A Great American Road Trip – 7 Days in Utah and Arizona

Looking for a postcard perfect vacation that won’t break the bank?  With this 7-day road trip adventure you’ll be transported into America’s most breathtaking and iconic destinations– which are surprisingly easy to access!

If you would like to road trip the great southwest but am not sure where to begin, you’re in luck!  We’ve mapped out our favorite route that traipses through Nevada, Arizona and Utah, and we’ll detail the best stops and must see attractions along the way.  Buckle up!

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Day 1: Las Vegas to Zion National Park

We left our home in San Diego on Christmas morning, and drove the 5 hours to Las Vegas.  If you are flying-in and renting a car, Las Vegas is the ideal destination to begin your road trip adventure.

Travel Tip: Be sure to rent a car from the airport to score the best deal!

Once you secure wheels let’s begin the trek to one of America’s most famous national parks, Zion.

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Distance (Vegas to Zion): 160 miles; 2 hours and 40 minutes

Day 2: Zion National Park

Being one of America’s most famous national parks, Zion is sure to attract a crowd.  It’s a narrow canyon with one road in and one road out, and during park hours only National Park shuttles can deliver you to many of the hikes and trail heads.

Travel Tip: Arrive to the Visitor’s Center before 8am to hop on the first tram of the day.

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If traveling between December – February, there are no shuttles and you can drive into Zion and park in designated areas. We traveled over the Christmas holiday, when the shuttles resume for a short period. Click here for shuttle information and an up-to-date schedule.

There are tons of great hikes within Zion, and one of the most popular is Angel’s Landing–a thrill seekers paradise.  You’ll climb up 1,500 ft and walk along a narrow ridge to what we think is the best view in the park.  We’ve hiked this trail in the summer months, but in the winter it can be harrowing.  We opted not to go all to way to the top, and even half way up you’ll catch stunning views. If you want to add this to your list, check out this detailed guide.

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Regardless of when you visit, start this venture first thing to avoid large crowds.

And if possible, be sure to have a snowball fight at the top!

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For family friendly hikes see: 6 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in Zion.

Travel Tip: Be sure to pack snacks, water and a lunch — food and beverages are not sold within the park, unless you visit the Zion Lodge which will take away from your adventure time.  And I dare say, our homemade pb&j’s never tasted so good!

Day 3:  Page, Arizona

You’ll want to wake up early and head out to your next destination – Page, Arizona. This is a stunning drive and there are tons of stops along the way.  And likely, you’ll want to arrive early to ensure a trip to two of Arizona’s top attractions.

Distance: 116 miles; 2 hours and 14 minutes

Although there are two routes, we suggest the southern loop.  Along the way you can stop to take in the stunning Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.  Hint: The insanely popular ‘The Wave is located within this vicinity.

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Once in Page, head straight to your tour (which you have pre-booked!).  Like us, you’ll probably be shocked to learn that two of the places we most wanted to visit are practically across the street from each other.

Antelope Canyon and Horse Shoe Bend are within an incredibly close proximity, and we were able to visit both places back-to-back by booking a 2pm tour. We highly recommend Horseshoe Bend Tours.  They offer an incredible sunset tour which is accessible year round, and in our opinion, is the absolute best way to experience these attractions.

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Both areas are on private Navajo land, and are only accessible with a tour or by paying an entry fee to a crowded portion of the park. The areas most visitors tour are brimming with crowds and you’ll be lucky to take in their wonders–let alone snap a picture by yourself!  Horseshoe Bend Tours owns it’s own area of the preserve, and host private tours with groups no larger than 12. Alas, while we received a discount on the tour, our opinion and recommendation is 100% our own.

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Tours can sell out months in advance, so be sure to reserve a spot early!

Day 4: Moab, Utah

This may have been the longest and most adventure filled day, so once again we recommend an early start.  And, if you have time to fit in an extra day, this is likely where you’ll want to include.

Distance: 267 miles, 4 hours and 30 minutes

Leaving Page early in the morning, no later than 7am, you’ll drive 122 miles to reach the stunning Monument Valley.  This area will literally take your breath away. We gasped when we arrived!

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Sadly, the famed 17 mile drive and park was closed for us due to poor weather, but it worked out because there is SO much to see nearby.  If you have an extra day to fully explore Monument Valley, then you could book an overnight stay nearby. See San Juan Inn and Hat Rock Inn.

That will leave you more time to:

  • Enjoy the Monument Valley Park and 17 mile loop
  • Play frogger and snap a pic at the Forest Gump point!
  • Stop to see Mexican Hat
  • Visit Goose Neck State Park
  •  Take the lesser known 17 mile loop through the Valley of the Gods

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If we had more time (and funds!) we’d love to book a horseback riding tour through Monument Valley.  Can you imagine?!

After squeezing in what you can, head north to Moab, which is the gateway to many of America’s most incredible national parks. There are lots of charming hotels and fun eateries to enjoy. We were so exhausted from our day that we quickly curled up with take out pizza and a bottle of wine!

Day 5: Moab, Utah

Moab is a small resort town nestled between the most stunning red rocks.  I’ve been wanting to visit for years, ever since Evan adventured here for two bachelor parties.  And now I see why the boys selected this as their ‘party’ destination — it rivals Queenstown, New Zealand as the Adventure Capital of the World.

