10-Day American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
The Southwest is a unique part of the United States, full of unique natural wonders. The best way to explore this part of the United States is to do a road trip, since many of the top destinations aren’t close to an airport. This 10-day American southwest road trip itinerary guides you through the best way to see the highlights of the United States Southwest in just 10 days. Some of the destinations on this 10-day southwest road trip itinerary include Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, Sedona and more.
The Best Time to Visit the Southwest
The temperature in the Southwest varies widely depending on the elevation. The best time for a southwest road trip is during the Spring or Fall. Many of the destinations on this United States Southwest road trip like Monument Valley, Arches, and Canyonlands can get up to 100 degrees in the summer, which is too hot for hiking and enjoying the nature. Some of the destinations can get snow in the winter like Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park which would be beautiful but can affect road conditions so make sure to check the weather ahead of your road trip.
Tips for an American Southwest Road Trip
- This American Southwest road trip takes you to five national parks, so make sure to purchase an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time to save money. At $80, it covers entrance fees to all US National Parks as well as National Forests and National Monuments. As most of the national parks on this itinerary cost $30, this is a great pass to take advantage of as you will already save $70 with this trip.
- Start your days early to take full advantage of your trip. It is also cooler in the morning and there are less crowds.
- Don’t underestimate how much water you need! Most of the destinations on this road trip are in the desert and it can get very hot, sunny, and dry. Make sure to always have extra water with you.
What to Pack for Your Southwest Road Trip
- Daypack: Bring a comfortable hiking bag for exploring the southwest. This daypack is one of my favorite hiking bags.
- Water bottle: Always make sure to bring water with you on every hike in the southwest. Drink cold water throughout the day with this Stanley water bottle which can keep your water cold for 12 hours.
- Jacket and Long Pants: A majority of this road trip is in the desert and it can get really cold at night.
- Hiking Boots: The terrain in the southwest is often rocky and sandy. In order to have good traction and not hurt your foot or ankle, I recommend bringing hiking boots. If you are looking for purchasing hiking boots for your southwest road trip, Backcountry offers many great deals.
- Camera: Bring your camera and don’t forget your charger because you will be taking a lot of incredible photos during your 10-day American southwest road trip. If you are looking to purchase a new camera before your trip, I highly recommend the Sony A7RIII mirrorless camera and this Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens.
10-Day American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
Select the map to open up the interactive Google Maps version of the 10-day American Southwest Road Trip Map
Day 1: Fly into Vegas, Zion National Park (Angels Landing)
To start your 10-day American Southwest Road Trip I recommend flying into Las Vegas (LAS). Start planning your trip by searching for flight deals to Las Vegas on Skyscanner. Make sure to book your rental car ahead of time on Discover Cars for your Southwest Road Trip. It takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes to drive from LAS to Zion National Park.
Zion National Park is located in Utah and is known for its canyons including a 2,000 foot deep canyon created by erosion. Zion National Park is easiest to get around with the shuttle, as there is very limited parking throughout the park. Two of the most popular hikes are Angels Landing and The Narrows.
Hike Angles Landing
One of the highlights of this 10-day American southwest road trip is hiking Angels Landing at Zion National Park. This hike is a very popular trail that takes you up to a mesa with a view of the canyon below. The hike is 5 miles with about 1,600 foot elevation gain. The trail has a gradual ascend until the top where the trail becomes so steep that there are chains to help you get up to the top. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the last portion you will still get incredible views throughout the hike and before the chain part. The chain part can be dangerous especially when it is very crowded. The picture featured is before the chain part because it was too crowded to do it when we hiked and there was a long line to get up to the top. It is now required to get a permit to hike Angels Landing due to crowding concerns.
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
Your first two nights while exploring Zion National Park I recommend staying in Kanab. Kanab is a small town in Utah located about 30 minutes from Zion National Park that has several restaurants, Airbnbs, and guesthouses. We stayed in Grand Circle Lodge which is very comfortable, has great breakfast included, and is right near the center of town.
