1. Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Taking the road from Las Vegas to Zion National Park offers a journey filled with stunning landscapes, away from the typical tourist routes. As you venture forth, the first leg of the trip takes you through the Mojave Desert, a vast expanse characterized by its striking desert scenery and solitude. Here, take time to visit the Valley of Fire State Park, named for its radiant red sandstone formations, which often appear to be on fire with the rising or setting sun. The short detour is a photographer's paradise and a great spot for a brief hike.

Continuing the journey, you'll reach the small town of Mesquite. A relaxing pit stop, Mesquite offers some fine dining choices and small-town charm. It's a good place to stretch your legs before the more winding roads ahead.

As you drive deeper into Utah, the road weaves through the beautiful Virgin River Gorge. This stretch offers dramatic views of towering cliffs and the winding river below. Take the opportunity to stop and snap a few photos or simply enjoy the majestic scenery.

Approaching St. George, known for its unique red rock cliffs, mild climate, and vibrant arts scene, you'll find a good place to refuel, both your vehicle and yourself. Enjoy local eateries or one of the many parks for a brief respite.

Finally, the road leads you into Zion National Park, where the red rock wonderland awaits. Zion offers an oasis of beauty with towering cliffs, narrow canyons, and emerald pools. It's a place where nature's artistry can truly be witnessed, and countless trails await those eager to explore.

This road trip from Las Vegas to Zion National Park promises natural beauty and adventure. It offers a chance to discover hidden gems and breathtaking landscapes that few travelers take the time to explore.

A scenic drive through the Virgin River Gorge in Utah, with towering red rock cliffs and the winding river below.

2. Zion to Page, Arizona (Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend)

Leaving the mesmerizing landscapes of Zion National Park behind, your journey continues to the charming town of Page, Arizona. Heading southeast, you'll traverse through a series of picturesque Utah towns, eventually making your way down to Arizona. The drive itself is a feast for the eyes. Majestic plateaus and expansive desert vistas dominate the landscape, making it hard to resist pulling over to capture the beauty with your camera.

Your first major stop after Zion is the small yet significant community of Kanab, Utah. Known as "Little Hollywood" for its history as a backdrop for many Western films, Kanab promises a blend of cinematic charm and natural allure. Spend a little time exploring the quaint downtown area, perhaps even visiting the nearby Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyons, a preview of the grandeur that awaits.

Continuing your journey south, the border town of Big Water signals your arrival into Arizona. Here, the scenery starts transitioning into a land of undulating rock formations and vast reservoirs. As you approach Page, the anticipation builds for two bucket-list destinations:

  • Antelope Canyon: This slot canyon offers an ethereal experience like no other. Divided into Upper and Lower sections, these canyons boast narrow passages where sunlight filters through the high cliffs, creating mesmerizing patterns of light and shadow. Be sure to book a guided tour in advance, as these canyons are on Navajo land and require local guides to explore.
  • Horseshoe Bend: Just a short drive from Antelope Canyon, this stunning viewpoint offers a sweeping 270-degree view of the Colorado River as it meanders around a massive rock outcropping, shaped like its namesake. The experience involves a short hike from the parking area, but the view is absolutely worth it. Sunset is an especially dramatic time to visit, as the sky's colors reflect off the river's curves, creating an unforgettable scene.

Page itself is a charming town, offering various amenities from local dining options to comfortable lodgings. Consider relaxing at Lake Powell, a reservoir renowned for its strikingly blue waters contrasting the red rock landscape. Kayak or paddleboard rentals are popular here, making it a fantastic spot for a leisurely afternoon.

This route from Zion to Page, Arizona, is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. It's an opportunity to immerse yourself in the geology and natural beauty that defines the American Southwest.

Hikers exploring the narrow canyon walls and emerald pools of the Narrows in Zion National Park.

3. Page, AZ to 4 Corners Monument (Teec Nos Pos)

Leaving Page, Arizona, continue your journey eastward to the Four Corners Monument. This drive unveils the raw beauty of the American Southwest and offers a captivating mix of natural and cultural heritage.

