Visiting Utah Destinations On A Budget
If you love the Great Outdoors, the Beehive State is definitely a place you need to visit. With five national parks packed close together, you can enjoy fun activities like white-water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and cycling through stunning landscapes.
With so much to do in Utah, it’s easy to let money flow through your fingers like water. But you don’t have to re-mortgage your home to enjoy the best the state has to offer. With a little careful planning, you can find affordable accommodation and have lots of fun while on a budget.
Get To Utah For Less
When traveling to Utah, you’d probably assume the best place to arrive by air is Salt Lake City International Airport. Probably not.
Just southwest of the bottom southwest corner of Utah is McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas. This is the 9th-busiest airport in the world, so flights there are competitive. Finding a budget ticket will be easy. And it’s actually closer from Vegas to Zion National Park and Dixie National Forrest in Utah than from Salt Lake City.
If you’re planning to explore all the great national parks in Utah, you can hire a vehicle at competitive rates in Vegas (cheaper than Salt Lake City). Then you can plan a circular route around the beautiful attractions of Utah, ending back in Vegas.
Simply leave Vegas on the I-15 headed northeast to St. George, and you’ll be in Zion National Park within 3 hours. However, I’d recommend a lunch break and grocery shop in St. George before hitting the wilderness. You’ll be able to fatten up for less and buy cheap groceries for a budget camping adventure in the park.
Stay In Utah On A Budget
You don’t have to break the bank to stay in Utah. If you really want to keep costs low, I’d recommend you split your nights between camping and staying in low-cost motels or national park lodges.
If you’ve got a tent, you can find affordable campsites in all the national parks. Not only will this cost you little, but you’ll also benefit from waking in the center of the place you want to explore. You can even stay on many campsites for free if you buy a US Parks Pass (see below).
Some camping grounds are private, but in Utah many are public. You can find fancy places with flush toilets and running water, or you can choose more primitive sites that cost less.
National Park Lodges
If you prefer a roof over your head, check out the old ranger stations and lodges rented out by the National Park Service. While many of these will be basic, they’ll usually provide some modern conveniences and often will be cheaper than a motel. And, like the campsites, you’ll wake up in the middle of where you want to be.
Eat Economically In Utah
Cooking for yourself on a portable stove is a great option for economy meals. If you stock up at Walmart and other large stores along the roadside instead of tourist-oriented convenience stores near the parks, you’ll get your groceries for less.
Do Fun Things In Utah For Free
Nothing worthwhile in life comes for free, but you can considerably lower the costs involved. I save my money for the fun tours, such as white-water rafting trips. Other adventures in the Great Outdoors, I can enjoy on a tight budget.
Activities such as hiking, mountain bike riding, and cycling in national parks involve the initial cost of the equipment you use and entry fees into the parks and use of the carparks. Here’s where you can make a massive saving!
America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass
Buy an annual US Parks Pass. This beautiful plastic card provides access to the five national parks in Utah (or any of the 2,000+ Federal Recreation Sites across the nation) for the driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle.
This means you and your family get free park entrance, day-use fees, and amenity fees throughout your Utah adventure for a single, discounted payment.
There are a range of passes available directly from the National Park Service. A standard “America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass” costs $80.
Current US military personnel and their dependents can obtain a pass for FREE. Permanently disabled American citizens or residents are entitled to a free Access Pass. Federal agency volunteers with 250 service hours are also entitled to a free Volunteer Pass. Seniors can buy an annual Senior Pass for $20 or a lifetime pass for $80.
Cycling is a popular road sport in Utah. Cycling helps you stay healthy and happy. The Tour of Utah is one of only five UCI-sanctioned pro-cycling events in North America. You’ll find several great National Recreation Trails in the Beehive State.
While you’re in the Dixie National Forest, you can also enjoy the Red Canyon Bicycle Trail. This is a paved, National Recreation Trail passing picturesque red canyons, tall cliffs, and pine forest.
In Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll find the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. This is a fantastic, 8-mile stretch of road with multiple attractions along the way. You can admire the 240-million-year-old Moenkopi rock formation and the historic Mormon settler town of Fruita, founded in the 1800s.
Utah is a treasure house of fantastic mountain bike trails, such as the Slickrock Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab and the Thunder Mountain Trail in the Dixie National Forest.
The world-famous Slickrock Trail runs across eroded ancient sea beds and petrified sand dunes. The sandstone surface of the trail provides excellent traction for mountain biking but is also noted for its unforgiving abrasive qualities when riders fall.
