The sweeping rust-coloured scenery of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks and the majesty of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley combined to make the ultimate Southwest USA adventure. See soul-quenching landscapes and iconic natural wonders on our 2-week Arizona and Utah road trip.

By - Mark | Last Updated - 26 Jan 2024 | Go to - Comments & Questions

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Northern Arizona and Utah are the defining landscapes of the southwest USA. Glorious red rock canyons cut by majestic rivers and stone arches carved by nature, punctuate a beautiful desert landscape.

Spread across vast National Parks with excellent facilities, it’s one of the ultimate road trips in the world.

This 2-week Arizona and Utah road trip begins and ends in Las Vegas. With a stop on Route 66, and just the right amount of time in six National Parks, you’ll experience the culture, diversity, and sheer splendour of the southwest USA.

Navigate slot canyons, admire striking hoodoos, hike to sublime destinations, drive long open roads, photograph natural wonders, and experience the best of Arizona and Utah.

Our guide includes what to do each day, where to stay, a few money-saving tips, and advice for reserving National Park permits.

muley point utah
MULEY POINT

IN THIS GUIDE

2-Week Northern Arizona & Utah Road Trip Overview


DAY 1: LAS VEGAS

DAY 2: ROUTE 66

DAY 3: GRAND CANYON

DAY 4: ANTELOPE CANYON

DAY 5: MONUMENT VALLEY

DAY 6: MULEY POINT

DAY 7: THE NEEDLES

DAY 8: ARCHES

DAY 9: CAPITOL REEF

DAY 10: ESCALANTE

DAY 11: BRYCE CANYON

DAY 12: ZION

DAY 13: NARROWS

DAY 14: LAS VEGAS

MAP | NORTHERN ARIZONA & UTAH NATIONAL PARKS ROAD TRIP

This 2-week road trip itinerary covers the major natural sights in northern Arizona and Utah. It visits 6 National Parks – the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah as well as Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

It also stops off at Monument Valley, Grand Staircase Escalante, and (if you are lucky with permits) The Wave.

Below is a map of the complete 2-week road trip, followed by a day-by-day breakdown of where to stay, what to do and estimated driving time.

Northern Arizona & Utah Road Trip Itinerary


DAY 1: ARRIVE AT LAS VEGAS

Fly into Harry Reid International Airport (formerly known as McCarran International Airport) and pick up your rental car from the airport.

If you arrive early in Las Vegas and it hasn’t been a long flight, you may want to start this road trip as soon as you arrive by heading straight to the Grand Canyon.

Otherwise, spend the night in Las Vegas and head off the following morning.

The itinerary finishes in Las Vegas, so you can see the Sin City attractions at the start or the end of your trip.

DAY 2: ROUTE 66 TO THE GRAND CANYON

Leave Las Vegas and drive part of Route 66 to the Grand Canyon.

First, stop off at the Hoover Dam which is around 45 minutes from Las Vegas. You can take guided tours, but it’s probably best just to admire the engineering marvel and capture a shot of the O’Callaghan-Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge.

Continue on to visit some historic towns on Route 66.

hoover dam

KINGMAN

Kingman has the Historic Route 66 Museum and an iconic Route 66 sign outside the Visitors Centre. It’s worth a quick stop.

WILLIAMS

Williams is packed with Route 66 memorabilia. Wander through the streets with old bars, vintage gas stations and diners. We recommend brunch or lunch at the counter in Goldie’s Route 66 Diner.

GRAND CANYON VILLAGE

The driving time from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Village is just over 4 hours, and we suggest trying to arrive by mid-afternoon. This will give you time to see sunset over the canyon.

Sunset Views – Read our guide to the best Grand Canyon viewpoints to find a spot. For sunset we recommend Hopi and Pima Point.

Sunset Walk – If you want to stretch your legs after the drive, Powell Point to Mohave Point is a short but excellent sunset walk at the Grand Canyon.

DETAILS // DAY 2

Driving Time – 4 hours 15 minutes | StayGrand Canyon Village

DAY 3: GRAND CANYON

Spend the whole day exploring the Grand Canyon. Cut by the mighty Colorado River, it’s one of the most remarkable landscapes in the world.

If you’re up for an early start, the best place to be for sunrise is Mather Point.

