The Ultimate USA Southwest Road Trip Itinerary: California – Arizona – Nevada

Grand Canyon as a part of USA southwest road trip

Looking for some great vacation ideas in the U.S.? What about the USA southwest road trip? My American southwest road trip is on my list of the best road trips I have ever taken. Want to find more about a perfect southwest roadtrip?! Read how to do the best southwest road trip ever, where to go in the southwest, what are the main southwest landmarks you need to see, what are the places to visit southwest,  and how to plan your USA southwest road trip itinerary.

Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
Me in Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona © World Travel Connector
Sequoia National Park in Californiashould be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia in California © World Travel Connector
Death Valley in one day
Me in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park © World Travel Connector

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO. 

If you have never been to the American West and you want to visit Los Angeles, San Francisco, but your main goal is to see the world-famous USA southwest landmarks like Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon, this American road trip is for you. And I bet you want to take this USA southwest road trip, as the USA is one of the best countries to visit and southwest of the USA offers some of the most amazing and the best sites in the USA!

Here’s a practical guide how to do USA southwest road trip with guidelines: where to go on American southwest road trip, how to plan a southwestern road trip route, how to see main southwest attractions in one road trip, how to make a perfect southwest national parks road trip, what are top things to do in the southwest and the best southwest destinations, how to do a road trip to Grand Canyon and what are must-have adventures in the American southwest.

USA SOUTHWEST ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

This southwest trip goes from Los Angeles to Palm Springs in California and takes you through the desert to magical Sedona and the town of Page with spectacular Horseshoe Bend and surreal Antelope Canyon in Arizona. The trip continues to unearthly Grand Canyon in Arizona and amusing Las Vegas in Nevada, to fascinating Death Valley, majestic Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia and breathtaking Yosemite NP and utterly unique San Francisco in California.

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Horseshoe Bend near the town of Page in Arizona © World Travel Connector

This USA southwest road trip starts in Los Angeles and ends in San Francisco. For this southwest USA road trip, you can hire a car at LAX Airport and return it at SFO Airport.  Or if you prefer to give back the car in LA, you should know that the fastest route takes about 6 hours from SF to LA.

But you can also do this USA road trip in the opposite direction too, starting in San Francisco and finishing it in Los Angeles. The easiest way is to hire a car at SFO Airport and return it at LAX Airport.

Click here to get the best car rental rates:
LAX Car Rentals 
SFO Car Rentals 

Roadtrip southwest USA: 

STEPS AND TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR PERFECT TRIP

1. Find and book your flight: Skyscanner
2. Find and book your stay: Booking.comHotelsCombined.com
3. Find and book the best car rentals: Discover Car Hire
4. Get travel insurance (insure yourself against any accident, sickness, theft, and canceled flight): WorldNomads.com
5. Find and book great guided day tours: GetYourGuideViator

The first leg of this Southwest road trip from Los Angeles is the California-Arizona road trip, the second leg is the Arizona-Nevada road trip and the last leg is Nevada-California road trip.

Day 1-3:  LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles as a part of USA southwest road trip

This suggested USA southwest road trip itinerary starts in Los Angeles. Rent a car and spend the first 3 days of your trip to get familiar with the City of Angeles. I would not recommend planning less than 3 days in Los Angeles as your first stop. Most likely you will be jet-legged if you are flying in from a distant place and above all LA is an extremely spread-out city. That’s why I suggest 3 days in LA.

On your first day head to LA Downtown, Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills, and in the late afternoon to Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory for some great views of LA Downtown.

The next day head to visit Hollywood, walk on the Walk of Fame and visit Chinese Theatre. Drive to Hollywood Hills to see iconic Hollywood Sign, and take a drive on Mulholland Drive along the top of Hollywood Hills, and if you are taking this trip with your family you should definitely visit Universal Studios. Visiting Universal Studios is one of the most fun things to do with kids in LA!

