The scenery will blow you away at any time of year, the weather is great and for variety this pocket of the West also boasts an award-winning Shakespeare festival. And before you start packing, there are plenty of Web sites to help you choose your destinations and plan your fun in the southwest corner of Utah.
Drive down Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City, or start in Las Vegas and head northeast up I-15. Just northeast of St. George, look for the right turn on Utah 9 to Zion National Park where a narrowing canyon leads into an area of colorful, weather-sculpted cliffs. Why go? Click on "Photos & Multimedia" for the park's own photo gallery. You'll need to check out "Plan Your Visit" for guides to eating and lodging in the immediate area, including the park lodge and handy camping area, and activities. Click on "Things to Know ..." for details on hiking, canyoneering and rock climbing.
Since Zion's main canyon has room for only one road without spoiling the scenery, you park your car and either hike or ride the frequent shuttle buses. After you've explored that stretch, take Utah 9 as it continues to the east side of the park, taking you to a whole new scenic area as it climbs through switchbacks and a long tunnel. Click on "Plan Your Visit" and "Directions" for details. And then there's the spectacular Kolob Canyons section of the park; head back west to I-15 and go north about 12 miles to the Kolob turnoff. Plan on taking a lot of photos.
If you take the road east out of Zion, continue over to U.S. 89 and turn left for an easy drive about 40 miles north to the turnoff on Utah 12 to Bryce Canyon National Park famed for its own unique landscape and a view east across the canyonlands of southern Utah. Spend a day driving through the park and taking in the scenery from several view points, take a canyon trail ride by horse or mule, or try a variety of hiking trails rated from easy to strenuous (especially since the elevation rises over 9,000 feet). Click on "Photos & Multimedia" for photos, and look under "Plan Your Visit" and "Things to Do" for their virtual tour of park highlights. "Plan ..." also has a hiking guide and "Virtual Auto-Tour," plus "Things to Know ..." for lodging.
If you go to Kolob instead of the road east out of Zion, continue up I-15 to Cedar City an attractive town that could serve as a central base of operations for your travels in the area with places to stay and eat. "Outdoor Activities" has links to recreation information at caves, lakes and parks.
Cedar City also is the home of the award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival which has been running since 1962. This year's season opens on June 19 with "the Two Gentlemen of Verona." According to their "About Us" entry, the design of its Adams Shakespearean Theatre is so close to Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre that the BBC has used it for a series on the Bard.
From Cedar City, head east on Utah 14, a scenic high-country route with views south into the backcountry of Zion and the entrance to Cedar Breaks National Monument a compact cousin of Bryce Canyon. Continue eastward on Utah 14 to U.S. 89 as an alternate route to Bryce Canyon.
In a driving mood? From Bryce, head back south on U.S. 89 about 70 miles to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park where the sand is eroded from layers of colored sandstone like those that decorate Zion and Bryce. Go to the top of the page and click on the "Parks" tab to reach an interactive map of Utah's other state parks.
That Cedar Breaks-Bryce-Zion-Coral Pink region is covered by the East Zion Tourism Council a handy source of maps, highway information ("Byways"), lodging references including RV parks, B&B inns and motels, and more destination tips.