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Navigating Utah’s Mighty 5 For The Autoimmune Solo Traveler is about preparing for travel to a hot climate with autoimmune disease. Considerations include careful planning, proper gear, and always filling your gas tank. To ensure a comfortable and safe journey, it may seem like a daunting task at first, but it can be done.

Begin by consulting with your healthcare provider to discuss potential challenges and receive personalized advice, including obtaining a letter outlining your condition and required medications for travel. Familiarize yourself with local healthcare facilities at your destination to navigate any unexpected situations effectively.

Preparing For The Sun and Heat

In the hot climate, staying well-hydrated is essential for managing symptoms and preventing fatigue. Pack a reusable water bottle and consider oral rehydration solutions to maintain hydration levels. Additionally, use high SPF sunscreen, UV-protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun’s rays. When it comes to clothing, opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics to stay cool, and consider bringing a cooling towel or scarf for instant relief in extreme heat. I use and practice each of the steps above. Read in more detail with examples here.

Last but not least, plan a flexible itinerary that accommodates your energy levels, including rest periods to manage fatigue associated with autoimmune conditions. Schedule activities during cooler parts of the day to avoid peak heat, and ensure your plans allow for indoor or shaded options to escape the sun when needed. Last but not least, pack your field guide to memorialize your trip.

Research local eateries to identify options that align with dietary restrictions, and pack snacks that meet your needs. Finally, travel insurance is usually a good idea. Although I don’t typically use it myself, my credit card has extensive protection for a variety of situations.

With these considerations in mind, you can embark on your journey well-prepared and confident in managing your autoimmune health in a hot climate. Safe travels!

Beginning Your Trip

Ready? Good! Here is an itinerary for an ultimate adventure road trip for Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks. It packs beauty, diversity, and convenience all in one.

This specific sample itinerary is to travel North To South, and below you will read details and quick notes about each park. This route includes eleven days of comfortable scheduling, but it can be done in nine. The few extra days can be spent in Moab joining in the many forms of mountain fun. Summer at Utah’s Mighty five is hot but tolerable, and the unstoppable sights and beauty of nature is definitely worth it. Continue reading then grab your map!

Make sure you can return your rental car to a different drop off location. An option that works well is picking up your car rental at the Salt Lake City Airport, and returning it to Harry Reid International in Las Vegas.

One advantage of North to South route is no back-tracking! By having a different starting and ending point, you will max out your check-list of new sights. For example cool petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock.

example of unique sights along Utah road trip
Newspaper Rock: Images were carved around 2000 years ago by people from the Navajo, Anasazi, Fremont, Pueblo, Anglo and Archaic cultures

A disadvantage is the long stretch between Canyonlands and Capital Reef, 206 miles and 5+ hours. This is manageable but only if proper measures are taken to stay safe.

Specifically, keep your gas tank above 50% and always fill when you pass a service station. Being from the northeast and naive to the dangers of desert driving, I was blessed by roadside angels when I almost ran out of gas. Another important consideration is having more supplies than you think you’ll need, including food, water, spare tires, first aid, and basic car knowledge with oil and overheating. This doesn’t have to be a disadvantage if you take seriously the risks of problems that can be encountered when driving through hundreds of remote desert roads.

author shows example of route for road trip in hours
I am a visual person, so my hand drawn map of the state of Utah helped me a bunch!

Embark on your journey at Salt Lake City, and drive three hours to Moab, and spend the first day relaxing. This will help your body adjust to any time changes and climate differences. Moab is the desert, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A few tips about Moab…this spot provides quick and easy access to your first two parks, Arches and Canyonlands. Moab is hip and chill, you’ll want to soak up the good vibes while there.

As a base camp, Moab is a fantastic summer destination with its stunning red rock landscapes and outdoor adventures. There’s so much to do, you could really spend your entire trip here! Here’s a 3-day itinerary to make the most of your visit While there, maximize the features of the town and book a rafting trip down the Colorado River  and a Jeep Tour. 

