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. 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 – Tour Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon (or one of several alternate slot canyons if the aforementioned are sold out), and Horseshoe Bend, then take a Lake Powell Boat Tour,  kayak or SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) tour or Glen Canyon Half-Day Float Trip . Go back to your hotel and collapse, or go have a drink and do some dancing.

Day 11 – Day trip from Page, AZ to Kanab, UT (1 hour). Get there before 9:00 AM local time (remember Utah is one

Classic Wave shot

hour ahead of Arizona during Daylight Saving Time!) and apply for a Wave Permit. The maximum number of people who can apply for one permit is 6.  Plan on not getting it because hundreds of people will show up for the lottery and they only give out 10 permits in person a day.* If you get a permit via the in-person lottery, it is valid for the NEXT day so your itinerary will change, but it is SO worth it.

After you don’t win the lottery (which is likely to be the case, statistically speaking), 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 either that day or the next day. This area boasts some eye-poppingly amazing scenery, and at the present time is permit-free, but 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 south from Kanab 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:

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!

283 Responses

  1. 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!!

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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!!!

  7. 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 🙂

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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 🙂

  11. 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 🙂

  12. 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 🙂

  13. 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 🙂

  14. 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!

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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 🙂

  18. 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 🙂

  19. 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 🙂

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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 🙂

  23. 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 🙂

  24. 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.

  25. 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 🙂

  26. 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

  27. 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 🙂

  28. 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 🙂

  29. 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!

  30. 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 🙂

  31. 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 🙂

  32. 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 🙂

  33. 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 🙂

  34. 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

  35. 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 🙂

  36. 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 🙂

  37. 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 🙂

  38. 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 🙂

  39. 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 🙂

  40. 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 🙂

  41. 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 🙂

  42. 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 🙂

  43. 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

  44. 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 🙂

  45. 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 🙂

  46. 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 🙂

  47. 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 🙂

  48. 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 🙂

  49. 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 🙂

  50. 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