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The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip

Total Driving Time: 35 hours | Total Distance: 2,000 miles
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Pictures this: You head out on a road trip around the incomparable American Southwest. In just one week you can see some of the most gorgeous sights the U.S. has to offer. Here are 12 must-see places on your southwest road trip route from TravelPirates. You can easily start this trip from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, and you can also reverse the order of stops.

Stop 1: Joshua Tree National Park, CA

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.

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree National Park

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree National Park

Stop 2: Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim), AZ

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.

Grand Canyon

Stop 3: Antelope Canyon, AZ

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.

Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Stop 4: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT

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.

Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Stop 5: Monument Valley, AZ/UT

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.

Sunrise in Monument Valley

Stop 6: Mesa Verde National Park, CO

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.

Mesa Verde Pueblo Land

Stop 7: Arches National Park, UT

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.

Arches National Park

Stop 8: Canyonlands National Park, UT

Right next door to Arches is the unique and colorful park that is Canyonlands. Filled with great opportunities for hiking, rafting, and photography, it shouldn’t be missed.

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Canyonlands National Park

Stop 9: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Bryce Canyon is famous for its fire-colored hoodoos, or rock formations similar to pillars. Consider taking a horseback ride for a unique way to see the parks wonders.

Bryce Canyon National Park Rock Formations Amphitheatre

Stop 10: Zion National Park, UT

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.

Zion Canyon The Narrows

Stop 11: Las Vegas, NV

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.

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Stop 12: Death Valley National Park, CA

The name “Death Valley” may have some negative connotations, but it’s 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.

Racetrack Playa in Death Valley

Southwest Road Trip Sample Itinerary

  • 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

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