In short, here’s what we got to see and do in two weeks:
- Vegas and the Valley of Fire (Nevada);
- Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks plus Monument Valley and some small towns (Utah);
- Grand Canyon North and South Rims, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona (Arizona);
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Denver (Colorado).
All in two weeks. It was nothing short of amazing. So what can you expect from this road trip? Only but epicness, I promise! Unlike some other itineraries that take you on a loop, this 2 week Southwest road trip itinerary will have you flying into Vegas and flying out of Denver.
Get ready to adventure through off-beat desert towns and go on a few thrilling hikes in some of the most beautiful national parks in the Southwest. We only missed out on 1 of Utah’s national parks (Capitol Reef), but we got to see all the rest. If that sounds like your kind of adventure then…
Here’s the ultimate 2 week Southwest road trip itinerary!
P.S. Don’t forget your America The Beautiful Pass! This Southwest road trip itinerary takes you across several state and regional parks plus 5 incredible National Parks! Each park has an entry fee of up to $30/vehicle or more, so if you get a park pass it will only be half the cost! Plus, it’s valid for one whole year!
Road Tripping 2 Weeks in the American Southwest (Vegas to Denver)
Southwest Road Trip Map
To see the above directions in Google Maps in detail, just click this link to open in a new tab. (Note: Directions are split into two before/after Sedona, or Days 1-7 and Days 8-15).
Day 1: Arriving in Las Vegas
The easiest way we found to debut our Southwest road trip was by flying into Las Vegas (McCarran International Airport). From there, rent a car and head to your hotel for the night! For this one-way road trip, we picked up our rental car in Vegas and dropped it off at the airport in Denver.
As you may know, getting such a deal without extremely pricey drop-off fees is rare but we managed to do it! We rented with Enterprise and couldn’t have been happier. The rate with taxes included came to about $33/day. We had the car for exactly 14 days so we ended up paying less than $450 for the whole two weeks. We went with the cheapest rate and still got a free upgrade to a little Nissan Kicks which was perfect for our adventures! I highly recommend searching for car rental deals in advance and renting with Enterprise for this trip.
Depending on when your flight lands in Vegas (ours landed at night), you may or may not have enough time to go explore. We were able to drive the length of the famous Strip, walk through the colorful and hypnotic Fremont Street Experience, and eat some delicious slices at Evel Pie (an Evel Knieval-themed pizza bar).
As for where to stay in Vegas for the night, you probably know the city’s iconic hotels like the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace better than I do! We didn’t stay on the strip because of how busy it was (and expensive), so instead we stayed on the outskirts near Fremont in a quaint place called the Downtowner Boutique Hotel (near North Las Vegas). With its location, it allowed us to take off straight in the morning, avoiding traffic, to head to our first non-city destination – the Valley of Fire State Park, located between Vegas and Zion. If you don’t find any decent hotels for the night, check for Vegas vacation rentals on Airbnb.
Day 2: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
- Drive Time from Vegas: 1 hour
- Distance: 50 miles
- Park Hours: Open year-round dawn to dusk
Instead of driving straight from Vegas to Zion National Park, take a detour through the Valley of Fire State Park. This park is a local state park in Nevada, but it feels worthy of a national park title! Here, you can go on incredible hikes (i.e. to the Fire Wave), see ancient petroglyphs, wildlife, and learn about the incredible history of the valley at the visitor’s center.
Getting to the Valley of Fire is easy, just follow I-15 for about an hour. As for how long to stay here, it depends on what you want to do and see. I recommend taking 1 short hike in the early hours of the morning to beat the heat. There are also several vistas and scenic driving routes. The park isn’t that big, but there’s an incredible amount of things to do here nonetheless.
The Valley of Fire was our first introduction to the fiery red rock landscapes iconic of the American Southwest. We saw several Bighorn Sheep, lizards, birds, and other desert critters while learning about the rich history and geology of the valley and the native tribes that once inhabited these lands. A half-day in the VOF is a perfect amount of time to get a good feel of the place, hike a bit, and take some pictures.
Tip: There is no phone service in the VOF so download your map, trail info, and other valuable information before arriving. If you hike here, please be careful and take lots of water! It was 110 degrees Farenheit by 9:30 AM on our Fire Wave hike.
When you’re ready to leave and continue onward to Zion National Park, head out the east entrance/exit. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from VOF to Zion (Springdale). Don’t forget you will also jump ahead 1 hour due to the time change between Nevada and Utah.
