Round trip West Coast USA (21 days): sample route + itinerary & tips
Need some inspiration for your round trip in the southwest of the US? Discover our route + tips!
The West Coast of America remains one of our favorite travel destinations. Is it the bustling cities, each with its own character, or the overwhelming beauty of nature, or perhaps just the unique combination of both? We still haven't figured it out.
What is certain, is that a tour in the southwest of the United States only makes you want to discover more.
Be inspired by our planned route for a 20-day round trip, which you can shorten based on the duration of your stay.
Map of the 21-day round trip in West America
You can download the full Southwest USA travel guide here.
Day 1: City walk in San Francisco
We start our tour through the Southwest of America in San Francisco, which is our favorite city in the United States. Our city walk will take you past all the major sights, including Alcatraz (read all about this special prison island), the Painted Ladies on Alamao Square, the hairpin bends of Lombard Street, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf....
Don't forget to take a walk over the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge!
In this blog post you can read which highlights in San Francisco you should definitely do.
Would you like to visit the prison island Alcatraz in the bay of San Francisco? If so, book your tickets online for € 37 per person to be sure of your spot. Ticketbar is the official ticket provider.
Day 2-3: Yosemite National Park
Distance traveled: 360 km
Day 2 we leave San Francisco in the direction of the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite National Park. On the way you can make a few stops, including in Mariposa, a gold rush town with a lot of 19th century buildings.
Don't stay too long though, as Yosemite is waiting, a beautiful national park with giant waterfalls, ancient giant sequoia trees and the largest granite rocks in the world. The park is an excellent place for walking tours, both for inexperienced and experienced hikers. In our blog you can read which highlights in Yosemite are not to be missed.
Our tip: You can spend the night in the park, but the hotels are very quickly fully booked. We slept just outside the park, in Yosemite View Lodge.
Day 4: Giant sequoias in Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park
Distance traveled: 600 km
On day 4 of our tour we explore the pristine wilderness of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, 2 national parks that are managed as 1. These parks are much less crowded than Yosemite, and are ideal for long day trips. Of course you will also find a lot of sequoias (what's in a name?). You can read our highlights of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park here.
Day 5-6: Heading to Las Vegas, with a stop in Death Valley
Distance traveled: 1.125 km
Count (at least) 2 days to drive from Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park to Las Vegas. You can spend the night on day 5 in the town of Lone Pine.
On the way there are of course many interesting stops, such as the Sequoia National Forest, the Coso Range Wilderness Area, and especially Death Valley. This national park is one of the warmest places on earth, with temperatures above 50°C in summer (in the shade!). A visit is not without caution (be sure to bring plenty of water), but it's worth it. Read more about Death Valley in our blog post.
Day 7: Entertainment and gambling in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a place you must have seen, to believe it. After the peace and quiet of the national parks, you seem to have landed on another planet, where everything is about appearances, entertainment and above all spending a lot of money.
Central in the city runs The Strip, the famous neon street with the big hotel-casinos. from crazy entertainment to gambling halls. Read all about The Strip in Las Vegas here.
But did you know that Las Vegas has another side too? Hidden beneath the superficial glitter you'll find some very interesting museums, and there are also plenty of possibilities for day trips to the beautiful nature nearby and impressive buildings like the Hoover Dam. Curious? Discover the other Las Vegas here.
Our hotel tip: The options to stay overnight in Las Vegas are endless! we stayed in Paris Las Vegas, in a big room with a great view on the pool, The Strip and... the Eiffel Tower.
Day 8-9: Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park
Distance traveled: 800 km
Day 8 of the tour we go back into the nature and visit Zion National Park, a beautiful nature reserve situated on the Virgin river, with beautiful orange-red sand cliffs. Orange-red will be the dominant colour of the coming days.
Zion is again a walking paradise, with hiking trails of every level. Read more about Bryce and Zion National Park.
We spend the night near Bryce Canyon, known for its special rock formations (or hoodoos), which we explore further on day 9. Again there are a lot of walks possible, both along the rim at the top, with a view over the rocks, as well as between the hoodoos. More info can be found here.
In the afternoon we drive on to Moab, where we spend the next 2 nights. You can book a hotel via this link.
