Julie United States 115 Comments

The American southwest is one of the USA’s best road trip destinations. It’s unbelievable how much there is to see and do here. There are the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon, thrilling hiking trails in Zion National Park, and millions of hoodoos to photograph in Bryce Canyon. Are you getting excited yet? The list keeps going, with the sweeping views of Monument Valley, dusty, off-road adventures in Grand Staircase-Escalante, and numerous slot canyons to scramble through. On this American Southwest itinerary, you get to experience all of these things.

To really explore the American Southwest, you need weeks, maybe even months, to see it all. But with ten days, you have just enough time to explore the main sites, plus get to a few less popular (but no less awesome) places.

If you are like us, after this trip, you’ll be dreaming about coming back again someday.

About this American Southwest Itinerary

Tim and I went on our American Southwest road trip in May. Most of this itinerary follows exactly what we did, with two exceptions. In May, we did not visit the Grand Canyon, which we have done on separate trips. However, I could not write about a road trip through the American Southwest that did not include the Grand Canyon. That would be insane.

Also, we spent three days in Zion, rather than the two days that are included in this itinerary.

It might look like I put too much time into Monument Valley and Page, Arizona. Maybe I did, but Tim and I really enjoyed both of these places and the extra time let us really explore both of them. At the end of this itinerary, I give suggestions on how to shorten your time in Page and Monument Valley in order to give you more time for another destination.

Important Note: Both Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon are closed due to COVID-19. 

Finally, this itinerary has a big emphasis on hiking. The American Southwest makes the perfect road trip destination, but it also makes an epic hiking destination. On this itinerary, Tim and I hiked over 60 miles, most of them in Zion, Bryce, and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Since taking this American Southwest road trip (May 2017), we have returned to Arizona and Utah numerous times and this article has been updated with current information.

 

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest. If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.


American southwest itinerary PDFGet a Digital Download of this Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an e-book version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our 10 Day American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary e-book includes this full itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, interactive maps, and travel planning resources. It is an 18-page version of this post that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the e-book on Etsy.com.


 

Day 1

Arrive in Phoenix, Visit Sedona

On the Road: 2 hours (120 miles)

To get the most out of today, try to schedule your flight to arrive in Phoenix in the morning. This gives you the afternoon to explore Sedona. From the Phoenix airport, it is a two-hour drive north to Sedona. Enjoy the views as you enter Sedona on the Scenic Byway (Route 179).

American Southwest Road Trip

Devils Bridge

Once in Sedona, pick up a Red Rock Pass and go hiking. Devils Bridge is our favorite hike. It ranges from 2 to 4 miles, depending on where you park, and takes 1 to 3 hours. 

Where to Stay in Sedona: We stayed at a wonderful bed & breakfast called A Sunset Chateau. This is a beautiful property located just outside of the town of Sedona. This property has a pool, hot tub, and a lush garden filled with tropical plants and trees.


Day 2

Grand Canyon

On the Road: 2 hours (115 miles) 

In the morning, drive north to the Grand Canyon. 

As you leave Sedona, take the scenic Route 89A north to I-17. After that, the drive is rather unexciting, and it can be hard to believe that you are heading towards one of the most awe-inspiring spots in the world. Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon and have your first view, it can take your breath away.

Grand Canyon

Spend the day viewing the canyon from its numerous viewpoints and consider doing a short hike.

How to Plan Your Time:
  • Morning: Hike out to Ooh Aah Point or walk the Rim Trail.
  • Midday:Have lunch. Take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon (midday is the best time for photography) or visit the viewpoints located around Grand Canyon Village.
  • Afternoon: Walk, bike, or take the shuttle to the viewpoints along Hermit Road.
  • Evening: Have dinner. Watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon.
Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon

There are five hotels located in the Grand Canyon Village (El Tovar, Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge, and Maswick Lodge). Staying here gives you the advantage of easy access to the shuttles, short walks to several of the viewpoints, and no hassles driving into and out the park every day. However, the hotels get mediocre reviews and many people say they are expensive for what you get.

Click here to view the lodges and get updated pricing. These hotels fill up very far in advance. Make your reservations 4 – 6 months in advance.

You also have the option to stay in Tusayan. From Tusayan, it is a 15-minute drive into the park. There are several hotels to choose from as well as some restaurants.

We stayed at The Grand Hotel in Tusayan. It is the highest rated hotel in the area. The hotel looks impressive from the outside and the lobby is very nice but the rooms are nothing special. It is listed as a 5-star hotel but it looks and feels a lot more like a 3 to 4 star hotel. However, the rooms are clean and quiet and fit our needs.

The Best Western and the Holiday Inn Express are two more hotels to try in Tusayan.


Day 3

Monument Valley

On the Road: 3 hours 15 minutes (180 miles)

On this American Southwest itinerary, you will spend two days in Monument Valley. Why so much time? For one thing, it takes a while to get to Monument Valley. And by spending one night here, you get to see Monument Valley at sunset and sunrise, beautiful times to be here.

