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American West Road Trip Itinerary: Southern Utah, 6 National Parks

American West Road Trip Itinerary: Southern Utah, 6 National Parks

This is the ultimate American west road trip. Utah has five national parks in just the southern half of the state, so you could easily cover ground without covering an overwhelming amount of distance. Add a sixth N.P. to the trip by hitting up the less traveled north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona!


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Tobey

State: 
Utah, Arizona, NEvada

Start/End: 
Las Vegas, Nevada

Total miles:
1,200 (1,900 km)

Suggested days: 
At least 12 – 16

Suggested season: 
All seasons, but spring and fall are best

Overview

The route that we have chosen for this American west road trip is a loop that leaves from and arrives back in Las Vegas, Nevada. It takes you to six national parks and multiple national monuments. This trip is ideal for people visiting the US for the first time, families with children, hardcore adventurers or honeymooners. There’s really no perfect itinerary–just follow the general route and make it your own! It can be adjusted to fit any need that your group is looking for.

Preparation

While you could technically take this American West road trip at any time of the year, spring and fall seasons have the most moderate weather, but larger crowds. If you choose to visit in the quieter summer or winter, just be prepared to deal with the heat or possibly the snow, and make sure you’ve brought appropriate clothing and gear. That being said, the desert looks incredibly beautiful when it snows!

Ideally, you would give yourself at least 14 days for this trip. There’s not a ton of driving, so it could be done in less than 14, but you might regret quickly passing through many of the stops. 

#1 las vegas, nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada sign

Unless you’re looking to win some money in Vegas and hit up a famous buffet in the morning–which is never a bad idea–it’d be best to arrive early, get your rental car and start driving to St. George, Utah. Flights to Las Vegas are usually fairly affordable from other major airports. Try to book your rental car as early as you book the flights, because those rates can be quite high. Now it’s time to hop on the I-15 North and get stoked!

#2 St. george

St. George, Utah

2 hours – 118 miles/303 km

St. George isn’t just known for its close proximity to Zion National Park. In fact, we suggest that you save Zion for the end of the trip when you stay in Springdale. St. George is a beautiful city nestled between red rocks in the heart of Greater Zion and there’s plenty of outdoor activities to burn your energy from that your flight and drive. There are over 668 mountain biking trails and the annual Red Bull Rampage, which is basically the Super Bowl of mountain biking. If you didn’t bring your bike, there are plenty of bike shops in town that rent them for a day rate.

Best short hike:

Red Reef Trail

Most unique hike:

Elephant Arch

Best experience for the whole family:

Horseback Riding at Snow Canyon State Park

Most unique advnture:

Spelunking at Bloomington Cave

#3 cedar city

Mountain biker on Lichen It trail in Cedar City, Utah.

1 hour – 53 miles/85 km

Cedar City is a beautiful stop for photographers, hikers, mountain bikers and skiers. It’s only a 30 minute drive from Cedar Breaks National Monument, a vibrantly red natural colosseum. Cedar City is also home to Utah’s two highest ski resorts–Brian Head and Eagle Point. 

For history buffs and Shakespeare fans, Cedar City is a good place to take a break from the outdoor adventures and experience some indoor culture, such as the annual Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Best short hike in Cedar Break NM: 

The Ramparts Overlook

Best long hike in Cedar Breaks NM: 

Rattlesnake Creek Trail

Coolest slot canyon:

Kanarra Creek Canyon

Best mountain biking trail:

Lichen It Trail

#4 panguitch & bryce canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park

1 hour – 66 MILES/106 KM

Finally, here’s where you’ll visit your first national park on the trip: Bryce Canyon. A 3-day itinerary for Bryce Canyon Country might be enough for you, but check out all the activities to decide how many days you’d like to stay. For an authentic western adventure, go horseback riding and then go out for a chuckwagon dinner.

Don’t miss this place:

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Most popular hike in Bryce Canyon:

Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop

Best place to ride a horse:

 Panguitch Lake Horseback Trail

Point of interest: 

Rockin R’ Cowboy & Dude Ranch

#5 capitol reef

Capitol Reef, Utah

2 hours – 118 miles/190 km

Next, you’ll drive to Fruita and visit Capitol Reef National Park. This park is unique because of its rich history, one-of-a-kind geology, and the Fremont River, which supports plant and animal life that aren’t often seen in the desert. If you’re in Capitol Reef Country between April and October, definitely go fruit picking in the orchards that were planted by early Mormon settlers: cherries, peaches, pears, apples, and more. Also be sure to stop in Caineville and Hanksville on your way to Moab to get a taste of what an authentic western small town is like.

Best place to go fruit picking:

The Fruita Orchards

Point of interest:

Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef

Most scenic drive: 

Cathedral Valley

For the adventurers:

 Canyoneer Pandora’s Box

#6 moab

Arches National Park, Utah.

2.5 hours – 144 miles/232 km

Ready to knock two more national parks off your list? Great, because you’ll want to spend a few days here in order to visit Arches NP and Canyonlands NP. Arches is known as being the park with more than 2,000 delicate, red-sandstone natural arches, while Canyonlands is known for its dramatic, expansive landscape that was carved by the Colorado River and includes rock pinnacles, remote canyons, and Native American rock paintings.

Best photo op:

Dead Horse Point State Park

Notable place to visit:

The Needles

Best place to see indigenous rock paintings:

Horseshoe Canyon

Most popular activity:

Mountain biking

#7 San juan county

Cliff dwellings "house on fire" in Bears Ears National Monument

1 hour – 55 miles/88 km

As you drive through the Four Corners area, you might be wondering what you can do next that isn’t hiking or mountain biking, as there’s a lot of that in Utah. The answer is rafting! Take a family-friendly three-day rafting trip on the San Juan River. There are three wonderful towns on along your route: Monticello, Blanding and Bluff, where you can grab food and set up base camp to explore the surrounding parks like Bears Ears National Monument. If you’re a climber, or someone who just loves desert towers, you won’t want to miss Indian Creek!

Best place for photographs:

 Goosenecks State Park

Well-known rafting outfitters:

Oars Rafting Guides

Best activity for all ages:

Edge of the Cedars State Park

Most classic spot to grab a bite to eat:

Shake Shack in Monticello

#8 Monument Valley

Monument Valley

1.75 hours – 93 miles/150 km

You can’t do an American west road trip without visiting Monument Valley–it’s iconic. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is quite possibly one of the most iconic destinations of the American wild West, located on the Navajo Nation and the border of Utah and Arizona. We recommend staying at least one night here to experience stars above the towers at night and hopefully wake up to wild horses roaming in the morning. There’s a lot of history to learn about this area of the country and much more to explore in Monument Valley than just what you’ve seen from Hollywood.

For the campers:

The View Campground, El Capitan Valley Campground, Mustang Valley Campground

For the hotel-stayers:

The View Hotel

For those in between:

Monument Valley Tipi Village or Thunder Bird Tipi

A must-do activity:

Horseback riding

#9 kanab

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

3.25 hours – 197 miles/317 km

The drive to Kanab will be your longest yet, but it also has some amazing stops along the way to break it up. About an hour outside of Kanab you’ll drive through Page, Arizona, where you can access Lake Powell, a large reservoir with slot canyons on the Colorado River. Although Kanab is a small town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it’s been featured in hundreds of Western movies and was given the title “Little Hollywood” in the 1940s. You can visit the museum, attend their chuckwagon dinner, and view old movie sets. Another state park to check off your list: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Sounds amazing, right? It is.

Must-see landmark along the way:

Horseshoe Bend

Don’t want to miss:

Take a guided tour of Glen Canyon Dam

A worthy hiking/backpacking stop: 

Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area

Family-friendly roadside attraction:

Toadstools hoodoos

#10 Grand canyon national park

Grand Canyon National Park

1.5 hours – 80 MILES/130 KM

Want to visit the Grand Canyon National Park without all of the crowds or the heat of the summer? Drive to the north rim of the canyon and back, which is doable in a day if you’re staying in Kanab. There’s a visitor’s center, a scenic drive, and many hikes available to you. This entry point is closed during the winter months due to snow. 

Activity for everyone:

Mule rides through the canyon

Best hike into the canyon:

Bright Angel Point Trail

#11 springdale & zion national park

Zion National Park landscape.

2.5 hours – 121 miles/195 km

It’s your last and final stop before you head back to Las Vegas. Springdale, which is just outside the entrance to Zion National Park, is the perfect basecamp if you’re planning on spending a few days exploring Zion. The park is one of the busier ones, so be prepared with an itinerary before you become overwhelmed with options and people. 

Most popular hikes:

Angels Landing Hike and The Narrows

Too many people?

Hidden Canyon

Best place to learn about history: 

Zion Human History Museum

For the hardcore adventurers:

Guided Canyoneering in Zion National Park

From Springdale, Utah, it’s about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive back to Las Vegas, where you’ll catch your flight home after a long and adventurous road trip through the desert. Make sure you shake off all that red dirt before hopping on the plane!
 
 




Visiting Bryce Canyon Country: 3 Days of Activities

Bryce Canyon is a must-see U.S. landmark, but did you know there is an endless list of things to do in the surrounding area which most visitors haven’t heard about? If you are visiting Bryce Canyon, we’ve created an itinerary filled with other things to do in the surrounding area which will make your trip even more memorable and unique. Here are the top spots to find a bite to eat, see some beautiful scenery, spend the night, ride horses, and so much more.

This post was created in partnership with Bryce Canyon Country.

Day 1: Boulder, Escalante

Lodging

There are countless options for places to stay, there are countless options, but one unique option is the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch. Just 45 minutes from Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, it offers incredible features. Guests can rent a room, a tipi, or a cabin and experience life on the guest ranch in comfort and style. The Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch offers many activities for its guests from hiking, and horseback riding, to guided garden tours, and fly fishing, even yoga on the heated patio.

Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch in Boulder, UT

Photos Courtesy of Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch

Sweetwater Kitchen

The landscape surrounding the guest ranch is breathtaking and the restaurant is world-class. At the Sweetwater Kitchen located on the ranch property, the food is farm to table and all meat is organic and pasture-raised locally in the state of Utah. This restaurant will even pack a lunch for you if you are going to be gone exploring all day! You really cannot go wrong with this place! When visiting Bryce Canyon Country, this guest ranch should be at the top of your list as a base camp.

Dining at Sweetwater Kitchen in Boulder, UT

Photos Courtesy of Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch

Museum

In the Escalante and Boulder area, there are countless hikes, restaurants, museums, and other incredible things to do. Start your morning in the Anasazi Museum to beat the crowds and the heat. If you want to learn more history when you’re visiting the Bryce Canyon area, the Anasazi Museum lets you explore an ancient Puebloan village that was likely occupied from A.D. 1050 to 1200. Outside is the six-room replica of the Pueblo, and inside you will find genuine artifacts recovered from the site.

Anasazi Pueblo

Food Truck

No matter whether you visit in the morning or the afternoon, plan to eat at the famous Magnolia food truck located just outside the museum.

Magnolia Food Truck outside of the Anasazi Museum

Photo Courtesy of Magnolia Food Truck

Magnolia Food truck offers delicious meals made from the produce of local farms. The menu includes breakfast burritos, fresh-cut fries, salads, kid-friendly quesadillas, and the specials vary depending on what the local farms and gardens can provide. So, plan to have a picnic in the shade outside of the Anasazi Museum anytime within the food truck’s business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Scenic Byway

Calf Creek Falls, Burr Trails, Aspens in Boulder/Escalante, UT

Calf Creek Falls, Burr Trail, and beautiful Aspens, all can be found along Highway 12

Hop in the car and take Highway 12 to Escalante. Highway 12 is one of the most famous scenic byways in the country and is also classified as an All-American Road. This trip will take about 45 minutes and along the way, there are countless arches, rivers, and other natural wonders that can be seen from the car. You can also pull over and hike to get a better view of spots like Calf Creek Falls, a beautiful 6-mile hike. There are also wonderful places to stop for a bite like Kiva Koffeehouse, which offers coffee and treats paired with incredible views.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Once in Escalante, explore, relax, and check out the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center before heading into the park. There are many roads for vehicles in the park, but they might not be on your GPS, so make sure to grab a map to be sure of where you are going in the park. Also, keep in mind that this park is run by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the state or national parks services, so most of the roads will not be paved. A great place to start is the Hole in the Rock Road, where you can access various slot canyons or Devil’s Garden.  If you want to explore some of the hidden gems in the area, it is best to hire a local outfitter based in the town of Escalante, they can make sure you stay safe while experiencing some local hidden gems. Visiting the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in the evening lets you avoid the heat of the day, and stargazing in the park is highly recommended.

Day 2: Tropic, Thunder Mountain Trail

Stone Hearth Grille

When visiting Bryce Canyon Country, you will find one of the most recommended restaurants in Utah, Stone Hearth Grille. Just look it up and you’ll find hundreds of ecstatic reviews. They even have incredible vegetarian options. The top it all off, the views from this restaurant deck are outstanding. But make sure you go before they close for the season on October 31st! This place starts serving dinner starting at 5 pm, so you might want to work up an appetite on some bike trails.

Mountain Biking

If Thunder Mountain Bike Trail sounds familiar to you, that’s because there is a Disneyland ride by the same name. This iconic area has captivated every passerby, and there is no better way to truly experience it than from the seat of a mountain bike. This trail is considered intermediate/difficult, so first-timers might want to try the Red Canyon Bike Trail instead.Biking and Horseback riding in Bryce Canyon Country

Day 3: Antimony, the Wild Wild West

Dude Ranch

Finally, head on over to the Rockin R’ Ranch. This place is incredibly unique and filled with activities which easily fill up an entire day or even an entire week. Rockin’ R Ranch offers horseback riding and instruction, barrel racing, archery, western dancing, and more. If you have ever dreamed of living the cowboy lifestyle, the Rockin’ R Ranch can offer you all that and more. This is the perfect place to take the whole family and share some uninterrupted quality time.