Day 2: Zion National Park (The Narrows)
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, with walls a thousand feet tall. The Narrows begins with a paved 1 mile walk and if you continue after this first mile you will be walking in the Virgin River. In the late spring and summer the water is the warmest but you could get storms and there is a risk of flash floods. The water level does change drastically and without warning, so be careful. If you are planning to hike past the first mile, please make sure to read the National Park Service Narrows safety information. Depending on the weather and the water level, you may want to consider renting equipment, especially if the water level is high and it is cold.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
On your third day of your Grand Circle road trip itinerary, explore Bryce Canyon National Park, located about an hour and 20 minutes from Kanab. Bryce Canyon is an amphitheater filled with hoodoos. There are four popular viewpoints you can drive to called Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point.
To further explore Bryce Canyon I recommend hiking down Navajo Trail and up Queens Garden Trail to make a 2.9 mile loop. If you feel up for a challenge and started the day early enough, you can continue to Peek-a-Boo Loop after you get down Navajo Trail, which will add about 4 miles. On Peek-A-Boo Loop you will get to see the Wall of Windows featured in the photo above. Note that Peek-A-Boo Loop is very strenuous.
After you finish your hike, make the 4 hour drive to Moab which is a city about 10 minutes from Arches National Park. This will be a good spot to base yourself to explore Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park the next two days. There are many hotels, Airbnbs, and guesthouse in Moab where you can stay for the next 3 nights. If you are looking for a hotel I recommend searching on booking.com.
Day 4: Arches National Park
On day 4, visit Arches National Park to see the densest concentration of stone arches in the world, with over 2,000 documented arches. The arches were created by water, ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement. For more detailed information on Arches National Park, take a look at our guide to the best hikes in Arches National Park. If you are looking for more activities to do in Moab, take a look at the Viator experiences you can book.
The Windows and Turret Arch
Start your day with a short `1 mile roundtrip trail to two windows and an arch that have views of rock formations and mountains.
Next walk the 0.5 mile round trip flat trail that leads to a closer view of two huge arches that intersect.
Hike Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is one of the best hikes at Arches National Park, and is known to be one of the most popular hikes. Hike up to the famous Delicate Arch with a lot of great views along the way. The trailhead is located At Wolfe Ranch and there is a large parking lot at the trailhead, although parking does fill up later in the day. This is a 3 mile roundtrip hike with only 480 ft elevation, so it should take less than 2 hours.
Hike Devil's Garden (Landscape Arch and Double O Arch)
Devil’s Garden Trail is a great trail to do if you want to see many arches and great views. The trail starts at Devil’s Garden Trailhead. You can start with the short portion of the trail to Landscape Arch, which is relatively easy and 1.6 miles roundtrip. If you want to see more arches and incredible views, continue past Landscape Arch on a more difficult trail to Double O Arch. Between Landscape Arch and Double O Arch you can also find Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. These arches require and additional one mile out and back each. You can find them by following the signs to Navajo Arch and Partition Arch when you continue past Landscape Arch. If you decide to continue to Double O Arch, I highly recommend having hiking boots for better traction. The entire roundtrip hike to Double O Arch is 4.2 miles.
Day 5: Canyonlands National Park
Offering incredible canyon views, Canyonlands National Park makes you feel like you are on a different planet. The canyons were formed by millions of years of erosion of sedimentary rock. The Green River and Colorado River carved into the rock and thunderstorms eroded the softer rock creating the canyons you see today.
I recommend visiting the Island in the Sky district, a mesa that is about 1,000 feet above the surrounding land. This is the easiest region to get to and allows you to visit the park in just one day. You can drive on Grand View Point Rd to get to many hiking trails and viewpoints including Grand View Point Overlook and Green River Overlook. For more detailed information, check out our guide to visiting Canyonlands National Park in one day.
Grand View Point Overlook Trail
This is an easy 2 miles out and back trail. The hike follows the canyon edge for the majority of the time and offers incredible views. It does get very crowded on this hike so try to hike either really early or late in the day. Make sure to bring plenty of water as there is barely any shade on this hike and it can get hot.
