4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S.

19 May 2016

When springtime hits, we get stir crazy. Antsy. Maybe it's that sensation of waking up from winter hibernation, or the promise of warmer weather looming. Whatever it is, it's insatiable, so we had to go. And a southwest U.S. road trip was calling.

I still can't believe we managed to fit it all in. Four days. Four people. Almost a thousand miles of driving across three states. We didn't even stick to our original plans, but once we saw one incredible desert site, we wanted to see them all. And if not all of them, as many as we possibly could.

DAY ONE | LAS VEGAS, NV TO TOQUERVILLE, UT
We flew in late Friday night from Seattle and Chicago, meeting in Vegas to pick up our rental car and start our road trip toward Utah. We booked a night at the Phoenix House Bed and Breakfast in Toquerville, Utah since we wanted to start the next day early at Zion. But once we arrived at Phoenix House, we almost didn't want to leave. Toni and her visitors (and Daisy, the dog) were one of our favorite parts of the entire trip. Our two-bedroom Phoenix House rental included a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and walk-in closets that outdid our full bedrooms back in downtown Seattle and Chicago.

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead

DAY TWO | ZION NATIONAL PARK
And while we didn't spend much time in the unit, aside from a few hours of sleep, we were grateful for the time we did get to spend around Toni's breakfast table with two other visiting couples, one from the UK and one from Germany.

We planned to wake early, quickly indulge in Toni's delicious breakfast, and get to Zion as early as possible. But we loved meeting Toni's other visitors and swapping stories about all of our national park adventures, including their recent explorations in Zion, Bryce, and the surrounding area. While we chatted, Toni served up coffee from a local roaster (and tea for the Brits), OJ, scrambled eggs from her home-raised chickens, sautéed veggies, locally-sourced chicken sausage, fresh fruit, and a side of toast with jam. We hit the road with full bellies, but of course made room for another cup of joe from River Rock Roasting Co.'s roadside cafe on the way in to Zion.

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead


Once we entered the park, we hit a little bump in the road. Little did we know, Zion institutes a mandatory shuttle service to travel the park all throughout the year. We couldn't just drive from one spot to the next, taking our time to see and do what we pleased, like we'd planned. Rather, we needed to map out the most efficient route of hikes to ensure we could enjoy as much daylight as possible in the park. In just 8 hours, we covered 15 miles in four hikes, beginning at Zion's famous Angel's Landing trailhead. By the time we left the park, our dogs were barking. Without hesitation, we camped ourselves at the Zion Canyon Brewing Co. and celebrated with a few pints before finishing out the day at our hotel in Kanab.

Want to check out our full day at Zion National Park? Read more.

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead


DAY THREE | KANAB, UT TO PAGE, AZ
Having researched The Wave permit process before starting our road trip, we put in lottery entries in December to try and reserve four of the 10 permits awarded through the online lottery process. We didn't win, so our next hope was entering the in-person lottery at the Kanab Visitor Center, where another 10 permits are awarded daily. So, we booked a night in Kanab and tried our luck at The Wave permits the next morning.

It was Sunday, but our lottery winnings would be good for Monday, when we planned to hike the 6+ desert miles in the Coyote Buttes. There were only about 90 people at the Kanab Visitor Center that morning, which was quite small considering the time of year. With such little competition, we were feeling optimistic; there was hope!

But as luck would have it, again, we didn't win. Without other plans in Kanab, we continued on to Page, Arizona and luckily walked right into a Lower Antelope Canyon Tour with Ken's Tours. (Typically, it's recommended to book this tour in advance since they're the only outfitter in the area that takes visitors into the Lower Antelope Canyons, and their tours fill up fast.)

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead

And it. was. incredible. We were fortunate to have squeezed in to the 12 p.m. tour, the best time of day to see the lower canyon. The sunlight is directly overhead, shining light beams down into the canyon and creating these deep red and contrasting purple colors on the rocks. It's absolutely beautiful.

We spent the rest of the day in search of some SUPs and kayaks, expecting to get out on Lake Powell. But the winds just weren't in our favor. We also learned that there's only one place in the area that lets you rent your gear lakeside, without having to car them across town and put them in yourselves. With paddling out of the question, we switched gears to lunch. Because when life gives you gas station BBQ, you take it. Enter: Big John's Texas BBQ, a halfway decent BBQ diner with two toilets (and no stalls) in each bathroom. (For real.)

The rest of our Sunday evening in Page consisted of a few hours overlooking Horseshoe Bend (a must-see and quintessential Instagram hot spot) and a spontaneous sundown visit to the Navajo Bridge, about 40 minutes south of Page.