Days 3-4: Zion National Park, Utah
- Drive Time: 2.5 hours + time change (1 hour forward)
- Distance: 130 miles
- Park Hours: Open year-round | Shuttles run from 7 AM – 7 PM
Zion National Park was the first big national park that we got to see during our 2 week Southwest road trip!
It is not the easiest park to visit, however, because you’re not allowed to take private vehicles into the Zion Canyon (due to current closures and seasons). Instead, you must book a shuttle ticket online in advance and ride the shuttle to get to the stop you want. The most popular stops are far up the canyon, at Temple of Sinawava (stop 9) for the Narrows hike and at the Grotto (stop 6) for Angel’s Landing.
We planned an awesome 2 day Zion itinerary which was jam-packed with adventure. Due to the pandemic, there were several trail closures, but we were able to see some incredible viewpoints, do a jeep tour at sunset, go horseback riding in the Ponderosa pine trees, and of course, wade in the Virgin River on the world-famous Narrows hike!
Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Drive Time from Zion: 1.5 hours
- Distance: 75 miles
- Park Hours: Open year-round | Visitor’s Center hours 8 AM – 8 PM (summer)
You can’t go to Zion without traveling 1.5 hours northeast to visit the incredible Bryce Canyon National Park! Bryce was arguably my favorite of all the parks we got to see. With its crimson hoodoos amphitheater, steep canyon walls, and dizzying switchbacks, Bryce is an adventure of the senses. You only really need 1 day in Bryce Canyon as this park is smaller and its popular hikes (Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop) can be completed in the morning.
After you visit Bryce, instead of heading back to Zion, you will continue driving towards Kanab, Utah for the afternoon/evening. It is a 1.5 hour, 76-mile drive (so fairly short).
Kanab is a sweet and totally underrated desert town in Utah. Travelers fly through here on their way to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I think Kanab deserves special attention. In Kanab, you can visit the amazing Wind Caves and explore the slot canyons, stop by the nation’s largest no-kill animal shelter (Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary), have a gourmet meal with a glass of wine at Rocking V Cafe, visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, observe ancient petroglyphs, and much more!
Day 6: Grand Canyon North Rim + Horseshoe Bend (AZ)
- Drive Time from Kanab: 1.5 hours
- Distance: 80 miles
- Park Hours: Open May 15 – Oct 15 | Visitor’s Center 8 AM – 5 PM
Rise early in Kanab to drive the remaining 1.5 hours it takes to reach the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The route there is quiet and long, passing over wide valley roads and through forests. If you are lucky, you might get to see bison on your way there! The Grand Canyon North Rim is completely different than the popular, more crowded South Rim. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth it! The North Rim is remote, wilder, more secluded, and offers awesome hiking opportunities.
Once you’re there, park and get ready to go on your first mini adventure to the Bright Angel’s Point. It’s here, at the main overlook that you will get to see the beautiful crevices and sweeping views of the Grand Canyon. The trail is a 0.5-mile short, paved path. If you want extra views, there are dozens of more trails to enjoy. Cape Royal Point (0.6 mi), Transept Trail (3 mi), and the Bridle Trail (1.2 mi + pet and bike-friendly) are popular additional hikes to do in the morning.
Come brunchtime, head into the Grand Canyon Lodge for some refreshments. The Lodge is a beautiful complex and although it was mostly closed when we went (due to the pandemic), there was still to-go food and drink service for guests and visitors. You can read more about the Grand Canyon North Rim and its southern neighbor here.
After a refreshing morning in the wild and solitude of the North Rim, head back out the way you came.
Horseshoe Bend (Page, AZ)
The next stop for the day is Horseshoe Bend, in Page, Arizona. It’s a 2.5-hour, 123-mile drive to Page from the North Rim, so you’ll get there in the early afternoon. The perfect time to see the sun illuminate the canyon walls of Horseshoe Bend. Beware, this iconic “Instagram spot” gets very crowded, so your visit will likely be with other people.
There is a $10 fee to park (P.S. your national park pass won’t cover it because this is run by the city of Page). To reach the Horseshoe Bend overlook from the parking lot there is a 15-20 minute hike one-way. Since it’s in the blazing heat of the day, be well-prepared with water and proper walking shoes. Don’t go if you aren’t feeling well. And if you plan to take pictures near the edge, please be careful! There have been dangerous falls in the past. If you go with children, keep them close.
