LAST UPDATED: 5/3/23 – American Southwest Adventure Itinerary
The American Southwest has some of the most beautiful landscapes in North America. From mountains, to desert, to canyons and breathtaking lakes, it really has it all. There is so much to do and see in the American Southwest that it can sometimes get a little overwhelming trying to plan a trip to see it all. Well, fear not, because I am here to help.
You could spend thousands of dollars to take a pre-arranged tour, but why spend lots of money to get pigeon-holed into a set itinerary and forced to explore on someone else’s timeline? Instead, I have put together a series of rough itineraries and planning guides that you can use to plan your own trip to explore these beautiful landscapes.
An All-You-Need Itinerary and Guides in One Place
In these guides, you will find a rough American Southwest adventure itinerary that I have designed to maximize what you can see in the allotted time for the trip. In this guide, I have laid out a 7-day American Southwest adventure itinerary that brings you to some of the American Southwest’s most amazing places. You will find such things as the following:
- How to prepare for your trip.
- Safety tips for your trip.
- Where to start and end your trip.
- A rough itinerary on where to go and when.
- Recommendations for accommodations.
- Optional stops along the way.
- Plenty of travel guides for each location to help you maximize your time there.
The beautiful thing about these guides is that what you ultimately do is up to you. I give you a rough outline, along with plenty of options for you to use to make this trip the perfect trip for you, not for a large tour group. So, let’s get started!
Have More Time?
If you have more time and would like to see more of the amazing things in the area, don’t worry. I also have an extended 14-Day road trip itinerary thru Southern Utah and Northern Arizona that you can check out!
Itinerary Navigation Menu
American Southwest Adventure Itinerary Overview
I call this trip the express tour of the American Southwest. If you only have a week to explore, this American Southwest adventure itinerary will help you touch on some of the most amazing places the Southwest has to offer. Trust me when I say that you will never be wanting for adventure on this trip.
This trip will take you to four of the top national parks and monuments in the area of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The best part is, most of these places are very close to Las Vegas, Nevada, which makes it the perfect launching spot.
- DAY 1 – Fly into Las Vegas and drive to Zion National Park.
- DAY 2 – Hike the Narrows (Zion)
- DAY 3 – Hike the West Rim Trail, Angel’s Landing, and Emerald Pools Trail (Zion)
- DAY 4 – Hike to Zebra Slot and hike Devil’s Garden (Grand Staircase)
- DAY 5 – Explore Bryce Canyon National Park and the surrounding area (Bryce)
- DAY 6 – Tour Antelope Canyon and view Horseshoe Bend (Glen Canyon)
- DAY 7 – Fly Home from Las Vegas
When to Take This Trip
There are many factors that you must consider when taking any trip, and this trip is no different. The factors you are going to want to most consider when planning any trip to the American Southwest are the weather and the crowds (as the American Southwest is a very popular tourist area). I have outlined what you can expect as far as weather and crowds during each season of the year below.
Spring Months (March – May)
The Spring months are one of the best times to visit the American Southwest. During these months (especially during late April), the temperatures are pretty mild, and the crowds are very low because it is still the off-season. April is one of my favorite months to visit this area of the United States.
Summer Months (June – August)
If you like really hot weather and very big crowds, then the summer months are the perfect time to visit the American Southwest. There really is never a bad time to visit this area of the United States because it is so beautiful, but if you have a choice, I recommend avoiding the summer months. The temperatures can be scolding hot, and the crowds can make some of the more popular trails less enjoyable or even dangerous in some parks and public lands.
Fall Months (September – November)
Like the spring months, the fall months are another ideal time to visit the American Southwest. The temperatures are usually pretty mild (especially in late September and early October), and the crowds have usually started to lighten. Along with the month of April in the spring, the month of September is another of my favorite months to visit this area of the United States.
Winter Months (December – February)
The winter can be beautiful in the American Southwest, as some of these areas do get snow and it looks absolutely beautiful on the red rock of the area. However, the winter can also mean more dangerous trail conditions in some of the area’s national parks and public lands.