I booked a half day tour from Moab and it was awesome. Besides incredible sights of cliffs and the Colorado River, I enjoyed the local knowledge and experience.

large boulder at Island In The Sky, Canyonlands

Moab’s off -roading tours are suited for every danger style, including none at all. Keep reading for details!

Day 2: CANYONLANDS – Island in the Sky

Discover the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park on an exciting half-day tour in a 4×4 vehicle.

signage in Island In The Sky for motorist

Morning:

Drive or Guided Tour of Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky District.

Off road tour through Island in the Sky
Your Jeep Tour will take you to dizzying heights

Late Morning:

Stop outside the park boundary to explore ancient Native American rock art that was carved into the cliffs by the Ancestral Puebloans.

Continue to the jeep trail that leads up to the Island in the Sky district. Along the way, you’ll stop at vistas such as Fossil Point and Musselman Arch.

sign for Musselman Arch, a scary and magnificent  natural arch along White Rim Trail

Musselman Arch is a stunning natural rock bridge made of a thin arch that stretches about 187 feet long. You can actually walk across it, though it’s quite narrow. This arch shows how wind and water can shape the land into amazing forms, with deep canyons and high cliffs all around.

Don’t skip Musselman Arch on your White Rim Road tour. It’s a bit off the beaten path, making it a peaceful spot to enjoy nature, self heal, and avoid the crowds. It’s a great place for taking pictures (safely!) and meditate mindfully on the wild beauty of the park.

up close view of Musselman Arch
Climb the arch if you dare. I sat along the edge, that was close enough for me.

Afternoon:

See the remarkable Gooseneck Overlook and travel along a section of the White Rim trail.

Gooseneck overlook
Iconic view of Gooseneck Overlook on Shafer Trail Road

Lunch:

Enjoy a picnic at the Grand View Point Overlook with breathtaking vistas of the canyons.

Late Afternoon:

Explore the Upheaval Dome, a unique geological feature, and take a short hike to its overlook.

expansive breathtaking view along Island of the Sky

Evening:

Return to Moab and unwind with dinner in town.

Day 3: COLORADO RIVER RAFTING

Morning

Embark on an exciting half-day Colorado River rafting trip to Fisher’s Towers (yes I chose it for my name). Companies offer both calm and whitewater options, catering to your preference. If your guide offers you the chance to jump in the river from the boat and the water is calm enough for you to feel comfortable, take it! When will you get an opportunity like that again? I was hesitant at first but jumped in and it was amazing.

Lunch

Enjoy a riverside picnic during the rafting trip.

Afternoon

Continue your river adventure, taking in the stunning red rock scenery.

long shot of Colorado River scenic background
Highly recommend if given the chance to swim during your rafting trip to take it!

Evening

Return to Moab and explore Moab’s unique shops and art galleries.

Day 4: DEAD HORSE STATE PARK

Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah offers stunning panoramic views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. Here’s a simple one-day itinerary to make the most of your visit:

Morning

Arrive at Dead Horse Point State Park early in the morning to beat the heat and crowds.

Start your day with a visit to the Visitor Center. Here, you can pick up trail maps, learn about the park’s geology and history, and get information on current trail conditions.

Head to the Dead Horse Point Overlook. This iconic viewpoint offers breathtaking views of the Colorado River winding through the canyons below. Take your time to soak in the scenery and capture some memorable photos.

Lunch

Enjoy a packed picnic lunch at one of the picnic areas within the park. There are shaded areas with tables where you can relax and refuel.

Afternoon

Explore the East Rim Trail. This easy 1.5-mile loop trail provides additional stunning vistas along the rim of the canyon. It’s a great way to experience more of the park’s beauty on foot.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have more time, consider the longer West Rim Trail, a 2.5-mile hike that leads to another viewpoint.

Evening

Visit the Shafer Canyon Overlook for a different perspective of the canyon and the Shafer Trail below. It’s a short walk from the parking area.

Spend some quiet moments at the overlook, taking in the tranquility and immensity of the landscape.

Enjoy the sunset at Dead Horse Point Overlook, the same spot you visited in the morning. Watching the changing colors of the canyon as the sun sets is a truly magical experience.

