How to Tackle the Utah’s 5 National Parks in 5 Days on a Teacher’s Budget

Being a travel junkie on a teacher’s budget requires some careful planning and cheapskate masterminding.  Here is how we conquered the Mighty 5 on the cheap through backpacking and boondocking.

Day 1 – Denver to Zion

We drove the straight 9 hours to Zion Kolob Visitor’s Center and were hoping to get a walk up backpacking permit, but after what was a confusing conversation with the park ranger that the supposed daily “walk-up” sites were booked the rest of the week.  So we had to think quick and go for Plan-B.  We stumbled upon a fantastic site by Eagle Crags Trailhead located on BLM land… so it is FREE. All sites say 4WD High Clearance road, but my and my ford escape made it up easily.  There are 4-5 campsites past the trailhead with astonishing views. Make sure you pack in your own water.  Here is a site to explain how best to find the trailhead.

 

Also one of my favorite tailgating/camping splurges are my hitch hanging chairs.  They were amazing sitting on the edge of the cliff to watch the sunset.

Day 2 – Zion to Bryce Canyon

We made our way into the park at 6:30am and man am I glad we did. We parked at the visitor’s center and got on the first shuttle at 7am to head to Angel’s Landing.  This is an iconic trail in Zion that has you holding onto chains for dear life along the last section.  It is a 5 mile roundtrip hike that gives the most astounding views in the park. Click here for an eHike explaining the trail.

 

 

We finished the hike and headed back to our car for lunch.  Since we got to the visitor’s center early we could pick a spot next to a picnic table.  Upon our return we found a mad frenzy or people. HOLY BUSY!!!! I’m so glad we caught the first bus out of there.  After dinner the line for the shuttle was all the way to the parking lot and would take hours to get through.  So here’s a trick. Walk the half mile along the Pa’rus trail to the Human History Museum and catch the bus there.

We caught the bus to the Temple of Sinawava to tackle the Narrows.  First off… we didn’t plan according for this adventure.  In March it is still COLD! Everyone that was prepared with gear, which I recommend renting as my Chacos and I were numb.

After we finished our full day it was time to head to Bryce Canyon. Less than a half mile away from the entrance of Bryce Canyon we scored an awesome boondocking site thanks to Adventure in Backpack and their post. Yet again another free night of camping.

Day 3 – Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef

We headed into the park at 7am to get a good start on the day.  We went straight for the Navajo Loop Trail, Sunset Point, to see the infamous Thor’s hammer.  We did the Navajo Loop/Peek-a-boo/Queens Garen figure 9 combo, which made for a great adventure through the hoodoos. Make sure to take in enough water for the 6.5 mile trek.  There are lots of switchbacks, causing the constant up and down to be more strenuous.

From Bryce Canyon we made the trek to Capitol Reef, we opted for the route through Escalante.  Make sure you have all the info you need before getting close to the park, as there is NO service for a 30 mile radius. We went to the visitors center to decide on which backpacking route we wanted to do.  We decided to take on the Upper Muley Twist Canyon.  To get to the trailhead you need to go down a 4WD road for 3 miles.  There is parking for low clearance cars before the road, but my ford escape made it down just fine, and there was even a Subaru at the trailhead.

Day 4 – Capitol Reef to Moab

 

Day 5 – Canyonlands and Arches

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