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Want to see the amazing National Parks of Arizona and Utah, and a few extras in two weeks? This road trip itinerary takes you through The Grand Circle, which is a region in the southwest United States including Utah’s big 5 National Parks of Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion, plus the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, and Valley of Fire state park in Nevada!
2 Week Grand Circle Itinerary Summary:
- Day 1: Las Vegas to Williams AZ
- Days 2 & 3: Grand Canyon South Rim
- Day 4: Monument Valley
- Days 5 & 6: Four Corners and Mesa Verde
- Days 7 & 8: Arches & Canyonlands
- Day 9: Capitol Reef
- Day 10: Bryce Canyon
- Days 11 & 12: Zion
- Day 13: Valley of Fire
- Day 14: Las Vegas, travel home
If you don’t have two weeks, this itinerary can be modified easily to ten days by taking out the days to Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Valley of Fire. You could also drive straight from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon in one day if you want.
10 Day Grand Circle Itinerary:
- Day 1: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim
- Day 2: Grand Canyon South Rim
- Days 3 & 4: Arches & Canyonlands
- Day 5: Capitol Reef
- Days 7: Bryce Canyon
- Day 8 & 9: Zion
- Day 10: Las Vegas, travel home
Now time to come along for an adventure tour of the amazing southwestern United States! 🙂
Las Vegas to Williams AZ
Las Vegas is a great starting point for a trip of the Grand Circle because it’s easy to get flights to and rent a car, which is what we did.
Staying in Boulder City instead of Las Vegas was a quieter overnight option, and waking up in the morning and seeing beautiful Lake Mead was so nice! You can get breakfast or stock up on groceries in town, and see some sights before hitting the road.
Sites to check out in Boulder City include:
- Hemenway Park – a pretty little local park, nice place for a picnic and to see big horn sheep!
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area – You do need to buy a pass to get into Lake Mead if you want to visit, but since you’ll be visiting many National Parks on this trip, I highly recommend picking up the National Park’s Annual pass here if you don’t already have one! There shouldn’t be much of a line to get it like there can be at the Grand Canyon.
- Hoover Dam – (we took a walk on the Hoover Dam bridge for free, getting a beautiful view of the dam, instead of taking the tour which would have taken much longer)
The drive from the Hoover Dam to Williams was easy highway driving totally approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. We made a lunch stop in Kingman, and when we finally got to our destination for the night we had a fun time walking around and exploring a little of the town of Williams on Route 66!
You can read more details of the full drive to the Grand Canyon here.
Grand Canyon South Rim
Days Two and Three.
The drive from Williams to the south rim of the Grand Canyon is only an hour long. After that, you’ve got the rest of the day and all of the next to explore one of the wonders of the natural world! The Grand Canyon is breath taking!
We had almost 2 full days at the south rim. I would have preferred a third, but if you’re not into hiking then 2 days should be enough. You’ll be able to see all the viewpoints and stops, museums, gift shops, etc. with 2 days for sure. Even one full day is good for an overview if that’s all the time you have.
Things to check out at the south rim include:
- Mather Point – Make this your first stop! It’s right next to the main visitor’s center(which should probably be your second stop 😉
- Desert View Watchtower
- Take the shuttle bus out to Hermit’s Rest and other viewpoints
- Tusayan Ruins Museum and historic site
- Go on a day hike down Bright Angel Trail
- Take an easy walk along the South rim where there are art galleries, restaurants, and views galore!
The drive to Monument Valley from the Grand Canyon was an easy 3 hours through dry desert landscapes. Monument Valley is located on Navajo lands, and is not an actual National Park. But it’s an impressive sight nonetheless, with towering “monuments” of red desert sandstone jutting out through the arid, flat lands.
The Navajo here have their own visitor’s center, museum, and even guided tours on jeep or horseback, or you can take your own car and drive the gravel road through the monuments. They do charge a fee to get into the main area.
I would say one day here is good enough for a visit. There’s enough things to do filling up a whole day, with time to sit and relax a little. Also if you’re up for camping-or glamping, I highly recommend it! We had one of the most beautiful nights of our trip sitting under the stars at a camp fire, playing music, and then watching the sun rise over the monuments the next morning!
Four Corners & Mesa Verde National Park
Days Five and Six.
Being in this part of the country, and with the Four Corners Monument so close by, I knew we had to stop and visit it. It’s really out in the middle of nowhere, so if standing in four states all at once thrills you, go there!
Getting there from Monument Valley was about an hour and a half, and you only need an hour or two max to visit. You get your photo taken at the four corners, and there’s a lot of Native American vendors to shop at around the perimeter.
Continuing on to Cortez, Colorado, the town just outside of Mesa Verde, took another hour drive. All said, with driving times and the stop at the Four Corners, took up half a day.
We split our time at Mesa Verde National Park from the afternoon on the first day, and morning on the second. We were able to see all the sites on Chapin Mesa, one of the two major sections of the park, and also take a tour of Balcony House.
Going on a tour of one of the cliff dwellings is a must at Mesa Verde!
