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Best Road Trip from Phoenix: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell and Las Vegas

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Looking for the best road trip from Phoenix? We’ve got you covered! This amazing itinerary includes the natural beauty of Southwest National Parks, the splashy fun of Lake Powell, and the glitz of Las Vegas. You’ll find options to modify this Arizona, Southern Utah and Nevada road trip to meet your desired vacation length and family’s interests. We share drive times, fun activities, recommended restaurants, and where to stay. Journey with us to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Vegas. Let’s go!

Best Road Trip from Phoenix, Arizona

Best Road Trip from Phoenix, Arizona (Photo credit: snehitdesign, Depositphotos.com)

1. Grand Canyon National Park

An Arizona road trip staple, the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States, and for good reason. This stunning sunset-colored canyon is a whopping 6,000 feet deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long. Photos simply can’t do this natural wonder justice. It’s just too vast to comprehend until you see it in-person. 

Grand Canyon view

Grand Canyon view (Photo credit: martinm303, Depositphotos.com)

Hiking the Grand Canyon South Rim with Kids

Hiking trails are more limited at the Grand Canyon than at other destinations listed in this guide. The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular and easily accessed option. If you’re thinking you’ll hike down the canyon and back in a day, then think again! Schedule about 4 hours to descend to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and another 6 to 8 to climb back up. It will take even longer if hiking with children. Believe me, going up is MUCH harder than going down! 

Hikers on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon

Hikers on the Bright Angel Trail (Photo credit: fblanco7305, Depositphotos.com)

Other Grand Canyon Activities

Other activities to enjoy at Grand Canyon South include helicopter rides, watching Native American dance performances, descending the canyon via mule, and riding the Grand Canyon Railway from nearby Williams to the rim.

Mule train at the Grand Canyon

Mule train at the Grand Canyon (Photo credit: rybarmarekk, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Dine Near the Grand Canyon

Food near the Grand Canyon doesn’t get high marks on Yelp for a reason. The El Tovar Dining Room offers spectacular views of the canyon, but the food won’t blow you away. 

The Historic Brewing Company in nearby Williams, however, is worthy of a drive for good eats. You can watch the game on TV indoors or dine al fresco on their outdoor patio. Mom and dad will appreciate plenty of beers on tap plus a sweet array of Grand Canyon Wine Co. wines.

Historic Brewing Company in Williams, Arizona

Grand Canyon Co. rosé at Historic Brewing Company in Williams, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

How Long to Spend at the Grand Canyon

Unless you plan to hike to the bottom of the canyon or you want to visit the remote Havasupai Falls, one night or two is plenty of time at this National Park.

Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Native American Reservation in the Grand Canyon

Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Native American Reservation in the Grand Canyon (Photo credit: luckyphotographer, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon

Accommodations at the rim of the Grand Canyon are limited. Plan to make your hotel reservations about a year in advance if you want to stay within the National Park. El Tovar is the oldest and grandest resort at the rim, made of limestone and pine in 1905 to evoke a Swiss chalet. The only accommodations at the bottom of Grand Canyon South can be found at the extremely popular Phantom Ranch. For easier-to-book options a few miles outside Grand Canyon National Park, consider hotels in Tusayan or Williams instead. 

El Tovar Hotel on the rim of Grand Canyon South

El Tovar Hotel on the rim of Grand Canyon South (Photo credit: LindaHarms, Depositphotos.com)

The closest Arizona city to the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff, a charming college town that is home to Northern Arizona University. You’ll find a sweet walkable downtown and plentiful hiking trails amid ponderosa pines here. If you don’t mind staying further from the Grand Canyon, then Flagstaff makes a good choice. It’s about a 90-minute drive from here to the South Rim. My family adored our 3-bedroom Airbnb rental in Flagstaff, which is walking distance to many restaurants and shops, and features a barbecue, hammock, hot tub, and fire pit in the backyard.

3-bedroom Flagstaff AirBnB

Flagstaff Airbnb that my family rented (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Drive to the Grand Canyon

The drive from Phoenix or Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon South Rim should take about 3.5 hours unless you encounter heavy tourist traffic.

Grand Canyon Skywalk at Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon Skywalk at Grand Canyon West (Photo credit: bloodua, Depositphotos.com)

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Alternatively, bypass the Grand Canyon on the first leg of your trip and opt to stop at Grand Canyon West as you head back to Phoenix from Utah and Nevada. That’s where you can brave the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass-bottom bridge suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. The drive from Zion to the Skywalk should take about 5 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions. 