The Thunder Mountain Trail is found in the Red Canyon just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. It provides stunning views and a grueling ride. But if it proves too much of a challenge, there are 24 easier mountain biking trails around the Red Canyon.
With five national parks, obviously Utah is a great place to hike. Canyonlands National Park, for example, boasts 100s of miles of trails highlighting both the cultural and natural features of this fascinating area.
The trails through the colorful landscape of mesas, buttes, and canyons are marked by small cairns (rock piles), but you’re advised to bring a high-quality topographic map. These scenic hikes are well worth it for the panoramic views of the Green River and the many stunning rock formations you’ll see along the way.
This Utah national parks road trip itinerary is the perfect way to see all five parks on one epic 10-day road trip!
Utah truly has something for everyone! Hiking, biking, camping, and many more outdoor recreational options help make Utah the perfect vacation destination. These budget friendly tips will help you plan your visit and save money but still allow you to experience the beauty and fun that Utah offers.
Have you visited Utah and have other budget saving tips to share? Tell us about it in a comment below.
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As small as it is, Bryce Canyon is one of my favorites.
Bryce is one of my favs too. Go gorgeous!
Utah seems like a very laid back place. Thanks for sharing.
Laidback, gorgeous, full of things to do…..Utah is nearly perfect in every way!
Good to know that the airport in Las Vegas is actually closer. I’ve been wanting to visit Utah since my husband came home from a trip bragging about how beautiful it was there. Looks like a great place to explore.
Oh yes! Typically flying in to Vegas is quite budget friendly too.
lovely! I feel like every travel excursion any more is on a budget LOL so I appreciate this!
Since I retired from teaching, I’m making do on a super teeny, tiny pension. Everything is on a budget for me too so I like to share less expensive travel options when I can.
Thanks for mentioning the America the Beautiful Pass. I’m going to look into getting one. Great deal!
I bought an America the Beautiful pass for my husband for his birthday last October. We’re looking forward to using it!
Those skies and views are absolutely stunning! Thank you for sharing this with us.
You’re welcome! Utah is simple stunning!
This is such a beautiful area of the country. I remember hiking and camping here with friends when I lived in Colorado. So much fun. I just remember I couldn’t get over how hot it was during the day and cold at night. It was new for me being from the east coast.
Such beautiful photos. Great tips as well. Thanks for the suggestion of flying into Vegas! That little tip can be used in so many other cases too.
Agreed! McCarran International Airport is ideal for much travel in that part of the country.
Another money saving tip is 4th graders get into the National Parks for free! Also, Near Zions the Ponderosa Resort is amazing (but cheaper on off season).
Yes!!! I have a four years to go as my oldest granddaughter is just in Kindergarten this year. I love the free park pass for 4th graders and their families.
thank you for showing all the free attractions! there is always something budget friendly to see 😍
Budget friendly is my favorite! 🙂
One of the great things about living in Utah is the easy access to this beauty. We always camp, because it allows us to travel for so much cheaper. Plus, it’s part of the experience!
Utah is chock full of adventure, nearly everywhere you go. For that reason alone, it’s one of my favorite travel destination in the US.
The company I work for has an office in Utah, so I try to get out there as much as possible. There is so much natural beauty to be seen!
What an awesome work perk!!!! Have fun on your next visit to Utah!
I’d like to visit the parks. Is that you need to pay for the parks if you are camping there. or is it to visit them as well?
Most parks require admission and also the payment of camping fees. There are options for free camping, primarily outside of national parks.
We enjoy visiting Utah. Camping in the nation parks is something that we like to do. Just like you said, you get to be right there when you wake up in the morning.
Yes! Camping has always been my preferred type of travel adventure. Being in the midst of nature is the best!
Utah has been on my to-do list far too long. It’s so beautiful and love these money-saving tips to make it happen!
I’m happy to help! Let me know if you need any other information and I’ll see what I can come up with.
Utah is gorgeous for the outdoors. Love the helpful tip about flying into Vegas as an alternative
Vegas is my preferred airport because there’s usually affordable fares to fly into McCarran International Airport.
I’m glad to help! Let me know if you need more information.
This looks like an excellent place to visit. I only went to Salt Lake City once.
I love Utah. Some of our favorite families live there so we are lucky we get to visit them and see the beauty everywhere. Love the photos!!!
Great tips on how to visit Utah on a budget. We plan to get that way sometime in 2020. Looks gorgeous.
I’m always looking to travel on a budget. Utah is high on my bucket list. Great tips and suggestions.
Great tips!! Especially flying into Vegas!!