The Ultimate American Southwest Road Trip Guide

We went on a two-week road trip in April through the American Southwest and were able to visit five national parks, including Zion and the Grand Canyon, and a few other popular destinations along the way like the Valley of Fire. The trip left us wanting to visit the area even more in-depth in the future so we know you’ll love it too. 

We started with Joshua Tree National Park in California and ended with Valley of Fire and Las Vegas in Nevada. Here is our ultimate road trip guide.

American Southwest Road Trip Map and Plan

Two Week Itinerary

Day 1 – 2: Joshua Tree National Park
Day 3 – 4: Grand Canyon National Park
Day 5: Monument Valley
Day 6 – 8: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Day 9: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 10 – 12: Zion National Park
Day 13 – 14: Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Located in California, Joshua Tree has been our favorite national park because we absolutely loved the hiking. We recommend spending at least two days here to really explore the park and all the unique hikes like the Hall of Horrors and Cholla Cactus Garden. Learn more about what to do in Joshua Tree Here!

Cholla Cactus Garden
Hall of Horrors - Right Hall

Grand Canyon National Park

We only spent two nights here but I would recommend staying even longer. The Grand Canyon is HUGE and you can’t possibly see everything in such a short time. Make sure to watch the sunset here on one of your nights and to block off an entire day for hiking. We only had time for one hike and choose South Kaibab. It has a drastic elevation change and makes for a very difficult ascent out of the canyon. However, if you are a hike-lover, it really is worth it and so beautiful to quickly go down pretty deep.

Learn more about the Grand Canyon here.

We had to add that we stayed at our all-time FAVORITE stay while visiting the Grand Canyon thanks to the generosity of Star Garden AZ. If you have a vehicle that can go off-roading, we highly recommend booking a few nights inside one of their domes. It is luxurious inside and the stargazing is to die for. Jon and I actually got out of bed with the comforter wrapped around us so we could stand outside and look at the sky for 30 minutes. Definitely our favorite stay yet and we would book it again in a heartbeat.

Book you stay at Star Garden AZ here.

Outside view of Luxury Dome at Star Garden AZ.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is vibrant and unique. We only spent one night here so we could drive along the Scenic Loop and check out some other famous locations. We recommend saving yourself three hours to drive around the loop so you have time to pull over and admire the landscape. The road is not paved and can be a little rough in some parts, but most cars should be able to drive along it with no issues.

Note: Monument Valley is not considered a National Park since it is on the Navajo Nation Reservation. The entrance fee is $20 per car and to really explore the park beyond the scenic drive, you must schedule a tour.

Jon and Nikki walking toward Monument Valley from Forrest Gump Point
Forrest Gump Point (outside of the park)
Left Mitten Butte on scenic drive

Antelope Canyon

Page is a small town right on the border of Utah and Arizona with both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon – both of which are near the top of our favorite places we visited during our road trip.

View from inside Lower Antelope Canyon looking up
Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is accessible only by tour and you have to book it online in advance. There are also two canyons; the Upper and the Lower. 

We went on both tours and preferred the Lower Canyon because the colors were more vibrant and we found the walk through experience to be more interesting. On the flip side, the Upper Canyon is where you can see the famous beam of light shining through if you go in the afternoon. 

No video is allowed inside the canyon and as of April 2022, masks are strictly required. If you break any rules you will be kicked off the tour with no warning.

Pro Tip: We did not have time to try out the Secret Canyon but there is one in Page that does not require a tour and is cheaper. Plus, you can take videos and not wear a mask!

 

Horseshoe Bend

Only a few minutes from Antelope Canyon is Horseshoe Bend. It is technically the edge of the Grand Canyon and is stunning. We were both surprised at how much we loved this stop when we came to watch the sunset. 

Nikki and Jon overlooking Horseshoe Bend

It is about a 20 minute walk from the parking lot to reach the horseshoe. Be aware that it can get very windy here and knock anything near the edge into the canyon – including tripods and cameras.

 

Zion National Park

Our second favorite national park, Zion is one that you will want to spend multiple days in. It is one of the most popular in the United States and is always busy. Make sure to get there early since you have to take the shuttle throughout the park and parking can be tough to find.

Although the shuttle is what will take you to most of the hiking trails, you can drive through some of Zion and we highly recommend you take the time to do so. Along the drive was my favorite hike, Canyon Overlook Trail.

Pro Tip: If you want to hike the most popular trail, Angel’s Landing, you will need a permit! Unless you plan very far in advance you will most likely need to enter the lottery to get one. We were unable to get a permit but hear it is beautiful and even a little scary up there.

 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce is one of the most breathtaking national parks. The rock formations and colors are worth admiring. We spent two days here but don’t think you really need more than one unless you plan to hike the entire time.

We hiked around the rim and on Navajo Loop and drove along the scenic loop hiking some smaller trails along the way. Navajo Loop is very popular and some of the trail will be closed in the winter. It is a little challenging hiking back up but well-worth it to see the hoodoos and more of Bryce.

Navajo Loop
Bryce Canyon Rim View


Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park

Of course Las Vegas, Nevada is a popular destination and had to be included in our trip. We’ve been to Vegas multiple times for shows, to check out all the hotels and just to pass time. However, this time we were able to include Valley of Fire State Park! It was exactly like we pictured it and very empty so we didn’t have to worry about when we arrived.

Valley of Fire has so many different and unique rock formations throughout the park so the hiking views vary from one trail to another. This is also where the famous Wave of Fire trail is!

After a few hours of exploration at Valley of Fire, we headed to Las Vegas to check out Meow Wolf. If you haven’t heard of Meow Wolf it is incredible and worth the trip. It is a “large-scale interactive and immersive art installation,” with hidden passages, tunnels, and so much more that it’s almost impossible to describe. Make sure to book your tickets in advance since the exhibit only lets a few people in at a time and you have to have a reservation.

Book your ticket for Meow Wolf here.

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American Southwest Road Trip Map and Plan