Exploring the National Parks of Utah and Arizona had been on my bucket list for years. So when we had the opportunity to take a Southwest road trip, thanks to a sponsored trip by Go RVing we were ecstatic. This wouldn’t be just any regular road trip but an RV road trip! Here’s our Southwest road trip itinerary along with RV rental details.
Southwest Road Trip: What City Should You Fly Into?
Our Southwest road trip itinerary exploring The National Parks of Utah and Arizona included Zion National Park, Bryce Canon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon South Rim and Sedona. Based on this we felt Las Vegas was the best city to start our Southwest road trip. Here’s a map of our trip including mileage driven.
What’s The Best Time of Year for a Southwest Road Trip?
That’s a hard question to answer. We went our Southwest RV Road Trip the week of Thanksgiving and found pros and cons of traveling this time of year. We avoided the burning sun and heat of summer but we had to really bundle up because of the cold weather in Bryce Canyon and our second day in the Grand Canyon.
Due to the weather a lot of places were less crowded which made it easier to find parking and navigate the parks. The roads were also pretty empty and we never hit traffic. Making RV Park reservations were easy but in places like Bryce Canyon some RV Parks were closed for the season. The only thing we wanted to do that we couldn’t this time of year was a boat ride on Lake Powell. We only got light snow Thanksgiving Day in the Grand Canyon but there is the possibility for heavy snow in places like Bryce Canyon so be prepared for that.
Day Zero: Arrival into Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
We flew Spirit Airlines from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas arriving at 10:00PM. We got a great flight deal especially for the time of year we flew. Nervous about flying Spirit? Here are 6 Ways to Maximize Your Savings When Flying Spirit. Since we were heading out the next morning we stayed at The DoubleTree right by the airport. They offer a free airport shuttle and there is an Applebees you can walk to if you need to eat before bed.
Day One: RV Rental Pick Up and Las Vegas to Zion National Park
Who knew RV rental was a thing? There are a lot of RV rental companies but we chose Outdoorsy.com, it’s basically Airbnb for RVs. We had never driven an RV before so don’t think you have to be an experienced RV driver. Here are tips for first time RVers soon!
We took a Lyft from our hotel to pick up our RV rental. The person we rented it from gave us a thorough walk through and explained everything we needed to know. The process took about an hour and then we headed to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week. Our RV had a fridge, freezer, 3-burner stove and a dual microwave/convection oven. Here’s what vacationing in an RV looks like.
We were ready for the first drive on our Southwest road trip, Las Vegas to Zion National Park. The drive was 167 miles and took us 3 hours driving the RV rental. Upon arrival we purchased a National Park Annual Pass for $80. The pass is worth it as we would have paid more than $80 to enter the 3 National Parks we visited on this trip and now we have a year to enjoy some others.
Our plan was to hike the Lower Emerald Pools Trail and/or the Weeping Rock Trail. Both are considered easy trails and not only are they two of the most popular hikes in Zion but they are two of the most kid friendly hikes in Zion as well. Unfortunately during the time of year we visited Zion the tunnel closes for RV’s at 4:30pm even though the park is still open. We had to go through the tunnel to get to our RV camp and if we didn’t the only way out was a two hour detour. If you’re traveling in an RV during this time of year I recommend staying at an RV Park in Springdale instead so you don’t have to end your day early due to the tunnel hours for RVs.
Since we had to park our RV and take the shuttle to both trails we didn’t feel like we had enough time to wait for the shuttle, get to our stop, hike, wait for the shuttle again to get back to our RV. We opted to drive the parts of the park we could in our RV and pulled over at some look out points. If you do have time for hikes, you can access the Emerald Pools Trail from the Zion Lodge shuttle stop and the Weeping Rock Trail from the Weeping Rock stop.
We headed through the tunnel, which is $15 for RVs and headed to our RV Park Hi-Road Campground. Hi-Road Campground offers full hook ups but they also have bathrooms with toilets and showers. There is free Wi-Fi but only in the common area. At times it connected in the RV but the signal was low so it depends on the spot you’re assigned.
