The American Southwest is known for its red rock deserts and rustic landscapes. But it is also a land of beautiful national parks and jaw-dropping rock formations and natural wonders. The Great Canyon and the Yosemite geysers are just two.
Above all, the Southwest is one vast, unbordered part of the country that must be explored. This West Coast road trip will take you through California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and back to California. Along your journey, you will discover the best of the west, including historic Route 66, several National Parks, Sin City, Big Sur, and the famous Napa Valley.
1. Los Angeles
Your journey starts in L.A. The City of Angels has many iconic attractions everyone should visit at least once. The Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Santa Monica Pier are must-see landmarks. Sunbath at the Santa Monica State Beach, hike the Runyon Canyon Park; there is so much to see and do in L.A.
2. San Diego
From L.A., the next stop is Phoenix, Arizona via San Diego. San Diego will please the most patriotic road trippers with the presence of two remarkable museums dedicated to its naval and military heritage. This is your chance to tour the USS Midway and see all sorts of ships at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. However, you will want to spend the bulk of your time in Balboa Park, home of the famous San Diego zoo and cultural hub of the city.
From San Diego on your way to the Grand Canyon National Park, you could head directly to Flagstaff. It is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts who come there to enjoy its varied terrain and the clement weather on the surrounding mountains.
But then you will be missing on the old Western charms of Phoenix. Make the half-day detour by Arizona’s Urban Heart to discover its renowned botanical gardens, the Heard and the Musical Instrument museums.
4. Grand Canyon National Park
The drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon via Flagstaff is a feast for the eyes. The scenic desert vistas will expose you to the majestic Camelback Mountain among other elevated landmarks.
Even more beautiful and impressive is the Grand Canyon itself. The area overflows of stunning ridges and gorges. Enjoy the vistas from the elevated vantage points before hiking the trails to the bottom of the Canyon. Don’t forget to spend the night in a ranch before rafting the Colorado River in the morning. Check here for even more things to do in the Grand Canyon Region.
5. Las Vegas
From the Grand Canyon, make a detour via the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks on your way to Sin City. Once in Las Vegas, let your imagination and your fantasies run free during your stay. Check out our group travel guide to Las Vegas for ideas on the best things to see and do. Just exploring the Strip, the casinos, and the pool parties will take you days and most of your travel budget. However it will be totally worth it.
6. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a national treasure and a World Heritage Site that needs to be seen in person. It has many unique natural wonders scattered over more than a thousand squared miles. Popular hiking trails — like the Mist Trail — will take you passed the Half Dome, the Glacier Point, and other premiere attractions. Prepare to spend a day in this area — you could always rest between your hikes at the Yosemite Village.
7. San Francisco
The Golden City marks your return to the West Coast. This eclectic city caters to hipsters as well as history/culture buffs and foodies. The Golden Gate bridge and the Bay are must-see and Alcatraz Island, a must-tour. You can spend your time around the ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf or go offbeat to discover new attractions. Here are 10 free things to do in the San Francisco area.
This West Coast road trip would be incomplete without returning to Los Angeles. The trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles stops in Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, and the Wine Region. Read all about that California road trip here and be sure to add this best California beaches to the itinerary. Safe travels!
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