Sandstone tends to get very slick, especially when covered with ice and snow. The temperatures can also be very cool during this time of year, especially at night. If you do decide to visit in the winter, you will benefit from not having many other people around, but you will have to deal with more dangerous trail conditions and cool temperatures.
Where to Start and Finish
The route you will be taking has been designed to minimize the amount of driving that you will be doing each day, while maximizing the number of fun things you will be doing and beautiful things you will be seeing.
You Start Your Trip in Las Vegas
You will fly into Las Vegas, Nevada, then make your way North to Zion National Park. You will stay near Zion for a few days as you explore this amazing national Park before heading further East to Bryce Canyon National Park.
You will set up your base camp near Bryce Canyon National Park so that you can explore the park and the slot canyons of the nearby Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument over the next few days. Finally, you will head South to the Page, Arizona area and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
You Finish Your Trip in Las Vegas
While staying in Page, you will get to see some of the area’s treasures, such as Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. There is so much to see and do in this area that you have an almost endless number of side excursions you can take. When you are all done, you will drive back to Las Vegas and make your way home.
Long before you board the plane to Las Vegas, there are some things that you will want to make sure you take care of to prepare for your trip. To help you coordinate and plan, we have compiled a list of things to do and things to bring below.
Book Accommodations Near Zion National Park
You will need to book accommodations near Zion National Park for nights 1 and 2 (you will find recommendations in this guide).
Reserve Accommodations Near Bryce Canyon National Park
Book accommodations near Bryce Canyon National Park for night 3 and 4 (you will find recommendations in this guide).
Book Accommodations Near Page, Arizona
Accommodations near Page, Arizona will be needed for nights 5 and 6 (you will find recommendations in this guide).
Purchase Antelope Canyon Tour
You will want to book your tour for Antelope Canyon at least a month in advance. You can find more information on Antelope Canyon Tours, as well as tour information for the equally beautiful Waterhole Canyon, in my park guides in this American Southwest adventure itinerary article.
Get Permit to Hike Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park
If you would like to hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, you will need to plan well in advance. You now need to get a permit to hike Angel’s Landing. Please see my Zion National Park guide linked in this American Southwest adventure itinerary article for more information.
Reserve Gear for the Narrows Hike in Zion National Park
You are going to want to reserve gear for your Narrows Hike at Zion National Park at least a month in advance (preferably 3 months in advance).
Get Permit to Hike the Wave
If you want to include a stop at The Wave in your trip, you will need a permit to do that hike. You will want to obtain your permit at least 4 months in advance.
Book Boat Tour to See Rainbow Bridge National Monument
If you want to add a stop at Rainbow Bridge to your trip, you will want to book that boat tour at least a month in advance. Be advised, if water levels in Lake Powell are low, these boat tours will not be able to reach Rainbow Bridge.
Ensure Sure You’ve Packed Layers of Clothing
You will want to bring layers of clothing to wear. It can get really hot in the daytime, and quite chilly at night.
Verify You’ve Packed Sun Protection
You will want to bring sunscreen and sunglasses, especially if you are visiting in the summer months.
Make Sure You’ve Packed Proper Hiking Boots
You are going to definitely need to bring proper hiking boots. Some of the hikes outlined in this American Southwest adventure itinerary can be dangerous without the proper footwear.
Verify You’ve Packed Water Bottles or Bladders
You are going to want to bring water bottles, a camel pack (with water bladder), or some other way of carrying plenty of water as you hike.
Make Sure You’ve Downloaded Offline Maps to AllTrails App
Make sure you save offline maps of the areas you will be exploring on your phone as several of these areas are remote and don’t have reliable cell service. This is especially true for the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. I like to use the Alltrails App with a Pro License to navigate without cell service. I have included download links below.
Before you depart for your trip, you will need to make sure that you have your accommodations lined up. If you plan to camp out during your trip, I have recommendations for campgrounds in each of my National Park guides, which I have linked to below. If you will be staying in hotels, I have listed some recommendations at different price points below to make your planning easier.