Rockin' R Ranch Activities

Photos Courtesy of Rockin’ R Ranch

Trying to narrow down everything Bryce Canyon Country offers into just a three-day experience is difficult, so take your time and venture into the unknown at your own pace. You won’t be disappointed with the experiences that await.

Bryce Canyon Country pin




West Texas and the Legend of Pecos Bill

West Texas and the Legend of Pecos Bill

TEXAS IS A BIG STATE. HOW BIG? ALMOST 270,000 SQUARE MILES BIG. ITS SO BIG, YOU COULD FIT SLOVENIA, AUSTRIA, LUXEMBOURG, THE CZECH REPUBLIC, SWITZERLAND, MACEDONIA, BELGIUM, SLOVAKIA AND MACEDONIA INSIDE ITS BORDERS. THAT’S TEXAS. IN THIS ITINERARY WE ARE GOING TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THE northern PART OF THE STATE, the famous Llano Escatado AND DOWN to the border areas of the Rio Grande.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
West Texas

Start/End:
Dallas, Texas

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, history buffs

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

Pecos Bill, in American folklore, cowboy hero of the Pecos River region of Texas who was an exaggerated personification of Western stamina and values; his vivid exploits are analogous to those of the legendary giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan of the North Woods. The theme of Pecos Bill is to be ready for whatever life throws at you, and to never give up, and that idea embodies the spirit of West Texas. When you think of Texas, more times than not your thoughts are drawn to the dusty plains where vast open spaces are long between water holes and cowboys and bandits and quick-draw lawmen are sharing dusty saloons.  While that western spirit encapsulates Texas in American history, West Texas is also a place of modern cities, eclectic and dynamic communities and, of course, the birthplace of outlaw country.  This route is perfect for those who want to experience the culture and beauty of West Texas.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, but the outdoor life that typifies West Texas Culture will not be as active. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

West Texas DAY 1: land in Dallas-Fort Worth, travel to Wichita Falls

2 hours/140 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into DFW International Airport and renting your car from the airport and setting out west toward your first stop, Wichita Falls. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. The first thing you need to do when you get into town, is head to Whataburger. Generally on these Itineraries we try to send you to locally-owned establishments, but Whataburger is such a Texas institution, that we figured just this once wouldn’t hurt.

Best place to shop:

Alley Cat Mercantile

Best place for a stroll:

The Falls in Lucy Park

Most unique museum:

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame

Best place to get back to nature:

Riverbend Nature Cener

Can’t Miss It:

The World’s Littlest Skyscrapers

Best place for a local beer:

Wichita Falls Brewing Company

West Texas DAY 2: Sweet Amarillo

3.5 hours/224 miles

As far as we can tell, there are around 25 songs about Amarillo, Texas. There is just something about this town that inspires people to sing its virtues. And speaking of inspiration, if you are looking for something to sing your own song about, head to Palo Duro Canyon. The second biggest canyon system in the United States, this dramatic 60-mile long and 800-foot deep canyon is noted for its excellent hiking, birding, fishing and mountain biking. If you happen to be in Amarillo during the summertime, one can’t-miss event is to catch a show at the TEXAS Outdoor Musical. It’s an event you won’t soon forget.

Best hike:

The Lighthouse Trail

Can’t miss it:

Cadillac Ranch

Get some culture:

Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian

Best place to stretch your legs:

Historic Downtown Amarillo

Best place to shop local:

Alley Katz Antique Emporium

Best place to grab dinner and a drink:

The Metropolitan Speakeasy

West Texas DAY 3: Buddy Holly’s Hometown

west-texas

2 hours/120 miles

Lubbock is, hands down, the most underrated music town in Texas. Hometown of the Rock n’ Roll legend Buddy Holly, Lubbock celebrates that music royalty in the top-notch Buddy Holly Center. Today Lubbock has become a mecca for the Alt-Country boom and bands from all over the country come to Lubbock to be a part of this dynamic city’s music scene. Clubs like the Blue LightBackstage Lubbock and The Cactus Room play host to this musical heritage with all kinds of live music and shows.  One thing we would recommend is to get a room at the Woodrow House. It’s a great bed and breakfast and if you want, they have a restored Santa Fe Railroad Caboose you can stay in.

Go for a swim:

Buffalo Springs Lake

Best museum: 

National Ranching Heritage Center

Can’t miss it:

Prairie Dog Town

Get some cowboy duds:

The Branding Iron

Best place for dinner

Abuelo’s

Best place to have a great night out:

The Depot District

West Texas DAY 4: Abilene

3 hours/170 miles

Known as the Friendly Frontier, Abilene, like many of the towns in Western Texas, got its start as a cattle town. Today it is a vibrant town with a population of 120,000. The county seat of Taylor County, Abilene is home to a number of colleges and is known for its fun and vibrant downtown area.  One thing you can’t miss in Abilene is the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. It’s a great museum and will take you back to your childhood.

Get some culture:

The Grace Museum

Must see:

Fort Phantom Hill

Best place to shop:

La Villa

Best historical walk:

Historical Downtown Walking Tour

Best steak in Texas:

Lyttle Land and Cattle Co.

Best Local Beer:

SockdoLager Brewery

West Texas DAY 5: Odessa and the Midlands

1.5 hours/77 miles

Odessa is said to have been named after Odessa, Ukraine, because of the local shortgrass prairie’s resemblance to Ukraine’s steppe landscape. Its not hard to see why, located on the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado, Odessa has been named the 3rd fastest growing city in the United States and that growth has been represented in a surge of culture, art and excitement. One of the first things you should do when you get into town is head to the Sherwood and Woodson Parks Aquatic Center. It’s a great place to cool off before you head out on the town.

Best out-of-this-world experience:

Odessa Meteor Crater

Can’t miss it:

Stonehenge Replica

Best place to shop local:

The Briar Patch

Best historical re-created experience:

The Globe Theater

Get some Tex-Mex:

Rosa’s Cafe

Sing a little country music:

Neon Moon Karaoke Lounge

West Texas DAY 6-7: Guadalupe National Park and El Paso

west-texas

2 hours

This is going to be a longer day but with good reason. On your way to El Paso you are going on a slight detour to visit one of the loneliest national parks in the lower 48, Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  There are a number of thing to do here, which is why we recommend spending the entire day here before heading on to El Paso, and exploring the city the next day. A border town, El Paso is home to a major universitynumerous cultural activities and, as it’s along the flowing Rio Grande, many potential outdoor opportunities. If you decide to take a trip into Old Mexico, here are some things you need to know.

Crossing into Ciudad Juarez

Historic district:

El Centro

Shop local:

El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmer’s Market

Challenge yourself:

The Thousand Steps Trail

Take a stroll and maybe see a ghost:

Concordia Cemetery

Best Tex-Mex in El Paso:

L&J Cafe

Learn how to Line Dance:

Little Bit of Texas

West Texas DAY 8-10: Big Bend National Park

6 hours/340 miles

You have a long drive of several hours to reach your next destination, the spectacular landscapes of Big Bend National Park. In a sense, this is one of the best ways to experience the magnitude of Texas, as you will drive through hundreds of miles of flat desert expanse to reach the park, which is nestled along the border with Mexico. This park is especially significant as it is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. The park – which sprawls over 800,000 acres – is host to more than 1200 species of plants, 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles and 75 species of mammals. Backpacking, horseback riding, bird watching and fishing are all popular within this desert paradise. The first place you should stop is at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Plan on spending at least a couple of days in Big Bend to take it all in.

Best breakfast burrito in Austin:

Mi Madre’s

Can’t miss it:

Whataburger in Del Rio

Stock up on supplies before Big Bend:

The French Co. Grocer in Marathon

Best desert hike:

Chimneys Trail

Best river hike:

Hot Springs Trail

Best desert hike:

Lost Mine Trail

West Texas DAY 11: Refresh in Marfa

west-texas

3.5 hours/135 Miles

To get a dose of high culture in an unexpected place, head a couple of hours north to Marfa, a tiny West Texas town that has become a cultural mecca in recent years. What was for decades a sleepy old military town became a mark on the art-world’s map when minimalist sculptor Donald Judd bought numerous buildings in Marfa to turn into studio and living spaces in the 1970s. Today, though still quite rural, the town is host to many world-famous art institutions like the Chinati Foundation, the Judd Foundation and the Lannan Foundation, as well as a handful of smaller galleries and shops. The town has retained its mid-century looks over the years and many Hollywood movies are filmed here to evoke that time. There are, surprisingly, a few stellar places to eat in this middle-of-nowhere locale.

Soak your muscles:

Chinati Hot Springs

Stock up on reading material:

Marfa Book Company

Can’t miss it:

Prada Marfa

Have an Alien experience:

The Marfa Lights

Best place to eat:

Boyz2Men

Fun night out:

Lost Horse Saloon

West Texas DAY 12: San Angelo

4 hours/260 miles

Today we are sharing a secret with you. And that secret is San Angelo. Located on the banks of the Concho River, the town is known as an oasis in the heart of West Texas. There are an abundance of things to do. Fort Concho National Historic Landmark has restored buildings and displays original artifacts and weapons. The Concho River Walk is a long, green corridor with walking trails, gardens and parks, such as The Bosque and Kids’ KingdomDowntown Concho Avenue is lined with restored 19th- and 20th-century period buildings and has unique boutiques and shops.  San Angelo is a just a really great town, and that’s all there is to it!

Can’t miss it:

Miss Hattie’s Bordello

Best outdoor recreation:

San Angelo State Park

Great place to take a stroll:

International Waterlily Collection

Most eclectic visit:

Chicken Farm Art Center

Best place to shop local:

Fourth Avenue

Best Place for local beer:

SoCo Taphouse

West Texas DAY 13-14: d-town and the metroplex

west-texas

1.5 hours/90 miles

Welcome to Dallas!  Long associated as the financial heart of the Texas Oil Boom, the town has grown a lot from it’s wild younger days. It is now a city that prides itself on its dedication to history and culture. Downtown’s Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza commemorates the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. In the Arts District, the Dallas Museum of Art is a world-renowned institution. Dallas has a number of great and eclectic neighborhoods all waiting for you to explore. Though Dallas is a great town, make sure you leave time for Fort Worth. Originally the last stop on the Chisolm Trail, today, it’s a modern city.  Fort Worth has acclaimed museums, fantastic modern architecture and an array of wonderful dining and shopping opportunities.  The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to rodeos, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors the pioneers that made this area great.

Best place to get some culture:

Kimbell Art Museum

Take a ride on a roller coaster:

Six Flags Over Texas

Take a hike:

Fort Worth Nature Center

Best place get outside:

Klyde Warren Park

Can’t miss it:

Dallas World Aquarium

Put on your dancing boots:

Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk



Things to do in East Texas and the Gulf Coast

East Texas and the Gulf Coast

Texas is a big state. How big? Almost 270,000 square miles big. Its so big, you could fit Slovenia, Austria, Luxembourg, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Macedonia, Belgium, Slovakia and Macedonia inside its borders. That’s Texas. In this itinerary we are going to take you through the Eastern Part of the state and down into the Gulf.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
East Texas

Start/End:
Dallas-Ft. Worth

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, Music buffs, Foodies

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

This route is perfect for those who want to experience the culture and beauty of East Texas. When you think of Texas, more times than not your thoughts are drawn to the dusty plains where vast open spaces are long between water holes and cowboys and bandits and quick-draw lawmen are sharing dusty saloons. But that is West Texas, East Texas is a land of sparkling lakes and Big Piney woods that stretch on for miles. It’s a land of green trees and BBQ that like of which you have never had before. It’s the kind of place where on any given evening, on any given porch on any given main street business, you’ll find live music. In this itinerary you will start and end in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and from there you will be following the eastern border all the way down to the very tip of Texas, before making your way back up north through Texas Hill Country.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, but the outdoor life that typifies East Texas Culture will not be as active. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

DAY 1: land in DFW, travel to Paris

1 hour 52 minutes/112 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport and renting your car from the airport and setting out east toward your first stop, Paris. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip.  Paris sits on the edge of the Piney-Woods region of East Texas, is a great way to acclimate yourself to the region’s unique culture. One of the first things we recommend doing when you get into Paris is to head to the Eifel Tower (yes we are still talking about Paris, Texas, it has a red cowboy hat on it) and get a selfie. It would be a great way to kick off your trip.

Can’t miss it:

Culbertson Fountain and Paris Town Square

Best museum:

Lamar County Historical Museum

Best historical site:

Sam Bell Maxey House

Best place to stretch your legs:

Trail De Paris

Best place for dinner:

107 Texas

Best place to catch some live music:

Buffalo Joe’s

DAY 2: The Oldest Town In Texas

3.5 hours /180 miles

Nacadoches is a great town, one that combines the two distinct cultures of the Hispanic and the Southern, and does it in a seamless way. The reason why they call it the Oldest Town in Texas, is because there is evidence the area has been continually inhabited for over 10,000 years starting with the Cado Indian Tribe. Before you roll into Nacadoches, though you have two stops to make. The first stop is to Sulpher Springs so you can visit the only public bathroom in the America with see-through walls. It is of course totally up to you whether or not you would like to use these bathrooms…but stop and see you must! The second stop will be in Tyler. Make sure you have and appetite, because you are going to eat at possibility the best BBQ joint in the world, Stanley’s.  Once you pull into Nacadoches, head to the Fredonia Hotel for the night. You won’t regret it.