If you want to spend more time in Page, you could also visit Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Glen Canyon Dam. After our visit to Horseshoe Bend, we drove the remaining distance to reach the town of Williams, AZ (gateway to the Grand Canyon South Rim) which is a 2-hour 45-minute drive south. We slept in Williams for the night and got up early to visit the South Rim just after sunrise.
Day 7: Grand Canyon South Rim + Williams (AZ)
- Drive Time from Page: 1.5 hours
- Distance: 80 miles
- Park Hours: Open May 15 – Oct 15 | Visitor’s Center 8 AM – 5 PM
This 2-week Southwest itinerary also includes a visit to Grand Canyon’s South Rim! That way, you get to see both sides (which offer very different experiences). To get to the South Rim, spend the night in Williams. Instead of adding to the business of Day 6 to reach the South Rim for sunset, instead, enjoy Williams by night and get up early to drive to the South Rim for Day 7. If you make it to the South Rim in time for sunrise, you’ll be especially rewarded with no crowds, fresh air, and amazing golden light.
When at the South Rim, I recommend starting with the Mather Point overlook, just off the parking lots (about a 5-minute walk). From here, skirt the canyon’s edge along the paved Rim Trail. By 9-10 AM, the path and overlooks will start filling up with people. The Yavapai Geology Museum is worth stepping into (during COVID times, only the shop portion is open, not the gallery). Beyond this point, there is the Trail of Time which illustrates the geological timeline of the Grand Canyon’s formation. One of the best hikes to do at the South Rim is the South Kaibab Trail (4-6 hours) which takes you down into the canyon.
Williams is a cute old town on the historic Route 66. The town’s glory days are over, but much of the memorabilia, old sights, retro diners, and vintage hotels are still intact. You will fall in love with how cute Williams is! We headed back to town for lunch at one of the cute diners on the corner called the Cruiser’s Route 66 Cafe. A former Route 66 gas station, this restaurant has converted itself into a timeless restaurant whipping up smoked burgers, ribs, brisket, and more. If you are vegan/vegetarian, they also served the Beyond Burger (super good!). After shopping and dining in Williams, we headed further south to start our adventure in Sedona, Arizona.
Days 8-10: Sedona, Arizona
- Drive time from Williams: 1 hour 15 mins
- Distance: 60 miles
No Southwest road trip is complete without a visit to the stunning red rock landscapes of Sedona, Arizona! Sedona is a curated desert town about 1 hour south of Flagstaff. We spent 3 days in Sedona discovering the best hikes, buttes, spires, vortexes, cafes, galleries, and nearby towns and vineyards. We ended up spending one extra day in Sedona because it’s hard not to want to stay more here. If you love the outdoors, you will love exploring Sedona on your 2-week Southwest road trip!
One of my favorite memories from here was our sunrise hike to Cathedral Rock which is known to be one of Sedona’s famous vortexes. Depending on how much you want to hike, there are also the Devil’s Bridge, Bell Rock, Soldier Trail, Boynton Canyon, and Airport Mesa hikes that are awesome and worth including into your itinerary.
Apart from hiking, take time to wander the curated Uptown and shop for treasures at the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village inspired by the real Tlaquepaque near Guadalajara, Mexico. To cool off from the Sedona heat, seek out the Grasshopper Point swimming hole just north of the town. Off-roading, jeeping, kayaking, meditating, wine-sipping… There’s so much to do in Sedona on a Southwest road trip!
Where to stay in Sedona: With its increasing popularity, Sedona has become quite the expensive place to stay. The Sky Ranch Lodge and Enchantment Resort both offer stunning panoramic views of the red rock buttes in Sedona. We found it more affordable and just as convenient to rent an Airbnb just outside of Sedona’s downtown.
Day 10: Monument Valley, Utah
- Drive time from Sedona: 3 hours 45 mins
- Distance: 207 miles
For this 2-week itinerary, a visit to Monument Valley in Utah is a must! For our road trip, we planned to cross Monument Valley at noon to take photos at Forrest Gump Point when the red rock buttes are in full sun. We planned it this way because it’s a 3-hour 45-minute drive from Sedona and another 2-hour 45-minute drive to reach Moab, where we planned to stay for the night.
