The Finest American Southwest Highway Journey Itinerary

The American Southwest is hands-down among the best street journeys on the earth. The infant blue waters, deep canyons, curious rock formations, and deep oranges make it really feel otherworldly at instances.

This street journey itinerary relies on the famed Grand Circle journey with a number of variations on the theme thrown in. You’ll be able to choose and select and do that in every week and a half, or spend months and see the whole lot on this record. Select your individual journey.

Gear up, as a result of this is without doubt one of the best adventures within the wild west!

Higher Antelope. Wow!

This itinerary begins in Los Angeles, California. You can begin it in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Salt Lake Metropolis in the event you desire. It is a ‘select your individual journey’ kind of itinerary.

I went with a camper van from JUCY (you possibly can evaluate choices incl. Jucy right here) which had a sink with a water tank, a snug mattress, a full kitchen, and a photo voltaic panel to maintain me charged once I was in any other case off the grid. It was a handy means to do that since I by no means needed to arrange a tent, may pack up and drive simply each morning, and will cook dinner and eat wherever and in all places. I additionally encountered some rain on my journey and rain in a camper van is a non-issue however in a tent it may be most uncomfortable.

american southwest road trip itinerary
Simply me and my van

A lot of the land in Utah, Arizona, and even components of California is BLM (Bureau of Land Administration) land which implies it’s public and free to camp so long as you’re not seen from the street and you allow no hint. That’s what makes a camper van such a very good deal and among the best methods to see the American Southwest! You’ll see me reference this all through the article.

Right here’s a video with among the finest adventures:

By the best way, I did most of this journey alone, so don’t despair in the event you don’t have anybody to go along with. The solo side of this journey made it all of the extra magical. With out additional ado, right here’s the fabulous itinerary:

Nevada is usually synonymous with the booming nightclubs, dazzling lights, and poker tables of Sin Metropolis. Whereas I’m a giant fan of the strip for a woman’s journey, I additionally know that there’s rather more to Nevada than simply Las Vegas. The environment could be lovely as effectively, and if on a visit the place your intention is to understand the pure magnificence, you’re nonetheless in luck in attractive Nevada.

1. Seven Magic Mountains

american southwest road trip itinerary
The Magic Mountains as seen from my drone

Seven Magic Mountains is an artwork set up by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone off of Freeway 15 simply earlier than Vegas if coming from Los Angeles. It’s a collection of, you guessed it, seven stacks of brightly painted rocks meant to represent the halfway between the pure and the substitute that are the mountains and the freeway. It’s meant to remain solely by the top of 2021, so cease by when you can!

It’s solely a slight detour off of the 15 and it most likely solely value me 20 minutes whole to drag off and see them. If driving on the 15 from Los Angeles you’ll see the signal for the turnoff about 15 miles earlier than reaching Las Vegas and might navigate there utilizing Google maps as effectively.

2. Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon

american southwest road trip itinerary
Not a foul strategy to end day one!

Since I solely had a few week to get by my complete itinerary, I figured one of the best ways to lastly see the famed Grand Canyon can be to skip the loopy lengthy drive and crowds and to fly proper into it at sundown. Quick, straightforward, and in type! However in the event you’re beginning in Arizona, don’t fear, we’ll discuss driving to it as effectively later within the submit.

After the Magic Mountains I obtained a fast chew to eat and headed to Maverick Helicopters for his or her Wind Dancer sundown tour which departs from the strip throughout golden hour, lands within the Grand Canyon for champagne, and flies again to the strip at sundown, simply as the whole lot on the strip is lighting up.

I had all the time anticipated that the Grand Canyon can be fairly grand (and it was) however what actually stunned and impressed me was how lovely the surroundings we flew over to get there was. It’s an unimaginable strategy to get a glimpse of some distant and desolate areas that you simply wouldn’t in any other case see, plus it packs a number of nice experiences into just some hours. It’s a kind of splurge experiences that’s oh so price it.

3. Valley of Hearth

american southwest road trip itinerary
Good morning, Valley of Hearth!

Valley of Hearth is a state park in Nevada and my first in a single day of the journey. After the helicopter experience, I continued the extra hour to the primary come, first serve campgrounds throughout the park boundary and settled in for the evening, waking for dawn the following morning.

The park entrance is regulated with an honesty field to gather the $10 park charges and $20+ tenting charges in the event you arrive after darkish like I did. It was additionally completely empty round dawn, so it felt like I had the park roughly to myself within the early morning hours. That was fairly cool!