Aptly named, ANP offers arching whimsical rock formations of various shapes and heights. It’s centrally located in nearby Moab, making it an easy start to your adventure. The shining star of Utah’s Mighty Five, Arches is a gem, known for its stunning red rock formations, slot canyons, and diverse landscapes. Here are two of the best hikes in Arches National Park that will allow you to connect with nature, embark on an adventure, and explore this unique environment.

iconic Delicate Arch rock formation
“Rock Stars” abound in Arches National Park

Few, except upon entering the park. The irony is the timed entry system was created to prevent this. However, once inside the park, traffic and trails were minimally populated. According to the locals, there is no wait or fee if you go very early or later at night.

  1. Delicate Arch Trail:
    • Trail Type: Out-and-back
    • Distance: Approximately 3 miles round trip
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Description: The Delicate Arch Trail is perhaps the most famous hike in the park, and for good reason. It leads you to the iconic Delicate Arch, the symbol of Utah and seen on the state license plate. The hike takes you through a rugged landscape of slickrock and offers fantastic views of the surrounding canyons. As you approach the arch, you’ll witness the stunning beauty of this natural wonder. This hike provides a sense of empowerment as you reach your destination, and the arch itself is a beautiful place for contemplation and appreciation of nature’s artistry.
  2. Devil’s Garden Trail:
    • Trail Type: Loop
    • Distance: Approximately 7.2 miles round trip (including all side trails)
    • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
    • Description: Devil’s Garden Trail is an excellent choice for those looking to explore a variety of arches and rock formations in one hike. The loop takes you past several notable arches, including Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and more. It’s a longer hike, but the rewards are numerous, and the chance to see so many arches in one day is a unique experience. The diverse landscape and natural beauty along this trail make it a great place for self-discovery and awe at the forces of nature.
panoramic view of roadway Arches National Park that you'll see when Navigating Utah's Mighty 5 For The Autoimmune Solo Traveler
Vivid Panoramic views so breathtaking you’ll feel as if you were transported to another dimension

Canyonlands is a testament to the Earth’s ancient forces at work. The park’s sprawling canyons, carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, are nothing short of breathtaking. The diversity of landscapes, from the towering red rock spires in Island in the Sky to the labyrinthine canyons of The Needles, will leave you in awe of nature’s artistry.

It’s hard to conceptualize the vastness of Canyonlands unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. For this part of your road trip, you’ll enter the park in your own vehicle. However, it is still extremely remote and cell service can be unreliable.

drive in Utah expansive views
The drive to Canyonlands is a gorgeous as the park itself

The Needles part of Canyonlands National Park is found in the southeast corner. It’s named after its tall, pointed rock formations. You can get there in about 90 minutes from Moab or in an hour from Monticello, Utah, by driving on UT 211.

view of Canyonlands

This area is known for its amazing scenery, including unique rock spires, deep canyons, and a variety of trails for hiking. It’s less crowded than other parts of the park, making it a great spot for peace and quiet.

Little to None

  1. Mesa Arch Trail:
  • Trail Type: Short Loop
  • Distance: Approximately 0.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Description: The Mesa Arch Trail is a short and easy hike that provides one of the most iconic views in Canyonlands National Park. The trail takes you to Mesa Arch, perched on the edge of a cliff, where you can witness a breathtaking sunrise or simply gaze out over the vast canyon below. The arch frames the landscape, creating a unique and spiritually uplifting experience. It’s a great place for self-reflection and quiet contemplation, especially during the peaceful morning hours.

2. Chesler Park Loop Trail (Needles District):

  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approximately 11 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Description: If you’re up for a more challenging and rewarding hike, the Chesler Park Loop in the Needles District of Canyonlands is a fantastic choice. This trail takes you through a remote and stunning landscape filled with towering spires and colorful rock formations. The loop includes sections of narrow slot canyons, open meadows, and panoramic viewpoints. The solitude and unique geology of this hike make it a perfect opportunity for self-discovery and empowerment. Be prepared for a longer day of hiking and carry plenty of water, but the beauty of Chesler Park is well worth the effort

Quiet and understated, Capitol Reef has a unique ability to stir the soul. Sitting on the rim of a canyon, gazing into the abyss, you’ll feel an unparalleled connection with the natural world.

