Southwest USA Road Trip Ideas: 55 Itineraries and Activities

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Are you planning a Southwest USA road trip?

This list of road trip itineraries for visiting the American Southwest will come in handy!

And don’t forget to add those bucket-list things to do in the Southwest states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

There are national parks, state parks, scenic byways, roadside attractions and more to see and photograph on your road trip vacation in the American southwest.

We’ve collaborated with fellow travelers to provide this list of the best ideas to plan your Southwest USA road trip vacation.

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BE PREPARED if you want your Southwest USA trip to be successful. Pack for the weather and altitude that you’ll likely encounter while exploring the various areas in the southwest.

1. Hiking Shoes:  Avoid injury from improper footwear.  Wear sturdy shoes with ample tread.  → Check out our hiking shoes!

2. Darn Tough Socks: Seriously, these are the BEST socks ever. They help prevent blisters, keep your feet dry, and last forever.  → Check out our favorite socks!

3. Water:  Due to the desert and high altitude climates you find in the American Southwest, you should drink at least one gallon of water per day, and always carry water with you during all hiking activities (water is available at the Visitor Center).  → Check out our hydration packs and hydroflask bottles we carry in our camera backpack.

4. Food:  Pack and eat plenty of healthy snacks and food. → Check out the healthy snacks and food we pack.

5. Lip Balm and Lotion:  Dry desert air and high elevations can be hard on your skin. You’ll want to carry lip balm with sunscreen and hydrating lotion to apply as needed when you’re out exploring.

Road Trip Basics to Pack

1. Car Emergecny Kit: You never know what car troubles you’ll have on a road trip, so be prepared with a car emergency kit. The kit should include automotive emergency items to help protect you in the event of an automobile breakdown.  → Check out this awesome traveler road kit!

2. First Aid Kit: You’ll also never know what first aid emergencies you’ll have on your road trip adventure. Have a well-stocked first aid kit to handle any personal injury that may occur.  → Check out this first aid kit.

3. Cooler:  We HAVE to share the best cooler around that’s perfect for road trips and can assume a vertical or horizontal position to accommodate your car. You can also get the AC Adapter to plug in your hotel room as a second fridge!  → Check out our fav Koolatron Coolers! 

National Parks Pass

If you’ll visit any US National Parks, be sure to pack your The America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

Other items to pack for a Southwest US road trip:

But above all else, always make sure to carry enough food, water, and other essentials since quite a bit of your driving through the Southwest USA will be through remote areas with few services and sources of water.

Check out this list of family road trip items you need to pack as well as tips for motorhome rentals for your road trip.


American Southwest Road Trip Guide: 8 Day Itinerary


An 8-Day Southwest road trip loop starting and ending in New Mexico, with stops in Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Detailed itinerary of things to see, places to stay, where to eat and more!

The Perfect American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary in 10 Days


Here’s my version of a “perfect” 10-day road trip itinerary for the American Southwest, based on a road trip I took in April. (But you can totally do this same trip any time of year – the Southwest in winter is actually pretty great!)

The Best 12-Day American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary • Riley’s Roves


An epic American Southwest road trip should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here’s the perfect southwest itinerary to see the best of what this amazing region has to offer in 12 days.

Ultimate American Southwest Road Trip – USA Itinerary through National Parks


How to make the most of your stay in the USA? Use this awesome 2-week American Southwest road trip itinerary then have an amazing time exploring the area!

Take the path less traveled on your Southwest US road trip!


Five day itinerary for a Los Angeles to Denver road trip. Here’s all you need to know about the route, stops and what I’d do differently.

Small Loop Road Trip to the Grand Canyon and the Southwest Parks

Photo Credit:

An eight day road trip itinerary to the Grand Canyon that covers the Small Loop from Las Vegas and features Zion National Park as well as Bryce Canyon National Park.

Our Epic 2 Week Utah Arizona Road Trip: Top 10 Stops You Cannot Miss!


Visiting National Parks in Utah was high on my bucket list. But I wanted more than just a southern Utah road trip…I wanted to see so many places in Arizona too! The top 10 CANNOT miss things to do on an Arizona Utah road trip. Continue Reading


Arizona has diverse natural beauty with grand canyons, slot canyons, red rock landscapes, and more. It’s a state you’ll want to explore on an American Southwest road trip. Here’s a list of top things to do in Arizona on your road trip through the Southwest.

A Northern Arizona Road Trip Itinerary


Looking for a northern Arizona road trip itinerary? This guide will work any time of the year, but I enjoyed exploring in the winter. It was a treat to see the Grand Canyon dusted in snow and I appreciated not having to fight with crowds.

