Julie United States 122 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.

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 Red Rock Scenic Byway (Route 179).

American Southwest Road Trip

Devils Bridge

If you like hiking, spend the afternoon on a hiking trail. There are several relatively short, thrilling trails that we recommend. For each of these hikes, click the link for more details.

Cathedral Rock. This is an essential hike in Sedona. This hike is short and sweet, and with some rock scrambling and jaw-dropping views, it’s tons of fun from start to finish. It’s 1.2 miles round-trip with 700 feet of elevation gain. Allow 1 to 2 hours.

Bell Rock and the Courthouse Butte Loop. Hike around Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock, a 4 mile trail that is easy and suitable for all ages and ability levels. For even better views, take the Bell Rock Climb spur and hike up onto Bell Rock.

Devils Bridge. This is the most popular hike in Sedona. It is 4 miles long, if you not have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. The highlight is standing on Devils Bridge, a natural arch and one of the best photo-ops in Sedona.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Since you will be arriving in Sedona midday, consider starting your hike at 4 pm in order to avoid the spring/fall crowds and the summer heat.

If you are not a big fan of hiking, there are still plenty of things you can do in Sedona. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, go shopping at Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, and drive up onto Airport Mesa for views over Sedona.

Our top picks for dinner are Mariposa, The Hudson, Vino Di Sedona, and Elote Café. Make your reservations in advance.

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. I also recommend the Courtyard by Marriott in Sedona. It is a beautiful property in West Sedona and some rooms have views of Cathedral Rock. For many more recommendations, read our article Where to Stay in Sedona: Best Hotels for Your Budget.


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. From March through November, when the Zion Shuttle is operating, it’s best to be on one of the first shuttles of the day. 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 midday, and in the late afternoon hike a shorter trail. 

Important Note: Zion National Park is dealing with some unique challenges right now, with trail closures and high crowd levels. 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 Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

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Comments 122

  1. Hi Julie! Thanks for sharing your itinerary with us. The teardrop arch looks really nice. Can you please give me some advice on how to get there? Do you need a tour guide to get there? Thanks!

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      Author
  2. Hello,

    Thank you for sharing your itinerary. We are looking into doing to road trip at the end of July 2020. Nervous about the heat. Any advice?

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      Author

      Yes, it will be hot. Start early in the day, around sunrise in each park, if you can, to avoid the worst of heat. Take a break midday and go back out around 3 or 4 pm. We have done this in Zion (and in Yellowstone…but to avoid the crowds) and it works well. I hope you have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for posting this great itinerary. It may already state it somewhere but did you take this trip during May 2020? I wanted to ask how COVID impacted your experience (if it did at all) as we prepare for our trip. Thanks!

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      Author

      We did this trip 3 years ago. However, we are planning another road trip through different national parks this summer. It’s going to be tricky, because things are changing every week, of course, and parks are slowly opening up. From what we have heard, it’s expected that national parks will be very busy this summer. Our plan is to map out a general route and go with the flow, which is different than how we normally travel (we plan everything out in advance), but things are not normal now. As for your trip, Zion is open but there are a lot of trails that are closed, either due to the virus or rockfalls. I don’t know the specifics about the Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc, so I recommend getting updates on the national park service website. And if you have dates of travel, book your hotels now, if you can. Have a great road trip!! Cheers, Julie

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      Author

      Hello April. I’m glad you like our itinerary. We don’t have a printer friendly version (yet). I have started working on those for our longer itineraries but it will still be quite some time until I get to this post. In the meantime, you can print a version from Google but it is long. From Google Chrome click File –> Print –> More settings –> open PDF in Preview –> Print. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi Julie,

    Great itinerary!

    I’m planning to take this trip with my boyfriend in late August if everything goes back to normal travel-wise (crosses fingers). However, we’ve never really hiked and I was wondering if there’s any gear/items that you’d recommend taking on this trip. Even if it’s basic stuff (again, we’re truly new to hiking). General hiking recommendations would also come in handy 🙂

    Thank you and stay safe!

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      Hello Yanet. I really, really have our fingers crossed that things will get back to normal too, very soon. For this trip, I recommend wearing a pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots. All four of us wear hiking shoes…boots just don’t feel comfortable to us, although some people recommend the extra ankle support you get from boots. I use hiking poles on hikes that have a lot of elevation gain or loss, to take the pressure off of my knees (but this is also a matter of personal preference). Since you are hiking in August, it will be hot. I recommend getting a hiking backpack that has a water bladder, so you can drink water as you hike, right from a straw that comes off of the backpack. For short hikes you will just need a liter or two, longer hikes (more than 8 miles, 3 to 4 liters is recommended). Sunblock and a hat should be at the top of your list. All of the trails we mention are well marked and easy to follow, so you don’t need special trail maps. Start your hikes early in the day, before it really heats up, take a break midday, and go back out again in the afternoon, if your schedule allows (this should work great for the Zion part of this trip). I hope you have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi
    Any tips. We have both retired 60 years young and are from England. We are looking to plan a road trip to the USA next year April May and June, ( not to cold not to hot) Were thinking of Florida and Key West .
    We have no idea where to start who to speak too etc.
    Can you help please, we would welcome any suggestions .
    We want to see the Real America not Highways – As america was with small towns etc
    .Stay safe especially during this challenging time
    Kind regards
    Peter and Liz Britland