As you depart from Page, head into the vast expanse of Navajo Nation. This is a scenic drive, with sweeping vistas showcasing vibrant hues of red, orange, and brown, punctuated by occasional mesas and rugged rock formations.

About halfway along your route, make a pit stop at the town of Kayenta. Known as a gateway to Monument Valley, Kayenta itself is much quieter but offers an authentic insight into Navajo culture. Consider visiting the Navajo Code Talkers Museum located in the Kayenta Burger King—an unlikely but significant stop. This small but compelling exhibit honors the Navajo men who played a crucial role in the Pacific Theater during World War II by using their language to create an unbreakable code.

Continuing your journey north from Kayenta, you will soon approach the Natural Bridges National Monument. This lesser-known gem features remarkable rock formations, including three expansive natural bridges formed through millennia by the force of flowing water. You can hike the various trails or take in the views from several scenic overlooks—all offering perfect photo opportunities.

Finally, arriving at the Four Corners Monument, you'll find yourself standing in a uniquely significant spot in the United States. Here, one can be in four states—Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah—at once. A plaque marks the exact point where these states converge, inviting visitors to stand, sit, or even stretch across multiple states simultaneously for a photo opportunity.

The Four Corners Monument is more than just a novelty, though. The surrounding area, managed by the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, hosts a small marketplace. Here, you'll find local artisans selling handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and other culturally significant crafts. It's a wonderful opportunity to support local communities and bring home a piece of southwestern heritage.

This leg of the journey, from Page to the Four Corners Monument, encapsulates the spirit of American road trips—an open road punctuated by hidden gems of natural beauty and cultural significance. It offers an unforgettable experience, underscoring the profound beauty of the American Southwest.

Stunning light beams filtering through the narrow passages of Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona.

4. 4 Corners Monument to Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Now that you've experienced the unique junction of four states at the Four Corners Monument, it's time to venture into Colorado and explore one of the nation's most extraordinary archaeological sites—Mesa Verde National Park. This leg of the journey promises a blend of cultural intrigue and natural splendor, offering a comprehensive exploration of ancient indigenous history.

Leaving Four Corners, head northeast into the heart of the Colorado Plateau. The drive itself is captivating, with panoramic vistas stretching across rugged canyons and mesas that seem to rise dramatically from the desert floor. En route, consider making a brief stop in the charming town of Cortez, CO. This town offers basic amenities and is an excellent place to gather supplies or have a quick meal. It's also home to the Cortez Cultural Center, where you can get a primer on the regional history and cultures you'll be exploring at Mesa Verde.

As you approach Mesa Verde National Park, the anticipation builds. Known for its remarkably well-preserved cliff dwellings, the park is a testament to the ingenuity and architectural prowess of the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the region from the 6th to the 12th centuries.1

Upon entering the park, start your exploration at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, where exhibits provide a comprehensive introduction to Puebloan culture and history. From there, embark on a tour of the park's iconic cliff dwellings:

  • Cliff Palace: The largest and perhaps most famous site, this is a must-see. Guided tours offer intricate details about the construction and daily life of the inhabitants who once called these structures home.
  • Balcony House: Another significant site, which offers a more adventurous experience. Accessed via ladders and tunnels, this tour provides a sense of the challenges and ingenuity involved in constructing and inhabiting cliff dwellings.

The park also features several hiking trails, such as the Petroglyph Point Trail, which leads you to ancient petroglyphs etched into rock faces. These carvings provide further insight into the spiritual and cultural life of the Ancestral Puebloans.

In addition to the cliff dwellings, don't miss the opportunity to explore the mesa tops, where you'll find the remnants of ancient agricultural terraces, reservoirs, and pit houses. These sites allow a broader understanding of how the Puebloans adapted to and thrived in their environment.