HIKE INTO THE CANYON

In the morning, before it gets too hot, we highly recommend hiking into the canyon. Being below the rim is a very different experience. Here are some suggested hikes:

  • Easy – South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point (1 hr, 30 min | 1.8 miles)
  • Medium – South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge (2 hr, 30 min | 3 miles)
  • Challenging – Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (8 hr | 12.2 miles)

Detailed information for each walk is in our Grand Canyon hikes guide.

DESERT VIEW ROAD

In the afternoon and evening drive the Desert View Road picking off the best Grand Canyon viewpoints. Don’t miss the short walk to Shoshone Point, it’s an incredible sunset spot that you may have all to yourself.  

DETAILS // DAY 3

Driving Time – 1 hour along Desert View Road | StayGrand Canyon Village

DAY 4: PAGE & ANTELOPE CANYON

On day 4, drive from Grand Canyon Village to Page. This town sits on the edge of Navajo lands and it’s a highlight of this Utah road trip itinerary. There are three excellent things to do.

ANTELOPE CANYON

Book a tour of Antelope Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the world. There are two sections to the canyon, Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon and you need to book a tour to see both of them.

All the details are on our guide to visiting Antelope Canyon.

WAHWEAP OVERLOOK

Just north of Page, Wahweap Overlook provides excellent views over Wahweap Bay, Lake Powell and the Colorado Plateau. Stop for photos of Glen Canyon Dam on the way.  

HORSESHOE BEND

This is one of the iconic images of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River has cut a massive, almost fully circular, bend through the rock.

Contrary to advice we’ve seen online, we think it’s best to see Horseshoe Bend late morning or midday. The bend and the river are in shadow at all other times and at sunset the sun is directly in front of you making photography tricky.

Wahweap Overlook and Horseshoe Bend are both located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There is a $30 fee per vehicle for a 7-day pass, however, it’s covered in the America The Beautiful Pass (see PASSES, PERMITS & TOURS below).

DETAILS // DAY 4

Driving Time – 2 hours 30 minutes from Grand Canyon Village to Page | Stay – La Quinta Inn & Suites, Page – hotels.com | booking.com

horseshoe bend utah road trip
HORSESHOE BEND

DAY 5: DRIVE TO MONUMENT VALLEY

Today, drive from Page to Monument Valley (2 hours) stopping off at The Wave – if you are luck enough to get a permit).

THE WAVE

The Wave is a geological formation of undulating swirling patterns in the sandstone rock. Access to visitors is extremely limited with only 64 people allowed entry per day. So far, we’ve applied 5 times without success.

You need to apply for a Permit in either the seasonal lottery (about 4 months in advance) or in the daily lottery, which provides permits for the following few days. The daily lottery can only be entered while you are within a geo-fenced area so apply the day you arrive in Page.

If you managed to get a permit, congratulations, if not, head straight over to Monument Valley.

MONUMENT VALLEY

Monument Valley is a land rich in Navajo culture and breath-taking scenery. Read our guide: best things to do in Monument Valley to decide what to do today depending on how much time you have. The highlights are:

  • Driving the 17-mile scenic loop
  • Joining a sunrise or sunset tour
  • Hiking the Wildcat Trail

Entrance to Monument Valley is $8 per person, per day and there are several rules you need to be aware of, including the consumption of alcohol. All the information is in our Monument Valley guide.

DETAILS // DAY 5

Driving Time – 2 hours from Page to Monument Valley | StayThe View, Monument Valley

DAY 6: FORREST GUMP & MULEY POINT

Spend the morning visiting the Monument Valley attractions you missed yesterday. We highly recommend this sunrise tour with a Navajo guide which takes you to the restricted backcountry. Alternatively, just capture dawn from The View hotel.

Then leave Monument Valley and continue the road trip, heading out of northern Arizona and into Utah. The destination for the day is Blanding and there are several stops along the way.

Goulding’s Museum & Trading Post – A famous location for Old West movies and an interesting museum about the Navajo way of life.

Forrest Gump Highway Viewpoint – The viewpoint of Monument Valley made famous from the film Forrest Gump. The location is on our map above.

Mexican Hat – A rock shaped like a sombrero, that peers over a tiny settlement of the same name.