In the morning, start your drive to Monument Valley. 

The quickest and most scenic way to drive to Monument Valley is by taking Desert View Drive. This stretch of road is 25 miles long and it takes about 35 minutes to drive the entire length of it. However, it will take you longer as you stop at the viewpoints along the way. For the full list of viewpoints, and to see lots of photos, take a look at our post about the South Rim Viewpoints.

Before arriving in Monument Valley, I recommend stopping in Kayenta for lunch. The restaurants in Monument Valley are overpriced and serve mediocre food. However, in Kayenta, you can eat at Amigo Café, a local restaurant that serves Mexican food and Navajo Fry Bread.

Monument Valley

Spend the afternoon touring Monument Valley. Drive the 17-mile Valley Drive, a scenic drive past some of the most popular sites in the park.

The Mittens

You should also consider taking a tour of Monument Valley, which you can do this afternoon or tomorrow. On your own, you can only drive the Valley Drive. But there is a lot more to see and taking a tour is the only way to do it. There are lots of options, including photographic sunrise and sunset tours, cultural tours, and even an all-day excursion out to Hunt’s Mesa.

In the evening, a great place to watch the sunset is right from the Visitor Center, where you will overlook The Mittens.

Monument Valley Sunset

Where to Stay: We stayed in a premium Cabin at the View Hotel. We had a deck with a view and we could lie in bed and look out at West Mitten Butte. It was pretty awesome and we would not hesitate to stay here again.


Day 4

Monument Valley & Page, Arizona

On the Road: 2 hours (125 miles)

You have the option to take a sunrise tour of Monument Valley. This is a must if photography is your hobby and it’s a great thing to do if you want to watch the sky light up around the buttes and mesas. Just be prepared for a very early morning and know that it can be quite cold. We did this in May and temperatures were in the 30’s!

Monument Valley Sunrise American Southwest itinerary

In addition to scenic drives and tours in Monument Valley, there are a few nearby spots that are worth exploring. You won’t have time to get to all of these today, so choose the ones that look most interesting to you. With that being said, don’t miss Forrest Gump point. It’s quick and easy to get to and offers iconic views of Monument Valley.

Forrest Gump Point

This is the place where Forrest Gump announced that he was finished his long distance run, stating “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.” But it also gives you one of the best views of Monument Valley. This iconic spot is just 20 minutes north of the Monument Valley Visitor Center (located on US-163, GPS coordinates: 37.101393, -109.990973).

Monument Valley

If you want to go off-the-beaten-path, here are several options for you:

Valley of the Gods. Valley of the Gods features a landscape similar to Monument Valley. It may not be quite as spectacular, but it also has much less tourist traffic. If you like scenic drives and want to leave the crowds behind, put this spot on your list.

Moki Dugway. This short but scenic drive is located very close to Valley of the Gods. Moki Dugway is an unpaved road that is carved into the cliffs, offering stunning views over Utah and Valley of the Gods. At the top of Moki Dugway, take Muley Point Road to the end for spectacular views.

Mexican Hat. This rock formation is named for its Mexican Sombrero-like appearance. You can see it from US-163 on the drive to the Valley of the Gods. If you want, you can hike up onto the formation.

Mexican Hat

Goosenecks State Park. For a view of the San Juan River snaking through a canyon in the shape of a gooseneck, visit Goosenecks State Park. You will pay a $5 entry fee and it is a short drive to the viewpoint. Imagine two Horseshoe Bends right next to each other!

Teardrop Arch. This is an unpopular, off-the-beaten-path tour in Monument Valley. We were able to do a little hiking, explore caves, and get a unique view of Monument Valley. It’s not for everyone, especially if you are short on time, but we recommend it if you want a little adventure or like to get away from it all.

Teardrop Arch

Once you are finished in Monument Valley, drive west to Page, Arizona (2 hours, 125 miles).

Where to Stay in Page: We stayed at the unexciting but clean, convenient, and budget friendly Holiday Inn Express. The Wingate by Wyndham Page Lake Powell and Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell are two of the highest rated hotels in Page. You will stay here for two nights.


Day 5

Page, Arizona and Antelope Canyon

On the Road: Less than 15 miles (quick drives around Page, Arizona)

There are two must-do things in Page: Horseshoe Band and Antelope Canyon.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River.

Horseshoe Bend

For photographers, the best times to visit Horseshoe Bend are at sunrise and sunset. You have the option to do both, since you will be in Page the entire day.

We visited Horseshoe Bend at sunrise and sunset. At sunrise, crowds are light and it’s a peaceful place to be.

Sunset is a much different experience. It was incredibly crowded and hard to find a spot with a clear view of the river. Even though it can be painful getting up before sunrise, for us, it was the better time to be here.

However, if you are here just for the thrill of seeing Horseshoe Bend, you can visit any time of the day. If you get here in the late afternoon, you should be able to get a good spot to watch the sunset.