The route from the Four Corners Monument to Mesa Verde National Park is a passage through both time and terrain, offering travelers an immersive experience into the ancient world of the Ancestral Puebloans. It's a drive that reveals the breathtaking beauty of the American Southwest and encapsulates its rich history and culture.

Tourists standing on the Four Corners Monument where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet.

5. Mesa Verde, CO to Durango, CO

Leaving Mesa Verde, head east along the scenic route that gently descends from the mesa tops into rolling farmlands. The rural serenity of this drive contrasts the rugged terrain of the park, with green fields and open spaces stretching out in every direction. As you near Durango, the landscape gradually shifts, offering glimpses of the Animas River meandering through the valley.

Upon arriving in Durango, it's impossible not to be captivated by its well-preserved 19th-century architecture. Founded in 1881, this historic town offers a glimpse into the old west with its well-maintained storefronts and quaint streets. Spend some time wandering down Main Avenue, where you can explore a variety of boutiques, art galleries, and inviting cafes. The historic Strater Hotel, with its Victorian elegance, is a must-visit; its rich history and charming saloon are perfect for stepping back in time.

One of the highlights of Durango is undoubtedly the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Operating since 1882, this historic steam train offers a unique and scenic journey through the San Juan National Forest to the old mining town of Silverton. The route follows the course of the Animas River, winding through narrow canyons and over trestle bridges, providing spectacular views of the rugged terrain. Be sure to book tickets in advance, as this popular attraction is a favorite among visitors year-round.

For those seeking a bit more adventure, Durango offers numerous outdoor activities:

  • The Animas River provides excellent opportunities for kayaking, rafting, and fishing.
  • The surrounding mountains are crisscrossed with hiking and mountain biking trails, catering to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts.
  • The Animas Mountain Trail, just north of town, is particularly noteworthy for its panoramic views of Durango and the surrounding valley.

Durango isn't just about history and outdoor adventures; it also boasts a burgeoning culinary scene. Local restaurants and breweries pride themselves on sourcing fresh, regional ingredients, offering everything from gourmet dining to casual meals. A visit to the James Ranch Grill is highly recommended, where you can enjoy farm-to-table cuisine against the backdrop of the beautiful Animas Valley.

As the day ends, consider staying in one of Durango's historic hotels or cozy lodges, where the charm of old-world hospitality meets modern comfort. The blend of Durango's rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant local culture makes it a perfect continuation of your road trip, offering a delightful mix of relaxation and adventure.

The stunning Cliff Palace, an ancient Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

6. Durango to Ouray, CO via the Million Dollar Highway

Leaving Durango behind, prepare yourself for one of the most breathtaking and exhilarating drives in the United States: the journey to Ouray, Colorado via the iconic Million Dollar Highway. Set against the majestic San Juan Mountains, this stretch of U.S. Route 550 offers 25 miles of some of the most stunning and dramatic scenery in the country, making the drive as much an adventure as the destinations themselves.

As you begin your ascent from Durango, the landscape transforms rapidly from rolling farmlands to rugged mountain terrain. The road carves through dense forests and along the edges of dramatic cliffs, offering panoramic views of towering peaks and verdant valleys. The Million Dollar Highway is renowned for its steep grades and hairpin curves, so while the drive is thrilling, it demands careful attention and respect for its sheer drops and narrow stretches.

One of the first notable stops along the way is the small community of Silverton. Nestled in a high mountain valley, Silverton was once a booming mining town in the late 19th century. Today, it retains much of its old-west charm with historic buildings and a picturesque main street. If you didn't have the chance to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, consider catching a glimpse of this historic train as it arrives in Silverton. Spend a little time exploring the town's antique shops, art galleries, and charming eateries before continuing your journey.

Leaving Silverton, the road climbs even higher, reaching heights of well over 11,000 feet. This section, passing through Red Mountain Pass, is one of the most scenic and photographed stretches of the highway. Be sure to pull over at the various lookouts to fully appreciate the stunning vistas of the craggy peaks, alpine meadows, and if you're traveling in summer, fields of vibrant wildflowers.