Day Two: Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon
It’s 71.3 miles from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon and the drive took 1 hour and 20 minutes. The drive is easy going. Once we arrived we drove from view point to view point. There were no running shuttles the time of year we went and parking was easy to come by. We first visited Sunrise Point and we were immediately blown away.
We hopped back in our RV rental and drove to Inspiration Point for a much different view of the Canyon. Then we went to Bryce Point Lookout and ended at Sunset Point. I really wanted to hike down at Sunset Point but the girls were tired so we opted out. There were a lot of kids and visitors of all ages doing this hike so I think it’s a pretty easy one. While you can walk from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point we opted to skip it. Instead we visited closer to the sunset and I’m glad we did. The way the sun hits the Canyon at that time is magnificent and I completely understand why they call it Sunset Point!
Since the RV Park near Bryce Canyon was closed for the season we stayed at Hi-Road Campground again. We had to drive back towards Zion to get to our next destination so it only added twenty minutes. We did notice RV Parks on the road that would have avoided us from making the turn that adds twenty minutes. However, they didn’t look as nice and I’m not sure if they offered the amenities our camp did.
Day Three: Bryce Canyon to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
After unhooking our RV rental we drove to Page, Arizona to visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. The drive from our campsite near Zion National Park to Antelope Canyon was 106 miles and took us two hours. Depending on the time of year you visit, Zion and Bryce Canyon will be one hour ahead of Page, Arizona. Keep that in mind for any tours you have booked as not to show up at the wrong time.
You can only visit Antelope Canyon through a guided tour as the canyons are on tribal land. Unless you do both you will need to choose between visiting the lower or upper Antelope Canyon. We chose to visit the upper canyon and there are plenty of Upper Antelope Canyon Tours to choose from but we settled on this one .
The tour company reviews were pretty much the same so our decision was based on available time slots. Antelope Canyon is very popular and even in the winter months tours sell out weeks in advance. If you plan to visit during summer make your reservation at least 6 months prior to your visit.
The views in the Canyon are breathtaking and the tour guides do an amazing job of making sure no one is in your photos. You’d think we had a private tour meanwhile the canyon was jam packed!
You can’t visit Page, Arizona without visiting Horseshoe Bend. From our Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Companies office Horseshoe Bend was only a 12 minute drive. There are two parking lots, try to park at the nearest one. Once you park there is .75 walk to the view point. Getting there isn’t so hard but there is an incline on the way up, be sure to bring water. Don’t let this discourage you, my 2 and 4 year old walked down and back up themselves!
We wrapped up our day by 4pm and realized we could have easily driven to our next stop, Monument Valley. However, it was nice to just go to our campsite and relax for the evening! We decided on Wahweap RV & Campground which overlooks the shore of Lake Powell. The views were stunning and the campground was an upgrade from our last one. Watching the sunrise in the morning off the lake was just gorgeous.
This RV Campground had a convenience store, showers ($2 for 15 minutes), toilets, and a laundry room. There was free Wi-Fi but it was spotty.
Day Four: Page to Monument Valley
On the fourth day of our Southwest road trip we headed from Page to Monument Valley. The drive was 134 miles and took us 2.5 hours in our RV rental. We arrived and went straight to The View Hotel where we would be meeting our tour guide for our Backcountry Tour. There is a $20 fee to enter the park and since it is not a National Park but a Navajo Park your National Park Annual Pass will not be accepted here. There is a restaurant on site if you want to eat before exploring.
You can do the scenic drive without a tour if you are in a regular car, but RV’s are not permitted. The road is very bumpy so 4×4’s or 4WD vehicles are recommended. If you’re in a rental you should probably be cautious and just take a tour. The Monument Valley Tours are so worth it as the tribe members are able to access areas of the Valley regular people cannot.