Getting here: Horseshoe Bend is located a few miles south of the city of Page, on Highway 89. Park in the large parking lot and from here it is a 0.75-mile walk to the viewing location. It costs $10 to park in the parking lot. Read more here. 

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a gorgeous place to visit. With its glowing red canyon walls and narrow, twisting passageways, this place is fun to visit and a joy to photograph.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is made up of two slot canyons, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. When people refer to Antelope Canyon, they are usually referring to Upper Antelope Canyon. With its darker canyon walls, falling sands, and light beams shining through the dusty air, the Upper canyon has been the more popular of the two slot canyons.

With one full day in Page, you can visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Each canyon offers a slightly different experience.

However, if you only want to visit one, how do you decide?

Antelope Canyon Arizona American Southwest itinerary

Upper Antelope Canyon

 

Antelope Canyon Ladder

Lower Antelope Canyon

For more information about visiting Antelope Canyon, we have not one, not two, but three posts to help you out:

Should You Visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Upper Antelope Canyon: A Journey in Photographs

Lower Antelope Canyon: A Photographic Tour

The popularity of Antelope Canyon has skyrocketed in the recent years. To avoid disappointment, make your reservations far in advance (at a bare minimum, four months in advance, but up to six to nine months in advance for the summer season).

Where We Ate: For dinner, we ate at the Mexican restaurant called El Tapatio. It was wonderful and you can get some oversized margaritas if you want. Another place that gets great reviews, both online and by word of mouth, is Big John’s Texas BBQ.


Day 6

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

On the Road: 6.5 hours (200 miles)

Today is the day when this trip becomes more of an adventure. It’s also time to go off-the-beaten-path and explore some less crowded but truly amazing places in the American Southwest.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park is enormous. There are almost 2 million acres of protected land here, and with that comes tons of hiking trails, unpaved roads, and canyons to explore.

Since most people gravitate to the more popular parks like Zion, Bryce, and Arches, Grand Staircase-Escalante is pleasantly quiet and uncrowded. This just may be one of your favorite days of the trip.

Cottonwood Canyon Road

From Page, drive north on Highway 89 past Lake Powell and enter Utah. Just past Big Water is Cottonwood Canyon Road, a very scenic unpaved road that travels through Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Cottonwood Canyon Road is 46 miles long. It takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to drive from Big Water to Cannonville. You do not need a 4×4 for this drive but an SUV or high-clearance vehicle is strongly recommended. You can get updated road conditions at the visitor center in Big Water, Utah, which is just a short drive from the start of this drive.

Cottonwood Canyon Road

If you don’t like the idea of driving on dirt/gravel roads, or Cottonwood Canyon Road is impassable due to wet conditions, there is an alternate route. From Big Water, continue west on Highway 89 almost all of the way to Panguitch and then take Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon to Escalante, Utah. It’s a huge detour but since you are on paved highways it does not add much extra time (3 hours for the Highways 89 and 12 versus 2 to 2. 5 hours for Cottonwood Canyon Road).

Hole-in-the-Rock Road

From Cannonville, drive to Escalante and the start of Hole-in-the-Rock Road using Highway 12. Hole-in-the-Rock Road is another dirt and gravel road that leads to some amazing hiking spots and really cool slot canyons. Devils Garden, Zebra Slot Canyon, and Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulch are all located on this road.

Devil’s Garden

Devils Garden American Southwest itinerary

Devil’s Garden is a quick visit just off of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. With hoodoos, crazy rock formations, and arches, Devil’s Garden is a fun spot to explore.

Zebra Slot Canyon

Zebra Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon is a very short slot canyon, named for its striped walls. To get here, it’s a 5.2-mile round trip hike and takes between 3 and 4 hours.

Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

Spooky Gulch

If you are looking for a super fun hike to do, put Peek-A-Boo and Spooky slot canyons on your list. Peek-A-Boo Gulch has several sections of challenging rock scrambling, including a 12-foot climb just to enter the canyon. Spooky Gulch is one of the narrowest slot canyons around, only 10 inches wide in some spots! If you’re up for the challenge, these two slot canyons are tons of fun.

If you get an early start to the day and are a fast hiker, it is possible to see all of these spots in one day. It’s a long day with a lot of driving but if you like the idea of exploring slot canyons, then Zebra, Spooky, and Peek-A-Boo are some of the best in the American Southwest.

If you don’t want to drive all of the way out to Hole-in-the-Rock Road, there are two optional places to visit near Cannonville. These can also be added on to the end of day 7 if you finish early at Bryce Canyon. 

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome American Southwest itinerary

With colorful sandstone spires, red rock mountains, and bright blue skies, Kodachrome Basin is a gorgeous little spot to explore. Its name, Kodachrome, fits it perfectly, describing the multitude of vivid colors that are found here.

It is located on Cottonwood Canyon Road south of Cannonville. There are a bunch of quick hikes to choose from and this makes a great family hiking destination.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Willis Creek American Southwest itinerary

This is another slot canyon to explore, although this time the hike has you hopping and skipping over the Willis Creek. It’s fun to do and perfect for all ages and ability levels.