Best short hike:

Lanana Creek Trail

Can’t miss it:

General Mercantile and Old Time String Shop

Take a trip through history:

Millard’s Crossing

Best place to stretch your legs:

Historic Downtown Nacadoches

Best place to see some wildlife:

Angelina National Forest

Best place for dinner:

Macklemore’s

DAY 3: Beaumont and the Port Arthur Coast

3 hours/118 miles

Today you are going to get a chance to see Texas Untamed. Your route is going to take you on Highway 103 through Angelina National Forest and the Sabine to Milam. The Sabine has a storied history in East Texas. Located right on the border with Louisiana, it was the haunt of smugglers and bootleggers and now is home to countless bayou-centric wildlife. When you get to Milam, head to Martin’s Corner and get you some fried fish straight from the banks of the Sabine. From Milam, head down Highway 87 to Beumont and Port Arthur. Head to Port Arthur first and Texas Point to get your first look at the Gulf of Mexico.

Best Museum-Port Arthur:

Museum of the Gulf Coast

Best scenic drive-Port Arthur: 

Rainbow Bridge

Can’t miss it-Port Arthur:

Buu Mon Buddhist Temple

Best place for a stroll:

Beaumont Botanical Gardens

Best place to people watch:

Historic Downtown Beaumont

Best place to have dinner:

Floyd’s Cajun Seafood

DAY 4 and 5: Space City

1.5 hours/109 miles

The biggest city in the biggest state in the lower 48. That is Houston in a nutshell. It prides itself on being at once a world-class metropolitan city with a hip, happening vibe. Home to around 2.4 million people and the location of the Johnson Space Center, the Museum District, the Art District, the Theater District and numerous fun neighborhoods with great boutique shopping and restaurants. As with any big town, your first stop should be to head downtown to the Visitor’s Center. As always, they will have any of the things you need to make your stay in Houston everything it can be.

Place a bet on a turtle race:

Little Woodrows

Best place for a stroll:

Buffalo Bayou

Best place to shop:

19th Street in the Heights

Take a side trip:

Galveston Island

Treat yourself:

Taste of Texas

Best night out:

Good Night Charlie’s

DAY 6: Corpus Christi

3.5 hours/230 miles

Today you are heading to the true gulf town of Corpus Christ. Sitting on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay, this is a true Texas town, in that it is an amalgamation of Hispanic and Anglo culture that makes Texas so unique. But we are going to send you on a little side quest to get there. When you get to Victoria, hang a left on Highway 87 and head to Port Lavaca. Once you get there, head to Don Julio’s and get breakfast. From Port Lavaca, head south on Highway 35, and follow the Gulf all the way into Corpus Christi. Upon arrival, head to the Emerald Bay Hotel. It’s right on the beach and a beautiful place to stay.

Best place to experience the gulf:

Mustang Island State Park

Can’t miss it:

Padre Island National Seashore

Best shopping experience:

The Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay

Best place for a stroll:

Corpus Christi Seawall

Best seafood in town:

Black Diamond Oyster Bar

Best night out:

Cassidy’s Irish Pub

DAY 7: the Rio Grande Valley and SOuth Padre

1 hour 45 minutes/95 miles

Today you are headed south to the Delta of the Rio Grande and Brownsville. Make time for a breakfast stop at Mr. Jaime’s Taqueria in Kingsville. They have the best breakfast in town. Once you get into Brownsville, you will realize first hand that you are definitely in a border town, not because of the dynamic cross-cultural vibe of the city, but because you can see the evidence of the border between the countries by heading to Alice Hope Wilson Park. It will give you great views of the border wall, the Rio Grande and Mexico beyond.  One side-trip that you can’t miss is to South Padre Island. South Padre is not just a party stop for college students on Spring Break. It’s a world renowned sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds. One can’t be missed experience would be the turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc. This rehabilitation and conservation organization will  be an educational highlight. Speaking of things to do in East Texas, make you sure you swing by Pier 19 for the best seafood in the coolest setting, period.

Best place for a hike:

Resaca De La Palma State Park

Best photo op:

Palo Alto Battlefield

Best museum:

Costume of the Americas

Best place to shop and find some treasures:

77 Flea Market

Best original dinner spot:

La Pampa

Best place for a stroll:

Mitte Cultural District

DAY 8: The Streets of Laredo

things to do in east texas

4.5 hours/200 miles

There is a song, written long ago, extolling the dangerous life of a cowboy on the Streets of Laredo. Sung by cowboy crooner Marty Robbins, it doesn’t really offer any insight into Laredo itself, but it’s still kinda neat. Anyways…Laredo sits right on the border with the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo, but before you get there we are are going to take you on a little tour of the United States Border as it follows the Rio Grande. But you need to fuel up though, and the best spot for breakfast, hands down, is El Cortijo. After that, continue along Old Military Highway 281 until you reach the Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge. It’s worth a stop and definitely remember to take your camera. Once you pull into Laredo, head to the La Posada Hotel.

Our itinerary does not extend any further south than Laredo, but you are right on the border, and if the pull of Mexico proves too much, here are some things you should know about crossing over.

Can’t Miss It:

St. Agustin Plaza

Best hike to a scenic view:

Lake Casa Blanca International State Park

Best place to shop:

Zaragoza Street

Best place for a stroll:

Carleen Bright Arboretum

Great little museum:

Republic of the Rio Grande

Can’t miss dinner:

Briskets and Beer Smokehouse

DAY 9 and 10: Remember the Alamo in San Antonio

2 hours/150 miles

San Antonio holds a unique place in the annals of American history. The Alamo, an 18th-century Spanish mission preserved as a museum, marks an infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico. The defenders were wiped out, but the legend lives on in the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alalmo”.  But San Antonio is not the sum of its history, its a progressive, modern metropolis, in which, you are going to have a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, one thing you can’t miss is Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It is one the greatest amusements parks in the world. Though there is enough to do in San Antonio to last a lifetime, your first stop when you get to town should be the San Antonio River Walk. Filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, it is the cultural and economic hub of the city.

Most unique way to see the city:

The Sisters Grimm Ghost Tour

Can’t miss it:

Natural Bridge Caverns

Best historical hike:

Mission Trail

Best photo oppotunities:

San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Best taco in town:

Garcia’s

Best place for libations:

Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub and Piano Bar

DAY 11: The coolest Town in Texas

things to do in east texas

1 hour/80 miles

Your next stop is the hip town of Austin, the state capital and the home to the flagship campus of the University of Texas. Like Portland, San Francisco and Brooklyn, Austin is usually considered to be one of the epicenters for the Youth of America these days. Yet with nearly a million people within its borders, Austin has enough for everyone: a booming music scenecheap and tasty food, lots of unique shopping and cultural opportunities, and a unique local vibe around every corner.

Go for a swim:

Barton Springs

Best way to see Austin:

Austin in a Nutshell bike tour

Coolest street in the coolest town in Texas:

South Congress Street

Can’t miss it:

Museum of the Weird

Go for a stroll:

Wild Basin

Best Place for dinner:

The Salty Sow

DAY 12: the heart of texas

1.5 hours/100 miles

Founded in 1850 along the banks of the Brazos River, Waco has a long history as an important economic hub for the center of Texas. Today, Waco is the home of a number of one-of-a-kind museums like the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and the Dr. Pepper Museum. Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex includes a natural history museum and a historic village. One can’t miss experience is a visit to Waco Mammoth National Monument. After all that learning, head to Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shop to refuel.

Best place to find a hidden treasure:

The LaSalle Shops

Best place to get outside:

East Brazos Park

Best place to get a true American experience:

Heart of Texas Speedway

Best place to shop:

Magnolia Market

Best place for a stroll:

Downtown Waco

Best place for a burger and brew:

The Backyard

DAY 13 and 14: d-town and the metroplex

things to do in east texas

1.5 hours/90 miles

Welcome to Dallas!  Long associated as the financial heart of the Texas Oil Boom, the town has grown a lot from it’s wild younger days. It is now a city that prides itself on its dedication to history and culture. Downtown’s Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza commemorates the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. In the Arts District, the Dallas Museum of Art is a world-renowned institution. Dallas has a number of great and eclectic neighborhoods all waiting for you to explore. Though Dallas is a great town, make sure you leave time for Fort Worth. Originally the last stop on the Chisolm Trail, today, it’s a modern city.  Fort Worth has acclaimed museums, fantastic modern architecture and an array of wonderful dining and shopping opportunities.  The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to rodeos, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors the pioneers that made this area great.

Best place to get some culture:

Kimbell Art Museum

Take a ride on a roller coaster:

Six Flags Over Texas

Take a hike:

Fort Worth Nature Center

Best place get outside:

Klyde Warren Park

Can’t miss it:

Dallas World Aquarium

Put on your dancing boots:

Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk



Arizona: A Landscape Like No Other

Arizona: A Landscape Like No Other

Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon state, and with good reason. Grand Canyon National Park is a world-renowned geographical wonder. But Arizona isn’t just the Grand Canyon, there is so much more to this remarkable state, and this itinerary is going to show you where to find these untraveled gems.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States: 
Arizona

Start/End: 
Phoenix, Arizona

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days: 
At least 16

Type: 
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, history buffs

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

This route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. In other words, you will get to experience a true American road trip that includes old western towns, intriguing American culture and unimaginable scenery. You will begin by arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. We have no doubt that you are going to want to spend a few days in this city of 1.6 million. But…save it for the end of the trip, when you have a chance to unwind and relax after your epic southwestern road trip. On this trip many of the drives between towns will be relatively short, but when you get to the eastern part of the state, the drives will stretch out a bit, so be prepared for this. Through the course of this trip you be travelling through true Native America. This trip will take you through the reservations of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Tohono O’Odham Nation, The Fort Apache and San Carlos Apache Reservations, and the Navajo and Hopi Nations. This will be a trip of a lifetime, so get in, buckle up and shift that car into drive. You are about to experience some of the best the United States has to offer

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 16 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the higher elevations. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world

DAY 1: land in Phoenix, travel to Wickenburg

1 hours/60 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into Phoenix and renting your car from the airport and setting out west toward your first stop, Wickenburg. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. 

To read more about Wickenburg, click here.

Best Hike-that comes with a certificate of completion:

Vulture Peak

Best museum:

Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Best place to watch the sunset:

Hassayapa River Preserve

Best place to shop local:

Gramma Lizards

Can’t Miss It:

Vulture City

Best place for dinner:

Anita’s Cocina

DAY 2: The Prescott Valley

1 hour 19 minutes/60 miles

From Wickenburg it’s a short drive to Prescott, but before you head out of town, we would recommend grabbing breakfast at Cowboy Cookin. It’s a fun place and has one of the best breakfasts you can get in the southwest. Once you get to Prescott, the opportunities are endless. Downtown, historic Whiskey Row is known for its bars and live music venues. The Sharlot Hall Museum documents the region’s pioneer-era history. The Smoki Museum exhibits artifacts from indigenous peoples of the Southwest. To the northeast, Watson Lake is home to hundreds of bird species, and a circuit of trails runs among the granite boulders dotting its shore.

To read more about Prescott, click here.

Best short hike:

Thumb Butte Trail

Can’t miss it:

Bashford Courts Atrium Mall

See some wildlife:

Heritage Park Zoo

Best place to stretch your legs:

Historic Downtown Prescott

Best place for dinner:

The Palace

Best place to grab a drink:

Superstition Meadery

DAY 3: The Regenerative power of Sedona

1.5 hours/67 miles

Sedona is a quirky town and we mean that in the very best way. Surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its mild climate and vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with New Age shops, spas and art galleries. On the town’s outskirts, numerous trailheads access Red Rock State Park, which offers bird-watching, hiking and picnicking spots. Sedona is also internationally known for the uplifting power of its Vortex meditation sites. Not so much into vortexes? No problem. Sedona is full of things to do for any lifestyle. One thing we would recommend however, is to get a room at the Oak Creek Lodge. It’s a great little place.

Best hike:

The Devil’s Bridge

Best scenic drive: 

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Can’t miss it:

Visit a Vortex

Most eclectic shopping:

Son Silver West Gallery

Best place for dinner

Pumphouse Station

Best place to unwind with a cocktail:

View 180

DAY 4: Williams and Grand Canyon Country

1 hour/60 miles

Today’s route will take you through Flagstaff. Don’t stop. Not because Flagstaff isn’t worth a stop, it totally is, it’s just that you are going to enjoy all there is to do here at the end of your trip. So have patience. One more thing, we know we said this trip was going to be more about finding the Arizona that exists outside Grand Canyon National Park…however…we do truly understand if you decide that you aren’t coming all the way to Arizona and skipping one of the most unique canyon systems in the world. So if you decide to take a detour outside of Williams for a day or two, that is just fine with us. Here is some information for you. But once you have scratched your Grand Canyon itch, head back to Williams. When you get into town, the first place to go would be Wild West Junction. It’s a one-of-a-kind place to stay.

To Read more about Williams, click here.

Visit the second biggest canyon in Arizona:

Sycamore Canyon

Must see:

Planes of Fame Air Museum

Best scenic drive:

Bull Basin Road

Best historical selfie:

Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station

Best place to grab a bite to eat:

Anna’s Canyon Cafe

Best Local Beer:

Grand Canyon Brewery

DAY 5: Route 66 to Kingman

1.5 hours/77 miles

There are two ways to get to Kingman, but without a doubt, the best way is take Historic Route 66. Leaving North out of Williams, this route will take you through some beautiful country on one of America’s most celebrated roads. Once you pull into Kingman, you will see the impact the route has had on the town. The historic road’s role in American history is celebrated at the Route 66 Museum, set inside the Powerhouse Visitors Center. Murals, dioramas and a library at the Mohave Museum of History and Arts trace local history. Locomotive Park, featuring a 1928 steam engine, and the Kingman Railroad Museum document the city’s past as a 20th-century railway hub. One place we would definitely recommend staying the night is the fantastic El Trovatore Motel. They have legendary Hollywood icon themed rooms a la Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and many more.

