Road Trip: Explore the Southwest
Millions of Americans hit the road annually on road trips, maybe because there's something immensely rewarding about hours of driving on the open road. Road trips are a great way of discovering ones backyard, all you need is a tank full of gas and eyes eager for new sights. As a Los Angeles native, I've been blessed to have amazing National Parks and vibrant bustling cities within arms reach. Ok maybe not arms reach, but driving a couple of hours in either direction and I can be exploring the USS Midway Aircraft carrier docked on the shores of San Diego, or snorkeling the waters of Catalina Island, maybe enjoying some clam chowder on Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco, or even hiking the trails in the Grand Canyon. So I decided it was time for me to embark on a road trip and chose to explore the great American Southwest!
So where do you start? Well for me it's coming up with an itinerary, so I decided my first stop would be the Grand Canyons South Rim located in Arizona. Expect a journey from Los Angeles to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to take about 8-9 hours, so prepare to head out early! My road trip started at 4am, which made for a beautiful desert sunrise at the crack of dawn. Sights that can be enjoyed on the shortest route, which takes about 8 hours, would be the famous Route 66 Highway. If you're not on a time crunch then choose the longer route taking about 9 1/2 hours, because it offers beautiful views of Joshua Tree National Park and the fiery red rock formations of Sedona, Arizona.
Having visited the Grand Canyon before, the West Rim to be exact, I was excited to see what beautiful sights and differences the South portion would provide. Arriving at a little past noon, wasn't the best considering the heat; however, it gave me plenty of time to explore and photograph. The South Rim offers plenty of hiking trails, from easy to strenuous making it perfect for anyone to enjoy one of the wonders of the world! I chose to hike and photograph along the Rim trail, which offered many different viewpoints and even stumbled upon a Geology Museum. Lodging in and around the Grand Canyon is available; however, I decided to head out toward the small city of Page, Arizona after enjoying the park for a couple of hours.
Have you heard of Page, Arizona? Well I hadn't either; however, I realized that the small city of Page packs quite a punch! Here you will find incredible landmarks like the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Page is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Grand Canyons South Rim making it the perfect place to stay for a couple of nights and enjoy mother nature. I was able to see everything on my list in 3 nights/4 days; however, I had down time towards the end so for those looking to visit Page then 2 nights/3 days is plenty!
Page was an amazing city, its sights are truly something out of this world. I couldn't get its images out of my head as I drove to my next destination, Zion National Park in Utah. It was only a 2 hour drive from Page and here you will find breathtaking scenic views and treacherous hiking trails that will test your endurance. I wasn't sure what to expect but the minute I drove in and hiked the short trail to the Canyon Overlook I knew I was somewhere special. After heading back down the short hike and letting it all sink in, I got in my car and continued down towards the visitor center. There you can get tons of information, maps and even some souvenirs. In order to be able to hike the majority of the trails you have to be taken by shuttle along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
There is a total of 8 stops and 18 trails, rated from easy to strenuous. The most famous trails are Angels Landing via West Rim Trail and The Narrows via Riverside Walk, which are rated strenuous but you can't go wrong with any of 18 trails. I chose to go with The Narrows, walking in a river amongst narrow wall canyons felt like an experience I just couldn't pass up. Just make sure to bring proper footwear because you will get wet! I stayed for only a couple of hours; however, I recommend that those who plan to visit stay at least a night or two in order to truly enjoy what the park has to offer.
Now that my shoes where soaked it was time to head out. Zion National Park is a majestic place and definitely worth a revisit, next stop is Las Vegas. It's only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Zion National Park and this city in the middle of the desert speaks for itself. For those with a bit more time I suggest visiting Valley of Fire State Park, where you can capture some great images and enjoy the scenery. I always look forward to visiting Las Vegas having already been dozens of times, but this time I was especially excited to visit the Neon Museum, staying on Fremont Street in Old Las Vegas and of course The Strip! Great restaurants serving delicious food and drinks, incredible hotels and award-winning shows; make Las Vegas an Oasis in the desert.
My road trip of the Southwest was short, lasting only 5 nights and 6 days, but it was definitely sweet. I look forward to sharing upcoming blog posts as well as guides getting more in depth with each place that was visited. I encourage you to hit the road and remember that adventure is just around the corner!
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About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.