On the third-day visit old Culver City, J. Paul Getty Museum Centre, and Getty Villa in Malibu. Stroll Malibu beaches and try some Californian seafood in Malibu. Or simply, go to Santa Monica and visit the original Farmers Market and have some beach time on Venice Beach.

Where to stay in Los Angeles – recommended stay:
Downtown LA – Metro Plaza Hotel, The Los Angeles Athletic Club, Best Western Plus Dragon Gate Inn,
West LA – Hotel Angeleno, Best Western Royal Palace Inn & Suites, Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel,
Hollywood– Loews Hollywood Hotel, Elaine’s Hollywood Bed, and Breakfast 
West Hollywood – Sunset Marquis Hotel, Ramada Plaza West Hollywood and suites, Grafton on Sunset,
Venice Beach – Ramada Inn Marina Del Rey, The Kinney-Venice Beach, Hotel Erwin

Click here to get the best rates for your stay in Los Angeles

On the 4th day, your USA southwest road trip officially starts. On the 4th day get up early in the morning and head to Palm Spring as early as possible to avoid crazy LA traffic. About a 2-hour drive will take you from Los Angeles to Palm Spring.

Next stop: Palm Springs

Day 4-5: PALM SPRINGS and SEDONA

Palm Springs as a part of USA southwest road trip

Distance from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is 107 mi (172 km). About a 2-hour drive following the I-10 E route will take you from Los Angeles to Palm Springs.

Palm Springs as a part of USA southwest road trip
Palm Springs © World Travel Connector

This desert oasis with the San Jacinto Mountains in the background is a perfect break before heading further to Arizona. Palm Springs has been a weekend getaway and retreat of many Holywood stars for centuries and it is famed for its mid-century architecture, hot springs, and gourmet restaurants. Make a quick stop in Palm Springs and refresh yourself in one of the fine restaurants in Palm Springs before you hit the road again.

Next stop: SEDONA

Sedona in Arizona should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
Sedona mountains © World Travel Connector
Sedona in Arizona on USA southwest road trip itinerary
Sedona in Arizona © World Travel Connector

Distance from Palm Springs to Sedona is about 380 mi (605 km). About 5 hours and a half drive following the I-10 E route across the desert takes you to Sedona from Palm Springs. It means, on the 4th day when you reach Sedona, most likely it’s going to be late afternoon. Therefore, you should plan 2 nights in Sedona to be able to enjoy the whole one day in Sedona to make most of it. Keep in mind, from Los Angeles to Sedona you will be driving almost 8 hours and you will drive through the desert that day.  

Sedona in Arizona should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
Sedona in Arizona © World Travel Connector

Magical Sedona is famous for its sublime setting among red mountains with pine forests and steep canyons, but also for art galleries and spas. When in Sedona, don’t miss to check out the main sites to see in Sedona: Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Devil’s Bridge, Chapel of Holly Cross. Or, if you are an outdoor lover like me, you should definitely check out some of the famous trails in Sedona like Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral & Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon. In case you didn’t know, Sedona hikes are widely known as some of the best in the world!

Sedona in Arizona should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
Me in Sedona © World Travel Connector

Where to stay in Sedona – recommended B&B and hotels in Sedona:

Arabella Hotel Sedona, Cozy Cactus Bed and Breakfast, The Penrose Bed & Breakfast

On the 6th day early in the morning head to the town of Page in Arizona.

Next stop: Page. 

Day 6: PAGE, HORSESHOE BEND, and ANTELOPE CANYON

The distance between Sedona and Page is 163 mi (262 km). A 3 hour non-stop drive following the US-89 route will take you from Sedona to Page.

The town of Page is a small town in Arizona and there’s not much to see in it, but on the outskirts of Page, you can find several most photographed sites in the U.S. and must-sees in the USA: Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam, and Lake Powel. Oh, yes, you will fall in love with those sites unquestionably! And you will keep them in your memories and cherish them in your heart for the rest of your life. Remember, the American southwest holds the best nature spots in the USA. And, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are one of the best southwest nature spots for sure!