MOKI DUGWAY & MULEY POINT (optional detour)

A detour up Hwy 261 brings you to Moki Dugway, a dramatic series of switchbacks carved into steep cliff walls. It’s only 3 miles long but the views over the Valley of the Gods as it climbs are stunning.

Just past the top of the switchbacks, there’s a 5-mile track to Muley Point, one of the most underrated views in Utah. The roads should not be attempted after heavy rain, but in most other conditions it’s perfectly manageable in a regular car. Allow about 90 minutes for the round trip detour from Hwy 163.

VALLEY OF THE GODS (optional detour)

Another optional detour is the 17-mile loop through the sandstone spires of the Valley of the Gods. The road however can be rough. In good conditions, a regular car should be fine, but it would be more comfortable in a 4×4.

DETAILS // DAY 6

Driving Time – 1 hour 30 minutes from Monument Valley to Blanding (90 minutes more for Muley Point) | Stay – Stone Lizard Lodge, Blanding – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 7: MOAB & THE NEEDLES, CANYONLANDS

Today, drive from Blanding to Moab, exploring the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park on the way.

Canyonlands is the first of Utah’s Mighty 5 on this southwest road trip and one of the most under-rated National Parks in the USA. Defined by two mighty canyons carved out by the Green and Colorado Rivers, it’s a spectacular landscape of towering mesas, dramatic buttes, and winding canyons.

Canyonlands is split into 4 very distinct sections, and we suggest you visit the Needles section on the way from Monument Valley.

US ROUTE 211

Start by driving US Route 211, one of the finest drives in the USA. There are several excellent viewpoints and attractions on Hwy 211, the best are:

  • Wooden Shoe Arch
  • Big Spring Canyon Overlook
  • Confluence Overlook
  • Newspaper Rock State Monument

All the details are in our guide: What to do in Canyonlands National Park.

HIKING IN THE NEEDLES

Next, try one of the hikes in the Needles. We highly recommend the Chesler Park Loop. The entire hike took about 7 hours, and it was one of the best hikes we have ever done.

After visiting Needles, head to Moab for a couple of nights. Along the way there are a couple of arches and Hole ‘N’ The Rock by the side of the road.

DETAILS // DAY 7

Driving Time – 3 hours from Blanding to Moab via the Needles section of Canyonlands | Stay – Gravity Haus Moab Hotels, Moab – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 8: ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Arches National Park, only 5 miles from Moab, is the second of the Mighty 5 on this Utah National Parks road trip. With over 2,000 natural arches cut into vertical fins of rock, it’s a stunning geological landscape.

Visit all the main attractions in one day, following our 1-day Arches itinerary.

DETAILS // DAY 8

Driving Time – You’ll need all day in Arches, but the total driving time is around 2 hours | Stay – Gravity Haus Moab Hotels, Moab – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 9: CANYONLANDS & CAPITOL REEF TO TORREY

Today is a long day so we recommend getting an early start. There are three major highlights to see.

ISLAND OF THE SKY, CANYONLANDS

The second section of Canyonlands to visit on this Utah road trip is Island in the Sky. Here an outer canyon drops 1,200 feet from the canyon rim to a wide, flat sandstone bench. From there the inner canyon drops another 1,000 feet to the winding rivers below.

The result is a stunning canyon within a canyon. We suggest seeing Mesa Arch at sunrise, then exploring the best viewpoints which are all listed here: best things to do in Canyonlands.

DEAD HORSE POINT

The views from the southern end of Dead Horse Point are magical. It was also the location where Thelma and Louise drove over the ledge.

CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

Capitol Reef National Park is the third of the Mighty 5 on this northern Arizona and Utah road trip. It is a landscape of cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges. It’s not as dramatic as the other National Parks but you should explore the orchards around Fruita and take in the views from Goosenecks Overlook.

If you have time, you could hike either the Hickman Bridge Trail or the Grand Wash Trail.

DETAILS // DAY 9

Driving Time – 2 hours 40 minutes Moab to Torrey. Add 90 minutes for Canyonlands Viewpoints + 30 minutes for Dead Horse Point | Stay – Skyview Hotel, Torrey – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 10: ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMNET

Today the road trip heads over the mountains and across the northern section of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The destination is Bryce Canyon City.