To read more about Kingman, click here.

Best place for a hike:

Hualapai Mountain Park

Can’t miss it:

Giganticus Headicus

Best place to shop local:

Kingman Farmhouse

Best photo op:

Alpacas of the Soutwest

Eat some cowboy cuisine:

Danbar Steakhouse

Best night out:

Black Bridge Brewery

DAY 6: To Parker and the Colorado River

1 hour 45 minutes/95 miles

Parker sits on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, and is a River Rat’s paradise. There are plebty of waterborne activities in this town, but Parker is so much more than that too. Historically, Parker was the site of Parker’s Landing, where goods and supplies would be offloaded and delivered to the Colorado River Reservation. And speaking of the Colorado River Reservation, a great side trip would be to Poston, the most populated town on the reservation and the site of the Poston War Relocation Center, where Japanese-American were interred for the duration of World War II.

Best place for a hike:

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Best photo op:

Parker Dam

Best museum:

Colorado River Tribes Museum

Learn to wakeboard:

Wakeboard Island

Can’t miss it:

Club Roadrunner

Best night out:

Nellie E Saloon and Desert Bar

DAY 7: Yuma!

Saguaro cactus and sunset

2 hours/117 miles

Yuma is a great town and one of the gems of the Southwest. The history of the area is as rich as the scenery and within the city limits Yuma contains the historical Yuma Territorial Prison, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage area. Yuma is an Arizona Main Street City, and for good reason. A stroll through its Historic Downtown is a great way to shop and dine. The first thing we would recommend doing when you get into town is to head to the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel. It’s a fun place and easy on the pocketbook. After dropping off your bags, get ready to head out on the town.

Best place for wildlife:

Mittry Lake Wildlife Refuge

Best hike to a scenic view:

Jester’s Trail

Best scenic drive:

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Best way to see Yuma/Ghosts:

Haunted Yuma Walking Tour

Best place to shop:

Arizona Marketplace

Can’t miss dinner:

River City Grill

DAY 8: Gila Bend and the Sonoran Desert National Monument

2 hours/120 miles

Today your drive is straight and level into the Gila River Valley and the Mariscopa Mountains and the great little southwest hamlet of Gila Bend. Hugging the banks of the Gila River, where it takes a sharp 90 degree turn, this little town on the edge of the Sonoran Desert is going to charm you with its heritage, culture and classic Southwest feel. Situated as it on the western edge of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, it’s a great base for exploring this unique American landscape.  Just outside the town is the San Lucy district of the Tohono O’odham Nation, with a small settlement, San Lucy bordering the town itself.  Once you get into town, head immediately to the Space Age Lodge for a room for the night. Just trust us, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

Best hike:

Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail

Can’t miss it:

Historic Gillespie Bridge

Best place to get some culture:

Gatlin Archaeological Site

Best photo op:

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

Best taco in town:

Humberto’s

Best cowboy bar:

The Desert Rose

DAY 9: Tucson and Saguaro National Park

2 hours/122 miles

The Sunshine Factory is an interesting choice for a nickname, unless of course, you happen to be Tucson, Arizona. With about 200 days of sunshine a year, it’s a great place to spend a little time. With a population of a half a million, it will have plenty of opportunities to stock up on any gear or supplies or city-life you might need before you head to the western part of the state. The only place to do this would be Main Gate Square. It’s the premier commercial district in the city. One of the first stops you should make when you get into Tucson, would be to the Tucson Visitor’s Center. They can send you on your way to enjoying all that Tucson has to offer. One thing that can’t be missed, is a visit to the Saguaro National Park. A great place to start your foray into this epic desert landscape would be the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Located right on the border of the park, it’s an amazing educational experience into what makes this region so unique. 

Can’t miss it:

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Best outdoor recreation:

Sabino Canyon

Great place to take a stroll:

Historic Downtown Tucson

Most eclectic museum:

Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art

Best place to shop local:

Fourth Avenue

Best Place to people watch:

The University of Arizona-Old Main

DAY 10: Through Tombstone to Bisbee.

3 hours 45 minutes/244 miles

You aren’t going to come all the way to Arizona and not visit one of the most famous towns in all of the lore of the Wolly and Wild West, right? We didn’t think so. That’s why today, with your ultimate goal being Bisbee, you are going to take a trip into Tombstone and those lawless days of gunslingers, lawmen and of course, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. If you aren’t quite sure what place this has in American legend, brush up on your history here. For the rest of you, Tombstone is everything you think it will be. Fun, kitschy, interesting and well worth the side trip. For everything Tombstone, click here. From Tombstone, it’s down south to the border and one of the most unique towns in America, Bisbee. Bisbee got it start as a mining town, and that past still lives on at the Queen Mine, where you can learn all about its rich history. Today, Bisbee is known as a culturally rich community that includes an active and varied population. Bisbee retains its welcoming spirit, offering visitors a rich mix of art, music, history, architecture, outdoor activities, dining and nightlife. One of the first things we would recommend when you get into town, is to seek out the Silver King Hotel. It’s a fun stay and boasts having “the smallest bar in Arizona.”

Can’t miss it:

Erie Street

Best museum:

Bisbee Restoration Museum

Best place to stock up on supplies:

High Desert Market

Buy some vintage duds:

Redbone

Best place for a stroll:

Historic Downtown Bisbee

Best place to find amazing food:

Old Bisbee Brewing Company

DAY 11: Through Western Arizona to Globe

3 hours 45 minutes/200 miles

Today is going to be a drive. But that’s okay, because you are going to see some of the most staggeringly beautiful landscape in the world. Your route will take you through the Coronado National ForestChiricahua National Monument, the Galiuro Mountains, the Pinaleno Mountains, the Gila Mountains, and your final destination on the edge of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. Globe should definitely be used to as your base to explore the surrounding country, particularly the reservation’s main administrative, cultural and commercial hub, San Carlos. You will no doubt be a touch peckish after your drive, so the first thing you should do when you arrive in Globe, is to head to Nurd Burger and re-fuel. You’ll see why when you get there.

Best scenic drive:

Salt River Canyon

Best museum:

Besh Ba Gowah

Best hike:

Round Mountain Park

Best shopping experience:

The Pickle Barrell

Can’t miss it:

Historic Downtown Globe

Best place to find amazing food and craft beer:

Farley’s Irish Pub

DAY 12: Winslow and Petrified National Forest

4 hours /219 miles

Do you like 70’s feel-good rock band The Eagles? Because if you do, then you probably know they once sang in one of their classic songs, “Take It Easy” ; “Well I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, its such a fine sight to see.” Love ’em or hate ’em, we think you will agree. But one stop you need to make before you get there is one of the United States’ smallest national parks, Petrified Forest National Park. When you get to the park, stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum. It will have everything you need to make the most of your visit, including access to numerous trail heads. From here, its a short drive into Winslow, and its historic location on Route 66. First thing? Head to StandingOnTheCorner Park. Yup.

To read more about Winslow, click here.

Cant miss it:

Meteor Crater

One of a kind experience:

Apache Death Cave

Best hike:

Rock Art Ranch

Best place to catch the sunset:

Little Painted Desert County Park

Can’t miss it:

La Posada Hotel

Best place for dinner:

Mi Pueblo

DAY 13: To Chinle and Canyon De Chelly National Monument

2.5 hours /150 miles

Today you will be driving through the Navajo Nation and to the unparalleled Canyon De Chelly. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a vast park in northeastern Arizona, on Navajo tribal lands. Its prominent features include Spider Rock spire, about 800-feet tall, and towering sandstone cliffs surrounding a green and tree-lined canyon. Inhabited by several Native American peoples for millennia, the area is dotted with petroglyphs. The White House Ruins and Mummy Cave are fantastic examples of  ancient Pueblo villages. Plan on spending most of your day, as it is worth it. For the night, head back to Chinle, and enjoy the culture of the Navajo People.

Best way to see the Canyon:

Justin’s Horse Tours

Best Scenic Drive:

The North Rim

Best photo art:

Hope Arch

Best museum:

Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center

Best place to shop local:

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

Best place to try traditional Navajo cuisine:

Thunderbird Lodge

DAY 14: Through Monument Valley to Flagstaff

4 hours /250 miles

Your route today will take you north to the village of Mexican Water and down through the Monument Valley and the Painted Desert. This is going to be a beautiful drive, but make sure you have plenty of gas and water. There will be many opportunities for stops and photos throughout the day, and as a result, you may want to consider making this drive your whole day’s agenda, and spending the next day enjoying all there is to do in Flagstaff. And speaking of Flagstaff, we told you to be patient and we would get you there. We have kept our word. Flagstaff, at nearly 7,000 feet, is a different climate than anything you been traveling through so far, It is also a hip outdoor town with a great vibe.

To read more about Flagstaff, click here.

Get underground:

Lava River Cave

Best way to see Flagstaff:

Historic Downtown Tour

Best hike:

Lockett Meadow Loop

Best cultural experience:

Picture Canyon Cultural Preserve

Best place to shop local:

Old Town Shops

Where the locals go for dinner:

Criollo Latin Kitchen

DAY 15 through 16:

2 hours 15 minutes /144 miles

Like the mythical bird its named after, Phoenix rises from the desert in epic proportions. With nearly 1.7 million people calling this city home, Phoenix is full of adventure. The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is known for its year-round sun and warm temperatures. As a result it anchors a sprawling, multi-city metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun. It’s known for high-end spa resorts, Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses and vibrant nightclubs. But it’s also a city of history, culture and amazing sights. As with any big city, to really get the most of your experience, your first stop should be to the Downtown Phoenix Visitor Center. One recommendation we would have is to leave Phoenix proper, and head to the charming town of Chandler. Located on the southeastern edge of the greater metropolitan area, Chandler is a city of parks and family fun.

To read more about Chandler, click here.’

Iconic mountain hike:

Camelback Mountain

Best way to see Phoenix:

Historic Downtown Tour

Most unique experience:

The Mystery Mansion

Best desert experience:

Desert Botanical Garden

Best shopping experience:

Tempe Marketplace

Best night out:

City Scape



New Mexico and the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico and the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment for good reason. It is a land of Rocky Mountain heights and vast desert expanses. New Mexico is home to 23 tribes including 19 Pueblos, three Apache tribes, and the Navajo Nation. It has astounding Hispanic culture and modern-day metropolises. This itinerary is going to take you through all of it.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
New Mexico

Start/End:
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Total miles:
1,600

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, adventure seekers

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

New Mexico is one of America’s Treasure States. It has a little something for everybody. Like to spend time outdoors? New Mexico has mountains and forests aplenty. History buff? One of the single oldest continually inhabited pueblos, Acoma, is located within the state. Foodie? New Mexico’s vast Hispanic heritage as well as its European influence means some of the best food on the planet can be found within the state’s boundaries. Ever wanted to drive in a straight line under an endless blue sky? The Llanos Escatado is where you can do this. In our New Mexico Itinerary, we will take you through the best of this, and who knows, you might get to see an alien or two along the way.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the higher elevations. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

DAY 1: arrival in Albuquerque to Grants

1 hour 22 minutes/88 miles

Welcome to New Mexico! As you fly in, you may notice that Albuquerque looks like a pretty fun town. And you are right, but we would recommend hanging in the “Duke City” at the end of your trip, and we recommend this for good reason. After your epic road trip, you’ve earned the right to spend a few days pampering yourself in style in this world-class city. But we would recommend getting your trip started by hitting the road and heading due west to to your first destination, Grants. Grants is a fun little town and a great way to kick off your road trip. You are going to be hungry though after all your traveling, so the very first thing we would recommend, is grabbing  your first taste of New Mexican cuisine at at El Cafecito. After that, it’s time to explore Grants.

To read more about all the wonders of Grants, click here.

Best outdoor experience:

El Malpais National Monument

Best short hike:

El Calderon Trail

Best place to get a little history:

New Mexico Mining Musuem

Iconic Americana:

Route 66 Museum

Best Route 66 throwback diner:

The Wow Diner

Best place to have a local brew:

Route 66 Junkyard Brewery

DAY 2: Silver City and the Gila National Forest

4.5 hours/240 miles

The road to Silver City is going to be a beautiful one. The route takes you right through the heart of the Gila National Forest. The forest’s terrain ranges from rugged mountains and deep canyons to mesas and semi-desert. Due to the extremely rugged terrain, the area is largely unspoiled. There are several hot springs in Gila National Forest, including Middle Fork Hot SpringsJordan Hot Springs, and Turkey Creek Hot Springs. There are also many small communities and scenic pull outs and hiking trails for you to take advantage of, so you may want to consider making the drive to Silver City a full day, and spending the next day enjoying all that Silver City has to offer. The Choice is yours! One thing we would recommend, however, is once you arrive in Silver City get a room at the Palace Hotel. It’s a fun place to stay.

Best place to start:

Silver City Visitor’s Center

Can’t miss it:

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Best shopping experience:

Silver City Trading Company

Best place to stretch your legs:

Mimbres River Preserve

Best place to get a little culture:

Western New Mexico University Musuem

Best place to grab dinner and a drink:

Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery

DAY 3: Deming and the City of the Sun

3 hours/163 miles

Today you will continue down Highway 180 to the classic desert oasis of Deming. When you think of a New Mexico town surrounded by the vastness of the Southwestern Desert, you would think of a place just like this. Deming is a starting point for self-guided tours of southern New Mexico including the Florida Mountains and Rockhound State Park, but not withstanding the number of outdoor recreational opportunities, Deming is home to one of the finest museums in the region, the Mimbres Museum and Custom House, offering a glimpse of early Western history and culture.  One side trip that we would highly recommend for those with an adventurous heart, would be the short drive south to the one-of-a-kind town of City of the Sun. City of the Sun, is best described as a haven for artists and eclectics and people who want to be, if nothing else, self sufficient. The residents there are welcoming and eager to show visitor’s their “off the grid” lifestyle. It is a unique American experience and one well worth the journey.

