Southwest USA Road Trip for 2 Weeks


Route

This little southwest USA road trip if perfect for all travellers out there who only have a limited amount of time and want to get a perfect first impression of this magical area. The route will start and end in Los Angeles, travelling east to Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Although this southwest USA road trip is only two weeks long, you’ll experience breathtaking natural sights like Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, as well as the vibrant cities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Although time is short, driving distances each day are not that long.

Proposed Itinerary

The following itinerary for the southwest USA road trip is a recommendation from my side but can be changed to your liking:

Day Plan for the Day Sleeping in Distance
Day 1 Landing in Los Angeles Los Angeles 0 miles
Day 2 Full day in Los Angeles Los Angeles 0 miles
Day 3 Los Angeles to Joshua Tree NP, staying in 29 Palms for the night 29 Palms 162 miles
Day 4 29 Palms to Flagstaff, AZ, driving along the most beautiful part of Route 66 Flagstaff 346 miles
Day 5 Day trip to Sedona, AZ, returning to Flagstaff, AZ, for the night Flagstaff 64 miles
Day 6 Full day at Grand Canyon, continuing to Page, AZ in the evening Page 208 miles
Day 7 Full day in Page, staying here for the night Page 0 miles
Day 8 Early morning drive to Bryce Canyon for a full day there, staying in Kanab Kanab 229 miles
Day 9 Full day at Zion National Park, staying in Springdale for the night Springdale 43 miles
Day 10 Driving to Las Vegas, visiting the Valley of Fire on the way Las Vegas 163 miles
Day 11 Full day in Las Vegas Las Vegas 0 miles
Day 12 Driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley, staying in Ridgecrest for the night Ridgecrest 280 miles
Day 13 Driving from Ridgecrest to Los Angeles Los Angeles 152 miles
Day 14 Free time in LA until the flight leaves The Plane :-) 0 miles

Sights

Los Angeles

road trip usa los angeles

Some tourists say they were disappointed by Los Angeles, but I cannot share this impression of this vibrant city! For your southwest USA road trip I recommend taking a hotel in Venice as it’s close to the airport and you can access the beach by foot. Check out Muscle Beach at the oceanfront where you’ll find all kinds of interesting people and things to buy. Another must-do is to drive up to Griffith Observatory (great during the day, but also at night) and enjoy the view of the Hollywood sign and the sheer size of Los Angeles. Also check out the walk of fame (which is not that impressive aas you might think), the shopping area around Rodeo Drive, drive through Bel Air and along the legendary sunset strip with all the old music clubs and upscale restaurants. If you have the time, drive north towards Malibu and enjoy the beauty of the coast line!

Recommended Los Angeles hotel: Marina Del Rey Hotel

Joshua Tree National Park

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Just two hours outside of Los Angeles lies Joshua Tree NP, which is the perfect start for the national parks you will encounter during your southwest USA road trip. With its big variety of vegetation, rock formations and panoramic views it gives you an idea about the Mojave desert and of course its climate. When driving along Twentynine Palms Highway, drive south in the town of Joshua Tree to enter the park. There are many short hikes or viewing points along the road accessible by car, like the Hidden Valley, Keys View or Cholla Cactus Garden. After you finished your visit, exit the park through the other entrance and you will come to the town of 29 palms where I recommend to stay for the night before continuing your southwest USA road trip.

Recommended Joshua Tree hotel: Fairfield Inn & Suites 29 Palms

Route 66

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The legendary “Main Road of America” originally spanned from Chicago to Los Angeles. As a part of your southwest USA road trip you will drive along one of the most beautiful parts of Route66. Head north after leaving Twentynine Palms until you find the legendary road – I recommend using a map instead of a GPS to make sure you don’t leave Route66 by accident. The best part comes after the town of Kingman, where you’ll get that classic road trip feeling of the good old days. Take a break at Hackberry General Store where time seems to stand still since the 50s. All the time you’ll find scenic spots where you should stop for a photo while driving along curvy mountain roads. Continue along Route66 until you come to Interstate 40 again and head for Flagstaff.

Sedona

ford-mustang-red-rock-canyon-sedona-arizona-sunset

Sedona is not only known for its vibrant art scene, but also for its location in the middle of beautiful red rock canyon. When coming from Flagstaff during your southwest USA road trip, you should always take the scenic Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. Stop at the viewing point and then head for Sedona. By driving around the area you will experience so many beautiful spots and sights that will make it one of the highlights of your southwest USA road trip. Your first stop should be the tourist information where you can get a map and some tips by the great local staff. Afterwards head off to the Desert Canyon Scenic Loop and the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop. Afterwards head to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, as well as Cathedral Rock Trail (best at sunset!).

Grand Canyon

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The highlight of your southwest USA road trip: Grand Canyon! This UNESCO heritage site is one of the greatest sights I’ve visited in my life. On this road trip you’ll visit the south rim, which is the best spot for Grand Canyon in my opinion. Leave flagstaff early in the morning to get to Grand Canyon Village. Park your car there and use the awesome shuttle bus service from then on to reach all viewpoints at the south rim. Make sure to visit Hermit’s rest as it’s the westernmost point of the shuttle bus. From there on you should hike a bit to another shuttle stop, or descend for a mile or two into the canyon. As Grand Canyon offers one of the greatest sunsets on earth, try to stay until dark and drive to Page afterwards. You’ll arrive well late there, but it’s worth it!