There was still Wetherill mesa, and other cliff dwelling houses we could have toured, but we just didn’t have the time. I would recommend 2 full days for Mesa Verde. But one day was fine if you just want to get an overview of the place like we did.
After our tour of Balcony house the morning of day six, we continued on and drove on towards Moab for the rest of our day.
Arches & Canyonlands National Parks
Days Seven and Eight.
Both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are right outside of the town of Moab, Utah. Moab is THE place you want to stay at when visiting these parks. It’s full of adventure seekers and there are even state parks around like Dead Horse Point adjacent to Canyonlands that you may want to check out if you have more time.
We gave ourselves 2 full days here, one for each park.
The section of Canyonlands we visited was Isle in the Sky district (the park is made up of 3, with this one being the main part and most popular). We had so much fun at this park! It’s not as crowded or famous as Arches, but it’s absolutely beautiful, don’t miss it!
So one day at each park was enough for a good taste of what these beautiful places are like.
Capitol Reef National Park
One of the lesser known National Parks, Capitol Reef was quite stunning, and I have to wonder why it’s so overlooked! It’s smaller than the others, and with one main road makes it easy to see the sites in one day.
Getting there from Moab was a 2.5 hour drive, not too long, so driving didn’t take up much of the day, and we had the rest of it to see the park.
With one day spent at Capitol Reef, we were able to view the petroglyphs and historic sites, have a picnic lunch near the river and apple orchards, stop in the gift shop and buy some delicious mini pies! You must get some of those deserts! Drive all the way down Capitol Gorge dirt road, and then even hike the Tanks Trail. It was a fun filled day!
We spent the night at an Airbnb in the town of Torrey which is the closest town outside of the park. There are of course some hotels there as well.
Bryce Canyon National Park
If I had another day on this trip, I would dedicate it to Bryce. Hands down. But, that’s because I like to go on hikes, to really explore places as much as I can. If you’re not into hiking, one day at Bryce is enough to see all the views and go on a short hike.
Driving to Bryce From Torrey was incredibly beautiful! We took the famous Utah Scenic route 12, and I can’t recommend it enough!
We had an incredible day visiting Bryce Canyon, getting to all the scenic viewpoints along the drive, and hiking half of the Fairyland loop trail. It was so beautiful, and I don’t regret it, but this is where I do wish I did some more research beforehand (or simply had more time). If I knew better I think I would have chosen the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails. Simply because from the pictures I saw throughout the years afterwards, I SO want to go back and do that trail!
In a way though, it’s nice having reasons to go back to all of these places 🙂
Zion National Park
Days Eleven & Twelve.
Day eleven was taken up driving to Zion from Bryce, which was another beautiful scenic drive, especially on getting to Zion because you drive through part of the park, and there are tunnels and views galore!
We were staying overnight in the town of Hurricane, which was farther away from the park than what I would have liked, but only 30 mins so not too bad. Word of advice, book early if you want to stay in the towns close by!
The next day we got up, but not as early as I would have liked. Another word of advice: get to Zion early if you want a parking space x.x We spent about another half hour or more driving around looking for one. Finally we found a spot near the campground parking lot, and we walked a part of the Pa’rus trail, and got on the park shuttle to see the rest.
There’s many things to see and hikes to do at Zion. With one full day we did that small hike on the Pa’rus, visited every shuttle stop, hiked the lower and upper Emerald Pools Trail, and continued on to the Kayenta trail, hiked up to see the Weeping Wall, and also did the 1 mile River walk to the start of the Narrows.
We didn’t have time for any of the major hikes like Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, or Observation Point, but we got a great overview of the park! Of course if one of those hikes is important to you, you can simply spend the day doing that instead.
But for us…another time hopefully! 🙂
Valley of Fire State Park
I had no idea this place existed before planning this trip. When making plans, I look for places inbetween the major stops, to give ourselves a break driving and find other things of interest.
Valley of Fire is a gem, and just outside of Las Vegas!
We had such a fun day there, just as much fun as any of the National Parks!
We drove from Zion to Valley of Fire on our last day, and spent the whole day in the park. Doing as we usually do; stopping at the visitor’s center(you do have to pay a fee to get in), getting a map, driving the roads and stopping at all the landmarks if possible. As well as hike a few small trails.
You can easily fill up your whole day here with plenty of stuff to see. Just be sure to pack a lunch with you and plenty of water! There are no food stands in the park.
We dropped off our rental car, which we conveniently got right at the Las Vegas Airport, and flew home.
Ok, so you may have to count an extra day or two for travel in this itinerary. For our trip it was 13 days with 2 days travel, but that also depends on the flights you get, and how long it takes you to get to Las Vegas. If you’re from the East coast and you catch an early flight, you can definitely do the drive from Las Vegas to Williams on day one.
All said and done, this was a great trip, and I’d do it again any time! I hope these details can help you out planning your own trip 🙂
Let me know in the comments below if you have any alternate Grand Circle Trip itineraries, or special places along the way that are worth checking out!
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