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Horseshoe Bend near the town of Page in Arizona © World Travel Connector

Horseshoe Bend is only 4 mi southwest of Page. Just 5 min drive south of Page following the Route 89 you will see the sign ‘Horseshoe Bend Overlook’. Park your car on the parking lot and in a few minutes’ walks you will reach spectacular Horseshoe Bend. You will be filled with awe when you see horseshoe-shaped mander of mighty Colorado!

Antelope Canyon should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Antelope Canyon near the town of Page in Arizona © World Travel Connector

Antelope Canyon is only 5 mi southeast of Page, on US Highway 98, close to the border of Arizona and Utah. There are Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon and both of them are of striking beauty. They are on the Navajo Land, and visit them is possible only by taking a guided tour. Whatever Antelope Canjoy you choose to see, you need to book a tour in advance.

RELATED READ: Antelope Canyon Tips – Things You Should Know Before Visiting Antelope Canyon

Plan to sleep 1 night in Page Arizona.

Where to stay in Page Arizona – recommended hotels in Page AZ: 

Baymont by Wyndham Page Lake Powell, Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Wingate by Wyndham Page Lake Powell 

Next stop: Grand Canyon National Park

Day 7: GRAND CANYON

Grand Canyon as a part of USA southwest road trip

Distance from Page, Arizona to Grand Canyon is 137 mi (220 km). It takes 2 hours and a half drive following the US-89 route from Page to Grand Canyon.

Of course, no one wants to miss visiting Grand Canyon on their USA Southwest trip! Spectacular Grand Canyon is one of the most famous landmarks of the U.S. and a must-see in the US! Many people across the world dream to see Grand Canyon. Just like you. The best way to see the magnificence of Grand Canyon is to take a helicopter ride. But if a helicopter ride is no option for you, simply check out some of striking Grand Canyon viewpoints or do some hiking in the Grand Canyon.

If you head to Grand Canyon from Page early in the morning, you will have 1 day in Grand Canyon. I would recommend planning to sleep for 1 night in Grand Canyon and on the next day going to Las Vegas

Where to stay in Grand Canyon:

Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn (Tusayan), Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon (Tusayan), The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon (Tusayan), Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel(Tusayan), Arizona Luxury Expeditions – Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon Village)

Grand Canyon as a part of USA southwest road trip

Next stop: Las Vegas

Day 8-9: LAS VEGAS

Las Vegas as a part of USA southwest road trip
Las Vegas in Nevada © World Travel Connector

Distance from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas is 276 mi (445 km). 4 hours and a half drive following the I-40 route takes from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Las Vegas in Nevada © World Travel Connector

Plan to stay two nights in Las Vegas. Stroll Las Vegas strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), watch the Bellagio Fountain show, enjoy Cirque d’ Soleil show at the Bellagio, go to the Top of the World Restaurant at the Stratosphere Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, try your luck in some of the world-famous Las Vegas casinos … have fun and keep in your mind: ‘Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’.

Las Vegas as a part of USA southwest road trip
Las Vegas © World Travel Connector

Where to stay in Las Vegas – recommended hotels in Las Vegas:

The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas, The Palazzo at The Venetian®, ARIA Resort & Casino, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas

Next stop: Death Valley

Day 10: DEATH VALLEY

Death Valley in one day
Devils Golf Course in Death Valley © World Travel Connector

Distance from Las Vegas to Death Valley is 123 mi (198 km).  Only 2 hours and a half drive will take you from Las Vegas to Death Valley.

Death Valley in one day

One someone mentions Death Valley, most likely you become horrified. But you know what?! Don’t be surprised if you get mesmerized by the surreal beauty of landscapes of Death Valley.  The Death Valley Nation Park is characterized by incredible geological and biological diversity, sand dunes, salt flats, mud, soil, volcanic craters, Joshua Trees… and with elevations going below sea level!