Learn More About the Grand Canyon

For additional tips and things to do in and near this National Park, take a look at our complete guide to the Grand Canyon with kids.

Houseboats on Lake Powell

Houseboats on Lake Powell (Photo credit: fotoluminate, Depositphotos.com)

2. Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Located in Page in northeastern Arizona on the Border of Utah — Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon offer lots of beauty and fun for nature lovers. Antelope Canyon is not a National Park. In fact, this stunning slot canyon is located on Navajo land. Meanwhile, Lake Powell is one of the biggest lakes in the U.S. and offers all sorts of watery adventures. 

Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ

Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hiking Antelope Canyon with Kids

Because Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, you are not allowed to explore here without a Navajo guide. Choose from a variety of guided tours of Lower and/or Upper Antelope Canyon. The guides will show you the way through the winding sandstone canyon walls. They will also keep you safe; Antelope Canyon can become dangerous and flood quickly during sudden rainstorms. Note that although Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings, the Navajo Nation does, which can make timing tours tricky. 

Antelope Canyon kayaking tour

My son paddling on our Antelope Canyon kayak tour (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Antelope Canyon Kayaking Tour

For a unique and awe-inspiring way to enter Antelope Canyon, consider booking an Antelope Canyon kayaking tour. You’ll paddle across a portion of Lake Powell and between the majestic Antelope Canyon walls. Then you’ll embark on a guided journey on foot through the slot canyon. On the way back, our group stopped kayaking long enough for some safe cliff diving to cool off. Water sandals are an absolute must for this excursion!

Children must be at least 5 years old to participate and little ones probably won’t be able to help much with paddling. In fact, my family’s 4-hour tour was quite strenuous even for my tween and teen.

Kayaks docked on the shore of Lake Powell in Antelope Canyon

Kayaks docked on the shore of Lake Powell in Antelope Canyon (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Lake Powell

Lake Powell offers plenty of activities for outdoorsy families. Many vacationers rent houseboats here for a water-focused holiday filled with swimming, jet skiing, boating, fishing, and more.

Speedboats on Lake Powell

Speedboats on Lake Powell (Photo credit: Teacherdad48, Depositphotos.com)

Horseshoe Bend

Located just outside Page, you’ll find the u-shaped Horseshoe Bend, which is also referred to as the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. This scenic overlook is 1,000 feet above the Colorado River. Surprisingly, it’s just a 20-minute hike from the parking lot to reach this gorgeous view. This really is just a photo op stop and should only take about an hour total to enjoy. 

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Eat in Page

Treat your family to some incredible Italian food at Bonkers Restaurant. The décor isn’t anything special but there’s an outdoor patio and the food is divine. Gluten-free pasta is available, too.

After a long day of exploring, grab some delicious and affordable fried chicken and your choice of fixin’s from Birdhouse.

You might be surprised to find good sushi in Page. I know we were. New York Teriyaki serves hot Japanese dishes, too, like bul go ghi, ramen, and, of course, teriyaki.

Chicken bul go ghi, edamame, pork gyoza and side salad at New York Teriyaki in Page, AZ

Chicken bul go ghi, edamame, pork gyoza and side salad at New York Teriyaki (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

How Long to Stay in Page

Truly, you could plan a weeklong vacation at Lake Powell and never get bored. If you’re just planning to stop here to explore Antelope Canyon, take a peek at Horseshoe Bend, and maybe rent a boat for a few hours — then two to three nights should be sufficient.

Houseboats for rent on Lake Powell

Houseboats for rent on Lake Powell (Photo credit: brians101, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay Near Lake Powell

For houseboat rentals, take a look at LakePowellHouseBoating.com or LakePowell.com.

H Lazy A Ranch House Airbnb rental

H Lazy A Ranch House Airbnb rental (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

My family opted to stay on dry land in Page. We booked two nights at H Lazy A Ranch House via Airbnb. This was by far the most thoughtful vacation rental experience we’ve ever had. Our hosts left us fresh fruits, cut flowers, and a sweet customized sign to welcome us. There were also jars of candies, s’mores fixings, hot cocoa, and an array of coffee pod flavors to choose from. The owners even stopped by to deliver us a basket of fresh eggs from their chickens. They also offered us a tour of their farm animals, which we happily accepted. The cowboy decor is darling, and the beds are comfy. Plus, the kitchen is stocked with every pot, pan, dish or utensil you’d ever need. Bathrooms come stocked with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, too. 

