How to plan an American South West roadtrip? That takes in the Grand Canyon, Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon, then Bryce and Zion National Parks? Listen and learn!
America’s South West contains many deserts filled with areas of immense beauty and natural wonders. Starting in Las Vegas, today’s host Chris Christensen takes us on a South West American road trip to four beautiful spots.
1. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a spectacular sight, but we’re going to do it a little differently. Most visitors approach from the South, but we’re going to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The north rim has fewer tourists than the south, so it’s going to be quieter and more relaxed. You can hike down the canyon to camp on the valley floor or check out the views and continue on.
The north rim is at a higher elevation than the south, so don’t visit in winter unless you like driving through snow. Chris recommends this whole itinerary is best done in September, or sometime in autumn, to avoid the extremes of desert temperatures and, for later stops, spring thaws causing fast-flowing rivers.
2. Page, Arizona and Antelope Canyon
The next stop is in Page, Arizona where one can camp at Lake Powell. Lake Powell is a popular haunt for houseboats, so you may be able to stay on board and get out on the water. Page was built for dam builders, and a tour of the dam is recommended. Wake early in the morning and begin to explore Antelope Canyon, a stunning slot canyon.
Antelope Canyon is characterised by its sleek red sandstone and narrow slot canyons. Start at the Lower Antelope Canyon, which is maintained by the Navajo nation, and climb down into the canyon. Walk through as far as you are able and, as Chris says, if you can’t take a good picture here, it’s time to sell your camera and try something else.
Time your journey to make it to the Upper Antelope Canyon by noon to enjoy the overhead light streaming down from above and the shafts of sunlight cutting through the canyon’s shade. Access to Upper Antelope Canyon is wheelchair friendly, while the Lower Canyon is not.
3. Bryce National Park
Continuing on to Bryce National Park to watch the sunrise over a sea of hoodoos – naturally occurring spires of rock. Bryce is high and cold, so make sure you have a warm sleeping bag if you’re camping overnight. After breakfast, hike the Navajo trail through the park.
4. Zion National Park
Zion National Park contains even more canyons to hike through. If you’re brave hike the rim at Angel’s Landing which has big drop-offs on either side of the trail; it’s not recommended if you have a fear of heights.
If it hasn’t been raining, you can do a half-day hike up Virgin River, which flows through the valley of the canyon. Rent hiking gear there and, if you’re planning a full day or multi-day walk, you need a permit from the Parks department. Chris recommends you depart early to avoid crowds and take lunch to eat once you reach your turning point.
Chris talks about these destinations in more depth in episodes 15-18 of the Amateur Traveler.
How Long Will This South West Road Trip Take? (And how can I extend it?)
This Southwest America road trip itinerary can take around five days depending on how fast you move.
For those with more time, detour to see:
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Monument Valley
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Moab, Utah
Chris podcasts at the Amateur Traveler and is taking the plunge into full-time podcasting this January; he might need to rename the show! We wish him all the best for the new year!