After a day full of hiking and exploring, it’s time to get settled into your next accommodation. Tomorrow morning will be spent at Bryce Canyon so we recommend staying near the park.

Where to Stay

Tropic is a small town that is located 15 minutes away from the entrance into Bryce Canyon National Park. This town has a great selection of small properties where you can stay in a bed and breakfast, cabin, or motel. Bryce Country Cabins, Happy Trails BnB, and Bybee’s Steppingstone Motel all get very good reviews.

The town of Bryce sits right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. The top pick here is the Best Western Plus.


Day 7

Bryce Canyon National Park

On the Road: 4 hours (150 miles); includes Kodachrome Basin and Willis Creek

Bryce Canyon National Park…a fantasyland of hoodoos, bizarre rock formations, and sandstone pillars. This is a crazy beautiful place, and its unique landscape sets it apart from other national parks. Although Bryce may not have the same sweeping, expansive vistas as the Grand Canyon, it’s still a breathtaking experience the first time you see this view.

Bryce Canyon American Southwest itinerary

Bryce Canyon Hiking American Southwest itinerary

Bryce Canyon is compact, at least for a National Park. One day is all you need to explore this park. With one day, you can hike through a garden of hoodoos, take in the view from multiple viewpoints, and thoroughly explore the park.

For more information on the best hiking trails, viewpoints, and how to plan your day, read our post:

A Perfect Day in Bryce Canyon

What We Did: Depending on how fast you visit Bryce Canyon, you can visit Kodachrome and/or Willis Creek in the afternoon. Tim and I started at Bryce Canyon at sunrise, finished Bryce Canyon by lunch, had lunch in the town of Bryce, spent the afternoon hiking Kodachrome and Willis Creek, and then drove to Zion National Park. It is a long day but it can be done.

Tonight, sleep in Springdale, Arizona, the gateway into Zion National Park. When we visit Zion, our go-to hotel is the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale, one of the best Holiday Inn properties we have seen. It is located along the Springdale Shuttle route, so you can get around town and into Zion National Park without a car.


Day 8

Zion National Park

On the Road: 10 – 15 miles, mostly on the Zion Shuttle

Zion National Park is one of the best spots in the United States to go hiking. From the awe-inspiring hike up Angels Landing to the family friendly Riverside Walk to multi-day backpacking adventures, there is something here for everyone.

Angels Landing American Southwest itinerary

Angels Landing

 

Hiking Zion American Southwest

Hidden Canyon Trail

Take your pick from a wide variety of hikes, some just a mile or two in length to longer, full-day adventures. With two days, you can choose several hikes, especially if you get an early start in the morning.

We recommend starting as early as possible. During the months of April through November, when the Zion Shuttle is operating, it’s best to be on one of the first shuttles of the day. By mid-morning, the lines to get on the shuttle can be frustratingly long and take up your valuable time. Being on the first shuttle of the day puts you first on the hiking trail for the day. Yes, it’s not fun to get up at the crack of dawn, but it’s so much better than waiting literally an hour or longer in line for a shuttle.

Put your longest hike first thing in the morning. Angels Landing, Observation Point, and the Narrows all fall into this category. During the hotter months, we do a big hike in the morning, take a break in Springdale midday, and return to the park in the late afternoon to hike a shorter trail. 

Important Note: Numerous trails are currently closed long-term due to a rockfall. To ride the Zion Shuttle, you must reserve your tickets in advance. For important planning information, read our post 5 Things to Know Before Visiting Zion National Park. 


Day 9

Zion National Park

On the Road: 10 – 15 miles, mostly on the Zion Shuttle

Spend the day hiking and exploring the park. For suggestions on how to plan your time, read our Zion National Park Itinerary post. 

Observation Point American Southwest

The view from Observation Point

Recommended Restaurants in Springdale

Tim and I have visited Zion several times and we have been lucky enough to try a bunch of restaurants.

King’s Landing Bistro. This place was so good that we have eaten dinner here three times. This restaurant has a “fine dining” feel to it with an amazing menu. This is our favorite restaurant in Springdale.

Café Soleil. This place is quick, reasonably priced, and serves delicious sandwiches.

Oscar’s Café. The perfect spot after a long day of hiking. Oscar’s café serves great nachos and huge portions of Mexican food.

Zion Pizza and Noodle Café. This is another budget friendly place that serves pizza, pastas, and salads.

Jack’s Sports Grill. This was the only place that we don’t recommend. Expect mediocre food in a sports bar setting.


Day 10

Las Vegas

On the Road: 2.5 hours (160 miles)

Today, travel to Las Vegas to catch an afternoon flight home or spend a night on the Vegas strip.


