Are you planning the ultimate southwest road trip? It’s one of the best road trips in the United States, filled with wide open spaces and natural wonders.
There are many different routes you can take, some off the beaten path and others down a more popular one. However, any one of them would be outstanding. In this post, we are going to start in California and name some key things you won’t want to miss in each state.
Are you ready?
First Things First
Plan Your Route
We’re living in the age of technology- use it to your advantage.
Before you leave, pull out your phone, fire up the ol’ Google Maps and plug in each destination. This way- you’ll know the distances between stops and a guesstimate of travel time. Remember to always tag on a little extra time than what it says for bathroom breaks, food breaks, fuel breaks, and those I-really-need-to-pull-over-and-take-this-picture-breaks.
Consider Purchasing a National Park Pass
There are 9 National Parks located in the Southwest, and you might end up seeing them all. So, consider purchasing a National Park Pass in advance. You will pay a one-time $80 fee to see the parks an unlimited time throughout the year, which can save you a lot of money on entrance fees. Each park by itself is about $30.
Yosemite is a huge park with a ton of outdoor possibilities, including fishing, hiking, and gold-panning. Look for Yosemite Falls- it’s the tallest waterfall in the United States, and the 5th tallest in the world.
In Yosemite Village, you will find a variety of restaurants and shops, as well a lively arts & culture scene.
Hike inside Sequoia to lay your eyes on the famous General Sherman tree, the biggest tree in the world by volume. You won’t understand just how significant this tree is if you don’t see it in person.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia are often compared, likely because they are close to one another in proximity. However, they are drastically different. The part of Kings Canyon nearest to Sequoia is similar because of it’s giant sequoia trees, but keep driving east, and you’ll get to a different and less frequented section of the park.
Joshua Tree has boulders and buttresses, desert plains, rugged mountains, gold mining ruins, and twisted, bristled Joshua trees.
Hike to Keys View when you will find stunning views looking out over Coachella Valley. Hang out during sunset and watch the vibrant colors melt through the sky.
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)
It’s cliche to say- but every bit true- Everyone should experience the Grand Canyon at least once in their lives. Not only is it the most visited attraction in Arizona, but one of the most visited in the world. It’s one of the world’s Seven Wonders.
TheGrand Canyon attracts over 5 million visitors every year, and the majority of the visitors go to the South Rim. It’s because it’s the most easily accessible side and provides the most amenities for guests.
November through February are some of the better times to visit. You won’t see nearly as much foot traffic or experience as many parking problems like during the summer months.
Horseshoe Bend is a photography hot spot in the U.S. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect Instagrammable picture- here’s your chance. Especially during Sunrise and Sunset.
Utah is one of the more impressive states on this list. You will want to take your time here to marvel at all its beauty; bright orange rocks and endless canyons.
This area has over 1 million acres of protected land. One million. There are so many adventures waiting on the inside for you that it could quite possibly take you a lifetime to explore. One downside is, it doesn’t have a lot of the amenities the National Parks in the area offer, but the tradeoff is there are fewer people visiting and free camping.
You can expect that Zion will be more crowded since it’s one of the more popular national parks in the United States. But do not skip this Southwest to-do. Things to see: Observation Point, Overlook Trail, Emerald Pools, The Narrows, and Angels Landing.
Bryce Canyon is best known for its famous hoodoos (also called “fairy chimneys). They’re created when snow melts and the water seeps into the rocks crack, freeze and expand until the large chunks fall away and impressive pillars are left in their place. There are thousands at the canyon. It also has spectacular sunrise and sunset viewpoints and a natural amphitheater. Also, don’t miss Queen’s Garden.
While it’s true there is more to Nevada than just Las Vegas- if you’ve never been (and even if you have), it makes for a fun stop. Swing by the “City of Sin” and enjoy a night of dazzling lights, exciting nightclubs, and poker tables.
Valley of Fire State Park might be the most underrated stop on this list. Look for the Seven Sisters and Fire Wave Trail.
Recommended photo spots: Rainbow Vista trail, The Beehives, Elephant Rock, and Balanced Rock.