The Southwest USA is an overlooked gem. With the beautiful red rock structures, delicious food, sunny skies, and friendly people, it’s the perfect vacation destination. And, by taking an awesome Southwest USA road trip, you’ll be able to spend a little bit of time in many of the coolest places in the region.
The best American Southwest road trip itineraries include a combination of big cities, small towns, and, most commonly, natural landscapes. One day you might be hiking through the Grand Canyon and the next day you could be meandering through the adorable town of Taos, New Mexico.
In this post, I have come up with an amazing 10-day Southwest USA road trip itinerary. This plan will ensure that you see so much of the beauty that the Southwest has to offer. That said, feel free to rework this itinerary to fit your preferences and style of travel.
In This Post:
The Perfect Southwest USA Road Trip
Day 1: Phoenix, Arizona
When starting your epic Southwest USA road trip, I recommend flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). This airport is huge and is a major hub for several airlines in the United States. Plus, you can easily rent a car here to start your road trip.
Or, if you’re looking for an even longer road trip, you can drive to the American Southwest from where you live. Don’t forget to check out my road trip packing list and make sure you have these 20 items before starting your adventure!
Although you only have one day in Phoenix, you still have time to see some of the attractions in Arizona’s capital city. You can stop by the Desert Botanical Garden, hike to the top of Camelback Mountain, catch a baseball game at Chase Field, or pop into the Musical Instrument Museum.
And if there’s simply so much that you want to see in Phoenix, you can always extend your time in town.
Day 2: Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is home to some of the most eye-catching red rocks in all of the American Southwest, so it’s a must-see stop on this road trip.
While in this small town, you definitely should tackle one of the main hiking trails to get up close to the bright red landscape. I highly recommend hiking to the stunning Devil’s Bridge Trail, although both Cathedral Rock Trail and Courthouse Butte Loop are fantastic as well.
If you have some extra time in your day, you’ll want to drive down the Red Rock Scenic Byway until you reach the Church of the Holy Cross. This eye-catching church was built right into Sedona’s red rocks. There’s nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world.
Day 3: Grand Canyon, Arizona
If there’s one must-have stop on any Southwest USA road trip itinerary, it’s the Grand Canyon. As the second most-visited national park in the United States, the Grand Canyon is truly a sight to see.
Everyone goes to the Grand Canyon to see the beauty of this iconic natural landmark. The only real variation is how you see the canyon. You can take a hike, ride a mule, sit on a train, soar in a helicopter, or even paddle on a raft. But the most popular way to see the Grand Canyon is simply by taking in the views from the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
If you’d like to extend your time in the Grand Canyon, you can include the multi-day hike to the majestic Havasu Falls. It’s one of the most bucket-list worthy destinations in the USA.
Located at the heart of the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is a 100-foot waterfall that includes sparkling turquoise pools, creating the perfect oasis after the long days of hiking.
Day 4: Monument Valley, Arizona and Utah
On the fourth day of your amazing American Southwest road trip, you’ll head to Monument Valley — also known as Monument Valley Tribal Park. It is actually a part of the protected Navajo Nation Reservation. It’s not a national park as many people believe.
The highlights of Monument Valley are the towering red rock structures that seem to soar into the sky. The most popular rock formations include the Three Sisters, the Totem Pole, and the Mexican Hat.
To see these natural wonders, you can go on an epic Arizona and Utah road trip that includes stops at Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Toadstool Hoodoos hiking trail, and Upper Antelope Canyon.
You can also take a Navajo guided tour, which adds another interesting layer to these rock spires. You can learn about the red rocks’ religious significance, catch a glimpse of ancient Native American dwellings, and even take a peek at historic petroglyphs.
At the end of your long adventure-filled day, be sure to catch the sunset! When the sun dips below the horizon, the stunning red rock structures take on a fiery quality that’s absolutely magical.
If you’re hoping to have the full Monument Valley experience, you can spend the night at The View Hotel. It is run by a local Navajo woman, and it’s the perfect place to get some much-needed rest before the action-packed fifth day of your road trip.
Days 5-6: Moab, Utah
Moab, Utah is arguably one of the most gorgeous towns in the entire country. Even though this small town has a population of just over 5,000 people, it boasts two stunning national parks: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The easiest way to break down your time in Moab is to give each park one full day.
Out of the two parks in Moab, Arches National Park is the more popular one. As the name implies, Arches National Park is known for its beautiful sandstone arches. While there are dozens dotting the natural landscape, the Delicate Arch is the most popular.
But if you’d like to go off the beaten path, there are definitely other arches and hikes in the park that are worth your time, including the Double Arch Trail and The Fiery Furnace.
During your second day in Moab, you can visit Canyonlands National Park. This park is most well-known for the iconic Horseshoe Canyon, which has recently gotten a lot of fame from Instagram.
While at Canyonlands National Park, you can mountain bike, stargaze, and go white water rafting – but hiking is by far the most popular activity. The Mesa Arch Trail, Druid Arch Trail, and White Rim Trail are some of the most frequently tackled hikes.
Day 7: Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico definitely is one of the most underrated destinations in the United States. It’s also one of the best places to experience Native American culture.
You can learn about the Native American adobe community of Taos Pueblo, spend some time in the important Taos Plaza, and peruse the lovely Native American art pieces at the Taos Art Museum.
But if you want to continue the nature-theme that has woven its way through this Southwest USA road trip, you can do that too!
While in Taos, you can take to the skies on a hot air balloon ride, go white water rafting in the Rio Grande, and ski down some of the best slopes in the state at Taos Ski Valley.
Day 8-9: Santa Fe, New Mexico
For the second-to-last stop of your Southwest USA road trip, you’ll spend your time in artsy Santa Fe.
While in this creative town, you definitely have to immerse yourself in the art scene. You can spend a couple of hours at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, pop into one of the dozens of art galleries on Canyon Road, and even test your own art skills in an art class.
But if you’d like your time in Santa Fe to be more history-focused, you can visit the Pecos National Historical Park, the Bandelier National Monument, and even the local farmer’s market at the Railyard.
Or if you’re looking to stare in awe at another unique natural landscape, you’ll definitely want to go to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
Day 10: Albuquerque, New Mexico
You made it! To finish off your epic road trip, you’ll stop in Albuquerque. You can either fly out from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) the same day you complete your Southwest USA road trip, or you can hang out and spend a few days in town.
If you choose to spend time in Albuquerque, the first thing you’ll want to do is experience Old Town Albuquerque. This historic area has been imbued with elements of Spanish and Native American culture for over three hundred years!
You can also grab a bite to eat at one of the many mouthwatering restaurants, watch one of the entertaining street performers, and admire the historic San Felipe de Neri Church.
But, that’s far from all you can do in Albuquerque. You can also watch the hot air balloons take to the sky during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, check out the stunning views from the Sandia Peak Tramway, and brush up on your Native American history at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Do you have any destinations to add to this Southwest USA road trip itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
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Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.