Places to Visit in the Southwest in the Summer

When planning a summer vacation in the Southwest you must be prepared to combat the high temperatures. Despite the heat, it’s peak travel season at most places to visit in the Southwest in the summer.

This area of the United States is renowned for its stunning landscapes, from the vast, breathtaking expanses of desert to the awe-inspiring vistas of the Grand Canyon. To make the most of your trip, remember to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and dress in lightweight, breathable clothing to combat the high temperatures.

Southwest Places to visit in the Summer

We’ve created this list along with our travel friends to share US Southwest vacation ideas and places to visit in the summer in these states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.

We live have spent years traveling to various locations in the American Southwest. The biggest tip we have is to plan early morning or late evening activities to enjoy the outdoors without the midday heat! Be prepared with the right clothing and gear for the activities you want to do! Grab this summer packing list printable by clicking the image below!

summer national park packing list optin
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Packing for a Summer Vacation in the US Southwest

When planning a Southwest USA road trip, ensuring you have the right supplies can make all the difference.

Here’s a quick checklist of road trip accessories to get you started:

  1. Navigation tools: A good old-fashioned map and a reliable GPS device are essential when driving through the Southwest. Remember, internet signal in remote desert areas can be spotty at best!
  2. Car essentials: Keep your car in check with a spare tire, jumper cables, and some basic tools. Also, don’t forget your driver’s license, car insurance, and registration documents.
  3. Safety equipment: A first-aid kit, sunscreen, and a flashlight are non-negotiable. In the desert, temperatures can drop drastically at night, so pack some warm clothing too.
  4. Food and water: Pack enough water and non-perishable road trip snacks and Food to last a few days. It’s better to be prepared, especially when traveling through isolated areas.
  5. Entertainment: Lastly, don’t forget some road trip games, a good book or two, and some music playlists to keep you entertained during those long drives.

Our day hike packing list for the Southwest in the summer includes:

It’s important to stay hydrated since the US Southwest is a dry, desert environment. Due to the dry climate, you’ll also want lip balm and lotion!

map of places to visit in the US SW in the summer

Map of Southwest Places to Visit in the Summer

Here is a map of places to visit in the Southwest in the summer to help you plan your travel itinerary! This map indicates the various vacation spots in the region we, and our travel friends, recommend you visit in the summer months of June, July, and August.

Your Southwest road trip should include the GuideAlong App!! You’ll hear behind-the-scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location as you drive through the area! We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this app!!

Places to Visit in the Southwest in the Summer

For this article, we’ve compiled a list of favorite places to visit during the summer months in these Southwest states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. This list is based on travel by us and our travel friends to these locations in the summer.

If you plan to visit a US National Park in the summer, be sure to check if the National Park list of reservations required for entry or specific activities for the dates you’ll be visiting. 

The xi in the rock at Antelope Canyon X
The “X” at Antelope Canyon X

Antelope Canyon, Arizona in the Summer

Antelope Canyon is a must-see slot canyon located in Page, Arizona. You cannot go through Antelope Canyon without a tour. The canyon is on protected Navajo Nation land, so visitors must be accompanied by an authorized guide to experience the canyon. 

During the summer months, daytime temperatures often soar into the high 90s to 100s Fahrenheit. The midday sunlight in the summer is ideal for creating vibrant colors and contrast within the canyon. The unique rock formations and constantly changing light create endless opportunities for capturing stunning photos.

We were looking for a tour that specifically catered to tripods and found the Antelope Canyon X Photo Tour! This Taadidiin Tour allows you to take one camera bag and tripod into the canyon for 2.5 hours! Our guide provided tips on the best locations to capture the most amazing shots in the canyon.

There were other hiking tours going through the Antelope Canyon X while we were there, but the guides were very accommodating to wait for us to get our shot the move aside to allow their group through. They also told their group to “watch out for the tripods” as they passed. We highly recommend this photography tour to Canyon X. We had plenty of time and didn’t feel rushed at all! (Photo and Recommendation by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Page Lodging & Tours

Capitol Gorge trail at Capitol Reef
Capitol Gorge trail

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah in the Summer

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef is known for its stunning views and diverse landscape. Capitol Reef National Park in the summer is a popular time for people to visit, but it’s the least-visited of the five Utah National Parks so it won’t be as busy as the others. The mornings and late afternoons are good times to avoid the crowds and heat of summer!