Plan to spend one day in Death Valley to see all of the main sites in the Death Valley: Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive, and Artist’s Palette, Devil’s Golf Course, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

RELATED READ: Death Valley Must-See Places 

Death Valley should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Death Valley National Park © World Travel Connector
Me on my way from Death Valley to my next stop on my USA southwest road trip © World Travel Connector

Take a night in Death Valley. A night sky full of stars in the desert landscape of Death Valley Nationa Park is something you will remember for the rest of your life.

Where to stay in Death Valley – recommended stay:

The Inn at Death Valley, The Ranch At Death Valley

The next day a long drive awaits you. In the morning you are heading to one of the most incredible U.S. national parks: Yosemite NP with a quick stop in Mariposa Grove.

Next stop: Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Day 11-12: MARIPOSA GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS and YOSEMITE NP

Sequoia National Park in Californiashould be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Me hugging sequoia tree in Mariposa Grove in California © World Travel Connector

‘The Big Tree ( Sequoia gigantea ) is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and, so far as I know, the greatest of living things.’ John Muir 

Distance from Death Valley National Park to Mariposa is about 325 mi (520 km). A 7-hour drive following the CA 120 route will take you from Death Valley National Park to Mariposa.

Sequoia National Park in Californiashould be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove © World Travel Connector

The next stop on my southwest itinerary was Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia. I wanted to see giant sequoias on my trip, but the roads to Sequoia NP were closed. So, I chose Mariposa Grove as an alternative to Sequoia NP. Additionally, I was on my way to Yosemite and visiting Mariposa Grove which is in the southernmost part of Yosemite National Park was a convenient choice. In any case, I wasn’t disappointed by any means. On the contrary! And I assure you, you won’t be disappointed either. Mariposa Grove is home to over 500 giant sequoias, among which probably best known the Grizzly Giant. The Grizzly Giant is a 1,880-year-old sequoia tree that stands almost 210ft.

If you prefer to visit nearby Sequoia National Park to Mariposa Grove, you should check out if the roads are open and conditions of the roads that depend on the time of year you are taking your southwest trip. In winter, the roads are often under snow and closed.

Next stop: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in California should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Yosemite National Park in California in USA © World Travel Connector
Yosemite National Park in California should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Yosemite National Park in California © World Travel Connector

Distance from Mariposa Grove to Yosemite Valley is 33 mi (53 km). One hour drive following the Wawona Rd will take you to Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park in California should be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Me at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park in California © World Travel Connector

Yosemite NP is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the U.S.  covering more than 300,000 hectares of distinctive wilderness. It is especially appreciated for the biological diversity, untouched nature, thousands of lakes and ponds, valleys of unspoiled beauty, mind-blowing granite cliffs, heart-stopping waterfalls (5 highest waterfalls in the World are in Yosemite NP), and about 800 mi (1287 km) of thrilling hiking trails.

The Yosemite Valley is the center of Yosemite NP and all roads in Yosemite lead to Yosemite Valley. Driving in Yosemite Valley is a 7-mile one-way loop along which you can see many viewpoints, waterfalls, camping areas, and tiny villages.

Glacier Point should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park © World Travel Connector

When in Yosemite every visitor undeniably wants to explore main sites in Yosemite NP: Yosemite Valley, El Captain, Half Dome, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Tenaya Lake. Probably, you are no exception in listing the main sites in Yosemite you want to see. I wasn’t either.

Where to stay in Yosemite – recommended Yosemite hotels:
Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite, All Seasons Groveland Inn, Yosemite Westgate Lodge, Yosemite View Lodge, Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite

Next stop: San Francisco

Day 13-14: SAN FRANCISCO

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco San Francisco as a part of USA southwest road trip
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in California © World Travel Connector
Lombard Street in San Francisco San Francisco as a part of USA southwest road trip
Lombard Street in San Francisco © World Travel Connector

The distance from Yosemite to San Francisco is 190 mi (307 km). A 3 hour and 40 min drive following the I-580 W route will take you to San Francisco from Yosemite NP.

