Grand Canyon, Zion, Moab & More: 14 Days In The Grand Circle

By Vin Paitoon & Alley Keosheyan

Listen… Hear that? That’s the sound of angels singing your praises (in a lovely key of A♭flat augmented, no less) for landing the “holy grail” of vacations: 2 weeks in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. A fortnight in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Grand Circle. 14 days of fabulousness… and you have no clue what you’re going to do with them. HorseshoeBend.com to the rescue!

OK, first thing’s first: we’re going to assume that Las Vegas (LAS) is going to be your (pardon the expression) jumping off point. Statistically speaking, that’s the city that most Grand Canyon area visitors choose to fly into and out of, seconded closely by Phoenix (PHX), thirded (is that a real word? Guess it is now) by Salt Lake City (SLC). If you need help tweaking your itinerary for these or any other “secondary” staging cities, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. As you can see, we are happy to answer questions personally! So let’s get you planning.

Day 1 – Arrival: Fly into Vegas/McCarran Airport, pick up your rental car, enjoy a nice dinner (LAS has no shortage of awesome restaurants!), and stay overnight in your choice of Las Vegas hotels.

Day 2 – Drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (3 hours), maybe stop in Mesquite, NV for lunch or 9 holes of golf. Upon arrival at Zion, buy an America The Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. Then hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, a short but breathtaking hike where the full panorama of this canyon of the Virgin River literally lays at your feet. Try and time it for sunset for some knock-out photos. Overnight in Zion National Park, or Springdale, Utah near the Western entrance to the park.

Day 3 – Zion National Park Day 2

Day 4 – Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park (2 hours) and take the shuttle tour of the major viewpoints. Overnight at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon or at one of many fine hotels in the park’s gateway communities such as Ruby’s Inn, Tropic or Panguitch.

Day 5 – Bryce to Capitol Reef National Park (2 hours). Usher in the day at Sunrise Point, then hike the Navajo Loop Trail that goes down into the main amphitheater. Drive Scenic Byway 12 to Capitol Reef, stopping at sites along the way, such as:

There is no lodging within Capitol Reef itself, so overnight in Torrey, Richfield, or Loa, UT.

Day 6 – Capitol Reef to Arches/Canyonlands National Parks (2.5 hours). Take the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, an easy 8-mile out and back. Then start towards Moab, Utah, your lodging location for the next 3 nights.

Day 7 – Explore Arches National Park via the main scenic drive to The Windows Section. **Effective in 2022, those visiting Arches National Park during peak visitation period from April through October will need to purchase an advance timed entry pass through Recreation.gov** For more details, read USA Today Article 12/11/21

If desired take a 30-minute stroll beneath North Window and Double Arch. Continue to Delicate Arch Viewpoint and stop by historic Wolfe Ranch Homestead on your way back. In Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point and Islands in the Sky are must-see viewpoints that are easily accessible from the main park roads. Find a nice place to eat, turn in and get a good night’s sleep. You’re going to need it for the next day’s excitement!

Day 8 – Day 3 in Moab

  • For the ambitious: Choice of a Hummer Safari tour, whitewater raft trip through Cataract Canyon, horseback ride or a mountain biking tour if you’re up for it. Ask your hotel front desk or concierge for recommendations or visit the Moab Adventure Center to make arrangements.
  • For the mellow: go wine tasting. What, you didn’t know that Moab was “wine country in waiting?” Pick up a bottle or two from Castle Creek Winery at Red Cliffs Lodge or Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, just minutes from downtown Moab.  

 

Day 9 – Moab to Page, AZ via Monument Valley (4.5 hours [2.5 hours Moab to MV, 2 hours MV to Page). Get an early start and drive from Moab to Monument Valley. Don’t forget to take your own “Run, Forrest, Run” shot as you approach Monument Valley from its “back side.” IF you have a vehicle with sufficient clearance and a beefy enough suspension that’s not a rental, drive the 17-mile scenic loop. If not, take a guided tour. Then, take the remaining 2-hour drive to Page, AZ and get to your hotel by nightfall.

Day 10 – Page, Arizona – if desired, sometime between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM (Utah time), apply for a walk-in permit to hike The Wave in two days’ time. Download the Recreation.gov app on your smartphone or other mobile device and submit your application virtually. You must enable location detection on your device and physically be within a certain radius of Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT, to apply. For more information, visit TheWaveAZ.com: Self-Guided Permits

Tour Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon (or one of several alternate slot canyons if the aforementioned are sold out), and visit Horseshoe Bend.

Day 11 – More sightseeing in Page, AZ! Available options are a Lake Powell Boat Tour, kayak or SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) tour or Horseshoe Bend Half-Day Float Trip . Go back to your hotel and collapse, or go have a drink and do some dancing.

Classic Wave shot

Since you probably didn’t win the Wave lottery, call Paria Outpost (between Page and Kanab at Mile Marker 22 of US89), Dreamland Safari Tours (Kanab, UT) or Antelope Canyon Tours (Page, AZ) and see if you can join a tour to White Pocket the following day. This area boasts some eye-poppingly amazing scenery, and at the present time is permit-free (knock on wood). Getting there, however, does require some very difficult off-roading through deep sand, which is why we don’t recommend attempting this activity with a rental vehicle.

If you don’t do White Pocket, take the 90-minute drive from Kanab or the 2.5 hour drive from Page and visit Grand Canyon North Rim. Eat dinner at the lodge, try and get seating overlooking the Canyon (reservations suggested).

Back to your hotel in Page, AZ.

* If you’re really serious about hiking The Wave, you can apply for the online lottery 4 months in advance.

Day 12 – If you won the permit for the Wave, wake up super early, do the happy dance, then go hike it. Be prepared for high temps, start before sunrise.

If you don’t get it, you can:


Overnight in Page, Arizona again, or skip all that and get a head start on the 2.5-hour drive to Grand Canyon South and overnight in Grand Canyon Park Village or Tusayan/Grand Canyon Village South.

Day 13 – Page to Grand Canyon South Rim (2.5 hours) – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim, coming in from the Desert View/East Rim Drive. Stop at the Cameron Trading Post at the junction of AZ64 and US89 for a late breakfast/early lunch of Navajo Tacos. Visit the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park if you want. Hopefully, you hung onto your Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park Fee receipt – it will get you into this area, too!). Upon entering Grand Canyon National Park,  stop at any of the Grand Canyon viewpoints that strike your fancy, including:

  • Desert View Point and Watchtower
  • Navajo Point
  • Lipan Point
  • Tusayan Ruins and Museum
  • Moran Point
  • Grandview Point
  • Pipe Creek Vista
  • Yavapai Point
  • Canyon View Information Plaza

Park your vehicle in Grand Canyon Village, hop on the Village Loop Shuttle and get off at Bright Angel Lodge. From there, walk the easy, paved Rim Trail, or just a little ways down Bright Angel Trail. For the latter, remember 1 hour down = 2 hours up. Or forget hiking altogether and take the hop-on/hop-off Hermit’s Rest/West Rim Shuttle and just stop at whichever viewpoints catch your eye. Hopi Point is particular good for sunset viewing.

Find an open bar, raise a glass to a grand conclusion to an unforgettable adventure, then overnight at the Grand Canyon.

Day 14 – Grand Canyon South Rim to Las Vegas (4.5 hours), return rental car, evening flight back home.


Day 15, 16, 17, 18  and so on (optional):  

  • Upload your amazing photos
  • Post detailed trip reports on TripAdvisor
  • Post reviews of the hotels, restaurants and tour companies you patronized on your trip on:
    • TripAdvisor,
    • Yelp,
    • Facebook,
    • FourSquare,
    • Google,
    • Yahoo,
    • YellowPages.com, etc. etc. etc.
  • Blow up Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.  
  • Tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone within earshot that the American Southwest is the bomb and that their lives won’t be complete without a vacation here!

318 Responses

  1. Hello, Is there any good way to incorporate the Sequoia’s and Yosemite parks into the Grand Loop. Is flying into Fresno an option? We have 2 weeks and are open to different route options or flying into one city and leaving from another. Any advice would be much appreciated, Thank you

    1. Hi Jeanell,
      Ideally, Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, and the National Parks and attractions of California should be a separate trip from the Grand Circle Loop. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way, as long as you’re OK with doing a LOT of driving! You could do something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to Fresno, overnight in Fresno
      Day 2: Drive to Yosemite National Park (~90 minutes), overnight in Yosemite
      Day 3: 2nd day/night in Yosemite – tour Yosemite Valley & Glacier Point Road (if it’s reopened by the time you visit) Best One Day Trip to Yosemite **Note that Yosemite National Park requires a timed entry ticket, purchased in advance**
      Day 4: Drive to Sequoia National Park (~3 hours), stop at General Sherman Tree & Grant Grove, overnight in Sequoia One Day Sequoia National Park Itinerary
      Day 5: Drive to Zion National Park (~9 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 6: 2nd day/night in Zion **those not staying at Zion Lodge are required to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the main sightseeing areas of the park**
      Day 7: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~3 hours), drive the scenic rim drive, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 8: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park via Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~2.5 hours), hike Hickman Bridge or Cassidy Arch, overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, or other community in surrounding area (no lodging in park) One Day Itinerary in Capitol Reef
      Day 9: Drive to Moab, UT (~3 hours), visit Arches National Park on the way (timed entry reservation required) overnight in Moab, UT
      Day 10: Visit Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 11: Drive to Page, AZ via Monument Valley (~6 hour drive), overnight in Page
      Day 12: Visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon (advance reservation for a guided tour required), 2nd night in Page’
      Day 13: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5 hours factoring in stops), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 14: Drive to Flagstaff, AZ, fly home
      Custom trip map
      Before you commit to this plan, be sure to check prices on flights, rental cars, etc., especially rental car drop-off fees. They can be quite steep for picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to unpack (pardon the pun LOL). If you have further questions, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  2. Hi Alley, wow this post is so well-written and the details. this is very helpful to me especially and people who want to visit this place. thank you so much!

  3. Hi…..I appreciate your knowledge and experience. My husband and I will travel to las Vegas and have 16 days total….2 travel days and 14 road trip days…please advise if this seems realistic or should we cut something?
    1 – travel…late arrival…rental car…stay in Boulder City
    2 – shopping for cooler and supplies – Lake Mead, Hoover Dam….stay in Boulder City( or head to Williams
    3& 4 Grand Canyon stay in Springdale
    5 Monument Valley
    6,7 Mesa Verde – stay in Cortez
    8, 9 Canyonlands, Arches – stay in Moab
    10 Capital Reef stay in Torrey
    11 Bryce – stay in
    12,13 Zion stay in Springdale….or stay in Glendale for Zion and Bryce??…leaning toward this as one less pack/unpack day but is there an advantage to be in Springdale for the shuttle???
    14 drive to Vegas – return car – stay in Vegas(husband has never been)
    15 depart

    We have 1 extra day…. where to add an extra day???
    thanks!!!!

    1. Hi Karen!
      Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry.
      Your trip plan sounds really fun. There is one kinda major red flag that’s popping up, however, where you propose to stay in Springdale for the Grand Canyon South Rim leg of your trip? I’m hoping that was an accident, ’cause Springdale is ~a 5-hour drive, one way, from Grand Canyon South Rim. Not ideal for getting the most out of your visit there! It is always most desirable to stay inside the park at Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan, AZ, ~7 miles South of the park. Should that area be sold out, then Williams or Flagstaff would be your next best alternatives. Grand Canyon South Rim Hotels
      RE: staying in Glendale, UT, as a base camp for Bryce and Zion, that would be OK, but as you deduce, it’s best to be in Springdale, UT, for optimal convenience utilizing the Zion Canyon Shuttle. You’d end up having to drive there anyway, plus by staying in Springdale, you’d be able to catch the town shuttle and then transfer to the park shuttle easily. If the prices of Springdale hotels are giving you pause, you might consider the town of Hurricane, UT, which is a short distance away from Springdale but tends to have lower prices on lodging. We stayed at a Days Inn property there on a recent trip to that area, and were perfectly satisfied with it.
      If you end up with an extra day, I’d recommend giving that to Page, AZ. You could include it one of two places on your itinerary, either between Grand Canyon South Rim and Monument Valley or between Bryce and Zion. With one day in Page, AZ, you could visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, and maybe hit the Glen Canyon Dam Steel Arch Bridge and Hanging Garden Trail, the New Wave, or the Wahweap overlook — perhaps all three!
      Hope that helps. If you have further questions, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  4. Hello Alley,
    I have went through some of your responses and itineraries and you are so thorough. We could use your help please. We are panning a road trip , but driving instead of flying. giving ourselves 2.5 weeks total time from PA to Utah (bryce or zion). There will be 12 of us in a large van ranging from ages 6 to 68. our thoughts were to stay in a central location and just travel each day to parks, vegas and hoover damn. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. Hey Stephanie,
      That sounds like a lot of fun!
      However, it’s not realistic to use one place as a base camp from which to visit all the places on your “wish list.” For Bryce and Zion, Kanab, UT, would be a good place to park for a few days and make day trips, but when you’re ready to move on to Las Vegas, you’ll need to physically move on. It takes ~4 hours to drive from Kanab, UT, to Las Vegas. Once in Las Vegas, NV, you could realistically spend a few days visiting Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire State Park (stunning area!), the Neon Boneyard, anything that diverts the little kids’ attention away from the porn slappers and too-grown-up distractions on the Strip LOL. Good Things To Do in Las Vegas With Kids
      On the way back to PA, it’s a piece of cake to hit I-40 from Las Vegas, which will take you within shouting distance of the Grand Canyon. You should definitely swing up there if you’ve never been! Maybe stay overnight in Flagstaff, AZ, before resuming your travels.
      Custom trip map
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you require further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  5. Preliminary question before a more detailed itinerary. The basic plan is to go to Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase, Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. We are allowing three weeks (Sept 1 – Sept 22). This is flexible. After flying into Las Vegas and then Zion, does it make sense to base ourselves in the Grand Staircase area for about a week and do day trips to the other parks. We might finish off staying near the Grand Canyon. Am I missing anything?

    1. Hi Alan,
      Apologies for the delay in response to your initial inquiry!
      After Zion, if you were wanting to use one town as a base camp from which to visit some of the attractions on your wish list, Escalante, UT, wouldn’t be a bad choice. It’s located ~1 hour East of Bryce Canyon, and ~90 minutes West of Capitol Reef. Area map
      For Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon, however, I’d recommend staying in either Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. Page, AZ, is ~20 minutes from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (where Lake Powell is situated), and ~2.5 hours from Grand Canyon North Rim. Kanab is ~1 hour away from Lake Powell, ~90 minutes from Grand Canyon North Rim. The reason I’m recommending Page, AZ, which is “downlake,” instead of Bullfrog, which is “uplake” (and closer in proximity to Escalante, UT), is because water levels at Bullfrog are forecasted to be extremely low this year. While all of Lake Powell is at a historic low level, Page, AZ, being closer to the Glen Canyon Dam, will have more water to work with, if that’s a priority.
      Area map
      Whatever you decide, one concern to keep top-of-mind at all times is planning your sightseeing so that you’re back to your overnight accommodations by nightfall. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife or livestock that can hike up your risk of a collision. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, possibly cold (nighttime temps in September are starting to drop to the 40s in the higher altitudes), where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive! During the fall months, Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time, whereas Utah will be on Daylight Savings Time. This means that Utah will be 1 hour ahead of Arizona. In September, sunrise in Escalante, UT, occurs at 6:55am and sunset takes place around 8:00 PM; times for Arizona will be one hour behind.
      I hope that helps. If you need further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  6. My wife and I are looking to visit Zion, Bryce, Moab, and the Grand Canyon in 7 days in late September-early October. Is that possible? If not, which one would you recommend dropping? Where we fly into and out of are flexible.

    1. Hi Kyle,
      Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry!
      Late September-early October is a wonderful time to be here, especially the later half of September when the fall foliage is peaking on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Since lodging on the North Rim is most likely booked up, you may need to do it as a day trip, or maybe a “pop-by” between point A and point B.
      Salt Lake City (SLC) would be a good place to fly in and out of, seconded by Las Vegas (LAS).
      Assuming that your 7 days do not include travel days, you could do something like this:
      Day 1 – Drive from Salt Lake City to Moab, UT (~5 hours), overnight in Moab
      Day 2 – Explore Arches National Park (**note that a timed entry reservation is required to access the park), 2nd night in Moab
      Day 3 – Explore Canyonlands National Park (Islands in the Sky District is the most accessible by car), 3rd night in Moab
      Day 4 – Drive to Bryce Canyon via Scenic Byway 12 (~4.5 hour drive), optional stop at Goblin Valley State Park and/or Capitol Reef National Park, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 5 – Drive to Grand Canyon North Rim (~3 hours from Bryce), if no rooms available at Grand Canyon North Rim, overnight in Kanab, UT, or Springdale, UT
      Day 6 – Explore Zion National Park (~30 minutes from Kanab, ~10 minutes from Springdale); use of the Zion Canyon Shuttle from Springdale is required for those not staying at the Zion Park Lodge, overnight in Springdale or Kanab
      Day 7 – Drive back to SLC (~5 hour drive), optional detour through Kolob Canyon section of Zion (no shuttle required), overnight in SLC
      Day 8 – fly home
      Trip map
      If you had to drop a destination, as much as I hate to say it, the Grand Canyon would be the most logical choice, not that it isn’t beautiful, it’s just so hard to find lodging there at this point in time.
      Hope that helps! If you need further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  7. I have 16 days, and 15 nights to spend in the area. I would like to do phantom ranch mule trip to the bottom of the canyon. The dates I will plan our trip depends on when we can get that phantom ranch overnight trip. My husband and I would also like to do Monument Valley, Anteloppe Canyon, and as see the most famous sights and parks along the way as possible. I would also like to stay at the north rim hotel inside the park.. Dates are to be determined. We are active 45 year olds who do not mind a whitewater rafting trip or a few hours worth of hiking. I am at the beginning stages of planning and it doesn’t matter to me about which May or Mid August that we go. I need help with the details. How many days do we spend where? Also suggestions on where to stay–i wouldn’t mind galamping in a beautiful spot for a night or two. We will fly in and out of Vegas and rent a car. This is going to be our bucket list trip and would like to do this before we turn 50!

    1. Hey Lisa!
      Well, I’m gonna be a bit of a buzzkill this morning, but unless your trip is planned for next year (2023), there are a couple of things you’ll most likely have to write off, namely, the Phantom Ranch Mule Ride, and staying at the North Rim.
      Reservations for the Phantom Ranch Mule Ride are given out by an online lottery held 15 months (no, that’s not a typo!) in advance of your desired month of travel. This means that the lottery for May 2022 mule rides was held in March of last year, and reservations for August were determined after the lottery was held in June 2021. Naturally, cancellations do happen, and you can certainly check on those at http://www.GrandCanyonLodges.com but be aware the competition will be pretty vigorous for those. You should be looking at a “Plan B” and even a “Plan C” option for getting to the bottom of the canyon, or at least the inner canyon, up to and including taking a day hike, or a guided tour such as the Inner Canyon Jeep Tour.
      The sole in-park hotel at the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge, is only open May 15th-October 15th, and doesn’t have a very large room inventory to begin with. As a result, rooms for the entire season tend to get booked up within minutes of the inventory being made available online, which typically takes place in December the year prior. Here again, you might luck out by checking for cancellations diligently, but you should start looking at other places to stay, such as Jacob Lake Inn (~45 miles North of the park), Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry (~90 minutes Northeast), or Kanab, UT (~2 hours North of the park). Alternative North Rim Lodging
      So given your timeframe, and these couple of “reality checks,” you could do something like this:
      Day 1: Drive from Las Vegas, NV, to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hours), optional stop at Hoover Dam, Seligman, AZ (Route 66 mainstay), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 2: Day hike at Grand Canyon South Rim, 2nd night at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 3: Drive to Monument Valley (~4 hours), optional stops: Cameron Trading Post, Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks, Navajo Code Talkers Museum, overnight in Monument Valley (or Kayenta)
      Day 4: Drive to Moab, UT (~3 hour drive), optional stops: Mexican Hat, Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park, Hovenweep National Monument, overnight in Moab (1st of 4)
      Day 5: Explore Arches National Park (**note that an advance entry ticket is required to drive into the park)
      Day 6: Explore Canyonlands National Park, Islands in the Sky District easiest access by care
      Day 7: White water rafting in Cataract Canyon, 4th/final night in Moab
      Day 8: Drive to Bryce Canyon w/stopover in Capitol Reef National Park (total drive time ~6 hours) – be sure to take the section from Capitol Reef to Bryce on Utah Scenic Byway 12, it’s a gorgeous drive! Overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 9: 2nd day/night in Bryce
      Day 10: Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours), optional stop to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos, visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page
      Day 11: Early AM tour of Antelope Canyon, then drive to Zion National Park (~2 hour drive), overnight in Springdale, UT or Kanab UT **note that access to the main sightseeing area of the park requires use of the Zion Canyon Shuttle**
      Day 12: Hiking/sightseeing in Zion, either the Narrows or Angel’s Landing; Angel’s Landing requires a permit, the Narrows does not if you take the bottom-up approach (which is what most people do). For The Narrows, you’ll need to uses the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the trailhead, and will probably want to rent gear such as water shoes, hiking poles, dry suit, etc. 2nd night in Springdale or Kanab
      Day 13: Day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim, ~2.5 hour ONE WAY from Springdale, UT, or ~90 minutes ONE WAY from Kanab
      Day 14: Day trip to the Kolob Canyons section of Zion NP (~1 hour from Springdale), or hike Kanarra Falls (permit required), or just take a “chill day” before heading back to Vegas (there are several nice day spas in Springdale)
      Day 15: Drive back to Las Vegas, NV (~3 hours from Springdale), optional stop: Valley of Fire State Park, overnight in Vegas
      Day 16: Fly home!
      Custom trip map
      Note that I’ve built a couple of “day trips” into this itinerary. The key to pulling these off is to plan your drives so that you’re “back to base” by nightfall. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife or livestock that can hike up your risk of a collision. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, possibly cold, where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive! During the spring and summer months, Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time, whereas Utah and Nevada will be on Daylight Savings Time. This means that Las Vegas will be on the same time as Arizona, but Utah will be 1 hour ahead. In May, sunrise in Arizona occurs at around 5:15 am and sunset takes place just before 7:30 pm (with times in Utah one hour ahead). If you were to travel in August, Arizona sunrise takes place at 5:40 am and the sun goes down around 7:20 pm (Utah 1 hour ahead).
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If I can be of further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Brief question before I come back with detailed questions. Flying into Las Vegas, we are allocating about three weeks (we are flexible and starting around September 1, 2022) to see the following parks and flying into Las Vegas: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase, Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. After looking at the map, it seemed logical, after going to Zion, that we base out of Grand Staircase and only drive short distances to see everything else. Am I reading this correctly and/or does this make sense? Am I missing anything significant?

        1. Hi Alan,
          Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry!
          After Zion, if you were wanting to use one town as a base camp from which to visit some of the attractions on your wish list, Escalante, UT, wouldn’t be a bad choice. It’s located ~1 hour East of Bryce Canyon, and ~90 minutes West of Capitol Reef. Area map
          For Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon, however, I’d recommend staying in either Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. Page, AZ, is ~20 minutes from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (where Lake Powell is situated), and ~2.5 hours from Grand Canyon North Rim. Kanab is ~1 hour away from Lake Powell, ~90 minutes from Grand Canyon North Rim. The reason I’m recommending Page, AZ, which is “downlake,” instead of Bullfrog, which is “uplake” (and closer in proximity to Escalante, UT), is because water levels at Bullfrog are forecasted to be extremely low this year. While all of Lake Powell is at a historic low level, Page, AZ, being closer to the Glen Canyon Dam, will have more water to work with, if that’s a priority.
          Area map
          Whatever you decide, one concern to keep top-of-mind at all times is planning your sightseeing so that you’re back to your overnight accommodations by nightfall. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife or livestock that can hike up your risk of a collision. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, possibly cold (nighttime temps in September are starting to drop to the 40s in the higher altitudes), where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive! During the fall months, Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time, whereas Utah will be on Daylight Savings Time. This means that Utah will be 1 hour ahead of Arizona. In September, sunrise in Escalante, UT, occurs at 6:55am and sunset takes place around 8:00 PM; times for Arizona will be one hour behind.
          I hope that helps. If you need further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

          1. We’re getting a little more detailed. This is my proposed itinerary. It’s a little sketchy at this point. A few questions at the bottom
            Day 1: Fly into Vegas and sleep in Vegas
            Day 2: Sight see in Vegas, see a show/dinner sleep in Vegas
            Day 3: Drive to Zion, possible stop at Valley of Fire State Park. Sleep near Zion
            Day 4: Sight see Zion. sleep near Zion
            Day 5: Sight see Zion. Sleep near Zion
            Day 6: Sight see Zion and/or drive to Bryce. Sleep near Bryce
            Day 7: Sight see Bryce. Sleep near Bryce
            Day 8: Sight see Bryce. Sleep near Bryce
            Day 9: Drive to Capital Reef. sleep near Capital Reef
            Day 10: Sight see Capital Reef. Sleep near Capital Reef.
            Day 11: Drive to Moab or to Grand Staircase. Moab seems to be a far drive. Is it worth the drive? Sleep where?
            Day 12: Sight see Grand Staircase. Sleep where?
            Day 13:
            Day 14:
            Day 15:
            Day 16: Drive to Lake Powell. Sight see. Sleep near Lake Powell
            Day 14: Sight see Lake Powell. Drive to Antelope Canyon. Sleep near Antelope CanyonDay 15: Sight see Antelope Canyon. Drive to North Rim. Sleep near North Rim
            Day 16: Sight see North Rim. Sleep near North Rim
            Day 17: Drive from North Rim to South Rim
            Day 18: Sight see South Rim. sleep near South Rim.
            Day 19: Sight see South Rim. Sleep near South Rim
            Day 20: Drive to Vegas. Sleep in Vegas
            Day 21: Fly back to NYC

            I left some gaps so we could contract or expand parts of the trip. Basic questions. For the areas that I chose, did I allow enough time? Is it worth it to go out to Moab? Not sure if I have the right sequence after Grand Staircase. How do you get from the North Rim to the South Rim or should I choose one over the other? We have been to the South Rim before.

          2. Hey again Alan!
            That sounds really fun, and well-paced. You have allowed for ample time at each destination, which is awesome. Still, a few minor modifications would help you get the most out of your mileage.
            I would recommend dropping a night from Bryce Canyon. Not that it isn’t beautiful, it is, incredibly so, but because it is a relatively small park, you can have a perfectly fulfilling visit with just a two night stay. Moab, UT, is definitely worth the drive, and you should allow at least 3 days in that area to explore Arches National Park (you need to book a timed entry reservation for it), Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and maybe Castle Valley. Other popular activities worth considering are backcountry jeep tours and white water rafting.
            As for visiting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you actually are circumnavigating it driving from Bryce to Moab, UT, especially if you stick to Scenic Byway 12. However, a couple of nights in the town of Escalante, UT, situates you well to enjoy such sights as Lower Calf Creek Falls, Zebra Slot Canyon, and Hole-in-The-Rock Road, just to name a few. Escalante, UT, is ~1 hour from Bryce Canyon; Capitol Reef would then be ~90 minutes from Capitol Reef. Trip leg map
            Between Capitol Reef and Moab, worthwhile stops are Goblin Valley State Park and the Sego Canyon Petroglyph panel. From Moab, head South to Monument Valley stopping at Goosenecks State Park on the way out of town. Availability permitting, you might spend a night at the View Lodge or Gouldings in Monument Valley and take a backcountry tour there. If there is no availability in Monument Valley, you might stay in Kayenta, AZ, ~30 miles South of MV, or just go on to Page, AZ. The drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, takes ~6 hours roughly.
            To get from Grand Canyon North Rim to GC South Rim, you basically have to drive around the Grand Canyon. It takes ~5 hours to drive from one rim to the other. If you have the time, budget, and desire to see both the North and South Rims, it is totally worth it as they are quite different from one another. North Rim hotel availability, or more accurately, lack thereof, will dictate the feasibility of such a plan. There is only one lodge inside the park, and the handful of morels in the immediate vicinity of the park are small and tend to book up months ahead of time. Push comes to shove, it is feasible to visit the North Rim as a day trip from either Kanab, UT, or Page, AZ. The key will be knowing when sunset occurs and making sure that you get back to your overnight destination well before sundown. If I didn’t mention it before, driving after dark is strongly discouraged in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife or livestock that can hike up your risk of a collision. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, possibly cold, where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive! To check sunrise and sunset times for your travel dates, visit http://www.sunrise-sunset.org Remember that Utah does observe Daylight Saving Time, but Arizona does not, so AZ will be one hour behind UT.
            Another way you can tick the North Rim off the bucket list is to go to the South Rim to stay, but take a fixed-wing airplane or helicopter flight over the North Rim. Touring aircraft won’t land at the North Rim (no airstrip there anymore), but will give you enough time over the area to get a sense of how different it is from the South Rim. If possible, take the Imperial flight on the Eco-Star helicopter!
            Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to unpack (pardon the pun). Please contact me at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance!
            Alley 🙂

  8. Omg I could do use your help — I know we have bitten off a ton but we are folks that actually enjoy the drive as much as the sites — so I have the first half of my trip planned out coming across the north half of the country — we are coming in a motorhome and will be towing a keep —so the more we could stay in one place and take off from there the better — so we will be leaving out of The Tetons on Sept 14– between the 14th and the 25th we would like to see Zion and Bryce Canyon — the Grand Canyon ( I guess just the north rim is feasible?) I have no idea where Canyonlands is — then we want to go through Telluride (we booked Grand Junction for this on Sept 22— then up to Estes to see Rocky Mountain National park ( we booked in Estes the 23 and 24)and need to drop off one of our friends in Denver late afternoon Sept 25th to catch a flight back to Montana — the rest of us will make our way back to VA after that but there are no deadlines after that. Can you help me make the most use of our time — one of the folks going with us can’t hike much and so mostly it will just be sightseeing and short walks.

    1. Hey Cindy,
      Wow – you are correct in that you’ve taken on a very challenging trip plan, and you might have to drop one or two things from the wish list, namely Telluride. More on that in a minute… Still sounds pretty fun, though! The good news? You’ve picked a great time to visit, especially if you like to view beautiful fall foliage on your journey!
      First off, the trip from the Tetons to Kanab, UT (where you should base yourself to visit Zion and Grand Canyon North Rim) is going to take you 10-12 hours, perhaps longer in a motorhome towing a vehicle. I suggest you might break up that drive in Park City, UT. There are several RV resorts in PC and the surrounding communities, plus that’s a spectacular area for leaf peeping!
      You are correct in that Grand Canyon North Rim will be the most practical for you to visit using Kanab, UT, as a base camp for your RV. Plus the 3rd week of September, the aspens and maples up there tend to peak in color, so you’ve timed that just right! To visit Zion, you’ll need to utilize the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the main sightseeing area of the park. To catch that, you’ll need to drive to Springdale, UT, which is ~1 hour from Kanab (in your jeep). You might find that one day is insufficient to really experience Zion National Park. It’s a huge area with a lot to see and do. In light of your other plans, though, IMO one day is all you can realistically spare, unless you can drop a day someplace else.
      Save your Bryce Canyon day for the day you depart Kanab and start heading into Colorado. For optimal efficiency, I recommend driving as far as Bryce Canyon City and parking your rig at the shuttle station and either taking your Jeep through the park, or simply leaving both vehicles and taking the shuttle around the park. Tips For Visiting Bryce Canyon in an RV
      From Bryce, you could drive to Moab, UT, which is ~a 6-hour drive from Bryce, and stay there for a couple of days to explore Arches and Canyonlands. From Moab, UT, to Telluride, CO, is ~a 4-hour drive, then ~3 from Telluride to Grand Junction. Grand Junction to Estes is ~6-7 hours, then Estes to Denver is ~2-3. All these drive times, by the way, are “padded” from what Google maps is giving, to account for the fact that many of these roads are a bit twisty, and you’ll be driving slower than most traffic.
      Another important consideration here: daylength. You need to plan your days so that all your driving is done during daylight hours. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the US due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife can hike up your risk of a collision. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an RV in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, cold (nighttime lows in some areas are already dipping down around freezing in late September), where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive! In Kanab, UT, sunrise occurs at 7:20 am and sunset takes place just before 7:30 pm. In Colorado, sunrise and sunset take place a bit earlier (7:00 am and 7:10 pm respectively), but your net daylength remains about 12 hours in both states.
      So bearing all that in mind, here’s what I recommend:
      September 14th: Depart Grand Tetons for Park City, UT (~5.5-6 hours), overnight in Park City
      September 15th: Depart Park City for Kanab, UT (~5.5-6 hours), 1st of 3 nights in Kanab
      September 16th: Day trip to Zion National Park (~1 hour drive each way in Jeep to Springdale, UT, for Zion Canyon Shuttle), 2nd night in Kanab
      September 17th: Day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim (~90 minutes each way in Jeep), return to Kanab for 3rd night
      September 18th: Depart Kanab, UT, for Bryce Canyon City (~2.5 hour drive in RV), park RV in shuttle lot, take shuttle to scenic overlooks, overnight in Bryce Canyon RV park
      September 19th: Depart Bryce Canyon for Moab, UT (~5.5 hour drive in RV), 1st of 3 nights in Moab, UT, RV park
      September 20th: Explore Arches National Park in Jeep — **note that a pre-reserved timed-entry ticket is required for Arches National Park** 2nd night in Moab
      September 21st: Sightseeing in Canyonlands National Park in Jeep, 3rd night in Moab
      September 22nd: Depart Moab for Grand Junction, CO ***here is where I recommend you make a change and take Telluride off the table. Not that Telluride isn’t beautiful, but the drive from Moab to Telluride is ~3 hours; ditto for the drive from Telluride to Grand Junction. So, that’s a LOT of driving for the sake of one town, where feelings about RV’s are mixed*** Instead, I would recommend going directly to Grand Junction, which is ~2 hours from Moab. That way, you can relax, maybe take in a wine tasting (or two!), and start the process of “decompressing” for the trip back home. Overnight in Grand Junction RV Park
      September 23rd: Depart Grand Junction for Estes Park, CO (~6-7 hour drive in RV), 1st of 2 nights in Estes Park
      September 24th: 2nd of 2 days in Estes Park
      September 25th: Depart Estes Park for Denver, CO (~2-3 hour drive in RV), drop friend off at DIA, overnight in Denver area OR begin drive back to VA.
      Custom Trip Map ***Note that I’ve included Telluride in the itinerary so you can see how far a swing it would be out of your way***
      Note that I’ve recommended staying in developed RV parks for this trip, mainly because late September tends to be in the transitional timeframe between summer and fall. Nighttime temperatures in the higher altitude areas are starting to dip fairly low, and you’ll be thankful for access to reliable heat. In areas like Moab, UT, however, daytime highs might still hover in the 90’s, in which case, you’ll be glad you had AC.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  9. Hi Alley!

    Your knowledge of the area is amazing! I’ve spent the last few days scrolling through all of your suggestions. My husband and I are planning a 2 – 2.5 week trip to Arizona / Utah at the end of March. We would like to fly in and out of Las Vegas, but have family in Tucson that we are trying to visit towards the end of our trip for a day or so. I’m having trouble coming up with an itinerary based around Las Vegas arrival and departure while incorporating the most scenic stops in Arizona and Utah in addition to Tucson. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Halley and thanks for the compliments, they really make my day!
      Ending your trip in Tucson does present a particular challenge to a trip itinerary like this, but not an insurmountable one. That said, is there any possibility you could fly into Las Vegas and out of Phoenix? That would make for an easy 90-minute drive at the end of your tour. Assuming that’s not an option, here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1 – Fly to Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park (~3 hours), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park (stunning area!), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 2 – Take Zion Canyon Shuttle to explore main sightseeing area of the park, do a little hiking depending on your physical fitness level, makeup of your party, etc., 2nd night in Springdale, UT
      Day 3 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours), drive scenic loop drive or maybe hike Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 4 – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park via Utah Scenic Byway 12, (~3 hour drive), optional stop to hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls , overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, Bicknell, or Loa (no lodging inside the park)
      Day 5 – Hike Cassidy Arch or Hickman Bridge, then drive to Moab, UT (~2 hour drive), optional detour through Castle Valley , overnight in Moab (1st of 3)
      Day 6 – Sightseeing in Arches National Park (advance purchase of timed entry tickets required), 2nd night in Moab
      Day 7 – Sightseeing in Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky, maybe part of the Needles District), 3rd night in Moab
      Day 8 – Drive from Moab, UT to Page, AZ via Monument Valley (~6 hour drive), optional stop at Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park, overnight in Page
      Day 9 – Tour Antelope Canyon (guided tour required), visit Horseshoe Bend, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 10 – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim, stop at Cameron Trading Post for breakfast/brunch, total drive time ~3-4 hours depending on stops made between Desert View Point and Grand Canyon Village, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 11 – Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Tucson, AZ (~6-7 hours), visit family
      Day 12 – Visit family in Tucson
      Day 13 – Drive to Sedona (~4 hours), overnight in Sedona
      Day 14 – Drive to Las Vegas (~5 hours), optional stop at Hoover Dam, overnight in Las Vegas
      Day 15 – fly home
      Custom trip map (does not depict detour through Sedona en route back to Las Vegas)
      If you have not made hotel and/or guided tour reservations, you need to do so ASAP. The timeframe you’re traveling in is Spring Break, so it’s going to be busy, and sold-out dates are already being reported on Antelope Canyon tours and Grand Canyon hotels. If you end up with a couple of extra days to work with, I’d recommend giving it to Sedona.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you have further questions, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  10. Hi,
    I want to be able to see everything in Utah! I have up to 12 days I can take. We don’t want to do any long hikes, but a couple miles is okay at a time. I want to be able to travel without backtracking or going back the same way we came. I have this rough itinerary, is there anything I am missing or should add or somewhere I should stay longer? I want to see the Grand Canyon but I think I decided it would be best to make a separate trip for that. I am planning a trip for october and would like to go white water rafting if it is still in season. I definitely want to see Utah’s mighty five. I think it would be cool to add in Page AZ for horseshoe bend, possibly the wave, and antelope canyon.

    Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, Drive to Moab
    Day 2: Arches National Park
    Day 3: Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky)
    Day 4: Around Moab + Drive to Capitol Reef
    Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park + Drive to Bryce
    Day 6: Page AZ for horseshoe bend, antelope canyon + Wave (Kanab, Utah)
    Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
    Day 8: AM in Bryce + Drive to Zion National Park
    Day 8: Zion Canyon
    Day 9: Zion Canyon
    Day 10: Valley of Fire State Park + Fly Home from Vegas

    1. Hi Taylor,
      “See everything in Utah?” That’s a pretty tall order! Sticking with the Mighty 5 + Page is a good plan for now 😉
      October is a great time to be here! Temperatures are cooling and crowds are thinning; it’s still busy, but it’s mostly grown-ups out there traveling since kids are for the most part, back in school. Moab, UT would probably be the place to do white water rafting. In October, the milder white water rafting trips are still running. The multi-day/more intensive white water trips wrap up for the season in August-September. For more information on these, visit http://www.MoabAdventureCenter.com I don’t recall seeing what part of October you were planning to travel, but if your visit to Moab, UT, falls before October 3rd, you’ll need to purchase a timed entry ticket to Arches National Park.
      One night is sufficient for most first-time visitors to Bryce Canyon. Square-mileage wise, it’s a small park, so you can enjoy the scenic rim drive and maybe an easy hike with a one day visit.
      RE: The Wave, statistically, that probably won’t happen for you. You must apply for a hiking permit via a very competitive online lottery four months in advance. For October, the lottery takes place in July. Because October is such a nice month weather-wise, competition for just a few permits is particularly fierce. In the likely event you don’t succeed in getting a Wave permit via that route, there is a walk-up lottery held the day prior to when you wish to hike. At the present time, a process of applying by smartphone is expected to roll out in March on Recreation.gov. Unfortunately, I don’t have any details on that right now, but should you be successful at getting a permit in that manner, you would be able to pick up your actual permit in Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. BTW, you won’t be able to do Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and The Wave on the same day. The Wave is pretty much an all-day commitment, including driving to the trailhead from either Page or Kanab, a 6+ mile round-trip hike, and the drive back to your lodging destination. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend will require at least 1 night in Page, AZ; 2 if you’re going to try for a Wave permit.
      Since the odds are stacked to high against you, I’d strongly recommend a “Plan B.” The most popular alternative to The Wave is White Pocket. The hiking in that area is relatively easy; what’s hard is the drive out there. That’s why we recommend going with a guided tour company to White Pocket.
      Another possibility? Fly over The Wave. Fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters depart out of the Page Municipal Airport daily, weather permitting, and possibly contingent on a certain number of passengers traveling. Yes, this would be a pricey way to go, but your flight would show you a ton of amazing scenery in addition to The Wave!
      BTW, your itinerary presently has you backtracking from Page, AZ, back to Bryce Canyon. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Best to position Page, AZ, between Bryce and Zion. Speaking of which, there’s a cool little hike you might do between Bryce and Page that you’d probably enjoy: the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos. Easy hike, cool rock formations, trailhead easy to find at mile marker 19 between Kanab and Page on US89.
      So a revised version of your itinerary would look like this:
      Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, Drive to Moab
      Day 2: Arches National Park
      Day 3: Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky)
      Day 4: Around Moab + Drive to Capitol Reef
      Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park + Drive to Bryce
      Day 6: Bryce Canyon National Park
      Day 7: Drive to Kanab to try for a Wave permit, overnight in Kanab
      Day 8: If you get a Wave permit, hike The Wave, if not, tour White Pocket, drive to Page
      Day 9: Page AZ for horseshoe bend, antelope canyon (Antelope Canyon requires a guided tour), drive to Zion
      Day 10: Zion Canyon
      Day 11: Zion Canyon
      Day 12: Valley of Fire State Park + Fly Home from Vegas
      Good call on Valley of Fire – that’s a stunning area, and again, October is not so ghastly hot there!
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. Please contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  11. Hi,

    Your itineray is very helpful!
    My husband and I are flying into Las Vegas on 5/14/22 spending the first night in Vegas and then following your itinerary, but are staying 15 days vs 14 days. Flying home on 5/28. I have the last two nights booked at the Grand Caynon lodge but now thinking that is to many day’s in GC. Where would you add the extra day? Maybe heading to Durango but is that to far? We are locked into Zion and Bryce for the 15, 16, and 17th (I was able to get rooms in the lodge). Another question, we are going to rent kayaks and head to antelope caynon if we do this should we still book a hiking tour to antelope caynon?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for the compliments on our itinerary!
      By Grand Canyon Lodge, I’m assuming you mean the North Rim? If so, you’d probably find that one day is sufficient to have a fulfilling visit there. However, I would not recommend swinging as far out as Durango, CO, to use up that extra day. You might simply give the extra day to Page, AZ, so you can fully enjoy all that area has to offer. If you do a kayak tour of Antelope Canyon, doing a walking tour as well would certainly give you a deeper appreciation of the canyon’s complexity and beauty. While in Page, AZ, don’t forget to visit Horseshoe Bend, the Glen Canyon Dam/Steel Arch Bridge, the Hanging Gardens, and the New Wave. A couple of water-based activities that would give you a more diverse array of scenery, however, would be the Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip, or to Kayak Horseshoe Bend; the latter involves driving down to Lees Ferry, renting a kayak and getting backhauled to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam, where you would paddle the 15 mile stretch of the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend, back to Lees Ferry. It was a popular alternative to the Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip while it was out of commission during the COVID pandemic.
      If that does not appeal and you wish to notch another destination off the bucket list, you might make again, give another night to Page, AZ, and make a day trip to Monument Valley. It’s ~a 2-hour drive each way from Page, AZ. While you can drive your personal vehicle on the 17-mile scenic road, it’s better to take a guided tour with a local Navajo resident for optimal safety and education. Monument Valley Backcountry Tours The key is to successfully visiting Monument Valley as a day trip make sure that you are not doing any of your driving at night. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the US due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, cattle, horses, and other wildlife and personal livestock. Trust me, you don’t want to risk a head-on with one in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. At the time of year you’re visiting, sunrise takes place at around 5:15 am and sunset occurs around 7:30 pm. However, on the Navajo Reservation (where Monument Valley is located), they observe Daylight Savings Time, so they will be an hour ahead. Be sure you keep this in the back of your mind while timing your return drive to Page, AZ.
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you have further questions, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  12. Hi, this is the most informative site I have seen! We are a couple aged 54/62 – fit and active and hoping to do some moderate hikes during our trip, as well as touring by car. I hope you can help with some suggestions for our trip… We are flying into Denver on 11 October and out around 25/26 Oct (this is flexible at present as we will then be taking an internal flight to visit friends, but not yet booked). We were thinking of spending 1-2 days on the Denver to Moab leg (for Estes Park & Rocky Mountain National Park/ Colorado National Monument). Then to do the loop around the Mighty Five and also Monument valley if possible. But we would leave out Grand Canyon as we visited Las Vegas and GC a few years ago. Would this be feasible, and allow us to take at least a full day in most locations for some hiking? Will the shorter daylight hours be a problem? Would you expect it to busy at this time – would you recommend that we book all accommodation in advance? Any suggestions or advice gratefully received! Thanks!