Best hike:

Hydra Trail-City of Rocks

Best scenic drive: 

The Hatch Highway

Can’t miss it:

Basin Range Volcanic Geolapidary Museum

Best place to get some local produce:

Diaz Farms

Best place to buy cowboy boots:

Circle S Western Wear

Best place for dinner:

Forghedaboudit Southwest Italian

DAY 4: The Mystery of Roswell

4.5 hours/243 miles

No true trip to New Mexico would be complete without a trip to Roswell. Famous the world over as the site of the “alleged” crash of an alien spaceship, Roswell today plays host to the true believers, the curious, and those that just want to get in on the fun.  And while, of course, The International UFO and Musuem and Research Center is located here, Roswell is also a town of artists, outdoor enthusiasts, historical districts and fantastic cultural centers. One of these great cultural centers and well worth a visit is the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art.  Upon arriving in Roswell, a great centrally-located hotel for the night would be the Clary Sage Bed and Breakfast.

Best hike:

The Oxbow Trail-Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Best place for birdwatching:

J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary

Learn more about the Roswell Mystery:

Roswell Spacewalk

Best place for a stroll:

Roswell Historic District

Best Taco:

El Toro Brazo

Best night out:

Pecos Flavors Winery

DAY 5: Tucamcari and the Staked Plains

2 hours 45 minutes/161 miles

Today you be traveling along the western edge of the Llano Estacado, the famed Staked Plains of the American Southwest.  The Llano is a very flat, semiarid plateau, ranging in elevation from 5000 feet on the northwest to less than 3000 feet on the southeast, sloping more or less uniformly to the east-southeast at a rate of at least 10 feet per mile. It is a vast expanse and your dive to Tucumcari is going to be smooth, flat, straight and stunning under those blue New Mexico skies. Once you get to Tucumcari, get ready to visit a city that holds its history as a stopping route on Route 66 in high regard.  And speaking of, we would recommend getting a room at the Blue Swallow Motel. It is a classic Motor Court that has been in operation since the heyday of Route 66.

Best place for a selfie:

Route 66 Memorial

Can’t miss it:

Route 66 Musuem

Best place to pick up souvenirs:

TeePee Curios

Best way to learn about dinosaurs:

Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Musuem

Where the locals go for Southwest cuisine:

El Herradero

Best morning coffee:

Kix On 66

DAY 6: The Other Las Vegas

2 hours/110 miles

Today you are heading away from the deserts and toward the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and Las Vegas New Mexico. Las Vegas was built before New Mexico became a part of the United States, and its rich Hispanic roots are still evident. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. This plaza still exists and it should be the first stop you make. Get a room at the Historic Plaza Hotel, before you begin your adventures in this remarkable town. There are a myriad of things to do here, but one thing you definitely not miss out on is the local cuisine. If you can, we would recommend holding off on breakfast until you get to Las Vegas, and then heading directly to El Encanto. It’s right on the plaza and we promise you won’t regret it.

Soak your cares away:

Montezuma Hot Springs

Best hike:

Hermit Peak Trail

Best museum:

Rough Rider Musuem

Best place to find a hidden treasure:

Plaza Antiques

Can’t miss it:

The Historic Downtown Plaza

Best place for dinner:

Dick’s

DAY 7-8: The wonders of Santa Fe

1 hour/70 miles

Santa Fe will definitely be one of the highlights on this trip of highlights. It is one of the oldest continuously occupies locations in North America, the capital of New Mexico, and a wonder of architecture, culture, history, art..and of course…food. We would recommend no less than two days here, just to give you a chance to see and do all there is to see and do. Your first stop when you get into town should be to the Santa Fe Visitor’s Center. They will be able to answer all your questions and point you in the right directions to make your visit unforgettable. Your second stop should be to the Santa Fe Plaza. It is a great place to start exploring.

Best place for a stroll:

De Vargas Park and the Santa Fe River Walk

Best view:

Cross of the Martyrs

Can’t miss it:

Georgia O’Keefe Musuem

Best point of interest:

Loretto Chapel and the most famous stairs in the world

Best Iconic Southwest landmark:

Acoma Sky City

Best night out:

The Coyote Cafe and Rooftop Cantina

DAY 9-10: All the splendor of Taos

1.5 hours/70 miles

Jut a short drive up the road, but almost a world away, is the high desert town of Taos. This is another old town. How old? Around 1,000 years old. And we would highly recommend exploring this culture by visiting the Taos Pueblo. The pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States This has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a bucket list destination.  Because of the rich cultural history of the area and the Thousand and One things to do here, we think it would be worth your time to also spend a couple of days here. If nothing else to rest and rejuvenate from your days on the road. We think you will find this town of around 5,700 people to be a warm and welcoming stop on your trip.

To read more about Taos, click here and here.

Best living museum:

La Hacienda de los Martinez

Can’t miss it:

Taos Plaza

Best scenic drive:

High Road to Taos

Shop local:

Taos Farmer’s Market

Soak your cares away:

Black Rock Hot Springs

Eat local:

The Love Apple

DAY 11: Chama

2 hours/95 miles

The Rio Chama Valley is truly one of the hidden gems of New Mexico. Nestled in the northern Sangre De Cristos, the valley has at its gateway the charming village of Chama.  With a population of around 1,000, if you are into photography, painting or being inspired by nature, you will find yourself at home here. One thing we would definitely recommend you do here is to take a ride on a narrow gauge steam train. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad station is in the center of town and runs during the summer months. The  railroad runs into the high country near Cumbres Pass, through scenic Toltec Gorge, and on to its opposite terminus at tiny Antonito, Colorado. Tour options range from half-way trips to and from a station near the Gorge  to round trips to Antonito, with return on either rail or bus.

Help dig up a dinosaur fossil:

Digs at the Ghost Ranch

Get outside:

Edward Sargent Wildlife Area

Best horse ride:

Fish Tail Ranch

Best place to shop local:

Tierra Wools traditional hand weaving

Best place to see the sunset:

Rabbit Peak

Best place for dinner:

Cliff View Restaurant

DAY 12: Farmington

2 hours/110 miles

Today you are heading over the Sangre De Cristos and through the heart of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation. One stop along your drive into Farmington would have to be Dulce, and the Jicarilla Arts and Crafts Shop Museum. Its a great place to buy locally made crafts and learn about the remarkable Jicarilla People. From Dulce it is a short drive into Farmington in the northwest corner of New Mexico. This City is the commercial hub of the Four Corners area and has plenty of things to do, both in the city limits and the amazing natural areas that surround it.

To read more about everything that Farmington has to offer, click here.

Amazing outdoor experience:

The Bisti Badlands

Best place to shop local:

Ship Rock Trading Post

Best museum:

B-Square Musuem

Best place to watch some off-road adventure:

Chokecherry Canyon

Best place to learn about early four-corners people:

Salmon Ruins

Best night out:

Three Rivers Brewery

DAY 13: Gallup

2 hours 15 minutes/124 miles

Your last stop before the big city lights of Albuquerque is Gallup, and what a great town it is. The last stop on Route 66 before Arizona, Gallup Gallup is known as the “Heart of Indian Country” because it is on the edge of the Navajo reservation and is home to members of many other tribes as well. Its history as a major stop on Route 66 well ensconced, Gallup today is known for its lively night time culture downtown, Indian dances during summertime nights, art crawls, and numerous small museums including a Navajo Code Talker museum. Most recently Gallup commissioned a number of murals highlighting local culture and contributions dot downtown. The first thing we would recommend doing when you get into town, is get a room for the night at the historic El Rancho Hotel. It’s a fun place to stay.

Best hike:

Church Rock Trail

Best museum:

Gallup Cultural Center

Thrill of a life time:

Hot Air Balloon through Red Rocks Canyon

Shopper’s Paradise:

Gallup Flea Market

Can’t miss it:

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway

Best place for dinner:

Genaro’s

DAY 14: The Duke City

2 hours 15 minutes/139 miles

Welcome to Albuquerque! The largest city in New Mexico is going to be your playground for the next few days. It’s really up to you how long you want to stay here, but anything less than 2 days would be a shame, because there is just so much to do. From the food, to the history, to the museums and galleries, this is just a truly great town. Albuquerque has 11 distinct neighborhoods, and they each have their quirks and charms. One not to be missed area, however, is the Historic Old Town. You could spend an entire day just in this area alone. Our recommendation to truly get the most out of your stay would be to stop in at the ABQ Visitor’s Information Center. It’s a great place to start. And if you happen to be in town during the first week of OCtober, don’t miss the International Balloon Fiesta. It is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Can’t miss it:

Petroglyph National Monument

Best place to get some culture:

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Recommended Shopping:

Albuquerque Old Town

Best place for a stroll:

ABQ BioPark

Most unique museum:

The Rattlesnake Musuem

Best place for food and fun:

2 Fools Tavern



Rocky Mountain National Park and the Colorado Plateau

Rocky Mountain National Park and the Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau is an amazing geographical wonder, stretching through four states, it is a vast area of wind-scoured deserts, red sandstone cliffs, tumbling rivers stunning wildlife and soaring mountain peaks. With this trip, you will get to experience everything it has to offer, with a little Rocky Mountain exposure thrown in for good measure.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Colorado
Start/End:
Denver, Colorado

Total miles:
1,100

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Spring through Fall

Overview

This Colorado route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. In other words, you will get to experience a true American road trip that includes old western towns, intriguing American culture and unimaginable scenery. You will begin by arriving at Denver International Airport.  Denver is an amazing town, and you should plan on spending a few days here, but not until the end of your trip. The reason why is because after your epic road trip, you’ve earned the right to spend a few days pampering yourself in style in this oasis of the mountains. But we would recommend getting your trip started by hitting the road and heading straight to Rocky Mountain National Park. After your trip through this amazing place, you will begin working your way down along the western slope of the Rocky Mountains to the Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Plateau is largely made up of high desert, with scattered areas of forests and tumbling rivers. Get in, buckle up and shift that car into drive, this is going to be the trip of a lifetime.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, but we suggest spending at least one day in each stop. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to stop, especially during your longer days on the road. Leave some days unplanned as you’ll want to spend extra time in the places that you find most interesting. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are lots of events and the weather is beautiful. If you want to avoid crowds we suggest traveling at the end of spring or the beginning of fall. If you can’t make that happen, then we suggest visiting the smaller towns on the weekends and the National Parks and bigger towns on the weekdays. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the parks. One thing to keep in mind as well, is that in the Four Corners region, the summertime temps can often exceed 100 degrees.

#1 arrive in Denver, explore the front range

The Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado.

We suggest arriving early into Denver, renting your car from the airport and setting out east on Highway 7 towards Boulder, Colorado. This area of Colorado, known as the Front Range, can get congested. We recommend leaving the city and heading out to explore smaller towns like Boulder, Longmont and Loveland. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to roam in Denver at the end of your trip if you choose.

Boulder is well known as a laid back college town with plenty to do and lots of eclectic shops and restaurants. Tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, acres of vast open space roll into Boulder’s quaint cityscape. Explore pine-scented trails, taste the flavors of “America’s Foodiest Town,” tour 24 craft breweries, stroll historic Pearl Street and soak up this creative community’s lifestyle.

Don’t head towards Estes Park without checking out Longmont and Loveland. Everything you love about Boulder will be similar in these communities, except with less people. You may even want to spend a night in one of these towns, as there’s limited lodging near Rocky Mountain National Park during the busy seasons.

Best Short Hike-Boulder:

First and Second Flatiron Loop

Best place to shop-Boulder:

Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall

Best place to watch the sunset-Longmont:

Union Reservoir

Best place to stay:

Little Red Treehouse Airbnb

Best place for dinner-Loveland:

Door 222 Food & Drink

Best place for breakfast-Longmont:

Lucile’s Creole Cafe

#2 estes park & Rocky Mountain national park

1.5 HOURS – 72 MILES/115 KM

Estes Park is a quintessential Colorado Mountain town with stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park, which it borders. Spend some time in Estes Park itself, visiting the City Center and the river walk along the Big Thompson River. Estes Park is full of festivals in the summer, so plan your trip accordingly. Later, hop back in your car for a tour through Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding Arapahoe National Forest. Driving through the park will give you views of the majestic Rocky Mountains, tumbling streams and towering ponderosa pines. If you’re able, we recommend going on a long hike in the park to one of the many alpine lakes. Plan on spending a night in Estes Park before continuing on. There are many options (you can never go wrong with camping), but for a more comfortable experience, we recommend Nicky’s Resort or The Stanley Hotel.

Best short hike:

East Meadow

Can’t miss it:

Hike Mt. Ida

Best scenic drive:

Trail Ridge Road

Take a road, not for the faint of heart:

Old Fall River Road

Best place for a little history:

Holzwarth Historical Site

Best place for a picnic:

Hermit Park open space

#3 Silverthorne & Dillon

2.5 HOURS – 107 MILES/172 KM

After exploring the park you’ll head southwest and go for a scenic tour through the Arapahoe National Forest to another town on a lake, Silverthorne and the Dillion Reservoir. Silverthorne is going to be your base to explore some of the most famous resorts in the world. Silverthorne is within striking distance of world famous towns like Breckenridge, Vail, Copper Mountain and Keystone. Silverthorne itself is a great town, as are the sister cities that hug the shores of Dillon Reservoir, Frisco and Dillon. In fact there is so much to do in this area, that you may want to seriously consider a few days here.

