Hello and Ack Ack Ack!
Alex tried to deviate from our planning with his recipe for Tunisian Ojja, but I firmly stick to my programme: the announced expansion for a road trip through the southwest of the United States in search of aliens! The Tunisia road trip will have to wait its turn. And no, I am not stubborn. At all.
The road trip I described last was from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to San Francisco and was designed for two weeks. Today, I am going to introduce you to a supplement that leads from Phoenix to Las Vegas. This addition is unfortunately still on my bucket list, but, again, I did a lot of research and put together this road trip. You can do the route as an independent trip in one week or combine it with the other road trip to make a three-week trip. However, for this combined version, I suggest a small change in the route, namely that you start in Phoenix, then via Las Vegas to San Francisco and only then in the end to Los Angeles. So you can drive along Pacific Highway 1 and complete the trip with the beautiful Californian coast.
The route from Phoenix to Las Vegas will basically be the same, whether you choose to do a one-week trip or if you want to add the other two weeks. Nature will clearly play a major role, as there are simply no cities far and wide except at the starting and finishing point. Technically speaking, you will mainly see desert and stones all week long. However, the different national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation are all supposed to be monumental and scenic and surprisingly varied.
Here is the basic information about the one-week trip:
Duration: 6 days plus arrival and homeward journey, hence 7 nights
End: Las Vegas
Distance in total: 1,318 km = 819 mi, plus sightseeing tours in the national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation
Themes: desert, nature, aliens
View the route on Google Maps.
It is important with this road trip that you have to plan the trip well in advance, as there is only few accommodation. You usually have the choice whether you want to spend the night directly at the entrance of the respective national park or in the nearest town. The former is significantly more expensive, but with the latter, you often have to calculate an hour’s drive to the park. In any case, there is not that much choice, so you will need to reserve in advance unless you plan to camp. This seems to be possible without major problems at the entrance to the different national parks.
Some visits are also only possible with a guided tour, which you sometimes also have to book well in advance.
Speaking of which, also the overnight stay in Las Vegas must be planned in advance. Since the trip ends there, you cannot avoid doing the overnight stay in las Vegas at the weekend. Unfortunately, horrendous prices apply, especially if there is a special event taking place there this weekend. So book early!
Saturday: Arrival in Phoenix
If possible, I would recommend arriving on Saturday as early as possible so that you can explore Phoenix a little more. Since you will still see enough nature, I would suggest a walk through the artists’ district of Roosevelt Row, possibly also a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum, as well as shopping and eating in Old Town Scottsdale.
By the way, Phoenix also directly relates to our alien theme, since UFOs are very often sighted here. The best known are the so-called Phoenix Lights: on 3 March 1997, thousands of people first observed an arrow-shaped flying object with lights and then some other lights. Of course, the characters played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the movie “Paul” also wanted to go to Phoenix, even though, in the end, they never arrived there.
Sunday: Start of the road trip with the drive from Phoenix to Sedona (192 km = 120 mi)
On Sunday, you can first pick up the (air-conditioned!) rental car and then drive to Sedona. Sedona is not very well known internationally, but regionally it is even more so. The region is supposed to be very beautiful in terms of landscape and invite you to go on short or long walks.
UFO sightings have also been reported here frequently, you can even take part in a guided UFO tour at night and watch the night sky with military night vision devices! In the movie “Paul”, they did not plan a stop in Sedona, but they did in Camp Verde, which is on the route from Phoenix to Sedona.
Monday: Drive from Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (195 km = 121 mi, visits in the park not included)
Then comes the first big highlight of the trip: the Grand Canyon! Before that, however, you can make a stop in Flagstaff, as this will be the last town deserving this name for a few days.
The South Rim is generally considered the best side to see the Grand Canyon, as it is the most accessible. A helpful description of the best viewpoints for photos at sunset and, the next day, sunrise can be found in the blog Finding the Universe.
Tuesday: Drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (260 km = 161 mi, visits in the parks not included)
Get up early in the morning to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. It is also cool enough early in the morning for a sightseeing tour. You can find a good overview of the most important viewpoints in the blog Intrepid Scout. As soon as it gets too hot, you can sit in the air-conditioned car and drive to Monument Valley.
Wednesday: Drive from Monument Valley to Page (197 km = 123 mi, visits in the park not included)
Monument Valley, in Navajo Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, is not in a national park, but in the Navajo Nation Reservation. Known from numerous movies starting with Rio Grande with John Wayne to Forrest Gump and real classics like National Lampoon’s Vacation with the Griswold family to the series Westworld, everyone has seen pictures of the famous rock formations.
Here, too, you should get up very early, especially because of the heat, to visit Monument Valley. You can drive the well-known 17-mile-loop with your rental car and you do not necessarily need all-wheel drive for it. However, this would not hurt, either, since the journey can be bumpy. If it rained a lot, this can lead to closures. It takes about two hours if you want to stop at all of the viewpoints along the route. You can also book a guided tour, which will surely give you even more background information. You can for example find some helpful information in the blog The Wandering Queen.
Fun fact: Monument Valley is partly in Arizona, partly in Utah. One of my favorite scenes from “Paul” was when Paul encouraged the others to travel back and forth in time: jumping from one side to the other at the state border and thus from one time zone to another!
Just in time for the beginning of the midday heat, you will continue driving in the air-conditioned car towards Page. Page is pretty much the only place nearby (if you can call it nearby) of various national parks and sights, so many stop here to stay overnight.
There are also several so-called slot canyons in this area – these would actually interest me most of the whole trip! The best known and supposedly most impressive of these is Antelope Canyon, which is located just before Page on your route. You can only visit it with a guided tour, which you should book in advance if possible. Note, however, that Antelope Canyon is quite expensive and that huge groups of visitors are routed through every day. Alternatively, you can visit one of the other slot canyons; you will find a short overview on the website The American Southwest, for example.
