You can’t say that you’ve truly seen America if you haven’t been to its canyons and National Parks. We wanted to go to the Southwestern USA for a long time, but finally did it only this April. That was unforgettable!
We only had 6 days, but each one was incredibly beautiful and different from the other. We saw the amazing Grand Canyon and even hiked there for 21 km! Drove through the Monument Valley. Enjoyed the colours of Antelope Canyon. We were freezing amongst the hoodos of Bryce Canyon and sweating trying to outrun crowds of people in magnificent Zion Park. So many incredible places and memories, that I can’t help but share. Please find our detailed itinerary in this article and feel free to comment and tell us about your experience below.
Las Vegas – Williams (1 night) – Tuba City (1 night) – Page (1 night) – Kanab (1 night) – Zion (1 night) – Las Vegas
Day 1: Las Vegas, car rental, road to Williams
Our plane from Vancouver landed in Las Vegas at 9 am. All the way, one of the Flight Attendants entertained us with jokes. The weather was perfect. The mood was great too. Viva Las Vegas!
We took an Uber and drove to the Enterprise on E Sahara Ave. This car rental office has some of the best reviews on Google. It was fast, easy, and they gave us a fancier and more expensive car for the same price. Viva Las Vegas!
Then we had an unexpectedly delicious brunch at Public Us. From that moment on, Elvis Presley’s song was put on repeat in my head until the end of the day. Viva Las Vegas!
If in Europe all roads lead to Rome, in America all roads lead to Vegas. This was my first time there. And it is just wow! I’ve never imagined this city to be so interesting. Yes, it’s crowded, expensive and smells like a cigarette. But also beautiful, full of life, music, fun, tasty food and crazy people. It’s like an amusement park for adults in the middle of a rocky desert. There is mini Venice, mini Paris, mini Egypt, mini New York, mini Rome and other minis (very detailed and realistic)!
We didn’t have enough time to explore all of the city but enjoyed it as much as possible. After 3 hours we headed to our hotel in Williams.
ps/ We parked our car at a huge PH Parking Casino Las Vegas.
- Early flight from Vancouver
- Las Vegas
- Road to Williams
- Drove around 370km
Day 2: Hiking Grand Canyon National Park
This day one of my dreams came true – I saw the Grand Canyon. And not just from the viewpoints. I hiked inside the canyon for 21 km!
But first, we drove there about 1 hour from Williams, bought an annual pass, met some moose and parked.
The Grand Canyon was so beautiful that sometimes I had to pinch myself to prove it was real. Hiking was so hard that at the end I could barely feel or move my legs. I was so happy and grateful for this experience that already on the trail I was thinking about coming back.
We hiked 2 most popular Grand Canyon trails in one day – Kaibab and Bright Angel via Tonto Connector:
- 7 km on the South Kaibab trail in a strong icy wind. At one point we had to bend down and move that way not to be blown away. The views were unreal!
- 7 km on the Tonto Connector. A more-less flat, but it was hot as in the pot. Here we met a rattlesnake. Not a very pleasant surprise.
- 7km up the Bright Angel, 1000m elevation. This part was a hard core. No comments!
I took 4 layers of clothes, as temperature changed from freezing cold in the morning/evening at the top to a very hot one at the bottom during the day.
We did this trail in 8 hours. I stopped every meter to take a picture.
By the time we got to the parking lot, it was already dark. The wind was so strong, that it knocked us off our feet. We warmed up some soup in the Jetboil and headed toward the NavajoLand Hotel in Tuba City.
- Grand Canyon hike 21km
- Road to Tuba City
- Drove around 225km
Day 3: Monument Valley
In the morning Tuba City was covered in sand. We barely could open the door of the hotel. By the way, I really liked it and recommend it for a short stop.
It was a special day. We were gonna see Monument Vally. Went early as I read some reviews about crowds of cars at the entrance. And yep! There was a line, but not so long. After 15 minutes we were inside. The entrance fee was $10USD/person. You can buy it online or on site.
It’s better to see Monument Valley once with your own eyes than to hear about it or watch it on video a thousand times. Whatever I tell or show you about it, won’t be enough to express its monumentality…
We drove 17-mile loop for about an hour and a half. Did stops at every rock that was marked on the official map, took pictures and adored the beauty of this place.
After Monument Valley, we went to our hotel in Page. Bought grilled chicken (it was good) and fruits in the local Safeway. Our hotel was located near the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. Walked there in the sunset.
- Road to Monument Valley
- Monument Valley Loop
- Road to Page
- Drove around 390km
Day 4: Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Band, The New Wave and Secret Canyon
The New Wave and Horseshoe Band
If you were thinking about the US Southwest road trip, you’ve probably heard about The Wave. This is the most epic and photographic rock formation in the form of waves of different colours.
