The Ultimate Southwest Road-trip
Southwest USA is an adventure playground for anyone who loves the great outdoors, and the coolest way to experience it all is on an epic fly-drive holiday, with the wind in your hair and jaw-dropping views all around. Roll the windows down and soak up the stunning scenery – a shifting landscape of reddish rock, canyons, valleys and soaring rock formations – as you make your way through Arizona and Utah, stopping at some of the country’s most incredible national parks too. Not only will you get to enjoy private guided hikes through these beautiful reserves, you’ll also experience exhilarating activities like white-water rafting the Colorado River, canyoneering in the otherworldly Zion National Park, zipping through the sky above the Grand Canyon on a helicopter ride, and discovering hidden corners that few visitors ever get to explore. Throughout it all, you’ll have the chance to sense the enchanting energy that emanates from this land, much of which is sacred to Native American cultures, and you might even find dinosaur fossils along the way if you’re lucky!
Touchdown in Phoenix, Drive to Sedona
On arrival in Phoenix collect your rental car from the airport and drive to Sedona, as your ultimate southwest USA road-trip begins. After a journey of about two hours, having passed through the fiery desert landscapes of Arizona, check in to your boutique Sedona hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure. Or, depending on your arrival time, you might want to delve straight in with a guided tour of Sedona’s spiritual sites, accompanied by a healer who will reveal some of the region’s most enchanting locations, characterised by flaming red pinnacles, spires and domes, detailing the importance that this land holds for Native American tribes.
An Exclusive Look at the Grand Canyon
Your first full day in the Southwest USA provides an unforgettable experience in the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, known across the world for its jaw-dropping rock formations that are millions of years old. After breakfast at the hotel in Sedona, you’ll be escorted to secret locations in the Grand Canyon on a guided hike, reaching off-the-beaten-track viewpoints and trails to discover the beauty of this extraordinary place, learning about how the land was formed from your naturalist guide along the way.
A well-earned rest comes next at Hotel Tovar, where lunch is served with a panoramic view of the canyon rim, before the afternoon brings an altogether different vista entirely. You’ll hop aboard a helicopter to soar through the skies above the Grand Canyon in style, relishing uninterrupted, privileged views of the national park in all its glory. After this exhilarating ride, you’ll be taken to a luxury desert resort nearby to spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Canyon Hikes, Lake Powell Watersports and Rainbow Bridge
Today you’ll cross the Arizona border into Utah and immerse yourself in the beguiling slot canyons that carve up the land, as rivers and streams of jade-hued water curl their way through towering walls of red rock. A Navajo guide will take you on a gentle hike through three beautiful Navajo Territory canyons, two of which you’ll get to enjoy all to yourselves as no other visitors are permitted entry. This means that as you step through the gorges, with sunbeams streaming through to illuminate their amber and scarlet walls, you can do so in peace and quiet while your guide explains their fascinating geological features, and the significance they hold for Navajo peoples.
Come afternoon, a change of scene arrives in the form of Lake Powell, a stunning, sprawling body of aquamarine water backed by craggy, crimson cliffs. This is an excellent spot for watersports, but first you’ll be whisked away on a private boat to a sandy beach for a picnic, drinking in the gorgeous views while tucking in to a delectable lunch. Then, take your pick from water-skiing, wakeboarding and tubing on the warm water; Lake Powell is the ideal place to do it all! You can then witness a naturally formed rock arch over the lake – Rainbow Bridge – which towers at more than 290ft and is only accessible by boat. If water levels are low, you might also like to step off the vessel to see Navajo petroglyphs and dinosaur footprints on the surface of the rock, before making the return journey back to your boutique lodge for the evening.
Canyoneering in Breathtaking Zion National Park
This morning, drive west through Utah for a couple of hours to reach Zion, a staggering national park shaped by soaring peaks that glow like fire under the Utah sun, with the Virgin River trickling past tall canyons and native plants. Visitors here today are just as moved by the scenery as the Mormon settlers who arrived in the 1860s, naming it Zion – ‘the kingdom of heaven’ – for its sheer, pristine beauty.