If hotels are more your jam, read reviews of hotels on Lake Powell via Expedia or the best hotels in Page via Hotels.com.

The drive to Page from Phoenix

The drive to Page from Phoenix (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Drive to Page

From the Grand Canyon South Rim, it should take about 2 hours to drive to Page, AZ. If you’re skipping the Grand Canyon South stop, then plan on 4.25 hours or so to reach Page from the Phoenix area.

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is next up on the best road trip from Phoenix. This National Park is renowned for its splendid hoodoos. These intriguing thin, tall rock spires were created by weather erosion like ice and rain.

Hiking Queen's Garden Trail

Queen’s Garden Trail hikers (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hiking Bryce Canyon with Kids

Trails are plentiful at Bryce Canyon and vary from very short stroller and wheelchair accessible routes, to strenuous multi-day treks.

My family chose the Queen’s Garden Trail because it is one of the easiest in the park. For that reason, this trail is popular, especially with families of children. It is so-named because a hoodoo at the endpoint looks (somewhat) like Queen Victoria.

This hike in/hike out trail is about 1.8 miles total and descends 320 feet. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, depending on how often you stop to take photos (often!) or catch your breath. Although the Queen’s Garden Trail is supposed to be moderately easy, the trek back up is pretty strenuous. I probably wouldn’t attempt Queen’s Garden Trail with kids younger than age 8 or so, unless they are hearty hikers, or you put little ones in a backpack carrier.

The Queen on Queen's Garden Trail

The “Queen” is the hoodoo furthest left in this image (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Scenic Driving Tour of Bryce Canyon

I’m not usually one for driving tours because I’d rather explore by foot, bicycle or horseback. To appreciate the vastness and variety of Bryce’s beauty, however, a self-guided scenic driving tour is a must. Start and end your tour at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. The entire loop is 34 miles long and should take you about 2 hours to complete, or longer if you stop for a hike.

Start by driving all the way to Rainbow Point (about 35 minutes from the Visitors Center). Then drive back, turning off into parking lots on your right along the way, thus avoiding crossing traffic. There is an easy loop trail at Rainbow Point that takes about 45 minutes to complete and is a great option for families with kids.

Bryce Canyon's Natural Bridge

Bryce Canyon’s Natural Bridge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Each stop on the way back to the Visitor Center seems prettier than the previous one. There are a total of 20 different viewpoints and natural landmarks, so you’ll probably want to skip some, especially if traveling with children. Not to be missed is Agua Canyon, which overlooks two grand, precarious-looking hoodoos. Natural Bridge is a stunner, too, with an impressive archway carved by nature. The absolute highlight is Sunset Point with a sweeping view of pink, orange and white jagged hoodoos in the Bryce Amphitheater.

Bryce Amphitheater as seen from Sunset Point

Bryce Amphitheater as seen from Sunset Point (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Red Canyon Dixie National Forest

If you don’t want to deal with crowds within Bryce Canyon National Park, or you’re looking for some different scenery, then plan to spend one day hiking the nearby Red Canyon National Forest. Choose from several moderately easy hiking trails that begin near the visitor center. Those who have been to Sedona, Arizona will find the red rock landscape familiar and equally breathtaking. For a short hike, choose the 30-minute Arches Trail, which passes 15 arches as you wind through a canyon.

Red Canyon Dixie National Forest

Red Canyon Dixie National Forest (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Dining Options Near Bryce Canyon

Restaurant and grocery options near Bryce Canyon are extremely limited. Some of the “restaurants” are little more than convenience stores with a deli counter at the back. There are, however, a couple of good options for hungry hikers. I.d.k. BBQ in Tropic smokes some very good barbecue and provides picnic tables out front. Meanwhile, Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant serves up tasty comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers an array of freshly made pies.

IDK BBQ near Bryce Canyon

I.d.k. BBQ near Bryce Canyon (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Buying Alcohol Near Bryce Canyon

For those who like to imbibe, you must buy wine, beer, and liquor with more than 4 percent alcohol in a liquor store rather than a grocery or convenience store in Utah. To stock up on adult beverages near Bryce Canyon, stop at Ruby’s General Store in Bryce Canyon City. The Ruby’s complex includes a hotel, campground, shopping, dining and activity center. 