10 Day American Southwest Itinerary: Alternate Route

If you want to do this same itinerary but do it as a loop, here is an alternate route. This itinerary starts and ends in Las Vegas. Two advantages of doing it this way are (1) arriving and departing from the same airport and (2) eliminating the rental car drop fee that you get on the above itinerary. However, we have recently been hearing from our readers that the drop fee is low enough that it might not make a difference. Still, it’s a factor to consider.

On the itinerary below you get some extra time in Grand Canyon. However, since you are no longer starting in Phoenix, you will not get to see Sedona on this itinerary (unless you add more time).

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, Drive to the Grand Canyon
Day 2: Grand Canyon
Day 3: Grand Canyon, Monument Valley
Day 4: Monument Valley
Day 5: Page, Arizona: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Day 6: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 8: Zion National Park
Day 9: Zion National Park
Day 10: Drive to Las Vegas and fly home

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, Drive to the Grand Canyon

If you can, plan for an early morning flight to give yourself plenty of time to drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This drive is 280 miles and takes just over 4 hours. Sleep in Tusayan or the Grand Canyon Village.

Day 2: Grand Canyon

Spend the day on the South Rim. For ideas on how to plan your time, read our post One Day in the Grand Canyon.

Day 3: Grand Canyon, drive to Monument Valley

In the morning, drive to Monument Valley. Drive Desert View Drive, visiting the viewpoints along the way. In the afternoon, drive Tribal Loop Drive or take a tour of Monument Valley. 

Day 4 to Day 10 is the same as the itinerary above.

With More Time

Add More Time to the Grand Canyon

Add more adventure to the itinerary by hiking below the rim or taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.

Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef National Parks

These are three more great National Parks located in Utah. Adding these parks to the itinerary requires several more days but these are epic destinations to add to your itinerary if you have the time. 

For an epic road trip that is very similar to this 10 day American Southwest itinerary, but also includes Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, click here to read our Two Week American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary. 

Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

More Time in Zion or Las Vegas

If you have an extra day or two, add some more time to Zion (for hikers) or to Las Vegas, if this your first time in the city.

With Less Time

You can eliminate two days of this American Southwest itinerary by altering the beginning of this itinerary. Skip Sedona and head right to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix. Spend the afternoon and night at the Grand Canyon. On day 2, visit Monument Valley as a quick day trip from the Grand Canyon and then sleep in Page. Then start this itinerary on day 5.

If you think that one full day in Page is too much time, on the morning of day 4, drive right to Page, tour Antelope Canyon, and then sleep in Page. On day 5, drive to Grand Staircase-Escalante. Visiting Page and Monument Valley quickly eliminates one day on this itinerary.

American Southwest Itinerary: Planning Checklist

Hotel Reservations

For this American Southwest road trip, you will need to make the following hotel reservations:

  • Sedona – 1 night
  • Grand Canyon – 1 night
  • Monument Valley – 1 night
  • Page, Arizona – 2 nights
  • Tropic or Bryce – 1 night
  • Springdale – 3 nights

Rental Car

For this itinerary, a high-clearance SUV is recommended. Standard vehicles can do fine on Cottonwood Canyon Road and Hole-in-the-Rock Road as long as it is dry and the roads are well-maintained. However, road conditions are constantly changing, so we recommend having a high-clearance SUV for the best experience. 

National Park Fees

Here are the fees to enter each park. When you pay the entrance fee, it is valid for 7 days.

  • Grand Canyon: $35
  • Bryce Canyon: $35
  • Zion: $35

Grand Total: $105

America the Beautiful Pass

If you have plans to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion, it is worth it to purchase the America the Beautiful Pass. This annual park pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. Not only will you save money on park fees for this trip but you will also get free admission to any other national park or federal recreation sites that you visit within 365 days of purchasing this pass.

Purchase your pass at the first national park that you visit (in this case, at the Grand Canyon) or you can get it online.

Click here to learn more. 


American southwest itinerary PDFGet a Digital Download of this Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an e-book version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our 10 Day American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary e-book includes this full itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, interactive maps, and travel planning resources. It is an 18-page version of this post that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the e-book on Etsy.com.


 

Are you planning an American Southwest road trip? Comment below if you have any questions!

If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Destination Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

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Comments 115

  1. Hi! I love this itinerary! This is what I’m hoping to do with my family for my 50th bday, but the only time we can do it this year is in July. Will the heat be too unbearable to hike in July?

    1. Post
      Author

      It can get pretty hot in Arizona and Utah in the summer with temps over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Whenever possible, hike first thing in the day or late in the evening. You’ll hear from others that it’s “just a dry heat so it’s not that bad” but anything over 100 degrees is very hot for me. Happy early birthday! Cheers, Julie

  2. Julie, we would like to follow your 14 day grand canyon/mighty 5 trip. We originally had it planned for early October but now have to switch to early December. We would appreciate any insight into the plus/minus of having to switch dates. Seems like we may encounter snow at this time, and as such would there be trails that would be closed? Also, we plan to do the grand canyon south kaibab/bright angel one day trip….would that be a problem in early December?
    Thanks for any advice you can provide for us.

