Guide To Plan The Perfect Southwest Road Trip

Guide to plan the perfect Southwest Road Trip – US National parks – Antelope Canyon – A World to Travel

Ideally, three weeks would be needed to cover all we’d like to see and do on our Southwest bound. If you are running short in time, you can trim whatever interests you the less. I would definitely try to save as many National Parks as possible. But that might be influenced by the fact that I spent a month working in Modesto, Northern California, and could already experience San Francisco, Yosemite and a few other cool spots in between.

Back to the point, here’s a dream route covering 19 unmissable spots through 4 different States: Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California. From mind-blowing landscapes in some of the best and most iconic American National Parks to vibrant cities and famous road-trip paths like Route 66, this trip has something for everyone!

1. Las Vegas, NV, USA

2. Valley of Fire State Park

[Group 1]-VOF121015_11675enfuse_VOF121015_11678enfuse-2 images
3. Zion National Park Twilight Zion National Park Panorama4. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon Sunrise Panorama5. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

6. Oljato-Monument Valley, UT, USA

7. Antelope Canyon Slot Canyon #3

8. Horseshoe Bend

9. Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon Inversion 2013 - Mather Point Panorama

10. Kingman, AZ, USA

Historic Route 66
11. Joshua Tree, CA 92252, USA Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree

12. San Diego, CA, USA

San Diego Bay HDR

13. Los Angeles, CA, USA Twilight Traffic
14. Big Sur

Big Sur, CA15. San Francisco, CA, USA Voile tendue sur la baie de San-Francisco/Full sail on the San Francisco Bay/Vela tendida sobre la Bahia de San Francsico

16. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Panorama
17. Yosemite National Park

18. Tioga Pass The Tioga Pass road SR 120, California, USA

19. Death Valley

Death Valley Panorama 2012

20. Las Vegas, NV, USA

We choose Las Vegas as the starting and final spot because it is right in the middle of the loop, easily accessible and also home to many affordable flights to the USA but of course, you are free to pick where to start and finish your adventure!

Also, in case you are the visual type, here’s an interactive route map for you to have an idea of how much land you’ll be covering:

Total distance is 1939 miles (3121 km) but I’d add a few hundred miles to that to be on the safe side. On the other hand, I tried to estimate the fuel cost but that could vary a lot depending on how you are planning to move from one spot to the next one. A bit more about this further on!


Remember to make an ESTA application before you travel.

ESTA aka ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorization’ is easy and quick to get authorization to travel to the United States for citizens of the countries that meet the requirements of the visa waiver program. These are the following ones:

The United Kingdom, Taiwan, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, South Korea, Slovenia, Slovakia, Singapore, San Marino, Republic of Malta, Portugal, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Monaco, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Chile, Brunei, Belgium, Austria, Australia and Andorra.

So if you hold a passport from those countries and, unless you are entering the States by land from Canada or Mexico, you are going to need to take care of this.

With an ESTA in your hand, you can enter the US multiple times up to 90 days each during the 2 years before the authorization expires. Then, you will have to renew it and start over.

With an approval rate over 95%, helpful professionals ready to assist you 24/7 and money back warranty should your ESTA was denied, I would look no further and head to for a worry-free and time-saving ESTA application.


Unless you are a sort of hitchhiking ninja, a biker, insanely rich – the kind that flights private jets like paper planes – or have lots of time and are fit enough to walk your way among the map dots, this is your best bet.

Well, then there is also going from one spot to the next one by public transportation if there is any or taking a tour by a private company but in that case, you wouldn’t probably reading this now, would you?

Renting a car could set you down about $250 per week. Of course, it can always go more expensive if you are returning it in another spot (those sometimes crazy one-way fees!) or cheap. Did I ever tell you that you can pretty much have it for free if you are aware of relocation last-minute requests and get lucky with your travel dates? Soon I’ll be talking more about this, no panic. But for now, you get the idea!