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Within a short distance of Moab are two incredible national parks and a state park that will knock your socks off.  We visited all three in one day, and if you have more time, it would be easy to adventure here for two or three additional days.  In fact, we’d love to return and camp within Canyonlands NP–it’s incredibly impressive and there are SO many campsites for the taking.

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Must See:

We enjoyed starting the day at Dead Horse, and ending with an awesome sunset hike at Arches.  Seeing the sun go down on the arches is something we’ll never forget.

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For help planning your stay, be sure to visit Discover Moab. 

Day 6: Bryce Canyon National Park

By now you may get used to and even appreciate the 6am wake up call, since there’s just too much to experience.  On the road trip to Bryce there are tons of fun stops, and this may also be your favorite portion of the drive.  You’ll quickly notice that the roads are unlike any in California or other populated areas.  Driving through Utah is a whole other experience — there are long stretches where you won’t see another vehicle, and you’ll feel wonderfully alone winding between the massive red mountains.

Distance: 251 miles; 4 hours and 20 minutes

Along your drive you must stop to visit: Capital Reef National Park

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And if you’ve started your day early enough, you’ll arrive to Bryce Canyon before sundown and can fit in a stellar hike.  We recommend heading straight to Sunset Point and walking along the Rim Trail to catch the park’s famous Amphitheatre — thousands of hoodoos.  Who knows, if traveling in Winter you may also get this spot all to yourself!

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Be sure to climb out of the Amphitheater to catch sunset — the reflections of red rock against the sky made for an impressive show.

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Day 7: Las Vegas, Nevada

In the morning you may have time to explore additional areas of Bryce Canyon, or sleep in and when ready begin your trek back to Las Vegas. As with the other parks, you’ll have gotten a wonderful taste and it will leave you craving more.  Someday, when we retire we’d love to RV through this area and explore for months. Wouldn’t that be fun?!

If you decide to wake up early, be sure to visit Sunrise and Inspiration point — they are truly stunning. Dress warm! On New Years Eve morning  it was -2 degrees!

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Distance to Las Vegas: 263 miles; 4 hours

Note: We had one extra evening and ended up cutting this day in half, stopping to stay in St. George, Utah.  We meant to return to Las Vegas but when we saw the cost of hotels for New Year Eve, we quickly looked elsewhere.  If you would also like to break up the trip, St. George was a quaint city to visit, and we arrived early enough to meet new friends  for a hike at Snow Canyon State Park– which is quite the treat!

If you are on Instragram, be sure to say hello to our friends, @theramblingraccoon.

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If you opt to stay in St. George or another small town along the route, you can also explore the Valley of Fire State Park the following morning. It’s a detour on your return to Las Vegas, and just 45 minutes from the city!

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We hope this helps as you map out your Utah/Arizona road trip adventure! Below is a recap of our adventure!

Road Trip

BONUS TIPS: 

Get a National Park Pass – An unlimited yearly pass into all of American’s National Parks is $80, and we learned that many of the larger parks, including Zion and Arches, are each $30 to enter.  This quickly saved us a lot of money, and for the remainder of the year we’ll take advantage of our pass to explore additional Parks!

Book your hotel or campsites early! These are some of the most beautiful and desirable travel destinations in the world, and regardless of when you visit it’s wise to book your stay as early as possible.  We secured our stays 6 months in advance, and scored insane deals including a $39 hotel stay in Page, Arizona, and an $85/night at a four star stay in Moab, Utah.  Of course, we traveled in the winter, when parks are MUCH less crowded and hotels are less costly.  In the summer months, you can also opt to camp throughout these regions. Keep in mind, the warmer the weather the more challenging it is to secure a camp spot. Reserve early!

Pack

  • Sustainable mug and water bottle. And remember to bring with you to your hotels free breakfast. We loved starting our adventures with mugs of fresh coffee and tea! Click here to see our Favorite Sustainable Travel Items.
  • Ice Cleats – If traveling in the winter, we highly recommend purchasing boot chains.  These were amazing, and allowed us to explore areas that we otherwise would not have been able.  If the the trails are icy and slippery, not to worry, these chains for your feet got you covered! Click here.
  • Water proof jacket – Instead of bringing a hefty jacket, I’ve found that the best thing is to layer up! My favorite yellow windbreaker is lightweight, packs easily and is weather and wind proof.
  • Hiking boots – I searched far and wide for my favorite boots, and of course there they were — on Amazon. Whatever you select, be sure they are waterproof.

Save Money on Meals – We saved hundreds of dollars by eating out a total of four times (two dinners and two lunches).  I enjoyed coming up with creative dinners which can be frozen and re-heated in your hotel microwave (or airbnb’s oven). I used our trusty Instapot to prepare hearty stews and delicious soups that we premade then kept frozen in our Yeti cooler. We also brought a bag of dried goods in order to prepare our lunches. To be honest, peanut butter and jellies never got old when you can enjoy  them with a variety of treats and an incredible view.

Note: if you decide to purchase any of our favorite items, we’d be super grateful if you checkout using the links above. We will receive a very small percentage. 

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Have any questions, or are you inspired to take this adventure?? Please feel free to reach out or share a comment below.  And be sure to follow our Instagram page for quick travel tips and destination inspiration —@squirrelmusttravel!

With Love and Acorns,

Evan and Angela

@squirrelmusttravel

 

 

 

 

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