The highlight of the drive is Scenic Byway 12 running between Boulder and Escalante.

SCENIC BYWAY 12

Often listed as one of the most stunning roads in the country, Scenic Byway 12 is a designated All-American Road that runs along a narrow ridge called the Hogback, twisting and turning as a dramatic canyon drops below.

The red and white rock contrasts beautifully with the green oasis that lies along the canyon bottom.

There are lots of great stops or detours along the way, but we suggest you choose one of the following:

  • Drive the Burr Trail Road to Long Canyon
  • Hike to Calf Creek Falls
  • Explore Peekaboo & Spooky slot canyons.

You can find all the details in our guide: best things to do in Grand Staircase Escalante.

DETAILS // DAY 10

Driving Time – 2 hours 15 minutes Torrey to Bryce Canyon City. Add 60 minutes for Burr Trail, or 1 hr 40 min to slot canyons | Stay – Best Western Bryce Canyon – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 11: BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Bryce Canyon National Park is a geological wonder. Stunning amphitheatres are filled with row upon row of towering spire-shaped rock formations known as hoodoos.

The park is not that big, and the best sections can be explored in just over half a day.

Get an early start to see sunrise from Bryce Point, then follow our one-day Bryce Canyon itinerary.

SPRINGDALE

Leave Bryce in the early to mid-afternoon and head towards Springdale. This magical drive begins along Hwy 89, then turns right at Mount Carmel onto Hwy 9. From here it enters Zion National Park before twisting through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel to Springdale.

There are some great sights on route.

  • Stop at the sandstone summit, Checkerboard Mesa
  • Peer into Keyhole Canyon
  • Hike to Canyon Overlook (1 mile each way, just over 1 hour round trip). This is a great place to be at sunset.

DETAILS // DAY 11

Driving Time – 2 hours | Stay – Red Rock Inn Cottages, Springdale – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 12: ZION NATIONAL PARK

The last of Utah’s Mighty 5 on this road trip is Zion National Park. It’s one of the most popular National Parks in the USA.

Today you have the entire day to explore the area.

Cars are not permitted in the park from around early Spring to November. Catch the shuttle bus from Springdale into the main canyon.

There are various points to stop off along the main canyon:

  • Avid hikers should attempt the narrow ridge to Angel’s Landing (permit required).
  • For a less nerve-wracking route, try the West Rim Trail.
  • Shorter hikes include the Kayenta Trail and Emerald Pools.

Leave the main canyon in late afternoon and spend sunset watching the colours of The Watchman, a 6,500-foot sandstone mountain slowly fade away.

DETAILS // DAY 12

Driving Time – 2 hours | Stay – Red Rock Inn Cottages, Springdale – hotels.com | booking.com

DAY 13: ZION & VALLEY OF FIRE

Today, there are a couple more adventures to try before you head back to Las Vegas.

ZION, THE NARROWS

The Narrows is a tight canyon between two towering walls with the Virgin River flowing between them. It’s one of the most unique hikes in the world as you walk along the canyon, knee-deep in water.

You can hire special boots, socks, and a walking pole from rental providers in Springdale.

To get to the Narrows, hop on the shuttle bus from Springdale to the Temple of Sinawava. We suggest hiking up the river to Wall Street before turning around. It’s an unforgettable experience.

VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK

After the Narrows, drive to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and complete the 1.5-mile hike to the Fire Wave.

The Fire Wave is a wave of slickrock with striking red and white lines running through it. It’s reminiscent of The Wave in Arizona.

Finally, drive on to Las Vegas for your last night on this northern Arizona and Utah National Parks road trip. We have some recommendations for some great nightlife in Las Vegas that doesn’t only involve gambling.

DETAILS // DAY 13

Driving Time – 2 hours 15 minutes from Springdale to Las Vegas | StayPlaces to stay in Las Vegas

Things to do in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS

DAY 14: LAS VEGAS

In a town where you get what you want, gambling and non-stop partying is very achievable in Sin City. But Las Vegas is what you make of it, here are some ideas for what to do:

  • Visiting the lobbies of Caesars Palace and the Venetian.
  • Watching the fountain show at the Bellagio.
  • See a Cirque du Soleil performance.
  • Going to the Duelling Pianos session in Paris.