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      I can offer some suggestions if I know more about your potential plans. I have been to Florida more than a dozen times, from the panhandle to Clearwater to Daytona Beach to Miami and South Beach to Key West. And lots of visits to Disney (but that’s not the real USA 🙂 ). So, are you only thinking Florida or more places? For instance, how much time do you plan to spend in the USA…do you really have 3 months? If you have a lot of time the options are endless. Do you prefer beaches, or mountains, or national parks, or small towns? If you give me a little more info, I can give you some more suggestions. Cheers, Julie

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      Sorry, you’re right. I recommend staying in Sedona. Driving to the Grand Canyon that evening is possible, but it makes your first day a very long, busy day. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie –
    I’m planning the same 10 days trek (well almost) as you have, but I am having a hard time following where you stopped and stayed in the last few days of the itinerary. Do you have a “recap” or something available that will tell me what towns you actually slept-over in (though you do have a few listed)?
    Thanks for your help! Looking forward to this “empty-nesters-scratch-it-off-the-bucket-list” trip with my hubby!

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      Hello Suzi. For clarification, starting on day 5, here is where I recommend staying. On day 5, stay in Page (this will be your second of 2 nights here). On day 6, we stayed in a town called Tropic because it sits between Grand Staircase and Bryce Canyon, but you can also stay at lodging right outside of Bryce. On days 7, 8, and 9 stay in Springdale, just outside of Zion. If you have any other questions, let me know. Have fun with your hubby!! Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi Julie.
    Loved your writing!

    Can you give some advice about transportation? It seems like you rented a vehicle in Phoenix and dropped it off in Vegas. Can you recommend a rental company or maybe expand on how you approached this aspect of the trip? Thanks 🙂

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      Hello Jason. Yes, we rented it in Phoenix and dropped it in Las Vegas. Rental car prices are constantly changing. When we book a trip, Tim prices out the rental car with the popular companies, such as Avis, Hertz, and Budget, and then he picks the company with the lowest fee for that trip. This can change month to month, year by year, so the cheapest company when we did this could be different now. It’s a little extra work but sometimes the prices can vary widely between companies, so it is usually worth checking four or five websites. Since you are dropping the car at different location, there will most likely be a drop fee. This should be stated in the estimate for the rental car. Cheers, Julie

      1. We are planning a family hiking trip to Zion National Park the last week of March. We’ll do some additional hiking but have not determined where yet. I am open to your suggestions. My main concern is that we are flying in to Las Vegas very late. Do you recommend staying in Las Vegas or picking up our rental car and driving outside of downtown Las Vegas getting closer to Zion or another destination that you might recommend? Do you have an accommodation recommendation? Thank you!

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          Hello Jill. Where you stay depends on how late you get into Las Vegas, and if you feel comfortable driving several hours after your flight. In Zion, ideally, you want to get started first thing in the morning, to get on the first shuttles. Mid-morning is very crowded, and that would be when you arrive to Zion, if you drove from Vegas in the morning (so it would be best to get here the night you arrive in Vegas). However, if you have 3 or more days in Zion, it’s not such a rush to get here. So, you could stay in Vegas your first night and drive the next morning. Or you could drive all the way to Zion and stay in Springdale (we like the Holiday Inn Express), or drive half the distance. It’s really your call, depending on your flight time. Cheers, Julie

  8. Hi Julie! You have an amazing blog with very useful information. I think I have read more than 10 articules yet. I will be visiting the Southwest National Parks in early March and I will spend 5 days, so Im trying to plan a good itinerary with all the information you provided.
    Do you think March is too cold for hiking?
    Regards!

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      It might not be that bad in March. I think temperatures average in the mid-50’s in the daytime but will be cold at night. However, this is not a busy time to tour this area, so crowds should be low, which I think would make March a great time to visit. Just pack a lot of layers, and be prepared for some cool days, but there’s a chance you could have a few days in the 60’s. Cheers, Julie

  9. Amazing article. Very interesting to read. I think there are hot weather there according to my friend who visited last year. Amazing places and low traffic. Perfect for family trip.