Expect high temperatures in the 80s and 90s and lows in the 60s degrees F. The summer monsoons that usually begin in mid-July can dump heavy amounts or rain over a short period of time which can result in flash floods. Get up-to-date weather information and watch for changing weather conditions. When considering the Capitol Reef National Park summer hikes to explore, DO NOT enter a narrow gorge or slot canyon if storms are threatening!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. In June and July you can pick cherries and apricots. In August you can pick peaches and pears! Be sure to stop by the Gifford house where unique handmade items are made by local artisans as well as the famous locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream! (Photo and Recommendation by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Capitol Reef Lodging & Tours

Glenwood Springs Canyon
Glenwood Springs Canyon

Glenwood Springs, Colorado in the Summer

Get ready for a local hidden gem that is quietly nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado: Glenwood Springs. This area is a paradise for nature and luxury enthusiasts alike. The town itself is a quaint and small mountain town that offers gourmet local food, shopping, and spas due to its naturally occurring hot springs. One of the most famous is the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which has 16 geothermal pools with a mountain and river view.

Another unique activity, also found within a spa, is the Yampah Vapour Caves. These caves are one of the only naturally occurring vapor caves in North America. This provides an underground hot mineral steam bath that was originally used by Ute Indians for healing rituals.

For the more adventurous traveler, the areas around Glenwood Spring offer some of the most aesthetic hikes in Colorado. This includes Hanging Lake as well as Maroon Bells. Hanging Lake, in particular, is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado due to its relatively easy trail and breathtaking waterfall views. A reservation in advance is required and is only allowed in the summer.

In addition to hiking, some other popular sports in this area include kayaking, ziplining, horseback riding, white river rafting, and even an adventure park! When visiting in the summer, the weather is hot and dry with some occasional afternoon thunderstorms. This makes the morning a perfect time to venture outdoors and then relax in a hot spring or spa afterward. (Photo and Recommendation by Alexandra, The Bucket List Mermaid)

Places to Stay Near Glenwood Springs

Widforss Trail at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Widforss Trail

Grand Canyon North Rim in the Summer

While the Grand Canyon remains a timeless summer destination, of the 5 million annual visitors to the park about 90% visit the South Rim, while the overlooked North Rim is actually a better summer destination! The Grand Canyon North Rim contains the same amazing sights, hikes, and things to do as the South Rim, but with a fraction of the crowds. This means more availability for accommodations, campgrounds, trails, and parking! 

Plus, the weather at the North Rim is actually far more welcoming than the hotter South Rim, with plenty of shady forests and mild daytime temperatures in the mid 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  

What are the top summer attractions at the North Rim? Visit the North Rim Visitor Center, check out the historic Kaibab Lodge, do some scenic drives, participate in a ranger program, or hike any of the top trails, like the iconic North Kaibab Trail, which delves down into the heart of the canyon past surprising amounts of streams, greenery, and even a waterfall, before arriving at the mighty Colorado River! 

Or enjoy a rim hike that parallels the canyon edge with unmatched views, like the Widforss Trail. There are also plenty of shorter viewpoints along the North Rim, like Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, or Point Imperial. (Photo and Recommendation by Kristen, Yonderlust Ramblings)

Grand Canyon South Rim view
Grand Canyon South Rim view

Grand Canyon South Rim in the Summer

With its vast, panoramic views, the Grand Canyon South Rim offers some of the most iconic and breathtaking views! While the daytime temperatures can climb to the 90s F, early mornings and late afternoons provide cooler, more comfortable conditions for hiking or simply enjoying the magnificent vistas.

The summer monsoon season brings an entirely different vibe to the Grand Canyon, especially at the South Rim. Typically starting in mid-July and lasting until late September, this period introduces dramatic thunderstorms that can transform the skies within minutes, offering a spectacular, if not a bit unpredictable, backdrop for visitors. These rain showers not only cool down the temperatures, making afternoons more pleasant, but they also enhance the canyon’s beauty.

We recommend spending one day to explore one of the most stunning US National Parks scenic drives! The 22-mile-long Desert View Drive offers scenic views of the Grand Canyon with numerous pullouts and viewpoints along the way. Each stop presents a unique vantage point to observe the deep chasms, winding river, and the colorful layers of rock that tell the story of the earth’s geological history. The drive culminates at the Desert View Watchtower, an iconic structure offering panoramic views of the canyon and the Colorado River. (Photo and Recommendation by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Grand Canyon Lodging & Tours

US Southwest National Parks in the Summer

Las Vegas in the summer
Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada in the Summer

Las Vegas is one of the most popular destinations in the southwest. While there are plenty of outdoor activities like nearby state and national parks, many choose to stay indoors during summer in Vegas as the temps rise well above 100 degrees. 

For those looking to beat the heat, casinos on the Strip are a great place to shop, gamble, and dine while staying cool. The gondolas at the Venetian, the Conservatory at the Bellagio, the Adventuredome at Circus Circus are a few examples of indoor activities perfect for the summer that go beyond gambling or shopping.

Once the sun goes down, you can head outside to experience the strip in all of its neon glory. You can also check out the Neon Museum to see historic signs from Vegas’s past. Night is also a great time to watch the Bellagio fountains or check out a rooftop bar like the one at Brew Dog.