Best hike:

Lilly Pad Lake

Best Shopping:

The Outlets

Best place to get a little history:

Sally Barber Mine Trail

Can’t Miss it:

Dillon Farmer’s Market

Best place for dinner:

Sauce on the Blue

Best Local Beer:

Dillon Damn Brewing Company

#4 Glenwood Springs & Aspen

1.5 HOURS – 90 MILES/145KM

The road to Glenwood Springs can either be a short direct route (taking about an hour), or a longer, much more scenic route through Leadville, over Independence Pass and through Aspen. It is up to you, but both routes have their benefits. If you want to take advantage of all the fun things there are to do in Glenwood Springs, then take the more direct route. If you want to stand on the Continental Divide at 12,000 feet and get a great view of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, then take the pass. This route, at 3 hours, will still give you plenty of time in Glenwood Springs, or allow you to roam the streets of Aspens if you so desire. If you do take the Aspen route, take time to see the majestic Maroon Bells, and afterward grab a bite to eat at the White House Tavern. Regardless of when you arrive in Glenwood Springs, your first stop should be to the Visitor’s Center. They can help you on your visit, and even tell you where notorious gunslingin’ lawman, Doc Holiday, is buried.

Best place to ride a roller coaster:

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Best place to get some history:

Glenwood Springs Frontier Museum

Best place to go for a hike:

Hanging Lake Trail

Best place to soak your muscles:

Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Where the locals go for dinner:

The Pullman

Drink local:

The Brew Garden

#5 Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument

1.5 HOURS – 87 MILES/140 KM

From Glenwood Springs, it’s a very short drive into Grand Junction. Which means you will have plenty of time to explore the wonders of Colorado National Monument. This is an area of desert high land on the Colorado Plateau, with pinion and juniper forests. Sheer-walled canyons cut deep into sandstone and granite–gneiss–schist rock formations. The park hosts a wide range of wildlife, including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes. Nearby are the Book Cliffs and the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa. Before you head off, however, you need to make two stops in Glenwood Springs. The first is to Jilbertitos to get the best breakfast burrito on the plateau, and the second is to Deja Brew to get your morning coffee fix. Then, it’s time to lace up your hiking boots.

Best place to start:

Saddlehorn Visitor Center

Best photo op:

Window Rock

Best short hike:

Canyon Rim Trail

Best scenic drive:

Rim Rock Drive

Best place to shop in Grand Junction:

Historic Downtown Grand Junction

Best place for dinner:

Rockslide Restaurant and Brew Pub

#6 Delta, Montrose and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

1.5 HOURS – 88 MILES/141 KM

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the most underrated national parks in the US, which makes it a great place to enjoy solitude. First we recommend finding a place to stay. Both Delta and Montrose are within striking distance to the Black Canyon, and both are great towns that are each worth a visit. If you choose Delta, a great place to stay would be the Riverwood Inn—it’s right along the river. If you are in Delta for the night, grab a burger and brew at Needle Rock Brew Pub. If Montrose is your huckleberry, a great little overnight is the Black Mountain Motel. Grab a steak at Ted Nelson’s Steakhouse. When you get to the Black Canyon, you can make the day as strenuous or as moderate as you choose, but the first place you should stop at is the South Rim Visitor Center to get you acquainted with park.

Best hike in the Black Canyon:

The Painted Trail

Best scenic drive:

The South Rim of Black Canyon

Challenge yourself:

Hike into the Canyon

Best hike in the Black Canyon:

The Painted Trail

Best slightly scary drive:

East Portal Road

Best place to watch the sunset:

Sunset View

#7 The Million Dollar Highway

colorado

1.5 HOURS – 75 MILES/120 KM

To hit the next stop on the itinerary you’ll want to head toward Ridgeway, then keep going toward Ouray. Walking around this small town you’ll feel like you’re in Switzerland, with beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks. Ouray also has amazing hot springs. There is one brewery that is famous for its “Ouray Beer.” Keep heading south and take the famous Million Dollar Highway, a narrow and steep mountain road that connects Ouray with Silverton. It is one of the most scenic mountain roads in North America, with great views into the majestic San Juan Mountain range. When in Silverton, take a quick walk throughout the mining town and explore an old western town that is still connected via the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. When arriving in Durango, enjoy the downtown area and experience the Old West by staying overnight at the Strater Hotel.

Best place to shop local:

Ago Gallery

Best hike:

Spud Lake Trail

Best photo spot:

Red Mountain Pass

Best point of interest:

Old Hundred Gold Mine

Best way stretch your legs:

Animas River Trail

Can’t Miss it:

Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen

#8 Canyon of the Ancients and the cortez

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

2.5 HOURS – 118 MILES/189 KM

Next you are going to see the amazing Canyon of The Ancients. The monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of native cultures. Before you head here, we would recommend finding a place to stay in Cortez for the night. There are a number of great options, but the Retro Inn is just the about the coolest place to stay in the four-corners region. From Cortez, it’s a short drive to the monument, and you should plan to spend most of your day there, as there is a number of things to see. This cultural landscape contains more than 6,355 recorded sites that reflect all the physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs and sweat lodges. Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile—so don’t forget your camera! After getting your fill, head back to Cortez and check out The Farm Bistro for dinner.

Must stop:

Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum

Can’t miss it: 

Lowry Pueblo

Archaeological Wonder:

The Great Kiva

Best place to stretch your legs:

Sand Canyon Trail

Best place for photography:

Sand Canyon Pueblo

Where the locals go for breakfast:

Beny’s Diner

#9 South Fork and the San Juan Mountains

3.5 HOURS – 174 MILES/280 KM

From Cortez, you will head back through Durango to the little western town of South Fork. First, you should get some coffee—and Fahrenheit Coffee Roasters in Cortez has some of the best. As you work your way along Highway 160, you’ll be driving through some of the most quintessential Colorado Plateau landscape. Upon entering the town of South Fork, nestled on the banks of the Rio Grande, you will notice one thing: this is an outdoorsy town. There are a lot of things to do here, both inside the city limits and in the surrounding mountains, so perhaps your best stop will first be the South Fork Visitor’s Center. From here you can get all the info you need to make the most of this charming Colorado mountain town. As always, there are a number of places to stay in South Fork, but the Foothills Lodge and Cabins is be our #1 pick.

Best short hike:

Treasure Falls

Best outdoor recreation:

Rio Grande National Forest

Great place to stock up on gear:

8200 Sports

Catch some white water:

Mountain Man Rafting

Best place to learn about Colorado gold mines:

Last Chance Mine

Best place for beer and a burger:

The Old Firehouse

#10 Alamosa and the Great Sand Dunes National Park

colorado

1 HOUR – 48 MILES/77 MILES

This may seem like a very short driving day, but with good reason. After the short drive, your day will be spent traversing the enormous sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park. In order to get to the sand dunes you will pass through Alamosa, which will give you a chance to find a place to stay and drop off your gear. Our recommendation would be to get a room at the Alamosa Inn. From Alamosa, it’s a 40-minute drive to the park. One not-to-be missed experience in the park is to take a ride down the dunes. It’s called sandboarding or sand sledding, and there are a number of places you can rent boards and sleds from. Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa is one local place to rent from and they’ll give you all the advice you need.

First stop:

Visitor’s Center

Best short hike:

Mosca Pass Trail

Can’t miss it:

Zapata Falls

Go for a swim:

Mendano Creek

Best kept secret:

COLORADO GATOR FARM

Best place for dinner:

San Luis Valley Brewing Company

#11 Colorado springs

3 HOURS –  165 MILES/265

Colorado Springs is a beautiful city just south of Denver. The town is nestled near the base of Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak, which the highest summit in the southern Front Range. Colorado Springs is also known for the Garden of the Gods—a geological wonder that resembles dinosaur backs coming out of the ground. You don’t want to leave town before at least taking a stroll through the park. Since Colorado Springs will be your last stop before hitting the big city of Denver, we recommend that you take a float down some rapids, if you haven’t done so already. The Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River is just the place to do this. There are many outfitters waiting to take you down the river, but Raft Masters is among the best. Don’t feel like rafting? That’s okay, there are numerous other activities for your stay in Colorado Springs.

Best place for a hike:

Pikes Peak via Barr Trail

Best kept secret:

The Broadmoor Seven Falls

Best place for a stroll:

Garden of the Gods

Catch the sunset:

Mesa Overlook

A must-do adventure:

Local Via Ferrata

Best place for dinner:

Restaurant 1858

back to Denver

colorado

1.5 HOURS – 70 MILES/112 KM

Exchange your country boots for your city shoes because you are now in the Mile High City. Denver is known for its foodie paradise, vibrant neighborhoods, music scene, thriving beer culture, amazing art and sporting life. During your visit you may hear many expressions such as LoDoSoDo, RiNo and many more. That is because Denver is broken up into ten different neighborhoods. So whatever you are looking for during your vacation, you will find it within one of the neighborhoods, each with its own unique style and flair.

Historic neighborhood:

Larimer Square

Best museum:

Denver Art Museum

Haven for Art Lovers:

The Art District on Santa Fe

Shopper’s Paradise:

Cherry Creek

Can’t miss it:

Union Station

Best place to find amazing food:

South Pearl Street and Old South Gaylord



The Beauty of the Utah National Parks

The Beauty of the Utah National Parks

Utah and the deserts of the American Southwest is some of the most striking geography found anywhere in the world. With this Itinerary, your trip will take you through the best this area has to offer, from Arches National Park to the Painted Desert of Arizona, The Grand Canyon and more, you will visit 6 utah national parks, two national monuments and a sojourn to the culture and people of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Get ready for the trip of a lifetime.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Utah, Colorado, and Arizona

Start/End:
Salt Lake City, Utah

Total miles:
1,400

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Year round

Overview

This route will take you in a lopsided figure eight, as you visit everything that Utah National Parks have to offer, with a quick dip into Colorado to see the amazing Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and few overnight stays in Arizona. The American Southwest is a land of extremes, from towering desert monoliths, to vast expanses and forested sandstone cliffs, the natural wonder of this landscape is like no other on Earth. But this isn’t just a trip of natural beauty, it is also an exploration of the people and culture that have lived in this area for thousands of years. The culmination of this trip will take you into one of the United States native people’s reservations, where you will get to experience firsthand the dynamic culture of the Ute Nation. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing Utah national parks and monuments that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. If you want to avoid crowds we suggest traveling at the end of spring or the beginning of fall. If you can’t make that happen then we suggest visiting the smaller towns on the weekends and the Utah National Parks, Monuments and bigger towns on the weekdays. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the parks. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates.

DAY 1: arrival in Salt Lake City, Utah

2 hours/120 miles

Salt Lake City is a great town, and one that we would recommend spending some time in, but not today. That will come at the end of the trip. For the start of your trip, we would recommend landing in SLC, gathering your bags and getting your car. From this point you head south on Interstate 15 to Spanish Fork where you will head east on Highway 6 and officially begin your road trip as you wind your way along the Wasatch Range and your destination for the night, Price.

Best musuem:

Utah State University Prehistoric Musuem

Best place to stretch your legs:

Desert Wave Pool

Cool off desert style:

The Hive Winery

Best place for dinner:

Groggs Pinnacle Brewing

Best place for night time fun:

The Vault

Best place for coffee in the morning:

Happiness Within

DAY 2: PRICE TO MOAB, ARCHES AND THE CANYONLANDS

4.5 hours/274 miles

As you begin to Start your day early and head over to Moab, Utah experiencing the dramatic red colors of the Colorado Plateau. Known as the outdoor town of Utah’s National Parks, Moab is home to Arches National Park, featuring the iconic Delicate Arch, an astounding natural arch that has been carved from the surrounding rock. We definitely recommend taking a hike to see it. Then, try a mountain bike adventure on Moab’s famous Slick Rock Trail, or a boat tour on the Colorado River. Canyonlands National Park is one of the best places to ride a mountain bike, so if you are interested in this, we recommend an extra day there. Another must-see in Moab is the Dead Horse Point State Park, an ideal place to stop and take some incredible pictures of the Colorado Plateau.

Best day hike-Arches National Park:

Delicate Arch

Can’t miss it:

Hovenweep National Monument

Best photo op:

Dead Horse State Park

Best taco:

Quesedilla Mobilia

Best kept secret:

Hummer Tour of Moab

Best local brew:

Moab Brewery

DAY 3: Canyon of the Ancients

3 hours/163 miles

Today you are dipping into Colorado to see the amazing Canyon of The Ancients. The Utah National Parks monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of native cultures. But before you head here, we would recommend finding a place to stay in Monticello for the night. There are a number of great options, but the Grist Mill Inn is a quaint little B&B and worth a stay. From Monticello, its a short drive to the monument, and you should plan to spend most of your day here, for there is a number of things to see. This cultural landscape contains more than 6,355 recorded sites reflect all the physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs and sweat lodges. Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile. The number of sites is estimated to be up to 30,000, so don’t forget your camera.

Must stop:

Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum

Can’t miss it: 

Lowry Pueblo

Archaeological Wonder:

The Great Kiva

Best place to stretch your legs:

Sand Canyon Trail

Best place for photography:

Sand Canyon Pueblo

Best place for dinner:

Pancho Villa’s Grill

DAY 4: to bluff and the supreme monument valley

2.5 hours/166 miles

From Monticello it is just a short drive to Bluff and the surrounding splendor that is Monument Valley. Bluff will be your headquarters for this portion of the trip, and when you get to town, we recommend getting a room at the hip Willow Street Cottages. After dropping off your bags, head to Duke’s for thier world-famous breakfast. Try the Blue Corn Pancakes. Trust us. Then it’s off to the valley. Monument Valley is world famous for movie scenes, red rocks, and the endless highway that runs through the desert. The best viewpoints here come just before you enter Monument Valley from the north, looking toward the road and the horizon. When you enter the tribal park, enjoy the view points and connect with Native American history, as you are now in the Navajo Nation. Buy local arts and crafts and join an interpretive tour. This is also a great place to go on a horseback ride; ask Goulding Tours for their schedules.

