The Roadtrip of your life - Four Weeks in the US Southwest
It was always a dream of us to come to the US. We were fascinated by the incredible landscape and the wilderness. You will hardly find a road in Western Europe where you can drive 30 kilometers and don’t pass some sort of village or house. We chose the Southwest because it is a classic and has many interesting national parks in “near” distance to each other.
When to Go?
Spring: Temperatures are still cooler and if you’re lucky you can catch some desert blooming in Death Valley.
Summer: The weather is mostly dry and sunny but can get unbelievable hot in the desert areas like Death Valley, Valley of Fire (and most of the other National Parks we visited).
Fall: It’s getting cooler in fall but you can still catch sunny weather. And of course the leaves are getting colors! That time of the year some waterfalls or rivers can be dried out (for example Yosemite Falls).
Winter: In Winter you have lower temperatures which makes a visit in Death Valley more pleasant and offers you better opportunities for hiking in the desert areas. You can also catch beautiful pictures of snowy Bryce Canyon (the red sandstone looks incredible in contrast to the white snow). But aware of snow as some streets can be closed due to snow (like Tioga Road in Yosemite).
How to get around?
You have the most freedom when you rent (buy) a car. We brought our camping equipment with us and slept in our tent. This is one of the cheapest and independent ways of staying. As the campgrounds are mostly run by Nationalpark Services our other State led organizations the prices are low (from 15$ to 25 $ per night for tent and car). All of the campgrounds had water and toilets, but most of them don’t have showers.
In some national parks they only have small amounts of first-come-first-serve campgrounds so you better come early or book a campsite (in Yosemite NP go to Camp 4 Campground if you don’t have a booking; in Zion NP Watchman Campground most of the time has some spare space, when South Campground is already full (only one night); Willow Flat campground (Isle in the Sky) and Squaw Flat Campground (Needles) in Canyonlands NP have only a few Camp sites so be lucky (or early) or ask someone to share a site; The Campground in Arches NP has only booking camp sites).
If camping isn’t your thing you can stay in Motels or Hotels but many of them (near or in National Parks) are booked out during holiday seasons.
On the map you can see our route with all of our stops. This should be an overview of the places we visited in our four-week road trip. You can get detailed information about the Nationalparks and the best trails and sights in our separate blog entries.
Day 1 - Day 3: San Francisco
🛌 AirBnB in Oakland
📍 Golden Gate Bridge, Painted Ladies, Pier 39, Japanese Tea Garden, Vermont Street, Chinatown, Muir Woods National Monument
We landed in San Francisco in the afternoon, picked up our car at the airport and drove to our AirBnB in Oakland. We stood in San Francisco for the next two days. San Francisco was the most beautiful city of all we drove through or visited on our trip. Especially the views of Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall Beach or the Painted Ladys with the San Francisco Skyline in the back were pretty cool. Another great experience was visiting Muir Woods National Monument, which is not far from San Francisco. The huge Redwood Trees there were really impressive and we had a nice afternoon strolling around the forest’s walkways.
Day 3 - Day 7: Yosemite National Park
🛌 Camp 4 Campground
📍 Glacier Viewpoint, Yosemite Falls, Vernal and Nevada Falls, Tunel View, Valley Viewpoints, Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Cathedral Lakes,
Yosemite has so much to offer that you can easily spend 4 days and you will definitely not get bored. Especially if you like hiking Yosemite is perfect. We stood about 3 days in the Valley visiting all the waterfalls and hiking up Glacier Point. Then we drove up along Tioga Road where you pass nice viewpoints like Olsted Point and beautiful lakes like Lake Tenaya. We did a hike to Cathedral Lake the other day and slept at one of the most beautiful campgrounds on our trip, the campground at Tioga Lake. The Nightsky there was perfect for star gazing!
For more see our blog entry on Yosemite National Park here.
Day 8 - Day 9: Death Valley National Park
🛌 Wildrose Campground
📍 Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabrieske Point, Dantes View, Badwater Basin
In the morning we started our way on toward Death Valley. At the end of Tioga Road you can turn right and visit Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve where you can see otherworldly salt formations. When you turn right the road leads you to Death Valley. Luckily we talked to the Rangers in the Visitor Center as they pointed out some campgrounds where we wouldn’t have 35°C at night. We stood at Wildrose Campground further up in the mountains near some Charcoal Killns.