If looking off-strip, you can seek refuge in the city’s air-conditioned havens like shopping malls, local museums like the Mob Museum, coffee shops, or one of the amazing bookstores in Las Vegas.

If you do want to head outside, check out some of the best hotel pools like at Mandalay Bay or Stadium Swim at Circa, one of the city’s waterparks, like Cowabunga Bay, or head out to Lake Mead or Lake Las Vegas for water sports. While the weather may be hot, Las Vegas in summer can be an unforgettable experience. (Recommendation by Mackenzie, A Wandering Scribbler)

Las Vegas Lodging & Tours

River Rafting the Colorado River in Moab
River Rafting the Colorado River in Moab

Moab, Utah in the Summer

Visiting Moab in the summer expect high temperatures close to 100 and lows around 60 degrees F. Expect HOT temperatures during the day. You’ll want to plan outdoor activities in the mornings and evenings when it’s a bit cooler. We like to spend the hot daytime hours enjoy the hotel AC or pool!

There are two National Parks and one State Park in the Moab area. You can explore these parks along the scenic drives, hiking trails or camping spots.

Arches National Park in the Summer – You’ll need an Arches Timed Entry Ticket to enter the park from 7am to 4pm in June, July, and August. Don’t worry if you didn’t get a timed entry ticket. Just plan to enter the park before or after those times. One benefit to getting in the park early is you can see and photograph the sunrise at Arches National Park!

Canyonlands National Park in the Summer – The Colorado and Green Rivers offer miles and miles of flatwater for canoes, sea kayaks and shallow-water boats. There are also sections for whitewater river rafting! Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the river section of Canyonlands!

Dead Horse Point State Park – Known for its stunning views of the Colorado River, dramatic vertical cliffs, canyons, and vista views. We highly recommend this location at sunset or at night for stargazing! (Photo and Recommendation by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Moab Lodging & Tours

The Mitten at Monument Valley during golden hour
Sunset golden hour at Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah in the Summer

When visiting Monument Valley during the summer, it’s important to be aware of the intense heat (90 to 100 degrees F) and take precautions to stay safe and comfortable. Afternoon thunderstorms are common during summer monsoon season.

Plan your activities for early mornings or late evenings, when the temperatures are cooler. This will also provide you with stunning views of the sunrise and sunset over the red rock formations.

Enjoy the A/C in your vehicle while driving along the 17-mile Monument Valley scenic loop road. Plan on spending 2 to 4 hours for the scenic drive loop. There is a per car fee to drive the road. As part of that fee you’ll receive a map that includes 11 numbered stops to see along the way.

Bring plenty of water with you wherever you go. It’s recommended to drink at least one gallon of water per day in this dry climate to stay hydrated. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing to shield yourself from the strong UV rays. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended to protect your face and eyes.

Floating the river in New Braunfels, Texas
Floating the river in New Braunfels

New Braunfels, Texas in the Summer

One of the best towns to visit in Texas Hill Country no matter the time of year, New Braunfels is especially attractive in summer. Why? Because it’s the hub for river tubing in Texas. Take a break from the summer heat by floating down the crystal-clear waters of one (or both!) of the two rivers in New Braunfels: the Comal River and the Guadalupe River.

The Guadalupe is known for its parties, while the Comal is generally more relaxed – but has fun chutes that are like mini waterslides. Whichever river you choose, it’s the perfect way to beat the often soaring summer temperatures. 

If that’s not enough, then New Braunfels is also home to the original Schlitterbahn Waterpark, with plenty of waterslides, pools and lazy rivers.

When you’ve had enough of the water, there are plenty of other things to do in New Braunfels. Stroll through the Gruene Historic District and catch a show at the famous Gruene Hall – the oldest dance hall in Texas. 

New Braunfels was settled by Germans, so there are German restaurants and beer houses to enjoy. The summer months can be busy, particularly holiday weekends like the 4th of July, so make sure you book accommodation and your river tubes well in advance. (Photo and Recommendation by Rebecca, Rebecca and the World)

Places to Stay Near New Braunfels, Texas

Hiking in the Redwoods
Hiking through the Redwoods

Redwood National Park, California in the Summer

The Southwest can be blazing hot in the summertime, so if you’re looking to escape the heat, head to Redwoods National and State Parks, located along the Northern California coast. You’ll enjoy temperatures in the high 60s, with clear skies- perfect for exploring hiking trails under the world’s tallest trees! 

For example, head to the Fern Canyon Trail, where you’ll hike past groves of ancient redwoods and through a lush canyon, dripping with primeval ferns. While you’re here, stop at Gold Bluffs Beach right by the trailhead  to enjoy the summer sun and the dramatic California coastline. This is also an excellent spot to see Roosevelt elk, the largest species of elk on the planet. 