Ruby's Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park offers shopping, dining and more

Ruby’s Inn offers shopping, dining and more (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

How Long to Stay at Bryce Canyon

Unless you’re a family of serious hikers or you want to book an excursion like horseback riding in Red Canyon, three nights is a good span of time to spend exploring Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Lodge at Bryce Canyon (Photo credit: Bryan W. Schaller, Wikimedia)

Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon

To save money, my family chose to bed down in a vacation rental home in Panguitch, about 30 minutes from the National Park. I wish we hadn’t. We found the town to be unfriendly to visitors, with few restaurants and only one tiny “grocery” store.

If you can afford it and you book far enough in advance, then make a reservation at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon within the National Park. Choose from 114 rooms, including suites, motel rooms and cabins. You’ll be in the heart of the park, just a short walk from the iconic Bryce Amphitheater. 

Take a look at the best ranked hotels near Bryce National Park according to TripAdvisor travelers. For more room to spread out and sleep well close to the National Park, review VRBO’s top 50 vacation rental homes in the area.

Red Arch Tunnel near Bryce Canyon

Red Arch Tunnel near Bryce Canyon (Photo credit: jaymudaliar, Depositphotos.com)

The Drive to Bryce Canyon

It will typically take a little over 2.5 hours to drive from Page in Arizona to Bryce Canyon in Utah.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Zion National Park

Zion is one of the most popular National Parks in the country, and it’s the most visited of Utah’s Big Five. Therefore, you should expect crowds here, particularly if visiting in summer or over holiday weekends like Easter.

A Zion National Park Ranger showing park goers a mountain lion skull while they wait in line for shuttle tickets

A Zion Park Ranger showing park goers a mountain lion skull while they wait in line for shuttle tickets (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Zion National Park Shuttle

To enforce social distancing, rows of seats on Zion’s shuttles have been removed in 2020 to limit the number of riders. Masks must be worn on the shuttles, too.

Park goers can purchase shuttle tickets for a nominal fee to ensure they get a seat on a shuttle to reach all of the trails and highlights of the National Park. One block of tickets is released at 9 am two weeks in advance, and another block is released one day in advance. Tickets sell out quickly (in minutes!). You’ll be given a one-hour window during which you need to arrive. The first shuttle departs from the Visitor Center at 7 am each day.

Even if you don’t score tickets in advance, you can still nab a shuttle seat. A limited number of tickets (300 when we visited in October 2020), are given out for free at 3 pm to those who line up in-person. I suggest arriving around 2 pm to be sure to get a seat. Plan to wait another hour or two before boarding.

In addition to shuttles within Zion National Park, there is a second shuttle system that is free and located in the neighboring town of Springdale. It stops at nine locations in town and picks up and drops off visitors at the park’s pedestrian/bike entrance.

Zion National Park shuttle bus

Zion National Park shuttle bus (Photo credit: Checubus, Depositphotos.com)

Parking at Zion

There are a few hikes that are accessible from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Keep in mind, though, if you want to reach popular spots like Zion Lodge, the Narrows or the Emerald Pools, you’ll need to board that shuttle.

Even the Visitor Center parking lot fills up fairly early in the day. Plan to arrive in the morning or come in the afternoon and hope to grab a spot as early birds pull out. Additional parking is available near the Zion Human History Museum. If you can’t find parking, then you’ll have to exit the park and take a shuttle in.

The Straight and Narrow of Angels Landing in Zion National Park

The Straight and Narrow of Angels Landing (Photo credit: kvddesign, Depositphotos.com)

Hiking at Zion with Kids

Thrill seekers will want to brave Angels Landing. Earth Trekkers explains, “The final climb of the hike involves scaling a narrow ridge high above the valley floor. With chain-assisted rock scrambling sections, stunning views, and vertigo-inducing heights, this really is a thrilling hike.” Hiking Angels Landing with kids may be too ambitious for most families.

Those seeking something less intimidating will love the Emerald Pools trails, which feature Zion’s hanging gardens. Plants like scarlet monkey flowers and golden columbine cling to canyon walls and bucolic ponds create a beautiful display. Emerald Pools Trails provide a 1 to 2.5 hour easy-moderate hike.

Waterfalls after rain at the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park

Waterfalls after rain at the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park (Photo credit: dawn2dawnphotography, Depositphotos.com)

If you couldn’t procure a spot on the shuttle, then join the crowds on Watchman’s Trail. Plan to spend about 2 hours hiking the 3.3-mile hike in-hike out route, which ascends 368 feet for a glorious view. According to Lonely Planet Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks guidebook, this is THE best place in the park to watch the sunset. We found the top to be a great spot to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view, too.

