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The work-travel balance depends on three things: good Wi-Fi, strong coffee, and plenty of room for activities. Utah has all three in abundance, an entire state that is an unabated haven for outdoor recreation with pockets of adventure-town vibrancy from which to post up with your laptop. Utah is home to the most explorable canyon country in the American West, where you can mix popular activities like hiking and biking with more specialized excursions like canyoneering, river sports, and rock climbing.
Canyon country is best explored in spring when the summer heat is out of season, but it’s still warm enough to adventure in a T-shirt, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive. The classic desert road trip lends itself to camping, but it’s tough to get any work done in the wilderness. That’s why, for nomad life or shorter adventure trips where remote work is a necessity, having a base in town is ideal. This Utah road trip itinerary is designed for one week and to maximize your adventure without sacrificing productivity. You could extend it to two weeks or even an entire season.
Start in Moab for desert adventures, mountain biking, and two national parks
A lifetime exploring Utah’s national parks and desert canyonlands isn’t enough time to see everything. Canyon country stretches from southern to eastern Utah, with Moab and the surrounding Canyonlands and Arches National Parks as the modern hub of what used to be home to the Ancestral Puebloans some 10,000 years ago. Start early (like 7 AM at the latest) — at Arches National Park on day one. Delicate Arch is the park’s most famous, and the two-hour round-trip hike to it is beautiful but can be crowded. Head instead to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead at the top of the park, and embark on a three-hour round-trip hike on the Devil’s Garden Primitive Trail. You’ll pass Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch almost immediately; Navajo, Partition, and Landscape Arches along the loop trail’s west side; then Double O and Dark Angel arches farther along. If you choose to take the offshoot at the top of the trail, Private Arch is your reward.
Day two in Moab is time to experience the area’s trails outside the parks. If you’re a mountain biker, head to the Navajo Rocks trail system, home to the 16.9-mile Navajo Rocks Loop and other trails ideal for mid-level riders. For a hike rather than a bike ride, consider either the Corona Arch Trail, a three-hour round trip across Slickrock, to a beautiful arch not visible from the road. The trailhead is on Potash Road across Highway 191 from Arches National Park, five to 10 minutes off the highway. Or try the Mill Creek North Fork Trailhead, which rewards you with a waterfall and swimming hole in which to cool off after the hike.
For a day in Canyonlands National Park, plan out the adventure in advance because the park is divided into “districts” that are not necessarily easily accessible to each other. The best plan of action is to pick one district and plan to spend the day there. For a one-day experience, head to Island in the Sky, about 45 minutes from Moab. Start early to hit sunrise at Shafer Canyon Overlook. The light filling the canyon from The Neck is an incredibly inspiring experience. Then, head to the Upheaval Dome Trail for a 1.6-mile (3.2-mile round-trip) out-and-back hike to another overlook, or take the Aztec Butte Trail, 1.2 miles out-and-back, to Ancestral Puebloan ruins. If you’re feeling loose, both are doable in a day. Several viewpoints present themselves on the road between Upheaval Dome and the park entrance. Stop, have lunch, and snap some photos to cap a great morning at the Island in the Sky.
Where to work and stay in Moab
US Highway 191, Main Street, as it runs through the heart of town, is lined with hotels and lodges, shops, and dining. Moab Coffee Roasters is an excellent place for java and Wi-Fi, with Red Rock Bakery & Cafe being a solid option as well. The Moab Brewery is an evening favorite for craft beer and spirits made next door, with burgers, chicken sandwiches, and their famous jalapeño fries leading the menu. The lounge area in the lobby at Hyatt Place Moab is perfect for working, essentially a free on-site coworking space consisting of a long counter lined with outlets to plug into and desks, chairs, and sofas for relaxed working. The hotel is located at the trailhead to the short but sweet Prospector Trail, so you can get out for a lunchtime hike or bike ride right from the hotel and finish your shift with a drink at the on-site bar. The outdoor pool and hot tub area is great for a post-session recharge, especially as the sun sets over the canyons due west. Rates vary from just over $100 to upward of $500.
Off the main strip, Airbnbs are more prevalent and offer a better place to post up for extended stays. The Adventure Time townhouse, south of the city center, offers a comfortable pad with good Wi-Fi and easy access to Castle Valley, Sand Flats and the Whole Enchilada biking areas, and the La Sal Mountains. With rates as low as $88 per night and room for up to six guests in two bedrooms, this is an ideal home away from home when productivity is critical.
Head west to Capitol Reef National Park
Southern Utah’s canyon country is home to the trifecta of epicness: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef National Parks, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The towns of Escalante, Tropic, and Torrey make ideal basecamps between the three and are a great way to view this area that has historically been home to many Indigenous groups. Capitol Reef National Park is about 2.5 hours from Moab and the next stop on this itinerary.
Here, sandstone canyons and rock formations make for unique short hikes, with multiple doable in one day and much of the park possible in two. Two quick and easy viewpoint hikes include the Goosenecks Trail, which overlooks the park’s famed gooseneck-shaped canyons, and Sunset Point Trail, which takes you to cliff overlooks for less than a half-mile’s worth of effort. For a longer hike, check out the 1.7-mile Cohab Canyon Trail or the 2.4-mile Castle Trail, both out-and-backs that can be done in two to three hours.
Part of the Capitol Reef experience is driving the 7.9-mile Scenic Drive from the visitor’s center. You’ll look out over rock-lined peaks and even drive through some of the canyons. Be sure to stop at the Gifford Homestead within the park, which famously sells homemade pie along with jams and other fun goods.
Spend one day in Bryce Canyon National Park and another at Grand Staircase Escalante
Bryce Canyon National Park is unlike the rest of Utah’s parks in that it is relatively compact. One day is enough to take in the crazy-looking, spired hoodoos and rock pillars. Hit the visitor’s center at 8:00 AM, then head out on Queen’s Garden Trail before the park fills up with visitors. Then park at Sunset Point, take some photos, and make the short hike to Sunrise Point and the field of pillars it overlooks. Then hit Inspiration Point, the best place to get an eyeful of hoodoos all in one place.
The next day, make the short drive to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. More hoodoos await at Devil’s Garden, as do rock arches and hikes leading to vast overlooks. For a unique experience, head to Zebra Slot Canyon, a challenging hike through the striped canyon walls accessible from Hole in the Rock Road. Here, you’ll likely have to wade through waist-deep water at points as the slot canyon swallows the trail.
Where to work and stay near the parks
Bryce Canyon Coffee Co. in Tropic is the spot to grab a cup of joe and a table with Wi-Fi near Bryce Canyon, with Dark Sky Coffee in Torrey being a good option near Capitol Reef. Outside the town of Torrey and minutes from Capitol Reef National Park, Dark Sky House is a stylishly modern place to stay after a rustic day of adventuring. Rates start around $160 per night, with room for four guests in two bedrooms.
An apartment in Tropic makes for a great setup for work and play. This one-bedroom apartment is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. Take advantage of the work desk and spacious living quarters while at home, and stock up the full kitchen, so you aren’t running out each time hunger strikes. The host promises strong internet. Rates start under $200 per night.
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