National Parks Roadtrip Weekend Guide

This National Parks Roadtrip Guide shares everything you need to know about roadtripping through some major national parks including the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Zion National Park.

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Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1: Phoenix
  • Day 2: Grand Canyon/Horseshoe Bend
  • Day 3-4: Zion National Park (note we only did one day, but you could easily extend to do 2)!

How to Get to the Grand Canyon

Fly: Phoenix or Flagstaff are the closest airports to fly into if you are coming from further away. For context, my sister Paula lives in North Scottsdale, so I flew into Phoenix to begin our trip of a lifetime!

Grand Canyon National Park Airport: If you are close to Las Vegas, NV or Page, AZ you can also fly direct to the Grand Canyon via a Papillon tour (note roundtrip so would limit ability to explore other parks).

Drive: Once within driving range, you can either find a local friend to drive or rent a car. It is about a 3 and a half hour drive from the Phoenix airport and about an hour and a half from the Flagstaff airport. We planned the trip to make it in time for sunrise (~5:30am) which was such an unforgettable experience!

What to Pack

  • Hiking Shoes/Boots – Depending on the length of hike, On has some great waterproof trail runners or hiking boots for more support. If not sure which to get, Brooks has a great article on how to choose which shoe is best for you here. I wore the Brooks Cascadia 16 sneaker which fit great and had plenty of grip to avoid sliding. I would recommend going to a shoe store to try on some sneakers to see which fit best. Also would recommend a darker color because your shoes will get dirty FAST from all the dirt/clay.
  • Socks
  • Leggings/Shorts (depending on season)
  • Tank Top
  • Sports Bra
  • Jacket
  • Camera
  • Portable Charger
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen

Where to Stay

Hotel: There are pretty limited hotel options by The Grand Canyon, but I would recommend where we stayed the first night: The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon. Prices can range from ~$128-$395/night for this 3 star hotel. This was very close to the Mather Point viewpoint which had incredible views of the canyon and a light hike nearby.

Lobby of the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon

Search Additional Hotels on the Map:

 

Check out in the morning to go straight to Horseshoe Bend after the Grand Canyon. If you do not feel comfortable leaving your luggage in the car, you can always ask the hotel to hold your luggage for when you return.

Where to find the best viewpoints of the Grand Canyon:

  • Mather Point: This is where we went for sunrise and there was plenty of viewpoints for people to gather. It got crowded, but I never felt like we didn’t have enough space to enjoy the incredible views.
  • South Kaibab Trail: This is the trail we hiked down. This is a great trail to take with some incredible views along the way. We were in awe the majority of the hike soaking it all in. I would highly recommend going all the way to the “Ooh Aah” point (~1.8 mile roundtrip) for the best views of the entire hike (photos below).
Stunning views from the “Ooh Aah” point on the South Kaibab Trail.

Note from sunrise to our departure, we spent about 3-3.5 hours total soaking in the iconic views.

Explore additional guided tours:

Horseshoe Bend

Continue your drive north for about a 2 and a half hour drive to horseshoe bend. The views were even more stunning in person than I could have imagined. There is less of a hike for the views and you can walk in and out relatively smoothly in ~30 minutes. This is definitely a spot you can knock out pretty quickly, however if you have more time and wish to explore longer, there are kayak tours available here.

Horseshoe Bend Entrance Fee

There is no fee to enter, however there is a parking fee of $10 for regular cars or $35 for commercial vans (14 or less). Note that on holiday weekends, the fee is CASH ONLY.

Zion National Park

Continue on west for another ~2.5 hours to Hurricane, Utah for the final leg of your national park roadtrip: ZION. Zion was incredible, and of the 3 parks we explored, this is the one I am itching to get back to first. There are a plethora of hiking trails all unique in their own way with varying levels of difficulty.

Where to stay in Zion

Where to Hike in Zion:

  • Angels Landing –
  • Scout Lookout via West Rim Trail (3.6 miles)
  • The Narrows (2-9 miles)
  • Emerald Pools (~3 miles) – immediate waterfalls on hike
  • The Watchman Trail (~3.1 miles)- longer, flat trail with less traffic
  • Canyon Overlook Trail (1 mile) – We did this trail, about a 45 min hike. Pictures below!

Canyon Overlook Trail

Wake up bright and early for sunrise to beat the rush. We drove in and secured one of the last parking spots outside the Canyon Overlook trail. We chose this hike since we knew we could get to the best view in time for sunrise.

Pa’rus Trail

Since the Canyon Overlook trail is a pretty quick hike, we decided to do an additional leisurely stroll through Zion afterwards on the Pa’rus Trail. You won’t get the views you will on other Zion hikes but it was still great and we thoroughly enjoyed the walk (pics below).

After this we packed up the car and continued the roadtrip north for a week in Park City with the family. You have many options after your first day in Zion to either extend and try more hikes, or check out an additional new national park like Bryce Canyonl

Hope you enjoyed this National Parks Weekend Roadtrip guide and please drop any questions in the comments below!

xx

Katya Ann Signature

hi, I'm Katya -- former D1 tennis player, certified CorePower Yoga Sculpt teacher, & soon to be IIN Certified Health Coach. Welcome to my page where I share all things wellness, real food recipes, and fitness. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to explore all things recipes, travel, yoga sculpt, wellness hacks, & shop all of my faves!

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