A Salt Lake City to El Paso RV road trip takes you through some of the most stunning scenery in the nation. You'll pass by red rock arches and canyons in national parks in Utah and then see a forested state park and volcanic rock formations in New Mexico. There's a little bit of history on the route as well, from ancient cliff dwellings in Colorado to the site of the Pancho Villa raid in New Mexico.
Arches National Park
Delicate Arch is featured on most of the Utah license plates you’ll pass on the road, and just before you reach Moab, you can see the real thing at Arches National Park. You can see Delicate Arch up close and personal by taking a three-hour moderately difficult hike, or you can view it from a couple of viewpoints along the 36-mile drive through the park. You’ll see many other famous rock formations as you drive: Watch for Balanced Rock, Turret Arch, and Double Arch. Stop by the visitor’s center at the entrance to see a listing of sights to see and hikes to take.
Canyonlands National Park
Just 32 miles from Moab is Canyonlands National Park, the largest national park in Utah. It is a fun hike to the top of Island in the Sky mesa, from which you can see 360-degree views of the park. Canyonlands is divided into three districts: Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles. The Maze and the Needles are not as easy to access but also offer beautiful views.
Mesa Verde National Park
You'll drive through the southwest corner of Colorado where you can visit Mesa Verde National Park. You can see Cliff Palace there, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Cliff Palace is only one of over 600 ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings that you can see in the park. Take Mesa Top Loop Road to see archaeological sites and scenic viewing spots, including Sun Point Overlook, from which you can see 12 different cliff dwellings and panoramic views of Cliff Canyon.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Picture a huge colony of bats flying out of their cavern at sunset to hunt for food. This is one of the most popular sights at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The colony of bats is so large that the experience can take up to 30 minutes, so amphitheater seating allows guests to relax and enjoy the sight. The bats are at the entrance to the network of underground caves. As you walk through the caves, soft lights highlight the stalactites and stalagmites you’ll see. Your walk ends in the Big Room, the main cavern, which is also accessible from an elevator in the visitor’s center.
White Sands National Park
About an hour before you reach Las Cruces, you can stop at White Sands National Park for a surreal view. It looks like snow in the heat of the desert, but it’s actually white sand formed of gypsum, or calcium sulfate. The park has white dunes and rippled flats as far as the eye can see. If you’d like, you can sled down the sand dunes.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Among the many sights you can see in the Moab area is Dead Horse Point State Park. Legend has it that Dead Horse Point used to be used as a horse corral for wild horses. Dead Horse Point Overlook provides amazing views — some of the most photographed in the world. The best view might be looking southwest from the overlook; you can see Canyonlands National Park and the gooseneck of the Colorado River some 2,000 feet below. Most of the hikes are easy to moderate, and the state park doesn’t get as crowded as the national parks close by, so it’s a rewarding stop on your itinerary.
Hyde Memorial State Park
If driving through miles of desert landscapes, albeit beautiful ones, on your Salt Lake City to El Paso road trip makes you long for a mountain getaway, Hyde Memorial State Park will be a welcome stop. Located in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, you’ll find pine forests and cooler temperatures, perfect for hiking and picnicking. In the wintertime, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are popular adventures in the park. Hyde Memorial is New Mexico’s first state park.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Elephant Butte Reservoir is New Mexico’s largest lake and the hub of Elephant Butte State Park. It was created in 1916 by a dam across the Rio Grande river. It has over 200 miles of shoreline and is 40 miles long. It’s easily New Mexico’s most popular lake, and it offers every type of watersport you can imagine.
City of Rocks State Park
Dramatic volcanic rock formations interspersed with paths resemble nothing so much as a city, hence the name. A large volcanic eruption about 35 million years ago, along with erosion, formed these impressive pinnacles and columns. After admiring the otherworldly view at City of Rocks, you can mountain bike, hike, and see a desert botanical garden. If you stay into the evening, you will delight in the dark night skies that are ideal for stargazing.
Pancho Villa State Park
Just north of the border with Mexico, Pancho Villa State Park commemorates a bit of history. Here is where Pancho Villa, a rebel Mexican leader, led an army of about 1,500 guerilla fighters to raid the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico. The band killed 19 people and burned the town. The United States pursued Pancho Villa in Mexico for two years but never captured him. You can see numerous historical exhibits at Pancho Villa State Park depicting the raid and its aftermath.
Rafting in Moab, Utah
Moab is a popular destination town for its nearby national parks as well as for its accessibility to the Green River. You can float down the river from Moab or take a white-water rafting trip.
Four Corners Monument
If visiting four states in one day is on your bucket list, here is an easy way to accomplish it. Even better, you can actually stand in four states at the same time. The Four Corners Monument, maintained by the Navajo Nation, is where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet and is worth a stop while in the area.
Very Large Array
South of Albuquerque, you'll find the Very Large Array, a radio astronomy telescope facility. The barren desert landscape is the backdrop for 27 huge radio telescopes set in a Y shape. The telescopes use radio waves to observe the universe. You can take a self-guided walking tour right up to the telescopes.
Provo has beautiful mountains and the scenic Provo Canyon. On one of the mountains, there is a big, white letter Y to indicate that Provo is the home of Brigham Young University. The Y Trail is a popular, moderately difficult hike up to the large letter. The Provo area has plenty of campgrounds and dump stations for your convenience.
Cortez is a town in southwestern Colorado that sits along the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, which highlights the unique landscape and history of the American Southwest. Cortez is in a rich archeological area, and Crow Canyon Archeological Center offers daylong or weeklong visitor programs. Cortez has a few campgrounds and dump stations in the area.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is famous for its hot air balloon festivals, and you can see hot air balloons in the skies on most days. A fun way to celebrate Albuquerque is to take a ride yourself. Albuquerque has lots of campgrounds and dump stations as it is a popular waypoint for travelers.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State University is in Las Cruces, and the city is a cultural center with many museums and art galleries. You can choose from quite a few campgrounds in Las Cruces and use its dump station to keep your rig clean and tidy while you're on your road trip from Salt Lake City to El Paso.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Salt Lake City to El Paso, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Salt Lake City or El Paso.