Piling into the car and heading out on a road trip is a rite of passage for every traveler, whether you’re a family of four or a group of besties looking for your next adventure. With offbeat attractions and iconic vistas in every state, there’s no shortage of places to visit across the country, but there’s one spot that tops many peoples’ road trip bucket lists—the Grand Canyon.
Whether you make the Grand Canyon the centerpiece of your adventure or stop for a short visit en route to another destination, the Grand Canyon is a can’t-miss stop for any Southwest road trip.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve outlined some of the most common Grand Canyon road trip itineraries from other nearby locations. But before we jump in, let’s take a closer look at how to plan a road trip itinerary.
7 Grand Canyon Road Trip Itineraries
Whether the Grand Canyon is a quick stop en route to your final destination or the centerpiece of your road trip, it can be easily included in a number of popular road trip routes that pass through the Southwest. Keep reading to find sample road trip itineraries featuring the Grand Canyon, such as:
1. Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
Las Vegas is a popular point of origin for a Grand Canyon road trip. You can reach each of the four rims by car, and there are numerous places to stop and explore along the way, including the Hoover Dam, Route 66, and towns like Flagstaff and Sedona on the eastern edge.
2. Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park
There are two other National Parks within a proverbial stone’s throw of the Grand Canyon that Southwest roadtrippers often add to their itineraries: Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
With some other state parks and national monuments along the way, these three Southwest hotspots are ideally situated for a convenient road trip loop.
3. California to the Grand Canyon
Begin this road trip by following the palm trees along the sandy beaches of San Diego as you head east toward Yuma, AZ – the sunniest city in the world (according to the Guinness Book of World Records).
Continue 185 miles east from Yuma to Glendale and Phoenix, where you can explore the botanical gardens and climb Camelback mountain.
Next, head north 115 miles to Sedona, known for its world-class hiking and biking trails, art galleries, awe-inspiring nighttime stargazing, and the famous Red Rock Scenic Byway.
From Sedona, continue north to Flagstaff—your last stop before arriving at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
4. Denver to the Grand Canyon
Start your Denver-Grand Canyon road trip at the base of 14,000 foot mountains, and end your journey at the 277-mile long, 1-mile deep Grand Canyon.
It may not be strictly on the way, but with over 350 miles of trails and some truly epic scenery, Rocky Mountain National Park is a can’t-miss stop if you’ve never experienced this majestic mountain range first hand. It’s only 68 miles—about an hour and a half—outside of Denver, so it’s not a significant detour, and it’s well worth the drive.
From Rocky Mountain National Park, head 200 miles southwest to Glenwood Springs, CO, for a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring.
Your next stop, about 350 miles away, is Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is a great place to stop for a day or two, with over 5,000 archeological sites to explore and numerous hiking trails for all skill levels.
Your next stop is the Grand Canyon South Rim, 290 miles southwest of Mesa Verde.
On your way back to Denver, head east from Mesa Verde for a stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to check out the tallest sand dune in North America.
5. New Mexico to the Grand Canyon
Kick off your New Mexico-Grand Canyon road trip at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Explore more than 199 limestone caves, including the famous Big Room—it’s as large as six football fields.
From Carlsbad Caverns, head 185 miles northwest to White Sands National Monument. Check out the sparkling white sand dunes and the world’s largest gypsum field, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even hike or sled down the sandy slopes.
From White Sands, head north to Albuquerque or Santa Fe (or both, if you have the time). Albuquerque is on a more direct route to the Grand Canyon, but Santa Fe’s unique culture and reputation as an artistic hotspot make it well worth the short detour. Either town is a great place to stop for the night before continuing on your way.
Head 325 miles east to Flagstaff, AZ—your last stop before reaching the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.
6. Phoenix to the Grand Canyon
If you’re looking for a shorter road trip, Phoenix to the Grand Canyon is a great choice. Start your journey the state capital: check out the botanical gardens, climb Camelback mountain, and explore historic Glendale (about 9 miles from downtown Phoenix).