  • Advisable sights: Seven Sisters, Elephant Rock, Beehives, and Hearth Wave Path (in case you have extra time).
  • Camp: Examine area at campsites inside state park or alternatively camp on BLM land simply outdoors of the east park entrance.
american southwest road trip itinerary
Taken at Canyonlands Nationwide Park

Southern Utah is just among the best areas within the American Southwest with its canyons, vivid orange rock, and distinctive formations.

In Utah, you’ll see an awesome quantity of choices for tenting, mountain climbing, biking, canyoning, kayaking, and many others. Except you possibly can spend months right here, you’ll need to make some heart-breaking selections between which parks to see and which to skip. Some, like Zion and Bryce are mega well-known and might be filled with individuals, and others, like Grand Staircase-Escalante, you simply would possibly get all to your self.

4. Zion Nationwide Park

american southwest road trip itinerary
Hanging out over Statement Level

Zion is without doubt one of the hottest nationwide parks in the USA and a must-do in your southwestern street journey.

The primary park is accessed by park shuttles that begin working round dawn and finish round sundown. They modify relying on time of 12 months so examine right here earlier than planning. I stayed close to Zion for 2 nights and hiked the Watchman Path, Statement Level, and Higher Emerald Falls and loved all of them. Sadly, The Narrows was closed resulting from an excessive amount of water, however that’s one in every of Zion’s hottest hikes and I used to be unhappy to overlook it.

I had visited Zion 10 years prior and did the Angels Touchdown Hike. Even again then, with far fewer guests, it was a busy path with the slim drop-offs and hand chains, although the ending view is breathtaking. Instead, Statement Level as an alternative is an 8-mile path that appears down on Angels Touchdown and offers an epic view. Extra on that right here.

  • Advisable sights: Statement Level, Overlook Path, Emerald Swimming pools, The Narrows, Angels Touchdown
  • Camp: Campgrounds guide out months upfront round Zion, and first come, first serve spots are normally snatched up too. There’s BLM tenting within the japanese half, or you possibly can camp on the Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort owned by Ferber Resorts which is strolling distance to the park, has some riverside spots, and prices $44/evening (plus tax) with showers, Wi-Fi, and bogs.

5. Bryce Canyon Nationwide Park

american southwest road trip itinerary
An unimaginable hoodoo view

Bryce is understood for its well-known hoodoos, the pure amphitheater, and the dawn and sundown viewpoints. It’s additionally fairly a bit increased in elevation than Zion, so bundle up!

If you happen to’re squeezed for time, you can do one hike in Zion and head out to Bryce the next day to do one hike and catch a sundown/dawn.

  • Advisable sights: Dawn Level, Sundown Level, Queen’s Backyard, Bryce Amphitheater.
  • Camp: There are a number of first come, first serve campgrounds in Bryce which you will get data on when coming into the park.
  • Click on right here to search out it on the map.

6. Scenic Highways 12 and 25

american southwest road trip itinerary
An unimaginable sundown close to Boulder, Utah on Freeway 12

From Zion, take the street by the tunnel and out of the park onto scenic Freeway 12 for among the best drives of your life – critically! Go away a while to cease on the scenic overlooks and parks like Bryce and Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument as a result of they’re greater than price stopping off at.

If nationwide park crowds are usually not your factor, mountain climbing and tenting round this space is a good various, and it’s one in every of my favorites of the entire journey.

7. Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument

american southwest road trip itinerary
One of many arches at Coyote Gulch, a tremendous hike

I can’t say sufficient good issues in regards to the Grand Staircase-Escalante. It’s an space of over 1 million acres of protected land that has so many adventures inside it that it could take a lifetime to scratch the floor.

The largest variations between this space and the nationwide parks is many of the trails within the Grand Staircase-Escalante might be accessed by way of filth roads, a few of which might be 4×4 solely. There’ll not often be companies, like working water, paved trails, bogs, and electrical hookups. The profit is sort of no crowds, free tenting within the wilderness, and pure areas which can be no much less spectacular.

I did the Coyote Gulch path in sooner or later by way of the sneaker route, which does contain utilizing a rope to climb down a 250-foot vertical rock and navigating by GPS, however it was additionally among the best tenting and mountain climbing experiences of my life. Extra on that right here.

