The American Southwest is for many a mystic place. Who hasn’t seen some of the old movies featuring the stunning landscape of the Monument Valley as well as the importance of Native American history and culture? With so many national parks, and so many states defining the American West, we put together a Southwest Road Trip Itinerary that will help you plan your own travels.

American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary

Any itinerary will depend on when you land. Phoenix (Arizona), Las Vegas (Nevada), Albuquerque (New Mexico), and El Paso (Texas) are usually the best options for starting your Southwest trip.

In theory, you could pack a lot in a few days. But beware of the distances – they might look short on the map, but remember that the USA is a HUGE country. So here are below some itinerary suggestions if you were to pack and drive to the max. But in reality, we would suggest to drive less and explore more. And you will need some breaks from driving.

American Southwest Road Trip: Four Corners, Route 66, and National Parks // Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

5-Day Southwest Road Trip

  • Day 1: Fly in Las Vegas
  • Day 2: Drive to Grand Canyon
  • Day 3: Drive to Monument Valley
  • Day 4: Drive Canyon de Chelly National Park
  • Day 5: Drive back to Las Vegas

Day 1: Arriving in Las Vegas

Depending on the time of your arrival, you might have the time to explore the city. While there are a few day activities in Las Vegas, the city is better appreciated at night with its night shows, the Strip illuminations, and fancy restaurants.

Unless you are planning on exiting the city right upon arrival, do not rent a car on that first day. Traffic might be horrendous and you might struggle to find a parking spot. Instead, wear comfortable shoes and hit the Strip. Or book one of the Las Vegas shows ahead of time and enjoy some of the best performances available.

No stay in Las Vegas is complete without playing your luck at one of the machines. Be prepared to lose more than what you gain though. Unless you get beginner’s luck or are a champion at card playing!

Top Things to Do in Las Vegas in One Day:

During the day, and if you arrive early enough in the morning, plan to visit some of the top sites outside town

  • Helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon or by bus to the Skywalk
  • Hike in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
  • Go horseback riding in the Nevada desert
  • Visit Hoover Dam
  • Check themed hotels like The Venetian and its outdoor gondola rides, the Excalibur Hotel and Casino and the Luxor Hotel & Casino.

In the evening, Las Vegas takes on another vibe and becomes the true Sin City.

  • Walk down the Las Vegas Strip, and plan to stop at the High Roller Observation Wheel and the water shows of the Bellagio Fountains. Towards the end of the strip is the iconic 1950s’ neon sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada”. Get a Bus Pass for your return
  • Eat at one of the popular Vegas restaurants: Hard Rock Café near MGM Grand,  Gordon Ramsay Burger
  • Have a bird’s view over Vegas from one of the 1,149-feet Stratosphere Tower observation decks. Thrill-seekers can enjoy exciting rides as well.
  • Book a Show. Pick one of several famous Cirque du Soleil performances, Blue Man Group, Chippendales, to time-limited concerts, Vegas has something for everyone.
  • Go Gambling. Try the slot machine or a hand at poker! Casinos will very often provide free drinks as you seat and partake in the games. Time for cocktails maybe!

Where to Stay in Las Vegas

Vegas doesn’t lack accommodations, and on the contrary, the choice might be hard to make given the variety of hotels. From budget to luxury, see below our recommendations:

Day 2: Drive to Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is separated by the Colorado River into two rims. Given that there is no bridge that crosses the Grand Canyon besides from around Las Vegas or Page, you need to decide in advance which of the Rim you want to explore.

Grand Canyon South Rim or North Rim?

The South Rim offers about two dozen viewpoints, only three in the North Rim. On the other end, the North Rim has a less touristy feel, and let you enjoy the views without too much of a crowd. So our recommendation for that Southwest Road Trip is to head to the North Rim.

  • Distance from Las Vegas to North Rim Visitor Center: 269 miles
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Recommended Stops: St. George, where you can have lunch and stretch your legs for short hikes in the incredible scenery

What to Do in the Grand Canyon North Rim

  • Head to Bright Angel Point for great views into the Grand Canyon
  • Board a flightseeing tour or helicopter ride to enjoy a bird’s view of the Grand Canyon
  • Join one of the ranger-led tours, including learning about the California condors
  • In August, the Park hosts a Native American Heritage Week celebrating the rich culture and traditions within the Grand Canyon.

Note that the North Rim is at 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in elevation, which means the weather can get cold quickly. The area is open from May 15 to October 15 and closed in the winter months due to the snow.