Your first exploration of Zion National Park will be thrilling indeed: canyoneering through the slot canyons, an exhilarating experience that brings you even closer to the landscape. Your expert guide will lead you to stunning locations in the reserve, where you’ll hike, climb and rappel down rock faces as high as 175ft, relishing the adrenalin rush while absorbing unparalleled Zion vistas. Afterwards, you might want to dip into the refreshing waters of a natural pool, before heading to a rustic-chic lodge for the night.
Utah National Parks: Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef
Day 5 is jam-packed with scenic views and quintessential road-trip experiences, as you travel through Utah to three of its most captivating national parks. You’ll start in Zion, awaking early and delving into the reserve before the crowds arrive, taking your pick from an array of hiking trails to see the waterfalls, cliffs, rivers and hanging gardens that makes it such a beloved spot for outdoor enthusiasts. You could wade through the river of the Arrows Canyon, conquer the vertiginous trail of Angels Landing, or embark on a lesser-known hike altogether; Zion is brimming with breathtaking sights at every turn.
Afterwards, depart Zion and drive north for around an hour and a half to get to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is distinctive for its intriguing carpets of hoodoos; amber-hued rocks sculpted like little orange spires, stacked up in a beguiling display of nature. An ancient pine tree forest is the ideal place to stop for a picnic lunch, surrounded by Bristlecones that are around 2,000 years old, before finding a few top viewpoints to get a closer look at the Bryce Amphitheatre.
Next, you’ll bumble along the ST 12 highway, heading northwards to Capitol Reef National Park, just under three hours away. The journey is just as spectacular as the destination though, as this stretch of road is among the very best in America, bestowing drivers with spellbinding scenic views of the wide canyons unfolding for mile upon mile. You’ll want to take it particularly slow as you drive the Hogback, a vertiginous stretch of road with steep cliffs dropping down on either side that reveal jaw-dropping views all around. Then, upon arrival in Capitol Reef, you’ll be whisked off on a hike to some of the staggering ruby-red canyons and peaks of the national park, admiring natural bridges, domes and arches hewn from the rock along the reserve’s Waterpocket Fold. Once you’ve absorbed the otherworldly terrain of Capitol Reef, drive on to Moab for a restful night ahead of more adventures in Utah tomorrow.
White-water Rafting on the Colorado River
Day 6 of your Southwest USA road-trip is dedicated entirely to enjoying the view from the water, as you embark on a seriously fun white-water rafting expedition on the Colorado River. Together with an expert guide, you’ll drift, paddle and career down the water as the river winds its way through Canyonlands National Park, relishing quiet stretches and fast-paced, high-intensity ones too. During the more tranquil moments, your guide will tell you about the native plant and wildlife here in the reserve, then the adrenalin kicks in as you paddle quickly over the rapids of Cataract Canyon.
Throughout the excursion you’ll have plenty of time to swim in the river, explore around the region on a hike, and feast on a picnic lunch beside the riverbank. However, if you’d much rather prefer a gentle experience, you can opt for a boat cruise instead.
Arches National Park
From your boutique ranch resort in Moab you are within easy reach of Arches National Park, just ten minutes away and with so many wonders in store. The reserve itself is awash with 2,000 naturally formed rock arches – giving the park its name – though there are also vast cliffs, monuments and sweeping valleys, sometimes with the sight of snow-dusted mountains on the horizon.
So, join your private guide as you hike and drive to some of the most outstanding corners of Arches National park, including Delicate Arch, the Marching Men, and the Eye of The Whale, all the while learning about how these formations came to be and what sort of animals inhabit such a beautiful land. Then, after lunch with a view at a scenic national park location, spend the rest of the day exploring more: rambling over canyons and valleys, gazing at the variety of rock forms (sandstone fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos and balanced rocks among them), and examining fossilised dinosaur tracks too – all backed by the lunar-like desert landscape.
At the end of the day, your driver will take you back to your Moab hotel for one final evening at leisure in the Southwest USA.
When the time comes, enjoy one last drive as you head for Grand Junction Regional Airport, dropping off the rental car in plenty of time for your flight home.