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      Yes, it can be very hot here, especially June through September. April, May, and October would be very nice months to do this trip. Cheers, Julie

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      Hello Sue. Here are 3 options. If you put Yosemite and Zion into Google Maps, the quickest route takes just under 8 hours and goes through Las Vegas. Option #2: you could detour south through Death Valley, and it will be terribly hot, but it’s still an option. You could see several places in Death Valley, such as Mesquite Sand Dunes, the view from Zabriskie Point, and even drive out to Badwater Basin or Dante’s Peak. For an idea of what you can do in Death Valley, here is a link to our 2 day itinerary. Finally, you could drive northeast through Nevada to Ely and then make a quick visit to Great Basin NP. We have not been here yet, so I don’t know much about it, but maybe it’s worth looking into. This is also the longest drive of the 3 options. Have fun deciding, and I hope you have a great time in Yosemite and Zion! Cheers, Julie

  10. I love this itenerary and will try to take my family on a similar trip this spring! Would you be able to give a ball park figure on how much the trip cost so we know how much to start saving?

    Thanks! Megan

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      I don’t have budget estimates since there are so many factors that affect this. Hotel prices can vary quite a bit, as can rental car prices (we have done this twice and it was crazy how much the rental car price was different from year to year). But just as a ballpark, a budget traveler could get buy on $100 per day (or less) with the price increasing from here, depending on your travel style. Cheers, Julie

  11. Hi, I just found your site and I have to say that it is great! I’m currently on a spur of the moment road trip to Tucson and the Four Corners area with my wife and kids (ages 16, 13, 10, 8). I have a couple questions that you may be able to help me with. 1) With the summer heat what would you alter on your itinerary? (We have about 10 days in the Four Corners area).
    2) Will our mini-van be able to go most places you recommend (including the dirt roads)?
    Again, thanks so much for your site! I’m excited to see your other travels as well!
    Todd

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      In general, some dirt roads are OK for cars, but it also depends on the last time that they were graded. Valley of the Gods may be OK but it’s a good idea to check the status of Cottonwood Canyon Road in Big Water before you go. Same for Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase.

      With the summer heat, I would get started at sunrise, see what you can do until about 10 – 11 am, take a break midday, and go back out around 4 pm. If you get out to Bryce, that national park will be the coolest because it is at the highest elevation. It’s not listed in this itinerary, but you will be close to Mesa Verde National Park and that will be worth a visit. One more option that would be nice in the summer is a boat trip, even just a day trip, on Lake Powell. We haven’t done this yet, so I don’t have much info to offer, but it could be something to look into. Cheers, Julie

  12. Hallo Julie
    Wir werden übermorgen deine ausgezeichnet beschriebene Route durch Southwest America von San Diego aus starten.
    Vermutlich wird es um diese Jahreszeit sehr warm sein in diesem Gebiet oder? Wir haben einen Midsize SUV (nissan rogue) als Mietwagen. Der Vermieter empfohl uns einen grösseren SUV mit einem stärkeren Motor aufgrund des Klimas in dieser Gegend. Das wollten wir jedoch nicht aufgrund unseres Budgets. Glaubst du wir werden Probleme haben mit dem Auto?

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      Yes, it is hot this time of year, but you should be fine in a Nissan Rogue. In fact, we are currently in the Grand Canyon and Tim and I are getting around Arizona in a Toyota Camry and doing just fine. In each park, get started early and bring lots of water. Enjoy your trip!

      Translated with Google Translate:
      Ja, es ist heiß zu dieser Jahreszeit, aber mit einem Nissan Rogue sollte es Ihnen gut gehen. Tatsächlich sind wir gerade im Grand Canyon und Tim und ich kommen in einem Toyota Camry durch Arizona und es geht mir gut. Beginnen Sie in jedem Park frühzeitig und bringen Sie viel Wasser mit. Gute Reise!

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  13. I just wanted to express our tremendous gratitude to you for putting together such an informative trip planner. We just got back from our trip and had a wonderful time. We drove out from California and skipped the Phoenix and Vegas portions, but we’re able to spend more time at the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. Our son is 14 and has autism. He likes road trips and we’ve recently been exploring the National Parks for vacations. Your accommodation and dining recommendations were spot on! The hiking suggestions for those that are family friendly were key to our success. We’ve never been a hiking family but on this trip (that you planned for us)we did some every day and we’re so happy that it seems our son has found a new interest that we can all do together. I just can’t thank you enough! We live in California’s Central Valley and came home excited to take up your suggestions for exploring Yosemite. Thank you again for such an informative trip planner and for just giving us an amazing vacation experience!

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      Hello Cara. Thanks for your very kind words! I’m so glad we could help you out with your trip. It’s an amazing area, isn’t it? 🙂 That’s great that your son has found a new interest. You live in such a wonderful area with so many very cool hiking destinations not far from your doorstep. I hope you have many more adventurous family vacations and have fun exploring Yosemite! Cheers, Julie

  14. My wife and I have traveled all over the world but have never done the Southwest National Parks trip although we have seen the Grand Canyon many times from 35,000 feet. We will do this trip in October and spend 10-14 days. You photos and commentary have been immensely helpful in our planning. Thank you so much for putting in the time and effort to do this. As retirees we have lots of time so I will look into your other trips.

    Safe travels.

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