Continuing north, the remnants of historic mining operations dot the landscape, offering a peek into the area's rich history. You might spot the rusting remains of old mining equipment and deserted buildings, standing as silent witnesses to the once-thriving mining industry that gave the highway its name and reputation.

Approaching the descent into Ouray, also known as the "Switzerland of America," the views remain nothing short of spectacular. The town of Ouray is nestled in a valley surrounded by steep cliffs and towering peaks, offering an almost fairy-tale-like setting. As you enter Ouray, you'll be greeted by Victorian-era architecture and welcoming locals.

Ouray is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The town boasts a network of hiking and off-roading trails that cater to all levels of adventurers. The Perimeter Trail is a local favorite, offering stunning views of the town and surrounding mountain scenery. After a day of exploring, unwind in the Ouray Hot Springs, where you can soak in naturally heated pools while taking in the breathtaking mountain views.

The town's Main Street is home to a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants offering everything from handmade crafts to gourmet cuisine. Be sure to visit the historic Beaumont Hotel and the Wright Opera House for a dose of local history and culture.

7. Ouray, CO to Moab, UT (Arches National Park)

Begin your day in Ouray, often referred to as the "Switzerland of America" for its charming alpine setting. One of the best ways to experience the rugged terrain surrounding this picturesque town is with an escorted jeep ride. These guided tours take you off the beaten path into the San Juan Mountains, offering exhilarating rides through some of Colorado's most breathtaking landscapes. Whether you choose the exciting journey up to Imogene Pass or the historical trek through the ghost town of Animas Forks, the jeep ride provides an up-close view of the region's mining history and natural beauty.

Feeling invigorated by the morning's adventure, you'll hit the road toward Moab, Utah. The journey itself presents an ever-changing panorama as you leave the lush green valleys of Colorado and enter the austere, yet strikingly beautiful, desert landscape of Utah. The drive along U.S. Route 550 and Utah's Highway 46 offers plenty of scenic pull-offs, so keep your camera handy.

Crossing the Colorado-Utah border, the landscape transforms dramatically as you approach the town of Moab, a bustling hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Before diving into the splendor of Arches National Park, consider a brief stop in town to refuel—both your vehicle and your energy. Moab thrives with local eateries, shops, and the occasional artisan market, offering a delightful break before your next big adventure.

Arches National Park, just a short drive north of Moab, stands as a testament to the eons of natural forces that sculpted its unique landscape. Known for its picturesque arches and surreal rock formations, the park is a photographer's dream. Start at the visitor center to get your bearings and grab a map. Rangers are available to provide insights and suggestions, tailored to your time and interests.

Your first stop inside the park could be the iconic Delicate Arch. This freestanding natural archway is a symbol of Utah and a must-see sight. A moderate hike of about 3 miles round trip takes you to this stunning landmark, providing ample opportunities for photography and quiet contemplation. For those who prefer a less strenuous walk, the Windows Section offers easier trails with a high concentration of accessible arches, including the massive North and South Windows and the stunning Double Arch.

Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons and passages, offers a more adventurous option. Here, you can take a ranger-led tour through this intricate maze to better understand the geology and ecology of the park.

The park boasts over 2,000 natural arches and other remarkable formations such as Balanced Rock and Landscape Arch, the latter being the longest natural arch in the park. As you explore, don't miss the opportunity to capture the changing light as the sun casts its golden hues over the red rocks, especially during the magic hours of sunrise and sunset.

After a day of incredible sights, head back into Moab, where you can unwind with some of the town's finest dining options. Whether you're in the mood for Southwestern cuisine, a juicy burger, or something more exotic, Moab's culinary scene is vibrant and diverse. In the evening, consider joining a stargazing tour. The remote location of the park ensures minimal light pollution, making it one of the best places in the United States to witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of the night sky.1

8. Moab, UT to Capitol Reef and Fairyland, UT

Leaving Moab, head west on UT-24 towards Capitol Reef National Park. The landscape gradually changes from red rock formations to the colorful stratifications of Capitol Reef's rugged terrain. Stop at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center for maps, trail guides, and insights from knowledgeable rangers.