    1. Post
      Author

      December is still a great time for this road trip. Crowds will be very low at this time, a huge advantage. In some spots you might have to deal with some snow. We hiked the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trail on December 4 and the weather was perfect (a high temp of 50 degrees Fahrenheit on the rim and warmer down by the Colorado River). Snow is possible at this time, at least on the rim, but the chance it accumulates is slim. The trails won’t close for snow. Roads could close if it accumulates, but that would be rare for early December (road closures for snow are more typical in Jan and Feb, but even then, they don’t stay closed for long).

      Last year we did Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef in early November and had a little snow then (but that was unusually early). Everything remained open and I think these parks are beautiful with a dusting of snow. We also did a similar road trip at the end of December and loved it. Be prepared for freezing temps, at least in the mornings, but it could warm up nicely during the day.

      Cheers, Julie

      1. Thanks Julie ….especially for the quick reply. The two time frames that we had for Utah were late Sept/early October or going in early December. Based on your experience it seems that early December is a great option if you don’t mind morning cold (which we don’t). We are planning to follow your 12 day itinerary, but will modify a bit based on the current status of Zion Park. Is there a recommendation on how you would modify the trip if we bypass Zion? Where would you add a day and what hikes ? Many thanks again as our past two trips (Scotland and Crotia) were essentially following your advice.

        1. Post
          Author

          If you bypass Zion, there are a few things that you can do instead. The Valley of Fire is a wonderful state park in Nevada. You could stop here the drive to Las Vegas, or, get to Las Vegas a day early and day trip out to the Valley of Fire. If you like hiking, you spend another night near Bryce or in the town of Escalante and explore more of Grand Staircase Escalante National Park. A third option would be to visit Snow Canyon State Park, which is near Zion. I haven’t been yet but I have heard great things. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hello! Thank you for this very thorough itinerary! My husband and I are planning a trip for June 2021. We will be traveling from Pennsylvania and trying to stick to this itinerary as much as possible–this will be our first time visiting these National Parks.

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      Author

      You’re welcome! This is an awesome road trip…you get to visit some popular spots but also venture off-the-beaten-path. Happy travels! Cheers, Julie

  4. This blog is a LIFESAVER! So much great information! Thanks so much.

    We are planning to travel in April to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion but are wondering if it is worth the stop in Page if so much is closed (Antelope Canyon, etc.) due to Covid? Should we just drive through to Bryce Canyon or is is better to still stay the night in Page? Any advice greatly appreciated.

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      Hello Amy. That’s a tough question. Antelope Canyon is absolutely worth it…if they are open. The View Hotel, which is on Navajo land in Monument Valley, is supposed to open on March 5 (according to the View Hotel website). So, I wonder if other Navajo Nation sites will also open around this time. You could delay your planning one more week to see what happens or you could email one of the tour companies in Page (we have links on our Antelope Canyon post) to see if they have an anticipated opening day. If AC is not open, then drive right through Page to Bryce Canyon, just stopping to see Horseshoe Bend. With your extra time, you could spend more time in Grand Staircase Escalante, visit Snow Canyon near St. George, or visit the Valley of Fire on the way to Las Vegas. Cheers, Julie

      1. Thanks for the reply. Since nothing will be open in Navajo Nation when we visit, I am thinking we will visit Grand Canyon for a few days and then drive up to the Grand Staircase and then to Bryce Canyon. Any advice on driving and lodging? Should we drive from Grand Canyon to Big Water and stay overnight there? Does that give a good access point to the Grand Staircase? Then spend the following night at Bryce?

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          There’s not a whole of restaurants and hotels in Big Water, if I remember correctly. Kanab or Page are better places to stay. On your last day in the Grand Canyon, you could leave midday, visit the viewpoints along Desert View Drive, then go to Page. Without stops this takes about 2.5 hours. See Horseshoe Bend in the evening and/or the next morning, then spend the day in Grand Staircase Escalante. If you like the idea of driving Cottonwood Canyon Road, it doesn’t take long to get here from Page. Then sleep near Bryce Canyon. Basically, you are eliminating days 3 and 4 from this itinerary. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi! I’m planning a 5 day southwest road trip with a converted short bus school bus. Any tips on where to park the bus? It’s around 11 feet tall, 22 feet long, and 8.5 feet wide and fully off-grid with solar panels and a compost toilet. Are there any roads that are especially bumpy that could cause issues with driving the bus? Do we need both people passes and a vehicle pass for each place? Really appreciate the help! Thanks!

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      Hello Ceci. That’s so cool. On our most recent trip to Utah we met someone who had converted an ambulance into a campervan.

