This summer, it’s time to plan the ultimate road trip. Pack the car, load up the family, and see the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. This is your year for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, to cross all those places off your bucket list, and to fill your soul with the awe and wonder that our great nation can inspire.
We’ve mapped it all out for you, with a start at Bryce Canyon National Park, a stopover at Lake Powell, and a finish at Grand Canyon. With just a few short hours of driving, you can see some of the most amazing places in the United States. Below, you’ll find out why these places should be on your bucket list and all the fun you can enjoy at each park.
One Hundred Years of Bryce Canyon National Park
Though spring has just begun in much of the U.S., it’s time to start making your summer plans. Many popular destinations have limited availability in the summer months as it is the most visited time of year. Booking early ensures you get to have a summer adventure of a lifetime.
This year, Bryce Canyon National Park will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. On your road trip, you can join them in celebrating the hoodoos and natural bridges that make up this unique landscape.
Stop in at the Visitor Center
At the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, you’ll find a one-stop shop for information about the park. The on-site park rangers can help you decide what park activities are right for the season, your activity level, and the people in your group.
Take a Hike
One of the best ways to see Bryce Canyon National Park is on foot. There is a lot to explore during your stay, but the famous hoodoos are not to be missed. With trails for every experience level, there are tons of options for hiking within the park. The trails are shared space, in addition to hiking the trails, you can also bike the trails.
Just outside the amphitheater, you’ll find the Mossy Cave hike. This hike will take you along a stream to a mossy overhand where you can see a small waterfall, which flows from May to October. This hike is just under a mile long and takes most people about an hour.
Be aware: Bryce Canyon is a high-elevation park. It’s critical to bring food, water, and proper clothing and footwear when setting out on a hike. At this elevation, there’s 70% of the oxygen at sea level, so hiking may be more difficult for some than usual.
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for being one of the more remote national parks, which means, there’s very little light pollution nearby. In 2019, the park earned the Gold Tier International Dark Sky Status, meaning you can get excellent stargazing by simply stepping outside.
Hoodoos on Horseback
Join Canyon Trail Rides for a two- or three-hour guided tour on horseback through Bryce Canyon National Park. You’ll get to see Bryce Amphitheater, hoodoos, and all the breathtaking landscape this area has to offer.
Join an Evening Program or Full Moon Hike
Depending on the day, you may be able to join park rangers in the Outdoor Theater to learn about the stars or local nocturnal wildlife or go on a nighttime hike.
Where to Stay: Bryce Canyon Lodge
Bryce Canyon Lodge is the only lodging located inside Bryce Canyon National Park and provides you with a convenient place to stay while you explore all the park has to offer. The lodge has a variety of room options for individuals, couples, or families.
The Western Cabins accommodate up to four people and are located between the main lodge and the rim of Bryce Canyon. Each cabin has two queen beds, a full bathroom, a porch, and a gas-log fireplace. To keep with the ambiance of the park, you won’t find TVs, air conditioning, or Wi-Fi onsite.
Get to Know the Waters of Lake Powell
The drive from Bryce Canyon National Park to Lake Powell is 147 miles, which will take you approximately two and a half hours, without any stops. Lake Powell is located in northern Arizona and stretches into southern Utah. The lake has over 2,000 miles of shoreline, endless sunshine, and fantastic hiking.
Horseshoe Bend Rafting Trip
If you’re up for an adventure, head to the River Headquarters for the Horseshoe Bend Rafting Trip. This gentle, half-day rafting trip takes you to see Glen Canyon Dam, Petroglyph Beach, Horseshoe Bend, and historic Lees Ferry. The trip is open to people four and up.
Hit the Lake
One of the best ways to see Lake Powell is from the water. Head down to the marina and rent a power boat or jet ski for the afternoon. You can take the boat around to explore the shoreline and make stops at different hiking trails, some of which are only accessible by boat.
Cast a Line
If you’re looking to cast a line and catch some fish, Lake Powell is the perfect place to do so. The lake has plenty of fish to catch, including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Bring your own gear, or buy what you need at Wahweap or Bullfrog marinas. If you plan to fish, be sure to purchase your license ahead of time.
Where to Stay: Lake Powell Resort
When you arrive in Lake Powell, head to Wahweap Marina in Page, Arizona where you can check in to the Lake Powell Resort. At the hotel, you’ll find on-site dining, a pool, marina access, and boat rentals.
Enjoy the Secluded North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
You’ve got one more stop on your bucket list road trip, and that’s the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive from Lake Powell is 130 miles and should take approximately 2.5 hours. The North Rim is the less-visited portion of the Grand Canyon, seeing only 10% of the visitors who come to the park. This means, you’ll have fewer crowds and more time to see all the beauty mother nature has to offer.
Hit the Road for a Scenic Drive
Get an overview of the park by taking a scenic drive of the North Rim. Along the way, you’ll find pullouts to stop and enjoy the scenery, picnic areas, and hiking trails. These are the viewpoints you’ll find along the way:
- Point Imperial: the highest point of the North Rim
- Vista Encantada
- Roosevelt Point
- Walhalla Overlook: visit the Ancestral Puebloan home site
- Cape Royal: access Cape Royal Trail for expansive views of the Grand Canyon
Enjoy the Dark Skies
Grab dinner at the Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room or drinks from the Roughrider Saloon. Once you’ve got your drink, you can head out to the patio and enjoy all of the stars. As a dark sky park, Grand Canyon Lodge has limited outdoor lighting, meaning you’ll get a must-see show anywhere on site where you can see the stars.
Take a Hike
There are dozens of trails to explore along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. If you’re looking for a nice, gentle hike, head to the Cliff Springs Trail. This one-mile hike will take you through a forested ravine to a chest-high boulder under a large overhang. Once there, you can enjoy some water and a snack as you listen to the burbling spring.
A favorite adventure for many visitors is to see the Grand Canyon as many people have throughout the park’s history: on the back of a mule! Mules have even carried President Theodore Roosevelt through the park. Choose between a one-hour and half-day ride to learn about the history of the park.
Where to Stay: Grand Canyon Lodge
The Grand Canyon Lodge, which is open from May 15 to October 15, offers multiple types of accommodations. Choose between traditional hotel rooms and on-site cabins, which can accommodate two to six guests.
For many people, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon are major to-dos to check off of their bucket lists. If you’re ready to get out and explore these natural wonders, you can do it. We hope this itinerary inspired you to make a plan and start booking your reservations to complete this must-do, bucket-list-worthy road trip this summer.