Great Coffee:

Moab Coffee Roasters

Can’t miss it:

Monument Valley Safari

Best photo op:

Forrest Gump Point

Shop Ultra Local:

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

Eat Ultra Local:

The Fry Bread trucks at Four Corners

Best Scenic Drive:

Desert View Drive

DAY 5: To Page and Lake Powell National Recreation Area

2 hours 46 minutes/160 miles

From Bluff, you will be heading down into Arizona and the spectacular Grand Canyon Country. From Page, it is a short drive north into Lake Powell and all the spectacular sites there are to see there. Though Page is a great town, we would recommend staying at least one night in Lake Powell itself at the Lake Powell Resort and Marinas. This is a great resort, and will give you access to everything the lake has to offer, including Airstream trailers, boat rentals, tours and a relaxing atmosphere for you take in the scenery.

Best place to grab some BBQ:

Big John’s BBQ

Can’t miss It:

Antelope Canyon Tour

Best photography tour:

Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour

Best short hike:

Navajo Canyon

Best long hike:

West Canyon Trail

Best way to eat dinner on the lake:

Canyon Princess Dinner Cruise

DAY 6: The Grand Canyon of the United States

3 hours 16 minutes/130 miles

Today your trip will take you back through Page and into the Painted Desert of Arizona before entering Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Village. Our recommendation would be to check in to the Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel, drop off your gear and head right out to explore this fascinating piece of American geography. It is up to you to decide how many days you want to spend here, but more than one would certainly be understandable. For early risers, we recommend experiencing the sunrise from one of the park’s view points (Mather Point is a fantastic one, though you really can’t go wrong if you choose another!) If you plan to be there an extra day, we recommend doing a couple of hikes, such as the Hermit Trail and the Grandview Trail. The most iconic backpacking trip is the “Rim To Rim” trail, a full two-day backpacking trip that requires a tent and an overnight stay at the bottom of the Colorado River.

Best day hike:

Bright Angel Trail

Best photo op:

Hopi Point

Experience of a lifetime:

Havasupi Indian Reservation

Grab a bite to eat:

Yavapai Tavern

Can’t miss it:

Horseshoe Bend

Best way to re-align your transformational energy:

Sedona Vortexes

DAY 7: To St. George

From the Grand Canyon, your trip will take you back up into Utah and the wonder of St. George. Located in the far Southwestern portion of the state, St. George is a really fun outdoorsy town with all the beauty of Utah located in both the front and backyard. One not-to-be-missed experience is the Red Cliffs Desert ReserveThe sprawling 60,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (which includes the designated Red Cliffs National Conservation Area) contains a one-of-a-kind convergence of multiple different desert ecosystems, jaw-dropping scenery, and protected species seldom seen elsewhere. St. George itself is a bustling city of around 100,000, and there are a number of great thing to do within the city limits as well. Though, as always, there are plenty of places to stay here, we would recommend the Crescent Moon Inn, if for nothing else than the pool and beach on the property.

Best place for wildlife:

Tonaquint Nature Center

Best place for a stroll:

Red Hills Desert Garden

Best place for a glimpse into the past:

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site

Best point of interest:

Coyote Gulch Art Village

Best shopping:

Historic Downtown St. George

Best place for dinner:

Cliffside

DAY 8: Zion National Park

zion, zion national park, road trip

1 hour/52 miles

This is a short drive, and for good reason. Today you will travel to Zion National Park and explore one of the most naturally stunning parks in the Lower 48 for the day before reaching your destination in Cedar City. Take exit Hwy 9 to Hurricane and follow the directions toward Zion National Park.  If you prefer a leisurely hike, you can try the Emerald Pools, but if you are not scared of heights, we recommend the iconic Angels Landing hike, with incredible views into the canyon. Zion is the first of Utah’s national parks, and it is full of stunning scenery. Plan on taking a picnic with you for a one-of-a-kind- view while you eat. After getting your fill of Zion,  (Is there really such a thing?) it’s off to Cedar City and your stop for the night.

Read more about Cedar City here

Best scenic drive:

Zion-Mt.Carmel Scenic Highway

Can’t miss it:

Weeping Rock

Best way to see the park:

Take a Ranger led tour

Best hike:

The Narrows

Best photo op:

Court of the Patriarchs

Best place for dinner:

La Casa Don Miguel

DAY 9: Capital Reef National Park

2 hours 45 minutes/157 miles

Capital Reef National Park may not be the biggest national park in the United States, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles. Capital Reef is a hiker’s paradise, so lace up your boots and get ready to explore this lesser-known park. Your first stop should be to the Visitor’s Center. The rangers there will be able to help you on your way. Your entrance and the exit to Capital Reef will be through the charming little border town of Torrey. Grab a cup of coffee at Castlerock Coffee on your way in to the park and stay overnight in a Teepee at Capital Reef Resort on your way back out.

Unique Experience:

Gifford Homestead

Cant’s Miss it:

Fremont Petroglyphs

Best hike:

Cassidy Arch Trail

Best point of interest:

Sunset Point

Best kept secret:

The Orchards at Fruita

Best place for dinner:

The Rimrock Patio

DAY 10: Duchesne and the Uintah & Ouray Indian Reservation

3 hours 45 minutes/244 miles

While your destination for the night is going to be the town of Duchesne, the majority of your day is going to be visiting the Ute Nation and the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Located in Northeastern Utah, the reservation is located within a three-county area known as the “Uintah Basin”. It is the second largest Indian Reservation in the United States and covers over 4.5 million acres. The main hub for the reservation is the Roosevelt and Fort Duchesne area, and we would recommend heading first to the town of Roosevelt and Ft. Duchesne to visit the Ute Crossing Trading Post. This is a great place to find out info and where to visit on the reservation. Spend as much time as you want here, and then head back to Duchesne for the night.

Best Scenic Drive:

Indian Canyon Scenic Drive

Best outdoor recreation:

Starvation Reservoir

Great place to eat:

Marion’s Variety

Craziest place to shop:

Junk in the Trunk

Where the locals go:

Wells Club

Best morning coffee:

Cowans Cafe

DAY 11: to Park City

1.5 hours/85 miles

Park City is a fun place. That’s just the truth of it. There is so much to do in this little town, but the best thing about Park City is its dedication to the outdoor world. This was the place of the 2002 Winter Olympics after all, and the outdoor activities are extensive. But Park City has a great city-centric activity level too. In Park City it is realistic to be browsing through one of the numerous art or history museums in the morning and be lacing up your boots to hike one of the numerous trails just outside the town in the afternoon. The best place to start any time in Park City, though, is the Park City Visitor’s Center. Not only will it have all the information you need, but its also a really cool place, with some of the best coffee in town accompanied by a nice little breakfast and lunch cafe.

Best way to get up the mountain:

Park City Mountain Resort

Best way to get down the mountain:

Park City Alpine Ride

Best place to burn some calories:

Utah Olympic Park

Best way to see the town and get fed:

Park City Food Tour

Best local shopping:

Tanger Outlet

Best place to people watch:

Park City Historic Downtown

DAY 12 through 14: Salt Lake City

Temple Square

In 1847, when Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, LDS Church president Brigham Young selected a plot of the desert ground and proclaimed, “Here we will build a temple to our God.” Attracting 3 million to 5 million visitors a year, Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah, bringing in more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. Contained within Temple Square are the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument, and two visitors’ centers. The square was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964. Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square has a rich history, gorgeous gardens and architecture, vivid art and culture that pulls you in, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience.
34 minutes/30 miles

Get ready for some city life. But first, you need to get there. There are two ways to get to SLC from Park City, but the one we recommend is taking Hwy 224 to Hwy 190 over Guardsman Pass. Total drive time (one way) is about one hour, but you’ll probably want to take longer, to stop for photos and perhaps a picnic along the route. On top of the mountains the country opens up and you’ll have majestic views in all directions. At the pass the elevation is about 9,700 feet above sea level. However, this road is not open in the winter. Upon arrival in Salt Lake City, the first thing you are going to want to do is find a pace to stay. There are plenty of options, but our suggestion is to head downtown and stay at one of the great hotels. From there, Salt Lake City is your oyster. SLC is a great town, and there are thousands of things to do here, so after getting your hotel, you should head to the Salt Lake Visitors Center in the Salt Center. The people there are friendly and eager to make your visit the best it can be.

Best place to shop:

City Creek Center

Best way to see the city:

Trolley Tours of Salt Lake

Best nightlife:

Downtown District

Best cultural experience for families:

Foothill Cultural District

Best place to shop local:

The Downtown Salt Lake City Farmer’s Market

Can’t miss restaurant:

Valter’s Osteria

Best Mexican food in Utah:

The Red Iguana

Can’t miss outdoor experience:

Great Salt Lake State Park or Big Cottonwood Canyon



National Parks and a Southwest Road Trip

National Parks and a Southwest Road Trip

The Great American Road trip awaits you as you travel across some of the most beautiful landscapes the American West has to offer. This trip will take you from the Golden Coast to the Shining Desert with nothing but adventures along the way.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Florian

States: 
California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah

Start/End: 
San Francisco, California

Total miles:
2,550

Suggested days: 
At least 20

Type: 
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Year-round

Overview

This trip is one of our favorites, and it offers a great first impression of America’s national parks. Nine iconic “desert parks” in California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Arches, along with the famous Monument Valley, color the landscape of the American Southwest with beauty and are sure to leave you feeling amazed, inspired, and maybe even like the star of your own Western movie! We have even included several small Western towns we believe are worth seeing, and some large cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, in order to help provide you with a complete picture of this region.

How to Prepare

We recommend 3 weeks for this trip, in order to ensure you have plenty of time to visit every national park, Western town, and city on the itinerary. Though some days will require more than 5 hours of driving time, each one will present a spectacular opportunity to explore part of the American Southwest. If you have more time, we have included suggestions of where to stay an extra day.

DAY 1: arrival in San Francisco

1.5 hours/72 miles

Arrive at San Francisco International Airport, pick up your rental car and enjoy San Francisco, world famous for its skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. We recommend choosing a hotel that is convenient to the airport location, given that you might be exhausted coming in.
But if you are not too tired to explore, discover Fisherman’s Wharf for an unforgettable waterfront dining experience, where you might even befriend some local sea lions!

DAY 2: San Francisco to Yosemite

4 hours/175 miles

You will probably wake up early, so take advantage of this and start your great American National Park trip! If you’re sad to leave San Francisco, don’t worry: you will return at the end of your trip, when you’ll have plenty of time to discover the city and do your shopping. You can drive from the airport toward downtown San Francisco, take Interstate 80 East over the Bay Bridge, then head further east on Interstate 580 through Oakland toward Stockton. Hwy 120 will then take you straight into Yosemite National Park. When you arrive at the park entrance, go first to Yosemite Valley to explore Yosemite Falls and the famous rock climbing mountain, El Capitan. If you want to camp, you’ll find the best campsites either in the valley or higher up on Hwy 120. You can also stay overnight in a hotel inside Yosemite or the nearby town of Mariposa.

Best scenic drive:

Hwy 120

Can’t miss it:

Stoneman Meadow

Grab a bite:

The Majestic

Best photo op:

Tioga pass

Must see:

Valley View

Best hike:

The Mist Trail

DAY 3: Yosemite-Sunrise-Mono Lake

4 hours/130 miles

A highlight of any visit to Yosemite is the glorious sunrise, so get up early and head toward Tioga Pass, which offers many view points where you can watch as the sun illuminates Yosemite Valley. After the sunrise, keep going east to see some small glacier lakes, among them Ellery Lake. Once you are over the pass and reach Highway 395, you will enter into a desert area where you’ll see Mono Lake. If you have extra time (approximately 2 hours), venture out to Bodie to see a very unique “Ghost Town”. After that, head south on Highway 395 and enjoy an incredible scenic drive along the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as you pass the Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort.

Best place to see wildflowers in Mammoth Lakes:

Sky Meadows Trail

Best short hike:

Rainbow Falls

Best place to soak your cares away:

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Best place for dinner:

Nicely’s

Best after hours fun:

T-Bar Social Club

Best place for a swim:

Navy Beach

DAY 4: Death Valley National Monument and Las Vegas

5 hours/289 miles

Start your morning with nice views of Kings Canyon National Park. There is no access into the park from the east side, but the views are stunning! Then head out on Highway 395 further down along the Inyo Wilderness Mountains to Lone Pine, and go west on Hwy 136 and Hwy 190 into the famous Death Valley, home to the hottest point in the United States. Temperatures here can reach up to to 50 degrees Celsius! Given that it is very hot, there are not many activities we recommend, except perhaps a walk on the Sand Dunes and a stop at Zubriskie Point. Badwater, the lowest point in the United States at 85m below sea level, is also worth a visit. From here, follow Hwy 190 toward Pahrump and then enter Las Vegas. We recommend staying on the Las Vegas Strip to get the best glimpse of the city.