    1. Hey Maureen,
      Wow, thanks so much for the compliments! That truly makes may day 🙂
      First off, October is an excellent time to be here. Days are getting cooler and crowds are thinning out. Although it’s still busy, it’s mostly just us “grown-ups” out there since most kids are back in school. Although I’ve heard that has shifted somewhat during the age of COVID due to more parents opting to home-school. Regardless, it’s still not at the level of summertime craziness, but booking all hotels, guided tours, dinner reservations, etc., in advance remains strongly advised. Appreciate you letting me know that you’ve already done GC and Las Vegas, too.
      With the timeframe you have, you should be able to have a wonderful visit to the Utah Mighty 5 and Monument Valley without a problem, and have enough daylight to work with to enjoy some good hiking! At the time of your visit, sunrise in Denver and Utah occurs at 7:40 am and sunset takes place at 6:50 pm. As you might have read in previous comments, nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the US due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife that can hike up your risk of a car accident. Believe me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, cold, where cell service is spotty, and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      Assuming you are flying into and out of Denver, here’s what I’d recommend:
      October 11 – fly into Denver, overnight in Denver
      October 12 – drive to Estes Park, CO, Grand Lake, CO, or other Rocky Mountain National Park Hotel (2-3 hours drive), overnight
      October 13 – hiking/exploring in Rocky Mountain National Park; many hikes in this area in varying degrees of difficulty to enjoy, 2nd night in Estes Park or Grand Lake
      October 14 – drive to Moab, UT (6-7 hours depending on your starting point), optional detour via the stunning Castle Valley Drive, maybe stop for dinner and a wine tasting at Red Cliffs Lodge, overnight in Moab
      October 15 – Hiking in Arches National Park **note that advance reservations for timed entry tickets into Arches may be required**; again, no shortage of amazing hikes to fill your day here! Delicate Arch of course is the “quintessential” Arches hike, but there are many others that will be less crowded – 2nd night in Moab
      October 16 – Explore Canyonlands National Park: the Islands in the Sky District is most easily accessible from Moab and you can easily spend a full day here doing a combination of driving and hiking. 3rd daya in Moab
      October 17 – Drive to Capitol Reef National Park ~3 hour drive from Moab, hike Cassidy Arch/Hickman Bridge or other park trail, overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, Bicknell, Loa or other gateway community (no lodging in Capitol Reef)
      October 18 – Drive to Bryce Canyon via the beautiful Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~3 hours), optional stop to hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls (moderate), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      October 19 – Explore scenic rim drive in Bryce (if desired), then head to Zion National Park (~2 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
      October 20 – Hiking in Zion: take the Zion Canyon Shuttle from Springdale into the park. If you want to go easy, do the Riverside Walk and maybe the Upper Emerald Pools trail. If you prefer something more challenging, maybe go a little ways into The Narrows, or try for an Angel’s Landing hiking permit. If you don’t get a permit for Angel’s Landing, you can still hike up as far as Scout’s Lookout. 2nd night in Springdale
      October 21 – Drive to Page, AZ (~2 hours), optional stop to hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos, visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ
      October 22 – AM tour of Antelope Canyon, drive to Monument Valley (~2 hours), overnight in Monument Valley
      October 23 – AM backcountry tour of Monument Valley, drive back to Denver (~8-9 hours)
      Custom Trip Map
      You’ll notice that Google Maps has you driving from Monument Valley to Denver back through Moab, then back onto I-70, the same route you would likely use to get out here. If you have the time/inclination to change that up, you might consider routing through Cortez, CO, and visiting Mesa Verde National Park, or zipping over to Durango and enjoying the Durango-Silverton Scenic Railroad tour. The Ouray/Ridgeway area is one of my personal favorite places in Colorado for its lovely selection of hot springs. The drive from Montrose, CO, through the Gunnison National Forest is gorgeous, but be sure to check local weather to ensure that an early snowstorm doesn’t put a damper on your plans.
      Revised trip map Monument Valley-Denver
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! Please feel free to write in again if I can be of further assistance at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi, thank you so much for the itinerary. You’re right, it is a little overwhelming!! We would of course love to see as much as possible, and it’s great to know it can be done but I feel like we might need more like 3 weeks total to do that whole trip justice. We could probably build in max 1-2 days extra if needed till 25/26th but this is perhaps not enough.

        I’m wondering whether we might be better scaling it back and sticking to the Mighty Five so that we can go at a slightly more leisurely pace. We would enjoy pausing a little longer in some places and spending more time out of the car/ hiking and properly experiencing the places we visit …. Do you have any thoughts on how we might best do this from Denver – Rocky Mountain NP /Colorado – The Mighty Five – and back to Denver? I know we would have to retrace our steps to some extent, but if we could make a mini circuit around the 5 parks and stop off at a different location on our way back through Colorado that might be worth considering as an alternative to the original itinerary …

        Another question is, when we fly into Denver on the 11th would it be feasible to pick up the car and drive 1-1.5 hours to make our first overnight stop rather than staying in Denver, or is this a bad idea given your advice on night driving?!

        Thanks in advance!

        1. Hey again Maureen,
          Thanks for writing in again!
          Scaling back your wish list, taking Monument Valley off the list, for example, would definitely allow you to visit Utah’s Mighty 5 at a more leisurely pace.
          I don’t know if you’re already committed to using Denver as your staging city. If you’re not, you might consider moving that to Las Vegas, or perhaps flying into Vegas and out of Denver. Las Vegas makes for a much more convenient launch point for a visit to the Utah Mighty 5 as Zion would just be ~a 3-hour drive away. Or, if you preferred to get the longer drive of the trip out of the way first, Moab would be ~7 hours away, you could then work your way back to LAS via Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. Utah Mighty 5 Loop Las Vegas-Las Vegas Denver-Las Vegas Utah Mighty 5 Itinerary As you can hopefully see, the Las Vegas to Denver (or vice versa) is intriguing because it basically has you making a straight-ish beeline from Point A to Point B.
          If you are committed to flying in and out of Denver, and your flight doesn’t get in too late, the Frisco/Vail/Breckenridge area is ~90 minutes out of Denver, so that might make a good stopover point. Though Breckenridge (or “Breck” as the locals apparently call it) is known as a ski resort town, there is quite a lot to do there during the summer months as well. Summer in Breckenridge From Frisco to Zion would be a long drive, clocking in at about 9 hours. You might want to break that drive up into 3 sections, in which case, you might consider staying that 2nd night in Richfield, UT (~6 hours from Frisco), so you can soak in the Mystic Hot Springs. From there, zip on down to Zion (~3 hours from Richfield), then Bryce, Capitol Reef, finally Moab, UT (for Arches/Canyonlands). For your buffer night between Moab and Denver, I would recommend Grand Junction, CO. Pretty area, burgeoning wine scene, lots of good hiking. The return trip to Denver would be ~4 hours.
          Custom Trip Map
          Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions at all 🙂
          Alley

  13. Hi Alley, I need help please:)
    I am planning a trip out west in July with my husband and two sons who are 15. We like adventure and can’t wait to see everything. However, we don’t want to be too rushed. We like down time as well:) It will be a 2- 2 1/2 week trip. The problem is I have to start in Moab because we already have a 3 night
    tour booked for hiking Arches, rafting and camping, which unfortunately is in the middle of the week from Tuesday night -Friday. So here are my thoughts. Fly into Salt Lake City on Sunday. Stay in Moab Monday & Tuesday with exploring Canyonlands and maybe biking/horseback riding? Leave Moab on Saturday head to Monument Valley then onto Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend then on to the Grand Canyon for 2 nights and leave from Vegas. Do you think 2 weeks will cover this and should we make a detour to Bryce or add something else or go a different route? Would be so happy to hear your recommendations. Thank you

    1. Hey Margo,
      I am so sorry that I didn’t see your inquiry until now! I’m not sure how it got buried, normally I reply to questions within 24 hours, 48 tops!
      Your plan of flying into SLC then out of Las Vegas works fine, and with 2 weeks’ time, you should be able to work in a couple more stops without a problem. Here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1 – Fly into SLC, overnight in SLC
      Day 2 – Drive to Moab (~5 hours), overnight in Moab
      Day 3, 4, 5 – Moab tour
      Day 6 – Drive from Moab to Capitol Reef (~3 hours), optional detour through Goblin Valley State Park, overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, or other gateway community (no lodging inside the park)
      Day 7 – Hike in Capitol Reef: Hickman Bridge and/or Cassidy Arch, 2nd night in Capitol Reef area
      Day 8 – Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon via Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~3.5 hours), optional stop to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 9 – Hike in Bryce: Queens Garden and/or Navajo Loop trail, spend 2nd night in Bryce Canyon area OR drive to Zion (~2 hours) and overnight in Kanab, UT
      Day 10 – 1st day in Zion: hike Riverside walk, Upper Emerald Pools Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail, overnight in Kanab, UT
      Day 11 – if inclined, take one of two longer hikes in Zion such as Angel’s Landing (permit required) or part of The Narrows , 2nd night in Kanab, UT
      Day 12 – sightseeing in Zion, catch any hikes you might have missed or do something like a horseback ride or canyoneering trip, 3rd night in Kanab
      Day 13 – Drive to Page, AZ (~2 hours from Kanab), optional stop to hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, overnight in Page
      Day 14 – Tour Antelope Canyon and/or take Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip, 2nd night in Page
      Day 15 – Drive to Grand Canyon, hit Horseshoe Bend on the way out of town; trip to Grand Canyon is only ~150 miles, but don’t be surprised if it takes ~3.5-4 hours, it’s a very scenic drive and you’ll be stopping to take photos a lot! Maybe stop at the Cameron Trading Post for breakfast/brunch, overnight at Grand Canyon
      Day 16 – 2nd day/night in Grand Canyon South Rim OR drive to Las Vegas (~5 hours), optional stop at Hoover Dam
      Custom Trip Map
      A couple more things: July is one of the hottest times of year in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, so any labor-intensive activities should be undertaken during the early morning hours to enjoy cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. In July, sunrise in Arizona occurs just after 5:00 am and sunset takes place around 7:45 pm. During the summer months, Utah is one hour ahead of Arizona, so scoot those times 1 hour forward for Utah. Reservations should be made ASAP for hotels and guided tours (which are required for Antelope Canyon). Last but not least, we don’t recommend driving at all after sunset in this part of the US. This is due to the fact that local roads are very dimly lit and deer, elk, and other wildlife tend to mill around at night, which hikes up your risk of an auto accident. That’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that is pitch black, where cell service is spotty (IF you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you require further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

  14. Hi Alley, I have found this site incredibly helpful in planning our upcoming trip for the end of June! You are a wealth of knowledge and your love of this area is reflected in your itineraries. I’m looking for recommendations but we will only have 9 or 10 days. Thinking about flying in and out of Vegas and renting a car. If possible, we’d like to hit all 5 National Parks in Utah, Horseshoe Bend and/or Antelope Canyon, and the South rim of the Grand Canyon. Our kids are 8 & 10 and are good travelers and hikers. We are active vacationers, always on the go while vacationing and like to cram in as much as we can to maximize our time. What are your itinerary recommendations? Are there any hikes, adventures, etc you’d recommend with our age kids and shorter timeline? What is currently affected/closed with COVID? I know this is always changing but just trying to get a feel for the current situation. Thank you in advance for your recommendations or insight you may have!

    1. Hey Wendy,
      With 10 days, your trip plan can be done, as long as you’re prepared to not spend any significant amount of time in Las Vegas. It doesn’t have much to offer if you’re under 21 anyway, so IMO it’s no big loss. I’d recommend making one small modification: instead of going to Grand Canyon South Rim, I’d recommend the North Rim. While I usually recommend the South Rim for first-time visitors, the North Rim will simply be more convenient in light of your time limitations.
      Here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1 – Fly to Las Vegas, drive to Bryce Canyon National Park (~4.5-5 hours), visit viewpoints on the Rim Drive, overnight in Bryce
      Day 2 – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park via Scenic Byway 12 (~3.5 hours), overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, or other gateway community (no lodging inside the park)
      Day 3 – Drive from Capitol Reef area to Moab, UT (~3 hours) 1st of 3 nights
      Day 4 – Explore Arches National Park (note that entry into Arches is regulated by a timed reservation system, which must be booked in advance) 2nd night in Moab
      Day 5 – Explore Canyonlands National Park/Dead Horse Point, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 6 – Drive to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~6 hour drive), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 7 – Tour Antelope Canyon in the morning, then head to Grand Canyon North Rim via Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry (~3 hour drive), explore North Rim, overnight at Jacob Lake Inn or Kanab, UT
      Day 8 – Drive to Zion National Park (~1 hour from Kanab), overnight in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 9 – Take Zion Canyon Shuttle from Springdale to main sightseeing area of the park, maybe hike to Upper Emerald Pools or part of the Narrows? 2nd night in Zion West area
      Day 10 – Drive back to Las Vegas (~3 hours), fly home
      Custom Trip Map
      As for what’s closed/affected by COVID-19, that could change by the time you guys get here, so I’d recommend checking the park websites ~2-3 weeks before you get ready to travel. Currently, masks are required in buildings and on shuttles, and some restaurants are closed or doing take-out only.
      A couple more things: late June is one of the hottest times of year in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, so any labor-intensive activities should be undertaken during the early morning hours to enjoy cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. In late June, sunrise in Arizona occurs at 5:00 am and sunset takes place around 8:00 pm. During the summer months, Utah is one hour ahead of Arizona, so scoot those times 1 hour forward for Utah. Reservations should be made ASAP for hotels and guided tours (which are required for Antelope Canyon). Last but not least, we don’t recommend driving at all after sunset in this part of the US. This is due to the fact that local roads are very dimly lit and deer, elk, and other wildlife tend to mill around at night, which hikes up your risk of an auto accident. That’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that is pitch black, where cell service is spotty (IF you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you require further guidance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

  15. Wow! This is the most incredible itinerary I have seen of this trip and cannot thank you enough for all of the information! We only have 7 days and I’m wondering what you would omit in this situation. We also have two boys ages 10 and 12 if that makes a difference! Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Thank you for your compliments!
      With only one week to work with, you’ll need to cross Moab and Capitol Reef off the list, unfortunately. Still, it’s perfectly possible to have a wonderful trip, even with whittling down your wish list.
      A classic 7-day itinerary using Las Vegas as your staging city could go something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to LAS, drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hours), optional stop on way into town to see IMAX movie “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secretsovernight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 2: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim: explore area around Grand Canyon Village and Hermit’s Rest Road using free shuttles, maybe take in a ranger program, let boys get their “Junior Ranger” badges
      Day 3: Drive to Page, AZ (~3.5 hours), stopping at the half-dozen+ named Grand Canyon viewpoints between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Point, stop at Cameron Trading Post for bathroom/leg stretch break, or breakfast/brunch (food is awesome), visit Horseshoe Bend on way into town OR take afternoon tour of Antelope Canyon
      Day 4: 2nd day/night in Page, take Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip and Antelope Canyon tour OR visit Horseshoe Bend first thing in the morning before raft trip
      Day 5: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~3 hours), hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail on the way between Page and Kanab, time/desire permitting, do Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 6: Drive to Zion National Park (~2 hours), use Zion Canyon Shuttle to access main sightseeing area, overnight in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 7: More hiking in Zion, if you’re up for something really adventurous, do The Narrows or Angel’s Landing, 2nd night in Zion area
      Day 8: Drive back to Las Vegas (~3 hours from Springdale), optional detour through stunning Valley of Fire State Park just Northeast of Las Vegas, fly home
      Custom trip map
      I am kinda going on the assumption that your trip will be taking place sometime between spring and fall. If it’s not, then you probably wouldn’t want to do something that involves walking in water, like The Narrows. Water-based activities such as raft and boat tours near Page, AZ, would also be on seasonal hiatus in the wintertime.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays!
      Alley
      http://horseshoebend.com
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

      1. This is SO amazing Alley – thank you so much!! I am going to take a look and will reach out if I have any questions!!

  16. What a lot of helpful info. We are planning our trip for April 2022. We want to Fly into Las Vegas and fly out of Denver. We have 2-3 weeks. Can you recommend an itinerary in that direction hitting as many must sees as possible. I have limited hiking ability so we can’t take any long or strenuous hikes. Thanks! Liz

    1. Hey Liz!
      Let me start by giving you kudos for planning your trip well in advance. If you an possibly take the full 3 weeks, do so. In light of your travel plans, you won’t regret it. Even if your hiking ability is limited, you’ll still have a great time!
      Here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas, stay overnight
      Day 2: Drive to Zion (~3-4 hours), optional detour to stunning Valley of Fire State Park northeast of town, overnight in Zion National Park, preferably Zion Lodge, if that is sold out, then Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 3: Hiking in Zion — plenty of easy ones, 2nd night in Hurricane or Springdale
      Day 4: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours), take scenic rim drive to overlooks of the canyon, overnight in Bryce Canyon area, Bryce Canyon Lodge if you can get reservations, or other lodging in area
      Day 5: Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours from Bryce), tour Upper or Secret Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 6: 2nd day/night in Page, AZ, do the 1/2-day Horseshoe Bend float trip (hiking is easy)
      Day 7: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim, hit Horseshoe Bend on the way out of town, drive time ~3.5-4 hours if you stop at most of the viewpoints on the East Rim between Desert View and Grand Canyon Village, overnight in Grand Canyon
      Day 8: 2nd day/night in Grand Canyon
      Day 9: Drive to Monument Valley (~4 hours), overnight in Monument Valley
      Day 10: Backcountry tour of Monument Valley, drive to Durango, CO (~4 hours), optional stop at Four Corners National Monument, or Goosenecks State Park overnight in Durango
      Day 11: 2nd day/night in Durango, CO – do Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tour
      Day 12: Drive to Moab, UT (~3 hours) — spend 3 nights
      Day 13: Sightseeing in Arches National Park
      Day 14: Sightseeing in Canyonlands National Park
      Day 15: Drive from Moab to Capitol Reef National Park (~3 hours), overnight in Torrey, UT or nearby (no hotels in the park)
      Day 16: Drive from Torrey, UT, to Grand Junction, CO (~3.5 hours), overnight in Grand Junction
      Day 17: 2nd day/night in Grand Junction Things to Do
      Day 18: Drive to Denver (~4 hour drive), overnight in Denver
      Day 19: Fly home
      Custom Trip Map
      Just something to think about 😉 Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley
      http://horseshoebend.com
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

  17. Alley — my husband and I are planning on following your itinerary this spring (May 11 – May 26). We are 67 and my husband is in great health — walks everyday and is very active. Except for a heart condition which causes me to get out of breath when I walk up inclines, I am in good health. Instead of taking 14 days we would like to take 16 or 17 days and are wondering where you would extend your itinerary if you had a couple of extra days. On the trip, we can do only easy hikes, but I do have an electric bike and we are hoping to go on 2-3 bike rides. We also would like to do a “safari” type activity of some sort and maybe a “slow” raft ride down the Colorado. We would also love to go on a boat ride. I booked May 23 – 27 (4 nights at the Yavapai in the Grand Canyon National Park). Is that too many nights? We weren’t able to get reservations at any of the other national parks, but will be going on Booking.com soon. Thank you so much. I loved your itinerary and all of the comments that followed. It really helped me decide how to spend our time on this vacation.

    1. Hey Debbie,
      If you have 16-17 days to spend in the Grand Circle, that’s nothing but good news – there are many options for extending your trip and getting even more fun out of it!
      My first recommendation would be between Moab, UT, and Page, AZ: swing over into Southwest Colorado. There, you could easily spend 2-3 days exploring Mesa Verde National Park, or enjoying a scenic train ride on the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. If you guys want to do some biking, the Purgatory Bike Park apparently has trails for all levels of riders. After that, maybe enjoy a soak in the local hot springs. Things to Do in Durango, CO
      If you weren’t opposed to venturing out even further, upon departing Moab, UT, you could take the Castle Valley Road along the Colorado River, then hit I-70 for a short distance to Grand Junction, CO. No shortage of beautiful scenery, good food, and wine there! From GJT, head South through Montrose, CO, and maybe make a stop in Ouray, CO. That’s a gorgeous little town, with lots of hot springs nearby. Map Moab to Mesa Verde via Grand Junction
      Another possible diversion, between Page, AZ, and Grand Canyon South Rim, would be to make a short detour to the Lees Ferry/Marble Canyon area. Lots of cool stuff to see in that area that skirts the Southern flank of the Vermilion Cliffs, including the Lonely Dell Ranch, Navajo Bridge, the Blanche Russell Rock House. If you get hungry at some point, Cliff Dweller’s Lodge is an awesome restaurant. BTW, if you take the Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip, Lees Ferry is where you’ll pull off the river, but that tour doesn’t give you time to explore the areas I referred to. From there, head South on US89. Time and desire permitting, just North of Flagstaff, AZ, you might take the Wupatki/Sunset Crater Loop Drive. From Flagstaff, head East on I-40 as far as Winslow, AZ, and spend the night at the lovely and historic La Posada Hotel, or have dinner or breakfast there. The next day hit Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert, maybe even Meteor Crater as well, if desired. That evening, drive the rest of the way to Grand Canyon South Rim. Map Lees Ferry Petrified Forest diversion A client recently took me up on this suggestion and reported that was one of the best parts of their trip!
      If you follow the route suggested on this itinerary, and head out of Las Vegas toward Zion, it’s possible to stretch that first day out to include the stunning Valley of Fire State Park just Northeast of Las Vegas. Little Finland and Gold Butte National Monument are pretty cool, too. If you do all that, you might want to call it a night in Mesquite, NV, instead of going all the way to Zion. Map Valley of Fire Gold Butte diversion
      Like I said — all kinds of possibilities if you’re in the position to extend your trip! Oh, 4 nights at Grand Canyon South Rim is definitely too much. Most people find 2 days plenty of time to have a fulfilling visit!
      That probably didn’t cover all your questions, but I know that’s a lot to process. Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂
      http://horseshoebend.com
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

  18. Great write ups and article! We are following the 14 day itinerary pretty close. Quick question: is one day enough for Arches and Canyon Lands?

    1. Hey Shannon!
      Thanks for the compliments.
      Unfortunately, you won’t find one day to be nearly enough to fully enjoy and explore Arches and Canyonlands. If possible, give that area 3 days minimum. If that’s not possible, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be planning a return trip, which isn’t such a bad thing 😉
      Please contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂
      http://horseshoebend.com
      http://antelopecanyon.az
      http://thewaveaz.com
      http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
      http://alstrompoint.com
      http://towerbutte.com
      http://canyonskywalk.com

  19. Hi Alley,

    Good afternoon,

    My husband and i really need help we live in Miami, FL….. if you can be so kind and helping us decide which places would be ideal to see …i personally want to share what i would like to see please feel free to let me know which park i can delete or add to our road trip. ( We are planning maybe 6 days renting a car)
    Horseshoe bend
    Grand Canyon but i dont know which side i have read theres different sides rim…ect
    angels landing ZIon and NArrows
    Finally my Dream THe ANtelopes

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry. Was quite the busy weekend for me!
      You are correct in that there are different “rims” of the Grand Canyon. For first-time visitors, which I assume you are, the South Rim is recommended for many reasons. One, it’s either 4.5 hours drive from Phoenix or Las Vegas, which are the most popular airports to fly into. Second, it offers the most in the way of visitor services (hotels, restaurants, shopping, etc.). Last but not least, it has a larger area, square mileage-wise, of the Grand Canyon accessible by car than the North or West Rim. For lodging, it is always most desirable to stay inside the park. If Grand Canyon park hotels are booked up, then Tusayan, AZ, is your next best option, 7 miles South of the park. Grand Canyon South Rim Hotels
      From Grand Canyon South Rim, you should plan on your next overnight stop being Page, AZ, to visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Horseshoe Bend can be visited at your leisure, without a guided tour. You simply go during normal operation hours of the parking lot, which are sunrise to sunset. Antelope Canyon requires a guided tour, which much be booked in advance. Page, AZ, has a large selection of hotels, both chain and independent, but advance reservations should be made for optimal convenience.
      From Page, AZ, you should try and hit Bryce Canyon, one, because it’s beautiful, 2, because it’s only ~3 hours drive from Page, AZ, then Zion would only be ~a 2-hour drive from there. One night is sufficient for most first-time visits to Bryce Canyon because it’s a relatively small park, square mileage-wise. There is only one lodge inside the park, but again, several hotels immediately outside the park gates which should be booked in advance. Bryce Canyon lodging
      Plan for 2-3 nights in Zion if you have your heart set on hiking both the Narrows and Angel’s Landing. Be sure you research both hikes before you commit to them. If you decide against either or both, don’t worry, Zion has many beautiful hikes you can enjoy. For lodging, Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT will probably be where you end up staying since in-park lodging in Zion is hard to come by. In that case, you may need to be prepared to utilize the Zion Canyon Shuttle, but that depends on what time of year you plan on visiting.
      Custom Trip Map
      I hope that helps! Please contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  20. Hi Alley,
    I have learned so much from reading your responses to people’s questions, thank you for all of the detailed info you share!! I am planning a trip for my family of 4 (two teens- one very adventurous 16 year old boy and one not so adventurous 14 year old girl) for next July. We are flying into Bozeman and renting a car for 3 nights in Yellowstone and 2 nights in Grand Tetons, then my hope was to head for Salt Lake City to rent an RV to then do the Grand Circle. I’m thinking 12 days should be enough for us to see Arches, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Zion? Am I right in thinking we will need campsites with electric for AC use each night? Do you think its too hot for renting and RV that time of year? Any tips on places to stop that would accommodate the different interests/adventure levels of my teens? Am I unreasonable to think 12 days would be sufficient? I’ve seen lots of itineraries for going in/out of Vegas but we’re definitely aiming for Salt Lake instead. Thank you so much in advance!!

    1. Hi Kim,
      Wow, that sounds like an amazing trip! As long as you don’t get held up or delayed in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, I don’t see a problem with visiting Utah’s Mighty 5 and the Lake Powell area in 12 days time.
      I would recommend doing something like this:
      Day 1 – Drive from Salt Lake City to Moab, UT (~6 hour drive), overnight in Moab, UT, area
      Day 2 – Sightseeing in Canyonlands National Park, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 3 – Sightseeing in Arches National Park, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 4 – Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~3 hour drive), overnight in Torrey, UT, or surrounding area
      Day 5 – Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park via Scenic Byway 12 (~3 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 6 – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Page, AZ (~3 drive), optional stop to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 7 – Visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 8 – Drive to Grand Canyon North Rim (~3 hours from Page, AZ), overnight in Kanab, UT (~90 minutes from North Rim, no RV parks with AC inside the park)
      Day 9 – Drive to Zion National Park (~1 hour from Kanab, UT), overnight in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 10 – 2nd day/night in Zion National Park area, overnight in Springdale, UT or Hurricane, UT
      Day 11 – 3rd day/night in Zion, overnight in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 12 – Drive back to SLC (~5 hour drive)
      Custom trip map
      As to whether it’s too hot to rent an RV in July, that’s up to you, but IMO it’s definitely too hot to be staying anywhere without access to reliable AC. You’ll want to seek out developed RV parks with electrical hook-ups.
      If your kids are interested in white water rafting, you might use one of your Moab days, or allot an extra day there, to accommodate that activity. That’s pretty much the only place you can do white water rafting in the area that won’t require you to drastically alter your itinerary. If you decide you want to do that, you could drop the night in Capitol Reef and visit it as a “drive-by” between Moab and Bryce. If for some reason that 3rd night in the Zion area didn’t appeal, you might break up the drive to SLC with a stop in Duck Creek Village. Nice place, up high (so nice and cool), and usually not too crowded.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to reserve your RV park and/or hotel stays in advance, as well as any guided tours. In general, you’ll want to get an early start on your sightseeing days. As stated before, July is very hot, and you want to save any hiking or labor-intensive activities for the earlier morning hours. Also, any and all driving should be done during daylight hours. Nighttime driving is best avoided in this part of the U.S. due to local roads being very dimly lit and their tendency to attract deer, elk, and other wildlife that can hike up your risk of a collision. That’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service is spotty (IF you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thank you so much! I think I’m going to pass on the RV, and just rent a vehicle to drive from Yellowstone to the GC, hitting as much as we can in between! You are so helpful!!!

  21. Hi Alley!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to help so many people, you’re an angel!

    My husband and I are planning a trip in May for 7 days. I was hoping to tell you what we want to see and if it’s doable and if so, the order they should be done.

    We want to go to Sedona, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

    Thank you again for any information you can provide.

    1. Hey Suzanne!
      With 7 full days to work with, not including travel days, you should be able to pull that off, no problem.
      I would recommend flying into Las Vegas, then doing something like this:
      Day 1 – Drive to Zion (~3 hours from Las Vegas), overnight in Zion area
      Day 2 – 2nd day/night in Zion area
      Day 3 – Drive to Bryce (~2 hours from Zion), overnight in Bryce area
      Day 4 – Drive to Page, AZ, tour Antelope Canyon , overnight in Page
      Day 5 – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3+ hours from Page), hit Horseshoe Bend on the way out of town, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 6 – Drive to Sedona (~3 hours from Grand Canyon South Rim), do Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, overnight in Sedona
      Day 7 – 2nd day/night in Sedona
      Day 8 – drive to Las Vegas (~4 hours from Sedona)
      Another option, depending on pricing, rental car availability and other factors, might be to fly into Las Vegas and out of Phoenix. That way, the drive back to the airport from Sedona, AZ, would only be ~2 hours.
      If lodging availability, or lack thereof dictates, you can also flip-flop the above itinerary, but I personally recommend saving Sedona for last as it’s a great place to chill and decompress before heading back to reality LOL
      Hope that helps; feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if you have further questions at any time!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  22. Hi love all the posts. I am traveling from MD with my son heading out West for the majority of the summer starting in June. We are interested in the Grand Five, Glacier Park, Old Faithful the Tetons maybe even the Redwood Forrest. We have plenty of time about two or three months. But it is overwhelming to plan. Any suggestions on how to spend our summer seeing as much of the Nation Parks along the way would be very much appreciated. Also, I will be towing a camper for us to stay in.

    1. Hey Karen,
      I can understand how it could become overwhelming to plan such an extensive trip!
      The main priority will be to hit Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons first. I actually live in Wyoming and can tell you that these parks can get snowed on any time, and I do mean any time of year, including summer! Visiting that area as early as September can even be risky.
      The drive from Maryland (I’m using Baltimore as your starting point) to Glacier NP is best broken up into 4-5 days. Plan on cutting through South Dakota so you can see Mt. Rushmore and Devil’s Tower on the way to Glacier. 2-3 days minimum is recommended to fully enjoy and explore Glacier National Park.
      The drive from Glacier to Yellowstone NP takes ~9 hours, so here again, if you’re not keen on driving such long stretches in one go, you might break up the drive into 2 days. Helena would probably be a good place to do that. I’ve never been there, so can’t vouch for what the town is like. For Yellowstone and Grand Teton (parks are relatively close together), plan on spending anywhere from 4-6 days between the two parks.
      From Grand Teton NP to Moab, UT is ~a 10-hour drive. A stopover in Salt Lake City, Ogden, or Park City, UT, would break up that drive about perfectly. Moab is where you want to base yourself to explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. 3-5 days minimum is recommended for those two parks, there you might consider doing some white water rafting in Cataract Canyon.
      From Moab, UT, Capitol Reef is next on the “Mighty 5.” No lodging in that park, so you’d want to stay in the nearby communities of Hanksville, Boulder, Torrey, or Teasdale. The drive from Moab, UT, to Capitol Reef takes ~2.5 hours. 1-2 days is adequate to enjoy that park.
      Next up, Bryce Canyon, ~3 hours from Capitol Reef. Since Bryce Canyon is a small area, square mileage-wise, you can have a good visit there in 1 day, 2 tops. Zion is where you’d want to allow for ~3-4 days.
      Instead of schlepping all the way up to Redwood National/State Parks from Zion, which will be ~a 3-day drive (not hours, DAYS), I’d recommend going to Sequoia National Park instead. Granted, that will still be a long drive (~9 hours), but you could also piggy-back Yosemite NP onto a visit there relatively easily, it’s ~3-4 hours from Sequoia.
      Custom Trip Map
      As you can see from the map linked above, this is going to be a lot of driving, but if you have 2-3 months to work with, you can pull it off. One thing I recommend is making campground reservations ASAP, and making them at commercial/developed RV parks. In most areas you’ll be visiting (with the exception of Montana and Wyoming), it will be very warm, and having access to reliable AC will make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent sweltering in what is essentially a tin can sitting in the sun.
      I hope this helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you need further guidance, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi Alley!

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses and generosity. I am planning a trip with my parents for Oct 8-16, flying into LV early on the 8th and out of LV late evening on the 16th.

        We’re all in pretty good shape and will be traveling in a camper van. None of us have seen any of the sites in this area of the world. What would be your ideal itinerary for us?

        Thanks again!
        Emma

        1. Hi Emma,
          You’ve chosen a wonderful time to visit the Southwest! Temperatures are cooling, and even though it’s still busy, it’s nowhere near as crazy as the summer months since it’s mostly adults out and about.
          A “classic” tour itinerary for first-time visitors like yourselves would be as follows:
          October 8th: Arrive early to Las Vegas, NV, drive to Zion National Park (~3 hours), overnight in Zion area, such as Springdale, UT, Hurricane, UT, or Kanab, UT
          October 9th: 2nd day/night in Zion — enjoy one or more of the many easy but incredibly scenic hikes in the area, such as River Walk, Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock Trail, etc. Note that you will be required to utilize the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the sites, trails, etc., in the main sightseeing area of the park.
          October 10th – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours), drive around the canyon rim to Sunset, Sunrise, Inspiration, and Bryce viewpoints, maybe do a short hike or horseback ride (reservations required), overnight in the Bryce Canyon area.
          October 11th: Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours), en route stop to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos trail if desired, or the “New” Wave and Radio Tower Rock Trail before getting into town. Tour Antelope Canyon (reservations required) in the afternoon, overnight in Page.
          October 12th: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5+ hours), visit Horseshoe Bend on the way out of town, stop at Cameron Trading Post to stretch legs, use facilities, grab a late breakfast/early lunch. Then hit the over half-a-dozen named Grand Canyon Viewpoints on the East Rim/Desert View Drive before arriving in Grand Canyon Village. Overnight in Grand Canyon South Rim area.
          October 13th: Drive to Sedona, AZ (~3 hours), take Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour or one of many easy but beautiful hikes in the area. Overnight in Sedona.
          October 14th: 2nd day/night in Sedona, AZ — visit Chapel of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque, Palatki Ruins, Sedona Airport Overlook, maybe hit a couple of local wineries for a tasting… Things To Do in Sedona
          October 15th: Chill day/3rd night in Sedona OR drive back to Las Vegas (~4 hours), overnight in Las Vegas
          October 16th: Fly home
          Availability of lodging or camping will be the primary determining factor of the order in which you hit these stops. If necessary, be ready to flip-flop the above itinerary, it won’t detract from the quality of your experience at all. If the prospect of spending 3 days and nights in Sedona doesn’t appeal, you might consider spending 2 nights in Page, AZ, and on that 2nd day, make a day trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before it closes, or perhaps Monument Valley.
          Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  23. This as a great site. Lots of information planning my trip.
    I am flying in LAX on May 21st evening and out of LAX on Jun 12th morning (21 days)
    Seems most of the itineraries here are 14 days out of Las Vegas.
    Hope I can tie in the following or similar out of LAX with 2 nights in Joshua Tree.

    I am also concerned with the Memorial Day long weekend. So would like try to be somewhere not so crazy on these days.

    Day 1. Arrive Zion late afternoon/evening – overnight Springdale
    Day 2. Zion – overnight Springdale
    Day 3 Zion – overnight Springdale
    Day 3. Zion – Bryce Canyon – overnight Bryce Canyon
    Day 4. Bryce Canon to Capital Reef via UT Scenic Byway 12 – overnight in Torrey
    Day 5. Capitol Reef, Escalante Grand Staircase
    Day 6. Bryce (or Capital Reef) to Moab – overnight in Moab
    Day 7. Moab – overnight in Moab
    Day 8. Moab – overnight in Moab
    Day 9. Moab to Page
    Day 11. Page day trip to Kanab. This is where
    Day 12. Page to Grand Canyon South
    Day 13. Grand Canyon South
    Day 14. Sedona
    Day 15. Sedona

    1. Hey Fred!
      Pretty much every place you go is going to be crazy on Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to social media, even the “hidden gems” have been discovered and promoted to international fame, so be prepared to share your preferred destinations with other people.
      Using LAX as your staging airport will make for a longer drive on each end of your trip, but will give you the opportunity to see a little bit more, such as Joshua Tree on the way to Zion, then maybe part of Route 66 on the way back from Sedona. In both cases, I’d recommend breaking up the drives into 2-3 days, for the LAX-Zion leg, maybe stop over for one night in Joshua Tree, then a second in Las Vegas, NV; coming back to LAX from Sedona, AZ, you might overnight in Laughlin, NV, or Bullhead City, AZ. Be sure to pass through Oatman, AZ, so you can pet the free-roaming burros, they are SO cute! Just don’t stay in Baker, CA, that town’s hinky.
      Otherwise, your itinerary looks very well-paced and fun!
      Whatever you decide, be sure you make hotel reservations ASAP, if you haven’t done so already. Did we mention that Memorial Day is crazy-busy? LOL
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Dear

        You had helped me previously with some planning and I need a little more help please. Thank you for all you itenerys. They are truly awesome.

        We are a moderately active family, enjoy the water, wine and hiking. We have 10 & 12 year old children.
        We are in need of suggestions for some family friendly places hotels (that have pools but wont break the bank)and or campgrounds ( not RV sites) in places that are probably to hot to camp in the middle of July. We have rented a camper van, but it’s not the fancy type that has air conditioning, and we will be bringing out tent with us.
        https://www.escapecampervans.com

        Also any suggestions of easy hikes and family fun stuff to do.
        Here is our itenery so far. Thank you in advance so much.

        Day 1: July 15 pick up camper near San Francisco
        Day 2: July 16th Zion National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in watchman campground ( already booked) sightseeing in Zion via the Zion Canyon Shuttle, need to book shuttle pass
        Day 3 Zion – July 17th need some where too stay

        Day 4 & 5 – July 18 -20th Drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon (~2-2.5 hours), overnight the
        We have booked the Sunset campground in Bryce national park

        Day 6 : July 20th Drive from Bryce Canyon to Mystic hot springs 475 E 100 N, Monore UT – hang out and soak – need to book

        Day 7 July 21 drive from Monore UT to Capitol Reef
        (Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )
        (~3.5 hours), maybe hike Lower Calf Creek Falls en route (get an early start on that in summertime), overnight in Torrey, Boulder, or Hanksville, UT
        Day 8: July 22 (Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )

        Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, UT (~3 hours), visit Dead Horse Point State Park, overnight in Moab, UT

        Day 9: July 23 day/night in Moab, UT, explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks (Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )

        Day 10: July 24 3rd day/night in Moab, UT, take half-day or full-day white water raft trip need to book

        Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )

        Day 11: July 25 Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~6 hours), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ RV park

        (Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )

        Day 12 July 26 we have a wave hiking permit.
        Do you think this is ok to do with a 10 & 12 year old. I have some leg issues.
        day/night in Page, AZ – Tour Antelope Canyon (if open), visit swimming areas at Lake Powell (Wahweap Swim Beach or Lone Rock Beach)

        Please can you recommend somewhere to stay & activities )

        Day 13. 07/26/2021 Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim **drive time could vary from ~3-5 hours if closure of AZ64 from Cameron to Desert View Point remains in effect; if it does, you’ll have to detour through Flagstaff, AZ, then back up North to Grand Canyon Village via US180/AZ64N**
        GC Mather Campground

        Day 14: 07/27/2021 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim

        Day 13: July 28th Check Out 07/28/2021 Drive back to SF
        Drive home
        ◦ Thank you so very much

          1. Dear Alley,
            I’m trying to book and plan our first trip ever for either of us out west! I’m so excited!!! I really do not want to use a travel agency. Nothing test a marriage like a 12-13 day road trip! lol. So it’s mine and my husbands birthday trip. We are planning on something around the middle of May, potentially May 14th-May 29th.
            I was thinking of flying into Las Vegas getting a rental car, dinner and room. Getting up early the next morning and heading to Zion National Park.
            I’m kinda lost after that. I’m not sure where to stay, how to get the Beautiful Federal Land Pass, how to do excursions? Plus, if possible, where to do a float trip.
            Can you help me please?

          2. Hey Trish,
            Happy birthday(s)! My husband and I also have close birthdays, and we’re both Scorpios LOL
            You’re off to a good start by wanting to fly into Las Vegas, stay overnight, then hit Zion first. However, depending on hotel availability (or lack there of [yes, already!]), you’ll need to be prepared to scoot it to last on the itinerary.
            As for where to stay, inside the park(s) is always best whenever/wherever possible, especially in Zion, because if you don’t stay inside the park, you have to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the main scenic areas, which can be kind of a pain. Since the probability is high that Zion Lodge, the sole in-park lodge, is already booked, you’ll most likely end up staying in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT.
            At Grand Canyon South Rim, there are 6 hotels inside the park, and 5 just outside the gates in the town of Tusayan, AZ. Even with all those choices, advance booking is strongly recommended for Grand Canyon hotels. Now is not too soon to start looking!
            For Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, is the gateway lodging community for those attractions, as well as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, aka Lake Powell. Glen Canyon does have one lodge in-park, the Lake Powell Resort, which is nice, but a little far-removed from the action for my taste. That’s just me, though 😉 If a float trip is something you’d like to do, Page, AZ, is where you should do that. The Horseshoe Bend Raft Trip is a lovely 15-mile journey on the Colorado River from the base of the Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry. No rapids, but lots of beautiful scenery and compelling history.
            For Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, there is no in-park lodging, but Moab, UT, makes the perfect “base camp” for those parks, as well as Castle Valley, Dead Horse Point, and other attractions. Plan on staying at least 4 days in Moab, you’ll be glad you did so!
            Like Zion, Bryce Canyon also has one in-park lodge, and it’s small, so it’s probably sold out by this point. Still, never hurts to book a room outside the park, then keep checking for cancellations.
            RE: the America The Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass, you can pre-order it online, but I’ve heard that the shipping is pretty outrageous, so best to just pick it up at the first National Park you hit on your itinerary.
            Speaking of your itinerary, you could do Las Vegas-Grand Canyon-Page-Moab-Bryce-Zion-Las Vegas, or in reverse. Again, room availability will be the deciding factor in which order you hit the parks, but either way, it will be a beautiful trip!
            I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. Please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
            Good luck and safe travels,
            Alley 🙂
            http://horseshoebend.com
            http://antelopecanyon.az
            http://thewaveaz.com
            http://antelopecanyonboattours.com
            http://alstrompoint.com
            http://towerbutte.com
            http://canyonskywalk.com

      2. Hi Alley,

        I don’t know why you offer so much incredible guidance but I’m extremely grateful for it!

        For someone planning a 3-week Grand Circle itinerary arriving/departing from Phoenix, how might you alter your 2-week itinerary?

        Many thanks!

        1. Hey Phil,
          Thank you so much for your compliments 🙂
          You’re so lucky that you have 3 weeks to spend in the Southwest! Using Phoenix as your start/end point, here’s what I’d recommend:
          Day 1: Arrive in Phoenix, have a nice dinner, overnight in Phoenix
          Day 2: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~4.5 hours), optional stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument, lunch in Flagstaff, AZ, overnight at Grand Canyon
          Day 3: Sightseeing at Grand Canyon South Rim: Grand Canyon Historic Village, West Rim/Hermit’s Rest Road, 2nd night at Grand Canyon
          Day 4: Drive from Grand Canyon to Moab, UT, via Monument Valley — OPTION 1: overnight at Monument Valley (~3.5 hours from Grand Canyon) if Navajo Reservation reopens to tourism, otherwise, drive straight to Moab, UT, which is a ~7 hour drive, overnight in Moab, UT; optional stops: Mexican Hat, Goosenecks State Park
          Day 5: Sightseeing in Arches National Park and surrounding area, 2nd night in Moab
          Day 6: Sightseeing in Canyonlands National Park and surrounding area, 3rd night in Moab
          Day 7: White water rafting in Cataract Canyon, explore Castle Valley area, OR make day trip to Grand Junction, CO 4th night in Moab
          Day 8: Drive from Moab, UT to Capitol Reef National Park, overnight in Hanksville, Torrey, or Boulder, UT
          Day 9: 2nd day/night in Capitol Reef
          Day 10: Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon via Scenic Byway 12 (gorgeous drive, ~3.5 hours), optional stop: Lower Calf Creek Falls , overnight in Bryce Canyon area
          Day 11: 2nd day/night in Bryce Canyon
          Day 12: Drive from Bryce to Brian Head, UT (~1.5 hour drive from Bryce), possible activities: mountain biking, hiking, ride the chairlift, overnight in Cedar City, UT
          Day 13: Drive to Zion National Park via Duck Creek Village, ~2 hour drive, overnight in Zion National Park area (Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT)
          Day 14: 2nd day/night in Zion – possible activities: hike The Narrows or Angel’s Landing, either requires use of the Zion Canyon Shuttle to get to the trailheads, which requires advance ticket purchase
          Day 15: 3rd day/night in Zion – possible activities: easier hikes, Pa’Rus Trail, Watchman Trail, Emerald Pools, River Walk, etc (most require Zion Canyon Shuttle to access)
          Day 16: Drive to Page, AZ (~2 hours), possible stops: Wire Pass Canyon/Buckskin Gulch or Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos hike, overnight in Page
          Day 17: Kayak tour of waterside of Antelope Canyon first thing in the morning, other activities: Glen Canyon Dam/Hanging Garden Trail, Rim View Trail, New Wave and Radio Tower Rock, 2nd night in Page, AZ
          Day 18: Drive to Sedona, AZ (~3 hours from Page, AZ), hit Horseshoe Bend on way out of town, overnight in Sedona
          Day 19: 2nd day/night in Sedona, possible activities: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Slide Rock State Park, Red Rock Crossing, Airport Mesa
          Day 20: 3rd day/night in Sedona, possible activities: sunrise hot air balloon ride, wine tour, hike West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, day trip to Jerome, AZ
          Day 21: drive back to Phoenix, AZ (~2 hours), fly home
          And there you have it! Custom trip map
          I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process. If you need to bounce more ideas off us, feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  24. Thank you for this itinerary. My family and are are planning a trip May 25-June 9.
    I’ve already book hotels and was looking for input on them and also what to do depending on where hotels are located.
    We would like to do hiking, on the milder side for me but my girls and husband would like a little more challenging but mot the Wave☺️. We like white water rafting, maybe boat, kayaking, paddle boarding (for my girls), maybe a helicopter tour.