Recommended Grand Canyon hotel: Holiday Inn Express

Page

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Page is one of my favorite cities in the United States: located near Lake Powell it offers many activities and sights in the near area. The most famous stop there for your southwest USA road trip is Antelope Canyon, a narrow slot canyon you can walk through that is just spectacular. As it is managed by the native Navajo Indians, a guided tour is needed for Lower & Upper Antelope Canyon. Tour one of them and head to Glen Canyon Dam afterwards. For the sunset you definitely need to go to the Horseshoe Bend, a meander of Colorado River. Park at the parking lot and hike for around 20 minutes to one of the most spectacular panorama views in the world!

Recommended Page Arizona hotel: Lulu’s Sleep Ezze Motel

Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon is a gigantic collection of amphiteaters with so-called geological “hoodoos”. While doing your southwest USA road trip, do not miss this attraction! Drive into the canyon and check out Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Bryce Point. From there you’ll have a breathtaking view of the canyon. Hike at least the “Queens Garden Trail” as it is an easy hike into the canyon. Drive further to the south to Yovimpa Point and check out the Natural Bridge. Be aware that this might be the coldest point in your itinerary, so bring warm clothing if you want to hike and be careful when there might be slippery road conditions in the canyon.

Recommended Bryce Canyon hotel: Best Western Ruby’s Inn

Zion National Park

zion-national-park-southwest-usa

Plan your day in Zion National Park ahead, as it is a huge park with many attractions, hikes and viewpoints! Depending on your preferences, Canyon Overlook Trail and the Emerald Pools can be a great start. One highlight of course is Angels Landing, a very steep trail for those who don’t fear heights. Please be aware that the park is run by very convenient shuttle buses that take you everywhere, which is less stressful after a hike.

Recommended Zion National Park hotel: Pioneer Lodge, Springdale

Las Vegas

bellagio fountains las-vegas during usa southwest road trip

“Sin City” offers all kinds of entertainment for everyone: casinos, great shows, awesome hotels and pool areas, shopping centres and great places to party. Take a hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard and walk along the “strip” and through the different hotels. My favorites are the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. You can also take the bus to Downtown (which is actually in the north) where you need to check out Fremont Street Experience. If you want to attend a show, take a look at the booths selling leftover tickets of shows on the same day as they’re much cheaper. Another tip for your southwest USA road trip: always visit the “Valley of Fire” near Las Vegas when you’re around. This beautiful state park is one of the greates things to near Vegas – and that means something!

Recommended Las Vegas hotel: Bellagio

Death Valley

death valley during southwest usa road trip

Death Valley is the lowest point of the USA and also the hottest during your southwest USA road trip. Drive through the valley on your way between Vegas and Los Angeles and visit at least Badwaster Basin, a surreal salt flat in the middle of the valley. When driving around the valley, watch for all the interesting colors and rocks you can see. Also make sure to have enough gas in your car as gas stations are rare – the same goes for drinking water!
This will be the lowest geographical and hottest point of your USA Southwest Road Trip. Although the valley is “dead”, it is something not to be missed! Drive through surreal parts of nature with big salt lakes and colored mountains. Head for Badwater Basin and walk around a bit – take sun lotion, a hat and water with you as the heat and danger for your body is easy to underestimate. Make sure to NOT run out of gas as gas stations are rare in this area.

This will be the lowest geographical and hottest point of your USA Southwest Road Trip. Although the valley is “dead”, it is something not to be missed! Drive through surreal parts of nature with big salt lakes and colored mountains. Head for Badwater Basin and walk around a bit – take sun lotion, a hat and water with you as the heat and danger for your body is easy to underestimate. Make sure to NOT run out of gas as gas stations are rare in this area.

Recommended Death Valley hotel: Quality Inn, Ridgecrest

Best Travel Season

For my personal taste the best travel season for this southwest USA road trip is from June to August if you’re not afraid of the heat. May and September are also fine, but be prepared for snow at Bryce Canyon as the elevation is quite high.

Approximate Costs

These costs exclude food and other expenses but should give you a rough impression of the costs of a southwest USA road trip:

  • Rental Car at Hertz: 450 USD
  • Flights to/from Los Angeles via eBookers: 800 USD/person
  • 13 Hotel nights via Expedia: 1.000 USD
  • Entrance to National/State Parks: 100 USD
  • Gas: 300 USD
  • Total per person when travelling with a partner: 1.725 USD

Further Tips

  • Book your flights in advance on sites like Expedia, eBookers or Opodo.
  • Compare rental car prices of Hertz, Avis, Budget and Dollar. Make sure to include only the insurances you actually need (depending on existing insurances you have)
  • Be prepared for the heat in certain National Parks and always have extra drinking water in your car
  • Buy a GPS as its cheaper very often than renting – I recommend the Garmin Nüvi
  • Buy an Annual Pass for 80 USD that gives you free entry to all National Parks for a year (saves you money!)

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