      For places like Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and the other national parks, you shouldn’t have any issues. It would be the same as traveling with an RV. You will have an entrance fee which would be the same as if you were driving a standard car (for example $35 to enter the Grand Canyon). If you park at a campsite there will be an additional fee for this. On this itinerary, I’d skip Cottonwood Canyon Road, Hole in the Rock Road, and Willis Creek. But you could do everything else. The national park websites will list the entrance fees, if there are RV sites and the cost, and if there are vehicle size limits to drive on the roads. It sounds like you don’t need an RV hook up, but since we only travel by SUV, I don’t know the specifics of traveling by RV/bus to give you more information. And there may be RV sites located just outside of the national parks where you could stay, too.

      Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi there, I’m planing a spring break trip in April. With the Monument Valley and Antelope canyon being closed, can we even do anything in those place , such as the Valley drive?
    Thanks for you helpful info!

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      Unfortunately, no. As far as I understand, all of Monument Valley is closed, including the Valley drive. But you can still see Forrest Gump Point (since that sits outside of MV), and if you like, you can visit the nearby Mexican Hat. But if it’s very important that you see Monument Valley at some point, it might not be worth driving all of the way out that way on this trip, just to see the view from Forrest Gump Point. You could put more time into the Grand Canyon or Zion or Bryce Canyon or Grand Staircase Escalante and save Monument Valley for a future trip. It wouldn’t be very hard to combine Monument Valley on a later trip with Mesa Verde, Four Corners, and even Arches and Canyonlands in Utah. Antelope Canyon is also currently closed. But I recommend that you keep checking the official websites just in case things change (with hopefully they will soon). Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi Julie! This article is SO helpful as we plan our trip to the southwest this spring.

    My husband and I will be driving a converted sprinter van (van life!!) on a long trip around the southwest from April 10-24. We have our first week planned out, up until we arrive in Taos, NM on 4/15 (hitting White Sands and Big Bend parks before that).

    Trying to figure out the best plan of action, coming from Taos!
    – We want to to hit at least Capitol Reef (hubbies choice) and Bryce (my choice) in those 9 days!
    – He also wants to take some early morning photos in Canyonlands before going to Capitol Reef.
    – We want to avoid massive crowds, which I know will be difficult that time of year (hence we didn’t plan on Arches or Zion)
    – Would love to be able to stop and see Grand Canyon
    – Spend our last night in/around Sedona
    – Need to drop our van off 4/24

    How would you recommend we split up our 9 days time, given the above? We love hiking and being around fewer people, but willing to sacrifice some solitude obviously to see the must-sees (but don’t need to linger)

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      Hello Hannah. Thanks for writing in. You and your hubbie picked 2 really great parks to visit in Utah. Capitol Reef is a wonderful, underrated park. I will do by best to lay out an itinerary that will let you get to see the places you list. (1) drive to Moab…long driving day but you go right past Mesa Verde NP so you could potentially visit this park but it will make your day VERY long (2) Canyonlands (3) drive to Capitol Reef, visit Goblin Valley and maybe Little Wild Horse Canyon on the drive (4) Capitol Reef (5) Capitol Reef in the morning, drive to Bryce in the afternoon (6) Bryce Canyon (7) drive to Grand Canyon, see Grand Canyon (8) Grand Canyon in the morning, Sedona in afternoon (9) return van. You can alter this itinerary…you could drive to the Grand Canyon the afternoon of day 6, giving yourself more time in the Grand Canyon, which might be worth it, although it does create another very long day.

      We have a brand new article about road tripping through Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef that might help you out. But it sounds like an amazing road trip!! I hope you have fun in Big Bend and White Sands, too.

      Cheers, Julie

  8. Love reading about your adventures! Needing som help with our itinerary. On Day 1, we will arrive at Arches NP in the afternoon. On day 2, we will travel through Capitol Reef and Escalante. Day 3, will start with Bryce Canyon and end at the Grand Canyon North Rim lodge. Day 4-6 will be R2R2R Grand Canyon. Any advice would be appreciated!

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      Hello Jodi. You will be moving pretty fast through Utah so you won’t have a lot of time for sightseeing. And you also need to save your legs for R2R2R. At Arches, since you only have the late afternoon, at least visit Delicate Arch, and you could do a drive by some of the arches in the front of the park (Windows, Double Arch, and Balanced Rock). For your time in Capitol Reef, take a look at this post, things to do with limited time. Since you are hikers, I recommend either hiking to Cassidy Arch or the Cohab Canyon Trail. Hickman Bridge is popular but we liked Cassidy and Cohab more. You could even do the 10 mile hike to Navajo Knobs but it is strenuous and you might not want to a big hike 2 days before the rim to rim. Bryce Canyon can be done in half a day, which will give you plenty of time to get to the North Rim Lodge and relax before your big hike. Wow, R2R2R…that sounds epic!! Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  9. Hi Mrs. Julie this was amazing info! This truly gives me amazing insight on planning! I am planning to do this in January with 2 friends and we are excited! Our trip will be shorter though over a span of 6 days.
    A few questions I have for you is one, in regards to the weather. Do you know if this may affect certain parks from being open should it snow?
    Secondly, since we are doing it in a span of 6 days, I am having a tough time nearing it down. We were thinking to start in Utah –> Arizona–> Nevada or would you recommend the opposite ?

