Red rocks and geological wonders fill this superstar itinerary spanning the best of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. You’ll explore Zion’s massive sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons, the hoodoos (odd-shape pillars of rock left by erosion) of Bryce Canyon, and the overwhelming majesty of the Grand Canyon, close to 300 river miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.
DAY 1: LAS VEGAS, NV
Fly into Las Vegas to kick off your Southwest trip with a bang. Stroll along the Strip, see a spectacular live show, take a ride in a gondola at the Venetian, people-watch on Fremont Street, sit by the pool—whatever your heart desires. Stay at the Bellagio of Ocean’s 11 fame for the ultimate bragging rights.
DAY 2: ROUTE 66
Hit the road early to start your drive toward the Grand Canyon. You can drive straight there, but we recommend taking a kitschy, colorful detour along America’s Mother Road for a dose of nostalgia and Americana, heading from Kingman to Seligman. Dip into the Arizona Route 66 Museum in Kingman and grab a bite at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, a ’50’s-style diner where jukebox tunes play.
Then move along Route 66 and visit the Hackberry General Store, where you can pose for pictures with vintage cars, signs, gas pumps and highway memorabilia while sipping a bottle of sarsaparilla. Next, stop in Seligman, where you simply must order a soda and pose by signs at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In.
By evening, you’ll reach Tusayan or nearby Grand Canyon Village; either are a great base for your Grand Canyon adventures over the next few days. If you’ve got time, hike (or take the shuttle) to Yavapai Point, just west of the visitor center in the South Rim Village, to catch the sunset.
DAYS 3, 4, AND 5: GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
If you stayed in Tusayan or Grand Canyon Village, you’re practically at the park’s South Rim entrance this morning. If you didn’t make it yesterday, begin today’s tour with a stop at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, near Mather Point in the South Rim Village, for the latest maps and information.
While you’re there, check out the Historic District, with its early-19th-century train depot and other buildings, many built by the Santa Fe Railroad. Get your bearings with a drive on the 7-mile-long Hermit Road. Hike the Rim Trail, a nearly flat path (much of which is paved) that hugs the edge of the canyon from the village to Hermit’s Rest, 2.8 miles to the west.
On your second day in the park, tackle the upper section of one of the “Corridor Trails”—South Kaibab or Bright Angel— which start at the South Rim and meet in the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon (the third Corridor Trail, North Kaibab, connects the bottom of the canyon to the North Rim). Bright Angel, the easier of the two, is one of the most scenic paths into the canyon; the trailhead is near Kolb Studio, at the western end of the village. If you booked a helicopter tour, mule ride, or white-water-rafting tour in advance, this is the day to do it.
For your last morning in the park, sign up for an interpretive ranger-led program; they cover a wide variety of subjects, including geology, history, and wildlife, so pick up a list at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
DAY 6: ANTELOPE CANYON AND PAGE
Drive 2½ hours north to Antelope Canyon, possibly the world’s most spectacular geological slots. Located within the Navajo Nation, the canyon has long been a cherished land; the tribe runs popular 90-minute tours through its rocky twists and turns several times a day, and advance reservations are necessary.
After your tour, head to the closest town, Page, to dig into brisket, ribs, and pulled pork at Big John’s Texas Barbeque. Page isn’t exactly known for its nightlife, but you’ll find a good selection of beers on tap at the State 48 Tavern. Stay at Lake Powell Resort, which has a pool, hotel bar, and a view of beautiful Lake Powell, or go all out with five-star luxury in the desert at Amangiri in nearby Canyon Point, Utah.
DAY 7: BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Get an early start and drive 2½ hours to Bryce Canyon National Park, known for its many magnificent hoodoo rock formations. Start your tour at the visitor center, about 1 mile past the park entrance.
Central to your tour of Bryce Canyon is the 18-mile-long main park road, where numerous scenic turnouts reveal vistas of bright red-orange rock. If you’re visiting from mid-April to late October, the free Bryce Canyon Shuttle will take you to many of the park’s most popular attractions.
Trails worth exploring include the 1-mile Bristlecone Loop Trail and the 1.3-mile Navajo Loop Trail, both of which will get you into the heart of the park. At the end of the day, camp out at Sunset or North campground.
DAYS 8 AND 9: ZION NATIONAL PARK
In the morning, head to Zion National Park, about an hour and 45 minutes southwest of Bryce, to explore hanging gardens, rock formations, and stellar hiking trails.
Enter at the south entrance and head to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, south of the junction of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Then explore the scenic drive, either in your own vehicle (January through early February only) or via the park’s shuttle (purchase in advance at wrecreation.gov as they are not sold in the park).
Intrepid hikers will want to tackle the Narrows, Zion’s infamous 16-mile-long gorge cut by the Virgin River, which requires hikers to spend more than half of their time walking, wading, or swimming in the fast-flowing river. For everyone else, Zion offers plenty of other hiking options.
The Emerald Pool trails (about 1 mile each) take you on a fairly easy hike from Zion Lodge, about 3 miles from Canyon Junction, to Lower and Upper Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Stay tonight and tomorrow in Springdale, the bustling town just outside the park (1.1 miles from the south entrance).
Spend the next day exploring the Kolob Canyons, in the northwestern corner of the park, about 40 miles from Canyon Junction. Take the Kolob Canyons Road 5 miles to its end at the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, where you’ll get fabulous views of the surrounding red rock canyons. For a spectacular 5-mile hike, drive about 2 miles back on the Kolob Canyons Road to the Taylor Creek Trail, which takes you past historic homesteaders’ cabins and through a narrow box canyon to the Double Arch Alcove, a large arched grotto.
DAY 10: LAS VEGAS AND HOOVER DAM
Come full circle by heading back to Las Vegas; it’s nearly a three-hour drive. If you have time before you fly or drive out, take in another over-the-top Vegas experience or make a trip to see one more geological wonder: the Hoover Dam. The man-made marvel lies about 40 minutes outside of town.