The Great Southwest Road Trip Itinerary You Need

The Great Southwest Road Trip Itinerary You Need

My childhood best friend and I wanted to celebrate our 22 years of friendship by starting a new tradition. When we were young, our parents would take us on camping trips around the PNW every summer, but since we had ventured out to live our own lives, we hadn’t been on a trip together. This was unacceptable and needed to change immediately. Initially, we had planned to take a trip to Canada to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks since neither of us had been and we had heard how beautiful and unique the area is.

We spent weeks planning this trip, mapping out the route, organizing Couchsurfs and what not. About three days before we were scheduled to leave for Canada, I checked the weather forecast. The highs were around 40 F (4 C), and we were planning to tent camp. Pardon my language, but f*ck that. I am not entirely sure what I had been expecting when I planned a camping trip in March, in Canada.  I had obviously been overly optimistic about global warming.

With a wrench thrown into our plans, we had exactly 72 hours to figure out what we wanted to do instead. Early in our planning, Katy had brought up the Grand Canyon. I didn’t think a road trip all the way to Arizona was possible in the 5 days that we had carved out for this trip, so I had dismissed it immediately. Since Canada was out and I didn’t have any other ideas, I started to map out a route to the Grand Canyon from Seattle. It was going to be tough and our schedule would be TIGHT, but contrary to my initial thoughts, it was possible.

First things first. If we were going to drive nearly 1500 miles to Arizona, the Grand Canyon was not going to be our only stop. There are way too many cool National Parks in that area. If you don’t know me personally, you may not be aware of my competitive nature. Well, I told my coworkers about my idea to change my trip from Canada to the Southwest, and they started throwing out ideas for potential stops along our route. Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horse Shoe Bend, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Bryce Canyon.

I wrote down every suggestion and started Google image searching each place. Mesmerized by the beauty and uniqueness of each location, there was no way I was going to be able to cut out a single stop. Telling everyone that I was going to see it all, the immediate response was “Ya right, there is now way you can see all those places in 5 days. You would need at least 2 weeks.” Challenge accepted.

The hardest decision I had to make about the route of this trip was whether or not to stop in Las Vegas. For a traveler like myself who loves nature, culture, and off-the-beaten track locales, Vegas is the epitome of everything I hate. I have family who live there, so my parents and I spent a good amount of time there when I was young. When you are too young to go to the Strip, Vegas isn’t so bad, but once you turn 21, all hell breaks loose. On my first adult trip to Vegas, I rode a bull, vomited in a hotel lobby, fought in public with my boyfriend at the time, and swore I would never return. That was until Katy informed me that she, at 24 years old, had never been to Vegas. After a good amount of manipulation, she convinced me to spend 18 hours in Sin City.

Thursday morning at 3AM, we departed from Seattle. 20 hours and one speeding ticket later, we got our first look at the twinkling lights of Las Vegas. Even though we arrived early enough to go out that night, we made the intelligent decision to have a few drinks and go directly to bed. A friend of mine who is from Vegas hooked us up with a promoter who was able to get us on the VIP list for a pool party on Friday at the Cosmopolitan. Having never been to a Vegas pool party, I decided this was an acceptable way to spend the last few hours in the city. Upon arrival, we quickly scoped out a place to sit and observe the craziness. We hadn’t planned on drinking because we wanted to leave by 3PM to drive to the Grand Canyon.

We were lucky enough to snatch up a cabana in the pool that was unattended. To put this in context, the guys in the cabana next to us told us that they paid $5k for theirs. Since we have boobs, we paid nothing and no one even bothered to question us. Too many free drinks later, we ended up staying in Vegas until about 2:30AM to sober up.