    Day 1. Las Vegas overnight at the Venetian
    Resort.
    Day 2. Las Vegas to Zion.
    Hotel-Zion Canyon Lodge
    Day 3. Zion Canyon Lodge
    Day 4. Zion to Bryce Canyon
    Hotel- Promise Rock-Holm Town
    Kanab
    Day 5. I was thinking about overnighting again
    at Promise Rock. Is this a good idea?
    Or should we head to Capital Reef?
    I couldn’t seem to figure out where this
    Hotel is In reference to Bryce Canyon.
    Any thoughts??
    Day 6. Bryce (or Capital Reef) to Moab
    Hotel-Archway Inn (near Lions Park)
    Arches Nat Pk
    Day 7. Moab?? Possibly whitewater rafting?
    Day 8. Moab???
    Day 9. Moab to Page
    Hotel-Lake Powell Resort
    Day 10. Page, AZ
    Day 11. Page day trip to Kanab. This is where
    I’m confused about the hotel I picked
    For Bryce.
    Day 12. Page to Grand Canyon
    Hotel-Grand Canyon Inn and Motel
    Day 13. Grand Canyon ???
    Day 14. Grand Canyon ???
    Day 15. Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
    Over night-MGM Grand
    Day 16. Depart Las Vegas

    I would really appreciate any suggestions and directions.
    Thank you, Grace

    1. Hi Grace!
      I gotta tell ya, one thing I love about the American Southwest, and this job, is I learn something new every day, and today I have done just that: I wasn’t familiar with Promise Rock-Holm Town until now. From what I am able to glean from what little information there is about this property, it is waaaaaaaaaay the heck out in the middle of nowhere! While that may be appealing to you in some aspects, it may be somewhat impractical for sightseeing. Another consideration: last I traveled on this road, it was only partially paved. If the access road to the Promise Rock property is unpaved, you might want to think twice about taking a rental car on it. Off-road driving is technically prohibited by most rental car outlets, which means you’d be on the hook for any damage you might sustain. You might want to rethink your lodging plans in this area and stay in one of the more “mainstream” locales, such as Bryce Canyon City, UT, or Tropic, UT.
      Another thing I need to point out is that The Wave is not going to happen for you, even if you wanted to hike it. This is a highly protected area where the number of hikers per day are purposely limited for conservation purposes. Basically, if you didn’t get a permit through the online lottery, which was held in January, your only option would be to apply for a walk-in permit in Kanab, UT, the day prior to when you actually wanted to hike. With a family of 4, your chances of obtaining a hiking permit are quite low in this manner, and if your kids are very young, the 6 mile round-trip hike might be a little much for them as well. For more information on The Wave, and maybe hiking there in the future, visit our companion site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com
      In light of some of these concerns, and Promise Rock’s very out-of-the-way locale, I think heading to Capitol Reef on Day 5 is a good call. There is no lodging in the park itself, but there are hotels in the gateway communities of Torrey, Hanksville, Teasdale etc. Capitol Reef Lodging Be sure to make the trip from Bryce to Capitol Reef on UT Scenic Byway 12 — it’s a stunning drive!
      If your family was interested in white water rafting, Moab, UT, is the perfect place to do that. I would recommend allotting at least 3 days to fully enjoy and explore this area.
      If a day trip to Kanab, UT, was a high priority — it does have a lot to offer, including, but not limited to Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon, a popular alternative to the still-closed Antelope Canyons — you could just as easily place that between Zion and Bryce rather than taking a day away from Page, AZ. It’s kind of a “six-of-one/half-a-dozen-of-another” proposition. Page, AZ, and Lake Powell is a good spot for kayaking and/or paddle boarding!
      Just about the only major flaw I see with your trip plan is that you’ve allotted too much time to the Grand Canyon. I know that sounds crazy! But the reality is that 1. you’ll do a good chunk of your sightseeing of the Grand Canyon on the drive from Page, AZ, since the shortest route takes you along the East Rim Drive, where there are over half-a-dozen named viewpoints of the canyon, all with varying features and perspectives 2. unless you’re a hard-core hiker and have different day hikes planned for all four days (which is not realistic for most young families), you’re likely to find yourself ready to move on after 2 days tops. I used to work there, and most people who booked more than 3 days in the park ended up shortening their visits.
      I recommend dropping that last 1-2 days at the Grand Canyon in favor of a visit to Sedona, AZ. Sedona, AZ, is an incredibly beautiful area, with lots to see and do! It’s ~a 2.5 hour drive from Grand Canyon South Rim, and ~4.5 hours’ drive to Las Vegas. You’ll have no problem whatsoever filling 2-3 days with fun in Sedona, but if you can possibly squeeze out another day or two to spend there, you won’t regret it. Lots of people spend a week in that area and report feeling as though they’d only scratched the surface of all Sedona, AZ, had to offer.
      I know my observations are kinda “all over the place” and it’s a lot to process! Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if we can be of further guidance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi there, your advice is beyond awesome! Thanks for the help you previously gave me.
        Here is our literary so far and I wonder if you can help with some advice on not crazy expensive kid / family friendly hotels in places that would be too hot to camp. Also easy hikes and fun thing to do with kids. We won the lottery and have a wave permit. What are your thoughts on a family of 4 doing this with a 12 and 10 year old. In the past I’ve had some leg issues. Thank you so so much

        Day 1: July 15 Leave SF in Escape Camper Van (it’s not an RV ) – stay somewhere along the road
        Day 2: July 16th Drive to Zion National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in watchman campground B005 loop B sightseeing in Zion via the Zion Canyon Shuttle, need to book shuttle pass
        Day 3 Zion – July 17th (need some where too stay either a campsite or hotel -please can you give suggestions )

        Day 4 & 5 – July 18 -20th Drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon (~2-2.5 hours), overnight the
        We have campsites in Sunset campground in Bryce national park

        Day 6 : July 20th Drive from Bryce Canyon to Mystic hot springs 475 E 100 N, Monore UT – hang out and soak – need to book
        Day 7 July 21 drive from Monore UT to Capitol Reef (~3.5 hours), maybe hike Lower Calf Creek Falls en route (must get an early start on that in summertime), overnight in Torrey, Boulder, or Hanksville, UT ( please can you recommend some where to stay)

        Day 8: July 22

        Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, UT (~3 hours), visit Dead Horse Point State Park, overnight in Moab, UT ( please can you recommend some where to stay a family friendly hotel would be great)

        Day 9: July 23 day/night in Moab, UT, explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks ( please can you recommend some where to stay a family friendly hotel would be great)

        Day 10: July 24 3rd day/night in Moab, UT, take half-day or full-day white water raft trip ( please can you recommend some where to stay a family friendly hotel would be great and a white water rafting experience)

        Day 11: July 25 Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~6 hours), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ RV park

        (please can you recommend some where to stay a family friendly hotel would be great Or campground thats not too hot)

        Day 12 July 26 day/night in Page, AZ – Tour Antelope Canyon (if open), visit swimming areas at Lake Powell (Wahweap Swim Beach or Lone Rock Beach) please can you recommend some where to stay a family friendly hotel would be great Or campground thats not too hot)

        Day 13. 07/26/2021 Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim **drive time could vary from ~3-5 hours if closure of AZ64 from Cameron to Desert View Point remains in effect; if it does, you’ll have to detour through Flagstaff, AZ, then back up North to Grand Canyon Village via US180/AZ64N**
        Booked Mather Campground

        Day 14: 07/27/2021 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim

        Day July 28th Check Out 07/28/2021 Drive back to SF

        1. Hey Tracey,
          I am so sorry I didn’t see your inquiry sooner. It didn’t register as a new comment, so it kinda got buried, I hope you didn’t think I was shining you on ’cause I’d never do that!
          OMG congrats on winning the Wave lottery! I don’t see in your itinerary where you’re planning to do it, but you’ll be glad to know that families like yourselves do this hike all the time, so you should be able to do it as long as you’re aware that 1. it’s 6 miles and change round-trip 2. it’s going to be HOT 3. did I mention it’s going to be hot? so carry LOTS of water 4. it’s best if you’re ready to start the hike just as the sun is coming up; in late July, that occurs at around 5:30 AM. RE: the “leg issues” you refer to, you may want to have a sit down or Zoom call with your doctor to see what they think of you doing this hike.
          So seeing as though your vehicle is a camper van and not an RV (meaning no electrical hook-ups), I wouldn’t recommend camping at all at the time of year you’re traveling. Bryce Canyon might be somewhat comfortable, seeing as though they’re 8,000′ ASL, and ditto for Mather Campground at the South Rim since their sites are fairly well-shaded. Everywhere else you’re looking to go, though, nighttime lows don’t get that “low” at all. 60’s-70’s are the norm in most parks on your list, and I can tell you from 15 years of living there that summer nights in Page, AZ, are quite balmy. Unless you have some means of getting some air circulating through your vehicle, camping won’t be much fun IMO.
          That said, most hotels along your route fit the description of “family friendly.” If you’re looking for a place with a pool, free breakfast, etc., be prepared to stay in a newer chain hotel, and pay the kinds of prices they charge, especially during peak season. On July 17th, for example, where you’re needing someplace to stay between Zion and Bryce, I’d suggest Kanab, UT. Being ~30 minutes from Zion and ~90 minutes from Bryce, it makes for a good “base camp” from which to explore both parks. The town has a Rodeway Inn property that’s currently advertising nightly rates ~$70, there’s also a Quality Inn and Days Inn property, both with pools, they’re asking for upwards of $80/night at the time of year you’re visiting, but by comparison with other areas, that’s really not too bad.
          Mystic Hot Springs has next to nothing, save the Monroe Inn (bed and breakfast), in the way of lodging nearby, so you’ll probably have to go to Richfield, UT, ~15 minutes away. That town has everything from Motel 6 to Hampton Inn price-wise.
          At Moab, UT, hotels be ready to pay $100+ per night, but you have a choice of over a dozen hotels there, most family friendly with pools, etc. The Super 8 has a pool and free breakfast.
          By the way, my mentioning any hotels doesn’t necessarily constitute an endorsement, just letting you know what’s there. Personally, my favorite place to stay in Moab, UT, is the Red Cliffs Lodge, in the Castle Valley area. A bit off the beaten path, but it’s a beautiful area, for which they’re wanting $350+ night in July! I stayed there in the off-season…
          Hotels in Page, AZ, are starting out at ~$85/night for that time of year. The Lake Powell Canyon Inn, formerly known as the Page Boy, has a pool, etc., locate conveniently on the main drag of the town. There are a number of new chain hotels, such as the Hyatt Place, Clarion Inn, Sleep Inn, etc., where you’ll find similar amenities at higher prices.
          Oh – good news re: the drive from Page, AZ, to the South Rim — AZ64 East from Cameron to Desert View Point is open, so you don’t have to make that detour through Flagstaff (barring anything unforeseen).
          I hope that helps a little! To make sure that future questions get to me, send them to me directly at [email protected]
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  25. Hi! This blog + comment section has been so so helpful! My brother and I are both graduating this year and wanted to take my mom on this trip for so long – I was wondering if I could get some advice on what to fill the middle of our trip in May?

    Day 1: fly in Las Vegas
    Day 2: Zion
    Day 3: Zion
    Day 4: Zion (sleep closer to Bryce)
    Day 5: Bryce
    Day 6: Bryce
    Day 7: ?
    Day 8: ?
    Day 9: ?
    Day 10: drive to south rim GC
    Day 11: south rim GC, 11pm flight out of Las Vegas

    I’m wondering if we can squeeze a Moab trip, but I was unsure about the drive from
    Moab to GC south rim, as you mentioned there were closures? Or would you suggest something else?

    Thank you so much! My mom and brother are into photography so they are very excited!

    1. Hey Vivian,
      Congratulations on you and your brother’s upcoming graduation!
      I think you’d be able to accommodate a stop in Moab, UT, into your trip plans with a couple of minor modifications. Moab, UT, is a beautiful area that also warrants at minimum a 3-day stay to fully enjoy and explore it.
      First off, all the roads you’d be driving are open to through traffic, including the East Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon, which reopened on April 8th. However, some of the trip will take you through lands belonging to the Navajo Indian Tribe, who are still discouraging contact between outsiders and reservation residents due to COVID-19. This will mainly be a concern between Bluff, UT, and Desert View Point, or Page, AZ, to Desert View Point (more on that in a minute), so on these legs of your trip, be sure your vehicle is fully fueled and that you have adequate water and food to tide you over until your next destination.
      Another observation: you have too much time in Bryce. I know that sounds weird, but square mileage-wise, Bryce Canyon is a very small park, so one day’s time is enough to have a good visit there, and get a little hiking in, too.
      In light of some of those concerns, here’s what I’d propose:
      Day 1: early flight into Las Vegas, drive to Zion (~3 hours)
      Day 2: Zion
      Day 3: Zion
      Day 4: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2-3 hours from Zion), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 5: Drive to Moab, UT, via UT Scenic Byway 12, optional stop at Capitol Reef
      Day 6: Moab
      Day 7: Moab
      Day 8: Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ (~5 hours)
      Day 9: Morning kayak tour of Antelope Canyon, visit Horseshoe Bend, drive to GC South Rim (~3-4 hours)
      Day 10: GC South Rim
      Day 11: south rim GC, 11pm flight out of Las Vegas
      Custom Trip Map
      Whatever you decide, be sure to make advance reservations for all hotels and guided tours. In most cases, you’ll also want to get any hiking or other labor-intensive activities out of the way during the cooler hours of the morning since daytime highs in May are already starting to get pretty hot. Bryce Canyon and possibly GC South Rim would be the only exceptions to the rule since they are 8,000′ and 7,000′ above sea level respectively, but that’s on the rimside. Any hiking below the rims of the canyons should be done early to enjoy cooler temperatures as well.
      Hope that helps! Feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  26. Hi Alley,

    My friends and I are planning a big road trip from Austin, TX. This is a very bare bones outline but I was curious about your thoughts on our timing and any tips you may have?

    Day: 1: Drive from Austin to Arches, ~16hrs 50min
    Day: 2: Arches
    Day 3: Arches
    Day 4: Drive from Arches to Zion, ~ 3hrs 30min
    Day 5: Zion
    Day 6: Zion
    Day 7: Drive from Zion to Yosemite, ~ 10hrs 30 min, or ~12 through Death Valley
    Day 8: Yosemite
    Day 9: Yosemite
    Day 10: Yosemite
    Day 11: Drive from Yosemite to Grand Canyon, ~10hr 20
    Day 12: Drive from Grand Canyon to Austin, ~ 16hr 30min

    I’m debating if it is worth it to tack on one more full day for the Grand Canyon instead of just staying there for the night or even dropping a day from Arches and adding it to the Grand Canyon instead? I would love any opinions you have on the layout of the trip and any recommendations on hikes or places to stay given the timing of our trip. We were planning to camp when possible but we also are open to staying in the nearest city if that is a better idea.

    Thanks so much for your time, I look forward to hearing any suggestions or insight you may have!

    1. Hey Connor!
      Having made the drive from Arizona to Austin, TX, several times myself (had family out there), I can tell you that unless you have traveling companions willing to share the driving responsibilities, you’ll be better off breaking up the drive into two days. Since I also have family in Clovis, NM, that’s where I’d usually stop, but you might make Albuquerque, NM, or Sante Fe, NM, your half-way point.
      It’s good that you’re planning on 3 days in Moab, UT (for Arches/Canyonlands) and Zion, but I’d suggest taking Yosemite and Death Valley off the table. It’s gonna make for a long swing out of your way, and you’d be missing more of the good stuff to see and do right here in the Southwest! Bryce Canyon, for example, deserves at least one night, which you can visit between Moab, UT, and Zion. Capitol Reef is another beautiful park you’d be bypassing in favor of Yosemite; that one can also be visited between Moab, UT, and Bryce, either as a “drive-by” or a one night stay. From Zion, plan on 1-2 nights in Page, AZ, for Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and possibly the Antelope Canyons (if they reopen, they’re shut presently due to COVID-19).
      Revised trip map
      Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Yosemite and Death Valley aren’t beautiful, but California is a trip unto itself. Besides, if you’re going to visit Yosemite, you should also go to Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Big Sur, Mt. Lassen… just to name a few, and don’t forget Disneyland LOL
      As for where to stay, inside the parks is always most desirable, whether you camp or go the hotel route, but depending on the lead-time to your trip, you may find in-park hotels already sold out. If your visit is planned for the warmer months of summer, I would bag the camping idea, especially if you were wanting to tent camp, since nights don’t really cool off to comfortable levels for sleeping. For Arches/Canyonlands, look for lodging/camping in the town of Moab, UT. For Bryce Canyon, nearby Bryce Canyon City, Panguitch, and Hatch have several hotels and motels to choose from, or you can simply base yourself in Kanab, UT, which is centrally located to both Bryce and Zion. For Zion, the gateway cities of Springdale or Hurricane, UT (on the Western border of the park) and Kanab, UT (~30 minutes East of the park). For Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell, you’ll want to stay in Page, AZ, then at the Grand Canyon, either Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan, AZ.
      Whatever you decide for your overnight accommodations, be sure to make reservations in advance for them. To avoid backtracking on the trip back to Austin, TX, from GC South Rim, you could swing through the Gila National Forest and make Silver City or Las Cruces, NM, your half-way stop. I’ve gone that route, too.
      Hope that helps! Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  27. Hello Alley – wow! wow! wow! You are so valued with your expertise and advice. I’ve been reading thru these comments over the last several days and you are such a fantastic resource. I, like many, are seeking your opinion on our version of the Grand Circle trip. We will be driving in from Chicago – 2 adults, 2 boys (ages 10 & 7). We are not super ambitious in terms of hiking. Will be coming out end of June (we are a bit late with our planning – I know). Upon arrival to the area, we have 8 days (possibly 10 days) to spend there before starting home. Reading your many comments that we should be conscious of the summer heat (one of my boys does not tolerate heat super well). All that being said… eager to hear your thoughts. This is a skeleton list (I have lots of notes on many pieces of paper from your thoughts and suggestions on other posts), just trying to see if our timing makes sense.

    Day 1-2 – travel from Chicago and end up in Moab
    Day 3 – Arches (stay in Moab)
    Day 4 – Arches (catch sunrise at delicate arch?) & Canyonlands (stay in Moab)
    Day 5 – Capitol Reef, Escalante Grand Staircase (stay in Kanab)
    Day 6 – Bryce (stay in Kanab)
    Day 7 – Bryce & Zion (stay in Kanab)
    Day 8 – Zion (stay in Kanab)

    And I’m at a crossroads for this part of the trip. Do we try to squeeze Grand Canyon in on this trip? Or do we save it for another trip where we would visit Grand Canyon, Sedona, Slide Rock, etc? I’m worried we may be rushing it AND that my boys will be wiped out by this point and not appreciate the Grand Canyon after doing/seeing everything else before this.

    Option A
    Day 9-10 – Page, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyons (if open – if not I love your backup plan ideas), Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell (stay in Page? Elsewhere)?
    And then start heading home/east from there.

    Option B
    Day 9-10 – Page, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyons (if open – if not I love your backup plan ideas), Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell (stay in Page? Elsewhere)?
    Day 11-12 – Grand Canyon
    And then start heading home/east from there.

    Thank you for your time & thoughts!

    1. Hey Sara!
      Your trip plan sounds pretty fun. It is good that you are prepared to deal with the summer heat, because it will definitely affect your trip significantly. The main thing is to plan hiking, kayaking, any other labor intensive activities for the early morning hours when it’s cooler out. Sunrise in Utah will occur at ~6:00 AM in June, with Arizona 1 hour earlier. Don’t be surprised to see people out and about even earlier; it’s how we roll in the American Southwest in the summertime!
      One area of your trip I suggest you rethink is Day 5 and 6 where you propose to drive through Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase out of Moab, UT, on to Kanab, UT, to stay overnight, then back to Bryce the following day. For one, the drive from Moab to Kanab via Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase is going to be a total of 6-7 hours. Then you’d end up backtracking the following day to return to Bryce. A better plan would be to stay overnight in the Capitol Reef area (there’s no lodging inside the park, but several options in the nearby gateway communities), then either do some sightseeing in Bryce Canyon en route to Kanab for the night, or overnight in the Bryce Canyon area. Bryce is a relatively small park, square mileage-wise, so one day is sufficient for most families like yourselves to have a fulfilling visit.
      As for whether you try to “squeeze in the Grand Canyon,” I hate to sound like I’m copping out here, but only you can decide whether your kids would be able to handle it. Since you’re already driving out from Chicago, you’re spending a lot of time on the road as it is. If you’re in a position to schedule another trip to Arizona when you can visit Sedona, Petrified Forest/Painted Desert, etc., you might indeed save it for later. Or you might schedule a day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim for one of the days you’re in Kanab, UT. It’s ~a 90-minute drive each way, and the North Rim being 8,000′ ASL, is cooler than the South Rim. With your days being longer, June is one of the rare times you can pull off a day trip like that, as long as you time your return trip so that you’re back to base by nightfall. You want to avoid driving at night in this part of the U.S. due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife that can elevate your risk of an accident. Not something you want to chance in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service is spotty (IF you can get any bars at all) and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. Another idea: how would your boys feel about flying? If you really want to see the Grand Canyon but aren’t keen on doing all that driving, it is possible to fly over the canyon out of Page, AZ. Fixed-wing airplanes depart daily, weather permitting, and mornings are the best time of day to fly for lack of wind and best light. While Page-Grand Canyon air tours won’t land at the canyon, they will show you a ton of amazing scenery in addition to the Grand Canyon in a relatively short amount of time.
      Hope that helps! Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  28. Like others have said, this site is AMAZING!!! Also THANK YOU for hotel suggestions, as we booked many of these! Based on your posts, here is our itinerary. Yes, our days are very full; but we are accustomed to rising early and departing daily at 7 am until we crash for the evening as we want to see as much as we can in these 2 weeks; but kindly ask for your input and suggestions! We are both in our late 60’s, active; but we are mostly planning on scenic drives, scenic lookouts and easy hikes (max 1-2 miles round trip). One concern is the closure or any crossings/highways below that may potentially affect us due to Navajo lockdown? Any restaurant suggestions for dinners?

    Wed 9/29 Depart Vegas for Zion (afternoon-one easy hike either Emerald Pools or Weeping Rock) then depart via Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel for
    Kanab-overnight.
    Thurs 9/30 Depart Kanab to Grand Canyon North Rim. One hike Cape Royal, scenic drive Point Imperial, stop at Bright Angel Point Scenic viewing.
    Then return to Kanab, again overnight.
    Fri 10/1 Depart Kanab for Bryce (full day) then overnight in Bryce Canon City
    Sat 10/2 Depart Bryce via Rt 12 (seeing staircase area from highway) to Capital Reef (afternoon) then UT24 to Torrey-overnight
    Sun 10/3 Depart Torrey for Goblin Park and Little Wild Horse Canyon-walk in only short distance 1/4 mile to see canyons narrow. Then depart for
    afternoon in Canyonlands for scenic drive Grandview Point Rd/Island in the Sky Rd. Overnight in Moab. If we are up to it, Sunset at Dead
    Horse Outlook, this night or the next night
    Mon 10/4 Arches National Park scenic drive The Windows Section, Wolfe Ranch and Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Easy hikes to either North Window or
    Double Arch. Overnight again in Moab.
    Tues 10/5 Depart Moab, stopping to see Mexican Hat Rock and Forest Gump point and driving by Monument Park (if open may stop here for short
    tour). Overnight in Page
    Wed 10/6 Page – We are so disappointed not to be able to do Antelope Canyon Tour and Boat Tour due to closure and Rainbow Arch (only on
    Saturdays and we are unsure how to rearrange the schedule below so it makes driving sense); but still planning 2 days in Page.
    Thur 10/7 Page – to be determined then depart for Grand Canyon Southern Rim. We are booked in the Canyon Park for 2 nights.
    Fri 10/8 Grand Canyon Southern Rim. Again overnight in the park.
    Sat 10/9 Grand Canyon morning, then afternoon traveling via Rt. 66 to Grand Canyon West-overnight (Cabins at Grand Canyon West)
    Sun 10/10 Grand Canyon West Skywalk (morning) then returning to Las Vegas – overnight 2 nights (so we can rest, LOL) then return home 10/12

    1. Hey Bill!
      Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry.
      Your itinerary looks totally fun, and scheduled for the best time of year to be out here! You are correct in that your plans are ambitious, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish everything on your “wish list,” but if you didn’t change a thing, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have a ball!
      At the moment, all roads you’re proposing to travel are open to through traffic. Depending on the situation with COVID-19, the View Lodge and/or Goulding’s Lodge at Monument Valley may be open to visitors, possibly with limitations on services, capacities in restaurants, etc. Do keep an eye on the situation as it could change at the drop of a hat with the variants making the rounds. The road that is most likely to be affected is AZ64 East from Desert View Point at Grand Canyon South Rim to Cameron, AZ. It was closed until recently, but the Navajo Tribe is pushing for it to close again. Should that section of the road re-close, it will necessitate a rather long detour through Flagstaff, AZ, to get from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim. That will turn what is typically a 3-hour drive into more like a 5-hour drive. Oh joy.
      RE: the Antelope Canyons, we have no idea whether those will be reopened by the time you guys come through, but since your plan includes a couple of days in Kanab, UT, a good “plan B” would be Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Although a guided tour is not required, they come strongly recommended because the main access road out there is somewhat difficult to navigate for those not accustomed to off-road driving, and is definitely discouraged for parties in rental cars. There are several companies offering tours to Peek-A-Boo but the ones we’re most familiar with are Dreamland Safari Tours. For more information and suggestions, visit “Help! My Tour Got Cancelled” on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ
      With Rainbow Bridge, about the only thing I can suggest is altering your plan somewhat so you can be in Page, AZ, on Saturday 10/2, then head up to Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Moab, then go directly to GC South Rim. That would involve a bit of backtracking, but certainly not enough to wreck your trip. If that does not appeal for whatever reason (e.g., your lodging reservations are already made), another option for seeing Rainbow Bridge is to fly over it. Fixed wing airplanes depart from the Page Municipal Airport daily, weather permitting, and possibly contingent on a certain number of people flying. Mornings are the best time to fly for best light and lack of wind. While Rainbow Bridge Air Tours don’t land at the Bridge, they still offer an expedient and exciting way to see not only Rainbow Bridge, but a ton of other amazing scenery!
      As for places to eat, I know some areas better than others in that regard. In Kanab, UT, the best restaurants are generally regarded as the Peek-A-Boo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen and Rocking V Cafe. In Page, AZ, I’m partial to Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge and Bonker’s Restaurant. In Cameron, AZ, the Cameron Trading Post‘s Navajo Tacos are legendary; just not sure if they’ll be open for you. If they are, plan on hitting them on the way from Page, AZ, to the Grand Canyon. At Grand Canyon South Rim, El Tovar is the place to go for dinner, but you need to have a reservation. They can be made up to 6 months prior by El Tovar guests, 30 days prior for folks staying at other hotels.
      Hope that helps! If you need to bounce other ideas off us, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley
        My wife and I want to thank you for all the information you provided and for this wonderful blog. Absolutely AMAZING!!!! We are truly fans! One last quick question. In Page we were looking at Horseshoe Bend Float trip. Any rapids? Or just smooth sailing in the fall? Again, thank you for everything – your hotel recommendations were right on point!

  29. This site is phenomenal! I am truly amazed by the fact that you responses are so individualized! That must be very time consuming, so thank you! My question also revolves around itinerary, but our start/stop points are different than most on here. Our family of four will be flying in to Denver on 6/24, renting an RV and heading south beginning 6/25 (our college aged kids have never seen the Rockies and have requested to fly into Denver). We return to Denver on 7/3, and fly home late 7/4. So the time we have to actually travel will be 6/25-7/3. Other than those dates, we are flexible with our itinerary to this point. We are in the process of trying to get one together, but we are feeling slightly overwhelmed due to all the unknowns, as this will be our first time anywhere around this area. The places that we would like to visit include the Mighty 5. If time permits, we would also love to see as much of the following as possible, even as drive-throughs, if needed: Antelope Canyon (or a similar slot canyon), Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, White Pocket (or similar). At this time, we currently have reservations at Zion for the nights of 6/27 and 6/28. Since you know this area so well, do you have any specific suggestions on layout, pacing, etc.? Thank you for any time you can afford to give us!

    1. Hi Faith!
      Sorry to start off with bad news, but I think you’ll have to scoot those Zion reservations back a bit. It’s kind of impractical to try and rush all the way to Zion over the course of two days out of Denver, then work your way back from there.
      Here’s what I’d actually recommend:
      06/24: Fly into Denver, overnight in Denver
      06/25: Drive to Moab, UT (~7 hours), overnight in Moab, UT (1st of 3)
      06/26: Explore Arches/Canyonlands National Park (2nd night)
      06/27: White water rafting in Cataract Canyon; if not, then visit Dead Horse State Park and/or Castle Valley area
      06/28: Option A: drive from Moab, UT to Monument Valley (if it’s open by the time you visit, it’s ~a 3-hour drive), overnight at Monument Valley (The View Lodge, Goulding’s, or Kayenta, AZ) OR Option B: if Monument Valley is not open, drive to Page, AZ (~6 hours from Monument Valley) and overnight in Page
      06/29: Drive to Page, AZ (~2 hours from Monument Valley), tour Antelope Canyon (if open), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ
      06/30: Tour White Pocket, then drive to Zion National Park (overnight in Zion National Park or Kanab, UT)
      07/01: Sightseeing in Zion (possible hikes: Angel’s Landing, the Narrows), 2nd night in Zion area
      07/02: Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon (~2-3 hours), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      07/03: Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef (~3.5-4 hours — be sure you do this leg of the trip on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, stunning drive!), overnight in Capitol Reef area (Torrey, Hanksville, Fruita)
      07/04: Drive back to Denver (~8 hours), fly home
      Custom trip map
      As you can see, the drive back to Denver will be a bit of a haul from Capitol Reef, or you could reverse the itinerary, hitting Capitol Reef first, then Bryce, Zion, Page, Moab, then back to Denver. Lodging availability on each stop will determine the order in which you make the trip.
      If Monument Valley doesn’t “technically” open by the time you guys come through, you can still get a nice view of it passing through on US163. Another option? Fly over it out of Page, AZ. Fixed-wing airplanes depart out of the Page Municipal Airport daily, weather permitting, and possibly contingent on a certain number of passengers traveling. Air tours wouldn’t land at Monument Valley unless it reopened, but in the course of 90 minutes, you’d see a ton of amazing scenery!
      Should the Antelope Canyons’ land-side not reopen, a possible alternative would be to kayak into the waterside of Antelope on Lake Powell, which would include some hiking into the pre-slot portion of the Lower canyon, which is on Federal and not Tribal land.
      For White Pocket, be sure you book a guided tour, the access road out there is deep sand and shouldn’t be attempted in a rental car.
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you need to bounce more ideas off us, feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  30. I love this page so much. Omg!! I am planning to do this road trip with my boyfriend from may 14-may 28th (ish) and we are planning to tent camp at nearly every location (may do a motel one night or something). Starting in Las Vegas/ Zion and ending in Grand Canyon per your recommendations! In terms of booking camp sites, is it recommended to do this in advance or could we get by in mid-to-late May “winging it” / using first come first serve sites? Are we crazy for wanting to camp every night due to it being hot in May? Also.. we are early 20’s … how scary is Angels Landing? Lol. We are deciding between angels landing and narrows, we are not thrill seekers yet love hiking. Thank you so much for everything. We will be following every suggestion on here !!! I am so excited.

    1. Hey Meg,
      So glad you like our page!
      I would strongly advise making advance reservations for campsites along your trip route. You are, after all, traveling during peak demand season, so campgrounds, even tent sites, tend to get booked up. Not all sites will be hot; in late May, nighttime temperatures in Moab, UT, are still dipping down into the 50’s. At Grand Canyon South Rim, nighttime lows in the 40’s are not uncommon. If you were traveling in late June-early August, I’d say no way.
      RE: how scary Angel’s Landing is, it can be pretty white-knuckle if you’re not accustomed to heights. Unfortunately, I am not speaking from first-hand experience. It’s a hike I have yet to make myself. To gauge whether it would be appropriate for you, you might watch this video: Angel’s Landing Hike in Zion National Park One thing I probably should warn you about is that you’ll have to utilize the Zion Canyon Shuttle to get to the trailhead, and you’ll need to purchase a ticket in advance for that. If you decide that Angel’s Landing isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other great hikes to enjoy in Zion that aren’t as hair-raising.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  31. Hello My husband is turning 60 in July. Our starting point Denver but we could fly into any city. He has always wanted to see Monument Valley (movie scenes) Also thinking about The Grand Canyon and Albuquerque. Can you help me out with some ideas ? Thanks!

    1. Hi Marcia,
      Congrats to your husband on his big day!
      IMO Denver, CO wouldn’t be the ideal place to fly into and out of. It’s ~a 9-hour drive from there to Monument Valley, and ~7 hours from there to Albuquerque, NM. I would advise flying into someplace closer, such as Albuquerque, NM (yes, they have an airport, or… a “sunport”, how cool is that?), Flagstaff, AZ, Page, AZ, or St. George, UT. However, all these are secondary/commuter airports where you’ll be hard-pressed to find direct flights into. Most visitors to the Southwest US tend to fly into Las Vegas, NV, Phoenix, AZ, or Salt Lake City, UT.
      One thing I do need to point out is that July is going to be very hot in most of the areas you’re likely to visit. Even Grand Canyon, which is 7,000′-8,000′ ASL, typically runs in the 80’s-90’s. If you want to do any hiking or other labor-intensive activities, those are best done during the earlier morning hours when temperatures are cooler.
      Another consideration: right now the Navajo tribe, on whose land Monument Valley is situated, is discouraging contact between outsiders and reservation residents due to COVID-19. While it is possible to drive past Monument Valley on US163, it is not possible to enter the Tribal Park or go into the backcountry. What the situation will be like in July, no one knows, but should the Tribal Park remain closed at that time, you might consider seeing Monument Valley another way, namely, flying over it. Fixed-wing airplanes depart out of the Page Municipal Airport daily, weather permitting, and possibly contingent on a certain number of passengers traveling. While aerial tours wouldn’t land at Monument Valley while the closure is in effect, you’d see a ton of beautiful scenery in addition to Monument Valley in the course of a 90 minute flight.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to book all hotels and guided tours in advance of your arrival. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  32. I love the Blog!! We were looking to go on a road trip for our anniversary from May 13-23rd 2021.

    Here is our itinerary.

    May 13th- Land in Phoenix at 7 PM, get rental car and go to hotel.
    May 14th- Drive to Sedona, do a quick hike and then drive to Grand Canyon.
    May 15th- Grand Canyon South Rim-Drive to Lake Powell
    May 16th- Lake Powell/Antelope Canyon
    May 17th- Canyonlands
    May 18th- Moab/Arches
    May 19th- Capital Reef
    May 20th- Bryce Canyon
    May 21st/22nd- Zion National Park
    May 23rd- Flight leaves at 7 Pm in Phoenix

    Does this seem too rushed? Should we cut something out? We were thinking of doing air bnbs/camping for most of the trip and maybe a hotel 1-2 days. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks!

    Rich

    1. Hi Richard,
      Glad you like our site! Your plan is OK, it’s adequately paced in some areas, but too rushed in others.
      For one, using Phoenix, AZ, as your staging city is somewhat impractical. This itinerary is better served flying into and out of Las Vegas, NV, but I understand if you managed to get better airfares/rental car deals in PHX. Another option: fly into/out of PHX and into/out of Las Vegas, but that could come with a hefty rental car drop-off fee.
      Choice of airport notwithstanding, your plan kind of goes wrong on day 1, where you propose to visit Sedona as a “drive-by” en route to Grand Canyon South Rim. I can guarantee this will leave you wanting as Sedona, AZ, is a large and stunning area with lots to see and do. 3 days minimum is the timeframe I recommend people set aside to fully explore and enjoy it, and still, visitors come away from week-long stays feeling as though they’d only scratched the surface of all the area had to offer. If you want to try and work Sedona, AZ, that means you’ll have to sacrifice a location from your trip plan, and Capitol Reef and Moab, UT, would be the most logical choices. Not that those areas aren’t amazing — they definitely are! — but it’s just a long swing out of your way, especially if you are set on using PHX as your start/stop point.
      Another couple of issues I’m not certain if you were aware of is 1. a road closure between Grand Canyon South Rim and Page, AZ. Due to COVID-19, the Navajo Tribe has opted to close a section of AZ64 from Desert View Point to Cameron, AZ, which just so happens to be the quickest travel route from GC South to Page. This means that people traveling between these two areas must drive all the way back to Flagstaff, AZ, then proceed North again. This has turned what used to be ~a 3-hour drive into more like 5 hours, which will cut into your sightseeing in Page, AZ, on that first day. 2. walking tours of the Antelope Canyons are still closed, again, by order of the Navajo Tribe due to COVID-19. It is possible, however to kayak into the waterside of Antelope Canyon from Antelope Point Marina by rental kayak or guided tour. This activity is best done first thing in the morning to take advantage of less wind and smoother water on Lake Powell.
      In light of these issues, here’s what I’d recommend:
      May 13th: Land in Phoenix, get rental car, overnight in Phoenix
      May 14th: drive to Zion National Park (~6.5 hours), overnight in Kanab, UT
      May 15th: 2nd day sightseeing in Zion, overnight in Kanab, UT
      May 16th: drive to Bryce Canyon (~90 minutes from Kanab), overnight in Bryce Canyon area, or return to Kanab
      May 17th: drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours from Bryce, 90 minutes from Kanab), optional stop to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos
      May 18th: Antelope Canyon kayak tour, Horseshoe Bend, sightseeing in Page, AZ, area, then drive to Flagstaff, AZ, for the night (~2.5 hours from Page)
      May 19th: day trip to Grand Canyon South Rim (1.5 hour drive, each way, from Flagstaff) **it’s doable as long as you get an early start, keep an eye on the time, and know when sunset is (7:45 PM) so you can time your return drive so that you’re back to Flagstaff, AZ, by nightfall**
      May 20th: drive to Sedona (~1 hour from Flagstaff, AZ), overnight in Sedona
      May 21st: Sightseeing or just chilling in Sedona, 2nd night in Sedona
      May 22nd: sunrise hot air balloon ride?, other possible activities: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, hike West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, swim at Slide Rock State Park, visit Chapel of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque, wine tasting, art galleries, museums… 3rd night in Sedona
      May 23rd: drive back to Phoenix (~2 hours), fly home
      Custom trip map
      Another option would be to spend a 3rd night in Zion and cut the 3rd night in Sedona, but the main point is to schedule Sedona for the back end of your trip when you’re bound to be kind of tired, and will appreciate a nice place to relax, enjoy some good food, and some of the most beautiful sights in Arizona!
      Whatever you decide, be sure to reserve all hotels (or campgrounds) and guided tours in advance of your arrival.
      Hope that helps. If you need to bounce more ideas off us, feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  33. Hi!
    I have been overwhelmed by planning this trip and have neglected putting it together. We (myself and 3 teens 17-19) really don’t want to be rushed to the next hotel, so we are considering renting a campervan to linger where we like and minimize our food budget. Will we have the same issue with campsites late May to early June (planning at least 14 days), and will weather be an issue with a campervan (never rented one before)? Is there a convenient list of campsites along your itinerary, and what are there costs?

    1. Hi B,
      Not surprised that your Grand Circle trip planning has left you somewhat overwhelmed, but we’re glad you’ve found us and hope we can help!
      Sorry to have to burst your bubble a bit (say that 5x real fast LOL), but going the campervan route may not be the solution you’re hoping for. All the parks listed on this 14-day itinerary are very popular, and you’re planning to visit during peak travel season. This means that “lingering where you like” may not be an option, and advance reservations are a must for commercial/developed campgrounds, which is where you’ll want to stay at the time of year you’re visiting. Late May-early June weather can be very hot, especially in the lower desert areas such as Moab, UT, and Page, AZ. Believe me, you’ll want to have access to reliable AC, or be prepared to spend your nights sweltering! For these comforts, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a bit of $$$ – as much per night as you would a traditional motel in some areas, usually slightly less. While you’ll find no shortage of commercial campgrounds along your route, advance reservations should still be made, otherwise, be prepared to “boondock” (dry camp) on BLM land, which is usually some distance away from the main sightseeing areas. If interested in camping in these types of areas, visit FreeCampsites.net
      For a list of RV parks and/or campsites, and approximate costs, check out these articles on GoRVing.com and TripSavvy.com
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for the response…what I expected to hear. I’ll start searching hotels based on the suggested itinerary. At this point I’m thinking of just loading our car and driving out, spending a couple days with family in Colorado before setting out on the grand circle trip. Any suggestions on a starting point and direction for the listed itinerary? I’m guessing Moab? Head south or west from there? And we can skip Las Vegas.

        1. Hey again, B,
          Coming from Colorado (Denver, CO, I assume?), Moab would make for a good starting point. Definitely plan on 3 days there to fully enjoy and explore that area, including Arches and Canyonlands!
          As for where you should go from there, that kind of depends on hotel room/campsite availability. You could go West from Moab, UT, and hit Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion, then head South to Page, AZ, and the Grand Canyon. Or after visiting Moab, UT, you could shoot South to Page, AZ, and take the itinerary in reverse: Grand Canyon North Rim, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef.
          On the leg from Bryce to Capitol Reef, be sure you travel via Utah Scenic Byway 12 — it’s one of the most stunning drives in the nation, and will take you through part of the Grand Staircase National Monument as well.
          Whatever you decide, just be sure you reserve all overnight accommodations and guided tours in advance.
          Take care and have fun!
          Alley 🙂

  34. Hi Alley!
    First off, thank you SO MUCH for all this helpful information and individual replies. It all has truly helped my families trip itinerary a ton!!!

    I was wondering if you could take a look at the itinerary I have laid out and let me know if I will have any driving issues. I’m really concerned about the Navajo land. I don’t want to get in trouble!! We are flying in and out of Vegas. Coming last week of April, leaving in beginning of May.

    Day 1- Vegas to Zion
    Day 2- Zion
    Day 3- Zion
    Day 4- Bryce Canyon
    Day 5- Kanab
    Day 6- Page
    Day 7- Flagstaff
    Day 8- G.C. South Rim
    Day 9- G.C. South Rim
    Day 10- G.C. South Rim most of the day, night flight out of Vegas

    Let me know your thoughts please and if there’s anything I should change or add!
    YOU’RE AWESOME 🙂

    1. Hi Taylor,
      Your trip plan looks pretty fun, and taken at a nice relaxing pace, which is awesome. Most people try to cram, cram, cram, as many destinations into one trip as possible, making us want to say “whoooooaaaaaahhhhhh, Nelly!” The places where you have to be aware of being on Navajo land is between Page, AZ, and Flagstaff, AZ. Although the road between these two towns is open (it’s a major shipping corridor), the Navajo Tribe asks that you avoid stopping and especially interacting with reservation residents. Make sure your vehicle is fully fueled once you leave Page, AZ, and that you have enough water and snacks to tide you over until you reach Flag (that’s what we call it around here).
      When you head out of Las Vegas for Zion, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the stunning Valley of Fire State Park. It’s just Northeast of town, and wouldn’t make for a huge detour.
      If you didn’t change a thing about your trip, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a blast! About the only place I can suggest adding would be Sedona, AZ. The “problem,” if you can call it that LOL is that it needs a bare minimum of 2 days to really enjoy. If it is not possible to add more time to your trip, you could squeeze those two days out of your current itinerary by skipping Kanab on Day 5 and going from Bryce to Page, AZ, that night (~3 hours drive time), possibly stopping to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos and/or Wire Pass Canyon/Buckskin Gulch . For Day 7, you could skip Flagstaff, AZ, and travel from Page, AZ, to GC South Rim that night. The only downside to this, which I’m sure you’re already aware of, is the need to detour all the way down to Flagstaff, AZ, then bounce back North to GC South via US180/AZ64N or I-40/AZ64N. If you’ve already got hotels booked along this route and do not wish to cancel them (or it is impractical to do so), you could simply drop one night at the South Rim and give it to Sedona, AZ. The drive back to Las Vegas at the end of your trip would then be about the same as it would from GC South, ~4.5 hours.
      So a revised plan would look like this:
      Day 1- Vegas to Zion
      Day 2- Zion
      Day 3- Zion
      Day 4- Bryce Canyon
      Day 5- Page
      Day 6- G.C. South Rim
      Day 7- G.C. South Rim
      Day 8- Sedona (~2.5 hours from GCSR)
      Day 9- Sedona
      Day 10- Sedona most of the day, night flight out of Vegas
      Custom trip map
      If you do this, though, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be planning a return visit to Sedona, AZ, when you can give it 5-6 days, which isn’t such a bad thing 😉
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  35. Hi Alley,
    I love your site. Your love and knowledge about the Southwest is evident.
    I have a quick question. My family-husband and 3 kids ages 16, 13, and 11 will be flying into Phoenix on 10/6 for a 9 day trip. We have some reservations already. Here is our proposed itinerary:
    Day 1-fly in to Phoenix and drive to Grand Canyon South Rim. We have reservations at Thunderbird resort for 2 nights.
    Day 2-Grand Canyon
    Day 3-drive to Zion National Park-overnight at Springdale
    Day 4-Zion National Park-overnight at Springdale
    Day 5-drive to Bryce Canyon and overnight there
    Day 6-drive to Capitol Reef and overnight in Torrey
    Day 7-drive to Moab and stay there two more days
    Day 8-Moab and overnight
    Day 9-drive to Grand Junction and fly home. Will have time to see another sunset before we have to leave.

    Do you have any suggestions for tweaking the itinerary? We like to hike but nothing strenuous.