Hike the Cassidy Arch Trail for unparalleled views of the rugged landscape and a stunning natural arch. For a shorter experience, try the 2-mile round trip Hickman Bridge Trail leading to a massive natural bridge.

Continue to the hidden enclave of Fairyland, known for its quieter trails and surreal rock formations. The Fairyland Loop Trail offers nine miles of picturesque views and solitude through whimsical hoodoos, spires, and fins. The lack of crowds allows for a more intimate connection with the landscape.

Beyond hiking, Fairyland provides opportunities for photography, wildlife watching, and basking in the peaceful ambiance. Consider spending the night under the stars or finding accommodation in nearby towns like Torrey, UT.

The iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, silhouetted against a vibrant sunset sky.

9. Capitol Reef, UT to Bryce Canyon (via scenic routes 12 & 24)

From Capitol Reef, take Route 24 westward through the Fremont River Gorge and past the idyllic settlement of Fruita. At the junction with Route 12, designated an All-American Road, the adventure truly begins. This route covers 124 miles through Utah's varied terrain, connecting Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon while passing through the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

One standout section is the Calf Creek Recreation Area, offering notable trails such as the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike, a moderate 6-mile round trip leading to a stunning 126-foot waterfall. Boulder, Utah, serves as a gateway to the Burr Trail, showcasing incredible slot canyons and slickrock formations.

As you continue, visit the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park to see ancient petrified wood. The route ascends to nearly 9,000 feet at the Boulder Mountain summit, offering sweeping views across the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

  • The road takes you to the unique geological wonder of the Hogback, a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs on either side.
  • Finally, Route 12 descends into Tropic, signaling your proximity to Bryce Canyon.
  • The landscape morphs into the park's iconic hoodoos, creating a surreal and otherworldly scene.

Bryce Canyon offers numerous opportunities for exploration, from the Sunrise Point to winding trails such as the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden, bringing you into the heart of these unique formations.

Hikers exploring the whimsical hoodoos and rock formations along the Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

10. Bryce Canyon to Colorado Springs (via Silverton and Cripple Creek)

Leaving Bryce Canyon, head north on UT-22, connecting with UT-62 and merging onto US-89. Cross into Colorado and detour to Silverton, a historic mining town in the San Juan Mountains. Walk down Silverton's Main Street, explore the Old Hundred Gold Mine, and visit the San Juan County Historical Society for intriguing exhibits on the area's mining history.

Silverton offers outdoor activities like hiking and off-roading trails in summer and snow sports in winter. Continue southeast on the Million Dollar Highway, known for its sheer drop-offs, curves, and panoramic views.

Next, stop at Cripple Creek, a blend of rich history and modern attractions. Once a prolific gold mining district, the town now stands as a living museum with well-preserved buildings. Stroll down Bennett Avenue to see historic hotels, casinos, and shops housed in Victorian buildings.

Ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad for a scenic tour through mining sites. Visit the Cripple Creek Heritage Center or the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine for a deeper dive into local history.

As you approach Colorado Springs, the drive winds through picturesque landscapes with views of rolling hills, meadows, and Pikes Peak in the distance. Colorado Springs boasts a rich tapestry of cultural, historical, and natural attractions.

  • Visit the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark featuring striking red rock formations.1
  • Take a drive up Pikes Peak for breathtaking views.
  • The historical Broadmoor Hotel offers luxurious accommodations and world-class dining.
  • Visit the U.S. Air Force Academy's iconic chapel and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum for insights into local history and culture.
The historic buildings and Victorian-era architecture along Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek, Colorado, a former gold mining town.

This road trip through America's captivating landscapes promises an array of unforgettable experiences, from historic towns to breathtaking national parks, making every mile worth the journey.