The shortest hike in the park is the Grotto Trail. It will take about 15 minutes to hike the easy trail .5 miles one-way from the Zion Lodge to the Grotto picnic area.

Pa’rus Trail is another easy hike. Bonus: it’s accessible without the shuttle. This paved wheelchair and stroller friendly path takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. It crisscrosses the lovely Virgin River, where I was lucky to spot a doe crossing and pausing for a sip.

A doe crossing Virgin River in Zion Canyon National Park

A doe crossing Virgin River in Zion Canyon National Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Sand Hallow State Park ATV Tour

Take a break from hiking and get your heart racing with an ATV tour in Sand Hallow State Park near Zion. You’ll zip up and down sand dunes and climb the 3,000-foot Sand Hallow Mountain. Kids as young as 2 can ride safely in their car seat in a side-by-side vehicle. Teens with a valid driver’s license can even drive an ATV. My family of four loved our 3-hour tour on a pair of 2-seaters. This was definitely the most exciting and memorable part of our entire Southwest road trip! Book your ATV & Jeep Adventure Tour now!

Sand Hallow State Park ATV tour

Sand Hallow State Park ATV tour (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Dining at Zion National Park

There are only two dining options within Zion National Park: Castle Dome Café snack bar and Red Rock Grill full-service restaurant. Grab a salad, sandwich or hot dog from the café to eat on the expansive grassy lawn in front of Zion Lodge or escape the crowds at the nearby Grotto picnic area. Red Rock Grill is offering take-out only during 2020.

Picnic lunch view at the top of Watchman's Trail in Zion National Park

Picnic lunch view at the top of Watchman’s Trail (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Restaurants are plentiful near Zion, especially when contrasted with the limited dining options near Bryce Canyon. Think barbecue, coffee houses, and other casual fare. There are a few delis in Springdale that offer sandwiches to-go, perfect for packing for an in-park picnic. My family was pleased with the tempting array of lunch items at Café Soleil, including delicious gluten-free bread for sensitive eaters like me.

Further afield, the cities of Washington and St. George offer even more restaurant choices. For particularly tasty Thai food in St. George, make a reservation at Banana Blossom. Also in St. George, Hash House a Go Go serves generous portions of their signature hashes and other breakfast dishes as well as a plethora of unique alcohol-free beverage concoctions like Kiwi Watermelon Lemonade or Double Shot Banana Latte.

Extremely good Thai food at Banana Blossom in St. George

Pineapple Curry Chicken and Chicken with Ginger Sauce at Banana Blossom (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

How Long to Stay at Zion

For two days of hiking and one day of an excursion like the Sand Hallow State Park ATV tour, plan to stay three to four nights at Zion National Park.

Grassy lawn in front of Zion Lodge

Grassy lawn in front of Zion Lodge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Stay at Zion 

Zion Lodge is the only accommodation option beyond camping within the National Park. One of the biggest advantages of staying at the Lodge is that you can drive to the hotel to park in designated guest parking. From there, you can walk to trailheads or board the shuttle.

Hotel, motel, and camping options are plentiful near Zion in Springdale. Families who prefer to spread out, will want to book a vacation rental home in the neighboring communities instead.

A view of Zion's East Temple from Mount Carmel Highway

A view of Zion’s East Temple from Mount Carmel Highway (Photo credit: SharpShooter, Depositphotos.com)

The Drive to Zion

It should take about 1.5 hours to drive between Bryce Canyon and Zion, without inclement weather or heavy tourist traffic.

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip (Photo credit: littleny, Depositphotos.com)

5. Las Vegas

Heading back to Phoenix, you can go the way you came from the east through Page and then hit up the Grand Canyon South if you missed it on your way out. Or you can venture west through Las Vegas, making a loop. If you’re in a hurry, then skip Las Vegas and power on through to Phoenix. But it would be a shame not stop along the Las Vegas Strip, at least for lunch and maybe to try your luck on the slots or tables!

Fountains of Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip

Fountains of Bellagio (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Las Vegas Strip

If gambling isn’t your thing, then choose from a variety of entertainment options. Las Vegas shows abound, featuring famous singers like Mariah Carey and magicians like Penn and Teller. Families especially enjoy the offbeat musical and performance art show, Blue Man Group at the Luxor.