The Grand Canyon and Beyond – A Northern Arizona Road Trip


This is our favorite Northern Arizona road trip. The itinerary starts and ends in Phoenix, and takes us through some of the most beautiful scenery of the state. This itinerary is flexible, short enough for a weekend trip, or a week-long vacation if you’re planning a southwest USA road trip.

An Adventure-Packed Arizona Road Trip


The drive between any two stops on this Arizona road trip route is no more than two and a half hours. The itinerary focuses on central and northern Arizona.

Planning a Trip to the Breathtaking Antelope Canyon


Antelope Canyon is a breathtakingly beautiful slot canyon near Page, Arizona.  A visit here is a bucket list destination for many people, but planning a visit to Antelope Canyon can be daunting. This is Navajo tribal land and can only be accessed with a Navajo guide.

Roadtrip: One Day in Page Arizona – Visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon


What can you do with one day in Page Arizona (also referred to as Lake Powell or Glen Canyon Dam area)? It’s all about the incredible nature views of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend plus the engineering marvel of Glen Canyon Dam and the serenity of Lake Powell.

Highlights of Page, Arizona


You can’t drive through Arizona without having seen Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, both located in Page. You have likely seen pictures of both of these places before and I will say they do live up to the hype. They are both gorgeous!

4 Mind Blowing Arizona National Monuments You’ve Probably Never Heard About, But Should Definitely See!


I bet you didn’t know that there are four amazing Arizona National Monuments between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon! In fact, I’ll go so far as to say some of them were better than the Southwest National Parks we saw! We think that you should definitely add these national monuments in Arizona to your road trip in the Southwest!

Amazing Arizona Road Trip Itinerary


Arizona is so beautiful. It’s a bucket list destination. I worked hard to create this one week road trip itinerary for visiting Arizona, and hope it helps you plan your perfect trip!

36 Hour Itinerary – What to Do in Tucson (+ where to eat & stay)


Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city, and if you don’t know what to do in Tucson, let me start by saying it offers fantastic year round weather to experience outdoor recreation, plus there’s plenty of history, arts, culture and amazing food!

Pack Field Trip to the Most Dog-Friendly Winery in Southern Arizona


Enjoy a day hike visiting a socially conscious dog-friendly winery. If you’re traveling with dogs, consider this stop as you plan your American southwest road trip itinerary.

The Most Awesome Things to do in Lake Havasu City, Arizona


Lake Havasu City offers hiking, swimming,  and sunset watching, Add a stop to Lake Havasu City on your southwest USA road trip, especially if you’re into exploring the outdoors.

Gun Smoke and Gambling – Your Complete Guide to a Great Day at Old Tucson Studios


Old Tucson, the movie set turned theme park, was once the second-most visited destination in Arizona after the Grand Canyon. Here’s everything you need to know before you visit.

Must See Arizona Attractions


There’s never a shortage of spectacular scenery or memorable things to do in Arizona. It encompasses a beautiful, diverse range of climate, geography and Arizona attractions.

Plan Your Trip to Arizona

→ Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend Tours

→ Grand Canyon National Park Tours

→Hotels in Arizona

→ Airbnb Vacation Rentals in Arizona

→ VRBO Vacation Rentals in Arizona


Southern California is the ideal location to start or end your US Southwest road trip. Here’s a list of cool things to do in southern California to add to your Southwest USA road trip itinerary.

Travel across California | On a Budget


A beautiful journey along the Pacific Coast. From the beaches of Orange County to the high rises in San Francisco, this week-long trip will give you a glimpse of what California has to offer.

2 Days in San Diego: A Los Angeles to San Diego Road Trip


Although the weather is perfect almost everyday in Southern California, spring and fall are a great time to visit. The weather is warm and the crowds are small(er). So, if you’re looking for some ideas for your San Diego itinerary I’ve put together some of my favorite things to do to help you start planning your San Diego getaway!

5 Fun Southern California Road Trip Stops To Make On Your Way Up The Coast


Who loves a good road trip? These Southern California road trip stops are fun destinations to consider as you plan your southwest USA road trip.

Orange County Hikes for Kids in Southern California


If your family likes to hike, here’s a list hiking trails in southern California. These hikes found in Orange County range from nature walks with fun stops along the way, to trails several miles long climbing up and down hills.

One Day in Joshua Tree National Park


A drive from one end of Joshua Tree National Park to the other you will take your breath away. Not only will you see the changing landscape, but you will also experience two desert ecosystems. Along this one day trip, you can stop and check out giant rounded boulders, the famed Joshua Trees and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep or other desert wildlife. Here is the best way to spend one day in Joshua Tree National Park.

