Ultimate American Southwest Road Trip – USA Itinerary through National Parks

How to make the most of your stay in the USA? Find the best USA itinerary for 2 weeks American Southwest road trip across the USA and have an amazing time in America!

The United States of America is a massive country. There is so much to see, that it quickly becomes overwhelming. Where to go, what to visit, how to make the most of your short USA itinerary?

My friend is currently planning her trip to the USA, so I decided to write this post in order to help her (and others) with their USA plans. Most people have 2 or 3 weeks of holidays, which might be challenging to fit in many places worth to visit in the States. So, I hope that thanks to the American Southwest road trip itinerary below, you will manage to see a lot during your 2 weeks in the USA. I did! ;-)

Remember before your 2 weeks road trip across the USA:

#Get your visa sorted

That’s the most important part of any trip to America. You need to get your US visa in preparation for your trip and make sure it’s valid for the time you want to stay in the US.

#Get insurance

Healthcare in the USA is very expensive, so you don’t want to travel without it!

#Look for cheap flights 

Nowadays, it’s not so expensive anymore to travel from Europe to the USA. You can find the best tools to book cheap flights and accommodation on my travel resources page.

#Decide on the transport option

A good option is renting a car, but in the USA you can also find cheap long-distance buses like Megabus or Greyhound.

#Plan your route – below!

American Southwest road trip - the best USA road trip for 2 weeks!
American Southwest road trip – the best USA road trip for 2 weeks!

USA itinerary for 2 weeks American Southwest road trip

To be exact, I spent 12 days on the USA Southwest road trip, as that’s how my flights panned out. If you have 2 days more, you can squeeze in a few more things (suggestions at the bottom).

Day 1 – from New Mexico to Arizona

Albuquerque, New Mexico + Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

My flight from Europe was to Houston and then to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is where I started my 2 weeks road trip across the USA. The first part of my trip, I travelled with a friend. We rented the car, did some shopping and set off to the US roads. Albuquerque is also worth a visit if you have some more time.

In the evening we arrived in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. You can camp in the backcountry in the desert under the stars and with the sounds of coyotes. You know, I love camping, especially wild camping, so that was a perfect start of a trip! But, before doing the same, make sure to obtain the correct permit from the Park Office. The Park is great for hiking and walking. You can see there the massive fossils of the fallen trees that lived on the Earth 225 million years ago.

carry on packing list traveling light - traveling in USA
Painted Desert, USA

Day 2 – from Painted Desert to the Grand Canyon

Painted Desert, Arizona + Route 66 and Flagstaff, Arizona + Grand Canyon NP, Arizona + Lake Powell, Utah + Page, Arizona

Painted Desert is famous for its wonderful colours, where the hills and the soil look like painted orange, red or even purple. From the Painted Desert, you can drive along the famous Route 66 in Arizona in the direction to the Grand Canyon. The views on the way are just spectacular. Watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon and millions of years of Earth history written there is something out of this world. You can spend the night there or drive further towards Lake Powell and Page.

Grand Canyon, USA Southwest road trip itinerary
Grand Canyon, USA

Day 3 – from Monument Valley to Arches NP

Waterhole Canyon, Arizona + Monument Valley, Utah + Goosenecks State Park on the San Jose River, Utah + Arches National Park, Utah+ Moab, Utah

This area in Arizona is famous from the Antelope Canyon. It’s a very touristy site visited by many people every day. The place can be seen only with the guide, in previously organised groups and at a specified time. The area belongs to Indian tribe Navajo. You need to book a trip in advance which costs around $35. Alternatively, you can visit a nearby Waterhole Canyon. The entry there is not limited (you just need a general hiking permit) and you can stay in the Canyon as long as you want. The place is beautiful and it was entirely empty when we went in the morning.

From the Canyons, you can drive to the Monument Valley in Utah. Huge rocks towering over the deserted landscape, that really look like monuments.

Another must-see place on the way is the Horseshoe Bend on Colorado River. The similar, but the less known place is Goosenecks State Park on the San Jose River in Utah, where you can admire the strength of the water erosion from the massive cliffs overlooking the river below.

The road will take you to city Moab and located nearby the Arches National Park. The Park is worth visiting and walking around. There are several routes for hikes, that pass through different natural rock arches. Some of them are really spectacular! You can either camp in the park if you have a permit or stay in Moab.

Waterhole Canyon, Arizona, USA road trip 2 week itinerary Southwest
Waterhole Canyon, Arizona, USA
Monument Valley, USA itinerary Southwest road trip
Monument Valley, USA
Gooseneck Park, USA itinerary 2 week road trip Southwest
Goosenecks Park, USA

Day 4 – from Canyonlands to Bryce Canyon

Canyonlands National Park, Utah + Capitol Reef NP, Utah + Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Start a day with a sunrise in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, which is located not too far from Moab. The sunrise in Mesa Arch is one of the best sunrise spectacles I’ve ever seen. After the peaceful morning in the Park, drive to the Capitol Reef National Park. You can walk between the narrow canyons or try to climb the vertical walls.

