The American Southwest is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes the United States has to offer. We’ve broken this epic trip out day by day assuming you have a week off work bookended with two weekends (8 days). So, grab your hiking shoes, camera, your sense of adventure, and let’s hit the road!
Day 1 - Travel Day from Denver (Directions)
From Denver, head west on I-70 for about five hours directly through the Rocky Mountains. Cut up through Glenwood Canyon, then make your way through beautiful Palisade and Grand Junction. Continue onward for about two hours until you hit Crescent Junction and turn your car south to head into Moab, Utah.
Day 2 - Arches and Canyonlands
Mother Nature really broke the model when sculpting the American west and you’d be hard-pressed to find a place more evident of this than Arches National Park. Across the expansive desertscape of rose-colored sandstone exists more than 2,000 arches, plus thousands of other wonders in the shape of pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and domes. Spend the morning hiking to Delicate Arch, perhaps the most iconic arch in the entire world.
Later in the afternoon, drive up to Canyonlands National Park. Follow Highway 191 to Highway 313 to take you into the Island in the Sky District. Mesa Arch is a wildly beautiful pothole arch spanning across the mesa’s edge, framing a scenic canyon vista. The Upheaval Dome hike shouldn't take long and showcases some amazing geology. Finish out the day by driving to Grandview Point Overlook , considered by many to be the best view in the entire district.
Day 3 - Moab to Bryce via Capitol Reef (Directions)
Sit back and enjoy the ride as you make your way to Bryce Canyon via Capitol Reef National Park and Hwy 24. Capitol Reef is known for remote and sprawling backcountry. Despite that, the park service did a great job of establishing a paved scenic drive as well as two unpaved loops that you can opt to explore as you continue on to Bryce Canyon. There is a free online guide that includes information about eleven stops on the drive.
If you are able to drive to Bryce by sunset we recommend heading straight to Sunset Point.
Day 4 - Bryce Canyon
A fantasyland of tall skinny rock spires called “hoodoos,” Bryce Canyon is unlike any other national park. Due to its compact size, one day is all you need to explore this park. We recommend venturing down into the amphitheater via the Queens Garden Trail then linking up with the Navajo Loop Trail. In the afternoon, it’ll start to get pretty warm so we suggest taking to the comforts of your air-conditioned vehicle to visit each one of the overlooks.
Day 5 - Zion (Directions)
While it is believed that the first people to set foot in Zion were seeking food; fast forward thousands of years and you’ll see millions of people flock to the massive sandstone cliffs seeking nourishment for their souls. Relentlessly carved by time and the Virgin River, Zion unveils its eight layers of sandstone and is a masterpiece of monolithic cliffs and deep red canyons.
High and exposed, is Angel’s Landing an easy rock climb or perhaps one of the most thrilling hikes you’ll ever do? Either way, this is not for the faint of heart. Angels Landing is a strenuous trail with precipitous exposure and very narrow sections. However, the summit is well worth the effort, offering perhaps the best views available in the park. Make sure you get out there early as the temperature gets very hot and the park gets very crowded.
Up next is one of the most famous hikes in the American Southwest. The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and has garnered worldwide attention due to its sculpted sandstone walls and awe-inspiring beauty. This hike is exceedingly unique in that you’re hiking (at times waist deep) in the Virgin River itself.
Day 6 - Travel Day to Grand Canyon’s South Rim (Directions)
It takes about five hours to travel to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. But what better way to conclude this epic trip than a visit to the most legendary canyon in the world. Vast and immensely beautiful, the Grand Canyon stretches 277 miles end to end, while steep, rocky walls plunge more than a mile to the canyon’s floor where the wild Colorado River continues to dig deeper into the earth.
Day 7 & 8 - Travel Days
At this point, you’ll need to start venturing back towards Denver as you have about twelve hours of driving ahead of you. However, that doesn’t mean that the sense of adventure needs to end. We’ve mapped out what we consider to be the most scenic way home.