For a more challenging trail, head to Tall Trees Grove, where you’ll hike down a steep hill to wander under trees that stretch upwards of 350 feet tall. (Photo and Recommendation by Jess, Uprooted Traveler)

Redwood National Park Lodging

Capitola Village
Capitola Village

Santa Cruz, California in the Summer

Santa Cruz, a coastal city in California, is famous for its unique natural beauty. It makes the perfect destination in summer for either adventure seekers or those looking to chill and unwind. It’s warm, sunny days and cool, breezy nights make it a perfect summer getaway. Summer can have many foggy mornings, but bright and beautiful afternoons and temperature rarely go higher than low 80s.

Be ready for summer crowds at the most famous attraction in Santa Cruz, The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a popular and historic amusement park home to vintage rides and classic carnival style games. It’s one of the fun things to do in Santa Cruz with kids!

If you are an adventure seeker, in summer I recommend that you hike through the redwoods in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, with 30 miles of trails with hikes for all levels of experience. Also, adventurers can enjoy the thrill of the mountain biking trails of Wilder Ranch State Park, where the terrain challenges even the most experienced bikers.

For beach lovers, my recommendations are Capitola Beach with its colorful beach houses painting a picture-perfect scene. Surfing enthusiasts will find their paradise at Steamers Lane, where the waves challenge surfers of all levels. For families, Cowell’s Beach offers gentle waves perfect for beginners. My personal favorites are Seacliff State Beach and Platform Beach, with a long and wide expanse of sand and waves.

Remember, summer in Santa Cruz is a time of celebration, with events like the Santa Cruz Shakespeare festival that breathes life into classic tales under the stars, (quite a unique place to watch a play) offering a magical experience. For music lovers, the Santa Cruz Music Festival fills the streets featuring artists from diverse genres. (Recommendation by Rocio, Real World Mami)

Where To Stay Near Santa Cruz

Kit Carson Museum in Taos, New Mexico
Kit Carson Museum

Taos, New Mexico in the Summer

Taos, New Mexico is an enchanting town anytime of the year, but the summer is vibrant in the high desert with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background. If you like history, art, and natural beauty, then this is the place to visit.

Start by exploring the historic Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A docent-led tour through the adobe settlement will give you an in-depth understanding of this amazing Native American community.

If you like history, make sure to visit the Kit Carson and Millicent Rogers Museums. If you are into art, the Taos Art Colony has galleries and studios showcasing Southwestern and contemporary works. Don’t miss the iconic Taos Plaza, where you can shop for local crafts and enjoy a cocktail or meal.

Just outside of town is the Rio Grande Gorge and Bridge. The views of the river and landscape from the bridge are breathtaking (and a little scary when looking down).

There are plenty of things to do in Taos and reservations are not needed for most activities. The weather will be warm during the day and cool at night, so pack a sweater. (Photo and Recommendation by Janet, Practical Travel Concepts)

Taos, New Mexico Lodging

Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon
Hiking at Bryce Canyon

Zion, Bryce Canyon and Page Road Trip in the Summer

If you are looking for an excellent road trip to take visiting some of the most amazing landscapes in the Southwest, I would highly recommend doing a trip from Las Vegas through Zion National Park then to Bryce Canyon and head southeast towards Page, Arizona.

Encompassing three states, you’ll see the best of the best starting with a road trip through Vegas and heading north to Zion National Park. This park is stunning with its canyon that you can hike through so many fantastic trails with viewpoints, waterfalls and unique landscapes that really give you a taste of Zion’s impressive vistas.

Next, heading east you’ll reach a totally different national park at Bryce Canyon with its colorful hoodoos which are naturally carved rocks eroded into unworldly shapes and colors of red, orange, yellows and other dusky colors. Many of the Bryce Canyon hiking trails take you downhill into the canyon around these fascinating formations, but there’s a price to pay with having to walk back uphill.

After these two parks, you’ll be skirting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and a variety of state parks through Utah on the way to Page. This area is know for the infamous Horseshoe Bend along with the stunning Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon which are privately owned by the local Indigenous tribes in the area.

Doing this road trip can be a two day to week long experience depending on how many stops and places you want to stay overnight to get a real experience of the western landscape from three different states. (Recommendation by Noel, Travel Photo Discovery)

Zion National Park Lodging & Tours

Southwest Road Trip Packing List

Be sure to grab the Road Trip Packing List for your US Southwest adventure! It includes items for comfort, organization, eating, and first aid to make the family vacation a success. You’ll also receive a Road Trip Itinerary to plan the day-to-day schedule of the trip! Simply click the graphic below to get your free copy!

get the free road trip planner

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One Comment

  1. Excellent comprehensive guide! I’ll always regret not seeing the Grand Canyon when I had work trips to Las Vegas. Thanks for linking at Is This Mutton.

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