[Free Itinerary Download] 10 Must-Sees on Your U.S. Southwest Road Trip

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The American Southwest is a truly incredible landscape – with its vibrant colors, vast wilderness, rich and storied history, natural wonders and Native American culture.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably considering (or have even started planning) a road trip to see some of what makes this region so amazing. Let us help you plan your trip!

We recently returned from our own journey, so we want to share our itinerary and tips to help make your planning a bit easier. Keep reading for our list of must-sees and click or tap the button below to access our American Southwest itinerary.


American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance

Monument Valley

Day 1

Departure Day

Indianapolis to Kansas City

Pit stop: St. Louis

Day 2

Colorado – Denver, Sedalia

Stargaze in Sedalia

Day 3

Colorado – Morrison, Colorado Springs, Cascade, Manitou Springs

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak

Day 4

Utah – Moab

Arches National Park

Day 5

Utah – Bryce Canyon City

Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 6

Utah – Springdale

Zion National Park

Day 7

Arizona – Various

Pit stops: Monument Valley, Forrest Gump Point, Four Corners

Day 8

Arizona – Williams

Route 66, Grand Canyon South Rim

Day 9

Drive to Albuquerque, New Mexico

Pit stops: Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend

Day 10

New Mexico – Albuquerque

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Day 11

New Mexico – Santa Fe

Day 12

Return Day 1 – Drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma

Pit stop: Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

Day 13

Return Day 2 – Drive to Indianapolis

Pit stops: Golden Driller, Blue Whale of Catoosa

Our favorite itinerary planner, Travefy, started charging to use its platform, so we had a lot of trouble organizing and planning our road trip. To save yourself the same headaches, download our full itinerary template by clicking or tapping the button below.


10 Must-Sees on Your U.S. Southwest Road Trip

1. Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Driving through Monument Valley was one of our favorite road trip experiences. Some places on our itinerary exceeded our expectations, while others were underwhelming – this drive was the former.

From the scale and natural beauty of these monuments to the friendliness of the locals and the free-roaming animals, this was a beautifully preserved piece of Navajo land.

2. Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

It’s a little bit annoying to book the Antelope Canyon tour, but it’s absolutely a must-see. (Pictured above is Upper Antelope Canyon.)

Time zone changes are a challenge when planning to see Antelope Canyon. From what we understand, Arizona never changes over to Daylight Saving Time, but the Navajo Indian Reservation does.

Because of this, most tour operators require that you arrive at least an hour ahead of time; ours required us to arrive 90 minutes before. Don’t let this minor annoyance stop you from booking a tour though! 

3. Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was just as breathtaking as you’d imagine. After driving through Utah and Arizona and seeing other famous canyons along the way, you may wonder whether the Grand Canyon will still wow you. Don’t worry, it will.

4. Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

The drive up Pikes Peak, known as America’s Mountain, is gorgeous, especially in the fall. You can find fees and hours of operation for different times of the year by clicking here.

Plan at least two hours to make the drive, because you’ll want to allow yourself plenty of time to stop at the lookouts to take pictures.

5. Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend, part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, was even more beautiful in person than it is in Instagram pictures.

A few tips before you go:

  • It costs $10 per car to park – national park passes don’t get you in for free. Although Horseshoe Bend itself is in the park, the parking lot is on city land.
  • It’s a 3/4 mile walk from the parking lot to Horseshoe Bend. The walk isn’t too strenuous, but you’re walking uphill and downhill in sand, so wear appropriate shoes.
  • It’s about a 10-minute drive from Antelope Canyon, so it’s a perfect addition to your visit in Page, Arizona.

6. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been on our bucket list for some time, and we finally got to experience the magic for ourselves this year.

If you plan your road trip in the fall, be sure to add this to your itinerary. Watching thousands of hot air balloons lift off into the sky will give you goosebumps and leave you feeling so inspired.

7. La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site

La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site

This short, 10-minute hike near the city of Santa Fe has a great payoff: hundreds of petroglyphs – or rock carvings – dating from precontact time and the Spanish colonial era.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, “most of the petroglyphs were placed there by Keresan-speaking puebloan people living in the area between the 13th and 17th centuries.”

8. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Just a 30-minute drive from Denver, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a fun pit stop on your American Southwest road trip.

Watch a concert here or hike the Geologic Overlook Trail to get a different view of the amphitheatre and the surrounding vista. It’s easiest to access the trail if you park at the Upper North Parking Lot (not Lower North).

9. Forrest Gump Point

Forrest Gump Point

This iconic view of Monument Valley – made famous by the movie Forrest Gump – is a little tricky to shoot, but worth the time and effort once there’s a break in traffic (and tourists).

There are two pull-offs so you can park and take pictures. We recommend stopping at the pull-off at the bottom of the hill – fewer people stop here, so it’s easier to shoot.

10. Arches National Park

Arches National Park Double Arch

Total honesty time. The Delicate Arch – the iconic rock formation that’s so famous it’s the design on Utah licence plates – underwhelmed us. BUT we had a lot of fun exploring the rest of the park, including the Double Arch (pictured above) and the relatively looked-over Sand Dune Arch.

Start – or continue – planning your American Southwest road trip by using our itinerary template. Click or tap below to download it. As always, safe travels!


3 responses to “[Free Itinerary Download] 10 Must-Sees on Your U.S. Southwest Road Trip”

  1. Becky Bostic Avatar

    This is a wonderful and well-written article. I’m planning to visit all of these places once this whole coronavirus pandemic is over with only my backpack and camera with me. I have been planning to travel to the SW region of the US and hopefully I can do it before the year ends.

    1. Emily Malott Avatar

      Thank you so much! I’m really glad the article was helpful. This was seriously the trip of a lifetime. And I bet it’ll be so much fun backpacking across the region. Bring lots of memory cards! 😊

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