    1. Hey Andrea,
      Thanks so much for your compliments 🙂
      Your itinerary looks pretty fun, and October is a great time to be here! Let me say right off that if you didn’t change a thing, I’ll bet you’d have a blast.
      But… seeing as though you solicited my .02, IMO it’s just a teency bit rushed. Emphasis on “teency”, or as my little sis used to say, “an eence of a beence.” LOL
      One thing we are crossing fingers and toes for is that the East Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon will reopen by the time you visit. As it stands, if you were to make this trip right now, you’d have to drive all the way back to Flagstaff from Grand Canyon Village, then proceed North on US89 to get to Zion, then UT9 to Springdale. So what’s normally ~a 4.5 hour drive is more along the lines of 6-7 hours, factoring in restroom breaks, photo stops, getting stuck behind a slow-moving RV. Map I know… yuck.
      Now, if AZ64 were to reopen from Desert View to Cameron, AZ (crossing fingers and toes!!!) by the time you guys get here, you could scoot by with dropping that 2nd night at the Grand Canyon and instead spending that night in Page, AZ. Crazy as that suggestion sounds, you would actually do a large chunk of your Grand Canyon sightseeing on the way to Page, AZ. AZ64 between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View features over half a dozen named viewpoints, all with different perspectives on the canyon, that you can stop at before exiting the park. The Cameron Trading Post is a great place to stop for brunch/lunch (again, provided it’s open) before making the rest of the drive to Page, AZ, where you can stop at Horseshoe Bend on the way into town. Driving straight through, you could do the GC-Page leg in 2.5 hours, but that rarely happens because it’s a very scenic drive, so 3.5-4 is a more realistic figure. Hopefully the Antelope Canyons would reopen as well so you could see them, but that’s up to the Navajo Tribe, who were hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. Keep an eye on the Navajo Parks & Recreation Dept page to see what the status is as your trip date gets closer.
      Should you take us up on the suggestion to stop in Page, AZ, then the drive to Zion the following morning would then take only ~2 hours. If desired, a fun little hike you can take at mile marker 19 of US89 (between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT) is the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos. Another possibility is Wire Pass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch. Here’s a video depicting a young family doing these two activities back in December.
      If you can possibly free up another day for Moab, UT, I would recommend doing so. I hear from people all the time who wished they’d had a week to spend there!
      When you indicate that you would like to “see another sunset before we leave,” you might want to rethink that. Granted, I’ve never made the drive from Moab, UT, to Grand Junction, CO, and I do know that a good chunk of it takes place on I-70, but the section of US191 from Moab to the interstate is just 2-lane highway, and if it’s typical of most rural roads in Utah, it’s very dimly lit, and deer, elk, and other wildlife just love to jump out in front of cars in places like that. Another consideration is that in October, your days are starting to get short. In Moab, UT, in mid-October, sunrise occurs just before 7:30 AM, and sunset takes place at around 6:45 PM. Honestly, I’d try to make it out of Moab, UT, well before sunset. Besides, everybody and his brother is going to be rushing to get somewhere to watch the sun go down; it’s one of the only times you’ll see a true traffic jam in that town! LOL
      Anyway… again, if you left your trip plan entirely alone, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have fun, but that’s my .02, or as the old country song goes, “That’s My Story & I’m Sticking To It!”
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thank you for the reply. I actually meant to type we would have time to see another sunrise as our flight home was pushed back to early afternoon. Thank you for the advice on not driving at night. We will definitely not do this.

        I will continue to check the Najavo recreation page to see if they have opened up.

        Thank you again for your suggestions and recommendations.

  36. Wow! I have been reading through your posts and several comments for several days now! Thank you for so much information!! My husband and I want to take a trip and we’ve decided on a road trip in May. My husband is in the mindset of lets get in the vehicle and go, decide where to stay along the way. After reading several of your posts, I am more along the lines of having some planned places to stay along the way. We are looking to go from Denver to Zion and back, we will have our SUV set up to be able to sleep in the back if needed. We have been to Moab many times, so no need to stop there this time. So, here is what I am thinking for our road trip;
    May 7th – Leave Denver and head out as far as we feel like driving. (Fruita or Green River would be my goal). Sleep in the vehicle if needed.
    May 8th – Check out Goblin State Park and head to Capitol Reef, stay in Torrey for 2 nights.
    May 9th – Explore Capitol Reef NP
    May 10th – Wake up early and work our way to Bryce, maybe check out Upper or Lower Calf Creek Falls, Willis Creek, Kodachrome Basin
    Stay the night in Bryce area
    May 11th – Visit Bryce Canyon NP and then head to Hurricane, UT
    May 11, 12, & 13 – Stay in Hurricane, UT – Visit Zion NP (Angels Landing, Narrows…). My husband spent time as a kid in Hurricane/Leeds area, so he wants to show me different things, do some exploring. This is why I was thinking 3 nights in this area.
    May 14 – Head to Page, AZ, stay the night – Check out Horseshoe Bend, Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch.
    May 15 – Head to Pagosa Springs and stay at Hot Springs Resort overnight.
    May 16 – Head back home to Denver.
    I am thinking of booking places in Capitol Reef and in Hurricane and of course Pagosa Springs.

    1. Hi Tamera,
      I definitely understand the appeal of just “winging it” and normally, I would say HELL no. But with there still being some fall-out from COVID-19, you might still be able to pull it off on a limited basis this year. However, there are areas where sleeping in the car won’t be realistic or comfortable, namely in the hotter areas of the Grand Circle, such as Page, AZ. Daytime highs are already starting to creep up into the 90’s in May, which means nights won’t get much cooler. That would make for a very uncomfortable night sleeping — and sweltering — in your SUV, so I’d definitely recommend booking a hotel for that stop on your tour. Ditto for Hurricane, UT. Trust me, you’ll appreciate having access to reliable AC! Page, AZ, hotels
      It’s good that you’ve planned for 3 nights in the Zion area, you’ll definitely be glad you did that. Be aware that to access the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, you’ll need to utilize the shuttle, and advance ticket purchase is now strongly recommended.
      On the drive to Pagosa Springs, CO, you’ll pass right by Mesa Verde National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to visit that area! Maybe break up the drive with an overnight in Durango, CO.
      RE: sleeping in your SUV, you’ll need to be careful about where you do that. Some/most towns won’t let you just park anywhere you want for an overnight. Usually you’ll find signage to that effect, but not always. Most Wal-Mart stores allow people to park/camp for one night without any questions asked (although a courtesy call and/or in-person notification to management is appreciated), but you might have to pay a camping fee in commercial campgrounds. I’d recommend looking at FreeCampsites.net or Campendium.com to get a feel for where free camping, aka “boondocking” is allowed on your proposed trip route.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi Alley,
        I knew you would have good information!! Thank you so much for the advice. Such a good point on the heat and the info on camping. I did look up a few campgrounds along the way, to at least book a tent site, but honestly I’ll probably just book hotels throughout. Might as well be comfortable on a trip without the kids! Ha!

        1. Hey again, Tamera!
          Going the hotels route is probably a good call at the time of year you’re traveling. Here in the desert, once those daytime temps start getting up into the 90’s and 100’s, nights don’t offer much comfort.
          Have a great trip, and if you get a minute when you return home, write in again and let us know how it went.
          Take care,
          Alley 🙂

  37. Good morning- I am in the preliminary planning stage for a Fall 2021 excursion. Baseline I am 69 years old in good health- my wife 2 years younger. We are trying to miss the Summer rush- so targetting late August departure from Wisconsin. We will drive to Mesa Verde the begin the Grand Circle in reverse- this is my preliminary plan starting in Paige-
    8 Drive Paige Az to Moab UT 275 mi 4.5 hours Moab Canyonlands
    9 Moab
    10 Moab
    11 Drive Moab to Capitol Reef 160mi 3 hours Capitol Reef
    12 Capitol Reef
    13 Drive Cap Reef to Bryce 110 miles 2 hours Bryce
    14 Bryce to Zion 100 miles 2 hours Zion
    15 Zion
    16 Zion
    17 Zion to North Rim 125 miles 3 hours North Rim
    18 North Rim to Flagstaff 210 miles 4 hrs Flagstaff
    19 Flagstaff to Albuquerque 325 mi 5 hrs Albuquerque
    20 Albuquerque
    21 Albuquerque to Santa Fe 65 mi 1 hr Santa Fe
    22 Santa Fe
    23 Santa Fe to Witchita 567 mi 9 hours Oklahoma City
    24 Witchita to Des Moines 390 Mi 6 hours Des Moines
    25 Des Moines to Hartland 353 Mi 5.5 Hrs Home again

    Please provide feedback- suggestions etc. Big question- is September a good to great time of year for this plan?

    1. Hi Peter,
      This itinerary look pretty fun, and well-paced. You’ve allowed for plenty of time to really explore and enjoy the areas you’re visiting, which is a “luxury” most people don’t have. September is a great time to be here, but in the opinion of most locals, late September-early October is even better. Early fall typically boasts nearly perfect temperatures, mostly stable weather, and while popular destinations are still busy, it’s mostly adults out traveling. So if you’re able to adjust your timeframe, scoot it back another 2-4 weeks.
      If you were to take me up on that suggestion, you might consider timing your arrival in Albuquerque, NM, to the week of October 2nd-10th. That’s when the world-famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is scheduled to occur. That’s a very cool event, but of course, does offer up the downsides of limited room availability, and hotel rates that are probably higher than at any other time of the season. Otherwise, I would pose the question, why would you spend 3 days in ABQ? Granted, the town does have some fun activities and historic sites, but IMO, it’s just another big city. My personal favorite town in New Mexico is Taos. Taos is ~2.5 hours Northeast of Albuquerque and has a much more mellow and less commercialized atmosphere than Santa Fe. It has its own downtown plaza area, good restaurants, museums, churches, and natural features — definitely enough to occupy a 2-3 day stay.
      Whether you visit in September or October, that would be a great time of year to visit one place that’s missing from your itinerary: Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. Petrified Forest is ~90 minutes East of Flagstaff, AZ. On the way there, you could stop by Meteor Crater. Winslow, AZ, also warrants a stop so you can take a selfie as you’re “Standin’ On A Corner in Winslow, AZ.” The lovely and historic La Posada Hotel is also worth a walk-through, or you might stop there for lunch. If you take me up on this suggestion, overnight in Holbrook, AZ.
      Also, looking at some of your drive time estimates, they tend to be more accurate for “wheels turning/no stops” trips, which rarely happen in this part of the country. For one, chances are good you’ll get stuck behind a slow moving RV (or several) at some point, plus the majority of these drives are very scenic, and you will be stopping to take pictures more often than you realize. The drive from Page, AZ, to Moab, UT, tends to take more along the lines of 5.5-6 hours. For the trip leg from Capitol Reef to Bryce, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy Scenic Byway 12. This is a stunning drive that will take you past the Northern flank of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Near the town of Cannonville, you might stop and explore Kodachrome Basin State Park. Don’t be surprised if the trip takes you more like 3-4 hours. Ditto for the drive from Grand Canyon North Rim to Flagstaff, AZ. You’ll drive past the Southern flank of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and the small communities of Cliff Dwellers, Marble Canyon, and Lees Ferry. The opportunity to walk across Navajo Bridge shouldn’t be missed, nor should the Lonely Dell Ranch Historic Site near Lees Ferry. At Cliff Dwellers, they have a fantastic restaurant, so you should definitely plan on stopping there for brunch before making the rest of the drive down to Flagstaff, AZ.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to book all hotels and guided tours in advance of your arrival. If you haven’t booked a hotel at Grand Canyon North Rim, just a heads up that you may have difficulty doing so. The park concessionaire has had to do a staggered roll-out of room reservations, and they will be taking bookings for room inventory for September 1st through October 15th timeframe on April 9th. Mark your calendar for that day, and don’t be surprised if you find rooms gone within minutes of opening, as well as at the two other small hotels located within 1 hour of the park. Should that happen, Kanab, UT, would be the next best place to stay, and at ~90 minutes one-way from the North Rim, you could easily make a day trip to the park from there. Grand Canyon North Rim lodging
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process, and I’ve bounced around your itinerary in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness fashion! If you have further questions, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  38. Friends are flying into Phoenix and we are planning on doing the Grand Circle. Time is not a real issue but looking at 2nd and 3rd weeks of May, 2021. May be getting late to do an itinerary. We are all in late 70’s and early 80’s. In relatively good shape to do short hikes. Appreciate any help you can provide. Is the helicopter ride at Page to Horseshoe Bend/ Glen Powell worth the $. Will wait for your response because we will need to get on accomodations soon. Have read many of your other responses and they are terrific.

    1. Hi Daniel,
      You are a bit late in planning your vacation seeing as though it’s occurring around the Memorial Day holiday, but better late than never!
      If you’re wanting to do a similar itinerary to this one using Phoenix as your staging city, you could do something like this:
      Day 1: Fly into Phoenix, AZ, stay overnight
      Day 2: Drive to Zion National Park (~6.5 hour drive), overnight in Kanab, UT
      Day 3: Explore Zion National Park using Zion Canyon Shuttle (advance ticket purchase required) or hiking on trails accessible via UT9/Mt. Carmel Highway, 2nd night in Kanab, UT, or move to Springdale, UT
      Day 4: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours from Springdale, 90 minutes from Kanab), overnight in Bryce Canyon area — Easy hikes in Bryce Canyon
      Day 5: Drive from Bryce to Capitol Reef National Park via Scenic Byway 12 (~3-4 hours), overnight in Torrey or Hanksville
      Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, UT (~3 hours), optional stop at Goblin Valley State Park if you get an early start, overnight in Moab, UT (1st of 3 nights)
      Day 7: Second day/night in Moab, UT, explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks, time permitting, Castle Valley and/or Dead Horse Point State Park
      Day 8: 3rd day/night in Moab, possible activities: backcountry jeep tour, short white-water rafting trip
      Day 9: Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, optional stop at Goosenecks of San Juan State Park, via Monument Valley; drive time ~6 hours. **If Navajo Tribal Lands remain closed at the time of your visit, you’ll need to be prepared to drive straight through from Monument Valley to Page, AZ, without stopping and/or interacting with reservation residents; make sure your vehicle is fully fueled and that you have enough water and snacks to tide you over until you get to Page, AZ.** Overnight in Page.
      Day 10: First thing in the morning, take helicopter flight over Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell (absolutely worth the $$$ IMO!); want to bump up the “WOW” factor? Upgrade to the Tower Butte Landing experience! 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 11: Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim, sunrise stop at Horseshoe Bend to visit on foot if desired **Normally, this drive takes ~3 hours, but if the COVID-19 closure of AZ64 East through Cameron, AZ to Desert View remains in place, you’ll have to detour through Flagstaff, then proceed back North via US180/AZ64 North or I-40/AZ64 North to the South Rim, which will extend the drive time to more like 5 hours*** Overnight at the South Rim
      Day 12: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona (~3 hours), CHILL!!! Have a nice dinner and cocktails somewhere, overnight in Sedona (1st of 2-3 nights)
      Day 13: More chill time (lots of spas here!), or do some easy Sedona hiking such as Fay Canyon, Honanki Heritage Site, Deadman’s Pass, etc. OR take a backcountry jeep tour such as Pink Jeep’s Broken Arrow Tour, 2nd night in Sedona
      Day 14: Drive back to Phoenix (~2 hours from Sedona), fly home
      Custom trip map
      If the prospect of making a 5-hour trek from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim doesn’t appeal (which I don’t blame you for in the least!), you could add a night to your stay in Kanab, UT on the Zion leg of your trip, and make a day trip to the North Rim, which is only open between May 15th and October 15th. The drive is ~1.5 hours each way, and what with the driveable area of that side of the park being smaller, a day trip is perfectly feasible. The key is to keep an eye on the time and make sure you’re not doing any of the drive back in the dark. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in the more rural parts of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, due to roads in these areas being very dimly lit, and populated by deer, elk, and other wildlife that can elevate your risk of a collision. That’s definitely not something you want to chance in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black and cold, where cell service is going to be spotty (if you can get any bars at all) and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. You’d want to make sure you’re back on the road to Kanab, UT, by 6:00 PM Arizona Time or 7:00 PM Utah Time.
      As you indicate, you will need to get booking your accommodations and guided tours very soon, but what I’ve heard has been the most difficult facet of vacation planning this year is rental car availability, or, lack thereof. With many rental car companies selling off their fleets during the peak of COVID-19, many visitors are reporting having difficulty finding rental cars, or those that are available are very expensive. Hope that’s not the case for you guys.
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you need further assistance, please contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thanks for the great feedback and advice on the Helicopter tour(s). Have looked at Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon. What are your thoughts on these? Also see people interested in the Wave but sounds like tough to get the pass. We will be using my car as I am a resident of AZ. Appreciate your advice on night time driving. Looks like 14 -15 days to do justice to the entire trip. We will skip the South Rim as we have already done that. Just looking at the North Rim stop. Would you suggest this on the way back from Page and the Helicopter.

  39. Hi!

    OMG this post and individualized responses is the gift that keeps on giving

    I am planning a family adventure trip of this loop the last 2 weeks of June. Kids are 16, 15 and 8 and are active and good travelers. I would say everything in here works but I have a few questions. First, the ranch we want to stay at has one day booked that interferes with timing. We want to do adventure activities in Moab to balance the hiking in the other locations as a variety of experiences work best for our family. We are interested in Red Cliffs Ranch. But it would mean arriving to stay after day 7 of traveling. Where should time be extended before to stall so we check in June 29th (likely leaving on the 22nd of June maybe the 21st). Also what are the odds of Antelope Canyon reopening? (Thanks for tips on alternative activities—we will probably have to just plan as if closed). Lastly where does a day or 2 of Sedona fit in? We are flexible on time but are assuming 2 weeks. We want to spend about 1.5 days in Vegas, 2 days in Bryce (can my 8 year old do a horse tour there), 2 days in Zion (any suggestions for a family activity or hike if mom conquers Angels Landing alone?) , capital reef (2 days?), grand Escalante (1 day), Moab (3-4 days with rafting, zip lining, biking etc), monument valley and antelope and horseshoe bend (passing through? So how long driving and how much time?), Grand Canyon and Sedona. So what order would you do that all in and from which cities (we don’t Mind the fee dropping a rental car in a separate location then we picked it up). The only issue is not being able to stay in Moab on June 28th. Worst case scenario is staying in Moab but a different hotel on the 28th which isn’t out of the question. In planning this it is appealing to have one nice resort location that feels like home for three or four days where everything else will be a lot of getting in the car and back on the road and quick hotel stays. Thanks for any guidance you can provide!!

    1. Hey Allison!
      If you’re looking for a “buffer zone” between Capitol Reef and Moab, you might consider Green River, UT. From Torrey, UT (popular Capitol Reef lodging center) to Green River, UT is ~a 2.5 hour drive. Along the way, you could stop at Goblin Valley State Park, which offers some good easy hiking among some cool rock formations. On the outskirts of the town of Green River is the Crystal Geyser, a rare example of a cold water geyser, which doesn’t erupt on a predictable basis unfortunately, but makes for a fun, quirky spot to enjoy for a few hours. About 30 minutes outside of town is the Sego Canyon Rock Art Panel, made famous by multiple mentions on “Ancient Aliens.” Area map The nearby ghost town is a neat little bonus, and a visit to the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in town is quite educational. The only caveat — which applies to your whole trip — is that June is the hottest time of the year, so any labor-intensive activities such as hiking should be done in the earlier hours of the morning. You’ll probably have to warn your teens that they won’t be sleeping in every morning, but that’s how we roll in the American Southwest!
      To answer some of your other questions: if you go solo on Angel’s Landing, the family cane easily make a day of exploring Zion Canyon. Good easy hikes in that area include, but aren’t limited to the River Walk and Emerald Pools, which will require use of the Zion Canyon Shuttle, which you must purchase advance tickets for. If you don’t want to mess with all that, several beautiful trails are accessible along the Mt. Carmel Highway (UT 9), such as the Watchman Trail, Pa’Rus Trail, and the Canyon Overlook Trail. Didn’t Get Zion Canyon Shuttle Tickets Now What?
      In Bryce Canyon, your 8-year old would be able to do the shorter horseback ride. Kids have to be at least 10 YO to do the longer trail ride. Bryce Canyon Trail Rides
      RE: Antelope Canyon, we have no idea when the walking tours might reopen. At one point, it looked like April might be a realistic date for a reopen, but that hope has since been dashed, so you should probably count on your “Plan B” options being moved up to “Plan A” status. A popular alternative last year was the kayak tour into the waterside of Antelope Canyon, which includes some hiking into the pre-slot section of the lower canyon, which is on Federal and not Tribal land. While the scenery is not the “classic” slot canyon variety, judging from the number of sold out dates last year, people didn’t seem to mind one bit.
      Making Sedona, AZ, the last stop on your tour would allow you a nice “decompress and chill” opportunity before flying home. Phoenix would be ~2.5 hours away, Las Vegas, NV, would be ~4.5 hours. The key would be learning whether rental car drop-off fees won’t run comparable to the National Debt. I hear they’re pretty astronomical this year due to many rental car outlets selling off their fleets due to COVID-19.
      So here’s what I’d recommend:
      June 21st: Fly into Las Vegas, overnight there
      June 22nd: Drive to Zion (~3 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT or nearby; optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park
      June 23rd: Hiking/exploring in Zion National Park (Angel’s Landing, or perhaps the Narrows), 2nd night in Springdale
      June 24th: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours), overnight in that area
      June 25th: Drive to Capitol Reef via Scenic Byway 12, optional stop to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls, overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, or Fruita
      June 26th: Drive to Green River, UT, activities suggested above, overnight in Green River
      June 27th: Drive from Green River, UT, to Moab, UT (~1 hour drive), overnight at Red Cliff (awesome place!)
      June 28th: 2nd day/night in Moab, UT
      June 29th: 3rd day/night in Moab, UT
      June 30th: Drive to Page, AZ (~6 hours from Moab, UT), optional stop at Goosenecks State Park once on Navajo Tribal Land (Monument Valley), be prepared to drive this leg straight through to Page, AZ, as the Tribe is presently discouraging outsiders from stopping on reservation land and interacting with residents; be sure your vehicle is fully fueled and that you have enough water and snacks to tide you over until you exit the reservation, overnight in Page, AZ
      July 1st: 2nd day/night in Page, AZ, kayak tour of Antelope Canyon
      July 2nd: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim, hit Horseshoe Bend on the way out of town — the drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim may take longer than normal due to the section of AZ64 East from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point — also on Navajo Indian Land — remaining closed due to COVID-19; should that be the case, it will be necessary to drive all the way down to Flagstaff, AZ, then proceed North to Grand Canyon South Rim via US180/AZ64 North or I-40/AZ64 North. So, what is normally about a 3-hour drive is more along the lines of 5 hours. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that front — overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      July 3rd: Drive to Sedona (~3 hours from Grand Canyon South Rim), overnight in Sedona
      July 4th: Full day/night in Sedona — possible activities: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, Slide Rock State Park (kids will love it!), hiking Cathedral or Bell Rock Trails, 2nd day/night in Sedona
      July 5th: Drive to Phoenix (~2 hours), fly home
      Custom trip map
      I hope this helps, I know it’s a lot to process! If you need to bounce more ideas off us, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  40. Hi Alley! Wow, I am so happy to have found this! I’ve been really stumped and trying to figure out my itinerary and you are a wealth of knowledge! I am a first time Utah traveler and am heading out late April with my 17 year old daughter. We have 12 days from Vegas – and then are planning to head to LA to see my son and spend a few days there! Can you look over our plan and see what you think? We plan on hiking as much as possible!
    April 19th – we fly into Las Vegas in the morning and will head to Zion. Planning to spend 2 nights in Toquerville.
    April 21st – heading to Bryce – staying in Tropic.
    April 22nd – spending the day in Bryce – taking Hwy 12 and staying in Torrey.
    April 23rd – Cap Reef and heading to Moab staying three nights there. Doing all the stuff!
    April 26th – heading to Page through Monument Valley. Staying in Page 2 nights.
    April 28th – heading to the South Rim spending two nights in the Grand Canyon area (haven’t booked this yet)
    April 30th – drive back to Las Vegas – maybe stay a night before driving over to LA on May 1st.

    Any thoughts! SO much appreciated if you could share your wisdom!
    thank you, jen and izzy

    1. Hi Jen!
      Your trip plan looks really fun, and totally feasible. It’s definitely good that you’ve planned for 3 days in Moab, UT. You and your daughter would probably enjoy some white water rafting in Cataract Canyon. If you haven’t planned for that already, Moab Adventure Center can hook you up with these and other activities in the area. I’ve worked with them and they’re very knowledgeable about all that’s possible to see and do in this vast area.
      When you make the drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ (~5-6 hours), you might stop by Goosenecks of San Juan State Park. Once you hit Navajo Reservation lands (Monument Valley), plan on driving straight through to Page, AZ. The Navajo Tribe continues to discourage outsiders from stopping on Tribal Land and interacting with reservation residents. So make sure your vehicle is fully fueled and that you have water and food to tide you over until you get to Page, AZ.
      One thing I’m not certain if you were aware of is that the hiking tours of Antelope Canyon remain closed due to COVID-19. If you opted against doing any rafting in Moab, UT, a good water-based and more mellow activity you might partake of in Page, AZ, is to tour the waterside of Antelope Canyon by kayak. This includes some hiking into the pre-slot portion of the Lower Canyon, which is on Federal and not Tribal Land. The scenery is not quite the “classic” slot canyon scenery, but judging from the number of sold-out dates last year, people didn’t mind a bit!
      The drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim will also take longer than what you might be expecting. This is because the section of AZ64 East from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point — also on Navajo Indian Land — remains closed due to COVID-19. That means it’s necessary to drive all the way down to Flagstaff, AZ, then proceed North to Grand Canyon South Rim via US180/AZ64 North or I-40/AZ64 North. So, what is normally about a 3-hour drive is more along the lines of 5 hours. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that front. Be sure to book your Grand Canyon lodging ASAP. If you’re of a mind to make lemonade out of lemons, you might take advantage of the chance to take the Wupatki/Sunset Crater National Monument loop drive just North of Flagstaff. That will add some more time onto an already long drive, but the opportunity is there for you.
      Another nice little detour you might make is on the drive between Las Vegas, NV, and Zion National Park is the stunning Valley of Fire State Park just Northeast of Las Vegas, NV.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley,

        Thank you so much! This is so helpful and I feel better about the itinerary, hearing that it is doable! I just went online and booked the kayak tour! Also, I found lodging in Tusayan for the two nights we are staying. We will definitely check out Valley of Fire and Wupatki/Sunset Crater National Monument as well! Thank you so much for your help, and we will send pics! love, jen and izzy

        1. You are welcome! Enjoy, and if you get a minute when you return home, write in again and let us know how things went 🙂

      2. Alley, Hi again! I have one more question – we just found out that Izzy got accepted to Snow College in Ephriam! Any way we could add in a detour to visit or maybe we should just come back in the summer and fly into SLC and just make a separate trip?
        blessings! and thank you! jen

  41. This site is amazing!! My wife and our 2 teenage boys will be flying into Salt Lake City on 06/15/2021 and picking up a 21 ft Solis camper van to spend 14 days exploring the Grand Circle. Can you recommend a 14 day itinerary with starting and ending in SLC?

    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Renee!
      So sorry for taking so long to respond to your inquiry, I was on an out-of-town work assignment over the weekend.
      Using SLC as your staging city, you could do something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to SLC, overnight in SLC
      Day 2: Drive from SLC to Moab, UT (~4 hour drive), spend 3 nights in Moab
      Day 3: White water rafting in Cataract Canyon
      Day 4: Explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks, time permitting, Dead Horse Point, Castle Valley area
      Day 5: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park, optional stop in Goblin Valley State Park (~3.5 hour drive), overnight in Hanksville, Fruita, or Torrey
      Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon on Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~3 hours,stunning drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 7: Drive from Bryce Canyon to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive), optional hike on Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos trail, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 8: Visit Horseshoe Bend, take Antelope Canyon kayak tour or Kayak Horseshoe Bend tour, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 9: Day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim (~2.5 hour drive, one way from Page, AZ), overnight in Kanab, UT (~90 minutes from North Rim)
      Day 10: Drive from Kanab, UT, to Zion National Park, purchase tickets in advance for Zion Canyon Shuttle (access to main sightseeing area), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 11: 2nd day/night in Zion area, maybe hike a bit of the Narrows (cool water will feel awesome!), or Angel’s Landing, 2nd night in Springdale, UT
      Day 12: 3rd day/night in Zion/Springdale, OR drive to the Kolob Canyons area of the park ~1 from Springdale, OR if you didn’t get to do The Narrows, go to Kanarra Falls (advance permit required), overnight in Cedar City, UT
      Day 13: Drive back to SLC (~4 hour drive from Cedar City, UT), overnight in SLC
      Day 14: Fly home
      Custom trip map
      If you wind up with any extra day after getting your logistics sorted out, give it to Bryce or Capitol Reef. Also, be sure you book your stays at developed RV parks with electrical hook-ups. You’ll be traveling in the peak heat of summer, so you’ll want access to reliable AC for optimal comfort. Reserve all campground stays and guided tours in advance of your arrival. Now would not be too soon to start making bookings!
      Hope that helps. Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  42. This is an amazing site and the fact you reply to everyone with such care; wow! You are amazing.

    So here it goes (because I feel like I’ve done a hundred itins and just can’t seem to figure it out.)

    We are planning on traveling next year (2022) in late June/early July and can allot up to 14 days.

    We are a family of four (two teenagers) coming from New England. We are so confused on what we should see, not driving so much everyday that we only remember the car rental, and just want to really enjoy the vacation.

    I’d consider our family, moderately adventurous but we are definitely all on the same page of liking some adventure and some chill time. Our last vacation we went on an Alaskan cruise and loved doing fun things like fishing, ziplining, hiking but then loved eating/relaxing too. We have whitewater rafted and on my husband’s bucket list is doing something on Colorado River but we also are not into helicopters or a big multi-day tour which made me look at Moab, Utah to maybe satisfy this rafting, fishing, different activity itch.

    Of most important is both my husband and oldest son are physics/astronomy people so really want lots and lots of stars!

    I’m the only one that has been to the area and was lucky to spend sometime in Sedona, GC, and Canyon de Chelly. I always wanted to go back to Sedona so am always trying to get this is in the itin. I’ve also read that June/July may be flood season/crazy hot so trying to avoid making a mistake in itin. for that time of year.

    Ok, so this is what I’ve been leaning towards and just not sure? Can add another day wherever.

    Day 1: Fly from BOS-DEN then a small plane from DEN to Grand Junction (rent a car? ) and drive 1.5 hrs to Moab, Utah
    Day 2: Arches NP, hike, etc.
    Day 3: Whitewater rafting, Co river
    (3 nights in Moab)
    Day 4: Leave and go to the View, Monument Valley/Sunset Jeep Tour
    (Stay one night)
    Day 5: Enjoy sunrise at MV, breakfast, and drive to Page, AZ for mid day antelope canyon tour (12pm)
    Day 6: Sunrise for Horseshoe bend. Tour? / Afternoon Kayak or something?
    (stay two nights)
    Day 7: Depart and visit Meteor Crater then go to Flagstaff (dinner then Lowell Observatory at night)
    Stay at Flagstaff one night
    Day 8: Travel to GC South Rim/ Explore/Tour?
    Day 9: Explore GC/ Tour?
    (stay 2 nights)
    Day 10: Sunset; leave late morning, and travel to Sedona. Dinner/stars
    Day 11: Hike?/Stars
    Day 12: Slide Rock
    (Stay 3 nights)
    Day 13: Leave out of Phoenix

    Thank you,
    Jeanne

    1. Hi Jeanne,
      Thanks for your compliments, and apologies for the delay in replying to your query.
      It’s definitely good that you’re planning this for 2022 instead of this year, although things are gradually opening up, there is still some fall-out from COVID-19 that is affecting travel, which obviously needs time to resolve.
      As it stands, your itinerary looks really fun, and if you didn’t change a thing, you’d probably have a wonderful time! You are correct to be concerned about the heat in summertime, however, so if you have the ability to reschedule your trip, late September/early October is the best time of year to be here weather-wise. Temperatures are nearly picture perfect, and although it’s still busy, it’s not quite the level of craziness you see in the summer months.
      I’m not sure if you’ve actually checked the feasibility of flying into and renting a car out of Grand Junction, CO, but you may find that to be cost-prohibitive and inconvenient. A city that might work out better as your starting point is Salt Lake City, UT. The drive from there to Moab, UT, would be on the long side, ~4 hours, but it is a fairly scenic drive once you get out of the city.
      You might consider flip-flopping the order in which you hit Flagstaff/Meteor Crater and Grand Canyon South Rim. Should AZ64 East reopen between Cameron, AZ, and Desert View Point (it’s currently closed), the drive from Page, AZ, to GC South Rim takes ~3 hours, longer if you stop to take a lot of pictures, plus you’d do a good chunk of your Grand Canyon sightseeing on the Desert View Drive heading into Grand Canyon Village. That would enable you to drop a night at the Grand Canyon and give it to Sedona, AZ, if desired. Going this route — Page, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff/Meteor Crater — would also cut back on a bit of backtracking. Comparison maps: proposed route (Page, Meteor Crater, Flagstaff, South Rim, Sedona) revised route (Page, Grand Canyon South Rim, Meteor Crater, Flagstaff, Sedona) Again, this is contingent on AZ64 East from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point being reopened. At present, it’s been closed for going on a year, necessitating a rather long detour through Flagstaff, AZ, to get from GC South to Page, AZ. That has turned what used to be a 3-hour drive into a 5-hour drive, and all that that implies.
      If you guys are not up for a multi-day white water tour, which is totally understandable, Moab, UT, is the perfect place to tick that item off your wish list. One day white water trips are readily available in that area. The Moab Adventure Center can help you find the right one to fit your schedule and budget. I’ve worked with them myself and they’re very knowledgeable about all the area has to offer.
      For kayak tours, several options are available in the Lake Powell area, the most popular of late being the Antelope Canyon kayak tour due to the closure of the land-side portions of the slot canyons. Another option you might consider is driving down to Lees Ferry, renting a kayak, getting backhauled to the base of Glen Canyon Dam, then paddling the 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend, back to the Ferry. The paddle portion is unguided, but it’s all smooth water, so first-time kayakers are able to manage this trip no problem. There are several companies offering this service, but the one we’re most familiar with is Kayak Horseshoe Bend.
      When you go to Meteor Crater, you might take advantage of the opportunity to also visit Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, it’s another 1 hour or so from Meteor Crater. Also, pop by Winslow, AZ, so you can claim your bragging rights to “Standing On A Corner in Winslow, Arizona.” Be sure to walk through the beautiful historic La Posada hotel as well.
      I know I’ve bounced around your itinerary a bit, so hope it all makes sense, I know it’s a lot to process! Please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if you have further questions.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Wow! You are absolutely amazing! I totally agree with your point that SLC is a better option. Car rentals are easier and it’s a direct flight from Boston so definitely easier. Thank you!

        We also LOVE fishing so plan on staying in Green River, Utah that first night so we can do some fishing next day before heading to Moab.

        So taking your suggestions/loading activities in am to factor heat, as we can only travel in summer, I’m thinking this now.

        13 Days/12 nights

        Day 1: Fly from BOS-SLC. 5.5 hr flight. Rent a car. Drive to Green River (3 hr drive). Relax.

        Day 2: Fishing Morning
        (1 night in Green River; River Terrace Inn)

        Drive to Moab (1 hr) leave GR around 1pm. Check in to Red Cliffs Lodge. Relax

        Day 3: Visit early hike to Arches National Park. Lunch then afternoon White Water Rafting.

        Day 4: Visit early to Dead Horse Point Park. Lunch, pool, relax at lodge.
        (3 nights in Moab, Red Cliffs Lodge)

        Day 5: Early morning Horseback Riding at RC Lodge. Lunch. Leave

        Leave RCL – Travel to The View, Monument Valley (3hr). Relax. dinner/stargazing.
        (1 night in MV, The View Hotel)

        Day 6: Early am Jeep Tour at MV then travel to Page, AZ (2 hr drive). Relax/Laundry.

        Day 7: Horseshoe Bend Sunrise/ Canyon Slots. Late lunch, pool, relax.
        (2 nights in Lake Powell Resort/Marina)

        Day 8: Page to Grand Canyon via Cameron East Entrance. Scenic Drive (3+ hours, allow lots of time for pics/pull off if allowed.

        (1 night in GC at El Tovar/Thunderbird)

        Day 9: Leisurely leave the GC/Hike in am. Head to Flagstaff (1.5 hour)
        Lowell Observatory tour/scopes that night.

        Day 10: Travel to Meteor Crater, Lunch at La Posada/Stand on the corner. Chill in Flagstaff.

        (Stay 2 nights at Little American Hotel or somewhere in Flagstaff)

        Day 11: Travel to Sedona / Slide Rock Park for Day (30 min).

        Day 12: Hike in Sedona. Relax

        (Stay 2 nights in Sedona, not sure where yet)

        Day 13: Fly home from Phoenix. (2 hr drive)

        1. Hey again, Jeanne –
          That sounds WAY fun! You’ve chosen some wonderful hotels, such as the View, Lake Powell Resort, and the Little America. As for where to stay in Sedona, AZ, there are all kinds of amazing places there, with price tags to match, but you can find a nice place to stay at more reasonable prices from amongst both chain and independent hotels.
          Now let’s cross fingers and toes that the Navajo Tribe will reopen Monument Valley and the Antelope Canyons, as well as the East Rim Drive from Cameron, AZ. They’ve detected a case of the UK COVID-19 variant on the reservation, on a vaccinated individual no less, so they might go into lockdown mode again. They were hit disproportionately hard by the bug, so can’t say I blame them for being cautious. Advise keeping an eye on the situation, and be prepared to go to “plan B” mode should the need arise. You’d still be able to drive through Monument Valley, and the views are pretty dang good from the road, you just wouldn’t be able to stop.
          Take care and if you need to contact me directly, feel free to do so at [email protected]
          Alley 🙂

  43. Hi Alley. Thank you so much for all of the information and help you’ve given everyone. Truly amazing! My brother and I are wanting to plan a 7-10 day trip out West with our families. We would start our vacation the evening of July 17th. We could fly into either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. We would want to fly home from the same city due to the cost of renting a car. I would like us to visit Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Moab, and maybe even the North or South rim (or both) of the Grand Canyon. There will be 10 of us. Some are avid hikers, and others like to sleep in and do more of a relaxed vacation…(teenagers!) I need an itinerary that would make everyone happy. Please help!.

    1. Hey Mandy,
      If you truly can spare 10 days, take it — you’ll be glad you did!
      Using SLC as your staging city, you could do something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to SLC, overnight in SLC
      Day 2: Drive from SLC to Moab, UT (~4 hour drive), spend 3 nights in Moab
      Day 3: White water rafting in Cataract Canyon
      Day 4: Explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks, time permitting, Dead Horse Point, Castle Valley area
      Day 5: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park, optional stop in Goblin Valley State Park (~3.5 hour drive), overnight in Hanksville, Fruita, or Torrey
      Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon on Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~3 hours,stunning drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 7: Drive from Bryce Canyon to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive), optional hike on Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos trail, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 8: Visit Horseshoe Bend, take day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim (~2.5 hour drive, one way), overnight in Kanab, UT (~90 minutes from North Rim)
      Day 9: 2nd day/night in Zion, maybe hike a bit of the Narrows (cool water will feel awesome!), drive back to Kanab for overnight
      Day 10: Drive back to SLC (~5.5 hour drive from Kanab, UT)
      Custom trip map
      One piece of bad news for the teenagers who fancy sleeping in as much as possible: you’re traveling during the peak heat of summer, therefore, any hiking or labor-intensive activities should be done during the earlier morning hours to take advantage of cooler temperatures. Also, be sure that you do all your driving during daylight hours for your safety. Nighttime is strongly discouraged in the more rural parts of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Roads in these areas are very dimly lit, plus they are populated by deer, elk, and other wildlife that can elevate your risk of a collision. That’s definitely not something you want to chance in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service is going to be spotty (if you can get any bars at all) and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. Sunrise takes place at 5:20 AM, sunset occurs at approximately 7:45 PM Arizona Time. Utah is one hour ahead during the summer months.
      Should the prospect of going to Capitol Reef not appeal, you can drive from Moab, UT, to Bryce Canyon in ~5.5-6 hours, maybe see Capitol Reef as a “drive-by.” If you do end up with any time to spare, give it to either Zion or Page, AZ.
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! One thing I’ve heard of late is that rental cars are very hard to come by this year with many rental car companies selling off their fleets due to COVID-19, so that may be the first thing you want to check. Also, compare costs of renting out of Las Vegas vs. SLC. Should you opt to use Las Vegas as your staging city, you would need to rearrange your itinerary slightly. Your itinerary would look more like this.
      If you need to bounce any more ideas off us, feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Wow, Alley. Thank you so much. This is amazing. I appreciate this so much. I can’t wait to go!

  44. Your itineraries are beyond impressive. As is your thoughtfulness and care in sharing your expertise and time. Thank you.

    I have a wild hair to see Utahs “Mighty Five”. Leaving as soon as next week. BIRTHDAY TRIP!!! I live in California and my mom in Vegas. Flying into Vegas and having dinner with mom before we hit the road the next day. At first I was only looking at Utah but then I started looking at the Gand Canyon and even Sedona. We have 2 weeks(if we fly out on 3/15 and back on 3/28) and would love a fun day in Vegas before catching a late flight home. My concerns are weather in March and not booking hotels in advance vs just landing where we land at night. And looking at just doing Utah vs adding in Arizona. I already have a National Parks Pass. And would love to be somewhere amazing on my birthday the 21st!!!

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks so much for your compliments, I really appreciate them!
      Which makes it that much harder to burst your bubble a little bit: while I think you can still manage to pull this trip off, you definitely don’t want to “wing it.” You need to book hotels in advance. You have to realize that late March is Spring Break for a lot of U.S. schools, and even with some attractions being closed due to COVID-19, people are chomping at the bit to get out and travel. We’re expecting a busy month.
      You are right to be concerned about weather at the time of year you’re visiting. While the majority of days in late March are sunny but brisk, a late season snowstorm can strike out of the blue, especially in higher altitude areas such as Bryce Canyon (8,000′ above sea level) and Grand Canyon South Rim (7,000′ ASL). Should you encounter one in your travels, it’s best to wait it out and not try to plow through it. Having some “wiggle room” in your schedule definitely helps.
      With 12-14 days to work with, using Las Vegas, NV, as your staging city, you could do something like this:
      March 15th: Early flight to Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park (~3 hours from LAS), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park, overnight in Springdale, UT
      March 16th: Sightseeing in Zion on the Zion Canyon Shuttle, 2nd night in Springdale
      March 17th: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2-2.5 hours from Springdale, UT), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      March 18th: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~3 hours) via Scenic Byway 12, overnight in Torrey, Fruita, or Hanksville
      March 19th: Drive to Moab, UT, visit Dead Horse Point State Park and/or Castle Valley area, spend 3 days/nights
      March 20th: Explore Arches National Park
      March 21st: Explore Canyonlands National Park — and celebrate your birthday!!!
      March 22nd: Drive to Page, AZ (~6 hours) via Monument Valley (straight through, Navajo Tribe still discouraging outsiders from stopping on reservation lands), overnight in Page
      March 23rd: Visit Horseshoe Bend en route to Grand Canyon South Rim — due to another COVID-19 related closure on Navajo Reservation lands, you’ll have to detour through Flagstaff, AZ, to get to Grand Canyon South Rim, making this trip leg ~5 hours. Overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim.
      March 24th: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon
      March 25th: Drive to Sedona (~3 hours from Grand Canyon South Rim), optional stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, AZ, overnight in Sedona, AZ
      March 26th: Sightseeing in Sedona: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Bell Rock Trail, Tlaquepaque, wine tastings… all kinds of possibilities! 2nd night in Sedona
      March 27th: Drive to Las Vegas (~5 hours), optional stops in Seligman, AZ (Route 66 mainstay, real life inspiration for “Cars” movie), or Hoover Dam, overnight in LAS
      March 28th: Sightseeing in Las Vegas, NV, before flight out
      Custom trip map
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! Please feel free to write in again, or contact me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  45. Hi,

    We are planning a trip for a 10-12 day tour of the Southwest in late September this year. Ideally we would like to end in Albuquerque, NM for the Hot Air Balloon Festival. We are open to flying in and out of any of the major airports. One way to and from Atlanta. We will also be traveling with an 8 year old (almost 9 by then), so ideally no car drives longer than 5 hours on any given day.
    Thank you for all the helpful information.

    1. Hi Brenda,
      Winding up your trip at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta would be so cool! This year’s event runs from October 2nd-10th. As for where to fly into, the local airport in Albuquerque, NM, known as the “Albuquerque International Sunport” has a surprisingly diverse array of flights to choose from, so you might just use it as your staging city. Be sure to check prices, rental car options, etc. before you commit to that. Otherwise, you could have a really nice trip by flying into Las Vegas, and out of ABQ, as follows:
      Day 1: Arrive early in Las Vegas, NV, drive to Zion National Park, optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park, overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 2: Hiking/sightseeing in Zion National Park using the Zion Canyon Shuttle, 2nd night in Springdale
      Day 3: Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park (~2 hours from Zion, overnight in Bryce
      Day 4: Drive to Page, AZ (~2.5 hours from Bryce), optional stop to hike the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 5: Visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 6: Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim — depending on the status of AZ64 East from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point (currently closed due to COVID-19), the drive could take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news there 🙁 Overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim.
      Day 7: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 8: Drive to Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park (~3 hour drive), overnight in Holbrook, AZ
      Day 9: Drive to Albuquerque, NM (~3.5 hours), enjoy balloon fiesta, overnight in Albuquerque, NM
      Day 10: 2nd day/night in Albuquerque
      Day 11: 3rd day/night in Albuquerque
      Day 12: Fly home from Albuquerque, NM, or drive to Phoenix, AZ; Phoenix is ~7 hours from ABQ, so if you wanted to break up the drive, you could swing through Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ, which is a beautiful area, ~3 hours from PHX
      Custom trip map
      You probably should look into hotel reservations in Albuquerque, NM, first, hotels tend to book up months in advance for the balloon fiesta. Whatever you decide, make advance reservations for ALL hotels and guided tours.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  46. Hi there! I would value your feedback on our upcoming trip. We are willing to fly into one location and fly out of another. We would like to do the grand circle with Grand Canyon a must, but would also like to see Sequoia NP….we have two weeks to travel (mid May)….. what are your thoughts??