Our guide took us to a traditional Navajo home, called a Hogan. Here his Aunt showed us how to turn sheep hair into yarn and how they dye it into different colors. Our guide explained to us the history of the Navajo tribe members in the area and some of their customs.
We stayed at Goulding’s RV Park which is apart of Goulding’s Lodge. This RV Campsite had a pool but it was closed for the season during our stay. It also had a little store, laundry room, grills and picnic tables. There was free Wi-Fi which you could access from your RV.
Day Five: Monument Valley to Grand Canyon South Rim
Before we made our way from Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon we had to stop at Forrest Gump Point. It was in the opposite direction of where we were headed (20 minutes) but when we ended our tour the day before it was getting dark so we didn’t have time. If you’ve watched Forrest Gump this point is where he decides to stop running. It’s crazy how many movies were filmed in Monument Valley. The landmark is at mile 13 on the highway but if you enter Forrest Gump Point in your GPS it will come up.
After our pit stop we drove the 165 miles to the Grand Canyon which took us 3 hours. Do yourself a favor and fill up before you get to the Grand Canyon as gas inside the park is outrageously priced. We went straight to Desert View Point as it’s right by the entrance. Here they have a small grocery store and deli where we were able to grab lunch.
At the Grand Canyon the girls were able to participate in the National Park Junior Ranger Program. Technically the program starts at 4 years old but Kennedy got a booklet too. They saw some Junior Ranger Vests at the store and of course they had to have them. While super cute I highly recommend purchasing any Junior Ranger Vests ahead of time as the price tags on the ones in the park hurt my heart.
After leaving Desert View we stopped at the various viewpoints along the way to the RV Park. They all have beautiful views and were super easy to get to with the kids. Some of them also had short trails to walk into the canyon. The time of year we visited it was rather easy to find parking but if you visit during the summer you will need to take the shuttle.
We stopped at Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point and Grandview Point. We wanted to go to Yaki Point but the road was closed to private vehicles this time of year and we didn’t feel like parking and taking the shuttle down. If you have time stop at the Tusayan Museum and Ruin. It came highly recommended but we had a surprise for the girls which needed to be done before the sunset and the sun sets pretty early in late November.
The park has a grocery store which will be exactly what you’re used to at home and we picked up a few things to cook dinner. Then we checked into our RV Camp, Trailer Village RV, which is directly inside the park. This campsite has full hook-ups but it offers no Wi-Fi. You will have to walk (10 minutes) to the Lodge for Wi-Fi and as it is so slow I recommend wasting your time. The nearest laundry room requires you to drive to it and the restrooms were out of order.
What’s RVing without S’mores! The girls had never had S’mores before so we taught them how to make them. They couldn’t have been more excited! I bought firewood to have a campfire inside the park and confirmed we could indeed make one. The clear assured me as long as there is no fire threat which there wasn’t we could. Of course when we checked in the counter agent said there are no campfires allowed and she has no idea why we were told otherwise. Good thing our RV rental came with a gas grill! We did not roast our marshmallows the old school way. Instead I got a really neat S’more maker which eliminates so much mess! Some people said it was cheating but I think it’s the best invention ever!
Day Six: Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona
Grand Canyon Thanksgiving, why not? We woke up early to see the remainder of the park we missed out on the day before. The area we wanted to access was closed to private vehicles this time of year so we needed to take the Red Route Shuttle. The RV parking is a ten minute walk from the shuttle but regular vehicles has much closer options. The entire loop takes 80 minutes without getting off the bus. While the bus will drop you off at each of the nine overlooks the return bus only picks up from fours. The return route stops are Hermits Rest, Pima, Mohave, and Powell Points. From 6:30AM to sunset the bus runs every 15 minutes.
I recommend stopping at the Trailview Overlook as you can see the Bright Angel Trail and look down into the Canyon. We stopped at a few more viewpoints but the weather started to get pretty bad. The day before it was in the high 50’s low 60’s and this morning it was in the 30’s. It was also foggy which limited visibility into the Canyon. However, it did start to snow and that was a beautiful sight and the girls were beyond excited.