  • Advisable sights: Zebra Slot Canyon, Peek-a-boo Canyon, Spooky Slot Canyon, Coyote Gulch, Satan’s Backyard.
  • Camp: Discover BLM tenting off of filth street offshoots and drive for lengthy sufficient that you simply’re not seen from the street. That is what I all the time did in Grand Staircase-Escalante because it’s free and authorized.
  • Click on right here to search out it on the map.

8. Capitol Reef Nationwide Park

capitol reef
The Temples of the Solar and the Moon

After Coyote Gulch, Capitol Reef is a improbable cease. There’s a preferred scenic drive, however to go off the crushed path, I extremely counsel going out to the Temples of the Solar and the Moon. You probably have a 4×4 excessive clearance automobile then the Caineville Wash Highway needs to be no downside for you so long as it hasn’t rained just lately. If in a sedan, ask on the Nationwide Park workplace to see what the street circumstances are.

  • Advisable sights: Temples of the Solar and the Moon, Queen Bee rock formation, Higher Cathedral Valley Overlook.
  • Camp: There’s first come, first serve tenting at Cathedral Valley Campground which, not less than once I visited, was free.

9. Goblin Valley State Park

goblin valley utah
It’s actual, although unbelievable

This might be a detour off of Freeway 24 although it needn’t be an excellent lengthy one. When you enter the state park ($15 payment) you’ll see it’s not notably giant, although giving your self time to stroll among the many goblins from the overlook can be clever. There’s additionally tenting out there within the state park and it’s price noting they’ve good bogs!

10. Sundown at Useless Horse Level State Park

dead horse point
So unimaginable

Simply outdoors of Moab, Utah, Useless Horse was one of the vital spectacular views I noticed on this journey and I can’t consider it’s no more standard. The price to get in is $15 and it’s a reasonably small park, however the views at sundown are unimaginable!

Whereas the primary viewpoint at Useless Horse Level could have a number of individuals round in the summertime months, within the winter as pictured above, you can get all of it to your self. Nearly all of the view was completely open and there are many spots the place one may get pleasure from it in privateness. Within the photograph above, I’m perched on a rock above the cliffs over the perspective. Wowzers!

To see extra of the final three locations talked about, try my Utah’s Hidden Locations video:

  • Advisable sights: Useless Horse Level and in case you have time, stroll to it from the Customer Heart.
  • Camp: Discover BLM tenting off of filth street offshoots and be sure you’re not seen from the street. You’ll need to discover a spot outdoors of the state park. Since I used to be already within the space, I made a decision to camp on BLM land between Useless Horse and Canyonlands Nationwide Park. You will notice some ‘no tenting’ indicators, however most of them will say ‘no tenting for the following 1/3 mile.’ After that, you’re free to camp. Simply be careful for potholes within the filth tracks.

11. Dawn at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands Nationwide Park

american southwest road trip itinerary
Mom Nature made an ideal body

Mesa Arch is well probably the most well-known characteristic of Canyonlands Nationwide Park, notably at dawn. Everybody desires to get a shot of that solar lighting up the arch and the sweeping view of the canyon under. I like to recommend getting there an hour or extra earlier than the dawn if you’d like an optimum spot for pictures. This one was taken from the correct aspect of the arch.

12. Arches Nationwide Park

american southwest road trip itinerary
Double arches!

After my Mesa Arch dawn, I drove to Arches Nationwide Park to take a look at some arches shortly earlier than persevering with on. This park is loopy standard. It’s additionally residence to the Delicate Arch which you see on the Utah state license plate.

The photograph above is of The Home windows, which is a simple offshoot throughout the park the place you possibly can see a number of arches directly.

13. Needles Overlook

needles overlook
No proof of civilization in sight

Because you’ll be passing by, the Needles Overlook on the best way to Valley of the Gods is huge and lovely. It’s a simple drive-up viewpoint that may take about an hour roundtrip. I might solely do that in case you have the time to and wouldn’t have to chop one thing else that’s necessary to you, since there are a number of epic views on this journey!

14. Valley of the Gods

valley of the gods
Not a foul tenting spot!

The Valley of the Gods was an impromptu discovery for me once I noticed it off the aspect of the street and elected to test it out. I’m glad that I did, as a result of this sparsely-visited valley has RED rock formations, in layers of colour reaching up in the direction of the sky.

It is a great place to camp for the evening, because it’s BLM land and there’s loads of free, leave-no-trace campsites to select from.