Next, make your way to the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. There’s no place like Bryce Canyon. It’s famous for the biggest in the world collection of hoodoos – the spire-shaped rock formations that were left standing from the erosion. It’s a must-see!

Bryce Canyon in the snow, USA road trip itinerary southwest 2 weeks
Bryce Canyon in the snow, USA

Day 5 – from Zion to Las Vegas

Zion NP, Utah + Las Vegas, Nevada

You can welcome the next morning in Zion National Park. Explore the Zion’s most popular hike “The Narrows” or hit the trail in other breathtaking walks. You can stay in Zion for at least one night or make your way to Las Vegas.

Zion National Park, USA road trip 2 weeks itinerary Southwest
Zion National Park, USA

Day 6 – Las Vegas

Las Vegas

I’m not the huge fan of the cities, but going to Las Vegas is an experience of its own. Stay at least one night and experience the colourful city life, that you know from the movies. For amazing views head to the Stratosphere Airbar and indulge in one of their delicious cocktails.

Las Vegas, USA itinerary 2 week road trip
Las Vegas, USA

Day 7 + Day 8 – Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California, + Santa Monica, California

From Las Vegas make your way to California and visit Los Angeles with nearby Santa Monica beach and Venice. Feel like a movie star, hike to the Hollywood sign or tour the famous neighbourhoods and Hollywood Walk of Fame. I really liked the view of the city from the Hollywood sign and spending time in Santa Monica.

Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, USA itinerary Southwest road trip
Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, USA

Day 9 – Day 12 – California

California coast route and San Francisco

From Los Angeles, you can either go down to San Diego or tour California coast and head to San Francisco. There is so much to do in San Francisco itself, but the road is also full of amazing views, which will keep you busy for days.

Note: I didn’t actually make it to San Francisco, but my plan initially included it. Due to some complications, I needed to stay longer in LA and then made my way back to Las Vegas for the flight. The better option would be to go to San Francisco and take a flight from there.

Venice in LA, USA itinerary, Southwest road trip
Venice in LA, USA

Suggestions for additional days:

Map of USA itinerary for the Southwest road trip 


The best USA road trip 

The Southwest road trip in the USA was definitely amazing. The National Parks, together with other natural wonders, that we saw during the way – took my breath away!

“USA has too many nice places! It’s not fair!” I was saying to my American friends met on the way, and they were laughing at me ;-)

Santa Monica, LA, USA itinerary Southwest road trip
Santa Monica, LA, USA

Would you like to do the Southwest road trip in the USA? How would you plan your USA itinerary for 2 weeks or more? Let me know your favourite places in the comments!

Like it? Pin it!

The ultimate road trip itinerary through America's Southwest with stops at national parks and monuments throughout Nevada, Utah and Arizona including the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Zion, Antelope Canyon & more!

Sharing is caring!

7 thoughts on “Ultimate American Southwest Road Trip – USA Itinerary through National Parks

  1. Thank you for your excellent guides! I read through your guide to Jordan today in preparation for a trip I’m making there later this month. Very excited.
    I’m from the U.S. so, just for giggles, I wanted to read through your trip reports/blog about the U.S. The southwest is indeed one of my favorite (maybe THE favorite) regions in the country and your trip definitely hit a lot of the highlights. Looks like you had a lot of fun! The only thing I was a little sad to see was the picture of Mesa Arch. It’s my favorite place in all of the Moab region and the park rangers / land management teams strongly discourage travelers from walking on top of it due to erosion worries (realistically, I know the human body weighs a fraction of the weight of the rock itself… but little by little it does accelerate the erosion process over time). I’m not sure it’s the most eco-friendly thing for prospective travelers to see if they’re reading this page.
    But aside from that one point, I enjoyed this blog and I’m glad you had a great time! Sending good vibes.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks a lot for your comment and I’m glad the guides are useful for you. Enjoy your trip to Jordan!

      When I was in Mesa Arch a few years ago, I couldn’t see any signs around, and a few people were climbing the arch. From the national park website, I can read, that the signs were put for “the safety of people, protection of arch and to let other people take the photos”. This, of course, makes total sense. As a geologist, I also know the effects of erosion and as a climber, I am used to climbing rocks :) I will remove the photo from the post to not to encourage climbing on the Arch if it is discouraged by the rangers. Thanks for letting me know! It’s important to keep the nature we love intact, so I really appreciate your concern.

      Happy travels,


  2. While there are so many places in the world to see the intricate erosional sculpturing as a result of the geological formation, the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is extraordinary. The rugged columns comprising sedentary rocks in sandstone and shale are extremely surreal. When I got to witness the marvel of the nature from up close, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so intrigued by the insanely beautiful rock formations that I began studying about the science behind the strange geological wonders, but couldn’t fathom any. I finally gave up and declared in ecstasy that it is one sight that every person on earth must see it once before dying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *