The highlights of this National Parks road trip include visiting five of America's National Parks and one National Monument. However, you could easily add side trips to Canyonlands, Capital Reef, and Mesa Verde National Parks if you have time which would take your count up to eight national parks!
The 7 Day National Parks Road Trip - Utah & Arizona
This 7 day driving itinerary begins in Las Vegas and loops around Northern Arizona and Southern Utah finishing off back in Las Vegas. This will mean no one way drop off fee if you are renting a vehicle! This road trip allows you to visit 5 national parks in one week spending one night at each destination with room to spend an additional night at a park of your choosing. You can do this road trip in reverse if you prefer, but we recommend finishing off in Zion because it is most definitely worth spending your additional night there.
Of course if you have the time it would be preferable to spend at least two days in each park. You could also add Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to your trip as an extension from Moab and visit Capital Reef National Park on your way to Bryce Canyon. Finish your trip relaxing or partying in Las Vegas!
Day 1 Drive Route 66 & visit Williams - Spend the night in Williams or Tusayan
Day 2 Visit Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam & Antelope Slot Canyon - Spend the night in Page
Day 3 Visit Monument Valley - Spend the night in Monument Valley
Day 4 Visit Arches National Park - Spend the night in Moab
Day 5 Visit Bryce Canyon National Park - Spend the night in Bryce
Day 6 Visit Zion National Park - Spend the night in Zion
Day 7 Another day in Zion - Spend the night in Las Vegas
We recommend getting yourself a guide book to the Southwest to make the most of your trip! We always take a travel guide book with us to ensure we don't bypass any highlight’s in the area. They also come in handy when there is no phone reception to look up maps and location information.
Because you will be visiting 5 national parks we recommend you buy a national park pass as this will save you money in the long run. Passes are good for one year and can be bought online or upon entry to the parks.
LAS VEGAS TO WILLIAMS - 216 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head south on the 93 and then east on the 40 until you reach Williams. It should take about three and a half hours.
Williams is a charming western-themed town located on historic Route 66. This is the best preserved stretch of route 66 and the perfect place to find kitschy souvenirs along with some great local art and crafts. There are quite a few activities and attractions in Williams including the Historic Train Depot, Route 66 Zipline and the Bearizona Wildlife Park. You can even step aboard an old locomotive train and ride into the Grand Canyon National Park from Williams if you want! See the train schedule and route here.
There are plenty of reasonably priced motels and a great selection of restaurants to grab western style food and home made milkshakes. If you visit during the summer months they have some great live music at some of the establishments. Because Williams is only an hour from the Grand Canyon you can spend the night here and then head into the park early in the morning next day.
WILLIAMS TO GRAND CANYON - 60 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head north on the 64 until you reach the south entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon National Park
This colorful gorge carved out by the Colorado River is one of the seven wonders of the world and on almost every traveler's bucket list. Today, you will tick it off your bucket list! There are plenty of adventures to be had here; you can take on the grueling hike to the valley floor, go white water rafting on the Colorado River, organize a mule/camping package tour to the bottom or just take in the vista from above. If you are not afraid of heights and don't mind splurging a little bit of cash, you can have a once in a lifetime experience flying over the canyon in a helicopter complete with lunch included! It can be really hot here in the summer or extremely cold in the winter so come prepared. Our visit was in the fall and while the days were still warm, the nights were surprisingly very chilly.
There are lodging options inside the park including campsites however advanced bookings are recommended as they fill up fast. Don't worry if you can't get a reservation though, there are quite a few lodging options located just outside the park that are reasonably priced.
GRAND CANYON TO PAGE - 130 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Drive east on the 64 and then north on US89-N which will take you all the way up to Page in Arizona.
Page is a small town in northern Arizona located on the southern shores of magnificent Lake Powell. In Page you can visit the Glen Canyon Dam which holds back an amazing 9,000,000,000,000 gallons of water! There is an awesome Visitor's Center here where you can learn all about the construction of the dam and the history of the area or organize boat tours of the river. However the best thing about the Visitor's Center is the view of Lake Powell! The dam is a spectacular sight to behold with the colorful gorge surrounding it.
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has miles of red rock canyons that border the crystal waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River and offers desert hiking, back-country adventure's, and water-based activities. You can find information here on these activities - hiking, kayaking and scenic drives.
Another major attraction very close to the town of Page is Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon has grown in popularity dramatically over the past few years since the invention of Instagram and is probably the most photographed slot canyon in the world! It is practically on every traveler's photographic bucket list. Tours are operated daily by several Navajo Tribal Park approved concessionaires to both the Upper and Lower sections of the canyon.
Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River surrounded by colorful Navajo sandstone which is extremely photogenic, hence the recent attention from road trippers on social media. It is about a 3/4 mile walk out to the edge overlooking the bend which you can find on US Route 89. The trail is steep in some areas and has some areas of deep sand so be prepared for a challenge despite the short distance. Many visitors suggest heading out there at sunrise over sunset because the lighting is much softer but don’t think getting there early will mean less people. It is jam-packed with people no matter what time of the day you come.