Spend two or three days in SF to get insight into the town. There is much to love about San Francisco: from diverse cultures and interesting history to good food and excellent wine from nearby Napa Valley and Sonoma County, exquisite architecture and amazing parks and more.

San Francisco as a part of USA southwest road trip
San Francisco downtown © World Travel Connector

If you are visiting SF for the first time, most likely you don’t want to miss visiting San Francisco landmarks: Golden Gate Bridge, SF Pier, and Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, The Castro neighborhood, Golden Gate Park and Promenade, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Filbert Steps, China Town.

Where to stay in San Francisco – recommended hotels in San Francisco:
Hotel Nikko San Francisco (5-min away from Union Square), Americania Hotel (in SoMa neighborhood), Inn San Francisco (in the Mission), Stanyan Park Hotel (in Haight-Ashbury), Courtyard by Marriot Fishermans Wharf (in Fisherman’s Wharf)

Check here to get the best rates for your stay in San Francisco

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Southwest road trip planner map

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THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

12 comments

  1. This is actually my next plans for the road trip in the states and I cant wait to get out there. Not to worry about the cities, I just want to get into the national parks and see all those amazing views.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Danik. Exactly, USA southwest is all about stunning nature, amazing national parks, and breathtaking landscapes. Cities are lovely, but nature in the southwest of the US is unparalleled.

  2. This was the first trip I took with my husband, then-boyfriend, over 20 years ago. He was working for Marriott as a very junior Chef back then and somehow managed to get us free stays and upgrades in every town we visited. We got free stays long before I was a travel blogger! We didn’t get to Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe Bend, I don’t think we’d even heard of them. I remember San Diego was my favourite place and we had a ball at Disney and there were elephant seals on a beach. We just spotted them as we drove up the coast. Great trip!

    1. Hi Alyson,

      nice to read my post took you down memory lane.
      What a pity you missed visiting Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. They are one of the most surreal places on Earth. But, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are always a good reason to go back to Arizona.

      I haven’t made to visit San Diego. Not yet. And, I can’t wait to visit it!

      xoxo Milijana

  3. We are heading to Arizona in the fall. So this was a very timely post. The Antelope Canyon has been on my travel wish list for a long time. Thanks for saying that we need at least 2 days in Sedona. We are excited to visit Page and use it as a base to explore Horseshoe bend. Thanks for getting me excited about our fall trip. Your photos were a great tease.

  4. I have been to so many of these locations and so absolutely love this itinerary! I am just sad to have missed Death Valley and Yosemite – those Sequoias are incredible!

  5. I absolutely love the southwestern part of the United States. All of the different colors of the desert and some of the oddest plants. I haven’t been to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, but would really love to go sometime. Also Yosemite is on my list for sure. I want to hug a giant tree. Love your photos.

  6. This is so amazingly detailed!! I’ve done a version of this trip (SF to LA with a loop around big sur, sequoia, yosemite etc) but never made it as far as Arizona and Nevada. Planning on doing it in the fall though, but probably will start in Las Vegas – but I’ll for sure modify parts of this itinerary as you hit a lot of the places I want to go. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. This was a wonderful trip! You’ve been to some of the most astounding parts of the west. My favorite is Sequoia Park and Yosemite. I live in Los Angeles and did this itinerary many times before, but somehow I’ve always missed Antelope Valley. I’ve been told that place is always crowded, but somehow every picture I see the canyon seems deserted. Were you just lucky to find it empty?

  8. Wow! That is one epic road trip. I can’t imagine doing all of this on one trip but certainly each destination is worth a visit on its own. I just recently went to Death Valley for the first time — so amazing! Grand Canyon and Zion are also among my favorites.

  9. Wow, you covered a lot on this road trip! I grew up in California so all of the California things you mentioned here are very familiar to me. I think I’ve driven only as far out to Utah and Las Vegas on one road trip. No arguments from me with your recommendations here 🙂

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