We would not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner in our RV. We wanted a nice dinner so we chose El Tovar Restaurant. Reading reviews online I knew they didn’t take reservations for Thanksgiving. Many posters recommended getting there early to avoid long waits.
Dinner service started at 11AM and we arrived a little after 10AM. There were about 30 people in line ahead of us and they started taking names at 10:45. We reached the front and a little after 11AM and only had to wait 10 minutes for a table. We heard from others in the line that come every year that they have sometimes waited 3 hours. I was so happy we got search an early start to our day! They have a pre-fixed menu and as all the food is already made it comes out quick. I didn’t like my food at all but my husband said his lamb was good. Dinner averages about $30 per adult.
After our Grand Canyon Thanksgiving meal we went to the Visitors Center. There is a very interested 20 minute movie that they play as well as other information to read and artifacts to look at. Here is where Jordyn was sworn in after completing the work for the National Park Junior Ranger Program. She had officially earned her Junior Ranger Badge and proudly pinned it on her Junior Ranger Vest. I was so proud of her!
It was time to head to Sedona. We really played with the idea of visiting Sedona or not but since Grand Canyon to Sedona it just a 2 hour drive we figured we might as well. Upon arriving we checked into our hotel, The Ridge on Sedona Golf Resort which we booked on TravelZoo. Although we could have easily stayed in an RV Park during this time but my husband works for TravelZoo. They get a TravelZoo Experience each year to test out a deal for free so we took advantage of it.
Day Seven: Sedona
After all those days of waking up early we were happy to sleep in! Our hotel had a full kitchen so we were able to make breakfast. When we were ready to start our day we headed to Bell Rock Pathway for a short hike. You can hike or bike the two trails offered and the Bell Rock Trail is great for kids. There is a minimal fee to park in the parking lot.
We grabbed lunch and then headed for our Scenic Rim Tour from the infamous Pink Jeep Tours. We chose the 2 hour tour and enjoyed our very bumpy ride. They are most known for their Broken Arrow tour but it was sold out for our dates. The Scenic Rim tour was ok but I felt like it was really something you could have just done on your own. Private vehicles are allowed to drive the same path, in my opinion there wasn’t anything special to it except the jeep. It wasn’t like our Monument Valley tour where we got access to special parts of the park or got to experience something we otherwise wouldn’t have.
Day Eight: Sedona to Las Vegas, Ending Our Southwest Road Trip
It was time for our Southwest road trip to end. Sedona to Las Vegas would be our longest drive at 298 miles and 4.5 hours. Our flight home wasn’t until 11PM but we needed to return our RV rental by 12:00PM. After dropping our RV rental off we had time to explore Las Vegas. Jordyn and I had visited Vegas two year prior so we already knew some great things to do in Las Vegas with toddlers.
We rented a car from Alamo to explore for the day, costing us about $35. First we went to Seven Magic Mountains. It was so nice to revisit and see how popular it had now become. Comparing our photos from two years ago, it was crazy to see how much Jordyn had grown.
Next we planned to do the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive but I got a stomach bug and couldn’t keep my food down. I felt so horrible because Jordyn was really looking forward to revisiting and showing her sister and dad. She was also super excited to see the Fountain Show at the Bellagio again but I just couldn’t function.
Instead we went to the Orleans Hotel which houses a movie theater. I was able to nap while hubby and the girls enjoyed a movie. There is also an arcade right outside of the theater where they played and we were able to kill time until we needed to go to the airport.
We dropped off our rental and headed to our gate. We were all sad our Southwest road trip was over. Exploring the National Park of Utah and Arizona was so amazing. Getting the RV rental was such a great way to complete this trip and we are really hoping to do another RV road trip in the future. Jordyn definitely wore her Junior Ranger Vest to school her first day back and proudly showed her Junior Ranger Badge to her teacher and classmates. It was well worth the two days of school she missed!