Kids will enjoy playing carnival games for prizes and riding small indoor amusement park rides at the smoke-free Circus Circus. Take a ride to the top of the 1/3-scale Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino, embark on a gondola ride at the Venetian, or stop at the Bellagio to wander through their impressive themed indoor gardens and watch their famous outdoor water show. Also, both Mandalay Bay and the Mirage offer aquariums. 

For additional things to do in Las Vegas, take a look at our Las Vegas girlfriend getaway tips.

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Eat in Las Vegas 

Las Vegas has become a foodie town, with celebrity chefs from around the world showing off their culinary skills at an array of restaurants. At Caesar’s, Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen wows diners with show stoppers like Beef Wellington or Pineapple Carpaccio. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at the MGM Grand pleases all palates with Italian pastas and pizzas, as well as international fare like chicken schnitzel. For a themed dining adventure, kids always love the animal appeal of the Rainforest Café. Meanwhile, diners of all ages will appreciate the cute kitsch at Hello Kitty Café (temporarily closed).

Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen in Las Vegas

Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen (Photo credit: adameq2, Depositphotos.com)

Hoover Dam

Located only 45 minutes from Las Vegas in Boulder City, the Hoover Dam is worthy of a stop during the best road trip from Phoenix. Here, you can learn about the third largest dam in the U.S. and its important role in the American Southwest. It’s free to visit but you’ll get more out of the experience if you sign up for an educational tour. (The Hoover Dam is closed in 2020 due to social distancing concerns.)

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam (Photo credit: matejh, Depositphotos.com)

How Long to Stay in Las Vegas

I love Las Vegas…in small doses. You could stop here for lunch and a stroll, or spend one to three nights. When stopping for just a few hours, I suggest picking just one or two attractions to explore. The casinos are surprisingly further apart than they seem. If you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, then I recommend staying at least one night so you can view the city lit up in its flashy neon best.

Las Vegas at night

Las Vegas at night (Photo credit: luckyphotographer, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay in Las Vegas with Kids

My favorite hotel in Las Vegas has got to be the classy ARIA. Book a SkySuite for extra room for your family to spread out and enjoy the view of the Strip.

If your kids love swimming pools, then Mandalay Bay is a must. It features an 11-acre beach and pool complex complete with a lazy river. 

The Bellagio is always a great choice with its indoor gardens and water show. Of its nearly 4,000 rooms, 500 are suites, many of which offer kitchens and private terraces with pools.

Mandalay Bay Beach pools in Las Vegas

Mandalay Bay Beach (Photo credit: Roig61, Depositphotos.com)

The Drive to Las Vegas and Back to Phoenix

The drive from Zion to Las Vegas takes about 2.25 hours.

From Vegas, add another 5.25 hours to reach Phoenix. This final stretch of the journey is probably the most boring visually, with lots of flat desert and not a lot else to see. Much of the drive takes place on Highway 93, which is one of the most dangerous highways in the U.S. So stay alert, and, of course, skip the cocktails before hitting the road.

Hit the road from Las Vegas

Hit the road from Las Vegas (Photo credit: Roig61, Depositphotos.com)

Southwest National Parks Road Trip Tips

Use this itinerary as a baseline for building your best road trip from Phoenix. My family spent one week (8 nights) exploring the Southwest. We chose to skip the Grand Canyon on this go around since we have visited there before. Our trip consisted of 2 nights in Page, 3 nights near Bryce Canyon, 3 nights near Zion, and a few hours in Las Vegas on our way back home. If we’d had more time, I would have preferred to add a night in Las Vegas and an additional night near Zion.

Buy an America the Beautiful Pass

Purchase a National Parks pass at your first stop. It will pay for itself after entering the parks more than twice. Additionally, it’s good at all National Parks for a whole year. The pass does not, however, provide entrance to State Parks. For a small additional fee, you can buy your America the Beautiful Pass in advance online. 

Drive During the Day

Plan your drives to take place before the sun sets. Many of the roads you’ll be driving do not feature streetlights. They can be intimidating to navigate at night, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Plus, the scenery along much of this route is fascinating, with ever changing landscapes.

Pack Snacks

Bring a cooler and ice on your Southwest road trip. Whether you’re staying at vacation home rentals or in hotels (or camping) — you’re probably going to want to bring at least some chilled foods to eat at each destination. Groceries are limited at Bryce Canyon, so stock up on snacks and meals-to-make at a grocery store in Phoenix or Page.