Take a Guided Tour of Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park


You can tour Keys Desert Queen Ranch with a ranger and hear the story about the homesteading family who lived in the area now called Joshua Tree National Park. The Desert Queen Ranch tour was one of our favorite things to do in Joshua Tree. 

The 10 Best Things To Do In Joshua Tree National Park


Only two hours from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-stop location to add to any southwest USA road trip itinerary. Here’s my list of best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.

11 Fun Things To Do In Death Valley National Park


Death Valley National Park is jam-packed with bizarre formations that make you feel like you are on another planet. In one area, you have bright white salt flats, and in another area, mountains splashed with the pastel colors of pink/purple, blue/green, and yellow/orange. When viewing The Devil’s Golf Course, you see jagged, sharp, brown formations of salts. And let us not forget about the eerie rocks that move all on their own.

Best Southern California Desert Photo Spots: Salvation Mountain, Palm Springs, Pioneer Town — Katherine Mendieta Photography & Films


Looking for unique photo spots in Southern California? Here’s a list of locations to take awesome photos on your road trip exploring the American southwest.

Los Angeles isn’t all glitz and glamor, you know.


I have a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles. It’s a concrete jungle with a huge price tag, but after living there for four years I fell in love with all that it offers the outdoor adventurer in me. This is my advice on how to enjoy the great outdoors in Los Angeles.

14 things not to miss on your first visit to Channel Islands National Park


Planning a trip to Channel Islands National Park can be a daunting task since it’s not as easy as getting in your car and start driving then figuring out as you go. Here are 14 things not to miss on your first visit to Channel Islands National Park.

Plan Your Trip to California

→ San Diego Tours

→ Los Angeles Tours

→ Hotels in Los Angeles

→ Airbnb Vacation Rentals in Southern California

→ VRBO Vacation Rentals in Southern California


New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment for a reason. With varied landscapes that range from red rock mesas to snow-capped mountains, New Mexico showcases all of the geological features that attract visitors to the American Southwest.

10 Fun Things to Do When You Visit White Sands National Park


Located in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert, between the New Mexico towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces, is one of the world’s largest gypsum sand dune fields. From sledding down the sand dunes to taking a ranger-led hike, here are ten fun things to do when you visit White Sands National Park.

One Day at White Sands National Park


Who knew you could go play in the sand without getting wet?  White Sands National Park makes it possible to play in the sand without getting wet.  These massive white dunes are located in southern New Mexico.  These dunes are unique because they are made of white gypsum sands.  The dunes might look peaceful but they are active and full of life.

New Mexico Backroads Adventure


If you’re up for adventure, take a drive along a New Mexico backroad to an off-the-beaten-path location. There’s no better way to experience the Southwest US than driving the backroads.

10 EPIC things to do in New Mexico with kids


New Mexico is one of the most underrated states in the USA. From the food to the architecture, there is a uniqueness to New Mexico that many other states simply lack. And for those visiting New Mexico with kids, you’ll find no shortage of interesting things to do.

Road Trips in New Mexico: 17 Great Destinations


New Mexico is full of famous scenic routes like the High Road to Taos and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, but sometimes you must blaze your own path. Why not create your very own New Mexico road trip itinerary right now!

New Mexico: Bisti Badlands, Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano, Las Cruces


A New Mexico road trip that includes Bisti Badlands, Ice Cave, Bandera Volcano and Las Cruces.

Alien Everything: Welcome to Roswell


Roswell can be found in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. Here’s what to expect when you visit the alien museum.  

A Guide to the Las Cruces Water Tank Murals in New Mexico (Map Included)


The Las Cruces water tank murals use a modern day canvas to share the area’s culture and history. See all of them in less than an hour using this guide. Map included!

Albuquerque From Above: A Hot Air Balloon Adventure


Riding in a hot air balloon is a bucket list adventure. Albuquerque, New Mexico is the perfect place to add this fun activity to your American Southwest road trip itinerary.

Plan Your Trip to New Mexico

→ Tours in New Mexico

→ Hotels in New Mexico

→ Airbnb Vacation Rentals in New Mexico

→ VRBO Vacation Rentals in New Mexico


Texas is the perfect destination if you’re an adventurer, antiquer, foodie or historian, Here’s a list of things to do in Texas as you create your American Southwest road trip itinerary.

Things to do in West Texas: The Ultimate Guide for a West Texas Road Trip — Sol Salute


With its stunning desert landscapes, the quirkiness of its small towns and staggeringly beautiful national parks, it’s impossible not to love this hard to reach corner of the world. Here’s a list of the best things to do in West Texas, I bet some will surprise you.

