Arches National Park

The ultimate American Southwest road trip – from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

Epic road trips and the good ol’ US of A go together like cinemas and popcorn. Classic cars set the perfect tone for unforgettable journeys along trouble-free routes to roadside diners, quirky pitstops, and world-renowned tourist sights. There’s certainly no better way to travel from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. Here’s the Mr Hudson guide to the ultimate American Southwest road trip!

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made US National Parks: Utah to Arizona

Experience the iconic landscapes of the American West, including Arches National Park, Sedona and Moab, taking in awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon, rafting the rock-carved path of the Colorado River and exploring majestic Monument Valley with a private Navajo guide, all while relaxing each evening amid superb natural beauty.

Moab, Utah | Photo: Andrey Grinkevich

Fly to Las Vegas

In fairness, you can start a southwest road trip just about anywhere. The benefit of starting amid the bright lights of Las Vegas is the plethora of good-value flights – and the chance to pay for your trip with the turn of a single card on the blackjack tables. If you’ve been to the Las Vegas Strip before, it’s worth another visit – if only to take advantage of the better rental car prices here than at the airport.

Day 1 - Vegas to Zion

The journey to Utah’s Zion National Park takes roughly 2.5 hours along Interstate 15, giving you plenty of time to explore along the way. Our Las Vegas City Guide details all the best things to see, do, and experience in Sin City itself, while worthy stops on route include the breathtaking natural rock formations of Valley of Fire State Park. Most visitors end up overnighting in the hotels of nearby Springdale, but the best Zion National Park lodging is probably Under Canvas Zion glamping site. There are real beds, a ceiling of sparkling stars, and the sense of being luxuriously enveloped in the great outdoors.

Las Vegas | Photo: Daniil Vnoutchkov

Zion National Park | Photo: Dex Ezekiel

Day 2 - Zion National Park

It’s worth beginning your time in Zion National Park by heading to the Visitor Center. First off, shuttle buses take visitors further into the river gorges and eroded mountains during peak season (March to autumn) when private vehicles are banned from Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Secondly, the rangers stationed here can guide you to the best hiking options for your time and experience should you fancy further off-road adventures. The hikes of Angel Landings and The Narrows carry the grandest reputations.

Zion National Park | Photo: Yannick Menard

Day 3 - Zion to Bryce Canyon

Follow the historic Mount Carmel Highway (Route 9) east through Zion, taking your time on the winding panoramic road – Bryce Canyon is only 1.5 hours away along Highway 89. Stick with your rental beyond Bryce town and the Visitor Center, for although the road is an 18-mile dead end, it’s a stunning one with various mesmerising viewpoints, including Rainbow and Yovimpa at its southern end.

Day 4 - Bryce to Moab

It would be remiss to leave Bryce Canyon without stepping out from behind the wheel, which is something you can do before heading the four hours to Moab. The Navajo Loop Trail is a firm favourite, leading hikers into the canyon basin where the spectacular weather-beaten columns of rock known locally as hoodoos rise above you. Further, squatter, hoodoos can be found in the Valley of the Goblins, from where Moab is just a 1.5-hour drive.

Bryce Canyon | Photo: Digitalar byter

Day 5 - Canyonlands National Park

Moab is the gateway to Canyonlands and the much more famous Arches National Park. Split into two distinct sections, Islands in the Sky is the better portion for road trippers, with the huge flat-topped mesa (table) offering unforgettable views across the arid landscapes of eastern Utah and the Colorado River from the likes of Grand View Point and Green River Overlook. Mesa Arch is a favourite with photographers at sunrise, as a quick trip to Instagram will testify. The Needles is better suited to hiking, with finger-like projections making for constantly shifting vistas.

Canyonlands | Photo: Clay Banks

Canyonlands National Park | Photo: Natalie Acheatel

Day 6 - Arches National Park

If you fell for Mesa Arch, you’re going to love Arches National Park, approximately 15 minutes from Moab, where some 2000 natural rock arches join balancing rocks and pinnacles to form an unmissable landscape of oranges and reds, particularly at sunrise and sunset. There are plenty of hiking options for getting even closer to these exquisite natural forms, and a popular scenic drive to the likes of Balanced Rock and Double Arch.

Day 7 - Moab to Page via Monument Valley

On departing Moab, take US-191 south into Arizona. Your destination is Page, but on the way, it would be insane not to pay a visit to Monument Valley. A scenic drive connects up some of the most impressive monuments – monoliths that rise out of an otherwise flat landscape – though be warned it’s pretty rough and best done if you’ve rented a four-wheel drive. If not, guided tours are also available, and take in parts of Navajo Tribal Park not normally accessible to visitors.

You’ll be spending the next couple of nights in Page. It may be small, and the name might not mean a great deal, but its location is hard to beat and rivals any Antelope Canyon hotels you might have found. On the edge of Hopi native American reservation, it’s also just a short distance from Lake Powell – the southern perimeter of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Horseshoe Bend, and the aforementioned Antelope Canyon, which you’ll explore tomorrow.

Horseshoe Bend, Page | Photo: Quentin Dr

Day 8 - Page, Arizona

Start the day with the drive to Horseshoe Bend, a lookout rising more than 1000 feet over an elegant U-shaped bend in the flow of the Colorado River. Follow this up by visiting Antelope Canyon. While there is more than one signposted Antelope Canyon hike for those who like to head out on two feet, to see its famous shapely wind-carved walls of orange-red rock penetrated by bright beams of sunlight you’ll have to book a tour. It’s best to book them ahead of time if you can and be prepared for crowds.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley | Photo: Walker Fenton

Antelope Canyon | Photo: Zetong Li

Day 9 - The Grand Canyon

The rather staid drive along US-89 makes your arrival at the Grand Canyon trails all the more uplifting. Quintessential views can be captured for prosperity and social media at Mather Point. The places to stay in Grand Canyon Village are a short walk from Mather Point, while Williams on the historic Route 66 is often considered to have the best Grand Canyon hotels to base yourself while discovering the area.

Grand Canyon | Photo: Sam Loyd

Day 10 - Drive back to Las Vegas

Williams is just four hours drive from Las Vegas. Assuming a flight home later in the day, you’ve got time to take in some more of the Grand Canyon, head to the shores of Lake Mead, or try your luck on the gambling tables of Las Vegas before returning your rental car.

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Monument Valley | Photo: Robert Murray

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