Springtime, when the open road calls to us all. Days get longer, the weather warms, and if you’re anything like us you can’t help but start planning a road trip. Our pals Brooke Willson and Andy Austin hit the road this spring for a #roamworthy road trip through the American southwest. This is a look at their trip along with some tips for planning your own road trip.
Plan your road trip route, loosely.
A popular circuit through the Southwest is called the “Grand Circle”. The loosely-defined loop includes Nevada, Arizona and Utah. A common route carries you from Las Vegas, Nevada, around the south rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, up through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and/or Bears Ears National Monument and in to Utah’s five National Parks.
Andy and Brooke began their trek in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they stocked up on road trip essentials before hitting the road for Zion National Park. We love this map to start planning your route. Once you’ve got the big-picture defined you can pick up the more detailed maps for each area.
Be ready to work around the weather.
The desert is an great place to visit in the spring. Crowds are minimal and the temperatures are moderate. But springtime weather can be a gamble. Rain, wind, and even snow can arrive with little warning. It’s not uncommon for flash floods to wash out roads. So if you’re planning on road tripping the southwest, we recommend you keep your itinerary by flexible so you can dodge storms and make the most of your trip.
Consider car-camping, or better yet, #vanlife.
You don’t have to book your accommodations in advance if your home is on wheels. If you can swing it, sleeping in your car can be a great way to save money and can keep you flexible since you won’t be tied down by hotel reservations. Photographer Andy Austin (@andyaustin on Instagram) lives full time in his van, which makes it easy to pick up and move when weather isn’t cooperating.
Get off the beaten path.
Utah is full of incredible places beyond the most popular spots. The state is home to five National Parks, and seemingly endless public land including BLM land, National Forests, and National Monuments. But there are plenty of amazing places where you can get away from crowds and find a place that feels like another world. We recommend you spring for an actual paper guide book. Often they’re written by locals with decades of experience in the area, and can be a great way to unlock some hidden gems that most tourists overlook.
Don’t miss a chance to check your bucket list.
Sure, getting off the beaten path is great but sometimes it’s nice to play tourist too. Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona, is an easy, roadside attraction that delivers. Located near the popular Lake Powell National Recreation Area and east of the Grand Canyon, its location means it gets a lot of traffic. But Antelope Canyon is a place that lives up to its hype. You may now post to Instagram and move on.
Five miles from Antelope Canyon is Horseshoe Bend, another Instagram hot spot. You can tick both of these must-see attractions in an afternoon if you’re game. They’re worth the visit, but don’t expect to have the place to yourself.
Contemplate life while staring in to the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is incredible. If you haven’t been, go. It really is one of those experiences that can’t be fully described without experiencing it. Trust us.
But word to the wise: if you plan to visit the Grand Canyon as part of a road trip, you should know there isn’t a bridge across it. You must drive around it, which means you’ve got to pick: north or south. Both options are incredible, with the South Rim receiving much more traffic due to its proximity to Las Vegas, Nevada. The South Rim is a little more developed with a few more hiking trails, so it may be a better option if you don’t have a week to explore.
Chase the light.
Chasing dramatic light isn’t just for photographers. Sunrise and sunset are the times of day when nature’s grandeur is most dramatic, don’t waste them sitting behind a steering wheel. Get the driving done during the middle of the day so you can arrive at your destination with enough time to set up camp and catch the sunset. Of course you’ll remember all of the places you visit, but the places where you catch sunrise and sunset will be burnt in to your memory forever.
Channel your inner Forest Gump.
There’s a memorable scene in the iconic Tom Hanks movie in which, after running back and forth across the country for no apparent reason, Forrest Gump abruptly quits running in the middle of nowhere, declares himself tired, and goes home.
Adventurer Brooke Willson (@brookewillson on Instagram) is also a competitive endurance runner. Maybe that’s part of what drew her to this iconic stretch of highway. Either way, a drive through Monument Valley is a great addition to a road trip through the Southwest. Fair warning: it will tack some extra time on the clock as it’s not on the way to anywhere. At all.
Don’t leave home without the essentials.
We all love stocking up on the latest gear before hitting the road. Before you hit your local gear shop, make sure to enter our Road Trip Essentials Kit Giveaway. Andy and Brooke shared their essential gear kit for their road trip, and now you can enter to win. Good Luck!
All photos: Andy Austin Photography.