White Rim Overlook Trail
This is an easy 1.8 miles out and back trail. There are not many views along the way but the hike ends at a viewpoint where you can see the Colorado River and La Sal Mountains. This hike is very quiet so it is a perfect place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the views.
This popular half mile hike leads to an arch with views of the canyons.
Green River Overlook
Take a short walk from the parking lot to see this view of the Green River.
Upheaval Dome (First Overlook)
Follow the short 0.8 miles out and back trail with some incline to get to an overlook of Upheaval Dome. This is an incredible geological feature hypothesized to have been caused by either a meteorite impact or a salt dome uplift.
Day 6: Monument Valley
Wake up early to make the 2 hours and 45 minutes drive from Moab to Monument Valley. Monument Valley has incredible rock formations formed through erosion by wind and water. You can drive around Monument Valley, hike between the rock formations, watch the sunset and sunrise, and enjoy incredible views. To see more detailed information on Monument Valley, access our Guide to Monument Valley.
Where to Eat Near Monument Valley
The main restaurants near Monument Valley are The View Hotel Restaurant and Goulding’s Lodge Restaurant. Even if you are not staying at these hotels you are still able to eat at the restaurants. Both restaurants offer a range of food including traditional Navajo Nation food. Remember to try the Navajo Taco and the Navajo Fry Bread when you are here. As the restaurant options are limited, bring snacks with you especially if you are planning on hiking.
Drive the Monument Valley 17 Mile Loop
Start your day in Monument Valley by driving the 17 mile loop that begins near the visitor center parking lot. In order to do this drive you only need to pay the entrance fee to Monument Valley, no additional permits are required. While on the drive you can get out of the car in different places, walk around, and take pictures. You will find vendors along the loop at the different stopping points selling dream catchers, Native American jewelry, and more. 4WD is highly recommended but not necessary and a high clearance vehicle is not needed for the drive.
Hike the Wildcat Trail
The wildcat trail is 3.9 miles and is mostly a loop. This is the only trail that you can do without a guide. The trail leads you around Left Mitten Butte (rock structure) and allows you to stand right between the rock formations. The trailhead is located where the cars start the 17 mile loop, at the end of the parking lot on the side further from the visitor center. The hike is relatively easy, but you do walk on high sand at times so make sure you are wearing the right shoes. You could hike this in sneakers but hiking boots are preferred. Bring plenty of water, especially if hiking during the summer. No permits are required for this hike.
Before you pass out for the night make sure to spend some time star gazing. Since Monument Valley is remote there is barely any light and you can see the stars very clearly. This was one of the best parts about staying in Monument Valley overnight and it will be one of the highlights of your 10-day road trip in the southwest.
Where to Stay in Monument Valley
The two closest hotels to Monument Valley are The View Hotel and Goulding’s Lodge.
The View Hotel
This hotel is located right next to the visitor center at Monument Valley and features a restaurant and trading post. The hotel has the option of a cabin (more expensive), room, or suite. Note that not all rooms here have a view of Monument Valley.
Pros: Best location
Cons: More expensive, limited amenities, need to book far in advance
This hotel features a restaurant, coffee shop, fitness room, museum, trading post, and heated indoor pool. You have the option of booking a room, suite with a kitchen / kitchenette, apartment, or RV park/ campground (price varies). We stayed in a small cabin suite here and really enjoyed our stay.
Pros: Cheaper option, more amenities, can book closer to the date of travel
Cons: Further from Monument Valley, about 5 miles away
Day 7: Page (Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon)
Watch the Sunrise Over Monument Valley
The sunrise over Monument Valley is incredible and worth waking up early for. This will be one of the main highlights of your US southwest road trip. Make sure to check weather.com to see when sunrise is as it can vary throughout the year. The gate to Monument Valley visitor center parking lot was left open before and after the posted hours so you should be able to get into the parking lot for a view of Monument Valley during sunrise. Watching the sunrise over these rock formations was one of the highlights during our weekend in Monument Valley.