How to Spend an Epic Week in Big Bend National Park


Head out to West Texas between the border of Mexico and New Mexico and you will find something special. Desert mountain ranges occupy this landscape creating a unique mix of river valley, desert and mountain ecosystems. Big Bend National Park was established to protect this scenic area. Here is my guide to spending a week exploring Big Bend National Park.

The Ultimate Big Bend National Park Hiking Guide


Big Bend National is an amazing national park in the US. Creating this Big Bend national park hiking guide was not difficult because there is so much to see and do. Use this guide to navigate the various hiking trails you’ll find to explore Big Bend.

Your ultimate West Texas road trip


West Texas is about as desolate as any place in the United States can get. You can drive for hours and still not reach any sizeable city. But a West Texas road trip can also be an intriguing and unique experience.

The River Road: The Most Scenic Drive in Texas — Sol Salute


The tourist information center in Texas encourages visitors to drive “The River Road”. We did and it was one of the most stunning drives we’d ever seen.

Cadillac Ranch: A Muddy Surprise


You’ll see Cadillacs half buried in the fields of Amarillo, Texas. I imagined Cadillac Ranch to be out in the middle of nowhere.  Wrong.  I imagined it be big and spread out.  Wrong again.  I expected it to be in a dry desert.  Also wrong. Find out what you can expect when you visit Cadillac Ranch.

Plan Your Trip to Texas

→ Unique Tours in Texas!

→ Hotels in Texas

→ Airbnb Vacation Rentals in Texas

→ VRBO Vacation Rentals in Texas

National Park Planner free download


Utah has five National Parks making it the ideal state to explore on an American Southwest road trip. Here’s a list of top things to do in Utah on your road trip through the Southwest.

Everything You Need To Know To Plan A Southern Utah Road Trip


Use this Southern Utah Road Trip Guide to help you plan your itinerary to visit national parks, state parks, and other awesome sites in the state.

13 Fantastic Zion National Park Hikes: Your Hiking Guide to Zion


Zion National Park hikes are some of the best in the entire world. It’s no surprise that this national park is the most visited in all of Utah since visitors cannot wait to explore all the magnificent hiking trails that Zion National Park has to offer.

Where to Take Mesmerizing Bryce Canyon Photos


When you visit Bryce Canyon, you quickly realize it really isn’t a canyon, but a series of carved out natural amphitheaters that showcase colorful formations like hoodoos, windows and more. People come from around the world to see the amazing Bryce Canyon views and capture the beauty with Bryce Canyon photos.

An Expert’s Guide to Arches National Park Photography


One advantage to living in Utah is the opportunity to take Arches National Park pictures during every season and all types of weather and light conditions. We share Arches photography tips because taking photos of the arches in the park is an important part of the experience. 

Canyonlands Island in the Sky: 19 Amazing Things to Do – PhotoJeepers


There are fantastic things to do in Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky like photographing the expansive views, hiking, biking, off-roading, camping and more. Use this guide to plan your visit to Island in the Sky on your Southwest USA road trip through Utah.

Visit Needles Canyonlands National Park: An Outdoor Adventure Playground


The Needles Canyonlands in Utah is home to an amazing natural landscape that is filled with brilliantly colored spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone that will astound anyone who visits this section of the park.

Best Capitol Reef Hikes and Activities


Capitol Reef is one of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks right in the middle of the state. Enjoy hiking, photographing the scenic landscape, eating fresh pie at the Gifford House, picking fruit in the orchards, and more!

Things to Do at Dead Horse Point State Park


Dead Horse Point State Park is a must-stop location, especially if you’ll be in the Moab, Utah area. If you’re looking for things to do at Dead Horse Point,use this guide to plan your time at this unique location.

Moab Adventures: Best Things To Do


There are a variety of things to do in Moab, Utah like mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, river rafting, off roading in Jeeps and ATVs and exploring the National and State Parks in the area. You can also enjoy Moab with kids. Family adventures include hiking, biking, junior ranger programs, and discovering dinosaurs! 

Tips For Visiting Zion National Park for Two Days


If you’ve got two days to spend visiting Zion National Park, we’ve got tips to help you plan your itinerary. Our road trip started in Salt Lake City, driving through Red Canyon, stopping at Bryce Canyon, then arriving at Zion.

Weekend Getaway Guide to South Utah


Weekend itinerary for visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and a ghost town in Southern Utah.

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  1. Definitely bookmarking this post. We’re hoping to do an epic road trip through Arizona and Utah later this year. These articles and itineraries are really helpful. I’m already zigging and zagging our route. Thank you for including our dog-friendly trip idea to a SW winery. Bernie and Lizzie send Doodle kisses.

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