Here is how we’d spend one week, ten days, and two weeks in the American southwest.

Road Trip #1:
Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

Go wild on this one-week road trip from Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon National Park

When to Go: Year-round
Duration: 1 week

From the bright lights of Vegas to the deep chasm of the Grand Canyon, all you need is one week to really go wild and let off some steam on this road trip. Whether you fly into Las Vegas and rent a camper or you arrive with a fully-loaded RV, you’ll have the time of your life on this seven-day itinerary.

Begin your trip in Las Vegas. Las Vegas has a little something for everyone, whether you’re drawn to the glitz and glamour of the Strip or are craving outdoor adventures. If the latter, head out of town and make your way to the Valley of Fire State Park, which is filled with stunning red rock formations that are perfect for stretching your legs and breathing in the desert air.

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On this trip, we’re going to take a slightly roundabout route to our ultimate destination, the Grand Canyon. To get there, veer north and east through St George, Utah to Page, Arizona. Stop in the fun adventure town of Kanab along the way, or drive it in a straight shot and set up camp on the shore of Lake Powell itself. Settle in for a day or two to explore iconic Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

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From Page, you can make your way to the lesser-visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon from March to October (it is closed during the winter), but most will want to head directly to the South Rim. Grand Canyon National Park is a must-see destination, and its gorgeous, striated layers are stunning at all times of the day. Be sure to get up for at least one sunrise experience on the canyon’s rim, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike down into the canyon itself.

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With your stay at the Grand Canyon complete, it’s time to head back to Las Vegas. On the way, make a stop in the town of Kingman along historic Route 66. Kingman dives deep into this history with retro diners, a neat museum, and cool murals painted for the iconic highway. A bit further on, right outside of Las Vegas, you’ll have the chance to see the Hoover Dam as it spans the Colorado River.


Road Trip #2:
The Best of Arizona

Escape the winter blues with a road trip through sunny Arizona.

Upper Cliff Dwelling in Tonto National Monument

When to Go: November – April
Duration: 10 days

There’s a reason why Arizona is such a popular spot with snowbirds (those folks who pass the winter months in the sunny embrace of this southwestern state), and the reason is that Arizona in the winter is a delight. It’s warm, it has great places to explore, and most importantly, it’s full of campgrounds and amenities that make camping here a breeze.

You could spend an entire season in Arizona, but for this road trip, we recommend 10 days.

Start your journey in Tucson. Tucson is a bustling city surrounded by deserts and hills for hiking, biking, and photography adventures. You can camp right in the city itself, or book a site on the outskirts where life is a bit quieter (but don’t worry, you’ll still be in easy driving distance to all the great restaurants and shops of Tucson). Don’t miss the chance to visit the friendly (if prickly) cactuses at Saguaro National Park, and stop by the Sonoran Desert Museum to fall in love with desert wildlife.

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From Tucson, make your way into Arizona’s hill country. Patagonia, Arizona, is a small town that is big on charm. Surrounded by grasslands and rolling hills, it’s a stark contrast to the arid beauty of the desert. Wander through the tiny main street to drink tea at a cafe and meet artisans in their shops, then drive or bike some of the dirt roads that crisscross the hills. See if you can make your way to the San Rafael Valley, where they filmed the movie Oklahoma!

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Next up is the mining-town-turned-artist-haven of Bisbee. Houses and buildings crawl up the narrow canyon walls in Bisbee, creating a slightly chaotic and oddly picturesque backdrop for a town that’s filled with delicious eateries, quirky shops, and at least one excellent brewery. Spend a day (or more) in this cool outpost, but be sure to park your rig on the outskirts of town. The narrow and winding streets of Bisbee have a tendency to turn into staircases when you least expect it.

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After Bisbee, choose your own adventure between the natural wonders of Chiricahua National Monument or the old-western vibes of Tombstone. Chiricahua is off the tourist track and all the lovelier for it, filled with rhyolite hoodoos and balancing rocks. Tombstone is decidedly on the tourist track but epically old-timey, with street shootouts and saloons complete with swinging doors.

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No trip to Arizona would be complete without a stop in Sedona. To get there, skirt along the rugged Superstition Mountains and stop a night at Theodore Roosevelt Lake. This reservoir is the largest in Arizona and has a couple of great campgrounds along its shore. Apart from relaxing by the water, try to get a spot on the guided tour to the Upper Cliff Dwelling in Tonto National Monument. It’s the only way to access the dwelling, which is worth seeing.

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Lastly, make your way to the vortex-loving, red mesa filled wonderland that is Sedona. Sedona has beauty around every corner, so take as much time as you can to explore its nooks and crannies. The downtown core is full of upscale shops and tasty restaurants, while the area around Sedona is ripe for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring by jeep or OHV. Be careful, you may never want to leave.

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Road Trip #3:
Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks

Explore the southwest’s most iconic landscapes.

Arches National Park

When to Go: Spring or fall for great weather and fewer people
Duration: Two weeks

Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks are some of the gems of the United States’ park system. From red rock arches to plunging canyons to stunning fins of sandstone, these parks offer visitors the chance to experience the postcard-perfect beauty of the southwest. For this trip, we recommend a minimum of two weeks, but you could make it much longer if you have the time to spend. 

Start your journey at Zion National Park, an hour east of St George, Utah. Zion’s core is a narrow canyon surrounded by towering red cliffs shaped by the turquoise waters of the Virgin River. This park is popular, and a mandatory shuttle runs from March through November (no private vehicles are allowed into the heart of the park during this time), so be sure to factor that into your plans. Make life easy by reserving a campsite at one of the two park campgrounds — Watchman or South — and grab the shuttle from the visitor center.

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From Zion, drive west 1.5 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park (note: the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park requires a $15 tunnel permit and an escort for vehicles over 11’4” tall and/or 7’10” wide. Vehicles over 13’1” tall, single vehicles over 40 feet long, or combined vehicles over 50 feet long are not permitted. Learn more about the regulations and escort times here).

Bryce Canyon National Park is drop-dead gorgeous, so plan to spend at least one night and a full day among the striking hoodoos. Drive to all the viewpoints, take a hike on the rim, and stop by the visitor center to watch a short film on how the landscape was formed. If you have more time, some hikes drop down into the canyon itself. 

One important thing to know: Bryce Canyon is at over 8,000 feet in elevation! Snow lingers in spring and starts falling in autumn, so be prepared.

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Next up on your journey is Capitol Reef National Park, about two hours from Bryce Canyon. Capitol Reef is the least visited of the “Mighty 5” parks, but don’t let its underdog status dissuade you. Explore slot canyons, hike through sandstone fins, and pick fruit at the historic orchards inside the park. If you’re looking for a bit of a break from the crowds of the busier parks, you’ll find it here.

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Another 2.5 hours west of Capitol Reef will bring you into the heart of the action — Moab, Utah. Moab is a once-tiny desert outpost that has exploded over the last few decades. Both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park call the Moab area home, along with vast swaths of BLM land for exploring.

Arches National Park is arguably the most famous of the “Mighty 5” parks. We recommend arriving early to experience the beauty of Arches before the crowds descend. Make your way right to Delicate Arch and see it without the bustle of people. If you’re into exploring, a ranger-led hike into the Fiery Furnace is spectacular, though reservations are highly recommended.

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A mere hour drive from Moab lies the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. Filled with a rugged beauty that reaches below the ground as well as above, it’s hard to ignore the allure of this park. Stargaze with almost no light pollution to mask the sky, hike through hills of smooth rock, and, if you have the vehicle for it, take a remote, backcountry drive.

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