Hotel Recommendations for Nights 1 and 2
For nights 1 and 2 of your road trip, you will be staying near Zion National Park in Utah. Zion is located near the town of Springdale, which is where you will find the closest hotels. However, there are several other small towns nearby that also have hotel options. Here are some hotels at different price points that you can look at.
Hotel Recommendations for Nights 3 and 4
On nights 3 and 4 of your American southwest road trip, you will be staying in the Bryce Canyon National Park area. Byce Canyon City sits just outside the park, and this is the ideal place to stay. However, there are several small towns between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase that are still very close to Bryce Canyon that you can look at as well. I have included some recommended hotels at different price points for you to review below.
Hotel Recommendations for Nights 5 and 6
For the final two nights of your trip, you will be staying in the Page, Arizona area. Page is located on Lake Powell in northern Arizona and is considered the gateway to the marvelous Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and all its wonders.
There are also several wonderful slot canyons and an amazing Colorado River overlook to enjoy in the Page area. When you are ready to look at hotels in the Page area, I have included some recommendations at different price points for you to review below.
Day 1 – Fly into Las Vegas
Day 1 Itinerary
Day one is pretty low key. You will fly into Las Vegas, do some sight-seeing around the city, and then hit the road and head North towards Zion National Park. The drive is just shy of 3 hours and is a very scenic drive.
- Drive to Zion National Park (159 miles – 2 hours 45 min)
- Pick up your gear for the Narrows hike the following day. Most of the time you can pick up your gear the night before, which will allow you to get to the park early the next morning and beat the crowds (as well as find a parking spot).
Day 1 Maps
If you have the time, there are a few wonderful stops that you can make between Las Vegas and Zion National Park. Both the Hoover Dam and the Valley of the Fire State Park in Nevada are worth the time to see if you arrive in Las Vegas early in the day.
Day 1 Optional Stops
If you have some extra time, you can go a bit out of your way to see the Hoover Dam. It will add another hour onto your drive, but it really is worth it. So is the stunningly beautiful Valley of the Fire State Park, which is on your way to Zion National Park.
- Hoover Dam (adds 67 miles – 1 hour 15 minutes of driving).
- Valley of the Fire State Park (adds 31 miles – 40 minutes of driving).
Day 1 Visitor Guides
To help make sure your trip is a success, you can find more detailed information on the destinations you will see on Day 1 in the visitor guides listed below.
|Hoover Dam Visitor’s Guide|
|Valley of the Fire State Park|
Day 2 – Zion: The Narrows
Day 2 Itinerary
On Day 2 you will get to start exploring one of the most popular national parks in the United States (it is actually the 5th most visited park). I strongly recommend that you do the Narrows hike on the first day, because you are not going to want to have to worry about returning your gear on the way out of town on Day 3.
Get to Zion National Park Early
Hopefully you were able to pick up your gear the night before, as I also strongly recommend that you get to Zion National Park early in the morning. The available parking spots at the visitor center fill up fast and if you don’t get a spot you will have to park in Springdale and take a bus to the park.
After the Narrows hike, you can use the remainder of your day to explore some other hikes or some of the amazing state parks in area, but make sure you get some rest as you will be doing the infamous Angel’s Landing hike on Day 3.
- Hike the Narrows Trail in Zion National Park – (expect this hike to take between 4-6 hours, depending on how far you want to go).
Day 2 Maps
If you have some extra time outside of hiking the Narrows and exploring Zion National Park on Day 2, there are a few wonderful Utah State Parks in the vicinity that are worth checking out as well.
Day 2 Optional Stops
In addition to all of the amazing things to see and do inside Zion National Park, there are also some pretty amazing places in the surrounding area that are worth exploring. I have included two stunning state parks that are worth exploring that can be used as optional stops if you have some extra time.
- Sand Hollow State Park (32 miles – 45-minute drive from Zion National Park).
- Snow Canyon State Park (50 miles – 1 hour and 15-minute drive from Zion National Park).