PAGE TO MONUMENT VALLEY - 122 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head south on 98 until you hit the 160 which you will drive eastwards to get on the 163.
Monument Valley is one of the USA’s iconic landscapes. Here you will find sandstone buttes, colossal mesa’s and other geologic masterpieces that tower above the valley floor. Clouds cast shadows and the sun at different angles accent the monolithic structures providing spellbinding visuals. You can take narrated jeep tours through the valley if you want to get a little more up close or even on horseback. If you’re a keen photographer you may want to time your visit around sunset for that perfect lighting. There is a Visitor’s Center here that has wrap around floor to ceiling windows so you can enjoy the views even in winter from inside.
There aren't too many lodging options directly outside of the park but you can find more accommodations in nearby Mexican Hat or Blanding.
MONUMENT VALLEY TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK - 150 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head north on SR163 and then take SR191 all the way until you reach Arches National Park.
There are many natural roadside attractions worthy of stopping at along US-191N on your drive to Arches National Park or some that are a slight detour. Those that are worthy of stopping at include Wilson's Arch, Needles Overlook, Corona Arch and Hole N' The Rock, the latter is a unique home carved out of a huge rock.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park contains the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches including massive balanced rocks, soaring pinnacles and colossal sandstone fins which tower over the hiking trails below. Visitors can drive along a scenic road to many of the major viewpoints however it is worth getting out of your vehicle to get a close up perspective and check out the local flora. Popular hikes in Arches National Park include Windows, Double Arch, Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch and Balanced Rock.
Moab is a popular vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts due to it’s stunning surrounding beauty and proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Park. The downtown area is quite trendy with many chic restaurants and art galleries. There are a plethora of companies offering biking, horseback riding, ATV, and 4WD tours. If you don’t enjoy camping, then Moab is your best bet on finding accommodation and it’s located just 5 miles from Aches National Park. It is busy here most times of the year so booking ahead is advised.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK - 360 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head north on US-191 and then west on I-70. Take the exit to get on UT-72S and make your way south to UT62 and then finally UT-22.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is most notably known for its crimson colored hoodoos (limestone, spire-shaped rock formations) that tower above you from the desert floor. Even though it’s name might suggest that what you are looking at is a canyon, it is in fact a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls carved into the edge of a high plateau. There are four main viewpoints found within the first few miles that you should plan to stop at; Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. The hoodoo's are striking seen from above but are something else when seen from below. Don't worry if you don't think your legs will make it to the bottom of the amphitheater as you can organize a tour to the bottom on horseback.
Try to get in a sunrise or sunset on your visit to the park as it is truly a magical sight over these stunning rock formations that change color in the differing light. The park does have a free shuttle bus to make life easier for you. And if you can't be here in summer, this national park is even prettier in the winter when the hoodoo's are covered in snow!
BRYCE CANYON TO ZION NATIONAL PARK - 72 MILES
DIRECTIONS: Head north on UT-63 briefly before getting on UT-12 west and then south on US-89. At the Mt Carmel Junction take UT-9 west into the park.
Zion National Park
Be prepared to be amazed. Narrow slot canyons, red and white sandstone formations, 3,000 foot vertical walls and the crystal clear Virgin River is what makes this place a natural wonderland. In our opinion this is one of the best national park's in America so try to devote as many days as you can to exploring this spectacular place!
Once you are in Zion National Park, you won't be needing your vehicle as there is a free park shuttle bus that departs the Visitors' Center every 15 minutes that you may hop on and off as you please. Zion has some of the most incredible hiking trails in America such as Angels Landing, Observation Point and The Narrows. For those of you who make it to the top of Angels Landing or Observation Point, you will be rewarded with a birds eye view of the stunning gorge below. Be sure to pack lunch to keep your energy levels up and bring swimming attire if you plan to hike the Narrows.
ZION NATIONAL PARK TO LAS VEGAS - 160 MILES
DIRECTIONS: From Zion National Park take UT-9 west to the I-15 then stay on this all the way down to Las Vegas. As a detour, you can visit the Valley of Fire via NV-169 south, approximately a 2 1/2 hour drive.
Valley of Fire
On your way back from Zion National Park to Las Vegas, you can choose to detour via the Valley of Fire if you have time. The Valley of Fire State Park is known for its 40, 000 acres of bright red sandstone outcrops and contains ancient petrified tree's and petroglyph’s dating back more than 2000 years! The magnificent red sandstone formations were formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of the dinosaurs more than 150 million years ago. There is a Visitor's Center where you can learn all about the history, geology and ecology of the park.
End your road trip in viva Las Vegas where the dazzling lights and elaborate themed casinos capture the imagination of the world like no other city. If like us, you spent the majority of your time on this road trip hiking, then spend your time in Las Vegas relaxing and lounging poolside for the next couple of days. If you are still feeling energetic, Vegas has attractions that cater to everyone's taste. Hit the casino's, take in a glitzy show, shop til you drop, check out the art galleries, ride some roller-coasters or take a tour out to Red Rock Canyon or Hoover Dam.