    1. Hi Greta!
      If you have your heart set on visiting Sequoia National Park and the Grand Circle, you should probably plan on flying into San Francisco, CA, or Los Angeles, CA, then out of Phoenix, AZ, or Las Vegas, NV.
      The drive from Sequoia National Park to Grand Canyon South Rim takes ~10 hours, wheels turning, no stops. Las Vegas, NV, or Laughlin, NV would make for a good overnight stopover, but I would actually recommend hitting Grand Canyon next to last on your itinerary. More on that in a minute.
      So, here’s what I would recommend:
      Day 1: Fly into San Francisco or LA, overnight in whichever city you opt to fly into
      Day 2: Drive to Sequoia National Park (~4-5 hours from LA or SF), stay 2 nights at Wuksachi Lodge (in-park) or Three Rivers or Visalia, CA
      Day 3: 2nd day/night in Sequoia
      Day 4: Drive from Sequoia National Park to Las Vegas, NV, or Laughlin, NV (6-7 hours, overnight)
      Day 5: Drive from Laughlin, NV, or Las Vegas, NV, to Zion National Park (~3.5-4.5 hour drive, depending on which city you stay over in), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 6: Sightseeing in Zion National Park using the Zion Canyon Shuttle, 2nd night in Zion
      Day 7: Drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon (~2 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 8: Drive from Bryce Canyon to Page, AZ (~3 hours), hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail en route (if desired), overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 9: Visit Horseshoe Bend first thing in AM, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd day/night in Page, AZ
      Day 10: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim **depending on the status of AZ64E, the drive could take you anywhere from 3 hours to 5 hours; right now, Google maps is reflecting the drive time/route based on the closure; be sure to verify whether AZ64 from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point is open** overnight at Grand Canyon
      Day 11: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona, AZ (~3 hours), overnight in Sedona
      Day 12: 2nd day/night in Sedona, AZ, possible activities: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, swimming at Slide Rock State Park, hiking, hot air balloon flights 100 Things To Do in Sedona
      Day 13: 3rd day/night in Sedona, or drive to Phoenix (~2.5 hours from Sedona), or Las Vegas, NV (~4 hours from Sedona)
      Day 14: Fly home from Phoenix, AZ or Las Vegas, NV
      Custom trip map
      The primary factor determining feasibility of the above plan will most likely be rental car drop-off fees. Usually, they prefer that you drop the vehicle off at the same place you picked it up, and charge hefty fees for one-way (different city) drop-offs. However, if you can find a one-way car rental at a reasonable price, this will enable you to tick both Sequoia National Park and the Grand Canyon off your “wish” list. If not, then I would advise doing the California National Parks (Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, etc.) as a separate trip from the Southwest.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  47. Hi Alley: I am blown away by your knowledge and expertise of this incredibly wonderful area. My sister and I and our husbands are planning a two week trip from mid Sept to end of Sept this year. We are flying into Phoenix and flying out of Las Vegas. We want to visit the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce as the highlights adding in time to see Sedona as well. We have all been to Phoenix and Vegas and are not planning to spend time in these cities. So, with a two week window (we are retired, in upper 60’s to low 70’s in age but fit) what other sites do you recommend in that time frame and including those highlights. We are open to all and any additional sites as we have not traveled in this area before. Thanks. Vivian

    1. Hey Vivian! Thanks for your compliments.
      The time of year you’re planning on visit is a great time for traveling in the American Southwest. Weather is just about perfect and relatively stable… usually, anyway 😉
      If your flights are not booked yet, I wonder if there’s still time to flip-flop your staging cities so you can fly into Vegas and out of Phoenix? The reason why is because many visitors like yourselves relish the opportunity to have a few days of “chill time” before flying back home, and Sedona, AZ, is the perfect place for this! In light of those considerations, here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas, overnight in Las Vegas OR drive to Springdale, UT (~3 hours from Las Vegas) for overnight
      Day 2: Drive to Springdale, UT (if you didn’t do it the day before), sightseeing in Zion National Park. To access the main touring area of Zion National Park, you’ll need to utilize the Zion Canyon Shuttle, which might require an advance ticket purchase. If that does not appeal, hit the sights accessible by the Mt. Carmel Highway (Highway 9) such as the Visitors Center, Watchman Trail, Pa’rus Trail, the long tunnel, Canyon Overlook Trail, and Checkerboard Mesa. 2nd night in Springdale
      Day 3: 3rd day/night in Zion, hit the sights you might have missed near Springdale, UT, or make a day trip to the Kolob Canyons area, ~1 hour from Springdale. 3rd night in Springdale, UT, OR drive to Bryce (~2 hours from Kolob Canyons or Springdale, longer if you take the “scenic” route through Duck Creek Village)
      Day 4: Drive to Bryce (if you didn’t do so the day before), much sightseeing can be done by car or free shuttle along the scenic rim drive, or one of several easy hikes in the park. Overnight in Bryce Canyon
      Day 5: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park via Scenic Byway 12 (~3.5 hours), overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, or Fruita
      Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, UT (~3 hours), explore Dead Horse Point State Park and/or Castle Valley area, overnight in Moab
      Day 7: Explore Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 8: Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~5 hour drive), overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 9: Visit Horseshoe Bend and tour Antelope Canyon (provided the latter is open), 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 10: Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3 hours if the normal travel route is open, 4-5 hours if the detour through Flagstaff, AZ [COVID-19 closure]) remains in place; longer route is what the trip map is defaulting to), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 11: Drive to Sedona, AZ (~3 hours), take Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour if desired, overnight in Sedona
      Day 12: 2nd day/night in Sedona, possible activities: Chapel of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque, Sedona Heritage Museum, Palatki Heritage site, or day trip to Montezuma Castle/Well One Day In Sedona, AZ
      Day 13: 3rd day/night in Sedona – Relax and decompress! Take a spa day, go to a wine tasting, or just get room service and enjoy the view from your hotel (if you’ve got one)
      Day 14: Drive to Phoenix, AZ (~2.5 hours from Sedona), fly home
      Custom trip map
      Naturally, if you’ve already got your flights booked and it would be cost-prohibitive to change them, I understand completely! You could simply do this itinerary in reverse, and if you’d still like to take me up on the suggestion to end your trip with a spa day (or two!), the town of St. George, UT, has several fine spa resorts to choose from. The drive to Las Vegas, NV, for your flight home would then be ~2.5 hours, similar to the Sedona-PHX leg.
      Hope that helps! If you need further guidance, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  48. Hi Alley,
    Your itineraries are amazing!! I’m having a hard time figuring out our trip. We land in Vegas on Friday, April 2nd and leave Vegas early Sunday, April 11th. We already booked the Grand Canyon from Saturday, April 3rd to Tuesday, April 6th. We want to be back in Vegas by Friday April 9th.

    We’d like to visit:
    Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on the way to Grand Canyon
    Grand Canyon
    Zion
    Bryce
    Arches
    Antelope Canyon (if open– or something similar?)
    Horseshoe Bend
    Coral Pink Sand Dunes to ATV/UTV (or somewhere else we can ATV/UTV)

    We want to be back in Vegas by Friday, April 9th so we can have the full day Saturday to relax after a week of nonstop hikes!

    Is this at all possible?! Do you have any other suggestions?
    Thank you SO much!

    1. Hey Sarah, and thanks for your compliments!
      Unfortunately, you’re going to have to trim your itinerary down a bit if you don’t want to spend all your days behind the wheel, and the most logical place to do said “trimming” is Arches/Canyonlands. Moab, UT, is simply too far a swing out of your way to be realistic this time around. Plus you need to plan on 4-5 days in that area in order to do it justice. It’s a huge and stunning area with lots to see and do, so definitely plan a future trip there when you can give it the time it deserves!
      Another observation: you’ve allotted too much time to the South Rim. Most first-time visitors find 1-2 days is ample for a fulfilling visit. More on that in a minute 😉
      With the Antelope Canyons being closed and since you’ve expressed interest in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Kanab, UT, I’d recommend planning a tour of Red Canyon/aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon. With twists and turns on par with the Antelope Canyons, it’s been a popular alternative during the COVID-19 closures. While a guided tour is not required to visit Red/Peek-A-Boo, we strongly recommend you take one, because while the walk through the canyon is relatively easy, the drive to get there is anything but. 4WD vehicles with high clearance are a must, and parties in rental cars would void their insurance the minute they left paved roads. There are several companies that offer tours to Peek-A-Boo Canyon, but the one we are most familiar with is Dreamland Safari Tours. Ask them about combining your slot canyon tour with a visit to Coral Pink Sand Dunes!
      So without further ado, here’s what I’d recommend:
      Saturday, April 3rd: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hours) with optional stopover at Hoover Dam (currently open with limited facilties due to COVID-19), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Sunday, April 4th: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon
      Monday, April 5th: Drive to Kanab, UT, with stop at Horseshoe Bend; this will be at least a 6-hour drive due to the closure of AZ64 from Desert View Point to Cameron, AZ [thanks COVID-19!], necessitating that travelers detour through Flagstaff, AZ, then back up North, overnight in Kanab, UT
      Tuesday, April 6th: early AM tour Red Canyon/Peek-A-Boo and Coral Pink Sand Dunes, then drive to Bryce Canyon (~90 minutes from Kanab), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Wednesday, April 7th: early AM sightseeing in Bryce Canyon area, then drive to Zion (~2 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Thursday, April 8th: full day in Zion, 2nd night in Springdale, UT **note you’ll have to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the main sightseeing area, which may require advance purchase of tickets***
      Friday, April 9th: drive back to Las Vegas (~3-3.5 hours), if desired, detour through Valley of Fire State Park (gorgeous!), overnight in Las Vegas
      Saturday, April 10th: chill day in Las Vegas
      Sunday, April 11th: fly home
      Trip map
      Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to digest! Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce any more ideas off us, or contact me directly at [email protected]
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Dear Alley
        I just came across your amazing site & Itineraries. I’m blown away by your email response to people!
        We are looking to plan a 14 day or so trip from Ca to the southwest. We are a fun family of 4 . Parents are late 40s reasonably fit – not crazy fit. 2 girls aged 10 & 12. We just have loose plans right now and are thinking of renting either an RV or a camper van ( like adventure van) was thinking that would give us more flexibility where to stay. We are planning on bringing our tent as well as the van We are open to sometimes staying at a not too expensive hotel.
        I saw you had some suggestions of doing whitewater rafting ( that sounds awesome!) id love some suggestions of things to do that are not just hiking – so Amy water adventuras would be awesome .
        I’m kind of nervous it might be too hot in places in June.
        Please can you recommend places to stay, campgrounds , rv sites that are fun for the whole family and some off the beaten path. What advanced permits do
        I need? Or am I too late for that ?
        Places to eat , fun things to do or must see sites along the way. We do regularly camp but this would be our first time in a camper van / long road trip & I’m really hoping to have a good experience.

        Drive from near Yosemite to
        Las Vegas 1 night ( pick up van or RV )
        Zion 2 nights
        Bryce 2 night
        Canyonlands 2 night
        Grand Canyon 2 night
        1 night stop on way home
        Thanks so much for any help

        1. Hi Tracey,
          Thanks a lot for your compliments, I really appreciate them!
          Your itinerary looks pretty fun and well-paced; even so, I’d recommend a couple of minor adjustments. More on that in a minute 😉
          June is not too hot to have an enjoyable time in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah! Some areas will be warmer than others, such as Las Vegas, NV, Moab, UT, and Page, AZ, but others, such as Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon will be pleasant seeing as though they’re anywhere from 5,000-8,000′ above sea level. Still, I’d recommend seeking out RV parks with full electrical hook-ups so you can have access to air conditioning during the day. Otherwise, your RV will just be a tin can sitting in the sun, and all that that implies.
          I can’t see anything on your itinerary that would require an advance permit, per se. In Zion, things have gotten so crowded, even with COVID-19, that they are periodically requiring advance purchase of tickets for the Zion Canyon Shuttle. You should definitely check and see if that rule applies during your proposed timeframe. If that’s the case, and you’d rather not mess with it, you can still have an enjoyable visit to Zion without using the shuttle. More on that in a minute 😉
          A couple of things jumping out at me is:
          1. that you haven’t planned for enough time in the Moab, UT, area. You have allotted 2 days for the Canyonlands area, but there’s also Arches National Park, and the Castle Valley area, just to name a few. If you wanted to do some white water rafting, this would be the place to do it. I would plan for at least 1 more day there.
          2. you’re going to pass by the Capitol Reef area, which warrants 1 night’s stay. Take 1 night away from Bryce Canyon to accommodate that, if desired. Bryce is a small enough area so that a 1 night stay will be sufficient to have a fulfilling visit.
          3. the drive from Arches/Canyonlands to Grand Canyon South Rim (I assume that’s the side you’re wanting to visit?) is quite long, and you should take the opportunity to stop in Page, AZ, to see Horseshoe Bend and possibly tour Antelope Canyon (the latter is tentatively scheduled to reopen by summertime, God willing and the creek don’t rise!).
          So, in light of those concerns, I’d recommend:
          Day 1: Pick up RV in Las Vegas, NV, stay overnight Las Vegas RV parks
          Day 2: Drive from Las Vegas, NV, to Zion National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT RV park, sightseeing in Zion via the Zion Canyon Shuttle, or immediate area of Springdale
          Day 3: 2nd day/night in Zion, if Zion Canyon area is not feasible, then take day trip to Kolob Canyons area
          Day 4: Drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon (~2-2.5 hours), overnight in Bryce Canyon area RV park
          Day 5: Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef (~3.5 hours), maybe hike Lower Calf Creek Falls en route (you must get an early start on that in summertime), overnight in Torrey, Boulder, or Hanksville, UT
          Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, UT (~3 hours), visit Dead Horse Point State Park, overnight in Moab, UT
          Day 7: 2nd day/night in Moab, UT, explore Arches/Canyonlands National Parks
          Day 8: 3rd day/night in Moab, UT, take half-day or full-day white water raft trip
          Day 9: Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~6 hours), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ RV park
          Day 10: 2nd day/night in Page, AZ – Tour Antelope Canyon (if open), visit swimming areas at Lake Powell (Wahweap Swim Beach or Lone Rock Beach)
          Day 11: Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim **drive time could vary from ~3-5 hours if closure of AZ64 from Cameron to Desert View Point remains in effect; if it does, you’ll have to detour through Flagstaff, AZ, then back up North to Grand Canyon Village via US180/AZ64N** overnight at Trailer Village or Grand Canyon Camper Village
          Day 12: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim
          Day 13: Drive back to Las Vegas to return RV (~5 hours)
          Day 14: Drive home
          Trip map
          I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to process! Whatever you decide, be sure to reserve your RV park site and/or hotels in advance, as well as any guided tours that you might wish to take. If RV site availability (or lack thereof) dictates, you might need to be prepared to flip-flop this itinerary.
          Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us, either here or by private e-mail at [email protected]
          Good luck and safe travels!
          Alley 🙂

          1. Hi Alley,
            Thanks so much for your amazing information. I’m going to dig deep into it today.
            One quick question I have is – I’m a bit of a hot springs fan – would you know of any natural hot springs that we could hit at any point on this trip ? Thanks very much Tracey

          2. Hey again, Tracey –
            OMG, I’m a yuuuuuuuuge hot springs fan! There used to be a nice one, Zion Pah Tempe, between Hurricane and LaVerkin, UT, but the county decided to wrest control of the land (and the springs) from its rightful owner and hasn’t been available for soaking since 2013. Don’t get me started on that subject…
            The hot springs that would probably be most practical for you to consider is Mystic Hot Springs. It’s a neat place, it’s a sulphur spring (and associated smell), it definitely has that hippie vibe going on, located in Monroe, UT. It would probably be most convenient for you to hit it between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. If possible, try to carve out an extra day so you can spend the night in that area. I know that after a good soak, the last thing I want to do is make a long drive! Otherwise Torrey, UT, and the communities near Capitol Reef are ~2 hours away.
            Another possibility, that would require a serious retooling of your itinerary, would be the town of Ouray, CO. Ouray is ~3 hours from Moab, UT, and has a nice assortment of commercial hot springs (including some clothing-optional), and a municipal hot springs and pool complex. But again, that’s a real big swing out of your way.
            If you ever get the chance to visit the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone National Parks, plan on visiting Lava Hot Springs in Southern Idaho. It’s a cute little town with a lithium spring (no smell, yay!), and ample ways you can enjoy them, from private pools at select hotels, to a lovely municipal hot spring complex.
            Have a great trip, and enjoy a soak for me 😉
            Alley

          3. Alley,
            You are amazing!! My husband and I are flying to Vegas on Oct. 5 – Oct. 19. We are used the itinerary that you gave to Tracey to map out our trip. Super helpful! We have booked everything today, thanks to your awesome guidance.
            Thank you!!
            Teresa Daiker

          4. Hi Teresa,
            Thank you for letting us know that our guidance helped you as well! If you get a minute when you return home, write in again and let us know how it went 🙂
            Good luck and safe travels,
            Alley

  49. Thinking of flying in to either Phoenix or Vegas for a 12-14 day trip with our 6 year old grandson and flying home out of the other. Suggestions to see or stay in St. George before Zion or is ths locartion in st. geaorge close enough to base frm, then onto Bryce, Capital reef, arches, etc in Moab for 3 nights. We want to skip monument valley and Page as we have done those in the past. We are trying to see the best way to get from moab to Petrified forest then onto Williams to take the Grand canyon railway into the GC for an overnight stay 2 nights in the park. We’d also like to stay in Zion if possible. Any suggestions you have is appreciated. We can do easy walks, hikes that are easy for early 60’s and a 6 year old. I saw The Inn Resort in St. George that just looks amazing for a 2 night relaxing stay before flying home from Vegas if that route works. Thank you for any information. Would be looking at June 11th on.

    1. Hi Liz,
      Using Las Vegas, NV, as your staging city, I think you can make this work, but if you specifically wanted to use the Inn at St. George (I think it’s actually called the Inn on the Cliff?) as your final “chill time destination” before heading home, IMO, your best bet is to do this itinerary in reverse from what you’ve loosely specified.
      With that in mind, here’s what I’d recommend:
      June 11th: early flight to Las Vegas, drive to Williams, AZ (~3.5 hours), overnight in Williams
      June 12th: take Grand Canyon Railway to Grand Canyon South Rim, overnight at South Rim
      June 13th: 2nd day/night at South Rim
      June 14th: return to Williams in afternoon (5:30-ish), overnight in Williams OR drive to Holbrook, AZ (~2 hours from Williams) for overnight
      June 15th: visit Petrified Forest/Painted Desert in AM (the earlier the better, June is HOT), then make your way to Moab, UT (~5 hour drive), spend 3 nights in Moab
      June 16th: visit Arches & Canyonlands, overnight in Moab
      June 17th: AM half-Day white water rafting trip (6 year olds are allowed!), 3rd night in Moab
      June 18th: drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~3 hours from Moab), overnight in Torrey
      June 19th: drive to Bryce Canyon (~2.5 hours from Capitol Reef), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      June 20th: drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion (~2.5 hours), overnight in Kanab, UT (~30 minutes from Zion) **you’ll need to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle to access the main sightseeing area of the park, which might require an advance reservation**
      June 21st: 2nd day sightseeing in Zion, 2nd night in Kanab, UT
      June 22nd: drive from Kanab, UT, to St. George, UT, spend 2-3 days @ Inn on the Cliff
      June 23rd: 2nd day/night at St. George
      June 24th: 3rd day/night at St. George, OR drive back to Las Vegas (~2.5 hours from Las Vegas)
      June 25th: fly home
      Trip map
      You’ll note that I have you staying in Kanab, UT, for the Zion National Park leg of your trip. That’s because the only hotel inside the park, the Zion Lodge, is no doubt booked up by now, and Kanab is only ~30 minutes from the park. If for some reason that town doesn’t appeal, Springdale, UT, on the Western border of the park, is your next best bet. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend St. George as a base camp for Zion, because it’s 90 minutes, each way, from the park. IMO that’s time better spent sightseeing.
      I appreciate your letting me know that you’ve already been to Monument Valley and Page, but the best route to take from Moab, UT, to Petrified Forest is going to take you past there. Be aware that the section of US191 between I-40 and Bluff, UT, is on Navajo reservation land, and a sparsely populated section of it. Be sure that your vehicle is fully fueled and that you have adequate water and snacks to tide you over until you get to Bluff, UT. Right now, the Navajo Tribe is discouraging outsiders from stopping on Tribal Land due to COVID-19. Whether that will still be the case when you come through, remains to be seen, but better to err on the side of caution in this regard.
      I hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to digest! If you need to bounce any more ideas off me, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]
      Otherwise, good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

  50. Hello Alley! my girlfriend and I have been delighted reading about all your suggestions. We plan to fly to Sedona on March 26th and we´d like to visit Northern Arizona and Southern Utah until April 2nd. We´ve never been there before!!! So we are really looking forward to exploring the area, doing some hikes, enjoying the scenery + any guided tours. We are in our mid thirties. We´d love to know your suggestions on the best ways to take advantage of the time we have. Thanks, and have a great evening!

    1. Hi Kepler,
      First of all, there is no commercial air service into Sedona. The closest airport with scheduled air service is Phoenix, which is only ~2 hours away. Assuming that March 26th and April 2nd are travel/logistics days, that gives you 6 full days to work with. While Phoenix/Sky Harbor Airport is conveniently located to Sedona and Grand Canyon South Rim, access is not that convenient for the Utah National Parks. Therefore, I’d recommend looking into the feasibility and costs of flying into Phoenix and out of Las Vegas.
      If this works, you could do something like this:
      March 26th: fly into Phoenix, overnight in Phoenix
      March 27th: drive to Sedona (~2 hours), visit Montezuma Castle National Monument en route, overnight in Sedona
      March 28th: sightseeing in Sedona (the Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour is popular), 2nd night in Sedona
      March 29th: drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~2.5 hours from Sedona), overnight at Grand Canyon
      March 30th: drive to Page, AZ (~5 hours drive due to detour through Flagstaff), visit Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ
      March 31st: drive from Page, AZ, to Bryce Canyon National Park (~3 hours), hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos en route, overnight in Bryce Canyon
      April 1st: drive from Bryce to Zion National Park (~2 hours), hike Emerald Pools or other trails, overnight in Springdale UT
      April 2nd: drive to Las Vegas, NV (~3 hours), fly home from Las Vegas
      Trip map
      If the rental car drop-off fees associated with flying into Phoenix and out of Las Vegas (or vice versa) are cost-prohibitive, then plan to simply fly into and out of Las Vegas. The drive to Sedona would be longer, ~5 hours, but using Las Vegas as a staging city makes it much easier to do the “classic” Northern Arizona/Southern Utah loop itinerary.
      Hope that helps. Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  51. Hey Alley,

    I have read through a bunch of these comments but would like your feedback on a trip I am planning for May 29th to June 10th. I will be renting a camper van with a friend. I have an makeshift itinerary planned and any feedback or suggestions would be great!
    5/29:
    •Fly into Vegas and rental pick up is at 1pm
    •Drive to Zion (3hrs) do the 1 mile canyon overlook trial
    5/30: Zion
    •hike Angels landing trail (5miles)- Heights issue as I am terrified
    •Kayenta Trail to Emerald Pools trail (2 miles)
    5/31:
    •hike Watchman Trail at sunrise (3.3 miles)
    •Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park (2 hours)
    •do the Rainbow point Shuttle tour (3.5 hours starts at 1:30pm)
    6/1:
    •Hike to sunrise point during sunrise and then hike Queen’s/Navajo combo loop (3miles) at Bryce Canyon
    •Drive to grand staircase escalante national monument
    oHike lower calf creek falls (6 miles)
    •drive to Capitol Reef National Park via scenic byway (2 hours)
    6/2:
    •Do the capitol reef scenic drive and/or hike a popular hike like the Hickman Bridge Trail, Cassidy Arch Trail, and Capitol Gorge Trail
    •Drive to Arches/canyonlands national parks (2.5 hours)
    6/3:
    •Arches: see North window and double arch (both easy short trails)
    •Canyonlands: Dead Horse Point (sunset spot) and Islands in the Sky- drive to them?
    oGrand view point hike (can pull off on road for a 0.4 hike to view or 1 mile hike) or murphy point hike
    oMesa Arch hike (0.5 miles)
    oGreen river overlook
    6/4:
    •Moab to page, az via Monument Valley (4.5 hours [2.5 hours Moab to MV, 2 hours MV to Page)
    •Horseshoe bend
    •upper or lower antelope canyon-Closed currently for COVID
    •if closed go to Red Canyon/aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon and do a tour
    •WAVE PERMIT?
    6/5: I skipped a day in my itinerary and just now realizing so this is a flex day
    6/6:
    •drive to Kanab, Utah for canyons if not there from day before
    •WAVE PERMIT
    •drive the 2.5 hour drive to Grand canyon south rim
    6/7:Grand canyon
    6/8: Grand canyon
    6/9: Grand canyon
    6/10: drive from grand canyon south rim to vegas (4.5 hours) drop off of van is at 10am.

    1. Hi Courtnee!
      Wow, this is a full itinerary, and you have planned it quite well. Still, it’s almost on the verge of being overplanned, plus there are some areas where your wish list is overly ambitious considering the hours of usable daylight.
      For example, on day 1, you propose to get right on the road and maybe do some hiking in Zion. That may not happen because your flight may not get to LAS on time, plus there’s the logistics of picking up your camper van that will probably take longer than you expect. Then there’s the matter of checking into your campground. After all that, and factoring in possible jetlag (I don’t remember seeing where you’re flying in from), you may not be in the mood to do any hiking at that point, and that’s OK.
      On Day 2, the hike to Angel’s Landing can take anywhere from 4-6 hours. Depending on where you’re staying, you’ll probably have to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle to get to the trailhead (Grotto Picnic Area). If you find that you can’t deal with the heights of the full hike, Scout Landing is a good “turn back” point. Long story short, you may be wiped out by the time you complete this hike. You may not have the energy or gumption to hike to the Emerald Pools at that point, so be prepared to either give it a miss, or scoot it to the following morning when you were planning to do the Watchman Trail.
      Speaking of where you might stay, if you were wanting to have access to an electrical hook-up for air conditioning, you should probably plan on staying at an RV park in Springdale, UT. If you can do without one, note that the campgrounds inside Zion National Park sell out every night during peak season (which is when you’ll be traveling), so advance reservations are a must, everywhere you go.
      On 06/01, you’re proposing to do the Calf Creek Falls hike after you’ve already done some hiking at Bryce? That will put you at Calf Creek during the hottest time of the day, and there will be times when you’re trudging through deep sand. Not sure if you want to do that when it’s scorching hot outside. You might consider just going directly to Lower Calf Creek first thing in the morning. You might even consider adding a 2nd night to your stay at Bryce.
      I think you also should give at least another night to Moab, UT. As it stands, you don’t have enough time to accomplish everything you want to do in the time you have.
      When you get to the part where you want to visit Monument Valley en route to Page, AZ, bear in mind that MV might still be closed due to COVID-19, so you may be limited to seeing it on a “drive-by” basis.

      1. Courtnee,
        OMG, I didn’t realize that my reply to you had gotten cut off so abruptly like that! Rest assured, that’s not something I meant to do, I did have more to day.
        Picking up where I left off, even if you did visit Monument Valley just by driving through and not stopping, you won’t have time to tour both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, or Red Canyon/Peek-A-Boo Canyon that same day. You might be able to realistically hit Horseshoe Bend for sunset, but IMO, sunrise the next day would be a better time to visit. Then you can enjoy cooler temperatures (a definite plus at that time of year) and smaller crowds. Sunrise at the time of year you’re visiting is at ~5:00 AM.
        If you are genuinely interested in obtaining a permit to hike The Wave, the online lottery for June is taking place now! I would strongly recommend you apply for that sometime this month as 48 spaces will be given out in that manner. Only 16 spaces will be saved for the daily walk-in lottery held in Kanab, UT, the day PRIOR to when you wish to hike. Even so, your odds of getting a permit are quite slim, statistically, so you might start considering “Plan B” options, such as White Pocket (the most popular Wave alternative destination), Soap Creek, Sidestep Canyon, Alstrom Point, the “New” Wave, etc.
        Last but not least, you have given yourself what is likely to be too many days at the Grand Canyon. For most first-time visitors, 1-2 days is plenty to have a full and memorable experience. The only reason for staying longer would be if you wanted to take labor-intensive day hikes each day of your visit, which is certainly possible, but not essential for a fun and enjoyable experience. Grand Canyon day hikes If you have extra days to allocate, I would recommend giving them to Zion, Capitol Reef, or Moab.
        Again, apologies for this getting cut off in the previous reply, I have no idea why that happened!
        Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more questions off us.
        Good luck and safe travels,
        Alley 🙂

        1. Alley,

          Thank you so much for your response and help! Would you recommend staying on BLM land or other free camping places to save money. They are on a first come first serve basis and I do not know how fast they will fill during busy season. We do not mind not having electricity and just paying for showers at different locations.

          1. Hey again, Courtnee!
            Don’t know as I’d recommend trying to boondock the whole time you’re here, especially in areas like Page, AZ, and Moab, UT. IIRC, you’re traveling in June, and it will already have been hot for quite awhile in the lower desert areas. Your camper van will be uncomfortably warm at night, and sightseeing is no fun after a night spent sweltering. At least in those areas, I’d try to camp someplace with an electrical hook-up for reliable AC. You may be able to pull off BLM camping in higher elevations, but as you have deduced, these areas could fill fast during peak travel season, which June definitely falls under.
            Hope that helps 🙂
            Alley

      2. Hi Alley – I am so happy I found this site! Not sure I’m posting this the right way but, I couldn’t figure out how to start a new thread? Anyway, We decided to try and put together a trip for my daughters college graduation with our other 2 adult children (ages 22,24,26). We have a limited timeframe due to some other commitments. We are thinking May 14 – 22 with a small flexibility window. We are all in pretty good physical shape and like to hike as well as some adventure sports. We definitely want to do Moab (white water rafting, horseback riding – on the fence about ATV)….We were thinking possibly doing a houseboat at Lake Powell (will it be too cold at night and water temp?) – or maybe just rent a boat for a day?? I would like to see the Grand Canyon but, Zion and Bryce sound interesting too? My oldest son went to school in Colorado and has done most of this already but, we haven’t (he thinks “there are better ways to spend our time than the GC”???). I have been reading a lot about different hiking trails and areas – we can be flexible due to Covid and late planning but, I would like to figure out flights and lodging asap! Anyway, I have nothing booked as of now and the more I read the more confused I get (fly into where? accomodations? Things not to miss?)….We are definitely an active family but, I would like to somewhat limit the car rides, don’t want to feel rushed and I would like a night or two at special accommodation. Any help with putting together an itinerary would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much! Love this site!

        1. Hi Beth!
          Your inquiry posted perfectly, I am sorry for the delay in reply on my end, I was out of town for a few days!
          The timeframe you describe is definitely limited. Assuming that May 14th and 22nd will be travel/logistical days, that gives you 7 full days to work with. You are going to have to trim down your wish list unless you want to spend the better part of your vacation behind the wheel of your car.
          If the majority of your family members haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, I strongly recommend you give it high priority and try and get there at least for a day. If your son has already been to the GC, I’d almost bet money he went to the South Rim, so I’ll suggest you visit the North Rim instead. More on that in a minute…
          Nights during May are definitely not too cold to enjoy a houseboat trip on Lake Powell, but because your time is so limited, I’d recommend that for a future trip when you can spend 3 days or more enjoying the lake. A smaller boat rental, or perhaps a kayak tour, may be a better use of your time. Again, more on that in a minute 😉
          Factoring the places you wish to go and activities you with to partake of, here’s what I’d suggest:
          May 14th: Fly into Salt Lake City, overnight in SLC
          May 15th: Drive to Moab, UT (~4.5 hour drive), visit Arches/Canyonlands, or Castle Valley Area overnight in Moab
          May 16th: Half-day white water rafting trip, visit Dead Horse Point State Park, 2nd night in Moab
          May 17th: Drive to Bryce Canyon, with optional stopovers in Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, or Lower Calf Creek Falls. Driving direct, it’s ~a 5-hour drive from Moab to Bryce. Whatever you decide for this leg of the drive, be sure to travel to Bryce Canyon via Scenic Byway 12. This is one of the most stunning drives in the American Southwest, you’ll love it! Overnight in Bryce Canyon
          May 18th: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon, then drive to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive). Optional stops: Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos, sunset at Horseshoe Bend, overnight in Page, AZ
          May 19th: Antelope Canyon Kayak/Hiking Tour (not affected by the Navajo Tribal Park Closure), 2nd night in Page, AZ.
          May 20th: Day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim: 2.5 hour drive from Page, AZ, visit Grand Canyon Lodge complex, Imperial Point, etc. Drive to Kanab, UT, 90 minutes from park, for overnight. Kanab, UT hotels
          May 21st: Sightseeing in Zion National Park (plenty of hikes to enjoy here!), 2nd night in Kanab UT.
          May 22nd: Drive to Las Vegas (~4 hours from Kanab), fly home
          Trip map
          The primary factors in determining whether this plan would be feasible are rental car drop-off fees, and hotel availability. If hotel availability is a problem in certain areas, you might also try doing this itinerary in reverse order.
          Hope that helps, I know it’s a lot to digest! Feel free to write in again, or e-mail me personally at [email protected] if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  52. Hi Alley – sorry for the double post – I could not see my first post. So, my second post is shorter and as soon as I hit Post, I saw your response! So apologies again for the second/same question (feeling a bit embarrassed too because my second post is so much shorter and almost no details).

    Thank you so much for your detailed answer to my first post.
    You’re right – we chose March due to our kids’ school spring break. I love that you have such vast knowledge and suggestions about good alternatives for almost anything. I am now pretty much sure that an RV around March 15 is asking for trouble. And your description of being cold/tired/cranky gave me the worst vacation day visions…hahahaha!
    I’ll start trying to make some reservations and may come back to ask for help/opinion at the end.

    You’re amazing! Thank you again!

    1. Hey again, Ruxandra,
      Glad you saw your original post! Also glad you’ve decided against the RV this time around. March 15th could bring anything from a teaser of summer weather to a late-season blizzard, so best to play it safe in that regard.
      Do get back to us if there’s anything else you need, or write to our dedicated e-mail address [email protected]
      Take care,
      Alley 🙂

  53. Hi Alley, love all the itineraries, ideas, and helpful suggestions. So, like everyone else, I come to ask for help too. We’re a family of 4, with a 7-year old and a 9-year old. Last summer we rented an RV and traveled down to FL and back to NJ via some of the beautiful sights on the East Coast (Shenandoah, the Smoky Mountains, South Carolina and Georgia coasts). Since it was our first time in an RV, we were a bit shy in terms of what we could accomplish distance-wise before the kids would need to get out and move. It was a great experience, and we’d like to do it again, out West, possibly following your suggested itinerary…but at the end of March. And this is where I have a few questions: can it be done? I saw for example that Zion has a tunnel that has some size restrictions. Can you drive the big ice cream truck through some of these beautiful parks? Or just get some smaller vehicle that fits all of us but gives us a bit more flexibility in terms of access, and just stay in hotels/motels? I also saw you referenced some insurance issues with the RVs if one gets off paved roads…so that is interesting. And as a funny aside, last summer I remember we had to sign that we would not take the RV to the Death Valley!
    Thank you in advance for any help, and advice!

    1. Hi Ruxandra,
      What a beautiful name!
      Can your proposed Southwest U.S. RV trip be done? Yes, with some small caveats.
      So, I’m assuming that you are planning your trip for late March to coincide with Spring Break for your kids, yes? If that’s not the case, you might consider pushing your plans back to early April. Why? Because in late March, you may still be limited to renting a winterized RV. Not that that would ruin your vacation, per se, but you would be limited to just using your electrical hook-up and not your water or sewer to minimize the probability of these lines freezing should the nighttime temperatures dip down below zero. Believe it or not, that sort of thing can and does happen, even in late March, in the higher elevations, particularly Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. I am not 100% certain that you would be limited in this manner at the time you are traveling, but I would certainly check it out with your preferred RV rental outlet. CruiseAmerica is a popular one in the Southwest U.S.
      Should you get the all-clear to rent an RV in late March, you’ll be happy to know that most RV’s can be driven through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. Your vehicle would have to be over 13′ tall to be prohibited from passing through this tunnel; in fact the official NPS website for Zion depicts a standard-size RV exiting the tunnel, so that IMO says it all! You would have to pay the normal entrance fee, which, IIRC, is $30/vehicle, and good for one week’s time. You would also have to pay a $15 permit fee to have your vehicle escorted through the tunnel, each time you pass through. If that sounds expensive and a bit inconvenient, I get it, so you might consider leaving your RV parked in Springdale, UT (there are a number of fine RV parks to choose from in this area), and using the shuttle system to get around the park. Note that due to COVID-19, capacity on the Zion Canyon Shuttle was reduced, necessitating the implementation of an advance purchase ticket system.
      RE: the issue with where you can drive a rental RV, unpaved roads are a no-no, up there with driving to Death Valley, so if you’re interested in touring sites that require traveling on dirt roads to get to, such as Red Canyon/Peek-A-Boo Canyon, Wire Pass Canyon & Buckskin Gulch, White Pocket, Soap Creek, etc., you’ll want to arrange for a guide service to take you to these. Even if you were to forego the RV rental and opt for a standard passenger car, the same limitations would apply. That’s not to say that people don’t take rental cars down unpaved roads, but they do so at their own risk!
      Whether you ultimately decide to go the RV rental or rental car/hotel route, be sure you make reservations for all your lodging and guided tours well in advance. Now would not be too soon, people are chomping at the bit to get out and travel after all these lockdowns! If you do go the RV route, be sure you book stays in developed RV parks so you have access to electrical hook-ups and reliable heat. Even best case scenario, overnight lows will still get chilly, and sightseeing is no fun when you’re exhausted from shivering all night.
      I hope that covered all your questions! If not, feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  54. Hi Alley! Thank you in advance for your wise guidance! I am soaking up every single post. We are traveling from the east coast in and out of Las Vegas April 3-11th for a trip to Northern Arizona. We are a family of 5, with 13 yr old triplets. My best friend lives in Vegas and will pick us up, help us with supplies and give us a place to stay our first and last nights. We have rented a RV and have this as our tentative itinerary:
    Sat Apr 3 – land in LV @3pm, pick up RV, pick up supplies, stay in LV.
    Sun Apr 4 – drive to Zion, stay there – Canyon Overlook Trail
    Mon Apr 5 – more Zion, do The Narrows if conditions warrant, stay there
    Tues Apr 6 – drive to Bryce, maybe a Canyon trail ride, stay there
    Wed Apr 7 – drive to Page (3-5 hours depending on NN Covid restrictions), see Horseshow Bend/maybe Antelope Canyon if open, stay there
    Thur Apr 8 – drive to Grand Canyon National Park, stay Trailer Village (have reservations)
    Fri Apr 9 – more GCNP, stay at Trailer Village (already reserved)
    Sat Apr 10 – drive back to LV, stop at Hoover Dam, turn in RV by 5pm
    Sun April 11 – fly home out of LV

    Does this sound manageable? What am I missing or not thinking of? Any tips or tricks for these legs of the journey? Must see sights of places to eat along the way? I really want my kids to fall in love with the NPs, as my husband and I have! Would love your insights!! You are a treasure!

    1. Hi Margaret, and thanks for your nice compliments!
      Your itinerary looks pretty fun, and well-paced. One correction I do have to make is re: the leg of the trip from Bryce to Page, AZ, is not affected by the COVID-19 closures on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Therefore, that drive should take you ~3 hours, but I would highly recommend stopping off at the Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail on the way. That’s a fun and relatively easy hike to some cool rock formations! The trailhead is at mile marker 19 on US89, between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT.
      Where you could possibly be affected by Navajo Nation closures would be between Page, AZ, and the Grand Canyon. Normally, that drive runs ~3 hours, but due to the closure of a critical component of AZ64 from Cameron, AZ, to Desert View Point, it is currently necessary to drive all the way down to Flagstaff, AZ, then bounce back up to Grand Canyon South Rim via US180/AZ64 or I-40/AZ64. That has turned a 3-hour drive into more like 5 hours.
      Should the Antelope Canyons remain closed by the time your vacation rolls around, a good alternative would be Red Canyon/aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon, near Kanab, UT, ~70 minutes from Page. With twists and turns on par with the Antelope Canyons, this is a short but memorable walk offering up classic slot canyon scenery, and some unique geological features. While a guided tour is not required to get to Peek-A-Boo, we strongly recommend that you take one, because while the walk through the canyon itself is not difficult, the drive to get there is. It’s not something I’d recommend attempting in an RV, especially a rental. You would void your insurance the minute your tires part with the pavement, which means you’d be on the hook for a very expensive rescue, should you need one, and have to foot the bill for any damage you’d sustain. There are several reputable companies in Kanab, UT, that can get you to Peek-A-Boo Canyon, including:
      – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
      – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
      – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
      – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
      – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
      If you’d prefer something more rugged, Wire Pass Canyon is a photogenic two-part slot canyon that is short enough for intermediate-level hikers to enjoy, yet offers the option to delve further into Buckskin Gulch for those wanting more of a challenge. The walk to the entrance of the initial slot is via a typically dry streambed, which is usually full of deep sand. An 8-10’ drop a short distance into the slot canyon is one reason why Wire Pass Canyon may not be appropriate for those traveling with young children, the elderly, or individuals afraid of heights, but a makeshift ladder was recently placed there to make this obstacle more manageable. As the canyon walls become higher and closer together, they suddenly open up as the second slot connects with the Buckskin Gulch. If you’ve had enough at this point, you can simply turn around and head back to your vehicle. If you’d like to explore further, you can easily make a half-day hike out of the immediate area around the confluence with the Buckskin. Access to Wire Pass Canyon and the Buckskin Gulch is off US89 between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT, on the House Rock Valley Road. Hikers are required to pay a self-permitting fee at the kiosk by the trailhead. While the House Rock Valley Road is also unpaved, it is usually accessible to 2WD vehicles. However, if recent weather has brought any moisture whatsoever, the HRVR can turn into a muddy, impassable mess. Here again, a guided tour would get your family to Wire Pass Canyon and back in one piece, and turn you onto features you might have missed trying to find your own way. Companies offering guided tours to Wire Pass Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, and other areas include:
      – Detours American West, 480-633-9013, http://www.detoursamericanwest.com
      – Paria Outpost & Outfitters, 928-691-1047, http://www.paria.com
      – Grand Staircase Discovery Tours, 928-614-4099, http://www.grandstaircasediscoverytours.com
      On your way out of Las Vegas, you might also take the opportunity to make the short detour through the stunning Valley of Fire State Park, just Northeast of town! April is a nice time to be there since it’s not too terribly hot.
      Whatever you decide to do, be sure to reserve all guided tours in advance. Now would not be too soon to start making bookings. Also, be sure that you stay at developed RV parks so you can have access to reliable heat at night. In some of the parks you’ll be visiting, nights can still be chilly, plus early April is notorious for late-season snowstorms, as well.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy New Year!
      Alley 🙂

  55. Hi Alley!

    Planning a road trip to visit Zion and Grand Canyon NPs. We are seniors (high 60s; decent shape) and have never visited this part of the country. We’ll be starting in Spring Branch, TX (about 35 mi north of San Antonio). Being retired, we are looking at a trip of 10-14 days in the mid-April to mid May timeframe. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

    Dan

    1. Hey Dan!
      Having made the drive from Arizona to Texas a few times myself, using several different routes, I know it can be done in 2 days (each way). But, since you’re on vacation, you have the option to take it at a more relaxed pace by breaking it up into 3 days if desired.
      I don’t know how much exploring you may or may not have done in New Mexico, but you could drive as far as Roswell, NM, that first day (~8 hours drive), then head up to visit Chaco Culture National Historic Park (~5 hours from Roswell), then spend the night in Farmington, NM (1 hour and change from Chaco). From there, head to Page, AZ (~4 hours from Farmington), plan on spending 2 nights to visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon (if it’s open, we’re hoping and praying!), then head up to Bryce Canyon (~3 hours from Page) for 1 night, then go to Zion National Park for 2-3 nights.
      If AZ64 East from Desert View Point to Cameron, AZ, remains closed to through traffic at the time of your visit, then the drive from Zion to Grand Canyon South Rim could take as long as 6-7 hours. This is due to the current necessity for taking a rather long detour through Flagstaff, AZ, then bouncing back North to Grand Canyon Village via US180/AZ64 or I-40/AZ64. Should that stretch of road reopen, then the drive will be more along the lines of 4-5 hours.
      Spend the night at Grand Canyon South Rim, then I would recommend heading down to Sedona, AZ, for 2-3 nights, as a nice “chill” capper to your trip. From there, you can head down to Tucson, AZ, hop on I-10, which will take you most of the way home (maybe break up the drive in Deming or Las Cruces, NM)! Trip map
      Naturally, this isn’t the only possible route you could take, there’s all kinds of possibilities depending on your interests, how much driving you are willing (or not willing) to do in the course of a day, whether or not you’re remotely interested in visiting Las Vegas, NV, and other factors.
      If you would like to run any ideas by us, feel free to write in again!
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy New Year,
      Alley 🙂

  56. Yes! Soooooo inspiring. Thinking about doing this with my family of four. My kids (11 and 4) have never been out West at all so we definitely want to remedy that! My brother in law just did basically this same trip with his family so we believe it’s possible, now we just need to get our plan together.