Day 2 Visitor Guides
Before you head off and start exploring, I strongly recommend you take a look at the visitor guides for the parks I suggested. You will find all of the information you need on what to expect and how to get the most out of your visit to these beautiful places in these guides.
|Zion National Park Visitor Guide|
|Snow Canyon State Park|
|Sand Hollow State Park|
Day 3 – Zion: Angel’s Landing
Day 3 Itinerary
You will need to get a lot of good rest the night before because today you will hike one of the most famous trails in the entire United States National Park System. You are going to want to make sure that you are at the park bright and early as you do not want to hike this trail when it gets overly crowded. The earlier you arrive at the park the better. Remember, you need to obtain a permit in advance to hike this trail in Zion.
Take Your Time on the Angel’s Landing Hike
Please be aware, this hike absolutely fantastic, but it is not for everyone. It is extremely challenging and can be dangerous. I strongly suggest you read my Visitor’s Guide to Zion National Park (linked in the Visitor Guide’s section below) before setting out to hike this trail. You are going to want to make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into and be sure you are prepared.
Depending on when you get finished with the Angel’s Landing hike, you may have some time to explore other areas of Zion National Park or you might want to head straight for Bryce Canyon National Park, where you will spend the night. There are some other attractions near Bryce Canyon National Park that I have listed as optional stops below. If you get done at Zion early enough, you might want to check those out before checking into your hotel for the night.
- Hike the infamous Angel’s Landing trail at Zion National Park – (expect this hike to take between 4-6 hours, depending on the crowds. This is a hike that you do not want to rush for your safety and for the safety of others on the trail).
- Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park (roughly a 1 hour and 24-minute drive).
Day 3 Maps
After you finish exploring Zion National Park for the day, you will head to Bryce Canyon National Park and check into your next hotel. You will be in the Bryce Canyon area for the next few days exploring Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
If you finish up at Zion early enough, you may have time to stop at a few optional stops on your way to Bryce Canyon. The Kodachrome Basin State Park, Red Canyon, and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park are all worth exploring if you have the time.
Day 3 Optional Stops
Depending on when you get finished at Zion National Park, you might want to head straight for the Bryce Canyon area as there is plenty to do and see in that area. Below I have listed just a few of my favorite places to see around Bryce Canyon that can be used as optional stops on your trip.
- Kodachrome Basin State Park (will add 41 miles – 56 minutes to your drive).
- Red Canyon (this stop will add no distance to your drive).
- Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (will add 91 miles – 1 hour and 41 minutes to your drive).
Day 3 Visitor Guides
In order to give you all of the information that you need to make sure you plan your trip successfully; I have linked to visitor guides for the optional stops I have provided below. You will find everything you need to make your visit to these beautiful places a success in these resources.
|Escalante Petrified Forest State Park|
|Kodachrome Basin State Park|
Days 4 – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Day 4 Itinerary
On Day 4 of your trip, you will be exploring the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is one of the largest areas of pure wilderness in the Continental United States. There are so many incredible trails, slot canyons, and washes to explore in the Grand Staircase that there are almost too many to name. However, I am going to outline some of the top spots you need to hit, as well as some spots you may want to consider if you have the time.
- Visit the Long Canyon Slot (86 miles – 2-hour drive from Bryce Canyon). This slot canyon doesn’t require a long hike and is easily accessible.
- Visit Devil’s Garden (66 miles – 1.5-hour drive from Bryce Canyon). This popular Grand Staircase spot requires a short drive down an unimproved road but is still fairly accessible. No hiking is required to see the cool rock formations, but there are trails in the area to enjoy.
- Hike to the Zebra Slot Canyon (61 miles – 1-hour and 15-minute drive). This cool slot canyon requires a short hike on an unmarked trail. Please see my visitor guide below for more details on how to find this slot canyon.
Day 4 Optional Stops
If you are looking for some additional things to see in the Grand Staircase-Escalante or would like to replace an item I have on my American Southwest adventure itinerary with something else, here are some other great suggestions of what to see in the national monument.
