The Southwest of United States has all the ingredients for an epic road trip. The following itinerary will take you through the best of Utah and Arizona. Be ready to experience the ultimate Wild West Road Trip.
Day 1: Las Vegas
Hoover Dam. Sleeping in Las Vegas.
I’ll be completely honest with you: I do not like Vegas. It is too hot, I dislike gambling, and the Strip area feels a bit fake. However, I still think you have to visit sin city at least once in your life. Besides, it is the main and most accessible city in the area, so it makes sense to start our road trip from there.
What To Do In Vegas Besides Gambling?
Visit the Hoover Dam, one of the biggest engineer accomplishments in the XXth Century. Its massive construction effort cost over a hundred lives!
Big Horn Hummer Tours provides excellent visits. Traveling there with a hummer (apart from the obvious fun) means the groups are very small, 5-6 people maximum. I loved that! Our guide was very informative and entertaining. He provided us with water and snacks and made sure the trip was pleasant. Once in the dam, we already had the tickets so we did not have to wait in a line; no hassle and more time to enjoy the visit! Besides, we visited some historical buildings at Boulder city, a town built to accommodate the workers of the dam. Definitely, highly recommended.
The National Parks Pass
Unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars for the entrance tickets to every National Park, get an Annual Pass. The fee is 80$ and it covers the entrance for one private vehicle with up to 4 people, for one year! You owe me a beer after this saving tip!
Day 2: Zion National Park
From Las Vegas to Kanab. Visiting Zion and back to Kanab.
Leave Las Vegas early and after a 3-hours drive, set Kanab as the base town for the few next days. Although Zion National Park was not my favorite park, it might be a good half-day choice. Some popular stops are the Emerald Pools (during rainy season) and The Narrows, a carved gorge with sandstone grottos, natural springs, and soaring walls.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
Driving to Bryce Canyon and back to Kanab.
Bryce Canyon looks definitely different from anything else. To start with, it is not even a canyon, but a collection of hoodoos (pillars of rock made by the forces of erosion).
Getting to know this National Park can take you the whole day. At least, walk the Rim Trail from the Bryce Point to the Inspirational Point for the best views from above. Besides, head to the Queen Victoria viewpoint from the Sunrise Point. This a lovely hike will take you across hoodoos and enigmatic rock formations, such a different perspective!
If you have more time (please, consider it!), drive past the Shutter Route zone for the Scenic Road. This area consists on several viewpoints of red, orange and white colors rocks. Even if it is difficult to decide my favorites among all of them, I will stay with the Natural Bridge and the Ponderosa Canyon viewpoints.
Day 4: Grand Canyon South Rim
Visiting the South Rim and back to Kanab. A long way, you’d better start early!
You could have heard about Grand Canyon hundreds of times and seen thousands of pictures… But, trust me, it will be bigger than you expect. There are several areas you can visit, but this Grand Canyon image you have in mind, that’s the South Rim. Make sure to stop at several viewpoints from the Desert View to the Visitor Centre. Once there, walk the Rim Trail for more scenic views. This pocket map will help you get around.
Besides, consider flying above the Grand Canyon by helicopter. It might be a bit expensive, but totally worth it! There are no words to describe the precise moment when you leave the flatness of the plateau to reach the depths of the canyon below you.
Day 5: Grand Canyon North Rim
Driving to the North Rim and back to Kanab.
Grand Canyon’s North Rim is much less known than the South part. Actually, they are quite different! While visiting the South Rim one can appreciate the vastness of the canyon, the North one will surprise you with walks and viewpoints through the woods.
To experience better the area, visit the Bright Angel Point, a ten-minutes walk from the Visitor Centre, and one of the hiking trails down to the canyon. I recommend the North Kaibab Trail, at least until the Coconino Overlook. Here, the pocket map.
READ MORE! Chepe Train: Across Mexico’s Copper Canyon
Day 6: Upper Antelope Canyon / Monument Valley
Leaving Kanab. Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley on the way. Sleeping in Moab.
Upper Antelope Canyon
The Navajo name for the Antelope Canyon, Tsé bighánílíní, means “the place where the water runs through rocks”. Actually, such an accurate description of its formation process!
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
The light beams are visible in the midday between 11 AM and 1:30 PM, from the end of March until early October. During these hours the sun is higher, and more light gets into the Canyon. However, the site will be super packed. You should actually book your visit several months in advance.
That’s why, if you want to avoid the tourist crowds, either visit the Canyon in the early morning, in the winter months or go to the Lower Antelope Canyon instead.
A few minutes drive from Antelope Canyon. The Horseshoe Bend, a meander of the Corado River, is a great example of the eroding force of rivers. The landscape was shaped by the slow and constant flow of a river!
Close your eyes and think of the Wild West. Monument Valley has defined our idea of the American West. This red-sand desert location is famous for its use in many of John Ford‘s westerns, as well as more recently by Clint Eastwood or in the movie Forrest Gump.
Day 7: Canyonlands / Arches
Driving to Canyonlands and Arches and back. Sleeping in Moab.
Canyonlands National Park
This National Park stands out for its colorful landscapes of canyons and mesas eroded by the Colorado and the Green rivers. A good way to visit the park is heading to the Island In The Sky area and driving the Scenic Road.
You will encounter several beautiful viewpoints, like the Grand View Point and the Green River Overlooks. Besides, do not forget Mesa Arch, one of most iconic places in Canyonlands. A short walk will take you to this arch on a cliff edge!
Arches National Park
After Zion, Bryce, and Canyonlands among others, I had already fallen in love with Utah. I didn’t dare to expect anything else. Little did I know my favorite National Park was yet to come. The Delicate Arch, a 18m (60ft) freestanding natural arch was the perfect end to a perfect Utah trip.
Moreover, take some time to explore the Windows Section and Devils Garden for more awesome rock formations!
Day 8: Grand Junction
Driving from Moab to Grand Junction. Visiting Colorado National Monument.
Grand Junction is the major commercial and transportation hub in Western Colorado. There are several flights to other main USA cities or back to Las Vegas, so it makes sense to end our road trip here. However, the city should not be overlooked. Grand Junction has a variety of activities including wine tasting, fine dining, and the historic downtown.
West of the city, the Colorado National Monument is a series of spectacular canyons cut deep into sandstone. The park is a great area for all kind of outdoor activities:
- Road Bicycling the Rim Rock Drive. It is a challenging but rewarding 37km (23mi) loop. Or go with your car for a wonderful scenic drive!
- Hiking. I recommend the trek from the Lower Monument Canyon to the Independence Monument. Download the hiking bulletin here.
Where To Stay In Grand Junction?
The Pink House is one Fixture Studio‘s charming rental houses in Grand Junction. Definitely, it was one of the coziest and most comfortable places I stayed in the whole trip. The house is spacious, clean, well equipped but, above all, I loved the tasteful decoration! The owners were very easy to contact and accommodating. Super recommended! It is available for rental as well at Airbnb.
Have you ever done any epic road trip?