Head 116 miles north to Sedona. Get physical and see the area’s iconic red rock formations on one of Sedona’s many hiking and biking trails, tour Arizona’s wine country, and check out the famous Red Rock Scenic Byway.
From Sedona, travel a short 30 miles to Flagstaff, then onto nearby Williams, AZ, where you can fly over the Southwest desert on a zipline adventure, or continue your journey to the South Rim on the Grand Canyon Railway.
7. Route 66
Kickstart your Route 66 adventure in Grants, NM, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque. Spend some time checking out the trading posts in the area—they are responsible for 70% of authentic Native American artwork sold internationally.
From New Mexico, Route 66 follows I-40. Head 135 miles west to Petrified Forest National Park to spot fossils older than 200 million years, see the painted desert badlands, and check out some archeological sites, then continue 60 miles west to Winslow—a quintessential southwest town—and Homolovi State Park to tour ancient ruins and set up camp overnight.
Continue heading west to Flagstaff, but make sure to stop at the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark on your way. It’s not quite the Grand Canyon, but this massive crater is as deep as a 60 storey building and as wide as 20 football fields.
From Flagstaff, continue to Williams, AZ to check out the zipline adventure or hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway and enjoy a leisurely trip through the desert—until your train coach gets held up by bandits, that is.
After you visit the Grand Canyon, finish your Route 66 road trip at Kingman, AZ. This iconic Route 66 stop is home to lots of restaurants, and it’s a great place to stock up on groceries and other road trip essentials before heading home or continuing west to Las Vegas.
BONUS: 8 more places to stop near the Grand Canyon
If you’re looking to add a little extra adventure to your Grand Canyon road trip or simply make the most of your visit to the Southwest, these eight spots are all within driving distance of the South Rim.
- Historic Cameron Trading Post at the junction of AZ64 and US89. Great spot for a bathroom break or breakfast—try the famous Navajo taco. Distance from South Rim: 43 miles.
- Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks: Located just west of Tuba City, AZ, see footsteps from a three-toed dinosaur at one of the largest sites of its kind in the world. Distance from South Rim: 62 miles.
- Navajo Code Talkers’ Exhibit: Learn about the Navajo Code Talkers—a group of soldiers in WWII who used their native language to communicate coded messages. Distance from South Rim: 68 miles.
- Page, AZ: Located near the east rim of the Grand Canyon, Page is a great homebase if you’re hoping to visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, as well as Glen Canyon, Lake Powell, and Rainbow Bridge. If you’re looking for some hiking, the Page Rim View Trail is a 10 mile circuit around Manson Mesa, with views of Lake Powell and the annual springtime wildflower bloom. Distance from South Rim: 119 miles.
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park: This 2-million acre National Park offers tons of hiking, unpaved roads, and numerous canyons to explore. It’s not usually as crowded as nearby Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Distance from South Rim: 146 miles.
- Monument Valley: Your best option for exploring Monument Valley is to jump on a guided tour. The only access is by 17 mile dirt road, and while private vehicles are allowed, the practice is discouraged—particularly for rental cars. Don’t miss Merrick Butte and the Mittens. Distance from South Rim: 160 miles.
- Valley of the Gods: Similar landscape to Monument Valley, but with less tourist traffic. Distance from South Rim: 196 miles.
- Peek-A-Boo And Spooky Slot Canyons: Traverse several sections of challenging rock scrambles. Be sure to check out Spooky Gulch—one of the narrowest slot canyons you’ll find, with some spots only 10 inches wide. Distance from South Rim: 345 miles.
Whether you’re planning an adventure with your friends or your next family vacation, a road trip to the Grand Canyon should be at the top of your list. The Grand Canyon is a great destination for road trippers travelling from:
- Las Vegas
- Other Utah National Parks (such as Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park)
- Denver, CO
- New Mexico
- Route 66
The Ultimate Grand Canyon Road Trip Guide
Get more tips for your Grand Canyon road trip in our comprehensive guide: