Hey friends! If you follow along on Instagram you probably saw that me and Josh recently got back from a weeklong road trip through the Southwest and it really was one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on, and just feels awesome to check that off the bucket list! This was also my first real road trip and I just know the memories and all the sights will last me a lifetime.
Many of you have been loving the Southwest travel content I’ve been sharing across my platforms, reaching out with questions, and gathering inspiration for your future travels through the Southwest that I figured it would be beneficial to put this post together on how we went about planning our trip, our itinerary, where we stayed, how we saw almost all of the places we wanted to see within a span of 8 days, and more. I also started a mini-series over on my YouTube channel with my daily vlogs from our trip (new videos Mondays and Thursdays as I cover each day of our trip).
This post will be a bit longer than usual but I hope to cover everything you’ll need to know if you’re looking to plan the same kind of road trip. Let’s get started!
I can’t remember the exact number but I believe our whole trip was around 3,500 miles in total. And the longest travel days were definitely the first day driving from Seattle to Salt Lake City, and our 7th day driving from Las Vegas all the way up to Crater Lake in Oregon. I will say long 12+ hour days in the car make a 6 or even 7-hour road trip feel pretty short now lol.
Day One: 12-hour drive Seattle -> Salt Lake City (5:30am-6:00pm)
We decided on making our destination for day one be Salt Lake City because neither of us had ever been and didn’t know when we would ever make it back to the area. I really wanted to see the area while we were there (another reason why we started our day so early, so we could see some of downtown SLC in the daylight) and it was also fairly close to our destination for day two so it just worked out best that way for us. We booked a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City in advance since we knew that was our destination for day one and we were able to walk around downtown SLC that evening, walk through Temple Square (even though most of it was under construction), and walk around the shopping centers.
Day Two: 3-hour drive Salt Lake City -> Moab, UT (4:30am-7:30am) | Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park | 1+ hour drive Moab, UT -> Blanding, UT (a small town in between Moab, UT, and the Arizona border).
Day Three: 1.5-hour drive Blanding, UT -> Monument Valley, AZ (8:00am-9:30am). 2-hour drive Monument Valley, AZ -> Horseshoe Bend (Page, AZ). 2-hour drive Horseshoe Bend -> Grand Canyon North Rim. 2-hour drive Grand Canyon North Rim -> Mount Carmel Junction, UT (a small town near Zion National Park).
Day Four: 30-minute drive Mount Carmel Junction, UT -> Zion National Park (6:30am). 2-hour drive Zion National Park -> Bryce Canyon National Park. 4-hour drive Bryce Canyon National Park -> Las Vegas, NV.
Day Five: Las Vegas and The Strip.
Day Six: 1-hour drive Las Vegas -> Valley of Fire State Park (8:30am). 1.5-hour drive Valley of Fire State Park -> Hoover Dam. 45-minute drive Hoover Dam -> Las Vegas.
Day Seven: (11:00am) 13-hour drive Las Vegas -> Diamond Lake, OR (30 minutes away from Crater Lake).
Day Eight: 30-minute drive Diamond Lake -> Crater Lake National Park (9:00am). 2.5-hour drive Crater Lake National Park -> Eugene, OR (for lunch). 4.5-hour drive Eugene, OR -> Seattle.
What to Expect:
With a road trip like this comes A LOT of driving and time in the car, obviously. You will also be stopping for gas A LOT and probably not eating the best meals/eating at fast-food restaurants. And, unless you’re camping, you will be finding a lot of smaller hotels in small rural towns on the go.
My best advice on a trip like this is to make loose travel plans and just go with the flow! We had no idea where we’d end up each day and wanted to make sure we gave ourselves enough time at each place to really soak it all in and take in all the beauty before moving on to the next. It also allows for more flexibility because you really don’t know how long you’re going to want to spend at these places until you’re actually there.
The only hotels we had actually booked in advance were our hotels in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. I had actually booked our SLC hotel almost two weeks prior when we had our vacation dates/time off from work set, and our Las Vegas hotel one night before. The rest of the time, we looked at Google Maps on our phones to see where we were at, what towns were nearby and a good distance to make the following days’ travels easier, and called places we had found on Google while we are on our way there.
National Parks/Other Landmarks to See:
- Arches National Park (UT)
- Canyonlands National Park (UT)
- Monument Valley (AZ)
- Horseshoe Bend (AZ)
- Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
- Zion National Park (UT)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (UT)
- Valley of Fire State Park (NV)
- Hoover Dam (NV)
- Crater Lake National Park (OR)
Places We Missed:
While we saw a lot on our shorter trip, we actually did not make it to all the places we had wanted to see. Josh really wanted to see Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado but the main landmark he had wanted to see was not open at the time. We also missed Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, along with some other nearby parks in Arizona. But it really worked out for the better because after the busy go-go-go trip we had, we ultimately wanted some extra time and relaxation in Las Vegas (and just to stay in a hotel for more than 8-10 hours at a time) and decided we could see the California parks another time.
There were also many other national parks and landmarks close to the ones we had visited that we hadn’t known of that looked interesting and worth seeing, but overall wasn’t on our itinerary this time around. There’s just so much to see in the beautiful Southwest! If we had more time on the trip we would have loved to see it all. One day!
Our Original Plan and Why We Decided on a Road Trip:
At first, our original plan was to book a flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City and then rent a car to travel around the Southwest and fly home out of Las Vegas to avoid long travel days, but in the end, after reviewing everything over, avoiding flights and a rental car especially saved us SO much money. And I guess I should mention it here that this trip is definitely very budget-friendly! You also just get to see many parts of the country you’ve never seen and probably will never see again so that’s always worth it, plus the amount of wildlife we saw, some animals I had never seen before, made it a lot more interesting too when you’re ultimately looking at a whole lot of nothing.
And there you have it! How we went about planning our Southwest road trip and your guide to planning a similar trip. And stay tuned! I also have more blog posts planned from the trip coming soon where I go more in-depth on the parks we visited, what places lived up to the hype, and more. Make sure to subscribe to my blog on the sidebar so you’ll always be notified of new blog posts when they go live!
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Thanks for reading!
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