It’s no secret that the American Southwest is an treasure chest of amazing scenery. It also happens that 4 of America’s greatest national parks are packed together along the Utah Arizona border. It is this geographic alignment that makes for an epic southwestern adventure.
The Route: You can break the route up any way you want by spending as much time as you like at each destination, so don’t let this limit you. That being said, here is how we approached it. Note: We did it in late April.
- Day 1: Get to Moab, UT. This is where our journey began. (You could spend an extra day here to take in Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands overlook as well as Arches National Park. You could actually spend weeks here, but that is outside the scope of this guide).
- Day 2: Drive from Moab, UT to Bryce Canyon, UT. (via the Escalante). This is a big day, so leave yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush and can take it all in. If you leave early enough you will get to Bryce in time for sunset.
- Day 3: Wake up early in Bryce for a sunrise shoot at Bryce point, grab a bite for breakfast, and head to the Grand Canyon. You could tack on an extra day here is you wanted to hike in the hoodoos. If you don’t want to hike, one night is plenty of time. The drive from Bryce to the Toroweap overlook isn’t too long, but give yourself some time so you can explore Kanab. If you leave Bryce pretty early, you should have plenty of time to catch the sunset and setup camp at Toroweap. Note: The drive to Toroweap is a 4wheel drive type of road. More details on the road and its driving conditions are below.
- Day 4: Wake up for the sunrise at Toroweap. It is amazing! Because you worked so hard to get here, you might want to spend 2 days. There are a couple hikes around the Toroweap area so spend the day exploring.
- Day 5: Wake up for another amazing sunrise, then drive out towards Colordo City and head to St. George. You should get there by lunch. Check into your hotel and go for an evening hike in Snow Canyon State Park. (option: you could just stay in Zion if you wanted and skip Snow Canyon. We chose to stay in St. George because of some Mt. Biking in the area.)
- Day 6: Spend the day in Zion National Park.
- Day 7: Drive back to Moab via I-15 to I-70. This is a pretty long drive, but you will get into Moab in time for a nice dinner.
- Day 8: Time to head back home. Hopefully with some incredible memories and beautiful photographs!
View Southwest in a larger map
Details And Such
- The Rustic – Great value here. Reasonably priced and comfortable. The rooms are pretty big, and have a small kitchenette.
- Eddy McStiff’s – Been going here for almost 20yrs. Great food and drinks.
- Jail House Cafe – Apple Butter Pancakes –mmmmmmmmmm
- Pasta Jay’s – Great Italian food.
- The Bryce Lodge – We had breakfast here, and it seemed like a great place to stay!
- Rubys- Pretty nice, but it is huge and very family friendly so it’s not quaint or quiet.
- Sunset Viewing – Inspiration Point
- Sunrise Viewing – Bryce Point
- What is it? In short, it is a very remote point along the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It is the narrowest point anywhere along the Grand Canyon and it is home to some of its largest rapids. You can find out more from the NPS here. If you don’t want to run the risk of the drive to Toroweap, you can still experience the north rim of the Grand Canyon here. However, it is only open May to Oct. There is a 20 campground loop once you get there. FYI, it is first come first serve. There are toilets, but they are seasonal so plan accordingly. There are also some beautiful hikes in the area. One last thing, BRING A CRAZY AMOUT OF WATER!!!!!
- The Drive – To be honest, my initial research of the drive to Toroweap almost stopped me from going. When we did go, I was loaded for bear. I had 2 extra wheels, water depth poles, a tire patch kit, 20 gallons of water, lots of food, hand wench, industrial strength webbing, tow ropes, and extra equipment. We also had our mountain bikes in the event we needed to abandon our vehicle and ride out. Once we left the highway, and started driving on the dirt roads, I discovered it wasn’t too bad. It is about a 60 mile drive on what I would describe as country roads. Give yourself a good 3 hours. The last 5 miles were on unmaintained terrain with some sharp loose rocks. My Toyota Tacoma and no problem. I even saw a Subaru Forester back there. Although I would have been reluctant to drive it there. I won’t say it was easy, and there is a always a chance you could pop a tire, so make sure you bring plenty of spare stuff. What you really need to watch out for is rain. If those roads get wet because of a monsoon storm, you could have a heck of a time getting out until they dry. We entered in via Fredonia AZ and exited via Colorado City. You can see our route on the map below.
- Quality Inn – There are a bunch of places to stay. We stayed at the Quality Inn and it was fine. Decent rooms with a pool, what else do you want?
- Bear Paw Cafe – Great Breakfast, but there is usually a wait.
- Twenty Five Main – Pretty cool place to grab a bite.
- Benja Thai & Sushi – Great Thai food in desert.
- If you go during high season, no cars are allowed in the park. You will have to park in the small town at the entrance of the canyon and take a shuttle or pay for parking at the park headquarters. Once you are at the headquarters, you can then take the free shuttle up the canyon to the various trail heads. Give yourself a full day here. The best thing to do is visit the park headquarters and have a ranger help plan your day. They will give you some ideas based on what you want to see and what your abilities are. Once you are done, you can grab a bite in town. There are a bunch of little cafes and restaurants. Here is the NPS link.
Southwestern The Movie
I filmed this movie over the course of our journey. It features the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce National Parks. These are the places you will discover if you choose to enjoy this epic adventure.
About The Music: Sixteen Horsepower, the band featured in the Southwestern, is a band with its roots here in Colorado. Growing up they were more myth than reality. Before I was old enough to see them at a bar, I would sit outside the clubs hoping to catch a listen.They are a storied band, with a long history, and these songs will never do them justice. You will at least get a taste of the Denver music scene, but to truly understand the genius of Sixteen Horsepower, you need to see them live. I intended the playlist to be 16 songs long, however iTunes only accepted 9 of my suggestions.
Click Here to load the playlist into iTunes.
1 – (AND LAST) Ascent of Angel’s Landing in Zion, NP. (These videos are not for the weak of heart)
1 – Camera: Nikon D5000
1 – Lens Nikon: 16-85 VR
100 – Seconds of time lapse footage
3,000 – Images used to produce the time lapse footage
3.3 – Hours of realtime shooting
5 – National Parks
7 – Days
1 – Once in a lifetime moonrise over the Grand Canyon (too bad my battery ran out)
1500 – Miles