All the details are on our guide: what to do in Las Vegas.

At the end of the northern Arizona and Utah road trip head back to the airport and drop off the car.

CAR RENTAL TIPS

The main route of this northern Arizona and Utah road trip is all on paved roads and can be completed in a normal 2WD vehicle.

However, some of the optional detours head onto gravel tracks. These include:

  • Day 5: 17-mile scenic drive in Monument Valley
  • Day 6: Moki Dugway, Muley Point & Valley of the Gods
  • Day 7: Elephant Hill Trailhead in Needles section of Canyonlands
  • Day 10: Hole in the Rock Road leading to Escalante Slot canyons

In normal conditions these gravel tracks can be driven in a regular car, however you would be more comfortable in an AWD or 4×4. After rain or in winter a 2WD may not be sufficient, so check road conditions with the park authorities before you set off.

Book your car rental: rentalcars.com

car on the road from wahweap overlook
WAHWEAP OVERLOOK

BEST TIME TO VISIT ARIZONA & UTAH NATIONAL PARKS

The best time to complete this road trip is in the shoulder months of April to May or September to October. Temperatures are mild and it will be less crowded than in the summer months.

In some of the parks, summer temperatures can reach 90°F to 100°F, while in winter it can drop below freezing and snow can block the trails and make some unpaved roads impassable.

PASSES, PERMITS & TOURS

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL PASS

This road trip passes through 6 national parks. Each has their own entrance fee of about $20 to $35 (per vehicle). A great way to save money is to get the America the Beautiful Pass.

The pass costs $80 and admits the pass owner and up to 3 passengers in any non-commercial vehicle. It is valid for one year and gives you free entrance to more than 2,000 recreation areas including all the National Parks and Bureau of Land Management areas like Grand Staircase Escalante and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

THE WAVE

You need a permit to enter the wave and they are extremely difficult to get as only 64 are allocated per day. Permits are issued 4 months in advance, and you can apply from anywhere in the world. There is also a daily lottery for permits issued within the next few days, but you need to apply from within a geo-fenced area.

Apply for the seasonal Wave Permit up to 4 months in advance and best of luck.

If you are successful there is a compulsory 8.30 am safety briefing in either Kanab or Page. After the briefing you drive to the Wave (1 hour) and explore on your own.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

To enter the park from April 1 through October 31, you need a timed entry ticket which you should book online in advance.

Ticketed entry runs from 7 am to 4 pm. If you are unable to get a timed entry slot you can still enter the park before 7 am (arrive a good 15 minutes early) or after 4 pm.

ANGEL’S LANDING

There is no permit required to visit Zion National Park, but you do need a permit to hike the narrow ridge at the top of Angel’s Landing. There is a seasonal lottery and a day-before lottery. Apply for an Angel’s Landing permit here.

ANTELOPE CANYON

To visit Antelope Canyon, you need to take a organised tour with a Navajo guide. Tours to Upper Antelope Canyon book out months in advance, so be sure to book ahead.

shafer outlook canyonlands
SHAFER OUTLOOK, CANYONLANDS

AMENDING THIS ROAD TRIP

This northern Arizona and Utah National Parks road trip has been designed to visit all the best sights in the area, but there might be some amendments or additions worth making.

  • If you are not a hiker, consider skipping Needles on Day 7 and driving straight from Monument Valley to Moab, skipping the night in Blanding.
  • If you like 4×4 adventures, add an extra day in Moab and drive the magnificent White Rim and Potash roads – one of the best things to do in Canyonlands.
  • If you enjoy the mystical, you could spend a night in Sedona between Route 66 and the Grand Canyon.
  • If you have extra time add another day between Moab and Torrey. See more of Island of the Sky, plus Goblin Valley State Park, Moon Overlook and the Cathedral Valley section of Capitol Reef National Park.
  • If you fancy another night in Las Vegas, take a day trip to the dunes and colourful rocks of Death Valley.
hiking near horseshoe bend
HORSESHOE BEND

WHERE NEXT?

Here are all our other guides that will help you plan this Arizona and USA Southwest Road Trip:

paul mark 1
ANYWHERE WE ROAM IS
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- Paul & Mark.