Day 10: Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Park
Distance covered: 250 km
Canyonlands is one of the 2 national parks near Moab, a small town in southern Utah. For me it is one of the most special places on earth: the bright red, the vastness, the silence, the real "no sound but the wind" feeling...
If you are adventurous, the park is also perfect for mountain biking or jeep trips.
Arches, the other national park, is known for its 1000's of arches and other special rock formations. The hike to Delicate Arch is an absolute must.
Discover everything about Canyonlands and Arches National Park in our separate blog post.
Day 11: Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon
Distance traveled: 575 km
Today there are 2 highlights on the program, both located in the Navajo Indian Reserve.
You immediately recognize Monument Valley from the cowboy movies. The carved buttes and the vast plains were so often used as backdrops in westerns that they are almost synonymous with "the Wild West". Visit the valley on a Navajo jeep tour, and learn about the history of Buddhism, and the culture and traditions of the Navajo.
Antelope Canyon is another place you are guaranteed to recognize. This narrow, almost polished gorge is especially loved by photographers, but it is an unforgettable experience for everyone.
In our blogpost you will discover everything about Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon.
Our hotel tip: Spending the night in Page. Look at all the options here.
Day 12-13: the mysterious Grand Canyon
Distance traveled: 220 km
Day 12 of the tour takes us to one of the absolute best highlights of the southwestern United States: the Grand Canyon. In our tour we visit both the north and the south side, but you can also shorten your trip by 1 day and drive straight to the South Rim (south side).
In any case, take the time to enjoy the majestic grandeur of this gigantic gorge, cut out by time and the Colorado River. In this blog post you can discover our favorite viewpoints and hikes in the Grand Canyon.
Day 14: Grand Canyon Skywalk and Route 66
Distance Traveled: 500 km
We nemen volwaardig afscheid van de Grand Canyon met een bezoek aan de Skywalk in het Hualapai-reservaat. Onderweg rijden we ook een stukje over de legendarische Route 66 en stoppen we in Route 66-stadje Klingman.
We say goodbye to the Grand Canyon with a visit to the Skywalk in the Hualapai reserve. Along the way we drive a bit on the legendary Route 66 and stop in Route 66-City Klingman.
Our hotel tip: There are only limited possibilities regarding overnight stays, so be sure to book on time!
Day 15: Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs
Distance traveled: 500 km
The last national park of this tour is Joshua Tree National Park, forever linked to U2's popular album.
The park is known for its "joshua trees", whose branches are turned towards the sky like a supplication.
During the summer months it is also very hot here, so make sure to take plenty of precautions.
Day 16-17: Los Angeles and surroundings
Distance covered: 435 km
Admittedly, 2 days might be a little short to explore Los Angeles completely. Everything is stretched out, and the traffic jams are huge.
So you will probably have to make some choices. Discover the highlights of Los Angeles that you should definitely see.
Our favorites in the City of Angels? The iconic Hollywood letters, the Getty Center, the Universal Studios, a short visit to the Walk of Fame, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Pueblo de Los Angeles, where it all began.
Day 18-20: Highway 1 back to San Francisco
Distance traveled: 890 km
Day 18 to 20 of our round trip we drive back to San Francisco, along the beautiful Highway 1, one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world. Discover the most beautiful highlights along Highway 1.
Stops not to be missed: the elephant seals in Piedras Blancas, Moro Rock in San Luis Obispo, the fancy Santa Barbara, the Mcway Waterfall in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Cannery Wharf in Monterey and Carmel.
Where to stay? All hotels
- Where to stay during your 3 week tour of South West USA?
We've put all the hotels where we stayed during this tour on 1 page.
- Are you following our tour? (download your road book here)
- With this handy list you can book all hotels and stays in 1 x and you don't have to look up anything yourself. See all hotels of this tour.
Which car to rent?
- Are you still unsure which car to rent for your road trip?
- Do not rent a car that is too small, go for a comfortable car.
- Be sure to book an all-inclusive insurance policy so you can drive around in peace.
- A reliable car rental company is Rentalcars (very large offer).
- Read more tips about renting a car on vacation.
Don't miss out on anything during your trip in Southwest America
Save hours of time and research and buy this tour, fully elaborated in a 187-page guidebook with 132 sights (+ GPS coordinates). Want to try it out first? Download your free travel guide preview Southwest USA.