You've got a full time job and vacation days are precious! But don't fret, there's so much you can see and do just over a long weekend. The Southwest in particular is full of magic and mystery and is a great place to recharge your soul. From the red rocks to the energy vortexes to the rich Native American history, there's so much to explore.
Call me crazy but this itinerary skips the Grand Canyon in favor of exploring all of the other incredible hidden gems along the borders of Arizona, Utah and Nevada (the big GC needs it's own weekend to visit anyway). You'll cover 3 states with 10 hours of driving over 4 days, but I guarantee you'll be running back soon to see more.
Fly into Phoenix and out of Las Vegas: For a direct flight, I'd recommend flying into Phoenix. You could also fly into Flagstaff but will have to backtrack about 40 minutes to explore Sedona. Large airports increase the likelihood of a direct flight (which I always prefer), usually are cheaper, and it's an easy two hour drive from Phoenix to your first stop, Sedona. We'll end the trip dropping you off in Las Vegas for another large airport to take you back home.
Fly into Phoenix in late afternoon and drive 2 hours to Sedona where you'll stay for the night. Put on HearHere, a location-based audio tours app, to learn about the stories of the landscape and Native American history in the area as you drive through it.
If you can, try to hit sunset as you drive into Sedona. The red rocks are gorgeous in the evening light. If you get in early enough, stop at Crystal Magic Rock Shop (open until 6pm) to buy a few crystals that your **soul is drawn to** so you can get up early and charge them at one of Sedona's famous energy vortexes tomorrow.
If you didn't make it in time to Crystal Magic, stop by in the morning on the way to Cathedral Rock Trail. While this trail is only 1.2 miles, plan to spend a few hours scrambling up the rocks and then sitting in the rock cathedral at the top.
This area is considered a vortex with introspective energy, and I can speak from experience that you will feel incredibly small amid the red towers around you. It's a great place to journal or think about all of the things you're thankful for.
Once you're ready to come down the mountain, grab a fancy smoothie at Local Juicery or visit some art galleries and shops at Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. When you're ready to go, drive 1 hour to Flagstaff where you'll stay for the night.
Stroll downtown Flagstaff and pop in to grab a beer and dinner at one of the local breweries like Flagstaff Brewing Company or Dark Sky Brewing and head to bed early to rest up for tomorrow's adventure.
Get up early for breakfast at the kooky Toasted Owl cafe which opens at 8, where you can peruse the myriad of vintage owl decorations and have a tasty breakfast for this big roadtripping day.
Head out of town and drive 2 hours to Horseshoe Bend, but don't rush to get there! Put on HearHere on your drive and enjoy some more stories as you drive.
Visiting HorseShoe Bend costs $10 but the view is pretty awesome. Park and walk to the canyon edge to take a photo and enjoy the unique curve in the Colorado River that cuts out the Grand Canyon just 7 miles downstream.
Once you've got the shot, continue your road trip tour to Zion National Park, another 2.5 hours away. You'll be staying in Zion for the night, but if you can, try to time your entrance to the park itself at sunset for a drive through tour. If you want to, you can also hike 1 mile to a scenic viewpoint via the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for the best sunset view.
Stay near the Zion park entrance so you can hit the trails before sunrise. You can stay right outside park entrance or at the park lodge itself. Just search "hotels" on Google Maps around the entrance, there are tons of options at different price points.
Another early morning and the last day on your epic weekend adventure! Get up before sunrise and head to Angels Landing Hike.
This 4.4 mile out and back is classic Zion and can't be missed. The chains part of the hike is super scary and I wasn't brave enough to do it, but the hike to the top is absolutely hands down worth going for alone.
You will zig zag up the side of the sheer mountain face with views of the canyon as the sun comes up, and if any of your friends are crazy enough to walk the chains part of the hike, you can enjoy wandering around on some of the side trails on top of the mountain.
If you have some more time before your flight, take a leisurely stroll along the 2 mile Zion Narrows Riverside Walk. The Narrows is an activity in and of itself which requires a lot more skill or a tour agency, but just this small portion of it is a paved walkway with pretty views.
It's time to head to the airport. Drive 3 hours to Las Vegas to catch your flight. Don't forget to listen to HearHere on your drive to squeeze out the last bit of roadtripping magic before you head home!
Looking for more long weekend getaways? Check out the post on a Long Weekend in Ventura and the Central Coast!
Let me know in the comments about your favorite Southwest hidden gem!