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon North Rim

There is only one lodge, the Grand Canyon Lodge, and one campground in the park, so book early if you have specific dates in mind. Summer tends to be busy so plan ahead.

Otherwise, the small town of Kanab (80 miles from the visitor center, about a two-hour drive) has a few motels to choose from like the budget Aikens Lodge, the mid-budget Red Canyon Cabins, Canyons Boutique Hotel, Flagstone Boutique Inn, or the Kanab Garden Cottages – all with top ratings.

Day 3: Grand Canyon to Monument Valley

  • Distance from Kanab to Monument Valley: 196 miles
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Recommended Stops: Page, where you can explore the famous Antelope Canyon or go on a boat cruise on the Lake Powell

If you spend the night at the Grand Canyon National Park, add about 80 miles and two hours to first reach Kanab.

What to Do in Monument Valley

When you arrive in Monument Valley, there are different options to discover the fantastic landscape:

  • Go horseback riding and feel like a cowboy
  • Walk around the Mittens and experience the silence of the area
  • Drive the 17-mile scenic loop road through the park, and make sure to stop at the Forrest Gump Point
  • Board a jeep run by one of the Navajos who will drive you deeper within the Valley than the area accessible by independent drivers. Most drives include some traditional flute playing and singing, all while admiring the scenery. Be prepared for some serious goosebump moments.

Monument Valley is actually part of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and most of the activities are run through the Navajos.

Entrance fees: US$20 per car for up to 4 people for your own vehicle

Where to stay in Monument Valley

As it takes at least three hours to reach Monument Valley, plan to spend the night there or closeby. The added benefit of a night in Monument Valley is to enjoy a sunset and / or sunrise tour, which will take your breath away.

A couple of hotels and inns are available within the Reserve, and you can also decide to spend the night in one of the few remaining traditional Navajo Hogan house. These houses or hogans are rustic with almost no amenities but sleeping with Monument Valley with no one else around, and waking up to the sunrise illuminating the famous rock formations is worth it in our opinion. But we love camping and don’t mind rough conditions so we might be biased.

 

10-Day Southwest Road Trip

  • Day 1: Fly in Las Vegas
  • Day 2: Grand Canyon North Rim
  • Day 3: Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell
  • Day 4: Monument Valley
  • Day 5: Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park
  • Day 6: Chaco Culture National Park
  • Day 7: Canyon de Chelly National Park
  • Day 8: Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Day 9: Lake Mead and Hoover Dam
  • Day 10: Drive back to Las Vegas
American Southwest Road Trip: Four Corners, Route 66, and National Parks // Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

2-Week Road Trip USA in the Southwest

Could we say the ultimate national parks road trip? But you could also mix with cities, like a stop in Las Vegas for 2 days, a visit to Los Angeles also for another 2 days. Stretch your trip in New Mexico to include Santa Fe. The choice is yours (and is endless!)

  • Day 1: Fly in Las Vegas
  • Day 2: Grand Canyon North Rim
  • Day 3: Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell
  • Day 4: Monument Valley
  • Day 5: Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park
  • Day 6: Chaco Culture National Park
  • Day 7: Canyon de Chelly National Park
  • Day 8: Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Day 9:  Mojave National Preserve
  • Day 10:  Sequoia National Park
  • Day 11:  Yosemite National Park
  • Day 12: Death Valley National Park
  • Day 13: Lake Mead and Hoover Dam
  • Day 14: Drive back to Las Vegas
American Southwest Road Trip: Four Corners, Route 66, and National Parks // Chaco Canyon Culture

Chaco Canyon Culture

Best National Parks in Southwest USA

  • Colorado
    • Great Sand Dunes National Park
    • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Texas
    • Big Bend National Park
  • Utah
    • Arches National Park
    • Bryce Canyon National Park
    • Zion National Park
  • New Mexico
    • White Sands National Monument
    • Chaco Culture National Historical Park
  •  Arizona
    • Grand Canyon National Park
    • Monument Valley (a Navajo Park)
    • Canyon de Chelly National Monument
American Southwest Road Trip: Four Corners, Route 66, and National Parks // Monument Valley Navajo Reservation

Monument Valley Navajo Reservation

Other Southwest Attractions

  • Four Corners
  • Route 66
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Santa Fe
  • Acoma Pueblo

More details will come shortly to provide complete information about our trip, including travel tips and how to organize your Southwest Road Trip itinerary.

For now, we hope that some of our American Southwest photos that will make you want to pack and go right away!

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