After enjoying the sunrise over Monument Valley, drive to Page which is 2 hours away. Page is a city where Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell are located, and is right near Antelope Canyon. It is a great place to base yourself to explore these incredible natural wonders. For more detailed information on the best things to see in Page, continue to our guide on Page, Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped part of the Colorado River with an overlook that has a dramatic 1,000 ft drop. The view is breathtaking and offers a great quick stop during your Grand Circle road trip. It costs $10 per vehicle or $5 per motorcycle to enter the parking lot. Parking on the side of the road is no longer allowed, so if the parking lot is full you would need to come back. There is a 0.6 mile trail to get to Horseshoe Bend from the parking lot. Comfortable shoes are recommended as there are many stairs that you will need to go down and then back up. It does get really hot here in the summer, so make sure to bring water with you.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon formed by erosion from wind and water. There are two parts of the canyon: upper canyon and lower canyon. Both upper and lower canyon require a tour guide. You can make reservations online ahead of time with one of the tour operators listed below. Read the descriptions of upper and lower antelope canyon to help you decide which part you prefer to visit. If you have extra time you could visit both upper and lower canyon. Visiting Antelope Canyon is an experience of a lifetime as it is an incredible natural wonder.
Upper Antelope Canyon
Upper Antelope Canyon is most well known for the light beams that come through gaps in the canyon and shine on the sand. The light beams can only be seen during certain hours, typically around noon in the summer months. You must make a reservation at upper antelope canyon ahead of time as spots do sell out. Upper antelope canyon has no stairs, so it is easier to walk through.
Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Operators: Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours, Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours, Antelope Canyon Tours, and Antelope Slot Canyon Tours.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Antelope Canyon has thinner canyon walls and is a longer canyon. Reservations are helpful especially in the summer when it gets crowded. This canyon requires you to climb up and down ladders and stairs, so comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
Tour Operators: Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Canyon Tours
Toadstool Hoodoos- Paria Rimrocks Hike
If you have time I recommend doing this interesting 1.8 mile out and back trail located about 30 minutes north of Page. The trail has a unique landscape with toadstool hoodoos and white and brown rocks. The trailhead is located in Utah at mile marker 19 driving north from Page, Arizona into Utah. When you reach the end of the trail make sure to turn left and continue for a couple minutes to see more interesting views.
Where to Stay in Page, Arizona
Day 8: Grand Canyon National Park
On your eighth day of your 10 day American southwest road trip itinerary, visit one of the most incredible places in the world. A 277 mile long canyon, up to 18 mile wide and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. The Grand Canyon South Rim is located about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Page. To truly experience how vast and deep the canyon is, spend time hiking down the canyon on one of the trails. Remember that whatever you hike down you will have to hike back up, so plan accordingly. The best trails at South Rim are South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail.
I recommend hiking South Kaibab Trail to at least Cedar Ridge which is 1.5 miles down and 1,140 ft elevation change. Here you will be able to enjoy an incredible view and have a better feel of how large the canyon really is. If you are able to hike more, Skeleton Point is the next good stopping point which is a total of 3 miles down and 2,060 ft elevation change. If you are unable to hike down the canyon you can also walk along the Rim Trail.
Where to Stay Near the Grand Canyon
There are hotels right near the Grand Canyon and in Tusayan (12 minutes away) but they can get expensive and also fill up early so you have to book far in advance. If you do decide to stay in one of these hotels, note that there are limited food options nearby.
If you think you can manage a 2 hour drive after your day in the Grand Canyon, I recommend going ahead and driving down to Sedona. Sedona has many Airbnbs, resorts and hotels. Our 9th and 10th days of your American southwest road trip itinerary will be spent in Sedona.
Day 9: Sedona
Hiking in Sedona is a must when visiting the southwest. Sedona is a town in Arizona surrounded by beautiful red rocks. In Sedona you can spend time hiking, walking around the shops in the downtown, and dining with a view. To plan your two days in Sedona, read our best things to do in Sedona article and best hikes in Sedona article. Below is a suggestion of how to spend your two days in Sedona.
