We did this trip at the beginning of 2019 with the goal of five weekdays and two weekends to visit as many national parks and major attractions as possible. The entire adventure is a round trip that starts at Los Angeles and goes through Joshua Tree and Grand Canyon National Parks, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Bryce, and Zion National Parks, Las Vegas, and back to LA again.
This trip was designed mainly for families with children and not so much for experienced hikers. For example in Zion most if not all must-see attractions require more than a few hours of hiking. That with small children is somewhat problematic. Our son was four and a half when we did this trip and we had zero issues enjoying it. The trip ends in Las Vegas by design since after all that walking and nature you need a little bit of Las Vegas 🙂
|Day||From||To||Stay at||Drive Time|
|1||Los Angeles, CA||Joshua Tree, CA||Laughlin, NV||~ 3 ½ hours|
|2||Joshua Tree, CA||Grand Canyon, AZ||G.C. Village, AZ||~ 3 ½ hours|
|3||Stay in G.C. Village, AZ||G.C. Village, AZ|
|4||Grand Canyon, AZ||Horseshoe Bend, |
|Page, AZ||~ 3 hours|
|5||Page, AZ||Bryce Canyon, UT||Bryce Canyon, UT||~ 3 hours|
|6||Bryce Canyon, UT||Zion National Park, UT||Springdale, UT||~ 1½ hours|
|7||Zion National Park, UT||Las Vegas, NV||Las Vegas, NV||~ 3 hours|
|8||Stay in Las Vegas, NV||Las Vegas, NV|
|9||Las Vegas, NV||Los Angeles, CA||Back to LA||~ 4 ½ hours|
Now each day you have plenty of options where to go and what to do. What we did is one example but you should not be afraid to deviate. For example, you might want to spend fewer days in Grand Canyon and more in Zion or Las Vegas. Also, note that since it is a family-based trip almost all drives from and to the parks and hotels are to be less than a four-hour drive. The exception is the last day’s return from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
Day 1 – LA to Joshua Tree National Park, CA ~3 ½ hour drive
We left LA quite early in the morning so we can have more time in Joshua Tree National Park. The idea was to get to the park spend the majority of the day there and around 5-6 PM to start driving to the hotel, which is in the middle of the way between Joshua Tree and Grand Canyon (~3-hour drive). In this case that is the city of Laughlin, Nevada (hotels in Laughlin, NV via Booking.com). Here is a more detailed blog post about our Joshua Tree visit.
You can also book your hotel closer to Joshua Tree park but the day after you would have to drive more and we wanted to spend as much time as we can in the Grand Canyon. Since we were visiting it during the winter season it really was the crown jewel of the trip. We also did not plan to climb any rocks at Joshua Tree so about six hours were plenty to see most of the attractions/viewpoints.
Day 2 – Laughlin, NV to Grand Canyon, AZ ~3 ½ hour drive
We centered our trip around the Grand Canyon. Because of that, we had two half days there and one full (Day 3). The first half was coming from Joshua Tree after which we spend the next day and half of the following one in the park. That was also needed since we visited the park during the winter season. You really never know what would be the weather there around that period. Half of the time we spend at the canyon we had fog and mist. Only after the second half of the second day, we started to get clear views. However, it was absolutely worth it!
The hotel we booked was The Grand Hotel. Ten minutes drive to the park entrance and located in the grand canyon village just before the park. We loved our stay there! The “Plaza Bonita” restaurant across the street also made the best breakfast & lunch we had on the entire trip.
Here is a more detailed blog post about our Grand Canyon visit and some tours you might like while there.
Day 4 – Grand Canyon, AZ to Page, AZ ~3 hour drive
The city of Page, AZ (hotels in Page, AZ via Booking.com) is the best location to stay for the Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon. The parking lot for the Antelope Canyon was 15 mins from the hotel. The Antelope Canyon can only be visited via a tour booked months in advance. It is not possible to drive there by yourself and just walk around. We booked our tour at noon and there were quite a few other tours there with us.
Here is a more detailed blog post about our visit to the Antelope Canyon. The canyon is an absolute must-see! Tour lasts about one hour and after that (or before based on your tour booking) is the Horseshoe Bend.
The drive between them is approximately fifteen minutes. Another choice you have here is to go explore Lake Powell. Something we decided to do on future trips.
If you want to know more about the Horseshoe Bend check out our blog post about it. Although these two places are so close to each other the Antelope Canyon is only accessible via guided tour where the Horseshoe Bend is completely open. Here are some guided tours you might like while in that area.
Day 5 – Page, AZ to Bryce Canyon, UT ~3 hour drive
The drive from Page, Arizona to Utah, and the Bryce Canyon is very picturesque. Lots of hills and mountains around you. Just beautiful. We got another very conveniently located hotel right next to the park. The Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn is practically outside the park entrance and right next to a gas station as well as various small stores.
Bryce Canyon did not disappoint. As we said in our detailed blog post about it, it was as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. Just amazing views and “molding” by mother nature!
Day 6 – Bryce Canyon to Zion, UT ~1 ½ hour drive
The thing about Zion National Park is that it is absolutely insane in terms of the views and hikes. So this to me would be the biggest deviation from this trip and plan. Zion is absolutely worth the trouble to see the Angels Landing and the other viewpoints. Just the hikes there take hours. So plan accordingly. The hotel we stayed at in close vicinity to the park was The Majestic View Lodge in Springdale, UT. There are other hotels there as well.
Since we were with our 4-year-old son we drove through Zion and stoped at a few of the stops on the road. We did not hike much there and just admired the views from the bottom. However, we absolutely are coming back to hike and to experience the park to the fullest. If you are into hiking you should consider having an extra day or two in Zion.
Day 7 – Zion, UT To Las Vegas, NV ~3 hour drive
After all those amazing views and scenery our senses were overwhelmed and we needed some rest. Ironically we were headed to the place where rest is not exactly what you want to do there 🙂 We did our best, however! Enjoyed the crazy lights at the Strip as well as the fountains of Bellagio. Explored the many great places to eat and just chilled for one and a half days there. We stayed at The Cosmopolitan since luckily for us around that time of the year they have amazing deals for a five-star hotel.
Day 9 – Las Vegas, NV to Los Angeles, CA ~4 ½ hour drive
After the end of day eight which was spend entirely enjoying Las Vegas, we headed back to the one and only Los Angeles. Overall we think the trip has everything you would want from a family adventure. Plenty of national parks each with its own unique views and attractions. You get to explore nature and relax at the end in one of the craziest cities in the world – Las Vegas.
If you think we missed or should add something to this trip let us know in the comments. Hope you enjoyed our adventure and thank you for reading.