Visitor Center Sign Capitol Reef National Park

The stillness and solitude are ideal for meditation or quiet introspection. The night skies here are also perfect for stargazing, offering a celestial connection that’s nothing short of spiritual.

Little to None

view from inside unique and curious rock formations
Trailhead sign Hickman Bridge
  1. Hickman Bridge Trail:
    • Trail Type: Out-and-back
    • Distance: Approximately 1.8 miles round trip
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Description: The Hickman Bridge Trail is a great introductory hike in Capitol Reef. It leads you to the impressive Hickman Natural Bridge, an arching rock formation that spans 133 feet. Along the way, you’ll pass through a lush canyon with towering sandstone walls and desert vegetation. The hike offers a mix of spirituality, as you walk in the shadows of the towering cliffs, and appreciation for the unique geology of the park. It’s a relatively short and rewarding hike suitable for most visitors.
  2. Grand Wash Trail:
    • Trail Type: Out-and-back
    • Distance: Approximately 6.9 miles round trip
    • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
    • Description: Check the weather for any threat of flash flooding. Grand Wash is so soo fun!! There are small little cave-like rock formations perfect for nestling in and snuggling up with nature! A fun spot to observe chimpmunks, Grand Wash is famous for its deep, narrow slot canyon, which provides a unique and immersive experience feeling tiny compares to the towering walls of sandstone.
author using the rock formations as a seat
Grand Wash Trail is cozy and peaceful

There is so much to say about Bryce. There’s the colorful, tall rock spikes called hoodoos.

hoodoos in Bryce Canyon
Hoodoos remind me of the drip castles we made as children from wet beach sand / mud, except these were made by giants.

It’s not just one canyon, but a series of natural bowls on the edge of a plateau filled with these red, orange, and white rocks. You can take easy walks or longer hikes to see them up close, or enjoy the views from the rim.

view Fairyland Canyon
Beauty, peace, tranquility, and solitude from time immemorial

Minimal

Trail Sign Navajo Loop
  • Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail:
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approximately 2.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Description: This combined loop hike is one of the most popular and iconic trails in Bryce Canyon.
  • Begin at Sunset Point, descending into the canyon through a series of switchbacks. As you descend, you’ll be surrounded by the vibrant red and orange hoodoos, making it a visually stunning experience. You’ll reach the Queen’s Garden, where you can spot the famous Queen Victoria hoodoo. The return ascent takes you through Wall Street, a narrow slot canyon. The Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail offer a perfect blend of hiking, spirituality, and appreciation for the park’s unique geology.
Wall Street Trail and Queens Garden
I hiked the descent first

I suggest starting your hike by going down the Queen’s Garden trail, then moving on to the Peekaboo Loop. After that, go up either side of the Navajo Loop. Finish your hike by walking back to Sunrise Point on the Rim Trail, going in a clockwise direction.

Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce
This trail is an absolute must when in Bryce Canyon
Wall Street in Bryce Canyon hike
So much breathtaking beauty on the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail

2. Fairyland Loop Trail:

  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approximately 8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Description: For a longer and less crowded hike in Bryce Canyon, the Fairyland Loop is an excellent choice. Starting at Fairyland Point, this trail takes you on a journey through the less-visited northern section of the park. You’ll encounter a variety of hoodoos, rock formations, and expansive vistas. The solitude and beauty of this trail make it a great opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual connection with the natural world. Be prepared for some elevation changes and challenging terrain, but the rewards are well worth it.
Trail sign Fairyland Canyon

My very favorite hike, Fairyland Loop Trail is in my very favorite National Park, Bryce. This jaw dropping National Park isn’t just a destination; it’s a catalyst for personal growth. The challenges of the terrain and the solitude of the wilderness provide the perfect environment for self-healing and empowerment. It’s a place where you can face your fears, conquer obstacles, and emerge stronger and more self-assured. Record it all in your field guide.

aerial view of hoodoos
Perfect setting for meditating

Bryce Canyon is also great for stargazing because of its clear skies. It’s a beautiful place for outdoor adventures and seeing unique rock formations.

