Whether you prefer your old school map and highlighter or your state-of-the-art navigation system, road trips are the ultimate way to experience America at its best.
The sprawling American Southwest beckons, with the promise of breathtaking natural wonders and unforgettable memories to be made. Road tripping across winding roads to discover massive canyons awash in hues of orange and red, towering arches of red stone, and some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the world brings excitement, adventure, and plenty of quality time in the car. Queue up your favourite road trip playlist and remember to pack plenty of snacks as you embark on your journey through the great American Southwest.
Build Your Own Road Trip
This vast Southwest region of the USA covers Southern California, Southern Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Western Colorado, and you’ll find a diverse array of landscapes, from deserts to red rocks to unique natural landscapes that will delight your eyes. You could easily spend weeks or even months exploring every corner and sight, and it would be impossible to cover it all in a single trip. We’ve compiled some of our favourite parks and cities to stop along the way to help you build your own road trip. But our biggest piece of advice? Let the great outdoors speak to you, and don’t be afraid to go off-plan. After all, many of the best experiences in life are unexpected!
What are the best national parks to stop at in the USA?
This region is packed with national parks, natural wonders and endless opportunities for making unforgettable memories. Here are some of our favourite, must-visit parks.
In southwest Utah, 148,000 acres of sprawling nature has made this park a world-famous destination. Take the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive through the wilderness or opt for the convenient shuttle system that will take you to the best sights. The Canyon Overlook Trail leads to stunning panoramic views and an adventurous hike along the cliffsides, and the family-friendly Emerald Pools Trail leads to red rock cliffe, waterfalls and stunning natural pools. Don’t forget to drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and cross through the famous tunnel cutting through the mountain, complete with carved windows!
Located in southern Utah, this year-round destination is popular for everything from hiking in the summer to snow-shoeing in the winter, as you wind through towering hoodoos and gravity-defying natural arches. Its remote location makes for amazing stargazing opportunities, and we highly recommend camping among the pink- and orange-hued rock formations.
- Arches National Park
As its name suggests, this national park is home to the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches, and if your itinerary is packed, simply driving along the scenic drive will offer endless views of stunning natural rock formations. If you’re planning to stay awhile, there are a few hikes you can’t miss. Delicate Arch is one of the most popular hikes, but prepare to work for your views, while the Devil’s Garden Loop offers longer and shorter route options, depending on your mood. The Fiery Furnace hike is notorious for its labyrinth of pathways through the red and orange canyons and pillars that tower over you. Be sure to get a permit or opt for a ranger-led hike — many have been lost in its maze!
As one of the deepest gorges on Earth, when you see the massive size and depth of the Grand Canyon you’ll instantly understand why it is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Grand Canyon Village is one of the most popular bases, where you can drive or hike the famous Rim Trail and visit Yaki Point, but don’t be afraid to explore the less famous spots as well. Bright Angel Trail is a full-day hike with plenty of opportunities to find unique viewpoints that you’ll have all to yourself – just don’t forget to pack lots of water and sunscreen. South Kibab Trail leads to the aptly named Ooh-Aah Point.
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What are the best cities in the Southwest USA for a road trip?
A road trip wouldn’t be a road trip without pit stops along the way, but don’t settle for just dusty, roadside gas stations. These unique cities have their own charms and attractions that make them worth adding to your itinerary.
This buzzing city is the perfect starting point for your adventure because there are plenty of cheap flights, and you certainly won’t be bored. Stay for a few days to kickstart your trip with some glitzy fun, or stock up on supplies and immediately hit the road – it’s up to you!
Where the modern downtown meets the charming, Old Town Albuquerque, you’ll find classic adobe buildings and history dating back to its roots in the 1700’s as a Spanish Colony. Learn more about the Native American heritage and history that permeates this city and region for an informational and interesting background to the beautiful sights you’re exploring.
This small town nestled on the shores of Lake Powell is full of small town charm and friendly locals, and it also serves as the doorway to popular bucket list locations, like Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Rainbow Bridge and the Waterholes. We highly recommend booking a guided tour with the Navajo Nation as you explore the dazzling Antelope Canyon, as this natural phenomenon on Navajo land has deep history and significance.
- Moab, Utah
Located near the towering red rock formations and the closest gateway to Arches National park, you find everything from hiking trails to dinosaur tracks and artifacts to ancient Native American rock art that gives you a peek back in time.
New Mexico’s capital is known for its famous, Pueblo-style architecture. Founded as a Spanish Colony, this deep history still acts as the lifeblood running through this hip town. Wander the historic district to learn more about the history of this town dating back to the early 1600’s, or take advantage of the thriving arts and culture scene to discover amazing restaurants, art galleries and more.
Are you ready to start planning your very own road trip? Capture the magic along the way with one of our talented local photographers for photos that live up to the magic you’ll witness with your very own eyes.