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Grand Canyon Road Trip

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scenic view of Toroweap overlook at sunrise in north rim, grand canyon national park,Arizona,usa. ©Getty Images

With Kids 

When I began researching for our trip southwest, I knew I wanted to see the Grand Canyon and “all that other red stuff.” Welp, as it turns out, there’s a whole lot of red stuff to see, and it’s not all near the Grand Canyon. Even though we flew to the canyon, we still ended up in the car for 29 hours and a whole lot of miles.

I’m excited to share what I learned – because I couldn’t find any type of road trip itinerary when I was searching! I’ll share the “loop” and break it down based off of how much travel time you have. As always, all suggestions are family friendly and wheelchair accessible!

The Loop

Here it is, folks. This is the basic loop for a southwest driving tour. There are plenty of little branches off of this loop, or in it, depending on how much time you have.

Getting There

We flew into Vegas because it was slightly cheaper for airfare and significantly cheaper for a rental car. I suggest you check both Phoenix and Vegas from your home destination. Experiment with days of the week, if possible. Different days are cheaper in different locations – don’t ask me why.

A Perfect Weekend

1. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is grand… and big… but, unless you have pretty intense hiking plans, you can cover it pretty well in 24 hours. Here’s the perfect Grand Canyon itinerary for a quick visit. Why do you need such a quick visit for a weekend trip, you ask? Well, because then you can squeeze in Antelope Canyon!

2. Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon was the highlight of our Grand Canyon trip. Less than two hours from the eastern end of the canyon, it’s well worth the drive. You can check out everything you need to know for visiting Antelope Canyon here. It’s not a National Park, so it’s not covered by your parks pass. We did it as our “splurge” activity, and we weren’t sorry!

3-4 Days

1. The Grand Canyon

See above

2. Sedona

I’m not sure why Sedona seems to be the best kept secret of the southwest. It was in our top two of the entire trip. This could be a quick drive-through destination, or a stay and explore trip of it’s own.

Check out my article on Sedona for the best wheelchair accessible trails and family friendly stops and views.

3. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

See above. Horseshoe bend is an easy add-on if you’re heading to Antelope Canyon, anyway. The lighting is great for sunset, here. If you’re able to squeeze both into one day, it would be worthwhile to spend some time at Lake Powell, too. The cost is $10 per car to enter and it’s not covered on your national parks pass. When we went, the path was packed sand and natural stairs. It’s only about 1/4 mile from the lot to the view. They were working on a wheelchair accessible ramp that should be completed in 2020.

5-7 Days

This is where the real driving begins. If you have the time to explore, just keep heading around the loop! Without seriously extending your trip into Colorado, the best stops are Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. A really rushed tour could swing through a park a day with the driving in between. If you’re covering the full loop, it would be great to be able to add on an extra day or five for an itinerary that looks more like this:

1. The Grand Canyon

2. Sedona

Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell (all three of these are Navajo owned and not covered by your park pass) – add on Grand Staircase-Escalante or Vermilion Cliffs if you’re on an 8-10 day plan.

4. Monument Valley

We stayed in Kayenta on the way. Kayenta is worth exploring on its own and has playgrounds and fun places for kids to unwind. You can also hit Four Corners on your way to Monument Valley. It adds about an hour onto the drive, so we skipped it. Monument Valley is the last major stop that is Navajo owned, and therefore not covered by your parks pass ($20 per car).

5. Arches

These views are not to be missed. They have a couple of short, wheelchair accessible paths (Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch View), and the landscape arch path is smooth enough to manage fairly easily. We also used @myfreeloader to do the Windows trail. While you can see them from the accessible entrance, it was fun to be able to climb closer.

6. Canyonlands

Don’t let the “arch” fool you. The Mesa Arch is in Canyonlands National Park, not Arches. If you’re heading out this way, make sure you mark this spot for catching a sunrise. The park is full of magnificent vistas. The Mesa Arch has a trail that would be easy for kids, but it also has steps  This was another stop where we were grateful for the Freeloader child carrier. If you’re looking for accessibility, or even kid-friendly trails and amenities, enter through the Island in the Sky entrance near Moab. The other side of the park is rugged and harder to get around (you can’t access one side from the other).

7. Capitol Reef

This can be a fairly easy drive-thru on your way back down the loop.

8. Bryce Canyon

We ran out of time for this one, but I’m sorry we missed it. Squeeze it in if you can. The views are phenomenal.

9. Zion

Similar to Sedona, there’s a powerful impression made by the towering cliffs on every side. This is one you shouldn’t miss. Zion has amazing hikes – think Angel’s Landing if you want breathtaking beauty, but not kid friendly. You can also hike the narrows – which means you hike through a river. You can rent gear to do this in any season, but make sure you plan a full day for it. Neither of these famous hikes are wheelchair accessible. You can take a smooth trail up to where the narrows begins, but that’s the end of accessible hiking here.

All the Rest

There are still a few parks, lakes, and attractions in the loop that I didn’t include, but these are the best of the best (and I hate when I read an article about everything there is and it doesn’t tell me where to go).

Where to Stay

There is lodging near all of these main attractions that I listed. Most of the lodges, Airbnb’s, and resorts I called did not have wheelchair accessible rooms. We ended up sticking with chains through the Bonvoy and Hilton Honors credit cards we use.


Honestly, I found most restaurants were preferred for the views, not the food. El Tovar sits on the edge of the Grand Canyon, “The View Hotel” offers just that in their restaurant overlooking Monument Valley, you can eat in a floating restaurant right on Lake Powell, and just about any restaurant in Sedona offers stunning views of the towering rocks all around.

You do need to try some southwest flavors while you’re out that way. Phoenix, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon area had several good options. Am I missing anything? What else do you need to know for your big trip? Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me with any questions!

Check out more accessible National Park inspiration, here!

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