    Do you mind if I ask what rental vehicle you guys chose? I’m looking at renting a camper van like this. They offer unlimited mileage and some amenities that would be really nice to have for such a long road trip. I figure if we can manage to avoid staying in a hotel the majority of the time the trip should cost less than renting a car and staying in a hotel and it should be cheaper than renting an RV. It will be cozy sleeping arrangements for sure but that’s just part of the memories, right?

    What do you think? Is it possible to approach it that way with a family of 4 or am I fooling myself?

    1. Hey Brian!
      First off, we don’t have a preferred RV rental company, but the name we tend to see all the time in this part of the U.S. is Cruise America. They have rental outlets in Phoenix, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV, the two most popular staging cities for Southwest U.S. vacations. By all means, though, shop around, and determine who can offer you the best deal and service.
      As for whether an RV vacation will be cheaper than a rental car/hotel approach, most visitors we talk to tend to report that it’s a “wash,” or “six of one/half-a-dozen of another.” What you might save on hotels will most likely be balanced out by fuel costs, which tend to be higher for larger motorhomes. Also, fees for RV park stays in some areas can, unbelievably, be comparable to staying in a hotel with less elbow room. But you are correct, the cozy sleeping arrangements are definitely part of the memories you’ll make.
      Where you can potentially save a good chunk of change is food costs. By not eating at restaurants 3 meals a day, you can avoid the financial and nutritional pitfalls that most families have to deal with. Another factor affecting the feasibility of your RV vacation is the time of year you plan to do it. If you’re planning on visiting during the late autumn-early spring time frame, you will have to travel in a winterized RV. That means, no hooking up to water or sewer. Also, you may find that many RV parks are closed at that time of year. Yes, there are free/undeveloped campsites all around, mostly on BLM land, but without an electrical hook-up, you may freeze at night. During the summer months, you’ll definitely want to seek out developed RV sites, especially in the low desert areas such as Page, AZ, Moab, UT, etc., where nighttime low temperatures remain quite warm. Reliable air conditioning can make all the difference between a pleasant stay and a sweltering nightmare.
      I hope that helps! If you have further questions, feel free to write in again. We’d be happy to have you bounce more ideas off us!
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy New Year,
      Alley 🙂

  57. My hubby and I will be doing R2R2R over 3 days in May! We are coming from the Midwest and haven’t been to this area of the country before. If we arrive near Arches NP on the night of Day 1, and need to be at the Grand Canyon North Rim on the afternoon/evening of Day 4… what itinerary do you suggest for Days 2-4?? So much to see, so little time!!

    1. Hi Jodi,
      You hit the nail on the head: “so much to see, so little time!” Still, you’re going to love the American Southwest, and your R2R2R will be an exciting way to cap off your trip! If your R2R2R involves camping overnight in the Inner Canyon, you must have a backcountry camping permit to do so, or reservations at Phantom Ranch. Hopefully you have those in order if you were planning to get some sleep anywhere below the North or South Rim.
      As for what route you take from Moab, UT, to Grand Canyon North Rim, the most direct route is to proceed South through Monument Valley and the Navajo Indian Reservation. That drive can actually be done in ~8 hours time, but can be extended to a 3-day drive in a number of ways. By swinging East into Colorado, for example, you could visit and stay overnight in Mesa Verde National Park, visit Monument Valley (with a possible detour through Four Corners), then overnight in Page, AZ, on Day 3 so you can visit Horseshoe Bend. The main deciding factor in the feasibility of that route will be whether the Navajo Nation decides to keep attractions on their lands closed to outsiders. They have done this to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among reservation residents, so while it is possible to drive through the reservation, they ask that non-reservation residents not stop and interact with tribe members. This means your vehicle should be fully fueled, and you should carry adequate water and snacks to tide your group over until you reach your next off-reservation destination. Mesa Verde and Page, AZ, are both off-reservation.
      Should you prefer not to cross the reservation for whatever reason, another route you could take would be visiting and overnighting in Capitol Reef National Park on Day 2 (no lodging is available in the park itself, you’d have to go to Torrey, Fruita, Cainesville, or Hanksville), Bryce Canyon on Day 3 (again, most available lodging is outside the park here), then Grand Canyon North Rim on Day 4. If you take us up on this suggestion, be sure you drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce via Scenic Byway 12. This is one of the most stunning highways in the Southwest, if not the whole USA, and you will have a great time! You can easily make a day of it with a hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls if you wish.
      Hope that helps! Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂
      P.S. By the way, I hope you have your Grand Canyon North Rim lodging or camping reservations in order. I heard that as of yesterday, demand for reservations at Grand Canyon Lodge was so overwhelming, it crashed the server at their central reservations office, so they are taking reservations on a “staggered” basis as follows:
      – Friday January 22nd, 2021, they will book May 15th through June 30th
      – Friday February 12th, 2021, they will book July 1st through July 31st
      – Friday March 12th, 2021, they will book August 1st through August 31st
      – Friday April 2nd, 2021, they will book September 1st through October 15th
      If you don’t already have reservations at the North Rim, you might want to book alternate lodging, such as the Kaibab Lodge, Jacob Lake Inn, or even Kanab, UT, just in case! Hotels at Grand Canyon North Rim & Vicinity

  58. Hi Alley,
    I am reposting this because I finally figured out how to start my own conversation without jumping in on someone else. (YEAH!) My boyfriend and I are heading to Arizona March 27-April 3rd and we would like to make the best use of my time. Can you suggest an itinerary. I have reservations at Sky Ranch lodge for the 27-30 (I’ve stayed there before). That is the only reservation I have so far. Below is the itinerary I’ve created (again, not sure if it’s making the best use of time including travel time) I would sincerely appreciate your suggestions.
    March 27-Arrive in Sedona by 9am Staying at Sky Ranch Lodge. Visit Chappel of Holy Cross, Hike Airport loop, sunset at Airport loop

    March 28-Hike Cathedral Rock (not sure what trail to take, I would like the most scenic) Would there be time to squeeze in another short hike in the area before sunset?

    March 29-More scenic hikes (any suggestions? I’ve already been to devils bridge, soldier pass and sliding rock)

    March 30 check out of Sky Ranch, drive to Flagstaff. We would like to get in one or two hikes here I’ve heard walnut canyon and Arizona snowball are good. We will drive to Page and stay the night (any lodging suggestions would be wonderful)

    March 31 Hike horseshoe bend I believe this is the one that you suggested the photo tour. in the evening drive to peach springs

    April 1 One day Grand Canyon Rafting Trip (Rivers and Oceans) Meeting place is Haulapai Lodge in Peach Springs 7am-7pm)

    April 2. Hike Grand Canyon (preferably without a guide)

    April 3rd Fly back to Michigan out of Phoenix.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Kris!
      Thanks for starting your own conversation on this thread. I took the liberty of deleting your first comment as a result.
      Your itinerary looks pretty fun, but IMO still warrants a couple of minor “reality checks.”
      In light of the fact that you’ve already spent time in Sedona, I would suggest reducing your stay there to just two nights. If you’re looking for another hike or activity to occupy any free time, I’m partial to the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. Easy, scenic hike, but may require walking through water, which may be uncomfortably cold at the time of year you’re visiting. While I don’t endorse day drinking per se, you might also consider going to a wine tasting at one of 15 local wineries. Wine Tastings in Sedona
      The one-day white water rafting trip is a blast, I’ve taken it myself and had a ball! One thing you must be aware of, however, is that Peach Springs, AZ, is located on the Western end of the Grand Canyon, which is Hualapai Indian Tribal Land, not the National Park. The Hualapai Tribe doesn’t allow “free-form” unguided hiking on their lands. You will do some good hiking on the raft trip, but if you want to experience “true” Grand Canyon hiking, then it’s necessary to go to Grand Canyon South Rim. That is the National Park, where the iconic, picture-postcard views can be had. The potential problem is that Grand Canyon South Rim is ~a 3-hour drive from Peach Springs, AZ. Depending on how you are pulled off the river, the raft trip can last anywhere from 12-15 hours. The reason for this is because normally, you are airlifted by helicopter off the river, but if it’s too windy, too hot, or other conditions dictate grounding of the helicopters, you’ll be motored all the way down to South Cove on Lake Mead and picked up by van or bus. That will add another 3-4 hours to your trip, pushing your arrival time back to 10:00-11:00 PM. I happened to take that very trip in early April myself, and that’s exactly what happened. Long story short: plan on spending the night before the trip and the night you return from the trip in Peach Springs. Even if the helicopter airlift goes off as planned, you don’t want to be caught driving to the South Rim after dark. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the U.S. due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, and other wildlife that elevates your risk of an accident. Trust me, that’s not something you want to risk in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service will be spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      You’d probably need to carve out another day to give yourself enough time to drive to Grand Canyon South Rim for some hiking. The drive back to Phoenix would be ~5 hours, so plan on spending the night either at Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan.
      For lodging in Page, AZ (for Horseshoe Bend, which doesn’t require a tour to visit), you’ll find hotels in a wide range of amenity classes and price points. The Hyatt Place hotel is one of the area’s newest properties and was recently featured on a YouTube video along with footage of the hike to Horseshoe Bend, the Hanging Gardens, and the Glen Canyon Dam Steel Arch Bridge. Forward to the 7:40 mark to go right to the hotel footage, but I’ll bet you’ll want to watch the whole video mainly because the little guy narrating is SO darn cute! Horseshoe Bend & Top Attractions Travel Guide in Page, Arizona
      Whatever you decide, be sure to reserve ALL hotels and guided tours in advance.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy New Year,
      Alley 🙂

  59. Hi,
    I stumbled across this on Google and am thoroughly impressed with all of your expertise on the southwest and the National Parks! I was wondering if you would be kind enough to offer some advice to an “east-coaster” who has never been to the southwest before, but is interested in a family trip out there. We were looking at 7 days around end of June timeframe. Arches, Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as must-sees and everything else being a bonus. My first question is do we start in Moab and end up in Vegas? Or start in Vegas and end in Moab. It is ALOT of driving and I don’t know if it was possible to fly from Moab to Sedona or somewhere that would have an airport close to Grand Canyon? Or if that’s even possible. We are very novice hikers to say the least. We only started this year due to Covid and not much else to do. However, we found out we liked it and my kids would be thrilled to see a National Park or two. I don’t know if 7 days is too aggressive and not enough time to do all three. Also Zion looked interesting but I heard the Narrows could be dangerous if you’re not experienced? With an 11 and 13 year old not sure if I want to chance it. They are adventurous, but I’d rather err on the side of safety. Any info. Would help. Thanks!

    1. Hi Rita and thanks for visiting our site, and your compliments!
      7 days is certainly enough time to see a lot of amazing scenery in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, but you might have to rein in your ambitions a bit if you don’t want to spend the majority of your days behind the wheel of a car.
      Most visitors to the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and other attractions in the Grand Circle use Las Vegas, NV, as their in and out points. It is possible to fly into Moab, UT, and out of Las Vegas, but might not be that practical: first off, the only scheduled airline service into and out of Moab, UT, is from Denver, CO. This means you’d have to deal with connecting flights and all the potential inconveniences that come with them, such as layovers that are too short or too long, the logistics of transferring bags (not sure of Skywest has a downline bag transfer agreement with other airlines), and the possibility that your flight into Moab, UT, might be cancelled due to inclement weather or not enough passengers traveling to make the flight profitable. Another thing to consider is cost; rental car outlets typically prefer that their vehicles be dropped in the same place they were picked up in. Otherwise, be prepared to pay a rather hefty drop-off fee for picking up a vehicle in location “A” and returning it to location “B.” The drive from Denver, CO, to Moab, UT, is ~ 6 hours. A better airport to fly into (our out of) might be Salt Lake City, which is ~4 hours from Moab.
      Unfortunately, there is no scheduled air service into Sedona, AZ, from anywhere. It’s only ~2 hours from Phoenix/Sky Harbor (PHX), so the town isn’t isolated enough to qualify for Essential Air Service. The closest airport to Grand Canyon South Rim is Flagstaff/Pulliam (FLG), which is ~90 minutes from the Grand Canyon. But here again, it may not be practical to fly into, because you’d have to connect through either Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) or Phoenix.
      And honestly, 7 days is not nearly enough time to accomplish all that you have on your wish list. You’re going to have to trim things down if you want this to be a vacation instead of a “death march”. As much as I hate to say it, I suggest taking Arches out of the equation this time around. For one, it’s a big swing out of your way if you want to visit Zion, Horseshoe Bend, the Grand Canyon, and/or Sedona. Plus, the weather in June is really hot, and the park tends to be super-crowded during the summer months. Not that Arches isn’t beautiful — it definitely is — but summer IMO is not a great time to be there. Late autumn/early winter is a different story.
      Using Las Vegas, NV, as your staging city, you could do something like this:
      Day 1 – Early arrival into Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park (~3-4 hours). Overnight in Springdale, UT or Kanab, UT
      Day 2 – Hike the Narrows — first-timers do this hike from the “bottom-up” approach all the time, including kids, and enjoy it. Before committing, read up on what you need to make it safe and enjoyable. For beginners, a “bottom-up” approach is best; the “top-down” approach requires a permit and is only recommended for fit, experienced hikers. You’ll also need specialized equipment, such as a waterproof backpack and a dry suit. Suggest you read Hiking The Narrows For Beginners before committing. If that looks like too much for your family to take on, don’t worry: there are TONS of beautiful and easy hikes in Zion. Spend 2nd night in Springdale or Kanab
      Day 3 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~90 minutes from Zion), sightseeing on the scenic loop drive around the canyon rim, overnight in Bryce Canyon Area Bryce Canyon One Day Itinerary
      Day 4 – Drive to Page, AZ, tour Antelope Canyon (if they’re open — they may still be closed due to COVID-19), overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 5 – Visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (normally, this is ~a 3-hour drive, but if the Navajo Reservation remains closed, you may have to take a detour through Flagstaff, which extends the drive to 5 hours… oh joy LOL), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 6 – Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona, AZ (~3 hours), do Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, overnight in Sedona
      Day 7 – Drive to Las Vegas (~5 hours) or Phoenix (~2 hours), fly home
      If taking Arches/Canyonlands off the table is a “non-starter,” then you would probably want to trade it out for Sedona. Either that, or see if you can extend your trip to ~10 days so you can experience some quality time.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to book all lodging and guided tours well in advance. You’ll need to keep a close eye on Antelope Canyon and if they happen to remain closed at the time of year you’re visiting, Red Canyon aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon in Kanab, UT, is your best alternative.
      I know that’s probably a lot to digest, so feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy New Year!
      Alley 🙂

  60. Hi Alley!

    Please excuse the length of this comment in advance… At 29yo, I have never commented on a forum, but I have to try this one. I hope it is still active since the last post seems to have been in October. I stumbled upon it in probably my 7th hour of planning and in my 17th opened tab, and I got both excited and frustrated. I work in hotels and I would imagine that even the concierge team would be extremely impressed with your planning. The itinerary looks so fun! The frustration came when I realized I may have to scrap all those hours of my planning because yours is so much better than mine!

    My boyfriend and I have been trying to plan a vacation for a while now, only for every plan to be foiled by covid, of course… so we decided international is off the table and are opting for a road trip to finally explore our own backyard! The kicker here though is that we only have 5 days!–a Wed-Sun in early/mid-Jan. Any chance you could help whittle your itinerary down to a very abbreviated version with just the absolute must-sees?

    Here is our [admittedly long] list of considerations:

    1. Just need to get this somewhat embarrassing, but relevant, truth out of the way: We are definitely not your typical road-trippers, but we want to give this adventure a go! … at a leisurely pace. He is even worse than I am and has already told me: No start times before sunrise. I would say our earliest start on any given day would be 8 AM.

    2. We are based in Beverly Hills, so I had been planning on heading to the Grand Canyon by way of Joshua Tree Natl Park and an overnight & maybe a morning hike in Sedona (unless you think we should get moving along). Important–albeit not surprising–note: We are novice hikers.

    3a. Destinations: The other places we know we want to see are Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon and Zion Natl Park & I figure Bryce Canyon, since we will be so close (though feel free to swap out Bryce if you think something else is better).
    3b. One of my drafted itineraries had us going all the way out to Monument Valley and Arches and even Four Corners, but then I read that Four Corners is closed and I think that loop might be too much of a detour for our tight schedule, so then I started looking more towards Grand Staircase Escalante Natl Monument and Capitol Reef… It seems every time I start swapping out a waypoint, two more places of interest pop up in its place and I am losing sight of what is worth it for so little time! I am starting to think perhaps we should bypass it all and just head straight from the slot canyons to Bryce & Zion to allow ourselves enough time to actually enjoy them.
    3c. I am ready to take in the desert landscapes in all their glory, but a good waterfall gets me every time… Are any of the falls a must-see?!

    4. I am 90% sure we will be doing a night in Amangiri. We actually both work in hotels, so we just can’t resist! Check-in time is 2 PM–I would just want to make sure we are there no later than 6/7 PM (though it would be nice to be there for sunset). Checkout time is 12 noon–realistically, would not leave earlier. I kind of wanted our last night to be here, but turns out the resort is located within just a half hour of Horseshoe Bend, so probably smarter to work it into that leg of the trip.

    What do you think?! Sorry–I know this is now a far stretch from the original amazing itinerary you crafted! As you can probably tell though, I am pretty lost here and getting pretty desperate for help. I don’t even know where to begin with all the passes & permits; tours vs solo-exploration; to hike or not to hike &, if to hike, then which trail to hike… Any words of advice at all would be so appreciated!

    Thank you so much! Hope to hear from you soon!

    All my best,
    Michelle

    1. Hey Michelle, how goes it?
      Yes, this thread is alive and kicking! No need to apologize for a lengthy inquiry, as you’ve probably seen, I’m the queen of long-winded responses, and my reply to you will be no different.
      I really appreciate your compliments on my trip planning ability, which comes from years of working in hotels myself. That’s why it pains me to have to tell you that your ambitions for this trip need to be tempered by a hefty dose of reality. Contrary to what you indicate, you are very similar to a lot of road trippers I encounter in my work who try to cram too many sights into too short a timeframe.
      The overarching concern in your case is that you’re traveling during the winter months. Weather will be cold; best case scenario is sunny and brisk, worst case scenario, all-out blizzard conditions, especially in the higher elevations such as the Grand Canyon and Bryce.
      Another top-of-mind factor should be daylength: in January, it’s short, with sunrise in Arizona and Utah occurring at around 7:30 AM, sunset taking place at approximately 5:30 AM. That’s 10-11 hours of daylight, and daylight hours is when 95% of your driving must take place. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the U.S. due to the fact that local roads are very dimly lit, and you might encounter deer, elk, or other wildlife, which can hike up your risk of an accident. That’s not something you want to chance in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, freezing cold, where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      In light of these concerns, as well as your very limited time, hopefully you can see why I can’t endorse your plan as it stands. For example, visiting Sedona as a “drive-by” on the way from Joshua Tree to Grand Canyon is not feasible. It takes ~3 hours to drive from BH to Joshua Tree. The drive from Joshua Tree, assuming you were to overnight somewhere nearby, to Sedona is ~6.5-7 hours. Even if you were to overnight somewhere closer to Sedona, it wouldn’t help much, because the drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim is ~3 hours. Trip map
      Besides, Sedona is the kind of place that really deserves 3-4 days minimum to fully enjoy and explore. People even report that they spend 5-7 days there and still feel as though they’d only “scratched the surface.” Long story short, skip Joshua Tree and Sedona this time around. Save these destinations for another trip when you can give them time to do them justice. As you aptly put, your best strategy is to “get a move on” and go directly from BH to Grand Canyon South Rim on that first night. It will still be about an 8-hour drive, so try to convince your BF that getting an early start on the day is in your best interest. If possible, stay overnight in the park or Tusayan so you can experience sunset at the South Rim! Grand Canyon hotels
      On Day 2, you can do a little sightseeing at the South Rim if you want, but then you need to get a move on to Page, AZ, to visit Horseshoe Bend. Here’s where I’ve got more bad news:
      1. The Antelope Canyons are presently closed by executive order of the Navajo Indian Tribe due to COVID-19. We are crossing fingers and toes that they reopen for 2021, but local rumor has it that the tribe plans to extend the closure into Spring of 2021. Should that happen, you’ll need to go with a “plan B” if you want to see a slot canyon. More on that in a minute…
      2. The drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page, AZ, normally takes ~3 hours, but due to COVID-19, an integral component of the shortest travel route, which passes through Navajo Indian Land, has been closed. This necessitates a rather long detour, back down through Flagstaff, AZ, then back up North via US89 to Page, AZ. This has turned a 3-hour drive into a 5-hour drive. If you want to hit Horseshoe Bend by sunset, I would advise leaving Grand Canyon South Rim no later than 11:30 AM-12:00 Noon. If it’s within your budget to stay at Amangiri, go for it, it’s a lovely property with the most beautiful pool I’ve ever seen! Unfortunately, it will be too cold for swimming at the time of year you’re visiting, but at least get some photos of it for your Instagram. Do note that Amangiri is located near the town of Big Water, UT, which is ~a 20-minute drive from Page, AZ. Overnight in Page, AZ If making it to Horseshoe Bend by sunset doesn’t work out on this day, you could also hit it at sunrise the following morning, but that would mean driving back to Page, AZ.
      On Day 3, forget about Monument Valley, Arches/Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, etc. For one, Monument Valley is on Navajo Land, therefore it’s closed and we expect it to remain closed for awhile longer than is advertised. The other parks are just too far out of your way (Arches/Canyonlands, ~6 hours from Page, Capitol Reef is ~5 hours, etc.), and as you can see, you’re on the third day of your trip already! Use this day, weather permitting, to visit Bryce Canyon. Bryce is ~a 3-hour drive from Page, AZ, and a very scenic one at that. A fun little stop along the way for “novice” hikers as you describe yourselves is the Paria RimRocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail. The trailhead is near mile marker 19 on US89 between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT. It’s a relatively easy hike, relatively flat most of the way, but if recent weather has brought any moisture, the trail may be turned to messy clay, so again, this one will be a “weather permitting” affair. If possible, overnight in the Bryce Canyon area, or Kanab, UT, if rooms in the immediate vicinity of the park area full.
      On Day 4, if the Antelope Canyons closure is indeed extended through January and further, a good alternative is Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon in Kanab, UT, which is on the way from Bryce Canyon to Zion. With twists and turns on par with the Antelope Canyons, this short but memorable walk features classic slot canyon scenery (including the occasional light beams in the summertime), as well as some unique features such as ancient “moqui” steps, and “Shaman’s Needle,” a pencil-thin stone column located in a small sub-drainage near the canyon’s entrance. While a guided tour is not required to get to Peek-A-Boo, we strongly recommend that you consider taking one, because while the walk through the canyon itself is usually not difficult, the drive to get there can be. Reputable tour companies who can help you get to Peek-A-Boo Canyon are:
      – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
      – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
      – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
      – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
      – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
      Tours of Red Canyon take approximately 4 hours. Take the first departure of the day if possible, so you can move on to Zion National Park in relatively short order. Here, I recommend you overnight in the town of Springdale, UT, on the Western border of the park. Zion is where you’re most likely to see some waterfalls, although, at the time of year you’re visiting, don’t be surprised if they’re dry. Another thing to be aware of is that for much of the year, a shuttle is required to access the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is the main sightseeing area of the park. During the winter months, private vehicles are usually allowed in this area, but that could change at the drop of a hat due to COVID-19. Should the shuttle be put back in service during the time of your visit, you’ll have to purchase tickets in advance of your arrival. For updates on this rather fluid situation, monitor NPS.gov: Zion Canyon Shuttle Tickets If by this point you’re thinking that sounds like a pain, it is, according to some friends of mind who recently visited. Fortunately, there’s quite a bit you can see just passing through the park on UT9, and frankly, that may be all you have time for.
      On Day 5, you’d be driving back to BH, which takes ~8 hours from Springdale, UT. If you could carve out an extra day to travel, you might break up that section of the trip with a night in Las Vegas.
      Trip map
      Back on the subject of Monument Valley: even though we do discourage people from driving through that area right now, there might still be a way to work it into your trip and that’s to fly over it. Fixed-wing airplanes depart daily (weather permitting, usually contingent on a certain number of people flying) from the Page, AZ, Municipal Airport. Monument Valley Air Tours run about 90 minutes in length and will show you many other sights on the way there, and back! Page-Monument Valley Air Tours
      Hope that helps. I know it’s a lot to digest! Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays!
      Alley 🙂

      1. Wow! Alley, I will be taking this back to review with my BF–we should be able to take it from here, after you have equipped us with everything we need to know, but, on that note–I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to give such a thorough response! While there were definitely stings of bad news and reality checks, I am so grateful for all of your words of warning and advice that we will definitely be heeding. We would have been lost… or worse… without this information!

        You took every word of mine into consideration–as a complete stranger–and I really appreciate that! If ever anyone asks me for guidance on southwestern desert adventures, I will know exactly who to point them to!

        Michelle

        1. Hey again, Michelle!
          Thank you so much for writing in and letting us know that our advice helped. I know that *ahem* youngsters like yourself may think that folks like us are being overly cautious fuddy-duddies but we’d rather see a vacation be a time for relaxation and discovery rather than a race against the clock to get to your next destination. I think you’ll find that once you get out here, virtually all the drives you’ll take are very scenic and you’ll find yourself stopping to take pictures more often than you realize!
          Hey speaking of which, if you take us up on the suggestion to break up the drive home in Las Vegas, you might take the opportunity to take the short detour to the stunning Valley of Fire State Park just Northeast of town. This area is amazingly beautiful and winter is the perfect time to visit since it’s not ghastly hot.
          If you haven’t done so already, make hotel and guided tour reservations ASAP. Even though January is considered off or shoulder season, it can still be busy, and room and seat inventory may remain reduced due to COVID-19.
          Have a great time, and if you get a minute when you return home, write in again and let us know how things went!
          Take care, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
          Alley 🙂

  61. Hi Alley,
    Thanks so much for sharing your travel experiences! I am planning a 17 day trip (Sep 4-20, 2021) and have followed your itinerary but added couple more stops. Would like to hear your feedback before booking for accommodation and also would like to know if i should squeeze in another stop at GC West Rim. Thanks

    Day 1 – fly into Las Vegas – overnight at Springdale for 3 nights, do Canyon overlook trail
    Day 2 – Zion (hike Angel Landing, and Kenara Falls if time permitted)
    Day 3 – Zion (The Narrow)
    Day 4 – Observation Point, drive to Bryce (overnight at Bryce for 2 nights)
    Day 5 – Bryce (hike The Figure 8)
    Day 6 – Bryce to Escalante Staircase, hike Peek-a-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch or Lower Calf Creek Falls. Overnight at Capital Reef
    Day 7 – Capital Reef (hike Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash Trail), drive to Moab, 3 nights at Moab
    Day 8 – Arches (hike Landscape Arch, Devil Garden and Delicate Arch)
    Day 9 – Canyonlands, visit Island in the Sky district (if time permitted, will visit Dead Horse Point)
    Day 10 – Monument Valley (Forrest Gum run), Goosenecks SP – overnight at Page (4 nights)
    Day 11 – The Lower Antelope Canyon, Horseshoes Bend, Lake Powell, boat tour (is it possible to do all of this in one day?)
    Day 12 – White Pocket and South Coyote Buttes with Dreamland Safari Tours
    Day 13 – GC North Rim
    Day 14 – GC South Rim, overnight at GC village (2 nights)
    Day 15 – GC South Rim
    Day 16 – Drive to Las Vegas, overnight
    Day 17 – fly home

    1. Hey Fran!
      Your itinerary looks really fun, I wouldn’t necessarily advise changing anything, but would suggest tempering your ambitions just a hair based on a few “reality checks.”
      You’re off to a great start spending 3 nights in Springdale, UT. However, when you say you intend to hike Angel’s Landing and then Kanarra Falls in the same day, that’s unlikely to happen. Angel’s Landing is considered the “Grand-Daddy” of all hikes in Zion (well, technically, it shares that title with The Narrows). It is quite difficult, even for those in good shape, so even though it may take you only half the day to complete, you’re bound to be pretty wiped out afterwards. Dimes to donuts say you’ll be in no mood to get in the car and make a ~2 hour round-trip drive to make yet another hike, no matter how beautiful it is. Best to set aside another day for this activity if you truly have your heart set on it. The most obvious candidate for swapping out a day would be Day 5 at Bryce Canyon. If you do the Kanarra Falls hike in the morning, you could still make it to Bryce that night since it’s only ~a 2 hour drive from there. Remember that the hike to Kanarra Falls does require a permit, which must be applied for in advance.
      On the trip to Capitol Reef, Calf Creek Falls would probably be a more practical stop-off than Spooky and Peek-A-Boo since it’s right off UT12 (a beautiful drive); access to Spooky and Peek-A-Boo is via the unpaved Hole in the Rock Road, which parties in rental cars are discouraged from traveling on.
      3 nights in Moab, UT– another good call there, you’ll be glad for the time, and probably wish you had more LOL You’ll probably want to try and do Delicate Arch first thing in the morning to take advantage of cooler temperatures and smaller crowds.
      When you get to Page, AZ, here again, you might be proposing to do too much in one day on Day 11. Lower Antelope and Horseshoe Bend are doable in a single day since they are relatively close to one another. As for a Lake Powell Boat Tour, you’ll only be able to manage something shorter if you do it the same day as Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope, such as a boat tour into the waterside of Antelope Canyon or maybe the Canyon Princess Dinner Cruise (one of my favorites!). If you were wanting to do a boat tour that gets you further uplake, namely to Rainbow Bridge, you’ll need a full day for that. If you’re interested in that, then you might do Lower Antelope Canyon on the way into Page, AZ, from Moab, UT. At the time of year you’re visiting — contingent on the Antelope Canyons reopening, of course — Antelope Canyon tours are offered fairly late in the afternoon. Then the following day, hit Horseshoe Bend right after sunrise, then head over to Lake Powell Resort to check in for the Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour. If you still wish to see Rainbow Bridge but don’t fancy spending all that time on a boat, it is possible to fly over it in a fixed-wing airplane or helicopter.
      White Pocket & South Coyote Buttes will be amazing, so keep that as it is! Ditto for the North Rim, at the time you’re proposing to visit, that’s typically when the autumn foliage is peaking, it’s amazing — I know, I’ve seen it many times 😉 I take it you’re proposing to visit Grand Canyon North Rim as a day trip from Page, AZ, which is doable at that time of year (I know, I’ve done it), but make sure that you’re timing the trip so that you’re doing all the driving during daylight hours. Nighttime driving is strongly discouraged in this part of the U.S. due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of large wildlife such as deer and elk, as well as free range livestock such as cattle and even wild horses. You don’t want to risk a collision with a large animal in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, possibly cold (nighttime temps can already dip down below freezing at the North Rim that time of year), where cell service is spotty, and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. In late September, sunrise occurs just before 6:30 AM and sunset takes place just after 6:00 PM. The drive from Page, AZ, to the North Rim is ~2.5 hours each way. Another option: after touring White Pocket and CBS, instead of going all the way back to Page, AZ, stay in Kanab, UT, for the next two nights. That will put you closer to the North Rim (~1.5 hours each way). The downside, it will tack more time onto the drive to the South Rim.
      Here is a very rough map of the trip from Springdale, UT, to Grand Canyon South Rim. Note that the drive to Grand Canyon South Rim is depicted as going down through Flagstaff, AZ, then back North via I-40/AZ64. This is necessary right now due to the closure of certain Navajo Indian Tribal Lands due to COVID-19. If the closure is lifted by the time you visit, you would drive South on US89 from Page, AZ (or Kanab, UT) to Cameron, AZ, then West on AZ64 to Grand Canyon Village. The normal drive time from Page, AZ to GC South Rim is ~3 hours. With the present detour in place, that has extended the trip time to 5 hours.
      RE: the Grand Canyon Skywalk , it’s a neat attraction, but IMO, the big drawing card to Grand Canyon West is the ability to helicopter down to the canyon floor to the Colorado River then back in a relatively short time. However, in light of all you’ll have seen and done by the time you’re ready to go back to Las Vegas, you might find it to be a bit of a let-down. If you do decide to include it, remember it’s in a relatively remote area. It takes ~4.5 hours to drive from GC South Rim to GC West, then another 2 hours and change to drive to Las Vegas (map of that section of the trip). There are no hotels in the immediate vicinity of Grand Canyon West save for a small guest ranch.
      I hope that helps — I know I’ve jumped around a bit with your itinerary and hope it all makes sense! Please don’t hesitate to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us. In the meantime, pray that the danger from COVID-19 passes by the time you get set to travel so you can experience everything on your wish list and then some!
      Take care and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi Alley,
        Thanks so much for providing such detailed feedback!!! It helps a lot.

        I will definitely skip GC West Rim, and perhaps will add one extra day if i still want to hike Kenarra Falls as I don’t see how i can do both Kenarra Falls and The Figure 8 at Bryce. As for Spooky and Peek-A-Boo, do you think a rental vehicles with 4 wheels and high clearance will do?

        1. Hey again, Fran!
          Good call on skipping GC West, and adding an extra day for Kanarra Falls.
          As for driving on HITRR in a rental vehicle, technically, as a member of the travel profession, I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do so. Only you can decide whether it’s worth the risk.
          In theory, you should be able to manage it in a 4WD vehicle with high clearance since the road is regularly graded. In reality, road conditions can change at the drop of a hat, plus you would void your insurance the moment your tires parted with the pavement. That would leave you personally on the hook for any damage you might incur. That isn’t to say that folks in rental cars don’t travel down that road and come back in one piece. Plenty of people chance it, with both good and bad outcomes. You can see get a detailed account and see some pictures of it on this blog post, TakeMyTrip.com: Hole In The Rock Road If for some reason you decide against it, there are guided excursions to this area offered by local tour companies. I myself have not taken any in this area, but one company that seems to be well-rated on TripAdvisor is Escape Goats Tours. For more information on what they offer, visit http://www.EscalanteCanyonGuides.com
          Hope that makes sense. Again, let’s keep talking if you feel the need to, you have a distinct advantage by planning your Grand Circle trip well in advance!
          Alley 🙂

  62. Hi Alley,

    I was planning a family trip mid-late December this year, and was hoping to get your insight. We will be with our dog and two kids, ages 6 and 2. Our plan is to see Zion/Bryce/Horseshoe Bend/Sedona/GC South Rim.

    We will be coming from LA, and was thinking of heading straight to Springdale unless you thought it was a bad idea with the shorter daylight hours. Otherwise, planning to overnight in LV, then Springdale where we would stay M-F to tour Zion, and hopefully do a day trip to Bryce if you thought it was doable? Also do you have any recommendations for any hot springs?

    Then stay in Page overnight to see Horseshoe Bend, and also break up the drive to Sedona. In Sedona, we were planning on visiting GC for a day trip from Sedona unless you thought it better to try to do on our way back to LA, and doing it as a day trip in our way to Vegas as a stop over, or overnight.

    Please let me know your thoughts or best routes to take. Appreciate your time and advice!

    Kindly
    Carleen

    1. Hi Carleen!
      In mid- to late-December, you are indeed dealing with shorter days, and you want to be sure any and all driving is done during daylight hours once you arrive here. Also, it is best to keep your drives short, especially with two little ones in tow.
      The drive from LA to Springdale, factoring in traffic, bathroom breaks, meal stops, etc., would probably take you ~8 hours if you attempted to make it in one trip. That doesn’t sound like fun! Therefore, I would agree with breaking up the drive in Las Vegas (~4.5-5 hours from LA). Springdale, UT, would then be a further 3 hour drive or thereabouts.
      As for visiting Bryce Canyon as a day trip out of Springdale, it’s doable in theory. The drive from Springdale, UT, to Bryce is ~2 hours, one way. Sunrise occurs just after 7:30 AM and sunset takes place at around 5:15 AM at that time of year, so that’s less than 10 hours of daylight that you have to work with. 4 hours of your day is eaten up by driving, so that leaves you less than 6 hours of sightseeing time at Bryce. Since Bryce is a small park square mileage-wise, that should be enough time to have a fulfilling visit and get back to Springdale, UT, by nightfall. The factor most likely to throw a kink into your plans is weather: at 8,000′ ASL, Bryce can get a lot of snow, which will necessitate exercising more care while driving in the area. On rare occasions, snowfall can close roads in the area. Should that happen during your visit, you might want to save Bryce for another trip during warmer weather.
      As for hot springs in the area, you won’t find any super-close by Zion. Unfortunately, the lovely Pah Tempeh hot springs were taken out of commission by the Washington County Water District about 10 years ago. But you might enjoy the trip to the Veyo Pool & Climbing Resort near St. George, Utah. That’s an hour and change drive from Springdale, and is a family-friendly facility (I’ve never been there, so am going off what other sites describe it as). For other suggestions, visit SUU.edu: “10 Hot Springs Near Cedar City”
      Visiting Grand Canyon South Rim as a day trip from Sedona, AZ, again, not that great an idea at the time of year you’re visiting, not only because of the potential for inclement weather, but the fact that the drive is ~3 hours, one way. Ditto for a “pop-by” between Sedona and Las Vegas, it’s a 3 hour drive from Sedona, then ~4.5-5 hours from Grand Canyon South Rim to Las Vegas. So that’s at least 8 hours of driving when you have less than 10 hours of daylight to work with. Doing the back end of the drive to Las Vegas after sunset isn’t that bad, that section of the highway is fairly well-lit, but still, with a 6 YO and 2 YO, I wouldn’t want to spend that much time on the road! Better to schedule at least one overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim, then make the drive to LAS when everyone’s rested.
      Hope that helps – good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

  63. Hi Alley ~
    Your article is so informative. The Covid situation resulted in my husband and I retiring last week (from the same company – airline). We need a “regroup” time and decided a two week (we’re flexible on the time frame bcuz we’re retired) tour of the Southwest Grand Circle area would be an amazing setting. We will be flying into Vegas on Monday (10/12). Is your original Itinerary still a good framework for travel right now? We definitely want to do some hiking (5-8 miles, mild to moderate, daily max) but we don’t want to wear ourselves out. We don’t want to need a vacation when we get home.haha We love wine tours, immersing in local communties, good conversations over good food, unique experiences. We aren’t huge “main attraction” people but want to experience the area hi lights. We don’t need the fanciest of hotels but appreciate unique accommodations. We’re both pretty exhausted and planning the trip is feeling a bit overwhelming so we were super excited when we saw your article. Any input you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Kathy and thank you for your compliments.
      So sorry to hear that you and your husband were forced to cut your airline careers shorter than you might have wanted due to this mess. Also apologize for the delay in response to your inquiry, it sounds like you’re already here, so hope you’re able to read this!
      A couple of components of this itinerary that will require some modification are Monument Valley and the Antelope Canyons. These attractions, along with the Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly, and the Little Colorado River Overlook, are on Navajo Indian Reservation Lands, which, by order of the Navajo Tribe are closed to the public until the end of 2020. Since you kinda-sorta have to pass through Monument Valley on the way from Moab, Utah, to Page, AZ, you can at least say that you saw it, and maybe even pose for a very quick selfie at Forrest Gump Point. Otherwise, plan on making it as direct a drive as you can, fuel up your car, pack a few snacks with you so you don’t have to stop for meals on reservation lands, etc. The trip from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, typically takes ~6 hours. Plan on stopping at the Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park — it’s like two Horseshoe Bends rolled into one!
      Although the Antelope Canyons out of the equation, touring a slot canyon needn’t be dropped from your wish list. There are several slot canyons not restricted by the closures of Navajo Indian Tribal Lands that you can still visit. You guys sound like you’re relatively fit and enjoy hiking, so I’ll begin by recommending Wire Pass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch. Wire Pass Canyon is a photogenic two-part slot canyon that is short enough for intermediate-level hikers to enjoy, yet offers the option to delve further into Buckskin Gulch for those wanting more of a challenge. The walk to the entrance of the initial slot is via a typically dry streambed, which is usually composed of deep sand. An 8-10’ drop a short distance into the slot canyon is one reason why Wire Pass Canyon may not be appropriate for those traveling with young children, the elderly, or individuals afraid of heights. As the canyon walls become higher and closer together, they suddenly open up as the second slot connects with the Buckskin Gulch. If you’ve had enough at this point, you can simply turn around and head back to your vehicle. If you’d like to explore further, you can easily make a half-day hike out of the immediate area around the confluence with the Buckskin. Look for some bighorn sheep petroglyphs dating back hundreds, maybe thousands of years! Access to Wire Pass Canyon and the Buckskin Gulch is off US89 between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT, on the House Rock Valley Road. Hikers are required to pay a self-permitting fee at the kiosk by the trailhead. Fair warning: the House Rock Valley Road is unpaved! While it is accessible to 2WD vehicles much of the time, if recent weather has brought any moisture whatsoever, the HRVR can turn into a muddy, impassable mess. Parties in rented vehicles, even those equipped with 4WD, should think twice about attempting this road since off-road driving is strictly prohibited by most rental car companies. A guided tour will get your family to Wire Pass Canyon and back in one piece, and turn you onto features you might have missed trying to find your own way. Local companies offering guided tours to Wire Pass Canyon and the Buckskin Gulch include:
      – Detours American West, 480-633-9013, http://www.detoursamericanwest.com
      – Paria Outpost & Outfitters, 928-691-1047, http://www.paria.com
      – Grand Staircase Discovery Tours, 928-614-4099, http://www.grandstaircasediscoverytours.com
      If for some reason that canyon doesn’t appeal, you’d probably enjoy Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Located between Kanab and Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah, approximately 90 minutes from Page, AZ, Red Canyon offers twists and turns on par with the Antelope Canyons in a short but memorable walk featuring classic slot canyon scenery (including the occasional light beams in the summertime), as well as some unique features such as ancient “moqui” steps, and “Shaman’s Needle,” a pencil-thin stone column located in a small sub-drainage near the canyon’s entrance. While a guided tour is not required to get to Peek-A-Boo, we strongly recommend that you consider taking one, because while the hike through the canyon itself is usually not difficult, the drive to get there can be. 4WD vehicles with adequate clearance are a definite must, with tire pressure lowered to accommodate potentially deep sand. Even then, people still get stuck out there. Again, if you’re driving a rental car, forget it! You will void your insurance the minute your tires part with the pavement, which means you’d be on the hook for a very expensive rescue, should you need one, and have to foot the bill for any damage you’d sustain. Explore Peek-A-Boo in the safety and comfort of a guided tour with one of several reputable companies in Kanab, UT, including:
      – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
      – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
      – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
      – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
      – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
      If you like wine tasting, you can enjoy this activity in Moab, UT (believe it or not!), but you’ll find more of these types of opportunities in Sedona, AZ. I don’t know if that’s on your itinerary, but it definitely warrants a few days of your time, not only for wine tasting, but its amazing scenery and ample selection of fun activities. Sedona Winery Tours
      One last thing: I hope your hotels are already booked and that you’re not planning to just “wing it.” Even with COVID-19 putting a damper on peoples’ enthusiasm for travel, the Grand Circle Area has still been busy. With some hotels reducing their room inventory to facilitate extra sanitation measures, that means fewer units will be available to the traveling public. With most cities and towns being 2-3 hours drive from the next one, that’s not a situation you want to run up against when you’re tired from hiking and weary from the road!
      Good luck and safe travels, and if you get a minute when you get home, let us know how things went!
      Take care,
      Alley 🙂

  64. Alley, this article is amazing! And just seeing some of your replies to folks is making me even more excited for my trip.

    I am planning a solo trip flying into Vegas October 31st and out on November 15th giving me ~15 nights total. I was originally thinking about renting a campervan but with some of what I’ve read on potential weather / conditions in higher elevations such as bryce, I don’t know how practical that would be. If not, I plan to rent a car from Vegas to make a loop of the mighty 5, monument valley, and the grand canyon (potentially the hoover dam as well).

    Any recommendations on shifting the above itenerary for this time of year and/or covid closings?

    And am I correct in thinking the campervan might not be practical? I really appreciate any advice you can give me!

    1. Hi Garrett, and thanks for your compliments!
      The time of year you’re visiting is a nice time, but it’s in that transitional zone between fall and winter. Therefore, I would advise against renting an RV, especially for the parks in higher elevations, such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. It’s not uncommon for those parks to see their first snowfall around mid-November, and at 8,000′ ASL, Bryce can really get hammered. What this winter will shake out to be like is too soon to call, but knowing 2020, it will probably be hellacious just because it’s 2020! LOL
      If for some reason you really really really want to go the camper van or RV route, plan on staying at developed RV parks. Even if the weather is just sunny but brisk, you’ll want to have access to reliable heat at night when temperatures dip down around or below freezing. But then again, a lot of parks close at that time of year, so you would probably be better off renting a car and going the traditional hotel/motel route. You might be able to score some good deals seeing though the time period you’re traveling is considered shoulder season.
      RE: Monument Valley, technically, the Tribal Park is closed right now. Should that remain the case at the time of year you’re visiting, you can still get good views, including world-famous Forrest Gump Point, just driving through the area on US163. Or, if you’d like to experience an off-road tour of the area, Goulding’s Lodge has managed to remain open and are still offering tours, albeit on modified routes.
      As for Hoover Dam, you can easily see it on the way from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim. Unfortunately, the Visitors Center is closed right now and they’re not doing any tours. If that remains the case at the time you arrive, you can get a good bird’s eye view of it via the Pat Tillman/Mike O’Callaghan Bridge.
      Hope that helps! Don’t hesitate to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi Alley!