The next day we started really early because of the upcoming heat and took some nice shots at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Then we drove to Badwater Basin through Artists Pallet Driveway. When we arrived at Zabriskie point temperatures reached over 40 degrees and we decided to make only one last stop at Dante’s View.
From there we drove on to Valley of Fire passing Las Vegas. It turned out that we had the perfect timing to go and see the sunset at the Fire Wave. After this long and adventurous day I was totally done and was happy that the Campground had some cool showers. Unfortunately sleeping wasn’t as relaxing, as the temperatures wouldn’t drop further then 30 degrees at night.
For more see our blog entry on Death Valley Nationalpark here.
Day 9 - Day 10: Valley of Fire State Park
🛌 Atlatl Rock Campground, Arch Rock Campground
📍 Fire Wave, Elephant Rock, Fire Canyon, White Dome Trail, Desert Tortoises, Rainbow Vista Trail
The next day we stood up early to avoid the heat. When we were driving to White Dome Trailhead a rare fellow crossed our way - a desert tortoise! That was a good start for the day. We took some pictures and drove on. After White Dome Trail which was really beautiful, we walked the Rainbow Vista Trail. That one was also really beautiful but walking got more strenuous as the heat returned. We left Valley of Fire (Definitely my favorite park of our whole Road Trip!) after visiting Elephant Rock stone formation. The park was not only full of nice landscapes but also did we see only really few people around and most of the time we were alone with the nature around us.
For more see our blog entry on Valley of Fire State Park here.
Day 10 - Day 11: Lake Powell - Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend
🛌 Lone Rock Beach Campground
📍 Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Our next stop was Lake Powell, were we found a nice campground directly at the lake. There we visited Horseshoe Bend. We got some cool pictures with a dramatic thunderstorm in the back. At night the thunderstorm was directly over the lake at our campground. But luckily our tent opposed the storm. The next morning we visited Upper Antelope Canyon as the Lower One was closed due to flashflood risks. VIsiting fees here are quite high and adding to that be prepared to be rushed through with hundreds of other tourists. And if you don’t book photographer tours (wich are even more expensive) you aren’t allowed to use a tripod or anything.
Day 11 - Day 12: Monument Valley
🛌 The View Campground
📍 West and East Mitten Buttes, Merrick Butte, Totem Poles, Viewpoints along Valley Road
Our next stop was Monument Valley. The campground at Monument Valley is great. You set up your tent directly in front of the three Buttes (West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte). The next morning we stood up early to see the sun rising behind the three buttes and it was all worth it. We had a really beautiful sunrise! After breakfast we drove around on the dirt Road through the Valley to see more of the interesting stone formations like the Totem Poles and get some more views of the table mountains.
Day 12 - Day 14: Canyonlands National Park - Needles
🛌 Squaw Flat Campground
📍 Druid Arch, Cheslar Park
In the afternoon we left Monument Valley and continued our drive to Canyonlands Nationalpark Needles district. We were quite late at the campground so we were lucky that some other German tourists let us set up our tent in their space.
The next day we went on a long and stunning hike through the park. Our first destination was Cheslar Park, there you have an amphitheater-like view over the hoodoo stone formations. On our way to Cheslar park we already walked through canyons of hoodoos with really cool photo spots on the way. At Cheslar Park we decided to also hike to Druid Arch. On our we took a few wrong turns but eventually we reached the arch and it was worth it. We returned to our campground quite late and stood there another night.
For more see our blog entry on Canyonlands Nationalpark (Needles) here.
Day 14: Arches National Park
🛌 Slickrock Campground
📍 Delicate Arch, Double-O-Arch, Landscape Arch, WIndow Arches, Double Arch
In the morning we headed into Arches National Park. But as we found out we were by far not the only ones. When we arrived there was already a little traffic jam at the entry gates. We started by visiting the Devils Garden area. There you can see Pinetree Arch, Landscape Arch and Double-O-Arch. Then we drove down to the Windows area, where you can find Double Arch and the Windows Arches. At the end we walked up to Delicate Arch and watched the sunset there. A nice experience was to stay until the stars came out and take some shots of Delicate Arch featuring the stars.