Most of Monument Valley is closed in order to reduce the number of infections spreading across the Navajo Nation. The road through Monument Valley remains open, but it is encouraged to drive straight through. We drove out to Forrest Gump Point via Hwy 163 for pictures and then carried on to Moab. The Mittens and Four Corners Monument are closed through Jan 2021, but services such as lodging, gas, etc., remain open. Check here for updates.
P.S. As you leave Arizona and enter Utah to head toward Monument Valley, look out for the iconic Utah state sign to snap a photo!
Days 11-12: Moab, Utah (Arches & Canyonlands)
- Drive time from Monument Valley: 2 hours 45 mins
- Distance: 152 miles
For your last stop in Utah, head north to Moab where not one, but TWO national parks await you – Arches and Canyonlands. We personally spent 2 days in Moab – one day for each park and I recommend you to do the same. There is simply too much to see and do in each park that splitting both in one day would be too much.
Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural arches that you can see up and close with an awesome hike. Delicate Arch is by far the most popular of all the arches and hikes, but don’t overlook the Landscape Arch (longest arch) or Double Arch. I recommend hiking up the 3-mile slope to reach Delicate Arch for sunset (get there 30 minutes to an hour before the sun actually sets). It’s not only a fun hike, but the view is breathtaking. Beware there will be a lot of other travelers and photographers there for sunset.
Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s largest park consisting of three distinct sections: the Island in the Sky, the Needle, and the Maze. All three are gigantic and spread far apart. The section that you’ll visit is the Island in the Sky which offers dozens of panoramic vistas from atop a 1,000 ft plateau. Mesa Arch is one of the most famous types of arches here and is best visited at sunrise when the sun rays peak perfectly through the archway. Drive the 20-something-mile scenic route and make sure to stop and marvel at the switchbacks of the Shafer Trail and get out to marvel at the expansive Green River Overlook.
Beyond the parks, Moab is an awesome little desert town. Eat at one of the delicious food trucks (I recommend Quesadilla Mobilla) and shop in the curated stores downtown. You can also rent a 4×4 and go off-roading or take a fun rafting or kayaking trip on the Colorado River.
Moab is your last stop in Utah on this 2-week Southwest road trip itinerary before you cross state lines and briefly visit Colorado.
Days 13-15: Black Canyon of the Gunnison + Denver, Colorado
- Drive time from Moab: 3.5 hours via Hwy CO-90E
- Distance: 177 miles
For the last stretch of this 2-week road trip itinerary, you can either follow our route through smaller highways in southwest Colorado to visit yet another beautiful park – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – or make a bee-line to Denver via I-70.
I personally can recommend taking the scenic route through Colorado. We not only ended up driving over gorgeous lands but also stayed overnight in a quaint town (Montrose), ate at a little cafe in the middle of seemingly-nowhere, and overall enjoyed the road trip views. We got to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for sunset (which was amazing) and leisurely drove through the cute outdoorsy town of Buena Vista the following day on our way to Denver.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison – can you spot Paul?
We ended up spending two nights in Denver on a weekend. I recommend you rent a scooter and visit the artsy districts and take a mini road trip to see Golden. We also got to see the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater concert venue that is set outdoors and is known to host many famous artists. There’s no shortage of things to do in and around Denver before you jet off back home or to another destination.
All I can say is that we ended our road trip across the Southwest with a bang! We got up early (like 5 AM) on our departure day and easily dropped off our rental car before boarding our flight back to Tennessee.
Below are a few final travel tips for traveling across the Southwest that you might find useful.
Last Travel Tips for a 2 Week Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
Park Pass: Since you will visit at least 5+ national parks and numerous landmarks during your 2-week Southwest road trip itinerary, it’s wise to invest in an America The Beautiful National Park Pass which gives you free access to all NP’s across the U.S (plus it’s valid for one whole year).
BLM Campgrounds: To save some money on accommodation, you might consider wild camping out the back of your SUV or van for a few nights. There is also the BLM campgrounds that exist on a first-come-first-serve basis and are affordable at around $20/site.
Gear / What to Pack: Don’t overpack! Bring ample hiking clothes like moisture-wicking shirts and pants, breathable linens, and comfortable hiking boots plus walking sandals for non-hiking days. You will want to bring at least 2 reusable water bottles to refill, or a water bag to fit in your backpack. A hiking/day bag is advisable as is a multi-day backpack (here is my REI recycled backpack I use).
And with that concludes our incredible Southwest road trip itinerary!
Thank you for reading and I hope this guide helps plan your trip!! Feel free to drop me an email or comment with questions.
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