Best hike:

Eureka Dunes

Best Photo:

Zabriskie Point

Best drive:

Artist’s Drive

Best historical stop:

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Can’t miss it:

The Milky Way

Best place for after-desert refreshments:

Pahrump Winery

DAY 5: Las Vegas

1.5 hours/77 miles

Las Vegas calls itself “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” and it’s easy to see why. You’ll be entertained simply by walking down the city’s main thoroughfare, the Strip, and witnessing countless local attractions and visitors from around the world! But to make the most of all this city has to offer, we recommend a few specifics. For a delicious American breakfast, we suggest the restaurant “Hash House A Go Go”, but be warned that portion sizes tend to be huge, so sharing with your travel partner is recommended! Lounging by the hotel pool during the day presents an ideal way to cool off from the intense heat, but you have plenty of sightseeing options to pursue in both Downtown Las Vegas and on the Strip if you prefer. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can pay a small fee to travel to the top of the Stratosphere and ride any of the three thrill rides perched high above the city. Farther afield, a short drive will take you to Hoover Dam, an attraction outside of the city that boasts great views of Lake Mead. When dinnertime rolls around, visit the buffet at your hotel for a dining experience unlike any other, where you’re welcome to eat all you can for a flat fee! Las Vegas is famous for its nightlife, so you won’t want to miss it. We recommend that you either attend one of the world famous Cirque Du Soleil shows, or a music concert. If you’d like to partake in some of the gaming Las Vegas is famous for, try Roulette or Black Jack to get a taste of the local culture.

Best tour:

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours

Best place to shoot the sunset:

Skyfall Lounge

Best place to people watch:

The Strip

Best dining experience:

Andiamo Italian Steakhouse

Best buffet in Vegas:

The Wynn Hotel

Best place to stay:

The Luxor

DAY 6: Zion and Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park climbing areas

4.5 hours/245 miles

The next day, get up early and leave Las Vegas behind, following Interstate 15 north toward St. George. Traveling through the spectacular Virgin Canyon will take you right into Utah, known for its national parks, top scenery and the Mormon culture. Take exit Hwy 9 to Hurricane and follow the directions toward Zion National Park, a true gem of America’s national parks that offers many scenic hikes. If you prefer a leisurely hike, you can try the Emerald Pools, but if you are not scared of heights, we recommend the iconic Angeles Landing hike, with incredible views into the canyon. After your hike, continue on Hwy 9 over the pass into Hwy 89. Go north on Hwy 89 until you reach the junction for Hwy 12, which will take you into Bryce Canyon National Park. Follow the signs and enjoy view points in the Dixie National Forest, then enter Bryce Canyon National Forest. We recommend staying overnight at Ruby’s Inn. After sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park offers some of the best views of the stars in the entire country, so go stargazing if you feel inclined; you won’t regret it!

Best photo ops:

Kolob Canyon

Best hike:

The Narrows

Can’t miss it:

The Virgin River

Best place to have lunch:

Benja Thai and Sushi

Can’t miss it:

Queens Garden

Best sunset photo:

Rainbow Point

DAY 7: Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands

5 hours/263 miles

Begin your day by enjoying the view points of Bryce Canyon. We recommend Sunrise or Sunset Point, wherever you can find parking. Take the Queen Victoria Trail that loops with the Navajo Trail, but be sure to bring water and snacks, as this is a long hike down- and uphill! If you have extra time and energy, you can also try the Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is much less crowded and offers incredible views of the Hoodoos. Once you have finished the hike, we recommend stopping at each of the view points on the way to Yovimpa Point. Continue on Hwy 12, passing the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument as you journey to Capitol Reef National Park. This is a smaller park, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with incredible views of the Red Rocks and the Colorado Plateau. A 10-mile scenic drive will ensure you see the best of these. We recommend staying overnight in Capitol Reef, but you may choose to continue to Moab if you don’t have extra time, resulting in additional 4 hours of driving.

Best photo op:

Grand Staircase Escalante

Best hike-Grand Staircase:

Zebra Canyon

Best hike-Capital Reef:

Cassidy Arch Trail

Best point of interest-Capital Reef:

Sunset Point

Best kept secret:

The Orchards at Fruita

Cant’s Miss it:

Fremont Petroglyphs

DAY 8: moab

4.5 hours/274 miles

As you begin to Start your day early and head over to Moab, Utah experiencing the dramatic red colors of the Colorado Plateau. Known as Utah’s National Park Outdoor town, Moab is home to Arches National Park, featuring the iconic Delicate Arch, an astounding natural arch that emerged out of slick red rock! We definitely recommend taking a hike to see it. Then, try a mountain bike adventure on Moab’s famous Slick Rock Trail, or a boat tour on the Colorado River. Canyonlands National Park is one of the best places to mountain bike, so if you are interested in this, we recommend an extra day there. Another must-see in Moab is the Dead Horse Point State Park, an ideal place to stop and take some incredible pictures of the Colorado Plateau.

Best day hike-Arches National Park:

Delicate Arch

Can’t miss it:

Hovenweep National Monument

Best photo op:

Dead Horse State Park

Best taco:

Quesedilla Mobilia

Best kept secret:

Hummer Tour of Moab

Best local brew:

Moab Brewery

DAY 9: monument valley

2.5 hours/166 miles

After breakfast, continue on Hwy 191 toward Blanding and Bluff, then take Hwy 163 toward Monument Valley. This valley is world famous for movie scenes, red rocks, and the endless highway that runs through the desert. The best viewpoints here come just before you enter Monument Valley from the north, looking toward the road and the horizon. When you enter the tribal park, enjoy the view points and connect with Native American history in a respectful way, as you are now in Navajo Nation. Buy local arts and crafts and join an interpretive tour. This is also a great place to go on a horseback ride; ask Goulding Tours for their schedules. When you’re ready to continue your tour, keep going on Hwy 163 entering Arizona toward Kayenta. Take Highway 160 West toward Tuba City, then head South on Highway 90 toward Cameron, Arizona.

Great Coffee:

Moab Coffee Roasters

Can’t miss it:

Monument Valley Safari

Best photo op:

Forrest Gump Point

Shop Ultra Local:

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

Eat Ultra Local:

The Fry Bread trucks at Four Corners

Best Scenic Drive:

Desert View Drive

DAY 10: the grand canyon

grand canyon national park

You are now very close to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! For early risers, we recommend experiencing the sunrise from one of the park’s view points (Mather Point is a fantastic one, though you really can’t go wrong if you choose another!), and taking as many pictures as you can! If you plan to be there an extra day, we recommend doing a couple of hiking trails, such as the Hermit Trail (6.5 miles) and the Grandview Trail (6.4 miles). The most iconic backpacking trip is the “Rim To Rim” trail, a full two-day backpacking trip that requires a tent and an overnight stay at the bottom of the Colorado River.

Best day hike:

Bright Angel Trail

Best photo op:

Hopi Point

Experience of a lifetime:

Havasupi Indian Reservation

Grab a bite to eat:

Yavapai Tavern

Can’t miss it:

Horseshoe Bend

Best way to re-align your transformational energy:

Sedona Vortexes

DAY 11: Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park

6.5 hours/408 miles

In the morning after breakfast, drive south on Hwy 64 to Williams, then take Interstate 40 West toward Kingman. You are now officially on the famous Route 66, which was one of America’s first significant long distance highways. As such, it is colored with relics of American history: you will find old gas stations, motels, and small towns like Seligman that might make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the 1950s! If you have extra time, we recommend taking Hwy 66 between Seligman and Kingman for the full experience of this historic route. This unique stretch of highway goes through another Indian Reservation worth seeing. Keep going west on Interstate 40, entering California, until you reach the junction for Hwy 95. Go South on Hwy 95 along the Turtle Mountains Wilderness until you reach Hwy 62. Go West on Hwy 62 until you enter Joshua Tree National Park, a pristine desert area filled with its namesake, Joshua Trees, which resemble a mix between a palm tree and a cactus. Stop at the view points and take pictures of the sunset in the west, then keep going toward Palm Springs and stay overnight there.

Best Coffee:

Creekside Coffee

Best highway ice cream:

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap

Best small town experience:

Kingman, Arizona

Best hike in Joshua Tree:

Barker Dam

Can’t miss it:

The stars in Joshua Tree

Treat yourself in Palm Springs:

Miro’s Restaurant

DAY 12: Palm Springs to San Diego

2.5 hours/140 miles

Right after morning, before it gets too warm, continue west on Interstate 10 toward Interstate 215, then head south until you arrive in San Diego. If you are interested in touring a winery in southern California, you should stop in Temecula, the only known winery area in Southern California, and do one of the wine tastings there. Once you arrive in San Diego, we recommend staying overnight near the Gaslamp district or right by the Pacific Ocean.

Best place for breakfast:

Farm of Palm Spings

Best kept secret:

Temecula Vineyards

Best ghostly experience:

The Whaley House

Go for an ocean swim:

La Jolla Beach

Can’t miss it:

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Treat yourself in San Diego:

The Gaslamp Quarter

DAY 13: SeaWorld of San Diego

2.5 hours/140 miles

Welcome to San Diego, a place where you can relax and the weather is always perfect! We recommend a full day in San Diego and a visit to SeaWorld. Be prepared to get wet at this amusement park dedicated to sea life, but don’t worry: the warm outside temperatures will dry you off in no time! During the evening, we recommend dining along the coastal towns outside of San Diego.

Best place for breakfast:

Breakfast Republic

Can’t Miss it

San Diego Zoo

Best beach town:

Carlsbad

Tour an aircraft Carrier

USS Midway Museum

Best Fish Taco:

Taco Surf Taco Shop

Best kept secret:

The seals at La Jolla Cove

DAY 14: san Diego to Santa Monica

3 hours/150 miles

Welcome to San Diego, a place where you can relax and the weather is always perfect! We recommend a full day in SanToday’s priority? Just enjoy the beautiful southern California coast. With charming beach towns to visit like Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica, this won’t be difficult! After breakfast, take Interstate 5 north along the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Los Angeles. This scenic drive will give you the feeling and vibe of Southern California, with the lush vegetation along the coast and the crazy traffic on the freeways: two things that definitely characterize it! Stop in Oceanside for a quick walk along the coast, then take Hwy 1 past San Clemente, and continue to explore the other towns! Diego and a visit to SeaWorld. Be prepared to get wet at this amusement park dedicated to sea life, but don’t worry: the warm outside temperatures will dry you off in no time! During the evening, we recommend dining along the coastal towns outside of San Diego.

Best viewpoints on the coast:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Best place to shop:

Fashion Island-Newport Beach

Can’t Miss it:

Venice Beach

Best place for a stroll:

Santa Monica Pier

Best Taco:

Casa Martin

Best place to stay:

Casa Del Mar

DAY 15: Los angeles and Fabulous Hollywood

1.5 hours/50 miles

In the morning, you might consider a quick run along the coast before heading to Los Angeles to see the world famous Universal Studios, where classic films and television shows are brought to vivid life around you, and you might even run into some movie stars! In the evening, check out some iconic Hollywood locations, such as the Kodak Theater and the Walk of Fame, where celebrities have been honored for decades with their names imprinted on glossy stone stars embedded in the sidewalk. During the evening, take Sunset Drive into Beverly Hills, then follow Sunset Drive to head back to Santa Monica.

Best photo op:

The Hollywood Sign from Canyon Lake Drive

Best place to see a celebrity:

The Hollywood Roosevelt

Can’t Miss it:

Rodeo Drive

Best place for a stroll:

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

Best local tradition:

In-n-Out Burger

Best place to shop:

The Grove

DAY 16: Pacific Coast Highway

6.5 hours/350 miles

Start your day early to get the most out of your tour of the Pacific Coast Highway. It is one of the most scenic drives along the coast, but quite a long one, so be prepared! Your first stop should be Santa Barbara, to see the incredible flora and picturesque piers along the coast. Then continue north on Hwy 101, stopping by Gaviota State Park. You could plan to spend an extra night of camping there. Keep going on Hwy 101 toward San Luis Obispo, then take Hwy 1 toward Morro Bay. You can choose to stay overnight in Morro Bay before heading toward Big Sur on the most scenic part of the drive. Or, you can choose to skip Morro Bay and arrive near Big Sur right around sunset, which is the most spectacular time for taking pictures. Enjoy your evening; tomorrow you’ll journey to Monterey.

Best place for a stroll:

Old Mission at Santa Barbara

Best place for a quick snack:

Renaud’s Patisserie

Can’t Miss it:

Bixby Creek Bridge

Best short hike:

McWay Falls Trail

Best restaurant with an ocean view:

The Sierra Mar

Best night out:

Cannery Row

DAY 17: monterEy to san francisco

2.5 hours/120 miles

Monterey is world famous for its bay and a spectacular aquarium, worth spending a half- or full day visiting. After the aquarium, we recommend heading straight toward San Francisco, driving through the Silicon Valley where you can stop by and take a look at the headquarters of Apple, Facebook and Google. Once you arrive in San Francisco, we recommend watching the sunset at the West end of the Golden Gate Park to avoid the tourist crowds. Later on, we recommend eating fish at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Best place for an evening out:

China Town

Best place for seafood:

Anchor Oyster Bar

Best view of the Golden Gate Bridge at night:

Crissy Field

Best view of the city at night:

Coit Tower

Can’t miss it:

Palace of Fine Arts

Best night out:

The Castro

DAY 18: san francisc0

Golden gate bridge, san francisco

Now that you’re back in San Francisco with more time to spare, we recommend exploring in several areas. Start with downtown San Francisco, which is also a famous shopping area, then head over the Golden Gate Bridge and stop on the north side for some view points. Head toward Fort Barry and take the scenic route to Bonita Lighthouse. You will have the best skyline views from there with San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. After that, we recommend visiting the piers, especially Pier 39, which is quite famous for its little shops. Then take the cable car back downtown and head out to Ocean Beach. This is the local beach for San Francisco residents and therefore is not as overrun by visitors. Last but not least, we recommend shopping at the original Levi’s store on Union Square. There are plenty of other shops before you head back home.

Best place for a stroll:

Union Square

Best SanFran experience:

Cable Car Tour

Can’t miss it:

Alcatraz

Best place to hike:

Muir Woods

Crookedest street in the world:

Lombard Street

Classic SanFran Neighborhood:

Haight-Ashbury