For more see our blog entry on Arches Nationalpark here.
Day 15 - Day 16: Canyonlands National Park - Island in the Sky
🛌 Willow Flat Campground
📍 Mesa Arch, Viewpoints over Green River, Upheaval Dome
The next morning we drove up into Canyonlands Island in the Sky district. As we knew that they had only a few sites on the campground we first set up our tent there. Then we drove around visiting all the Viewpoints which are quite a lot. We went to bed early as we planned to watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch the next day. We stood up at about 4 or 5 and drove to the Trailhead. We were lucky that we came early so we had a good spot and could take perfect photos. Then we left the park and prepared for the long drive down to Bryce Canyon.
Day 16: Goblin Valley State Park
We heard about Goblin Valley from other tourists and it was ideal as it was on our way down to Bryce Canyon. Goblin Valley is a place with hundreds of mini Hoodoo sandstone formations that look like little Goblins. We had fun wandering around and in between them and took some nice photos.
This night we stood at a campground along the way. The next day we drove on to Bryce Canyon and arrived in the late afternoon.
Day 18 - Day 19: Bryce Canyon National Park
🛌 Sunset Campground
📍 Sunrise and Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Pekaboo Trail, Queen’s Garden Trail
We stood at Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon which is nice as you can walk to Sunset Point easily by foot. We decided to do the hike along the Queens Garden trail through the Canyon to see everything from a different perspective. And of course we visited the viewpoints along the Canyon. A nice spot is also the Red Canyon when you enter the Road to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Day 19 - Day 22: Zion National Park
🛌 Watchman Campground
📍 Angels Landing Trail, The Narrows, Valley View
We stood 3 days in Zion Nationalpark as we were planning to do some more hiking here. We arrived in the afternoon and decided to walk around Emerald pools. The next day we stood up early to hike up Angels Landing. This hike is just incredible and you can relate why they called it ANgels Landing. The views into the Canyon are astonishing. The second day we hiked up the Narrows and let us impress by the steep Canyon walls that start to glow orange and red in the midday sun.
For more see our blog entry on Canyonlands Nationalpark (Needles) here.
Day 22 - Day 24: Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim
🛌 Mather Campground, Desert View Campground
📍 Viewpoints, Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail
The last Nationalpark we visited was the Grand Canyon. We set up our tent at Desert View Campground. The first day we visited most of the viewpoints along the road to desert viewpoint and to Hermit’s Rest and also watched the Sunset at Hopi Point. The second day we did our hike down into the canyon that took us a long day and watched the sunset from Bright Angel Trailhead.
For more see our blog entry on Grand Canyon National Park here.
Day 24 - Day 25: Lake Powell - Lower Antelope Canyon
As we still had some time we returned to Page and our wonderful campground on Lake Powell to meet some friends we met on our trip. We enjoyed an fantastic clear night viewing the blood moon from our campfire. The next day we decided to visit Lower Antelope Canyon which was much cheaper than Upper Antelope Canyon and in my opinion also more beautiful.
Day 25 - Day 26: Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim
🛌 North Rim Campground
📍 Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, Point Imperial
From there we drove up to Grand Canyon North Rim and were greeted by yellow aspen trees that already let us now that autumn was coming. It was really beautiful driving miles and miles through yellow tree groves. If you want to stay there over night I recommend to come early as there is only one campground in the park which can be quite crowded.
The next day we visited the Viewpoints on North Rim which are also quite nice and far less crowded then the ones on South Rim.
Day 26 - Day 29: Las Vegas
📍 Hotels (New York New York, Paris, Bellagio light and water show, Luxor, Venetian, Treasure Island volcano light show), High Roller, Las Vegas Sign, Fremont Street
Our last 3 days we stayed in Las Vegas to see all the crazy hotels and casinos. I highly recommend to visit the different light and water shows at night for example the one at Bellagio and Treasure Island. A visit to the Venetian hotel is also a must! The shopping mall inside is just a replica of the original Italian city all with canals and gondolas! Besides the famous strip there are also other nice areas to visit like Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas with of course more casinos.