- Lower Calf Creek Falls (68 miles – 1.5-hour drive from Bryce Canyon). This beautiful waterfall only requires a short hike to see, which makes it a very popular destination for visitors.
- Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons (81 miles – 2-hour drive from Bryce Canyon). Like the Zebra Slot Canyon, the hike to see these two canyons (which are located in close proximity to one another) required a moderate hike on an unmarked trail.
- Escalante Natural Bridge (62 miles – 1-hour and 15-minute drive). This beautiful natural rock bridge is very accessible and only requires a short hike to see, which makes it another popular attraction within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
- Reflection Canyon (104 miles – 3.5-hour drive). This breathtaking canyon requires a lot of work to get to, but it is worth it. It involves a long drive down a very rough road, followed by a long, difficult hike on an unmarked trail. Seeing this canyon requires a full day. Please see my guide for more details on hiking to Reflection Canyon.
Day 4 Maps
When you explore the Grand Staircase-Escalante, make sure you do the proper preparation. You will be without cell phone reception for most of your time in the area, so having directions or mapping ahead of time is critical. You should also let someone know your plans and what time you expect to return so that they know where to look for you in case of an emergency.
Day 4 Visitor Guides
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of the most rugged and beautiful areas of the United States. In order to help you make the most of your visit, I have included a number of my visitor guides for Grand Staircase attractions to help you plan.
|Ultimate Guide to the Zebra Slot Canyon|
|The Definitive Reflection Canyon Trail Guide|
Day 5 – Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 5 Itinerary
Day 5 of your trip is all about Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is one of my favorite national parks because of its beauty and the bounty of fun things to do inside and around the park.
You can spend the day exploring some of the park’s many breathtaking hiking paths, rent some mountain bikes and explore the Bryce Canyon area by bike, or take a horseback riding excursion within the park. For those who are adventurous, there are also helicopter tours over Bryce Canyon and the surrounding area.
Make Sure You Reserve Enough Day to Explore Inside the Park
I would reserve a good portion of your day to exploring within the park, as there are many beautiful viewpoints and hiking paths that are worth exploring. The hiking generally isn’t as strenuous as the hikes in Zion National Park, so if you didn’t feel comfortable hiking as much in Zion, this is a good chance to get some good hiking in.
At the end of the day today, you will be heading South to Page, Arizona for the night. It is roughly a 2 hour and 30-minute drive to Page, so make sure you don’t get too late of a start. You will be driving thru some absolutely beautiful landscapes, so the drive should go by fairly quickly.
- Visit Bryce Canyon National Park. I would plan on spending the entire day in the park, with some optional side excursions available. There are a number of really great hikes in the park and opportunities to do some mountain biking and horseback riding within the park and the surrounding area.
- Drive to Page, Arizona at the end of the day. You will be staying in Page, Arizona on this night and then waking up early the next day to explore Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and some of the other treasures of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Days 5 Maps
After spending the day exploring Bryce Canyon, you will head South to Page, Arizona for the night. This is a very scenic 2-hour and 30-minute drive thru some absolutely beautiful country.
Day 5 Visitor Guides
In order to make sure your visit to the Bryce Canyon area is as fun and as memorable as possible, I have provided visitor guides to Bryce Canyon and some attractions in the surrounding area for you to view below. You will find all of the information you need to explore these beautiful landscapes in these guides.
|Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Guide|
Day 6 – Glen Canyon Recreation Area
Day 6 Itinerary
Day 6 will be your last full day exploring, and it may just be the best day of the whole trip. Today you will explore the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and some of the amazing landscapes in-and-around that area. You will see the beautiful Antelope Canyon, which is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the American Southwest. You will also get to see the famed Horseshoe Bend, which is so picturesque that even pictures cannot do it justice.
There are so many things to see and do in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, that you can spend an entire vacation exploring the area and not see everything. In addition to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, I have also included some other popular attractions in the area that you might want to work into your trip.
