Day 1 - Las Vegas to Zion National Park, 165 miles
Starting in Las Vegas
, an easy 3 hour drive along I-15 through the Mohave Desert then scenic Highway 9 reaches the little town of Springdale by the Virgin River, gateway to Zion National Park
. The rest of the day is spent exploring Zion Canyon
, which has plenty of roadside overlooks and a good variety of trails to choose from.
Day 2 - Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon, 120 miles:
There is time in the morning to see a little more of Zion NP, such as Checkerboard Mesa
, east of the Mt Carmel tunnel, before heading further east to the beautiful orange-pink sandstone pinnacles of Bryce Canyon
, and taking the 15 mile scenic drive
through the park to the southernmost overlook at Yovimpa Point. A hike along one of the shorter trails such as Queens Garden
gives a close-up view of the famous formations.
Day 3 - Bryce Canyon to Torrey, 130 miles:
Continuing east on one of Utah's most scenic byways (Hwy 9), the next stop is at Kodachrome Basin State Park
, which features multicolored rocks and unusual sand spires, followed by the slickrock canyons of Escalante
, where popular trails include Lower Calf Creek Falls
. After here the road climbs through the cool pine forests of Boulder Mountain and descends to Torrey.
Day 4 - Torrey to Green River, 145 miles:
A few miles from Torrey, UT 9 crosses a great ridge of colorful, upturned sandstone, contained within Capitol Reef National Park
; the scenery can best be seen along a 7 mile scenic drive and several trails
. The desert lands further east conceal many other scenic landscapes including Goblin Valley
. The night is spent at Green River along I-70; attractions in town include the John Wesley Powell Museum, which has many exhibits about the pioneer history of this area.
Day 5 - Green River to Moab, 80 miles:
An hour's drive south of Green River, US 191 reaches Arches National Park
, one of the highlights of the Southwest, where there is more than enough to see for a full day. From here it is a very short drive across the Colorado River to Moab. A scenic side trip follows the river westwards a few miles along Potash Road
Day 6 - Moab to Blanding, 160 miles: Canyonlands
is the other national park near Moab, and the Island in the Sky District
is less then an hour away; here are many spectacular overlooks, of a vast region of ravines and mesas, plus a selection of trails. En route, Dead Horse Point State Park
has more of the same scenery. The day is completed by driving south along US 191 to Blanding.
Day 7 - Blanding to Kayenta, 120 miles:
South of Blanding are several small but scenic sites around Mexican Hat
including Goosenecks State Park
and Valley of the Gods
, before the highway crosses the San Juan River, enters the Navajo Indian Reservation and reaches Monument Valley
, the epitome of a red rock Western landscape, seen best along the 17 mile Valley Drive
in the Navajo Tribal Park. Lodging is in Kayenta, half an hour south.
Day 8 - Kayenta to Page, 120 miles:
Next stop is Wahweap in Glen Canyon NRA
; more red rock scenery, with the added attraction of the warm waters of Lake Powell. As an alternative to water-based activities, popular sites nearby include Antelope Canyon
, Water Holes Canyon
and Horseshoe Bend
on the Colorado River. The night is spent in Page, near Glen Canyon Dam
Day 9 - Page to Tusayan (Grand Canyon), 145 miles:
The drive from Page to the Grand Canyon passes sandy desert lands for most of the way, starting to climb into wooded terrain once past Cameron and the Little Colorado River Gorge
. An enjoyable diversion, taking a couple of hours, is to Lees Ferry
, a tiny settlement on the Colorado River near much interesting scenery. The nearest chain lodging to Grand Canyon National Park
is at Tusayan, 3 miles from the south entrance.
Day 10 - Grand Canyon, 50 miles:
A full day is spent at the South Rim
of the Grand Canyon, enough to see all major roadside overlooks, and for a hike part way down into the canyon; Bright Angel
and South Kaibab
are the two most popular trails.
Day 11 - Tusayan to Las Vegas, 265 miles:
The long drive from the Grand Canyon back to Las Vegas
could be enlivened by a detour along old Route 66
, through Peach Springs and the Hualapai Indian Reservation. The highway crosses into Nevada via a new bridge over the Colorado River, just downstream of the Hoover Dam
, which may be viewed from the top, or toured inside.