For the 3 of The Most Instagram-Worthy Spots in Page, check out this post. And don't forget to read up on our iPhone photography tips for Antelope Canyon. (Yes, it's totally possible to get great photos with just your iPhone.)

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead
DAY FOUR | PAGE, AZ TO BRYCE CANYON, UT TO LAS VEGAS, NV (whew!)
By Day Four, we'd seen most of the highlights we wanted to explore in Page, but we had yet to get out on Lake Powell. Without further ado, we returned to Antelope Point Marina and reserved two hours on a deck boat (a.k.a. pontoon boat, for our fellow Wisconsinites) early Monday morning. In an hour, the boys led us through Waheap Canyon to Padre Bay, but with half our time eaten up, we pulled a U-ey and gradually made our way back to dock.

The night before, we'd weighed our options: spend another day exploring the small city of Page and its beautiful sites, or make the half-day drive up to Bryce Canyon, sacrificing much of the day in the car. We were high on those southwest desert vibes when we decided there was time for one. more. park. Le'go!

4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead

We made it up to Bryce by 3:30 p.m., only making one pitstop along the way to devour some Big Al's Burgers (yum!). Until sundown, the four of us traversed the park to take in all the incredible viewpoints, eventually making our way down into the hoodoos by foot to explore Queens Garden and Navajo Trail.

Spent, but so grateful we made the trek, we headed out of the park just after sunset, planning to pull off to sleep whenever we got tired. But Kyle championed the entire five-hour drive from Bryce to Las Vegas by 1 a.m. when we checked in to our final hotel at the very end of the Las Vegas strip. We were beat. Tanks empty. But even with all of the driving we ended up doing throughout the trip, each stop and each site made it all worth it.

Keep a copy of our four-day southwest U.S. road trip itinerary and pin the graphic below.
4-Day Road Trip Through the Southwest U.S. | Brave Little Cheesehead

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20 comments

  1. These photos are amazing! I went to Zion & Bryce last summer, but I didn't make it to the wave unfortunately. These just make me want to go back even more!

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    1. Thanks Michelle! We were bummed we didn't make it to the Wave either, but there's so much to do and see down there, it's so easy to plan a return trip! We'd love to hear if you win the Wave lottery!

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  2. I am glad you mentioned the best time for the light to shine through the canyon…it creates the best photos. It looks like you were on Mars :)

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    1. Thanks friends! It does kind of look like Mars, now that you mention it! :)

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  3. Wow! This looks like an ultimate road trip. I loved the Zion National Park - the Antelope Canyons looks spectacular!

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    1. Thank you! Completely agree -- Zion is amazing. We'd love to go back and spend a long time there. And camp!

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  4. That part of the country has some really beautiful areas. I have many fond memories of Zion and Bryce.

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  5. Your photos are stunning! What a great road trip, thanks for sharing :)

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  6. Road trips are what I do so this was a great read. Interesting about the shuttle service in Zion. Would have been quite a disruption. Loved the photos here too.

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    1. Yeah we weren't expecting it, Kerri! But it actually worked out. The shuttles run really frequently, and it's a great way to rest your feet between hikes. And thanks for the compliment on our photos!

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  7. Great road trip ladies! Loved Zion & Horseshoe bend and we stayed a little ranch in Page where we rode horses through the awesome terrain :-) For some reason we didn't get to the wave and I regret it to this day - it looks like such an amazing place!

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    1. Thank you Garside! A ranch in Page sounds amazing. Agree on The Wave -- we're definitely going back to try again!

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  8. Amazing photos! I need to get out and travel my home country there. There's some real beauty in my own backyard. I'm from Oklahoma so many of these places are accessible by car.

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    1. We are SO jealous Nathan! Being able to reach these beauties just by car from home would be amazing. If you head in, you should definitely stop at Monument Valley since you'd be coming from the east instead of the west like we did. We wished we could have make the extra hustle out there, but it would have cost us our half day in Bryce Canyon. There is just so much to do and see out there!

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  9. That's so cool you got so much done in only four days. The landscape is so gorgeous!

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    1. It was a whirlwind adventure, Christine! And surprisingly easy to do. We didn't feel rushed at all because everything was so close -- somewhere between 2-4 hours driving each time!

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  10. A fellow WI girl thanks you for saving her RoadTrip! I'm about to head out to this area and have been searching for good tips on where to go.

    Thanks guys, Keep up the stories.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! We always love hearing from fellow cheeseheads. :) We hope you have a wonderful trip!

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