The Crossroads of the West is a logical place for us to start our 900-mile trip through the great southwest. Here we go from the City of Saints to Sin City in four scenic days!
The Ultimate Road Trip From Salt Lake City to Vegas
Day 1: Sundance
Just outside of Salt Lake City, there is an almost overwhelming number of ski-area options. Known for its exceptional scenery and commitment to the balance of art, nature, community, and individuality, Sundance Mountain Resort stands out from the crowd with its peaceful, retreat atmosphere and rustic simplicity. Purchased by Robert Redford in 1969 and named for his classic role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the resort not only offers skiing for all skill levels, but various other winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and Fat Bikes (not to mention the area’s most famous event).
In the summer there’s just as much to do, from hiking, fly-fishing and full moon lift rides to various live music and film events, including appearances by the Utah Symphony. You may even have to spend multiple days and take advantage of the Native-American-influenced spa facilities and an extensive roster of art classes. Not that there was any question that you’d want to stay the night.
Hotel Sundance Resort
Day 2: Zion
From Sundance, drive down to Provo and catch US Route 89, the West’s Most Scenic Highway.
Located at the intersection of the Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau, and Great Basin, Zion National Park is one of Utah’s most impressive natural wonders. The junction of the three geographic provinces gives the park an especially unique variety of plant and animal species and dramatic rock formations. Take the shuttle along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive for breathtaking views, or leave your car behind and let the experts at Zion Adventure Company lead you on a hike/swim through the Narrows (one of America’s best adventures).
Where To Stay Near Zion
Equal parts travelers’ paradise and charming southwest small town, Springdale is the perfect place to end a day exploring Zion. Enjoy the red-rock sunset from the patio of Bit & Spur, a local watering hole filled with work from regional artists, the best margarita’s in southern Utah, famous sweet potato tamales and home-made hot sauce. Stay the night in Springdale’s Driftwood Lodge, a rustic, eco-friendly, locally owned hotel just two miles from the Zion National Park entrance.
Day 3: Grand Canyon and Flagstaff
Before heading out of Springdale, make a breakfast stop at local favorite MeMe’s Cafe and try to choose between the fourteen different mouthwatering crepes, or turn your favorite crepe into an omelet or waffle.
Widely accepted as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is surely worthy of more than a quick road-trip pit stop. That said, there are plenty of ways to make the most of this majestic place even if you’re anxious to keep moving. Take the three-hour version of the famous Grand Canyon mule ride, or get a literal “overview” of the canyon with a helicopter tour. Enter the park on the Southern Rim for easy-access view points and the well-established Grand Canyon Village and visitor’s center, or enter directly off Route 89 through the east in Cameron and stop off for some Navajo tacos, a local specialty.
If you wouldn’t rather camp in the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, known as “Dark Sky City,” is the place to spend your evening. This historic railroad-town with a laid-back college town vibe boasts a pedestrian-friendly downtown, a haunted history, a vibrant music scene, and is the craft beer hub of the southwest. Eat dinner in Arizona’s best burger joint, Diablo Burger, where almost all of the ingredients are locally sourced and the buns are English muffins. Try not to fill up on the irresistible Belgian fries while you decide how exactly you want your burger.
Where to Stay in Flagstaff
Flagstaff’s historical landmark/honky-tonk roadhouse, the Museum Club, turned from taxidermy museum to nightclub in 1936 and has been showing both visitors and locals a good time ever since. Swing in for live music four nights a week, Poker nights, karaoke, and free dance lessons on the town’s largest dance floor. Once your feet are tired, go soak them in your Victorian-style claw-foot tub at the Starlight Pines Bed & Breakfast for a cozy, pine-scented, mountain-side night before heading into the desert.
Starlight Pines Bed and Breakfast
Day 4: Route 66
From Flagstaff, head to Arizona’s historic Route 66 for a quick taste of America’s Main Street. In Seligman, make a quick stop at the Route 66 Gift Shop for some souvenirs and a visit with “the guardian angel of Route 66,” Angel Delgadillo. Grab some lunch and a root beer float next door at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In.
Down the road near Kingman Arizona, you’ll find Keepers of the Wild, a non-profit animal sanctuary set on 175 acres of land. The sanctuary is a safe-haven and life-long home to over 140 animals, including a wolf, grizzly bear, jaguar, tigers, leopards, cougars, primates, wolves, coyotes, birds, reptiles, hoof stock, wallabies and a variety of indigenous wildlife. Most have been neglected, abandoned or abused, and are fortunately allowed to live out the rest of their lives here with dignity. This is no petting zoo–on a guided safari you will get a front-row seat and first-hand expert knowledge about the exotic, indigenous, and endangered wildlife and all of the gift shop purchases and admission fees go directly back to taking care of the animals.
In a state with a hopping craft beer scene, Desert Diamond Distillery, a family-owned labor of love, is the oldest craft distillery. Patrons can come in, take a tour of the production & barrel rooms, and taste the award-winning small-batch spirits or relax with a cocktail. When you visit you may even find production or bottling going on and see the process for yourself.
Their barrel reserve rum took the silver medal at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirit awards, and has medalled the last three years as well, but according to the owners, the Agave rum remains the customer favorite, for rum drinkers and non-rum drinkers alike (although you should try the dark rum if you’re a whiskey or bourbon fan). Be sure to stop in and buy a bottle (or a few) to take home with you! Worried about transporting your bottles? They bubble wrap for international travelers!
Feature photo courtesy of Ameer Basheer on Unsplash