        I am planning a trip to the Grand Canyon area for September/October 2021. My husband and I will be driving out from Virginia in Suburban or 4×4 Pickup. We have as much time as needed to see and do everything, 3-4 + weeks. The only work around is October 6-7. We won the lottery for the Phantom Ghost Ranch in the bottom of GC. Please help! I love staying at historic NP lodges or anywhere that’s different not just plane motel. I want to see everything there is to see and do all the fun activities; hiking, whitewater rafting, ATVs/Side by Sides, boat tours, etc. would love to whitewater raft and camp on river. If there are hard to get reservations that I can start booking or have a heads up on when can start booking or lotteries I need to enter. Thank you

        1. Hi Amie,
          Please please please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re teetering on the brink of overthinking this trip. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE to see folks plan their Grand Canyon vacations well in advance like you are, but here’s the thing: you’ve already scored the “Holy Grail” of American Southwest vacation experiences, which is the trip to Phantom Ranch. What’s more, you’re visiting the area at the best time of the year. That by itself is worth doing the happy dance over!
          I don’t recall reading how you’re going to get to Phantom Ranch, by the way — by mule or hiking? In either case, that activity is going to take a lot out of you. Trust me, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon, and gone to the bottom by mule, and don’t ask me why, but the mule trip always left me more worn out than hiking! Even if you’re in good physical condition, you’ll be grateful for a few days to recover. I doubt you’d be ready to head right off for another labor-intensive trip such as a white water raft trip. The thing I’d want to do right after a trip to Phantom Ranch is chill, maybe get a massage, relax in a jacuzzi, enjoy a nice dinner, you get the picture… and the perfect place for that type of activity is Sedona, AZ. Therefore, I’d recommend planning for 3-4 days in Sedona after your Phantom Ranch trip to wind down in style. You’ll find a wide variety of hotels in Sedona, AZ, to suit your needs, some of them vintage, but oddly enough, none of them (that I could find anyway) are listed on the National Historic Places register.
          I wouldn’t sweat that too much in Sedona, AZ, since there are other historic hotels to be enjoyed in the Southwest, and your first priority at this point should be to book accommodations at the El Tovar Hotel at Grand Canyon South Rim. You’ll want to have lodging booked for the night before your trip to Phantom Ranch, and for the night you get back to the rim.
          Other historic/vintage hotels along this itinerary are:
          Goulding’s Lodge, Monument Valley, AZ
          Apache Motel, Moab, UT
          Bryce Canyon Lodge, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
          Zion Lodge, Zion National Park, UT
          Should you find these hotels booked up, you can still find historic/vintage lodging in the gateway communities nearby, such as Kanab, UT, Springdale, UT, Torrey, UT, etc.
          For boat tours and ATV/4×4 tours, the area around Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT, is chock-a-block with these kinds of opportunities! The best boat tour to take IMO is the Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour on Lake Powell. This is an all-day commitment due to the distance involved, and may require up to a 3-mile round-trip hike depending on the water level of Lake Powell. Right now, these tours are suspended due to COVID-19. Crossing fingers and toes that that won’t be the case when you get set to travel. At any rate, the Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour is offered exclusively by ARAMARK/Lake Powell Resorts. For ATV/4×4 tours, check out Epic Adventure Rides, Alstrom Point Tours, or Kanab Tour Company.
          So let’s get back to the subject of Grand Canyon white water rafting: motorized commercial trips in Grand Canyon National Park “proper” wrap up in early September. After that, you are limited to non-motorized trips by dory, oar boat, kayak, etc., which means, you need to commit to more time, along the lines of 7-10 days. What’s more, these trip offerings are few and far between. If you’re still interested, Rivers & Oceans in Flagstaff, AZ, can help you narrow down a trip that fits your schedule. If you don’t have that kind of time, yet still want to experience a white water raft trip with camping, I’d suggest doing this activity in Moab, UT. You’d still be on the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon, or the Green River in Westwater Canyon. Here again, Rivers & Oceans can steer you in the right direction. The Moab Adventure Center can hook you up as well.
          Hope that helps! Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

          1. Hey Alley!

            Thank you for the great response! You really know this area well and are a wealth of information. Looking at a map of the Grand Circle, I think driving out from Virginia, we would start at Arches and go clockwise, on to Moab, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Monument Valley. After that I am not sure where to go next in order to not backtrack too much( South Rim, Paige, North Rim and on to Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef) ??? Oh no, I forgot Sedona! Need help with the order This is all I have so far: Bright Angel Lodge, 10/6 Phantom Ranch on Mules, 10/7 El Tovar Hotel 10/8). I would like to stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge-North Rim one night before it closes in mid-October.

            Also, if time is not an issue, how many days/nights would you comfortably allow for each area?

            Thank you for any and all help! Amie

          2. Hi again, Amie!
            Glad my input has helped so far.
            Here’s an update: The Navajo Tribe recently arrived at the decision to close all attractions situated on reservation lands, including the Antelope Canyons, until the end of 2020 🙁 We’re crossing fingers and toes that this situation will have been resolved by the time you visit, but in the event it isn’t, be prepared to take Four Corners off the table, and reduce Monument Valley to just a “drive through.”
            Should COVID-19 continue to be a problem, lodging at the North Rim may be difficult to impossible to come by. This year, the in-park hotel reduced room inventory by 50%, and other properties in the area don’t have much to work with in the first place. Even if you don’t physically stay there, however, you might still be able to work it in. More on that in a minute…
            In light of the fact that you guys are driving out here from Virginia (and I assume driving back?), I’d recommend modifying your itinerary thus to avoid backtracking (numbers indicate order of stops, not number of days):
            1 – Make Mesa Verde your first stop, overnight in Durango, or Cortez, CO (2 days)
            2 – Go to Monument Valley: if you cannot overnight there (1 day), you can visit as a “pop-by” en route to Moab, UT
            3 – Moab, Utah — hopefully you can spend at least 3 days in that area?
            4 – Go to Capitol Reef, overnight in Torrey, Fruita, Caineville, or Hanksville, UT (1 night), or here again, you can visit on the way from Moab, UT, to Bryce Canyon (1 night)
            5 – Go to Bryce Canyon, overnight in that area (1 night)
            6 – Go to Zion, spend at least 2-3 nights in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
            7 – Go to Grand Canyon North Rim, spend the night, or visit as a day trip from Kanab or Page, AZ
            8 – Drive to Page, AZ for 2 nights — if Antelope Canyons are closed, tour Red Canyon/Peek-A-Boo in Kanab, UT, on the way
            9 – Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim — again, this is normally a 3-hour drive, but if problems with COVID-19 persist, that will turn into a 5-hour trek due to the detour through Flagstaff, spend 1-2 nights
            10 – Drive to Sedona, spend 2-3 nights
            Map of the trip
            If going to Grand Canyon North Rim doesn’t work out as an overnight stop, or a day trip from Kanab, UT, or Page, AZ, you can fly over it from Grand Canyon South Rim in a fixed-wing airplane or helicopter. Flights will not land at the North Rim, but will spend enough time above it to give you a sense of how different it is from the South Rim. Grand Canyon helicopter tours and airplane tours
            Driving out from Virginia, plan on coming West via I-70 through Louisville, KY, St. Louis, MO, and Kansas City, KS, to Mesa Verde. From Sedona, you can then hop on I-40 through New Mexico and Oklahoma, and Nashville, TN. That way, you don’t do any backtracking whatsoever!
            Take care and Happy Halloween 😉
            Alley

          3. Thank you Alley!

            This is great help. I really hope COVID is a thing of the past a year from now. I will start booking what I can.

            Happy Halloween to you too!

            Amie

          4. Hi Amie,
            Crossing fingers and toes that by next year, we’ll be saying COVID-who?
            Take care and safe travels,
            Alley 🙂

  65. Hi! I am planning a 14 day trip and am following your itinerary (but out of LA) starting this weekend, Sept 19. I am on the East Coast and trying to keep an eye on the west coast fires/smoke. Are you physically located in Utah? I have an air quality app that shows all the areas of the itinerary as “green” at the moment, but I’m wondering if over the next week it will worsen. Do you have any insight or local knowledge as to the expectations there? Thank you for any input.

    1. Hi Danyel,
      This is an excellent question. Unfortunately, I don’t have any insight into what the future holds for the Page, AZ, with regard to smoke/haze accumulation. As you can see from this recent article on LakePowellLife.com, local visibility and air quality can and does get affected by smoke from distant fires. What the future holds will depend on prevailing winds, and what progress is made in fighting the fires.
      My advice would be to continue monitoring your air quality app. I’ve also found http://www.FireWeatherAvalanche.org to be useful for updates on active wildfires.
      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. I hope your trip goes well!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  66. Hi,
    You provide such a wealth of travel information on your website, thanks so much for sharing. I’m looking for recommendations for an up-coming trip I’m planning for the first of November. I like your Grand Circle tour, but we will only have 9 nights/10 days. I’d like to hit all 5 National Parks in Utah, Horseshoe Bend, and possibly some Area of the Grand Canyon. We are active vacationers so we don’t mind being on the go when on vacation. We visited the South Rim last year, but may have travelers with us that haven’t been so I thought we could Either hit the North or West to at least give them a glimpse of the GC. Although I read, the North Rim closes mid October, so not sure that’s an option and the West is technically not part of the National Park So our Annual Pass would not be valid. Thoughts on which GC area to add or should we just leave out for time constraints?

    I know it may cost more to fly in one city and out another regarding rental car fees, but would this be an option to minimize travel time to maximize sight-seeing time? I’d like to cram in as much as I can to maximize our time while there. Or can the circle still be done in the timeframe that we have? Thanks in advance for your recommendations or insight you may have.

    1. Dear Lissa,
      First thing’s first: thank you for the compliments 🙂
      Second thing’s second: the 4-1-1 on Grand Canyon North Rim. Although visitor facilities such as restaurants, hotels, visitors centers, etc., close on October 18th this year, there is a possibility that you could still visit the park as a day trip from someplace else, such as Kanab, UT (~90 minutes away, 1 way), Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry (also ~90 minutes away, 1 way), or Page, AZ (~2.5 hours away, 1 way). As long as the weather holds out, meaning, no significant snowfall, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) will keep the road from Jacob Lake into the park (AZ67) open. Once a big snowstorm hits, however, the gates will slam shut and that’s all she wrote. When exactly that will occur in 2020 is anybody’s guess; living in Northern Arizona for ~25 years, I’ve seen the park gates close pretty much in tandem with the concessions, other times, I’ve seen it close as late as mid-December. If the road should happen to be open when you visit, again, a day trip is possible. Fill up the gas tank, pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water, bring a jacket (it will be cooler), and keep an eye on the time. You won’t have much daylight to work with at that time of year: sunrise occurs at around 7:00 AM and sunset takes place just after 5:00 PM. You want to be sure to do any and all driving during daylight hours in this part of the U.S., especially around the North Rim. Not only are the roads narrow and dimly lit, but they are populated by large animals such as deer, elk, free range cattle, and the occasional wild horse. You don’t want to risk a collision with one in an area that’s pitch black, freezing cold (nighttime lows at the North Rim can dip into the 20’s in November), where cell service is spotty, and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
      Regarding the West Rim, formally known as Grand Canyon West, it’s neat, within easy access of Las Vegas (~2.5 hour drive, one-way) and definitely has its own unique drawing cards, namely the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the ability to helicopter to the bottom of the canyon. Still, you won’t experience those quintessential, picture-postcard views that the National Park offers, and no, your National Park Pass would not work since it’s a Native American Tribal Park.
      Long story short, I’d recommend planning to hit the South Rim, especially if you have first-timers with you. If you have the option (and the budget) to fly into and/or out of a secondary airport, this could help you squeeze out a bit more sightseeing time and shave a few hours off your drive times. In light of that, here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1: Fly into Flagstaff, AZ (FLG), drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~90 minutes), overnight at the Grand Canyon
      Day 2: Drive to Page, AZ (~3.5-5.5 hours) **drive time dependendent on the status of AZ64 from Desert View Point to Cameron — due to COVID-19, it is currently closed, necessitating that you detour back through Flagstaff, then continue North on US89**, visit Horseshoe Bend either that afternoon or first thing the next morning, overnight in Page, AZ.
      Day 3: Drive to Zion National Park (~2 hours), do some hiking, overnight in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
      Day 4: 2nd day/night in Zion National Park area
      Day 5: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours from Kanab, 3 from Springdale), take Scenic Rim Drive overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 6: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~3.5 hours) via Scenic Byway 12, overnight in Torrey, Fruita, Cainesville, or Hanksville Capitol Reef Lodging
      Day 7: Drive to Moab, UT (~3.5 hours), explore Arches National Park, overnight in Moab
      Day 8: Explore Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 9: Drive to Grand Junction, CO (~2 hours), maybe pop in and visit Colorado National Monument, overnight in Grand Junction
      Day 10: Fly home from Grand Junction, CO (GJT)
      Map of proposed route
      Now, I can’t vouch for the feasibility of all that cost-wise, or whether you’ll be able to pick up a rental car in Flag (that’s what we call Flagstaff, AZ, around here) and dropping it off in Grand Junction. If for some reason doing that proves cost-prohibitive (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did), you could modify this itinerary using Salt Lake City (SLC) as your staging city, perhaps stay an additional day in Kanab, UT, or Page, AZ, so you could make that day trip to the North Rim. In the event the road into the park was closed by the time you arrived, you might think about chartering a plane or helicopter out of Page or Kanab and flying over it. Yes, that’d be pricey, but you’d see a ton of amazing scenery in addition to the Grand Canyon in the process!
      Naturally, you’ll need to verify the feasibility of all this should COVID-19 still be in play at the time of your visit.
      Hope that helps. Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce other ideas off us!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley,
        This is a great plan you have mapped out for me, thanks so much for all the details and suggestions. In checking out flight options it looks like Flagstaff would not be an option for us to fly into, but I figured we could fly into Phoenix instead (this was our best option last time) and Grand Junction isn’t a good option to fly out of either. Could you give me some recommendations on the pros and cons of the following arrival/departure options with the itinerary that you have mapped out? Looking to minimize driving time, while maximizing sight-seeing time.

        1) Fly Into Phoenix, hitting the Grand Canyon, then head to Page, then on to Moab to start the Utah NP tour going North to South, flying out of Las Vegas. (OR this could be in reverse, flying into Vegas out of Phoenix).
        2) Flying roundtrip to Vegas…kind of your original circle tour, but cutting out the Eastern part of Utah.
        3. Or other roundtrip options into Phoenix or Salt Lake City, like the circle from Vegas?
        4) Flying into Phoenix out of Salt Lake City (or Reverse), however, with this route the car rental is terribly expensive as I’ve already checked it.

        Also, I’ve seen that through the end of October is a good time to visit Utah’s National Parks. We will be traveling Nov 6-15th. Should this still be a good time to visit or are we getting too close to the winter season to be able to enjoy the sites?

        Melissa

        1. Hi again, Melissa!
          Frankly, I’m not surprised to hear that the FLG-GJT (Flag to Grand Junction) route won’t be practical. As a general rule, it’s best to fly out of the same airport you fly into, especially where rental cars are concerned. Due to the long distances between major cities in the American Southwest, rental car outlets tend to impose a hefty surcharge for dropping vehicles off anywhere other than where you picked them up from.
          In our experience, Las Vegas tends to be the best airport to use as your staging city. Not only do folks tend to find the most competitive airfares in and out of LAS, but it’s well-situated to do a “circle” tour of the Southwest, whether you include the Eastern Utah parks or not.
          As for the long drives, they’re pretty much unavoidable out here, but don’t worry too much about that: most drives out here are very scenic and will definitely present a myriad of sightseeing opportunities, both planned and unexpected!
          Early November can be kind of a crapshoot weatherwise, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from traveling. Most of the time, you’ll encounter days that are sunny but cool. At higher elevations, however, such as Bryce Canyon (8,000′ ASL) and the Grand Canyon (7,000′ ASL), you might encounter snow. Of course it’s too soon to call, but start monitoring the weather about 2 weeks before you get set to travel. That will give you the best indication of what to expect, and how to pack. Regardless, plan on bringing at least a jacket and some gloves just in case.
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

      2. Alley,

        Your recommendations look priceless. Planning a trip with my elder mother whose quit the adventurous type. What are your thoughts on the following:
        Day 1 – Fly into Salt Lake City and Spend Night
        Day 2 – Drive to Moab (4-hours)
        Day 2 – 3 – 4 in Moab (spend night in Under Canvas)
        (day trip one day to Arches National Park)
        Day 5 – Drive to Monument Valley (6 hours)
        Day 6 – Drive to Lake Powell (5.5 hour drive)
        Day 6 – 7- 8 in Lake Powell (spend night in Under Canvas)
        (day trip to Horsehoe Bend + Antelope Canyon)
        Day 8 – Drive to Amangiri Hotel
        Day 9 – Drive to Vegas or Phoenix (4.5 – 5 hours)
        Day 10 – Fly Home

        Thank you!

        1. Hi Katya,
          Thank you for your nice compliments!
          Assuming your trip plan is quite far into the future — as in next year — your itinerary looks really fun, and perfectly paced. I just wish I knew what season you were planning this for. If you’re thinking about the summer months, I’d say forget Under Canvas, especially in Page, AZ. Summer nights are still hot, making camping very uncomfortable. If you’re traveling during the spring or fall months, then nighttime temperatures dip down low enough to make it pleasant.
          In the event the Navajo Nation Parks such as Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley do not reopen, you’ll need to think of some “Plan B” options. Monument Valley can still be toured, albeit on a limited basis, because Goulding’s Lodge has managed to remain open. Although tours do not go into the backcountry at the present time, you can still have an enjoyable experience with what is accessible. As for the Antelope Canyons, the best alternative for a family like yourselves would be Red Canyon aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon near Kanab, Utah. With twists and turns on par with the Antelope Canyons, this short but memorable walk features classic slot canyon scenery (including the occasional light beams in the summertime), as well as some unique features such as ancient “moqui” steps, and “Shaman’s Needle,” a pencil-thin stone column located in a small sub-drainage near the canyon’s entrance. While a guided tour is not required to get to Peek-A-Boo, we recommend that you take one anyway. While the hike through the canyon itself is usually not difficult, the drive to get there can be. 4WD vehicles with adequate clearance are a definite must, with tire pressure lowered to accommodate potentially deep sand. Even then, people still get stuck. If you’re driving a rental car, forget it! You will void your insurance the minute your tires part with the pavement, which means you’d be on the hook for a very expensive rescue, should you need one, and have to foot the bill for any damage you’d sustain. To explore Peek-A-Boo in safety and comfort, contact any one of these reputable tour companies to choose from in Kanab, UT:
          – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
          – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
          – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
          – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
          – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
          One thing that’s really jumping out at me, though, is that the Grand Canyon is conspicuously absent from your itinerary. If you’ve never been there, this would be the perfect opportunity to cross it off the bucket list! The South Rim is most recommended for first-time visitors as it is more “user-friendly” than the North or West Rims. It has more hotels, restaurants, visitor services, etc. You could easily hit it on the way to Las Vegas by dropping a night in Page, AZ.
          Hope that helps. Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us!
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  67. Hi Ally,

    A friend and I were looking at making a week trip to visit the following in September (7 days sat – sat):
    -Grand Canyon ( don’t really know which part to check out)
    -Zion ( Angle’s landing, The narrows , the subway)
    -Horse shoe bend ( half day hike just for the view)
    -Antelope canyon ( if it’s open by September, can we just go for half a day right after the horse shoe bend? do we need a tour or can we hike ourselves?)
    -Bryce

    we are looking to camp in the national parks ( where can we book the sites and any specific sites recommended for the hikes)

    Feel free to suggest any other places to visit, we are open to recommendations.

    It would be amazing if you can help us out.

    1. Hi Karl,
      Assuming you are using Las Vegas as your staging city, I would recommend checking out Grand Canyon North Rim. Although lodging in that area is scant, you could still pull it off as a day trip from Kanab, UT (~90 minutes 1 way) or Page, AZ (2.5 hours one way). You just need to keep a close eye on the time at the end of the day. Nighttime driving is discouraged in this part of the U.S. due to local roads being very dimly lit, and the possible presence of deer, elk, free range cattle, feral horses and other wildlife. These factors ratchet up your chance of an auto accident in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service is spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming not to mention VERY expensive. Sunset at the time of year you’re visiting takes place at ~6:45 PM. Another issue potentially complicating things is that Arizona is on Mountain STANDARD Time, but Utah is on Mountain DAYLIGHT Time. Therefore, Utah will be one hour “ahead” of Arizona. Be sure you factor that into when you start driving back to base. So, if you’re staying somewhere in the Kanab, UT, area, and have your phone or car clock set by Utah time, you’ll need to start the drive back by 6:15 PM. If your watch/clocks/phone are on AZ time, 5:15 PM at the latest is when you need to start the drive back to Kanab.
      Speaking of Kanab, UT, I recommend you base yourself there for a few days to visit Bryce and Zion since it’s centrally located to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It is also conveniently located for visiting Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon if need be. In Zion, you may not be able to hike the Narrows because of a toxic algae bloom that has occurred there recently. If hiking is permitted, you’ll need to ensure that you don’t submerge your head in the water. If for some reason the Narrows (which includes the Subway) is ruled out, there are many good hikes you can still take part in, including Angel’s Landing.
      Regarding Antelope Canyon, it is a short distance away from Horseshoe Bend, but you cannot simply ‘hike there by yourself.’ These attractions are situated on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands, so if they are reopened by the time you visit, you absolutely will be required to go with a guided tour. How To Book A Tour For Antelope Canyon In the likely event the Antelope Canyon remain closed at the time of your visit, good alternates in the area are Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon, near Kanab, UT, and Wire Pass Canyon/Buckskin Gulch, near Paria, UT. Although guided tours are not required to visit these slot canyons, they are strongly recommended due to the access roads being unpaved, and the possibility of getting your vehicle stuck if you’re not used to driving in such conditions. For more information on tour operators that cover these areas, check out Help! My Antelope Canyon Tour Got Cancelled
      As for camping within the National Parks, it doesn’t matter what I recommend at this point, it matters what’s available. The majority of in-park campgrounds are managed by http://www.Recreation.gov Since your visit is occurring close to the Labor Day weekend holiday, and sites may be reduced in number due to COVID-19, don’t be surprised if you find many campgrounds are already full. If that’s the case, look to commercial campgrounds in Kanab, UT, or camping and RV options Page, AZ (many RV parks offer tent sites).
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  68. I’d like to do a horseback trail ride in either Zion, Bryce or Moab, which place would you recommend?

    1. Hey Kristen!
      OMG, a horseback ride in any one of the three places would be awesome.
      I know that Canyon Trail Rides offers excursions in both Zion and Bryce, as well as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In Moab, there are several companies offering different trips, including a nighttime ride, which sounds incredibly cool. To narrow down your search there, I’d recommend visiting the website of Moab Adventure Center.
      Long story short, do a little research, pick one that fits your timeframe and budget and be prepared to be blown away. It’s kinda hard to go wrong here 😉
      As with everything, be sure to verify that all attractions on your itinerary are open and operating, whether full-scale or on a limited basis, due to COVID-19.
      Have fun!
      Alley 🙂

  69. This is so amazing! I would love some insight on planning an itinerary if you’d be willing to help. We will be coming from Mesa and staying in Page from 8/15-8/18 and again from 8/21-8/30. We will be working a lot of the days, but will have 3 weekends and some days for day trips and don’t mind driving back and forth. Also, we are trying to decide on a place to stay from 8/18-8/21. What’s the best path or thoughts for our time? We’d love to hit as many big spots as possible, we do not need to hit the Grand Canyon, and I am having a hard time understanding what is completely closed down or what we can still hike/tour/see due to COVID19. I think it’s amazing all the information you put together. I have got seen some really good ideas already, but would love any additional insight. That you for all you do on this site!

    1. Hi Laura,
      As you’ve probably discovered, Page, AZ, makes for a good “base camp” from which to explore the numerous attractions in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah! As you’ve also seen, however, a lot of stuff is closed down due to COVID-19, namely, popular attractions situated on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands. These include, but aren’t limited to, the Antelope Canyons, Monument Valley, Four Corners National Monument, and the Little Colorado River Overlook. Fortunately, there are several beautiful slot canyons near Page, AZ, that are still open for business, and you should definitely plan on visiting. We are partial to Red Canyon aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon near Kanab, UT, for its visual comparability to Upper Antelope, and family-friendly terrain. For more suggestions, check out this piece on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ: “Help! My Antelope Canyon Tour Got Cancelled” While in Kanab, UT, you might also take the time to visit Moqui Caves, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, or Pipe Springs National Monument. Things To Do Kanab, Utah
      Another popular activity that has been placed on hiatus due to COVID-19 is the Horseshoe Bend Rafting Trip. However, a good alternative to that would be to drive down to Lees Ferry (~1 hour from Page, AZ), rent a kayak, then take a backhaul boat to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam. You could then paddle the 15 miles down the Colorado River back to Lees Ferry, where you would return your kayak and end your day, perhaps with a hike to the Lonely Dell Ranch Historic District and dinner at Cliff Dweller’s Lodge? Their restaurant is one of the best-kept culinary secrets in the American Southwest! For more information on the kayak/backhaul trip through Horseshoe Bend, visit http://www.KayakHorseshoeBend.com
      While Monument Valley is “technically” closed due to COVID-19, there’s still a way you might get to see part of it, which leads me to where I would suggest you spend 08/18-08/21: Moab, Utah. If you’ve never been before, it’s a stunning area, within easy access of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point, the Goosenecks of the San Juan, just to name a few. The drive from Page, AZ, to Moab, UT, takes ~5-6 hours and take you right past Monument Valley, including world-famous Forrest Gump Point. While you’re in Moab, UT, you could take a white water rafting trip on the Colorado River, a 4×4 tour up the Devil’s Backbone, or a wine tasting in Castle Valley… Moab has no shortage of fun things to do! Another possibility is you could stay 2 nights in Moab, then drive back to Page, AZ, taking the “long way around” via Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Bryce Canyon. That would extend the drive time to 8-9 hours, but it would be an unforgettable day, especially if you go via Scenic Byway 12, one of the most incredible drives in the American Southwest.
      Hope that gives you some good ideas! Feel free to write again if you’d like to bounce other possibilities off us.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  70. You are a wealth of knowledge and I would love and appreciate your advice if you don’t mind. I’ve never been to these NP’s. I’m flying into Vegas next Tuesday, 8/4 at 9:45am. Then thinking about driving out of the way to Red Rock Canyon (do you think it’s worth it to go out of the way?) Then driving to Hoover Dam and then to Grand Canyon where we’ll stay for 2 nights: 8/4-6. I have a bike tour booked for the morning of 8/5. We’ll leave Grand Canyon sometime 8/6 (curious what you recommend) and drive to Lake Powell and stay 1 night 8/6. I know Antelope Canyon is closed but I figured we could still see Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. We’ll then drive to Zion and stay 2 nights, 8/7-9. Or do you recommend we see Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell on the way from Grand Canyon to Zion and don’t spend the night there but spend 3 nights in Zion? There are a lot of lakes where we live, do we skip Lake Powell altogether and just see Horseshoe Bend? After Zion, we’ll drive to Bryce and stay 1 night, 8/9. After this, is where I’d especially like your input. From Bryce I’d like to go to Capitol Reef NP and then Arches. I currently have accommodation booked for 1 night in Moab 8/10 but I’m thinking I should extend it to at least 2 nights. I want to whitewater raft one day in Moab. After Arches, we’d like to see Canyonlands. We will then drive to CO. We have a place to stay in Georgetown, CO as long as we want. We want to visit Rocky Mtn NP and we’ll fly out of Denver. I’d love to know if you think this sounds like a good plan. If we should add nights anywhere, take night away from Lake Powell, etc. Thank you so, so much!!!

    1. Hi Kristen,
      Your itinerary looks pretty fun as is, nevertheless, I’d recommend making a few modifications.
      On your arrival day into Las Vegas, your plane may indeed land at 9:45 AM, but there’s still the issue of collecting checked bags and getting your rental car. Depending on how things go, you’re potentially looking at another 60-90 minutes at the airport before you even get out of town. For this and other reasons, I would discourage making the drive to Red Rock Canyon. Although it’s a relatively short trip, and is a beautiful area, it pales in comparison to Grand Canyon South Rim. Besides, it’s super hot there this time of year; it is the desert after all! If your plane lands on time, and you’re not delayed too much by logistics at the airport, swing by Hoover Dam, then be on your way to the Grand Canyon. Maybe catch a later showing of the IMAX movie, “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets,” then be on the rim for sunsest. That way you’ll be nice and rested for your bike tour the next day.
      On 08/06, leave Grand Canyon South Rim as early as possible. You’re going to have to take a bit of a detour due to the partial closure of the main route to Page, AZ. The section of AZ64 from Desert View Point to Cameron, which is along the shortest and most logical route to Page, AZ, has been closed by order of the Navajo Tribe due to COVID-19, so you’ll have to go all the way back to Flagstaff, AZ, then take US89 North to Lake Powell. That turns what would normally be a 2.5-3 hour drive into a 4-5.5 hour drive. Spend the afternoon at Lake Powell, maybe at the Wahweap Swim Beach or Antelope Point Marina (Glen Canyon NRA entrance fee required). Even though you are from an area with numerous lakes, IMO, there’s nothing quite like Lake Powell! Stay in Page, AZ, then hit Horseshoe Bend right after sunrise the next day to take advantage of cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. Although the Antelope Canyons are indeed closed, on the way to Zion, you might make a stop in Kanab, UT, and tour Red Canyon aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon. It’s a beautiful slot canyon, comparable to Upper Antelope in terms of its visual complexity and ease of walking.
      Two nights in Zion is a good duration for an introductory visit. The drive to Moab, UT, via Capitol Reef will take you the better part of a day, at least 7 hours. If at all possible, try to go to Capitol Reef via Scenic Byway 12, that’s one of the most stunning drives in the Southwest US! If that long of a drive doesn’t appeal, you might consider staying overnight in Torrey or Hanksville, UT on 08/10. Whatever you decide regarding Capitol Reef, Moab, UT, definitely warrants more time, especially if you want to do a Cataract Canyon white water trip! Trip lengths range from half-days and up. Even if you were to take a shorter trip, though, you should still set aside time to explore Arches, Canyonlands, and maybe Castle Valley. Try to rearrange your trip so that you give yourself 2-3 nights in Moab. Lots of folks report staying 5-7 days out there and steel feeling as though they’d only touched the tip of the iceberg!
      At the conclusion of your trip, the drive to Georgetown, CO, will take about 5 hours according to Google Maps. The route takes you through Grand Junction, CO, which is also a pretty area with lots to see and do, so you might want to get an early start out of Moab to take advantage of whatever opportunities might appeal to you there.
      A couple of things before I move on to the next commentor: I hope all your hotels are booked. Your trip, after all, is right around the corner, and due to COVID-19, many hotels are limiting occupancy to promote social distancing and more thorough sanitizing. Don’t go anywhere without reservations! Make sure any activities such as guided tours that you are interested in are also up and running for this reason, and make advance reservations for these as well. Some states have mask mandates, others don’t, so at least bring a mask or face covering in case you are asked to wear it at any point on your trip. Plan to buy an America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. For $80, this card grants you access to all National Parks, Monuments, and Federal Fee Areas in the US. It will pay for itself on this trip alone. Just pick it up at the Grand Canyon, since that is the first National Park you’ll hit on your tour.
      So I hope that helps. I wish you good luck and safe travels, and if you have a minute when you get home, write in again and let me know how things went!
      Take care,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley, you are an Angel. Thank you so much for taking your time to provide me so much helpful feedback. I’ll take your advice and skip Red Rock Canyon. I really appreciate the advance notice that the drive from Grand Canyon to Page will be almost double what I was expecting due to the partial closure of the main route to Page, AZ. After Zion, we are going to stay the night at Bryce Canyon and then 2 nights in Moab. (I do have all of our accommodations booked already: 2 nights Grand Canyon, 1 night Page, 2 nights Zion, 1 night Bryce and 2 nights Moab). After Bryce I definitely want to see Capitol Reef and do the 8 mile scenic drive. Is that best to do after Bryce on our way to Moab? We definitely want to see Arches and Canyonlands. Do you recommend we see Canyonlands while we’re staying in Moab? Or see Canyonlands on our way out of Moab on our way to Colorado? Thank you again, so much!

        1. Hi again, Kristen!
          Yes, Capitol Reef is ideally situated between Bryce and Moab. Map
          You should definitely plan on visiting Arches and Canyonlands while in Moab, UT, they’re both beautiful. Both parks are within fairly easy access of Moab, but Arches would probably be the most convenient to visit on your way out of town to Colorado. Map
          Have a great trip!
          Alley 🙂

  71. Love your passion and information on these itineraries!
    I’m looking for another shorter time frame recommendation though, taking in coronavirus closings and also hoping to travel shortly, next month? Do you have suggestions for an active family of 5, (young adult kids), who try to push time limits, and only have a maximum of 10 days including flights in and out? We’re leaning towards LAS, from your suggestions. We did South Rim, Bryce and Zion when kids were too little to remember (they can’t even remember The Narrows in Zion, which we all thought was awesome!). The other parks, only I have done when I was a kid. Antelope Canyon is on my bucket list, but doesn’t look obtainable during Coronavirus. Angel’s Landing at Zion shows “closed” currently also. Trying to maximize number of parks visited and strenuous trails hiked, maybe squeeze in a white water rafting somewhere, and have drive time be most efficient route? I tend to over plan time, so I’m looking for your recommendations. You seem to have a great grasp of canyon reality! (We’ll have to try for the Wave some future time!) Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Leslie!
      In light of the fact that your trip is just around the corner, and that some closures due to COVID-19 will have an impact on what’s open and what isn’t, you will no doubt have to be make some adjustments to your expectations on this trip. Normally, I’d just refer you to this piece on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ: The Ultimate 7-Day in Northern AZ & Southern UT, but some of that information is no longer valid or realistic due to current conditions.
      So seeing as though you’ll have 10 days, and that 2 of them might be dedicated to travel, that leaves you with 8 days to work with. If a white water rafting trip is on the wish list, obviously a 1-day trip is going to eat up the least amount of time in an already tight schedule, and the place I’d suggest you do this is Moab, UT. White water rafting on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon is a ton of fun, and trip lengths from 1/2-day to full-day and 2-days are available. For more information on these and other adventures in the Moab, UT, area, visit http://www.MoabAdventureCenter.com
      Depending on hotel availability, and most peoples’ preference for doing the longer drives at the beginning of their tour, I’d plan on hitting Moab, UT, first since it’s ~a 7.5 hour drive from Las Vegas. If you want to shorten that, you might consider flying into and/or out of Salt Lake City, UT. That would whittle the drive time down to ~4.5 hours, and open up the option to put Moab, UT, last on the itinerary. Map of proposed itinerary using SLC as staging city
      Assuming you keep Las Vegas as your fly in/out point, here’s what I’d suggest:
      Day 1 – Fly to Las Vegas, overnight in Las Vegas
      Day 2 – Drive from Las Vegas to Moab, UT (~7-7.5 hours), overnight in Moab, UT
      Day 3 – White water rafting in Moab, 2nd night in Moab, UT
      Day 4 – Drive to Bryce Canyon with stopover at Capitol Reef National Park (~6-7 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon, UT, area
      Day 5 – Explore Bryce Canyon area, drive to Kanab, UT, to stay the night (~90 minute drive)
      Day 6 – Tour Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon (~3 hours, or do it the day before), drive to Zion National Park (~1 hour from Kanab, UT), return to Kanab, UT, for the night ***according to NPS.gov, Angel’s Landing is open, but the shuttle to the trailhead requires advance reservations and there’s an algae bloom in the Virgin River which doesn’t make The Narrows particularly appealing either; I’d recommend considering other hikes that are just as beautiful with easier access Zion Canyon Trail Descriptions, besides, I have a suggestion for another cool hike, more on that in a minute*** back to Kanab, UT for the night
      Day 7 – Day trip to Grand Canyon North Rim (~90 minutes each way from Kanab, UT) — be sure you time this trip so that you’re not doing any of the driving at night! Deer, elk, and other wildlife like to congregate on the roads at night, which hikes up your risk of an accident in an area with very little cell service and a very expensive towing fee. Sunrise (Kanab, UT, time) occurs shortly after 7:00 AM, sunset occurs around 7:30 PM. At the time of year you’re visiting, Arizona is 1 hour behind Utah, so keep that in mind at all times! Back to Kanab, UT for the night
      Day 8 – Hike Kanarra Falls, 1.5 hours from Kanab, UT — advance permits required! To reserve, visit http://www.KanarraFalls.com/tickets, overnight in Cedar City, UT (~30 minutes from Kanarraville)
      Day 9 – Drive back to Las Vegas (~3 hours from Cedar City), or SLC (~4 hours from Cedar City)
      Day 10 – Fly home
      Map LAS – Moab – Bryce – Kanab – Zion – GC North – Kanarra Falls
      You are correct in that The Wave is highly unlikely to happen this time around, but then again, you might use one of your mornings in Kanab, UT, to try your luck at the walk-in lottery the day before you potentially wish to hike! Right now, it’s taking place at the local gym, but could revert to its usual location by the time you get ready to travel. Wave Walk-In Lottery Resumes
      Hope that helps. Be sure you book all your hotels ASAP as many properties have reduced available inventory to promote social distancing and more in-depth hygiene measures.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thank you, so much!
        Never heard of Kanarra Falls, (I’d never heard of the Wave previously either, and it looks awesome!) and you have some other ideas for us to consider too! So you’d skip Canyonlands and Arches, given our time frame?
        Thanks!

        1. Hey Leslie,
          Arches and Canyonlands are amazing, but in light of your limited timeframe, you’d have to sacrifice a day and/or activity somewhere to fit it in. The white water rafting would be the first and most obvious choice, but understand not the most desirable. I know it’s a hard decision! Good luck choosing,
          Alley 🙂

  72. Thank you for providing so many alternate itineraries. Can you help me with another variation. We are planning a trip in mid September. We will fly into Grand Junction on a Saturday and leave from Grand Junction three Sundays later, giving us fourteen days (in addition to our travel days) to see the sights. We have visited the South Rim so would instead like to see the North Rim. Any suggestions will be much appreciated. Jim

    1. Hi Jim!
      Using Grand Junction, CO, as your staging city, you can have a great 2-week vacation! Since it’s right around the corner, you need to get started on booking hotels ASAP since many are limiting capacity due to COVID-19. The one place you are most likely to have trouble is Grand Canyon North Rim: they have taken 60-70% of rooms out of inventory at the Grand Canyon Lodge, and alternatives are few and far between in that area. You may have to visit as a day trip, but, with careful planning and an eye on the time, it can be done. More on that in a minute.
      Here’s what I’d suggest:
      Day 1 – Drive from Grand Junction, CO to Durango, CO (~4 hour drive), 1st of 3 nights in Durango
      Day 2 – Take Durango/Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad tour
      Day 3 – Day trip to Mesa Verde National Park (~90 minute drive each way from Durango), 3rd night in Durango
      Day 4 – Drive to Page, AZ, ~5 hour drive; if you wish, you can drive through Monument Valley. Although tours of the park are closed, you can get good views just driving through the area. Visit Horseshoe Bend, then overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 5 – If you weren’t able to hit Horseshoe Bend the day before, visit the overlook at sunrise, which occurs just after 6:00 AM in September (allow 90 minutes to 2 hours), then drive to Grand Canyon North Rim (~2.5 hour drive). Book 2-3 nights lodging in Kanab, UT, ~90 minute drive from Grand Canyon North Rim. Be sure to leave Grand Canyon North Rim no later than 5:00 PM local time! You must be certain that you do any and all driving in this area during daylight hours due to deer, elk, and other wildlife that tend to congregate near the roads at night. Also, Utah will be one hour ahead of Arizona at the time you’re traveling, so you have to factor that in as well.
      Day 6 – Tour Red Canyon/aka Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, Moqui Cave, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Coral Pink Sand Dunes and other attractions near Kanab, UT; 2nd night in Kanab.
      Day 7 – Day Trip to Zion National Park (~1 hour drive from Kanab) — to access Zion Canyon, you must ride the shuttle, which is free, but requires advance reservations. If you don’t want to mess with that, there are still good hikes and activities you can do. Again, time your drive back to Kanab, UT (~1 hour) so that you’re doing it before sunset. 3rd night in Kanab.
      Day 8 – Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park (~2 hours), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 9 – Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (~2.5 hour drive), overnight in Torrey, Fruita, or Hanksville, UT.
      Day 10 – Drive to Moab, UT (~3 hour drive), book 3 nights in Moab, UT
      Day 11 – Explore Arches National Park
      Day 12 – Explore Canyonlands National Park
      Day 13 – Drive back to Grand Junction, CO (~2.5 hour drive)
      Map of above itinerary
      For each park, be sure to verify whether some areas and/or facilities are closed before assuming you’ll be able to access them. Book all hotels, guided tours, dinner reservations (where required or suggested) in advance. You might also invest in an America The Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. For $80, this card grants you access to all National Parks, Monuments, and Federal Fee Areas for one year’s time. It will more than pay for itself on this trip alone! Just pick it up at the first National Park Fee Station you hit on your itinerary.
      Hope that helps. Feel free to write in again if you need further feedback!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  73. Hi. Love your advice for visitors to Utah’s parks and the Grand Canyon area.
    Is a 14 day Grand Loop itinerary beginning and ending in Salt Lake City out of the question? Does it make sense in terms of time and best scenery? Relatives in Salt Lake wanting us to begin and end there but we’re not convinced.
    Thanks for any help you can give.

    1. Hey Rebecca,
      Pardon my French, but hell yeah, you absolutely can do a fabulous 14-day loop itinerary using Salt Lake City as your start and end point!
      If you wanted to hit the attractions on this list, you could. Or, you could do something totally different and tour the many amazing National Parks, Monuments, and State Parks in Wyoming and Idaho. The choice literally is yours!
      If you wanted to stick to the itinerary prescribed in this article, or something close to it, here’s what I would recommend:
      Day 1 – Drive from Salt Lake City to Moab, UT, ~4.5 hours driving direct, or, get an early start and visit Goblin Valley State Park along the way, 1st night in Moab, UT Moab, UT, hotels
      Day 2 – Explore Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, 2nd night in Moab, UT
      Day 3 – Explore Arches National Park and Castle Valley area, 3rd night in Moab, UT
      Day 4 – Drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ (~5.5 hours going direct); possible stops include but aren’t limited to Goosenecks State Park and Monument Valley**, overnight in Page, AZ hotel
      Day 5 – Visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, tour Antelope Canyon**, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 6 – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5-4.5 hours depending on routing**), overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim hotel
      Day 8 – 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon South Rim
      Day 9 – Drive to Zion National Park via Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry (~5 hours driving direct), possible stopover: Lees Ferry/Lonely Dell Ranch , Pipe Spring National Monument , overnight in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
      Day 10 – Explore Zion National Park — lots of hikes you can do in this area, appropriate for virtually all fitness levels, take your pick of cool stuff to see and do! 2nd night in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
      Day 11 – 2nd day/night in Zion — it’s a huge park, so you’ll be glad for the extra time!
      Day 12 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2.5 hours via most direct route), possible stopover in Duck Creek Village, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 13 – Spend 2nd day/night in Bryce Canyon, or drive back to SLC (~4 hours)
      You’ll note that some attractions and routing are marked with a “**.” This is because the Navajo Indian Reservation has closed off many attractions and popular tour routes due to the situation with COVID-19. Monument Valley and the Antelope Canyons are examples of this. If these have not reopened by the time you get set to travel, you might substitute Valley of the Gods for Monument Valley, but only if you have a 4WD vehicle with adequate clearance to navigate the unpaved roads in this area! If the Antelope Canyons have not reopened by the time you visit, a good substitution for it would be Red Canyon aka Peek-A-Boo Canyon near Kanab, UT. For optimal convenience, you would probably want to move that to your travel day between Zion and Bryce. While a guided tour is not required to visit Red/Peek-A-Boo, they are strongly recommended as the road out there is very tricky. Reputable companies that can get you out to Peek-A-Boo in safety and comfort are:
      – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
      – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
      – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
      – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
      – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
      Hope that helps. Click here for a map of the proposed route Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us, or to let us know how your trip ultimately went!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  74. Hi! Your itineraries are so good! I wanted to see if you had any feedback on someone coming from Austin. We want to include Big Bend in our trip but I’m struggling to find a good trip route that makes sense. We know we have more driving and we only have a week and a half so want to make the absolute most of it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Danielle, and thank you for your compliments!
      Having family in Austin, TX, I’ve made the drive from Page, AZ, a few times myself, but have yet had the pleasure of visiting Big Bend National Park. If you were to make the trip via the most straightforward route, via Lubbock, TX, and Albuquerque, NM, you can break up the drive into 2 days. We typically stop in Clovis, NM, as we also have family there.
      If you were to add a stop in Big Bend, that would add at least another day of driving onto the trip. It would take you ~8-9 hours to drive from Austin, TX, to Big Bend. Since there is only one hotel inside the park, which is probably booked in advance, you’d have to stay somewhere outside the park. What with the drive time, and the proximity of lodging to the park, that first day is basically spent traveling, which means no time for exploring or sightseeing. If you were to spend the next morning (~4-5 hours) looking around the park, you could then make it as far as Las Cruces, NM, in ~7 hours and overnight there. The drive to Page, AZ, the next day would then take ~9-10 hours; or you could stop at Albuquerque, NM, to break up the drive. All told, that’s 3-4 days spent driving out, and at least 2 days driving back, so there you have 5-6 days already “spoken for.” That doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy Northern Arizona at all!
      Another consideration is when are you planning on making this trip? If it’s during the summer months, Big Bend gets SUPER hot. The park has already been under high heat warnings for several days time. Personally, if your trip is coming up within the next few weeks’ time, I’d say save Big Bend for another trip, and this time around, visit Carlsbad Caverns. It wouldn’t be that far out of your way, and with careful planning (and a tolerance for long drives) you could still make it to Page, AZ, in 2 days, although breaking the drive up into 3 days with a stopover in Albququerque, NM, would definitely make it easier on you! Map
      Once in Page, AZ, you should plan on spending at least 2 days to visit Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell (unfortunately the Antelope Canyons are closed until further notice due to COVID-19). If the Grand Canyon isn’t on your list, it definitely should be! The South Rim is the only side that’s open right now due to a wildfire on the North Rim 🙁 Another thing to keep in mind is that the Navajo Indian Tribe, whose lands you’ll be crossing on your trip, is discouraging outsiders from visiting the reservation or interracting with tribal residents. To that end, they’ve closed the Eastern section of AZ64 from Grand Canyon South Rim to Cameron, AZ, requiring Grand Canyon visitors to take the “long way around” through Flagstaff, AZ, which will add even more time behind the wheel to an already car-centric trip (oh joy). Map
      Whatever you decide, be sure to book all hotels and guided tours, well in advance of your visit. Despite COVID-19 throwing a wrench into peoples’ travel plans, the parks are still busy. Also, be sure to verify what facilities, trails, overlooks, etc., may be closed and how that might affect your plans.
      Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce any more ideas off me 🙂
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  75. Can you give us advice on a 10 day trip flying into Phoenix and out of SLC. Want to spend a few days in Zion and Moab. Trying to determine if we will have enough time to see the GC South rim, would also need a hotel recommendation for the GC.