It’s located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Utah-Arizona border, indigenous land. To visit The Wave, you need a permit that can only be obtained in a special lottery. Some people have been chasing this permit for years. We also didn’t get it. But…
A few minutes by car from the city of Page we found an easy offroad hike called The New Wave (on Google maps or Alltrails). This small area of bizarre rocks was stunning! No cars, no people around, no crazy lotteries. Just an amazing landscape. And yes, there are some waves! I couldn’t compare them to the original ones, but they looked cool to me.
Just a small hint for your next trip.
After The New Wave we visited the iconic Horseshoe Bend lookout. Parking cost $10USD/car and it was almost full.
The best time to see Horseshoe Bend is at noon when there is just a small shadow from the canyon. We’ve been there at 11am. The place is really nice but overcrowded.
Lower Antelope Canyon and Buckskin Gulch
At 12pm we had a Lower Antelope Canyon tour. You can’t go inside the Upper and Lower Canyons by yourself, without the tour. Better book it a month upfront. Read below, how I managed to buy tickets a few days before the trip.
READ MORE: What you can do if Antelope Canyon tour is sold out
I didn’t like the tour. Our guide was impatient, sometimes rude, and didn’t say anything interesting about the place. The tour was mostly about taking pictures inside, but no videos were allowed w/o permission from the tribe. The canyon itself is amazing! Its shapes and colours are just like a fire dance. Overall it was worth the effort and money (I paid $89USD/person).
We had one more place to explore – a canyon, which many call an alternative to the Antelope Canyon. It’s name is Buckskin Gulch.
According to Wikipedia, this is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwestern United States (>21km long!). You also need a special permit here. I got one at recreation.gov as soon as I knew the license plate of the car we rented. $6USD/person. The canyon is one hour drive from Page or Kanab town. It’s an unpaved road.
The trail starts at the sign “Wire Pass Trailhead”. We left a printed permit on the dashboard of our car. Signed in at the trailhead register.
Path to Bucking Gulch was very easy. Nice rock formation all around. The canyon itself is unbelievable! We went there at 4pm and hiked inside 9km. I loved this place! It should be on your bucket list, for sure.
Spent the night in Kanab.
- The New Wave
- Horseshoe Band
- Lower Antelope Canyon
- Buckskin Gulch hike 9km
- Road to Kanab
- Drove around 180km
Day 5: Bryce Canyon, road to Zion
April is the best time to go to the US Canyons. You’ll have sunny warm days and definitely won’t die from the heat or frost. We were so relaxed and comfortable with +15-20 degrees Celsius during our trip, that cold in Bryce canyon was like an anomaly. In tandem with the white snow, its rich orange hoodoos looked like they were from another planet. These irregular columns of rock exist on every continent, but Bryce Canyon is the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. I believe, the most beautiful also!
We hiked Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail. Then drove up to the Rainbow point and back, stopping at every lookout. My favourite is Bryce Point (don’t miss it!)
Well… It was very optimistic to plan just 6 days for the Southwest US Canyons road trip. Every place was so different, so fascinating, that the time was accelerated twice at least. Yet we still had time to visit everything that wanted to see. But I was seriously thinking about skipping our last stop – Zion.
That day I found a very good hotel offer in the middle of a canyon, Springdale village. And Zion was destined to be…
Pure luck! Cause Zion National Park turned out to be magnificent! Its huge green mountains reminded me of the views from Avatar Movie. I couldn’t take my eyes off this fantastic landscape and drove silently down the brick-coloured highway. It was sunset time.
We checked in Zion Park Motel and had dinner at a very popular Oscar’s Cafe.
- Bryce Canyon hike 5km
- Bryce Canyon Lookouts
- Road to Zion
- Drove around 328km
Day 6: Zion National Park, Vegas
The next day we intentionally forgot about all the plans and decided to hike in Zion. I don’t know if it was the weekend or something, but I haven’t seen this many people in recent days in all the other national parks altogether. There were no free spots on a huge parking lot near Zion National Park Visitor Center at 9 am. We had to leave our car near Zion Peddler parking for $30USD.
The free shuttle was pretty fast. It skipped a few stops because of a recent rockfall. We got off the bus at the number 6 bus stop – The Grotto. One of the most popular trails in Zion is Angels Landing, for which you need a permit of course. The funny part is that you can hike the biggest part of this trail without the lottery. The official name of the trail is “Scout Lookout”. At the entrance there were 2 rangers, they asked us where we were going.
Scout Lookout is around 6km long, elevation is 340m. The views are breathtaking! Especially on an Angels Landing Rock at the top. I was glad, that we didn’t go there. To Angels Landing led a narrow rocky trail with chasms on both sides.
From the Scout lookout, we hiked another kilometre up, turned back and drove to Las Vegas.
We spent a few hours in Vegas and had a flight to Vancouver at 10 pm. Even at the airport on every corner, there were slot machines. Many people were desperate to try their luck there. We didn’t have time and intentions to make a fortune, but it felt like we already did. So great and beautiful was our adventure!
Southwest, we’ll be back!
- Hike in Zion 7km
- Road to Las Vegas
- Las Vegas
- Drove around 280km