Zion National Park Cliffs

Zion National Park Cliffs (Photo credit: friday, Depositphotos.com)

What to Pack for the Best Road Trip from Phoenix

  • Good Hiking Shoes
  • Sunblock
  • Camelbaks for All Family Members
  • Cooler
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats for Sun Protection
  • Day Backpack
  • Pepper Spray
  • Swimsuits
  • Sturdy Water Sandals for Kayaking Tour
  • Comfortable Layers for Hiking and Exploring
  • Long Pants for ATV or Horseback Ride
  • Smart Phone Carrier for Hiking
  • Safety Harness for Young Children
  • Baby Hiking Backpack
  • Refillable Water Bottles


I also found the Lonely Planet Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks guidebook to be a wonderful resource before and during our Southwest road trip.

Make planning your vacation even easier by reviewing our extensive travel packing lists before you go!

Arizona sunset with kids

Arizona sunset (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Explore More of the Southwest

For additional Arizona road trip ideas, be sure to take a look at these fun things to do in Prescott. We also recommend visiting Jerome, America’s biggest ghost town. To learn more about Arizona’s native peoples, read about Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments.

From Arizona, head west to New Mexico with this list of enchanting things to do in Albuquerque.

Or head north to Colorado for white water rafting, dinosaurs and Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and Cañon City. Those who love the outdoors AND luxury, will definitely want to check out glamping at the Broadmoor’s Emerald Valley.

Tips for Planning the Best Southwest Road Trip from Phoenix

Save These Tips for Planning the Best Road Trip from Phoenix

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Which of these Southwest destinations appeals to you most? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Shannon Blackham says

    I would love to kayak/hike Antelope Canyon although I’m a wimp when it comes to that drive to Page!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Oh but the drive is so worth it! I hate driving more than 6 or 7 hours in a day, but it’s just 4.25 hours or so from the Phoenix area to Page. You could always break it up with a stop at the Grand Canyon, too! Highly recommend! 🙂

  2. Karen Mullery says

    This is a great guide to so many interesting natural sites! Your photography is amazing and enticing. Love the detail about how much time to allow as well as where to find adult beverages in the middle of nowhere! I agree that Vegas is best in short visits, but I think 2 nights is optimal. I have wanted to go to Zion and now ill be prepared to do it right. Thanks!

  3. Shilpa bindlish says

    The view of Havasu Falls looks heavenly. How beautiful is this place which you rented to stay at. This post is worth a share with my friends who are planning trips out of India.

  4. Maria N Azanha says

    What a fabulous guide and pieces of advice for anyone looking to explore that part of the country Colleen! Thank you also for the tips on snacks. Very useful and I wouldn´t even think of the importance of packing that! Loved the photography, especially the one of Antelope Canyon! Stunner! Thank you for the article!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Thank you, Maria! I am so glad you liked this story and I hope you can visit these beautiful destination, too, someday!

  5. This sounds like an amazing trip! I love all the spots you shared. I’d love to take this trip with my family.

  6. What amazing itinerary 👏

  7. I’ve only been to Phoenix once, so I didn’t get to see most of these things. Hoping we can take a family road trip soon!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Nature-focused road trips are such a great option, especially this year! I hope you can hit the road and explore sometime soon!

  8. Gervin Khan says

    First of all thank you for sharing your wonderful experience and tour on these national park at the Grand Canyon. This place is on my bucket list and hoping to visit this amazing place in the near future. There’s so much here to see and everything looks so mesmerizing.

  9. Marie Phillips says

    There is so much more here than I even knew about. Havasu Falls is amazing. I want to go there more now than ever before.

  10. The Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, amazing and spectacular views. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trips.

  11. These photos are amazing. I really miss traveling I have so many places to visit!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      A road trip with lots of nature exploration is a great way to still travel AND maintain social distance! 🙂

  12. I’d love to be able to visit Las Vegas myself one day! It looks like such an incredible spot to be able to explore.

  13. This looks like an amazing trip all around! I would love to travel to all of these places and see them for myself. I’ve only been to Zion’s and thought it was an awesome place to explore.

    Kileen

  14. This trip sounds like a lot of fun. Such a great way to spend time with the family and explore new places. Thank you for this lovely guide. I enjoyed this virtual tour.

  15. Super Busy Mum says

    This road trip looks INCREDIBLE! I think this would be one of my favourite things to do at some point!

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