Take the Valley of the Gods street offshoot and join with the 261 to come back again to the 163.

arizona itinerary

Subsequent you’ll make your strategy to Arizona, which is simply as spectacular as Utah with it’s deep canyons and spectacular rock formations.

15. Canyon de Chelly

canyon de chelly
Fairly a placing formation

This nationwide monument is a fairly big detour in the event you’re quick on time (examine if it’s open first). Nonetheless in the event you can spare an additional afternoon, I’d counsel having a look since you received’t see as many individuals as you’ll within the different spots on this record, and it has some historic cave drawings you possibly can take a brief hike to in addition to a number of lovely overlooks like this one, Spider Rock.

16. Lake Powell

american southwest road trip itinerary
Beautiful Lake Powell

Lake Powell is such a stunning lake and the right leaping off level for among the most well-known issues to see in Arizona.

  • Camp: There’s a BLM spot outdoors of Paige. Simply watch out not to enter the deep sand, as I noticed two vehicles get towed out of there!

17. Horseshoe Bend

american southwest road trip itinerary
Iconic

I puzzled if Horseshoe Bend may look as wonderful in particular person because it does in pictures – however it does!

It’s a fast stroll from the car parking zone to the overlook. I did it in flip flops.

You should definitely get there early if you wish to stake out a great place for the sundown. There are many boulders on the cliff edge which you can perch on till the solar units, and I can’t consider many higher locations to hang around, both!

18. Higher and Decrease Antelope Canyon

american southwest road trip itinerary
Taken within the higher canyon

Like Horseshoe Bend, the Antelope Canyon is price it to see in particular person. These swirling purple rocks are so distinctive.

They’re additionally standard. I nonetheless can’t determine if I beloved or loathed the expertise as a result of it’s so crowded in there! You’ll have a tough time in the event you’re claustrophobic, which I’m!

I did each the higher and decrease and each are price seeing (I’ve a comparability written right here), because the decrease tends to have extra colours and the higher has these well-known gentle beams, however solely at sure instances of day. Gear up and put together for the crowds, do your respiration workout routines, and don’t neglect to search for.

Examine right here to see if the canyon is open or not in the mean time.

19. The Wave or White Pocket

american southwest road trip itinerary
Can you see me? Taken at White Pocket

The following most well-known cease in Arizona is normally The Wave, well-known for the wave-like form and colour of the rock. Solely 20 individuals get permits to see The Wave every day, and also you’ll want to use at 9am the day earlier than in Kanab, Utah. Since I used to be in Web page, I opted to see White Pocket as an alternative which just about no one else was visiting.

Whereas the wave can be wonderful to see sooner or later, White Pocket will blow your thoughts, too. I counsel reserving with Kanab Western Adventures to expertise this hike, which is accessed by way of a sandy 4×4 street. Extra on the expertise right here.

20. Grand Canyon

arizona itinerary

You’ll be able to’t say you noticed the American Southwest with out seeing the grandest canyon of all of them. The southern entrance is much more spectacular than the northern IMHO, with dozens of drive-up overlooks. I beloved going for sundown!

In your means, you’ll see roadside stalls providing hand-made Navajo jewellery on the market. I extremely advocate pulling off and checking one out!

21. Havasu Falls

havasu falls hike

If you happen to’re up for an in a single day backpacking journey and might safe the permits (which you need to do in February, extra on that right here), this bucket record merchandise is SO price seeing. There are a number of waterfalls to hike to, together with canyon hikes, and extra.

22. Sedona

I really like Sedona so dang a lot! If you happen to’re into vitality therapeutic, the entire of Sedona is taken into account a vortex. There are a whole bunch of mountain climbing trails, spectacular rock formations, and therapeutic modalities on supply.

You’ll be able to learn all it is advisable learn about the very best issues to do in Sedona right here.

Take a look at my latest solo journey there:

There’s a lot extra to Arizona than we’ve listed right here, together with the Petrified Forest, Phoenix, and extra. Learn our full Arizona Itinerary right here.

Over one week, over two thousand miles, plenty of sunrises and sunsets, nights stuffed with stars, and sore legs, this was my American Southwest itinerary. It’s one of many best adventures I’ve had, and I’m positive it will likely be for you, too.

With some experiences you will get to your self, and a few you’ll need to share, that is the right mixture of solitude whereas nonetheless experiencing the favored must-sees.

Completely happy street tripping!

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