A Guide to Road Tripping the American Southwest
The southwestern portion of the United States is home to some of the most breathtaking sights and locations in the world. With major attractions such as the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas drawing millions of visitors a year, these states can be quite a “hot” spot. To really capture the beauty and vastness of the region, traveling by car to make sure to hit all of the great sights is a must. Here are a few tips on hitting the open road in the great American Southwest.
Plan Out Your Route
Even though most of the states you’ll be visiting share a border, they may take significant amounts of time to travel through, so planning out the locations to stop at beforehand is crucial. Beginning in Colorado, then heading toward Utah, then Nevada, and finally, Arizona, makes the most sense, and can be achieved in about ten days. Along the way, you’ll see amazing sights such as the Rockies, Monument National Park, the Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas strip, the Grand Canyon, and more! Most rental car companies will work out a deal with you to drop off the rental in a different location then where the rental originated. Be sure to investigate into this before booking, as not every rental company has the same policies.
What to Bring Along
In case it needs to be mentioned again, these states you’ll be traveling through can get incredibly hot in the summer months, and incredibly cold in the evenings. Be sure to pack comfortable clothes to get out and hike in the heat, but also pack some long pants and a jacket for the chilly evenings that the Southwest is famous for. Buying a cheap Styrofoam cooler to keep in the car with cold drinks will be the best investment of the trip, especially after a long hike baking under the sun.
It’s worth looking into a National Park pass for the duration of your trip, as there will be opportunities to visit multiple parks along your journey. An annual pass is available for $80, but if you are traveling with someone who is a US military member or veteran, or someone over the age of 62, you can obtain a pass for $10 or less.
The best part about touring a region by car is that the entire trip moves at your pace. You set the itinerary; you decide when to stop and where to stay. Here are a few spots that are highly recommended to make their way onto your list of “must-see places”.
- Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico-Travel 75 stories below ground to one of the largest cave systems in North America. The Big Room has a floor space equal to 14 football fields!
- Arches, Utah—More than 2,000 naturally formed sandstone arches dot the landscape of this Utah, where your breath will be taken away at every new formation.
- Sedona, Arizona—Feel like you’ve been transported back into the scene of an old Western film in this small town surrounded by massive red rock formations. Ask a local about some of the secret formations, visible from all over town.
- Las Vegas, Nevada—Immerse yourself in the lights and sounds of America’s playground, where legends like Frank Sinatra and Wayne Newton rose to fame. Be sure to visit Fremont Street to check out some of the original casinos from the early days of Vegas.
Before Hitting the Road
The American Southwest is a vast, expansive land, with lots of open road. With that being said, someone who is traveling the area for the first time should take certain precautions. Be sure to have a paper map in the car with you at all times, as GPS signal may be spotty in certain areas of the region. Try to plan out where you will be spending the night at least a day or two in advance. Stopping at a roadside motel in the middle of the desert may not be the best idea for an out-of-towner.