Thursday: Drive from Page to Zion National Park (205 km = 127 mi, visits in the park not included)
Start your journey the next morning with a detour to the Horseshoe Bend. It is a horseshoe-shaped bow of the Colorado River, which is worth a detour and is certainly a nice photo motif. If you would rather see the supposedly also very beautiful Waterholes Canyon instead of the Antelope Canyon, you can combine this with the Horseshoe Bend, as both are in the same direction.
Then continue to Zion National Park. The sunset itself cannot be seen here, but the play of colors in the park is supposed to be definitely worthwhile, for example directly from the museum courtyard with a view of Bridge Mountain and East Temple. On top of that, you can stay after sunset and enjoy the wonderful night sky. To do this, you can also take a walk along the paved Pa’rus Trail, but every traveler should be equipped with a good (!) headlamp or flashlight. The way is said to be beautiful and relaxing also during the day and leads along the Virgin River.
Friday: Drive from Zion National Park to Las Vegas (268 km = 167 mi, visits in the park not included)
Also in Zion National Park, you can go on a sightseeing tour in the morning, but this time on foot! Especially as the park is a little greener than the others, it invites you to go for a hike. Note, however, that some of the hiking trails are crowded accordingly. The two best-known paths, Angel’s Landing and Emerald Pool Trail, are said to be far too crowded and I have read several disappointed reports about the Emerald Pool Trail. The Canyon Overlook Trail, on the other hand, sounds nice and suitable for beginners and it takes about an hour. Helpful explanations of the different ways can be found, for example, in the blogs Earth Trekkers and Citrus Milo.
Then it is time for the last drive, namely to Las Vegas. You can return your rental car here and then explore Las Vegas. You can find more information on this in our article on the two weeks’ alien road trip.
Saturday: Homeward journey from Las Vegas
If you want to travel through the southwest of the United States for three weeks and see cities, sea, desert and national parks, then I suggest the following road trip:
Duration: 20 days plus arrival and homeward journey, hence 21 nights
End: Los Angeles
Distance in total: 1,318 km = 819 mi, plus sightseeing tours in the national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation as well as the alien-day trip
Themes: cities, desert, nature, aliens, sea
View the route from Phoenix to Las Vegas on Google Maps.
View the route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on Google Maps.
Since I have already described the individual stops either above or in the article about the two-week alien road trip, I will now only list the planning and point out any deviations.
Saturday: Arrival in Phoenix
In this variant of the road trip you have a little more time in Phoenix and can arrive on Saturday without any hurry.
On Sunday, you can visit Phoenix. The city is not necessarily famous as a tourist highlight, but since you have a week in nature ahead of you, I suggest you enjoy the city life a little more. You can also acclimatise in a more relaxed manner.
Monday: Start of the road trip with the drive from Phoenix to Sedona (192 km = 120 mi)
Tuesday: Drive from Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (195 km = 121 mi, visits in the park not included)
Wednesday: Drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley ( 260 km = 161 mi, visits in the parks not included)
Thursday: Drive from Monument Valley to Page (197 km = 123 mi, visits in the park not included)
You can stop and spend another night in Page. This way, you can unhurriedly explore Horseshoe Bend and one of the slot canyons and perhaps even go for a walk along Lake Powell.
Saturday: Drive from Page to Zion National Park (205 km = 127 mi)
Sunday: Drive from Zion National Park to Las Vegas (268 km = 167 mi)
Monday: Alien day trip (478 km = 296 mi, return trip included, Google maps)
Tuesday: Drive from Las Vegas to Stovepipe Wells in the Death Valley (243 km = 151 mi, visits in the park not included)
Wednesday: Drive from Stovepipe Wells to Wofford Heights (264 km = 164 mi, drive to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes not included)
Thursday: Drive from Wofford Heights to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park (167 km = 104 mi, visits in the parks not included)
Friday: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park (visits in the parks not included)
Saturday: Drive from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park to Fresno (126 km = 78 mi)
Sunday: Drive from Fresno to San Francisco (300 km = 187 mi)
Here, the route changes a little, as you better drive from Fresno to San Francisco. We will postpone visiting Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Point Lobos State Reserve by a few days.
Monday: San Francisco
Tuesday: Drive from San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea (196 km = 122 mi)
So, now you can visit Monterey and then spend the night in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Wednesday: Drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Morro Bay (193 km = 120 mi)
This part of the route was not in the original planning. You drive along the so-called Pacific Highway 1 to Los Angeles and can experience the wonderful California coastal landscape. You can make a stop in the aforementioned Point Lobos State Reserve.
Morro Bay is particularly famous for its iconic Morro Rock, a rock in the sea that actually looks like something from another world.
Thursday: Drive from Morro Bay to Los Angeles (327 km = 203 mi)
On this last stage, you can take breaks on the beach of Pismo Beach and in the picturesque town of Santa Barbara.
Then it is off to Los Angeles where you can return the rental car. In the evening, as already described in the other article, you can enjoy the view of Los Angeles and the stars from the Griffith Observatory.
Friday: Los Angeles
Saturday: Homeward journey from Los Angeles
And again: Live long, and prosper.
So which one will you choose: the road trip of one week, two weeks or three weeks?
Do you have photos of the places described here and would like to share them with us? Send them to us and we will be happy to publish them (with or without mentioning your name, depending on your preference)!
The main picture above is taken from pixabay with the rights to use it. We only do that for the road trips that are still on our bucket list (something we clearly state in the text) and we choose a picture we could (= quality) and would (= motive) have taken ourselves.