- Take a tour of Antelope Canyon or Waterhole Canyon (Try and schedule your tour for mid-day, as the light is best entering the canyon around this time. I would expect the whole tour to take between 2-3 hours.).
- View Horseshoe Bend (Horseshoe Bend is only a short drive South from Page, Arizona, and the hike to see it is less than a mile, so this should be easy to fit in either before or after you take your tour of Antelope Canyon).
- Drive back to Las Vegas. If you want to book a later flight on Day 7, you can always choose to stay an extra night in Page. Otherwise, you will want to drive back to Las Vegas on Night 6 so that you can catch an earlier flight home on Day 7.
Day 6 Maps
There is so much to see and do in the Glen Canyon area that you can spend weeks here and not see everything. Below is a map of the locations of some of the spots I recommend in the area in relation to Page, Arizona.
Please note, the Rainbow Bridge National Monument is primarily accessible by boat tour on Lake Powell. You can access it by hiking, but it is a very long hike. For more information, please consult my Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Visitor’s Guide linked below.
The drive back to Las Vegas from Page Arizona isn’t a short one, so you will want to be conscious of your time and not leave too late. There is an alternate route to the South (via Highway 40) that takes you by the Grand Canyon, but that route is longer and there isn’t enough time in this American Southwest adventure itinerary for the Grand Canyon.
Day 6 Optional Stops
You are probably tired of hearing me say this by now, but there really is so much to see and do in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and surrounding areas. Below are just some of my favorite spots that you can choose to work into your American Southwest adventure itinerary.
The Easy Sights to See
- Lone Rock Beach (The Lone Rock Beach is one of my favorite spots in Glen Canyon. It is such a beautiful beach. There is a cost for entry, but it is well worth it if you want to sit by the lake, do some kayaking, or even spend a night under the stars).
- Glen Canyon Dam (The Glen Canyon Dam is a really cool sight to behold. You can get really close and even take a trail across the top of the dam. If you do decide to stop by and see the dam, make sure you also check out the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. They have some really cool displays.)
The More Difficult Sights to See
- Alstrom Point (If you are looking for an epic view of Lake Powell, then Alstrom Point is your spot. The viewpoint is absolutely sublime, but it is also very difficult to get to. You will need to traverse roughly 20 miles of pretty rough gravel road to get to Alstrom Point. If you don’t feel up to that, then Lone Rock Beach has some pretty great views as well).
- The Wave (The Wave is an absolutely incredible hike, but it is also one of the toughest hikes in the US National Park System to get a permit to. If you want to complete this hike, make sure you apply for your permit at least 4 months in advance. Otherwise, your only hope is to show up the day of and enter the permit lottery. I would expect to spend between 4-6 hours to complete this hike).
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument (The Rainbow Bridge National Monument is primarily accessible via a boat tour. These boat tours are incredible but do take a while. I would plan for the tour taking between 4-6 hours. You will want to make sure you reserve your spot on a tour well in advance of your trip).
Day 6 Visitor Guides
In order to make sure your visit to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a success, I have included a number of visitor guides and resources for you to use below. Everything you need to know to make your visit a success should be found within these guides.
|The Ultimate Horseshoe Bend Guide|
|Comprehensive Antelope Canyon Guide|
|The Ultimate Waterhole Canyon Guide|
Day 7 – Fly Home
On Day 7, the last day of this American Southwest adventure itinerary, your fantastic trip comes to an end. It is now time to head home. If you chose to stay in Page, Arizona for an extra night, then you will be driving back to Las Vegas to catch an afternoon or evening flight. If you chose to drive back to Vegas on the evening of Day 6, then you can check out Las Vegas until your flight leaves today.
If you chose to stay in Page, Arizona for an extra night, then you will be driving back to Las Vegas this morning to catch a flight. The drive back to Las Vegas from Page Arizona isn’t a short one, so you will want to be conscious of your time and not leave too late.
There is an alternate route to the South (via Highway 40) that takes you by the Grand Canyon, but that route is longer and there isn’t enough time in this American Southwest adventure itinerary for the Grand Canyon.