Obvious and something you should take care of early enough. My best tip for booking cheap flights is keeping an eye on airlines and offer sites’ newsletters as well as spending a bit of time in the best flight search engine I know, ITA matrix by google.

As for where are you going to rest your head after a long day in the great outdoors, well the options are endless. From side road motels you can walk-in to the latest collaborative economy solutions there are tons of possibilities. Hotels, resorts, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb, campsites, al fresco… you name it!


  1. Mind your companion. A day trip is different from a few weeks in a vehicle with someone that could end up driving you crazy. Choose wisely and do not fear to go on your own if that’s what you really want. If you are going with someone else, make sure to spend some time alone.
  2. Buy a National Parks Pass. $80 for a whole year is something worth investing in, especially when a single entry for one of them is already $10 to 25.
  3. Get a cooler, stock up at the supermarket, cook your own food when possible and refill your water bottle. Restaurants are not always conveniently located, especially not where nature is at its best and you will save a few bucks in every meal. Multiply for 3 weeks and there you go, you could avoid spending about $500 easily.
  4. Enjoy the ride. Trim spots if needed and feel free to rearrange your route as you go. That’s where the road-tripping magic resides.



Featured image by billyrichards

There are 24 comments

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  1. turnipseedtravel

    We can’t recommend Death Valley National Park highly enough. It is truly one of the most stunning, unusual, special places in the world. And you can golf there! My husband got up at 5 am in order to (somewhat) beat the heat) and he really enjoyed it.

    • Inma

      Wow. 5am wake up call is something we’d kinda hate doing unless there is a fantastic spot or sunrise lined up πŸ˜€ Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Laura

    This would really be a fantastic trip. I’d love to rent an RV and just drive around to all those parks during an entire summer. I suppose it’s a lot of planning to find camping spots in all those places during busy season though.

  3. AcrossCities

    Aw. I missed out on a lot, apparently! Great list – will definitely try to cover these the next time I’m there

  4. Karilyn

    Thats a pretty amazing road trip! Last summer we did the LA-Grand Canyon – Zion bit over 10 days (with kids) and it was amazing. There is some spectacular scenery to see in that area. A few years ago we did the CA Hwy 1 road trip in 9 days, really taking our time to savor all the beauty along the way. This itinerary will give you an amazing sense of what exists out here, but you will only be touching the surface on each of these destinations. We spent a week in yosemite and still there so much to see! My advice… have your *must* see places lined up, but create some flexibility in your itinerary with places you could skip. Depending on the time of year, you might have to skip Death Valley. Joshua Tree can be done in a day for a quick view (although it’s our favorite place!) and spend more time along the BIg Sur coast and in Yosemite. Grand Canyon can also be done relatively quickly, but Zion’s beauty takes a little more time to soak in. Any which way it will be AMAZING!!

  5. Hitch-Hikers Handbook

    Wow! So many beautiful places to visit! I would love to go there one day!
    By the way, what plugin do you use to display the flickr photos? I love it!

  6. Melody Pittman

    Awesome suggesions. Your Vegas road trip looks so much fun plus you got to cover so many gorgeous natural sites. Deifnitely would love this!

  7. Lotte

    Very very usefull post! I have never been to the USA (yet;-) but whenever I see pictures of all the gorgeous national parks I almost book a ticket to fly there tomorrow… Noted all these spots on my (ever growing) must visit list for when I finally make it there:-) Thanks a lot for the post!!!

  8. Nastia

    I LOVE the pictures. Besides, this post is of great help, since I am planning a roadtrip to Southwest myself. Thanks πŸ™‚

  9. Mellissa Williams

    We did a road trip from San Francisco to Napa to Monterey and down to LA, San Diego and over to Vegas last year. It was awesome. My tip would b to hire the most comfortable car. An open top sports car generally doesn’t have the space for the cases and also in the heat you need the air con πŸ™‚

  10. annastraveltribute

    My mum would love this! It would be my absolute dream to take her on this road trip one day! Thank you =)

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