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      In general, in this part of the country, it won’t snow heavily enough to fully close a park. It would be extremely rare for that to happen.

      With six days, you will be limited with what you can do. There is a chance that Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley are still closed due to COVID, so I recommend checking on this before you finalize your itinerary. But you could start in Phoenix, visit the Grand Canyon, then Zion and Bryce, and finish the trip in Las Vegas. That should work with your amount of time. If you haven’t seen it yet, we also have some itinerary ideas that include the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas that might work for you.

      If you don’t mind moving fast, you could do this: (1) arrive in Las Vegas, drive to the Grand Canyon (2) Grand Canyon (3) Grand Canyon in the morning, drive to Bryce Canyon (4) Bryce Canyon in the morning, drive to Zion in the afternoon (5) Zion (6) return to Las Vegas, maybe visit the Valley of Fire on the way.

      Cheers, Julie

      1. Thank you so much Julie! I will definitely see about the proposed plan you made. We definitely want to see Antelope canyon so will do more research on possible closures. If it is open which would you recommend, the upper or lower canyon?

        Would you recommend staying in one spot while visiting bryce and zion or different stays?

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          Take a look at this article about choosing Antelope Canyon. Both are great…I prefer upper and Tim prefers lower. 😊 As for where to stay, yes, stay in two different places. It’s not a terribly long drive between the two parks but you will save time by staying in two different places. For Zion, stay in Springdale, it is so convenient for visiting Zion. And there are a few places around Bryce where you can stay for that part of your trip. Cheers!

  10. Hi! Thanks for the info, really good! One question: Is it necessary to rent a 4×4? If so, which would be the places where it would be mandatory?

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      No, you don’t need to rent a 4×4, but I highly recommend driving/renting a high clearance SUV. This will make the drive to Willis Creek, Peek-A-Boo Slot and Spooky Slots a lot easier, if you choose to do these. Standard cars are OK, depending on weather conditions and road conditions. In recent months, people have been writing in that they are having difficulty reaching Willis Creek with a standard car, just so you know. But to visit the national parks, Antelope Canyon, Sedona, and Monument Valley a standard park is fine. Cheers, Julie

  11. Were all the trails open inside the parks ? We are scared of going and not being able to see the best parts of the parks.

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      We did this road trip in 2016. You can updates on trail closures on the national park websites. As far as I know, the trails in Grand Staircase Escalante are open (but it is worth double checking this too).

  12. Hi Julie!
    I really enjoyed your post- I read every word preparing for an upcoming trip. I’m thinking of doing this trip in reverse because of flight costs. I saw you recommended to another user going to Zion before Bryce Canyon and was just curious as to why.
    Thank you so much!
    Shawn, Miami FL

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      For that person, I recommended that they visit Zion first, because they were also adding on Capitol Reef and Moab. If you plan to do this itinerary in reverse, you should still plan to do Zion first, then Bryce, the Grand Staircase, etc…following this itinerary in the reverse order (I wouldn’t change the order of anything). Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  13. Hello!

    First of all CONGRATULATIONS !!!
    Your infos are MARVELOUS!!!

    I’ve been over 100 countries but never found infos like yours.

    I am 60 years old and I live in Brazil. My idea is make the same itinerary like you and also included Arches Ntl Park.

    I will be with my wife. The question is:

    Do you think that November is a good month to do this trip?
    Or some attractions will be closed?

    I will rent a 4×4 car and leave from Las Vegas. I like scenic roads.

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    If you need some help from Brazil or any other country that I’ve been It will be a pleasure to help you.

    Kindest regards

    Mr. Delfim

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      Hello Mr. Delfim. Thank you so much for you wonderful comment. Yes, November is a great month for this road trip. It can get chilly/cold in November, especially at the higher elevations like Bryce Canyon (snow is a possibility here). But crowds will be low, and prices will be low, as long as you avoid Thanksgiving week (usually the 3rd week in November). Everything should be open. But if you are planning it for this year, there is always the chance that things can close because of Covid. If you are starting in Las Vegas, I recommend driving to the Grand Canyon and then doing the rest of this itinerary until you get to Bryce. I recommend visiting Zion first, then Bryce Canyon, then driving through Capitol Reef National Park on the way to Arches National Park. Stay in Moab. You also have the option to add on Canyonlands. From Moab, return to Las Vegas (it will be a long drive) or drive to Salt Lake City (slightly shorter). Our Utah’s Mighty 5 post might help you out, too. We would love to visit Brazil someday so thank you very much for the offer. If you have any more questions as you plan your road trip please do not hesitate to write back in to us. Cheers, Julie

      1. Dear Mrs. Julie,
        Thanks a lot for your nice and useful answer.
        Me and my wife we start to study the trip.
        We must check planes from Brazil and also rent a car hotels and etc.
        If I will have more questions I will disturb you again.

        I wish all the best for you and all your family.

        Delfim

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