Things to Do in Sedona
- Hike the many hiking trails in Sedona. Choose which hikes to do during your time in Sedona from our list of the Best Hikes in Sedona and our guide to Sedona Off the Beaten Path.
- Get an incredible aerial view of the red rocks on a helicopter tour over Sedona.
- Stay at the Enchantment Resort and relax in the pool surrounded by beautiful red rock views.
- Do a scenic Kayak tour on the Verde River in nearby Cottonwood.
- Go wine tasting near Sedona with an all-inclusive wine tour.
- Go shopping in uptown Sedona at the crystal shops, boutiques, and galleries.
- Explore Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village and visit to the galleries and shops.
Breakfast at Indian Garden's Cafe and Market
Start your day in Sedona eating breakfast at Indian Garden’s Cafe and Market. Indian Garden’s Cafe and Market is a cute cafe in North Sedona with nice outdoor seating in a garden area. Since it is also a market, while you are there you can get baked goods and snacks for the day.
Hike Soldier Pass and Brins Mesa Loop
One of the best hikes in Sedona is Soldier Pass and Brins Mesa Loop. This 4.9 mile loop features the Seven Sacred Pools, Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole and incredible views. You can start the trail at Soldier Pass Trailhead if you can find parking there, but the parking lot is very small and gets full fast. If there is no parking there you can find more parking at Jordan Road Trailhead.
You can do the loop either clockwise or counter clockwise. If you do the loop counter clockwise from Soldier Pass Trailhead, you will see a large sinkhole soon into the trail called Devil’s Kitchen. Then you will continue hiking and you will come across the Seven Sacred Pools, small natural pools. The pools look really nice with the surrounding red rocks towering above. Soon after you pass the Seven Sacred Pools you will start hiking up the rock until you reach the top of the mesa and meet Brins Mesa Trail. Once you reach Brins Mesa Trail you will hike down the rock on this side and then loop back to Soldier Pass Trailhead on Cibola Pass Trail. Hiking in Sedona will be one of your favorite days on your 10-day American southwest road trip.
Dinner and Drinks
Change into a nice outfit and head to the Enchantment Resort, a beautiful resort in Sedona with several nice restaurants. Make a reservation at View 180 where you can enjoy a drink surrounded by the beautiful red rocks. This restaurant is open from 4 pm to 9:30 pm. If you are hungry they also have some food options or you can go to Tii Gavo which is also located at the Enchantment Resort for more options. If you are looking for a cheaper dinner option you can check out Pisa Lisa, Hideaway House, or 89Agave Cantina.
Day 10: Sedona and Drive Back to PHX to Fly Out
Hike Devil's Bridge Trail
Wake up very early to hike Devil’s Bridge, a popular 4.2 miles round trip hike in Sedona that takes you to a natural sandstone arch formed by erosion. This is one of the best hikes in Sedona if you are looking for a unique destination. If you have a high clearance all wheel drive vehicle you can drive closer to the trailhead. If not, your car will not be able to make it and you will need to park further out and hike about 1 mile to the trailhead along a dirt road. Most of the trail is flat with the exception of the last part which is more steep.
Hike Broken Arrow Trail
Broken Arrow is an easy 3 miles round trip hike to an incredible viewpoint called Chicken Point. I’ve hiked this trail several times and each time I’m still in awe of how beautiful it is.
Lunch at the Hudson
The Hudson is a restaurant in Sedona with incredible views and a nice patio. This is a great place to have lunch after a long hike.
Scenic Drive from Sedona to PHX
Sedona is located at 4,500 ft elevation and Phoenix is only at 1,000 ft which makes the 2 hour drive from Sedona to Phoenix very interesting. You will leave the beautiful red rocks of Sedona to ascend up to a mesa with completely different plant life. I recommend stopping at Sunset Point rest stop to see a beautiful view. Then you will continue the drive down the windy roads through Black Canyon City and you will start seeing the landscape change drastically and Saguaro Cacti appear. Finish your 10-day southwest road trip taking a picture with a Saguaro.
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