchards, petroglyphs, and pioneer buildings.

🏕️ Camp: Check in at Fruita Campground, which is located in the Fruita Historic District and has sites with flush toilets and drinking water. The campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis and fills up quickly during peak season.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s attractions, such as the Scenic Drive, which is a 25-mile round-trip road that takes you through some of the most scenic parts of the park, or the Gifford House Store and Museum, which is a restored pioneer home that sells homemade pies, jams, and breads.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head to Torrey, a small town just outside the park that has some restaurants and cafes. Some of the best options are Cafe Diablo, which serves Southwestern cuisine with a twist, or Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe, which offers American and Mexican food.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or join a ranger-led night sky program at the Ripple Rock Nature Center. Capitol Reef has some of the darkest skies in the country and you can see the Milky Way, constellations, and planets with ease. You can also see some of the park’s features illuminated by moonlight, such as Chimney Rock and Castle Rock.

Day 4: Hike to Hickman Bridge and Drive to Goblin Valley State Park

🍗 Food: Wake up early and have breakfast at your campground or at one of the orchards in the park. You can pick your own fruit from the trees during the harvest season, which runs from June to October. The orchards have apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums.

🥾 Explore: After breakfast, you can hike to Hickman Bridge, which is a 2-mile round-trip trail that leads to a natural arch that spans 133 feet. The trail also passes by some petroglyphs and a historic cabin.

🚗 Drive: For lunch, you can either have a picnic at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. Then, pack up your camp and drive to Goblin Valley State Park, which is about an hour and a half away.

🏕️ Camp: Check in at Goblin Valley Campground, which has sites with picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets. The campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis and fills up quickly during peak season.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s attractions, such as the Valley of Goblins, which is a three-square-mile area that is filled with goblins (thousands of mushroom-shaped rock formations of different shapes and sizes). You can wander around the valley and create your own names for the goblins, such as King Arthur, Snoopy, or ET.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head to Green River, which is a small town about 30 minutes away that has some restaurants and gas stations. Some of the best options are Tamarisk Restaurant, which serves American and Mexican food with a view of the Green River, or Ray’s Tavern, which is a local favorite for burgers and steaks.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or spend some time among the goblins in this International Dark Sky Park. Goblin Valley has some of the best night skies in the state and you can see the Milky Way above some of the goblins lit up by crescent moonlight or your own flashlight.

Day 5: Explore Goblin Valley and Drive to Natural Bridges National Monument

🍗 Food: Wake up early and have breakfast at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park.

🥾 Explore: After breakfast, you can explore more of the park’s attractions, such as the Three Sisters, which are three tall goblins that stand next to each other, or the Goblin’s Lair, which is a large cavern that is hidden behind a wall of goblins. You can also try some of the park’s activities, such as hiking, biking, or geocaching.

🚗 Drive: For lunch, you can either have a picnic at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. Then, pack up your camp and drive to Natural Bridges National Monument, which is about an hour away. This park is a scenic spot that features three natural bridges that were carved by water erosion over millions of years. Natural Bridges also has some of the darkest skies in the country and is a designated International Dark Sky Park.

🏕️ Camp: Check in at Natural Bridges Campground, which has picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets. The campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis and fills up quickly during peak season.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s attractions, such as the Bridge View Drive, which is a 9-mile loop road that takes you to viewpoints of the three bridges: Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo. You can also hike to the bridges via short trails that descend into the canyons.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head to Blanding, which is a small town about 30 minutes away that has some restaurants and gas stations. Some of the best options are Patio Drive In, which serves burgers, shakes, and ice cream, or Homestead Steakhouse, which offers steaks, ribs, and salads.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or join a ranger-led night sky program at the park’s visitor center. Natural Bridges has some of the best night skies in the country and you will really enjoy the Milky Way and constellations here. You can also see some of the bridges lit up by moonlight and have fun with some astrophotography.

Day 6: Drive to Monument Valley and Explore the Navajo Tribal Park

🍗 Food: Wake up early and have breakfast at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. You can also visit the park’s visitor center, which has exhibits, maps, and souvenirs.

🚗 Drive: After breakfast, pack up your camp and drive to Monument Valley, which is about two hours away. Monument Valley is a stunning landscape that features towering sandstone buttes and mesas that rise from the desert floor. The valley is located within the Navajo Nation and is a sacred place for the Navajo people.

🏕️ Camp: Check in at The View Campground, which is located within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and has sites with picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets. The campground has a spectacular view of the valley and the iconic Mittens formations.

🥾 Explore: After setting up your camp, you can explore some of the park’s attractions, such as the Scenic Drive, which is a 17-mile loop road that takes you to some of the most famous viewpoints and formations, such as John Ford’s Point, Three Sisters, Totem Pole, and North Window. You can either drive your own vehicle or join a guided tour by a Navajo guide.

🍗 Food: For lunch, you can either have a picnic at your campground or at one of the picnic areas in the park. You can also try some of the local cuisine at The View Restaurant, which serves Navajo tacos, mutton stew, fry bread, and blue corn mush.

🥾 Explore: After lunch, you can learn more about the Navajo culture and history at the park’s visitor center, which has exhibits, films, and souvenirs. You can also visit some of the nearby attractions, such as Goulding’s Lodge, which is a historic trading post and museum that has memorabilia from the movies that were filmed in Monument Valley, or Mystery Valley, which is an area that has ancient Anasazi ruins and rock art.

🍗 Food: For dinner, you can either cook at your campsite or head back to The View Restaurant or Goulding’s Lodge for more options.

⭐ Stargaze: After dark, you can enjoy some stargazing at your campground or join a ranger-led night sky program at the park’s visitor center. Monument Valley has some of the darkest skies in the region and the buttes and mesas silhouetted by moonlight look amazing.

Day 7: Drive Back to St. George and Depart

🥾 Explore: Wake up early and catch the sunrise at your campground or at one of the park’s viewpoints. The valley glows with different colors as the sun rises and creates a breathtaking scene.

🚗 Drive: After breakfast, pack up your camp and drive back to St. George, which is about four hours away. You can either fly out from St. George Regional Airport or drive back to Las Vegas, which is about two hours away.

🥾 Explore: On your way back, you can stop by some of the other attractions in Southwest Utah, such as Cedar Breaks National Monument, which is a natural amphitheater that has colorful hoodoos and wildflowers, or Snow Canyon State Park, which is a scenic park that has red sandstone cliffs, lava tubes, and sand dunes.

After a week of adventure in Southwest Utah, you’ll return home with a new perspective. An escape from light pollution into landscapes unchanged since ancient civilizations will give you a different view of our tiny place in the universe and the timelessness of the Utah night sky.

Takacs Family in front of Jayco RV
The Takacs Family

About the Authors

We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as “Roadtrippin’ with Takacs”. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.

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