Road trip vacations have become a favorite way for Kyle and I to explore while we travel. We typically fly to a city, rent a car, and then drive to all the places we want to see- mostly National Parks and fun cities. In September 2017 we took our vacation to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Here is our American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary.
American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Fly To Las Vegas
We started our American Southwest Road Trip by flying from Knoxville, TN to Las Vegas, Nevada. There are some great flight deals from Knoxville to Vegas, and the Vegas airport is efficient AF, so it was a great experience getting there. We have both visited Vegas on separate occasions, but never together, so we decided to spend the first night there.
After arriving in Vegas, we rented a car and drove to our hotel, The Luxor. There is a free tram that goes between the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and Excalibur, so we hopped on the tram to grab dinner at Mandalay Bay. We ate sushi at Kumi and it was kind of disappointing. Pricey (like everything in Vegas) and nothing special. Afterward, we made our way back to The Luxor and played the slots for a little bit (mostly to get a few “free” drinks) and then went to bed relatively early.
Driving Time: 10 minutes – Airport To The Hotel
Where To Stay: We stayed at The Luxor our first night at The Cosmopolitan our last night. Out of those two, I’d definitely suggest staying at The Cosmopolitan because it was the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. However, there are usually some pretty cheap hotel rooms in Vegas, so just read reviews before you book one!
Day 2: Vegas To Grand Canyon North Rim
The day started by driving away from the strip and getting brunch at Eat. It was a pretty good breakfast in a quirky restaurant. After fueling up, we made our way to the Grand Canyon North Rim, a 4 1/2 hour drive. We only made one stop on the way there to pick up snacks and water. It’s a pretty long, kind of boring drive to get to the Grand Canyon North Rim.
We arrived around dinner time and checked into our cabin. Most of the night was spent walking around the Bright Angel Point Trail and taking in all the amazing views. Watching the sunset over the North Rim was a pretty amazing experience.
Sunset at the Grand Canyon North Rim
Driving Time: 4.5 hours
Where To Stay: Rent a cabin at the North Rim (Highly recommend!) There are limited lodging options near the North Rim, so you will likely have to drive 1-2 hours if you book somewhere outside of the park.
Day 3: North Rim To Page, Arizona
We wanted to hike around the North Rim more but, unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. Instead, we took a short detour to the Point Imperial Overlook on our way out of the park. It was extremely foggy so we didn’t get to experience the view.
A fellow traveler told us to stop by Lees Ferry as we drove from the North Rim to Page. It is about 2/3 of the way to Page anyway, right off the main road, so it was an easy (and enjoyable) stop. We walked a short trail that leads to the Colorado river and then just drove around and experienced some awesome views.
Since we arrived in Page earlier than expected, we rearranged our schedule (yes, I scheduled out all of our trip details in an American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary Google Doc.) and visited Horseshoe Bend before checking in to our hotel. Horseshoe Bend is breathtaking. The photographs of it do a pretty good job, but it is even more breathtaking in person. Unfortunately, due to how popular Horseshoe Bend is, it was very crowded. Still worth it, though. There is a short hike from the parking lot to get to the bend.
Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
Driving Time: 2.5 hours
Where To Stay: Courtyard Page at Lake Powell. We use a Marriott Rewards credit card and booked with points, so I am partial to Marriott hotels. However, this one is especially charming. I noticed that most hotels have above average rates in Page.
Day 4: Page, Arizona To Monument Valley
We finished up our time in Page, Arizona by visiting Lower Antelope Canyon. Next to Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon is the main reason people visit Page, and it was highly recommended by a few friends. The slot canyons are incredibly beautiful and unique, so it makes sense that they are a popular destination. However, since it was so crowded, it kind of ruined the experience for me. I’m glad I visited but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.
Next stop for the day was Monument Valley, which is located on the Arizona/Utah border. I knew very little about Monument Valley and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this experience. We drove our rental car around Valley Drive dirt road, took a bunch of photos, saw a few dogs, worried about our rental car even making it, and had a blast.
From Monument Valley, we had about 2 hours of driving time left to reach our lodging for the night in Monticello, Utah at Canyonlands Lodging. We stayed in a renovated barn, which was a pretty cool experience. I was amazed at how clear the sky was out there. We were able to see the milky way.
Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
Driving Time: 3.5 hours
Where To Stay: Canyonlands Lodging. It’s a cool place to stay if you are looking for something unique and off the beaten path. However, you will need to drive for a little while to reach any sort of restaurant options. If you don’t really care about stargazing then I’d recommend driving for about an extra hour to stay in Moab.
Day 5: Arches National Park
We woke up early, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and made the hour drive to Moab, Utah. Before heading to Arches National Park, we stopped by McDonald’s and fueled up on cheap burgers and fries.
Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and was a must stop on our American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary. There are plenty of hiking trails to meet all different skill levels. We hiked the Double Arch Trail and Landscape Arch trail our first day and the Delicate Arch Trail our second day. The two main things I didn’t like about Arches National Park were the heat and the crowds, but they are worth dealing with to experience the amazing arches.
Moab has a lot of different restaurant options. We visited the Moab Brewery for dinner, drinks, and gelato.
Driving Time: 1 hour + driving time around Arches National Park.