    1. Hi LaShelle,
      With 10 days to work with, you could do something like this:
      Day 1 – Fly to Phoenix, drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hour drive), overnight at the South Rim Grand Canyon hotels
      Day 2 – Drive to Page, AZ (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in stops), tour Antelope Canyon (provided it’s open), overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 3 – Visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, head to Moab, UT via Monument Valley (~6 hour drive), optional stop at the Goosenecks of San Juan State Park, overnight in Moab
      Day 4 – Explore Arches National Park, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 5 – Explore Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 6 – Drive from Moab, UT, to Bryce Canyon via Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante, UT, overnight at Bryce Canyon
      Day 7 – Short hike at Bryce Canyon, then drive on to Zion National Park, base in Kanab, UT
      Day 8 – Hiking and exploring in Zion, 2nd night in Kanab
      Day 9 – More hiking in Zion if desired, or begin drive to SLC (~5 hours), overnight in SLC
      Day 10 – fly home
      Of course, all this is contingent on the parks being open for regular operations. I don’t recall seeing when you were wanting to visit; hopefully you’re planning this for a future date when things get somewhat back to normal.
      Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off us.
      Take care and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  76. Hi,

    We are trying to plan an RV trip of the SW, do you have an itinerary with RV parks included?

    1. Hi Priti,
      We don’t have an itinerary of RV parks, per se, but fortunately, this information is relatively easy to find. Some areas will have more options than others, but whatever you do, make advance reservations for every stop on your tour.
      For the Grand Canyon, the only RV parks with hook-ups are Trailer Village (inside the park) and Tusayan Camper Village, 1 mile outside the park. If you are OK doing without hook-ups, Mather Campground and Desert View Campground are both good options inside the park, plus there is dry camping and dispersed camping a short distance outside the park. Grand Canyon Camping
      At Page, AZ/Lake Powell, you can find RV parking with full hook-ups both inside the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and in the town of Page itself. For suggestions of other sites, visit our companion site, AntelopeCanyon.AZ: RV and Camping Options near Antelope Canyon
      For other suggestions of RV Parks and campgrounds in the Southwestern U.S., check out this piece from Sunset Magazine or this blog post from Forever Resorts, a respected National Park concessionaire.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  77. Hey Alley! I’m planning an 11 day trip out west for my family of three this June 14 – 25. This itinerary seems PERFECT but I’m not sure it’s realistic for 11 days. I wanna see and do as much as possible since this will be a once in a lifetime trip for us. Do you have any suggestions on what to cut from this itinerary? We want to hit the Grand Canyon, of course, and as many of the breathtaking sights as possible, and my husband would really enjoy the Route 66 stuff. My son (15) and I are avid hikers, but my husband is not. And I’d like to spend a day/night taking in Vegas. Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Hi Kami,
      This is a great question!
      Since this particular itinerary has 2 full days built in to apply for a Wave permit and (assuming you get the permit) hike it, you can reduce this trip to 12 days right off the bat.
      Shave a day off Moab, and that would bring it down to 11 days.
      As for taking in Route 66, the best opportunity for doing that will be between Kingman, AZ, and Seligman, AZ. If you want, you can drive one of the last remaining intact sections of the old road by taking the detour through Peach Springs, AZ. Maybe take time to tour the Grand Canyon Caverns, then stop in Seligman, AZ (one of the real-life inspiration for the “Cars” movies) and enjoy a burger and a laugh at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In.
      That will extend the drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim to 6-7 hours, but Route 66 buffs usually find it time well spent!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thank you so so much for your help! I am so excited to finally make it out West! Your website and advice have been a lifesaver 🙂

  78. Hello , I was looking at your suggestions , you seem very knowledgeable , do you think this would possibly be a good trip during July my daughter is my normal travel companion and She is a principal so we only have the month of July for traveling? what are your thoughts?
    thanks for your help

    1. Hi Beth,
      If July is the only timeframe you have available for a vacation to the American Southwest, go for it!
      Just bear in mind that you’ll be traveling during the hottest time of the year. Any hiking or other “labor-intensive” activities should be done during the morning if at all possible to take advantage of cooler temperatures, and possibly fewer people around. Be sure that you stay well-hydrated at all times — you’re in the desert, after all!
      Make sure also that all lodging and guided tours are booked well in advance of your trip. Now is not too soon to get things lined up!
      Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce more ideas off our experts.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  79. Hi Alley, I have been researching for South West trip for a long time as my options are limited and then I found this link. I think you are the best out there as far as honest advise goes. So thank you for your valuable advice and hoping you can give some to us – My wife and I are planning a partial Grand Circle trip in mid March 2020. We plan on touching Vegas, Zion Valley and Grand Canyon in 7 days. Can you please let us know if this possible and some must do point of interest would help. Thank you !!

    1. Hi Arry,
      Thank you so much for your compliments!
      You absolutely can have an unforgettable 7-day trip in the Grand Circle that covers the attractions you list, plus a few more you might not have considered.
      A “classic” Southwest itinerary using Las Vegas as a start/end point goes something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas, drive to Sedona, AZ (~4.5-5 hours) with optional stop at Hoover Dam, overnight in Sedona
      Day 2: Sightseeing in SedonaPink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque, Airport Mesa… no shortage of things to see and do! 2nd night in Sedona
      Day 3: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3 hours), use free shuttles to visit viewpoints on Hermit’s Rest/West Rim Drive and GC Village, overnight at Grand Canyon
      Day 4: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page, AZ, ~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in stops at viewpoints between GC Village and Desert View, Cameron Trading Post for breakfast/brunch. Tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page
      Day 5: Visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, drive to Zion National Park (~2.5 hours), optional stops at Big Water Visitor Center, Paria Rimrock/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, overnight in Springdale, UT, or Hurricane, UT
      Day 6: 2nd day/night in Zion National Park — plenty of hiking to do for all physical fitness levels!
      Day 7: Drive back to Las Vegas (3.5-5 hour drive due to road construction on I-15), optional stop at Valley of Fire State Park, fly home
      If you’re wondering why I’ve left Bryce Canyon off this itinerary, it’s not because it isn’t beautiful; it is, amazingly so! However, in March, you could still encounter snow at this park seeing as though it’s 8,000′ above sea level. If you would still like to include it in your trip plans, you could do so by dropping a day from Zion and hitting Bryce after Page, AZ.
      Also, the feasibility of this itinerary is contingent on two key factors: Antelope Canyon tour availability and Grand Canyon hotel availability. You may need to flip-flop this suggested itinerary (do Las Vegas-Zion-Page-GC-Sedona-LAS) if hotel and tour availability dictate doing so. Your trip is just around the corner so do not delay making reservations!
      For more suggestions, read this piece on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ: The Grand Canyon and Beyond – the Ultimate 7-Day Itinerary in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  80. Hi Alley,
    I’m so happy to have found this sight!!we are from the Bahamas and are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon area in July for two weeks. With so much to do and see we are overwhelmed ! I love your itinerary. How can we tweak it to include 2 or 3 days in Sedona? We want to take a day hike in the Canyon and also thought we would do some white water rafting in Moab, maybe for two or three days. is this even possible? Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much for your help!!

    1. Hi Margo,
      Sedona is definitely a beautiful area with a lot to see and do. In order to include it in a two-week itinerary similar to this one, however, will require sacrificing one or more destinations, and unfortunately, the most logical contender for elimination are Capitol Reef and Moab. Not that they aren’t beautiful, they definitely are, but these two destinations are on the far outer-edge of this suggested loop itinerary, which needs to be reined in a bit if you’re going to give Sedona the time it deserves. However, there may still be a way to include some white-water rafting in your trip! More on that in a minute…
      Using Las Vegas, NV, as your starting/ending point, you could do something like this:
      Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 2: Sightseeing in Zion, 2nd night in Springdale, UT
      Day 3: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2 hours from Springdale), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 4: Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours), tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page
      Day 5: Visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, take Horseshoe Bend Rafting Trip or Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour, 2nd night in Page
      Day 6: Drive from Page, AZ, to Monument Valley (~2 hours), overnight in Monument Valley –OR– take day trip from Page, AZ, to Monument Valley, spend 3rd night in Page
      Day 7: Drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5 hours), overnight in Grand Canyon
      Day 8: Day hiking in Grand Canyon, 2nd night at Grand Canyon
      Day 9: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona, overnight in Sedona
      Day 10: 2nd day/night in Sedona
      Day 11: 3rd day/night in Sedona
      Day 12: Drive from Sedona to Peach Springs (~2.5 hour drive), stop in Seligman, overnight in Peach Springs
      Day 13: Take one-day Grand Canyon white water raft trip, 2nd night in Peach Springs
      Day 14: Drive from Peach Springs to Las Vegas (~2.5 hours), fly home
      Push comes to shove, if you still wanted to hit Moab, UT, on your trip (which I wouldn’t blame you one bit for!), the best place to fit it in would be between Bryce Canyon and Page.
      Hope that helps. Feel free to write in again if you need to bounce any more ideas off us!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  81. Hi Alley,

    What a fantastic write up, thank you so much, it’s really inspiring! So much so that it has motivated myself and my better half to come over from Germany and do ‘some stuff’.

    It’ll be in April or May, so hopefully we’ll be lucky with the weather (I presume everything would be open then)?

    I’m planning on it being a 12 day trip, flying into either LV or Phoenix – not fussed which one. We’d hire a car for the trip and stay in hotels.

    We’ve done the Grand Canyon and the Valley of Fire before during a visit to Vegas.

    Things we’d like to see would be; Sedona, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce, Zion, and Monument Valley. Is that do-able during a 12 day trip?

    Could you maybe suggest a route for us and where we should plan our overnight stops? We’re both pretty active and don’t mind long(ish) drives if we get to spend more time at the sights when we’re there.

    Thanks for your help.

    Karl & Claire.

    1. Hi Karl and Claire, and thank you for your compliments!
      Early spring is a nice time to visit the American Southwest, and you should be able to visit the attractions on your wish list, plus a few more that may not have “pinged” on your radar, without a problem.
      Weather-wise, you should encounter mostly sunny and pleasant days, but you might encounter a stray snowstorm in the higher elevations, such as Bryce Canyon or Zion. For this reason, pack at least a light jacket and maybe a pair of gloves, just in case. As a general rule, you’ll want to dress in layers that you can easily remove and stash in a backpack as the day gets warmer.
      As to what order you visit the attractions on your itinerary — and by the way, thank you for pointing out that you’ve already hit the Grand Canyon and Valley of Fire — that depends on whether you prefer to get the longer drives out of the way first (which most people do). The primary determing factor, though, will be lodging availability, or maybe lack thereof, and availability of guided tours, which you’ll need if you want to see Antelope Canyon (you do, trust me!).
      Assuming that all hotels and tours remain available for your timeframe, I’d suggest doing something along the lines of this:
      Day 1: Fly into Phoenix, AZ, overnight in Phoenix
      Day 2: Drive to Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park (~4 hours), optional stop at Meteor Crater, overnight in Holbrook or Winslow, AZ
      Day 3: Drive from Holbrook/Winslow to Canyon de Chelly National Monument (~2 hour drive), overnight in Chinle or Kayenta, AZ
      Day 4: Take AM backcountry tour of Canyon de Chelly (if desired), drive to Monument Valley (~2 hour drive), overnight in Monument Valley or Kayenta
      Day 5: Backcountry tour of Monument Valley (if desired), drive to Page, AZ (~2.5 hour drive), overnight in Page
      Day 6: Visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd night in Page
      Day 7: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~3 hour drive), optional stops at Big Water Visitor Center, hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Trails, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 8: Drive Bryce Canyon Scenic Loop Drive or do some hiking (weather permitting), then drive to Zion National Park (~2 hour drive), overnight in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
      Day 9: Hiking/exploring in Zion Canyon Scenic Drive area using free park shuttles from Springdale, 2nd night in Zion area
      Day 10: Drive from Zion to Sedona, AZ via Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry (~5 hour drive), optional hike to Lonely Dell Ranch site, stop for lunch at Cliff Dweller’s Lodge or Cameron Trading Post, overnight in Sedona
      Day 11: Sightseeing in Sedona – possible activities: sunrise hot air balloon rides, Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, hike Bell Rock or West Fork Trail(s), visit Chapel of the Holy Cross, wine tastings Things to Do In Sedona 2nd night in Sedona
      Day 12: 3rd day in Sedona or return to Phoenix (~2 hour drive), fly home

      If you find that lodging in the Monument Valley area is booked up, you might add another night onto your stay in Page, AZ, and visit as a day trip from there. It’s ~a 2-hour drive each way, but with some careful planning and an eye on the clock, it’s doable.
      Similar situation in Bryce and Zion: if you find lodging in the immediate area of the parks to be full already, you can simply stay in Kanab, UT, for 2-3 nights and use it as a “base camp” from which to explore both parks.
      Hope that helps! Feel free to correspond again if you need further guidance on anything.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  82. Hi Alley,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful site! I’ve been clicking on a million links, and when I stumbled across yours, it was exactly what I was looking for! My kids (who will be 8 and 10 at the time of travel) have their hearts set on a National Parks tour this summer, and we’ve narrowed in on southern Utah and Northern AZ, so that we can cover a bunch in one trip. The downside of course is that we will be there in the heat of summer, but obviously with school, we don’t have another option. We have two windows that work for us – June 6-20, or July 18-August 1. I’m assuming they’re both ridiculously hot, but is one preferable to the other?

    Also, I’d love your opinion on the itinerary I’ve sketched out… there’s so many wonderful places, it’s hard to get them all in! We want to see as much as possible, but don’t want to short change ourselves, or spend too much just checking in and out of hotels.

    Day 1 – fly to Las Vegas (arrive 10am) Drive to Zion (arrive 2-3pm) (Canyon overlook trail?) (Stay in Zion)
    Day 2 – Explore Zion (The Narrows?) (Stay in Zion)
    Day 3 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (possibly stop at Cedar Breaks along the way?) – 2 hours(Stay in Bryce)
    Day 4- Explore Bryce Canyon (Stay in Bryce)
    Day 5 – Drive to Capitol Reef – 2 hours (Stay in Capitol Reef)
    Day 6 – Explore Capitol Reef (Stay in Capitol Reef)
    Day 7 – Drive to Moab – 2 hours (Stay in Moab)
    Day 8 – Explore Arches (Stay in Moab)
    Day 9 – Explore Canyonlands (Stay in Moab)
    Day 10 – Drive to and explore Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend – 4 hours (Stay in Page)
    Day 11 – Explore Antelope Canyon, Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim – 2 hours (Stay in Grand Canyon)
    Day 12 – Explore Grand Canyon (Stay in Grand Canyon)
    Day 13 – Explore Grand Canyon (Stay in Grand Canyon)
    Day 14 – Drive to Las Vegas (Depart LAS 6pm)

    Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Katey!
      Wow, your itinerary looks amazingly fun, and very well-researched. Your kids have very good instincts! Can I come with you? LOL 😉
      One thing that I’m noticing right off the bat are that your estimated drive times are on the short side. I know these figures are what Google and Mapquest give, but it’s a good idea to pad those estimates by 20-30%. All these drives are very scenic, and you’ll find yourself stopping a lot for photos.
      You are correct in that June vs. July are a “six of one/half a dozen of another” proposition where heat is concerned. However, in June, the weather tends to be drier and more stable. Late July/early August can coincide with what is known as “monsoon season” in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. That’s a phenomenon where thunderstorms, sometimes severe, roll in in the later afternoon hours. These storms can result in the cancellation of activities in locations where flash flooding can occur, such as slot canyons. The Narrows can also be affected by this phenomenon, so June might be the better time to travel in light of these concerns.
      Regardless of when you choose to travel during the summer months, activites requiring heavy exertion or sun exposure should be done during the earlier morning hours. Visiting Horseshoe Bend, for example, is best done just after sunrise to take advantage of cooler temperatures and thinner crowds.
      It’s good that you’ve planned for 3 days in Moab, but the drive from Moab to Page, AZ, tends to be more along the lines of 5 hours. Be aware also that the drive from Moab, UT, to Page, AZ, will take you through Monument Valley. Get an early start out of Moab so you can at least stop to snap a few photos in the area, especially at Forrest Gump Point!
      Where you indicate you’ll “explore Antelope Canyon,” that isn’t possible to do on your own. A guided tour is required; no exceptions. How To Book A Tour For Antelope Canyon While in Page, AZ, you should definitely plan on taking the Glen Canyon Half Day Float Trip! As the name implies, this rafting trip does not traverse any rapids, but is nonetheless a wonderful family-oriented activity with lots of beautiful scenery and compelling history. At the time of year you’re visiting, the morning departure (6:00 AM check-in, 7:00 AM departure) is best for safety and comfort. To accommodate this tour in your schedule, it would also be better if you had a 2nd night in Page, and you can easily do that by dropping a night at the Grand Canyon.
      The majority of Grand Canyon visitors tend to stay 1-2 nights tops. Not that the canyon isn’t beautiful (it definitely is!), but there’s only so much most families can realistically see and do there. Another consideration is that a good chunk of your sightseeing of the Grand Canyon is going to occur on the drive down from Page, AZ. The most logical route naturally takes you along the Eastern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Between Desert View Point and Grand Canyon Village, there are over half a dozen named viewpoints you can stop at, all with differing features and perspectives on the canyon. Don’t be surprised if what’s given as a 2.5 hour drive on Google Maps ends up taking 3.5-4 hours or so! The following day, you can use the free shuttles to explore the viewpoints on the Hermit’s Rest/West Rim Drive.
      On your way back to Las Vegas, you might take in some Route 66 kitsch with a stop in Seligman, AZ. If you take us up on that, be sure to stop at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In for a burger and a laugh. Hoover Dam might be a worthwhile stop as well, and it’s right on your way.
      Hope that helps! Feel free to write again if you want to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  83. I want to join this 14days course through Dec 22th ~ Jan 4th,2020(Only me, female). And I want to visit monument valley is it concluded? And I dont know how to get reservation. I’m look forward to traveling so quick answer pls.

    1. Hello Sue,
      The itinerary described in this article is not an escorted tour, it is a self-drive itinerary.
      If you were wanting to do an escorted tour, excursions such as this one offered by Cosmos are out there, but unfortunately they don’t operate at the time of year you’re visiting.
      As for getting reservations for tours and hotels, since this is a self-drive trip, you would simply need to do a few Google searches and go from there. For Grand Canyon accommodations, tours, and planning, visit http://www.GrandCanyon.com. For Antelope Canyon tours, visit our companion site, AntelopeCanyon.AZ: How To Book A Tour For Antelope Canyon
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  84. Hi Alley,

    Thank you for your article. It is very helpful. My wife and I are going to visit grand circle this December. We will arrive on Dec 15th and spend a night in Vegas, and leave on Dec 23rd from Vegas. We are thinking of visiting Zion, Arches, Monument Valley, Page and Grand Canyon. We would like to do some hiking if weather permits. Do you recommend any parks that are good for hiking in December? Is it possible to hike in Arches at this time of the year? If not, we might skip Arches on this trip and visit it next July when we go to Yellow Stone.

    1. Hey Michael,
      I agree that Arches might be too far a swing out of your way, plus Moab, UT, is one of those areas that really deserves 3-4 days to do it justice. Then again, one distinct downside to going to Moab, UT, in the summer months is that it’s crazy hot and all hiking and/or strenuous activity should be done during the early morning hours to avoid the risk of heat exhaustion.
      Given your time constraints, and Grand Canyon lodging and Antelope Canyon tour availability, you could do something like this:
      December 15th – arrive in Las Vegas, overnight in Las Vegas
      December 16th – drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hours), optional stop at Hoover Dam, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      December 17th – drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Monument Valley (~4-5 hours, factoring in stops), overnight at Monument Valley
      December 18th – drive from Monument Valley to Page, AZ (~2.5 hour drive), tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page, AZ
      December 19th – visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Glen Canyon, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      December 20th – drive from Page, AZ, to Bryce Canyon (3-4 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      December 21st – drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park, overnight in Springdale
      December 22nd – hiking and sightseeing in Zion, 2nd night in Springdale
      December 23rd – drive back to Las Vegas (~4 hours from Springdale), fly home
      As for the feasibility of hiking, that all depends on the whims of Mother Nature and what the weather has in store. At the Grand Canyon, the top ends of the inner canyon corridor trails are already iced over, which warrants the rental or purchase of crampons for safety. If this is not practical, the paved Rim Trail offers excellent views from a safer vantage point. In Page, AZ, significant snowfalls are rare, but may result in the cancellation of Antelope Canyon tours if weather poses a risk to visitor safety. Bryce Canyon, which is 8,000′ above sea level, often sees significant snowfall, so you may be restricted to more low-key hiking in that area. Ditto for Zion.
      If all that sounds kind of like a buzzkill, it’s not meant to. There are many advantages to visiting the American Southwest during the winter months! In addition to amazing views complimented by a blanket of white, you typically have fewer people to contend with. Just dress warmly, keep an eye on local weather and road conditions at all times, and be flexible with your travel plans in the event you are delayed or detoured by weather.
      Hope that helps! Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  85. Thank you. What time are the light beams? The reason I said strenuous is because my wife has RA Is the lower part to much?

    1. Hey again, guys!
      The light beams in Upper Antelope Canyon occur between 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM in May. In Lower Antelope Canyon, the light beams do occur, but they aren’t as dramatic as they are in Upper. As to whether the Lower section would be too much for your wife to handle, the best way to judge for yourself would be to watch this Full Video Walk-Through of Lower Antelope Canyon on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ. Do note that the people in that video are wearing backpacks, but that’s no longer allowed.
      Take care,
      Alley 🙂

  86. Planning a trip for May with my wife. We are 63 and don’t do strenuous hiking. We want to see it all and can spend up to 17 days on the trip as we are retired. Definitely want to see all of Antelope Canyon. How soon should we get reservations? This will be our last trip to this area.

    1. Hi Mark and Nancy and thank you for visiting our site!
      Antelope Canyon tour reservations for 2020 are expected to be available online soon, probably the first half of December. If you have your heart set on seeing Antelope Canyon during the peak hours, when the light beams occur, you should make reservations ASAP. Ditto for all hotels and any other guided tours you might want to take.
      Regarding “wanting to see all of Antelope Canyon,” that’s kind of a loaded question as the Antelope Canyons are actually a very complex system of tributaries that drain into Lake Powell. Furthermore, if you prefer not to take on any strenuous hiking, you’ll be limited to touring Upper Antelope Canyon, or perhaps Secret Antelope Canyon (aka Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon). However, you could still get a sense of the true complexity of Antelope Canyon and its connection to the Glen Canyon ecosystem by taking the Upper Antelope Canyon tour with the Waterside Boat Tour from Antelope Point Marina.
      Hope that helps. Please feel free to write in again if you need to bounce any other ideas off our local experts!
      Until then, good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  87. G’day from Australia, we used your original itinerary but took more like 21 days. Your advice and the comments from others are all anyone needs to plot this journey, so thank you! We wanted to specifically suggest people take in Gooseneck State Park (day 9 of your itinerary, on the road to Monument Valley, and only five minutes off the route). Check out the photos online: $5 entry gives you access to what amounts to a carpark, BUT the views are awesome. Similar to Horseshoe Bend but more extensive and very few people there. You could do this quickly or take your time – either way it’s a small cost well spent. Also, for a slightly higher fee you can camp or RV overnight and there are toilets there but nothing else. I imagine the star gazing would be incredible. Highly recommended. Tom and Catherine

    1. Hi Tom and Catherine,
      Wow, that’s awesome that you had 3 weeks to do this itinerary! We also appreciate the tip re: including Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park. You are correct in that it’s an easy stop on the way from Monument Valley to Moab, and vice versa, and that the views are amazing.
      Thank you again for visiting our site, and offering your personal observations.
      Take care and Happy Holidays!
      Alley 🙂

  88. This post is amazing, and so are all of the thorough responses to comments. I have a work conference scheduled for February in Phoenix. My husband and I are planning on piggybacking off that trip to hit Zion, Bryce, Arches, Monumental Valley, Antelope, Grand Canyon, and the Hoover Dam. I have a truck camper reserved and all of our RV park stays, but now I’m concerned about the weather. What can we expect in February in these areas? I’m okay with the cold temperatures. I’m more worried about snow.

    1. Hi Lindsey and thanks for visiting us!
      Honestly? I’d ditch the truck camper idea and spring for hotels or motels. The time of year you’re visiting is winter, and you are very likely to encounter snow in areas like the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Zion. Page, AZ (where Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are) even got hammered a few times last year, which is unusual.
      Of course, it’s too soon to call at this point. Typically 2 weeks out is when you can get a clearer picture of what’s actually expected, but if you do proceed with camping, make sure your RV’s heater is in good working order and that you have access to showers on-site if using a water hook-up won’t be an option. Whatever you decide, make sure you have some “wiggle room” in your schedule in case you are delayed or detoured by inclement weather. During an active snowstorm, your best bet is to stay put and not try to power through it.
      I don’t mean to make winter travel in the Grand Circle sound horrible. Winter is one of our favorite times of year up here, and the landscape is even more beautiful under a fresh snowfall! One advantage to traveling in the off-season, too, is that you can sometimes find some discounts on hotels in the area, which is virtually impossible in the summer.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Thank you for the response. I have looked into hotels, and you are correct – they are pretty discounted at this time. What do you think about this itinerary?

        Day 1 – Las Vegas to Zion – Stay at Zion National Park Lodge
        Day 2 – Explore Zion – Zion to Bryce – Stay at Stone Canyon Inn
        Day 3 – Explore Bryce – Bryce to Moab – Stay at Moab Springs Ranch
        Day 4 – Explore Arches – Moab to Monument Valley – Stay at The View Hotel
        Day 5 – Explore Monument Valley and Horseshoe – Monument Valley to Grand Canyon – Stay at Kachina Lodge
        Day 6 – Explore Grand Canyon and then the Hoover Dam – Stay in Vegas

        We love to drive and to road trip. We are okay not spending a whole lot of time at each location. Ultimately, we would like to plan a trip in October 2020 with our kids and spend more time hiking at each location. Does this seem feasible? Or just too much?

        1. Hi again Lindsey,
          I can’t fully endorse this plan. It’s, as you aptly put, “just too much.”
          For example, on day 5, where you propose to “explore Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend,” then drive to the Grand Canyon, you’re looking at 2 hours to drive from Monument Valley to Page, AZ, visiting Horseshoe Bend, skipping Antelope Canyon, then driving another 3-4 hours to the Grand Canyon. Doesn’t sound like fun, plus you’re traveling at a time of year when he daylength is still relatively short: sunrise occurs just after 7:00 AM, and sunset takes place at around 6:00 PM. That’s not even 12 hours of daylight to work with, and you want to make sure that you get all your driving done when it’s light out. Nighttime driving is a dangerous proposition in this part of the U.S. due to roads that are very dimly lit, and the fact that deer, elk, and other wildlife can be present. Trust me, you don’t want to hit a deer in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell service in spotty (if you can get any bars at all), and a tow truck will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive.
          Long story short, I’d recommend taking Moab off the table this time around. You need at least 3 days in that area to do it justice anyway, plus October is a much better time to be there! Concentrate on Zion, Bryce, Page, and the Grand Canyon. So on day 4, where you propose to drive from Bryce to Moab, instead, drive from Bryce to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive), tour Antelope Canyon that afternoon, stay overnight in Page, then hit Horseshoe Bend on your way to Monument Valley the next morning.
          Have a great time, and let us know how you get on,
          Alley 🙂

          1. Thank you, Alley. I actually did not translate the itinerary the best in the previous post. Here is what I came up with. I am totally good leaving Moab out, if necessary. Here is our actual itinerary at the moment:

            Day 1 – Wed, Feb 12, 2019
            Arrive in Las Vegas
            Pick up rental car
            Drive to Zion Lodge – 3 hours

            Day 2 – Thu, Feb 13, 2019 – Zion National Park
            Zion Jeep Tour (10AM – 1PM)
            Drive to Stone Canyon Inn – 2 hours

            Day 3 – Fri, Feb 14, 2019 – Bryce Canyon
            Hike Rim Trail – Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
            Drive to Moab Springs Ranch – 4.5 hrs

            Day 4 – Sat, Feb 15, 2019 – Arches National Park
            Moab Adventure Tour (9:15AM – 1:15PM)
            The View Hotel – $283.86 – 3 hours

            Day 5 – Sun, Feb 16, 2019 – Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend
            Tribal Tours (9:30AM – 11AM)
            Drive to Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours – 2 hours
            Horseshoe Bend Overlook Tour (2:30PM – 3:30PM)
            Hyatt Place Page

            Day 6 – Mon, Feb 17, 2019 – Antelope Canyon & Grand Canyon
            Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours (9:45AM – 10:45AM)
            Drive to Buck Wild Hummer Tours – 2.5 hours
            Buck Wild Grand Canyon Sunset Hummer Tour (4:30PM – 6:30PM)
            Kachina Lodge

            Day 7 – Tue, Feb 18, 2019
            Drive to the Hoover Dam – 3 hours
            Tour the Hoover Dam
            Drive to Las Vegas Strip
            Stay in Vegas

            Any better? Or do you still think leaving Moab out would be best?

          2. Hi Lindsey,
            That itinerary looks pretty fun, and if you’ve actually scored rooms at Zion Lodge, The View in Monument Valley, and Kachina at the Grand Canyon, that’s awesome. I’d advise hanging onto all of it. As to whether you drop Moab, UT, it looks as though you’ve managed to make it work fairly well. Just be advised that once you see what the area has to offer, I can pretty much guarantee you will be planning a return visit when you can spend more time and do more stuff!
            The one thing that might put a kabosh on any plans at the time of year you’re visiting is weather. February is winter, and snow is a very real possibility in areas such as Moab, Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. Page, AZ, even got hammered pretty good last year, but that’s unusual. Still, you’ll want to start monitoring weather about 2 weeks before you get set to travel. That will give you the best idea of how/what to pack.
            The most important advice I can give you at this point is that your drive times are in need of a bit of a “reality check.” For example, Las Vegas to Zion is apt to take more along the lines of 4 hours due to a long-term construction project taking place on a stretch of I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge. The estimate of 3 hours to drive from Kachina Lodge to Hoover Dam is just flat out wrong, even if you were to drive direct, with wheels turning, no stops, it’s more likely to take you ~4 hours. Everywhere else, it’s a good idea to pad your drive time estimates by 10-20%, especially the drive from Page, AZ, to Grand Canyon South Rim. This is a very scenic drive and it would be a shame for you to miss the many photo ops that trip has to offer because you’re racing against the clock to get to a tour. For that reason, I’d recommend dropping the Buck Wild Sunset Tour. Not that it isn’t a fun trip – it is, I’ve actually taken it – but because you’re driving down from Page, AZ, you’ll be able to cover areas that the tour goes to in your own vehicle. Plus, because you’re staying inside the park at Kachina Lodge, you’ll already be perfectly situated to view sunset from the best vantage point possible without a tour: right on the rim.
            Lastly, in February, it’s very important that you keep an eye on the time and get any and all driving done during daylight hours. Roads in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah are very dimly lit, a deliberate move to preserve the natural darkness of the night sky, plus deer, elk, and other wildlife are usually moving about after dark. Hitting a deer is not something you want to experience in an unfamiliar area that’s pitch black, where cell phone service is spotty to non-existent, and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. Sunrise occurs at ~7:15 AM, sunset takes place around 6:00 PM.
            Hope that helps. Let us know how you get on!
            Alley 🙂

  89. Thanks Alley that sounds great! We are arriving in Denver on Oct. 14 and decided to travel north to Estes Park that night. The next day do the loop thru
    Rocky Mountain Park. Then head south and do as many parks as we can.

    1. Hey again Robert,
      You’ve picked a great time to be here! Have a fun trip, and pack a jacket and some gloves just in case – it’s getting cold out there 🙂
      Also, Grand Canyon North Rim will be closed by the time you make it down that way, so the South Rim would be where you’d want to visit.
      Alley

  90. This sounds fabulous. Husband and I just talking about a 2 week free style without long drives in between. We want to get out of Ne Ohio snow . We want warmer weather not necessarily hot. Can we do this trip in Jan, Feb OR March and still enjoy nice weather? Thanks for some great insight.

    1. Hi Sue!
      Sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news, but the timeframe between January and March isn’t typically known for nice weather in the American Southwest. The locations on this 14-day itinerary can and do get snow, or best case scenario, days that are sunny and brisk. If you clamor for warmer weather, but not summertime-hot, you’d be better off traveling in either April or October. October in particular is our favorite time of year because temperatures are cooling down and crowds are thinning out. Hotels and tours still require advance reservations, but it’s usually just us “grown-ups” out there since most kids are back in school.
      Hope that helps. Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  91. If flying into Denver and out of Las Vegas with 15 days, what would be the best route to take to see the most? I’m 68 and my son is 39

    1. Hey Robert!
      I wish I knew when you were planning to travel as that definitely has a bearing on how I advise you. Assuming that you’re traveling during the summer – specifically between May 15th and October 15th – here’s what I would suggest:
      Day 1 – Drive from Denver, CO, to Moab, UT (~6 hour drive), overnight in Moab
      Day 2 – Hiking/exploring in Canyonlands National Park, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 3 – Touring in Arches National Park, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 4 – Drive from Moab, UT, to Mesa Verde National Park, CO, (~3 hour drive) overnight in Durango or Cortez
      Day 5 – Drive from Mesa Verde to Monument Valley (~3.5 hour drive), overnight in Monument Valley area
      Day 6 – (Optional) Take backcountry tour of Monument Valley, drive to Page, AZ (~2.5 hours), overnight in Page
      Day 7 – Visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd night in Page
      Day 8 – Take Glen Canyon Float Trip or Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour, 3rd night in Page
      Day 9 – Drive from Page, AZ, to Bryce Canyon National Park (~3 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 10 – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park (~2 hour drive), overnight in Springdale, UT, or Kanab, UT
      Day 11 – Hike and explore in Zion National Park, 2nd night in Springdale or Kanab
      Day 12 – Hit sights you missed in Zion, 3rd night in Springdale or Kanab
      Day 13 – Drive from Zion to Grand Canyon North Rim (~3 hour drive), overnight at the North Rim
      Day 14 – Drive from Grand Canyon North Rim to Las Vegas (~4.5-5 hour drive depending on construction on I-15 [there’s always something]) w/optional detour to Valley of Fire State Park, overnight in Vegas
      Day 15 – Fly home

      If your visit is occurring between October 15th and May 15th, Grand Canyon North Rim is closed during this time, but the South Rim is open, so you could simply head to the South Rim from Zion, then on to Vegas. The drive from Zion to the South Rim is longer (~5-6 hours), but is doable with an early enough start out of Springdale or Kanab.

      Hope that helps. Feel free to hit us up again if you need further guidance.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  92. Hi! Hoping you can give some advice – My husband and I – both in our 60’s – are planning a Grand Circle trip in mid May 2020. We plan on taking at least two weeks. We want to fly to Salt Lake City and then fly home from Las Vegas. Can you give us any suggestions? We are not sure if the North Rim of the Grand Canyon will be open but hope so! We do want to see the south rim as well. Any advice is welcome!
    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Sherry!
      The North Rim of the Grand Canyon typically opens on May 15th. On rare occasions, such as a heavy snow season, that may be delayed by a few days, but if you time your trip right, you should be golden.
      Flying into SLC and out of Las Vegas, here’s what I’d suggest:
      Day 1: Fly into SLC, overnight in SLC
      Day 2: Drive from SLC to Moab, UT (~5 hour drive, factoring in stops for meals, restroom breaks, photo ops — all drive times will reflect more “realistic” estimates for first-time visitors instead of a “wheels turning/no stops” figure), overnight in Moab, UT
      Day 3: Explore Arches National Park, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 4: Explore Canyonlands National Park, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 5: Drive from Moab, UT, to Capitol Reef National Park (~3.5 hour drive), overnight in Torrey, Boulder, Caineville, or Antimony area Capitol Reef Lodging
      Day 6: Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park via Utah Scenic Byway 12 (~3.5 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon City, Hatch, Panguitch area
      Day 7: Drive to Zion National Park (~2.5 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 8: Hiking and exploring in Zion, 2nd night in Springdale
      Day 9: Drive from Zion/Springdale, UT, to Grand Canyon North Rim (~3 hour drive), overnight in Grand Canyon North Rim area
      Day 10: Drive from Grand Canyon North Rim to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive), overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 11: Visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, tour Antelope Canyon, 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 12: Drive from Page, AZ to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5-4 hour drive), overnight at Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan
      Day 13: 2nd day at Grand Canyon South Rim , overnight at South Rim
      Day 14: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Las Vegas, with optional stop at Hoover Dam (~5.5 hour drive), enjoy a few days in Las Vegas, or fly home!

      IMO the hardest component of this itinerary to pull off will be Grand Canyon North Rim. There’s not much lodging in that area to work with in the first place, and just doing a cursory check of hotels in the immediate vicinity of the park shows that they’re already sold out, which isn’t surprising at all. If that remains the case, you could still work a visit to the North Rim in in one of several ways:
      1. add another day onto Springdale, UT (Zion) and visit as a day trip from there (it’s ~a 2.5 hour drive each way)
      2. add another day onto Page, AZ and visit as a day trip (again, ~2.5 hours each way)
      3. stay somewhere like Kanab, UT, and visit as a day trip, which is only ~a 90 minute drive, one way or
      4. take a scenic flight over the North Rim from Grand Canyon National Park Airport at the South Rim; granted, neither of these will land at the North Rim, but will still give you enough time over it to see how different it is from the South Rim; mornings are generally the best time to fly for optimal light and lack of wind. Grand Canyon Airplane Tours Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
      Hope that helps! Feel free to write again if we can be of further assistance in your trip planning.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley-
        Thank you so much for your quick response and information.
        Our original plan was to see Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon. the five hour drive to Moab seems overwhelming! What is your opinion?
        -Sherry

        1. Hi again, Sherry!
          If the prospect of a 5-hour drive to Moab, UT, from SLC doesn’t appeal doesn’t appeal, the communities of either Price, Utah or Helper, Utah, would make for a nice mid-way point to break up the drive.
          Have fun!
          Alley 🙂

  93. Wow! Love this site! Hoping you can help my husband and me on our trip itinerary. We arrive Las Vegas 8:20 am October 23 and leave 7:00 am November 5 to celebrate our 25 year anniversary. My husband hasn’t been to Las Vegas so thinking we should spend one night at the end of our trip. Maybe see Hoover Dam and Death Valley that day?
    Neither of us has been to Utah or Arizona and of course, want to see it all. Zion (hike Angel’s Landing and The Narrows so couple days here-worried about these long hikes and doing so close together!), Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon and so many other sites to see! What are your recommendations? Thank you in advance for your time!

    1. Hi Lori and thank you for visiting our site. Congratulations as well on your upcoming wedding anniversary! You’ve chosen a great place and time in which to spend it 😉
      At this point, how you plan your itinerary will largely depend on lodging availability — or maybe lack thereof — at the various locations you want to visit. Availability of Antelope Canyon tours is also an important factor to consider when making plans.
      That said, a “classic” Grand Circle vacation itinerary goes something like this:
      Day 1 – Drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hour drive), overnight at the Grand Canyon
      Day 2 – Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page, AZ (~3.5-4 hours factoring in stops), stop at Horseshoe Bend on the way into town, overnight in Page
      Day 3 – Tour Antelope Canyon, spend 2nd night in Page, AZ
      Day 4 – Drive from Page, AZ to Moab, UT via Monument Valley (~6 hour drive), overnight in Moab, UT
      Day 5 – Explore Arches National Park, 2nd night in Moab
      Day 6 – Explore Canyonlands National Park, 3rd night in Moab
      Day 7 – Drive from Moab, UT, to Capitol Reef National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in Torrey, Hanksville, Loa, or other gateway community Capitol Reef lodging
      Day 8 – Drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park (~3-4 hours), overnight in Tropic, Panguitch, Hatch, Kanab, or other Bryce Canyon gateway community Bryce Canyon lodging
      Day 9 – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park (~2.5-3 hour drive), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 10 – Hike Angel’s Landing, 2nd night in Springdale, Utah
      Day 11 – Other hiking in Zion (the Narrows may not be realistic at the time of year you’re visiting because it’s starting to get too cold; for more suggestions, check out “A November Weekend in Zion“), 3rd night in Zion
      Day 12 – Drive from Springdale, UT to Las Vegas, NV (~3.5-4 hours), overnight in Las Vegas
      Day 13 – fly home

      Of course, the above itinerary can be reversed if you find that lodging availability at the Grand Canyon or Zion is more conducive to doing so. Simply schedule that overnight in Las Vegas on the front end of your trip instead of on the back end.
      As I’d mentioned at the part where you get to Zion, your visit is taking place during the transitional period between winter and spring. Days are typically sunny and brisk, best case scenario; worst case scenario, you could run into an early-season snowstorm in any of the parks on your itinerary, but especially Bryce, since it’s 8,000′ above sea level. Of course, it’s too soon to tell what will shake out at this point in time, but I would strongly advise starting to monitor area weather about 2 weeks before you get ready to travel, and plan on at least packing a jacket, gloves, etc., regardless.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  94. We are traveling in an Rv from the East in September. From Missouri to Colorado and Utah then heading to Apache Junction AZ. We want to see the Arches and Canyonland in
    Utah and not sure what to see in Colorado. We have been to North and South rim of Grand Canyon already. We heard the roads in Colorado can be bad in September. Any knowledge of this?
    Suggested route?

    1. Hey Kathy!
      In general, the further North you go in Colorado, the higher your risk of encountering snow early in the season. Therefore, you may want to save Rocky Mountain National Park for a summertime visit, but you should be fine visiting attractions in the Soutwestern part of the state, such as the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, Pagosa Springs, Ouray, the Durango/Silverton Narrow Guage, Mesa Verde National Park, and Canyons of the Ancients.

      I recommend you start monitoring the weather about 2 weeks before you get set to travel. Also, it’s a good idea to check whether any roads you intend to travel are problematic for RV’s. Interstate and most State highways shouldn’t be a problem in that regard, but narrow mountain roads that are extra windy, or have steep grades may not be the best choice in a large rig. There are many RV’ing groups on Facebook that you can bounce your ideas off.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to reserve spaces at RV parks well in advance. It would be best to plan on staying at developed RV parks at the time of year you’re visiting. Nights are starting to cool off and you’ll definitely appreciate having access to reliable heat!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  95. Hi. I have been looking at reviews of southern utah itinerary and you seem to know a lot about the best routes to take! Curious if you could help us out a bit.

    Sept 25-Oct 4th we have available. We get into las vegas around 4pm and leave Vegas around 2pm on the 4th. We are renting a RV for the trip. We are looking to do Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Moab area. I really would like to add Antelope Canyon, do you think we have time to add that in? And what would be the best routes to take. Thanks in advance for any help!

    1. Hey Danielle,
      I think with the time you have allotted, you should be able to work Antelope Canyon into your trip. Many travelers have toured Utah’s Mighty 5 by RV and had a wonderful time. I’m confident that you will, too! This piece on Campendium details all the best places to camp in the UM5, and dispenses a wise piece of advice: be sure to make reservations for all developed RV parks in advance. You will most likely want to stay in developed RV parks since nights are getting cold at that time of year, and reliable heat is a convenience you’re bound to appreciate. If you’re wanting to “boondock” (take advantage of free camping), remember that there will be lots of other people with the same thoughts as you, so campsites should be snagged as early as possible.
      One question I have for you: the Grand Canyon is conspicuously absent from your itinerary. Have you already been there? If not, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to work it in, and visit the beautiful, less crowded North Rim! Since RV park spaces are bound to already be booked there, I’d recommend doing that as a day trip from Springdale, UT, where you’ll most likely end up staying to explore Zion. The catch: it’s about a 2.5-hour drive each way (you’ll want to go the “long-ish” way around so you avoid paying the $15 escort fee through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel), and the North Rim is a different animal from the South Rim, and roads there are more narrow, so navigating some of the viewpoints would be a challenge in an RV. Recommend reading this forum thread on TripAdvisor re: visiting Grand Canyon North Rim in an RV.
      So, given your trip’s start and end dates, you could do something like this:
      September 26th: Drive from Las Vegas to Zion (~4.5 hour drive, factoring in possible delays due to construction on I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge), overnight at Springdale, UT Sprindale RV Parks ***if you can’t find accommodations in Springdale, UT, look to Kanab, UT RV parks
      September 27th: Take Zion Park Shuttle into park, hike the Narrows or Angel’s Landing, or do one of any of the area’s beautiful hikes that pique your interest, return to Springdale, 2nd night in Springdale (or Kanab)
      September 28th: Day trip to North Rim; if you’ve already been to the North Rim, do a 2nd day in Zion (you won’t have a problem filling the time), 3rd night in Springdale or Kanab
      September 29th: Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2-2.5 hour drive) ***On this part of the drive, you’ll need to pay a $15 escort fee to drive through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, or take the “long” way around again, which would add another hour onto the drive time. Overnight in Bryce Canyon area – RV parks in the park do not have hook-ups, so you’ll probably want to overnight somewhere outside the park, or Kanab, UT, if Bryce Canyon area is full. Bryce Canyon RV Parks
      September 30th – Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef (~3 hour drive), overnight in Torrey, UT or nearby