Exploring National Parks in South Western USA

Calendar pictures of National Parks always intrigued me.  I always wonder if I will ever be able to visit the stunning places they show and take similar pictures.  Last year, we learnt this was possible! 

This post is a little different.  In an earlier post, I had mentioned how the kids and I embarked on a Bus Tour of the Mountain States of USA.  Having taken that trip, below is an itinerary that I feel would work perfectly if we had focused on the area between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Day 1:  Salt Lake City & Provo

An option would have been to start and end the trip in Las Vegas.  However, based on our experience, I would certainly start the trip in Salt Lake City.  During our tour, we reached Salt Lake City late in the afternoon and we were able to explore the State House and surrounding areas.  The topography of Salt Lake City is very cool and unexpected.  There are some really nice cosmopolitan restaurants to try out as well.

In the evening, we headed to Provo for our night halt.  I would recommend Provo as a night halt.  It has some nice hotels and the views are very nice and best of all, it gives you a head start for the next day.

Day 2:  Provo to Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon

Starting early from Provo (like 5:30 am : ) ) will give you enough time to check out these parks (in my opinion).  While we were not able to stop and go inside Arches National Park, we did pass by it and it would have definitely been a nice place to stop and spend a couple of hours. 

Bryce Canyon  This is a place that is simply spectacular.  If given the opportunity, use this as your night halt.  During our visit, we did not have enough time to hike inside the park… but, we really wished we had time though.  My sons declared that they would certainly go back one day and do justice to the park.

Day 3:  Zion National Park, Page and Horseshoe bend then on to Tuba

Assuming you spent the night at Bryce Canyon or close to it, Zion would be an amazing start to Day 3.  Again, we did not have a chance to go inside the park, but, if given an opportunity, would certainly visit before heading to Page.  On the way to Page, you get to see Lake Powell as well.

Lower Antelope Canyon – This is a very interesting halt.  After climbing down steep stairs, you get to walk through a beautiful slot canyon.  The visit itself takes about two hours to complete.  Depending on how busy it is, the guides will usher you through the canyon at a fairly steady pace.  The pictures you are able to take are simply spectacular.  If photography is your primary purpose, then please book ahead and pick times that will allow for amazing pictures.  Even though we went around 2pm, the pictures we took were beautiful. 

Upper Antelope Canyon – We did not visit due to lack of time.  My understanding is that it is a lot more accessible but also more crowded.

Horseshoe Bend – Spending the evening at Horseshoe Bend is the perfect way to end the day.  The kids and I had a wonderful time chilling out and taking pictures.

We then headed to Tuba City for our night halt.

Day 4:  Tuba City to Grand Canyon and then on to Las Vegas

Tuba City makes a nice night halt if Grand Canyon is also on your list of places to see.  If Grand Canyon is not on your radar, then other night halt options on the way to Las Vegas can also be explored.

In our case, we spent Day 4 exploring the East and South Rims of the Grand Canyon before heading to Las Vegas.  However, to truly explore the Grand Canyon, you need to spend at least two to three days.

Ending the trip:  Las Vegas

Ending your trip in Las Vegas is a really nice option.  The kids and I were able to explore the city and take in family friendly night shows as well as checked out the fountains (walking was completely safe),  before heading to our next destination the next day.


The national parks in the Southwest do truly have a lot to offer.  Hiking opportunities are immense and if you are able to schedule them in, please do so, but go early so that you experience pleasant weather (not too hot).  We visited during the month of May and the weather was spectacular!

If photography is important to you, then the opportunities are endless…. but, you must research the best times to photograph before hand.  This will ensure you avoid washout pictures 🙂

There are many other beautiful spots in this area (Monument Valley, Grand Staircase, etc.) that I did not include but are worth exploring if you want it to be all encompassing road trip.

To be completely transparent – this is what we did:  Salt Lake City – Provo (Day 1);  Bryce Canyon – Lower Antelope Canyon – Horseshoe Bend – Tuba City (Day 2);  Grand Canyon (South and East Rims) – Las Vegas (Day 3)

Hope you have a wonderful time exploring!



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