Where To Stay: Inca Inn. Good price, decent motel room, free breakfast, great service. I’d stay there again. There are plenty of other lodging options in Moab, but you will definitely pay more for a nicer hotel.
Day 6: Arches National Park (continued) and Canyonlands National Park
We finished up our time at Arches National Park by getting to the park early to hike the Delicate Arch Trail. The heat can get pretty unbearable, so hiking early or late is a good choice. The Delicate Arch Trail was my favorite in the park and a highlight from the entire trip. Highly recommend!
It’s about a 30 minute drive from Arches National Park to Canyonlands National Park. The only hike we did in Canyonlands was the Mesa Arch Trail. It’s a really nice, short, rewarding hike. We spent another hour or two driving around and checking out all the great overlooks. I’m really glad we made stopping at Canyonlands a priority on our American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary. It’s a unique and beautiful place.
The drive from Canyonlands to our hotel in Richfield, Utah had some amazing views. There was a long stretch of highway, for maybe 100 miles, where no services were available. It was pretty crazy. We opted to skip Capitol Reef National Park on this trip due to time restrictions, but adding an extra day here would give enough time to visit Capitol Reef.
Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park
Driving Time: 3.25 hours + driving time around the parks.
Where To Stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites, Richfield, Utah. We used Marriott Points to stay here, but I would recommend staying closer to Bryce Canyon. There are quite a few options available but all of the decent ones were already booked.
Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
It took us about 2 hours to drive to Bryce Canyon National Park from our hotel in Richfield, Utah. Bryce Canyon is really, really cool. The Sunrise/Sunset point overlooks both offered amazing views. We hiked the Queen’s Garden to Navajo Loop Trail and it was fantastic. The Queen’s Garden Trail was better than the Navajo Loop Trail because of the hoodoos and other iconic Bryce Canyon scenery. If I were to hike it again, I would complete the entire Queen’s Garden Trail.
We finished up our time in Bryce Canyon by driving to all of the overlooks. There are a lot of other hiking trails in the park as well.
After finishing up our time in Bryce Canyon, we drove 2 more hours to St George, Utah. We met up with friends for dinner at Benja’s Thai and Sushi and Kyle and I went for after dinner drinks at George’s Corner Restaurant. (Which is where we figured out that Utah has pretty strict alcohol laws, like not being allowed to order a drink without also ordering food.) I’d definitely recommend both restaurants.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Driving Time: 4 hours
Where To Stay: Courtyard by Marriott, St George, Utah. Great hotel and St George had a ton of restaurant options.
Day 8: Zion National Park
Zion National Park was one of the locations at the top of my list for our American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary. Since we waited towards the end of our trip to visit, we were both a little tired from all of the hiking and driving we had already done. However, Angels Landing was a must, and it was a really amazing hike. It was probably my favorite hike from the entire trip.
We also walked the Riverside Walk trail for about a mile, which was just OK, but maybe we were just too tired and over it at this point. There are a ton of hiking options in Zion. I would have liked to spend more time exploring this park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great on the day we visited, so we had to make due in between storms. Zion gets a lot of visitors but they have a shuttle system that is really convenient.
Springdale, Utah is located right outside of Zion National Park. It’s a charming little town with lots of hotels and restaurants. The hotel prices were double what we paid in St George, so we decided to stay an hour away to save some money. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at Zion Brewery. It was a little expensive for average quality food, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
Top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park
Driving Time: 2 hours
Where To Stay: We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in St George, Utah again.
Day 9: Las Vegas
Our last day of vacation was a lazy day. We arrived in Las Vegas around lunch time, took a picture at the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign, and returned our rental car at the airport. Then we took a Lyft to check in early at The Cosmopolitan.
Kyle wanted to eat lunch at Taco Bell, so that’s where we went, and we got frozen margaritas there. It was kind of awesome. (You can also get married here, you know, if you’re looking for wedding ideas.) Afterward, we walked around the Miracle Mile Shopping Mall, got drinks at Fat Tuesday, and checked out the botanical garden in the Bellagio. We hung out at the hotel pool for a while before heading to dinner at China Poblano. The food was great and I loved the atmosphere and service.
After dinner, we walked over to watch the Bellagio Fountains. (A must if you are ever in Vegas!) Then we just hung out around the hotel for the rest of the night. We played a few slot machines, drank a free drink or two, and then headed to bed early. (At least early for Vegas.)
Our flight was at 6am the following morning. It sucked waking up at 4am to head to the airport. Thankfully, that is prime time for Lyft drivers if you ever need on that early in Vegas.
Driving Time: 2 hours
Where To Stay: The Cosmopolitan. We splurged with Marriott points to stay here and it is the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed in. If it’s in your budget, I’d highly recommend staying here. You will love it.
I hope my American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary has been helpful if you are planning a trip like this. If you aren’t planning a trip like this, then I hope that I’ve inspired you to visit this part of America. It’s really unlike anywhere else.
A few things to keep in mind: there’s a lot of driving involved (it is a road trip after all) and it’s an adventure. If you like sitting on a beach with a drink in your hand for 5 days straight, then this probably isn’t the right vacation for you. If you like being busy, exploring nature, and feeling completely worn out at the end of the day, then you should totally consider this vacation.