For the active and adventurous, Zion is a playground. Hiking trails, both easy and challenging, offer opportunities for solo travelers to test their limits and push beyond their comfort zones.

Visitor Center Zion National Park

Don’t miss the iconic Zion Observation Point at sunrise – like many destinations in the Southwest, it’s a moment that’s both spiritually uplifting and visually stunning.

For the ultimate adventure, embark on either or both of the hikes listed below. I was not able to obtain a permit to hike Angel’s Landing on my last trip there, but make sure you reserve your permit early for your visit! The hike is challenging, but the solitude and self-reflection opportunity makes it worth it. To expand your horizons even further, try camping in Zion National Park and be ready to experience an unforgettable trip. You’ll find everything you need for a safe and thrilling time…including camping gear, trail guides, even canyoneering!

Expect to share the space with the multitudes. Free shuttle busses transport visitors throughout the park

front lawn Zion National Park
Rare shade from 100-foot-high Cottonwood Tree in front of Zion Lodge
  1. The Narrows:
  • Trail Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: Variable (up to 16 miles round trip)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Description: The Narrows is an iconic hike that takes you deep into Zion Canyon, wading through the Virgin River between towering red rock walls. This unique experience offers opportunities for self-reflection as you navigate the narrow, winding canyon. The hike can be customized to your desired length, making it suitable for a range of fitness levels. The sheer beauty and solitude of The Narrows make it a must-do for any nature-loving traveler.

2. Angels Landing:

  • Trail Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 5.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Description: Angels Landing is a thrilling and challenging hike that rewards you with panoramic views of Zion Canyon. The trail involves steep switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles, followed by a narrow, exposed ridge with chains to help you ascend.
explains how to hike Angel's Landing trail for your Utah's Mighty 5 For The Autoimmune Solo Traveler
Permits to hike Angel’s Landing are available by two lottery processes.

Return car rental and bask in your awesomeness! You did it! You completed a 10 day road trip and saw Utah’s Mighty Five…sights that will continue to inspire awe and joy. Bask in your accomplish on your flight back home sweet home.

Approximate total mileage for starting at Salt Lake City Airport, visiting Utah’s Mighty 5, and ending at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas:

  1. Salt Lake City Airport to Moab, UT (Near Arches National Park)
    • Distance: Approximately 230 miles
    • Route: I-15 S to US-6 E to US-191 S
  2. Moab, UT to Arches National Park
    • Distance: Approximately 5 miles
    • Route: US-191 N
  3. Arches National Park to Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky District)
    • Distance: Approximately 30 miles
    • Route: US-191 S to UT-313 W
  4. Canyonlands National Park to Capitol Reef National Park
    • Distance: Approximately 140 miles
    • Route: UT-313 E to US-191 S to UT-24 E
  5. Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park
    • Distance: Approximately 115 miles
    • Route: UT-24 W to UT-12 S
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park
    • Distance: Approximately 72 miles
    • Route: UT-12 W to US-89 S to UT-9 W
  7. Zion National Park to Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas, NV)
    • Distance: Approximately 160 miles
    • Route: I-15 S

Adding these segments together gives the total approximate road trip mileage:

230 miles + 5 miles +30 miles + 140 miles + 115 miles + 72 miles + 160 miles =

Total = 752 Miles

Final Thoughts On Navigating Utah’s Mighty 5 For The Autoimmune Solo Traveler

I hope you’ve read enough to be inspired to embark on your own empowering journey. Utah is a this remarkable destination to the heart of the iconic American Southwest. I know this road trip created a sense of pride and freedom in me, as an autoimmune warrior and trauma survivor. There were moments that I thought I was going to break down and cry, like when the driving was endless and my fear of running out of gas was rising to unmanageable heights. But also quiet moments of gratitude and healing, reminders of the nature empowerment that comes from keeping the faith and using mindfulness. By not giving up, I added National Park road trips in Wyoming, Montana, California, Arizona, Maine, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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