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9 Wildly Beautiful Road Trips in the Southwest U.S.

| Updated Jun 19, 2023

Many of our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers know that there are few places in the country as scenic and wildly beautiful as the southwest.

RVing in the region is truly a must for your bucket lists.

Of course, not everyone can do it all at once.

That being said, I compiled some past RV Lifestyle reports with other sources to come up with 9 Great Roadtrips in the Southwest U.S. (in no particular order):

Sedona to Scottsdale, Arizona

Start: Sedona, Arizona
End: Scottsdale, Arizona
Distance: 125 miles

Sedona is known for towering red mountains and amazing giant Saguaro cacti. There's no shortage of hiking trails, and it's a serene place for you to relax and unwind.

When you are “natured-out,” consider making a pitstop in Scottsdale, right outside Phoenix. The area is known as a wellness hub, perfect for travelers looking for a relaxing spa treatment, a round of golf, or a reset with stuff like daily guided meditations and yoga classes.

Salt Lake City to Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Start: Salt Lake City, Utah
End: Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Distance: 111 miles

The “old” Olympic Park offers fun outdoor activities year-round, from bobsledding and luge to rock climbing and ziplining. Looking for a unique hike? The community-funded Red Butte Garden is a beautiful place to go for a walk to admire Utah's stunning foliage. Ninety minutes west of Salt Lake City are the Bonneville Salt Flats, which look like something out of a dream.

Time it right and you'll see how the endless white fields are even more majestic when there is water on top of them, creating a glassy, mirror-like finish. You can easily view the flats from the highway, but if you want to stop and look around, park your RV at the rest area and proceed on foot through wildly beautiful spaces.

Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Start: Las Vegas, Nevada
End: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Distance: 48 miles

When you're done gambling in the city or checking out a show, head an hour over to the Valley of Fire, one of the most scenic state parks in the region. The fiery red rocks that eerily tower over the sides of the highway might make you feel like you're driving through another planet. Plus, if you have time to stop for a quick hike, the Fire Wave Trail is a beautiful formation of rocks that “waves” through shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink for a breathtaking view. It's the perfect add-on to a Vegas trip if you're craving some time in nature.

Santa Fe to Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Start: Santa Fe, New Mexico
End: Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Distance: 73 miles

New Mexico's Capitol features traditional Pueblo-inspired architecture and an impressive collection of Native American handicrafts. Art buffs will enjoy the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which displays thousands of her works. New Mexico is known for its rich Native American history, of course, and one of the best places to experience it first-hand is in Taos Pueblo, 70 miles north of Santa Fe. The 1,000-year-old adobe village has been certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a rich cultural experience that you may not be able to participate in elsewhere.

The Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Start: The Grand Canyon, Arizona
End: Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Distance: 125 miles

Wildly beautiful and grand just aren't strong enough superlatives to describe the jaw-dropping majesty of the Grand Canyon. I’ve flown over it, seen other people’s photos and always been impressed. But not until we set foot in and on it did I truly understand the incredible beauty of this top-of-everyone’s-bucket-list destination.

We chose the North Rim. The north side is generally considered the least crowded and commercial and arguably offers the best views. Forget about camping there. You need reservations or the patience of Job to sit out in front of the camping check-in office all day long to gobble up any rare cancellation or early departure.

A little more than 100 miles down the road is Page, the gateway town for two of the most stunning natural landmarks in the southwest — Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Antelope Canyon is known for smooth, rippling walls, narrow walkways, and of course, stunning purple, orange, yellow, and pink colors that filter through tiny cracks at the top. Just make sure you book your tour well in advance. Then, Horseshoe Bend is a 20-minute drive away from Antelope Canyon and offers a killer snapshot of a giant rounded gorge.

Roswell to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Start: Roswell, New Mexico
End: White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Distance: 132 miles

In addition to the world-famous International UFO Museum & Research Center, there are plenty of other historic museums that you can visit while you're there, including the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and Roswell Museum & Art Center. Once you've had your fill of Roswell, make your way over to White Sands National Park, which I just wrote about and you can find here.

Rocky Mountain National Park to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Start: Rocky Mountain National Park
End: Mesa Verde National Park
Distance: 537 miles

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most stunning places in the country. Those who are brave enough can climb the summit to Longs Peak, which stands at a towering 14,000 feet. Or to see moose, head to the North Park of State Forest State Park, which is known as Colorado's moose capital.

Along your way to Mesa Verde, you'll pass ski hubs like Keystone and Breckenridge (and Avon and Vail are only a quick detour away). If you're not visiting in the winter months, the scenic drive will be lush with greenery. Mesa Verde National Park is an incredible place to explore some of America's rich native history. Pro RVing tip: The Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park is nestled into a scenic canyon some four and a half miles off US 160 from the park entrance. With 267 sites, it seldom fills up.

Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Start: Zion National Park, Utah
End: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Distance: 72 miles

Zion National Park is so spectacular and beautiful that the early pioneers called it Zion, like the Holy Place in the Bible. And indeed, standing under the soaring, multi-colored sandstone cliffs, gazing down into the canyons or hiking upstream in the strong current of the Virgin River to get deep into where Zion canyon starts to narrow, there is no way to describe it other than intensely mystical, almost religious in its awesomeness.

To continue on your nature-filled adventure, head to Bryce Canyon, which has the highest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) in the world. The Bryce Amphitheater is an absolute must-see, of course, and if you have the time, check out the hiking trails for the routes you can take to explore beyond the plateau's rim.

Black Rock Desert to Goldwell Open Air Museum, Nevada

Start: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
End: Goldwell Open Air Museum, Nevada
Distance: 424 miles

The dark, cracked sand and endlessly flat landscape that disappears into the horizon is the perfect setting for you to completely unplug and unwind at Black Rock Desert. Try taking a mountain bike around the desert during the day, and lay out and stargaze at nighttime.

From Route 95, check out some of Nevada's gorgeous rock formations, including the peak of Mount Grant. Arrive at The Goldwell Open Air Museum and you'll notice the ghost town, the giant sculptures, and great views of the Mojave Desert. The sculptures in the museum were built onsite by a group of Belgian artists in 2000, and they're definitely worth a pitstop so you can stretch your legs and explore a bit. The best part? The museum is totally free and open 24/7.

we wonder what RV travel looks like for the rest of the year
This is Mike and Jen at Bryce Canyon National Park…one of their favorite summer RV trip destinations

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-02-10

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “9 Wildly Beautiful Road Trips in the Southwest U.S.”

February 10, 2020at8:44 pm, Mike Spivey said:

US 395 from Ridgcrest to Bodie Ghost Town. You could easily spend 2 weeks seeing it. From Myanmar, Movie Flat Rod with Mobius Arch, Mt whitney, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forrest, Mono Lake, Bodie, and so much more. A crime not to include it.

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