The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip: 12 National Parks, Natural Wonders, & More In 1 Week
Pirates, if you're still looking for summer plans, maybe it's time to check a great American adventure off your bucket list. If you can't make it to Westworld, there's nothing like a road trip around the incomparable American Southwest. In just a week, you can see some of the most gorgeous sights the U.S. has to offer. Check out our suggested stops and route below. Stop talking about seeing the Grand Canyon and just do it!
You can easily start this trip from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, and you can also reverse the order of stops. This post is based on a Los Angeles departure in counter-clockwise direction.
Stop 1: Joshua Tree National Park, CA
130 Miles From Los Angeles
Your first stop is Joshua Tree National Park, famous for its eponymous trees and incredible stargazing. The park is about the size of the entire state of Rhode Island.
Stop 2: Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim), AZ
380 Miles From Joshua Tree
The Grand Canyon is the second-most visited national park in America, and is probably on the most bucket lists. Spend time at the very accessible South Rim, and consider camping overnight.
Stop 3: Antelope Canyon, AZ
135 Miles From Grand Canyon
There are actually two sections to Antelope Canyon: upper and lower. Famous for its surreal rock striations and sunbeams, this photographer's dream can only be accessed on a guided tour. The canyon is also just a 15-minute drive from Horseshoe Bend.
Stop 4: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT
35 Miles From Antelope Canyon
This area is loaded with unique rock formations, like arches, hoodoos, and a petrified forest. It also has historical significance, as both dinosaur bones and petroglyphs have been discovered there.
Stop 5: Monument Valley, AZ/UT
150 Miles From Grand Staircase-Escalante
If you've ever watched an American Western, then you've seen Monument Valley on film. Now, it's time to see these incredible sandstone buttes, some as tall as 1,000 feet, in real life.
Stop 6: Mesa Verde National Park, CO
152 Miles From Monument Valley
While Mesa Verde is home to some impressive landscapes, it is even more famous for the hundreds of cliff dwellings that dot the park, like the 900 year-old Cliff Palace.
Stop 7: Arches National Park, UT
150 Miles From Mesa Verde
The sandstone arches of this national park are some of the most iconic natural features in America. While visiting, tread carefully: the park is trying to preserve the 2,000 arches that dot the landscape.
Stop 8: Canyonlands National Park, UT
27 Miles From Arches
Right next door to Arches you'll find the unique and colorful park that is Canyonlands. Filled with great opportunities for hiking, rafting, and photography, it shouldn't be missed.
Stop 9: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
245 Miles From Canyonlands
Bryce Canyon is famous for its fire-colored hoodoos—naturally formed rock pillars. Consider taking a horseback ride for a unique way to see the parks wonders.
Stop 10: Zion National Park, UT
85 Miles From Bryce Canyon
Home to the stunning 15-mile long Zion Canyon, this park is a great place to stop for a hike. The park also has a shuttle bus system to transport visitors to various popular spots.
Stop 11: Las Vegas, NV
165 Miles From Zion
Why not spend a night of your trip in Las Vegas? Whether you're traveling solo, with a group of friends, or on a family vacation, this colorful city caters to everyone.
Stop 12: Death Valley National Park, CA
134 Miles From Las Vegas
Don't be turned off by the name: Death Valley is a fascinating place to visit. It contains Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and is officially a dark sky park, meaning the stargazing is unbeatable.
- Day 1: Los Angeles to Joshua Tree (2 hours); drive to Grand Canyon, South Rim (6 hours)
- Day 2: Morning at Grand Canyon; drive from Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon (2.5 hours)
- Day 3: Morning at Antelope Canyon; optional excursion to Grand Staircase-Escalante; drive to Monument Valley (2.5 hours); drive to Mesa Verde (3 hours)
- Day 4: Morning at Mesa Verde; drive to Arches National Park (3 hours)
- Day 5: Morning exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks; drive to Bryce Canyon (4.25 hours)
- Day 6: Morning at Bryce Canyon; drive to Zion National Park (1.75 hours); drive to Las Vegas (2 hours)
- Day 7: Depart Vegas for Death Valley National Park (2 hours); return to Los Angeles (4.5 hours)
Total Driving Time: 35 hours | Total Distance: 2,000 miles
*This itinerary is fitted for a week for convenience, but you can take as long as you want on your road trip.
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Check here for our TravelPirates road trip map right here. Keep in mind that some locations have been condensed to one point on the map, like Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.