On the Road: a Park-Lover’s Guide to America’s Grand Circle

You can camp and have luxurious amenities at Under Canvas Grand Canyon
You can camp and have luxurious amenities at Under Canvas Grand Canyon | Courtesy of Under Canvas Grand Canyon / Expedia
Photo of Nick Dauk
14 September 2021

Take in Wild West wildernesses on this adventure-rich road trip that stops by national parks and canyons via luxury-camping sites and wholesome hotels.

The great American West is one of the most iconic and legendary regions in the United States, and no route showcases the area better than the Grand Circle. From the neon-lined streets of Las Vegas out to the enormous rock ridges of Capitol Reef National Park and everywhere in between, this park-laced driving tour is geared towards adventure lovers and seekers of solitude amid some of the best landscapes in the country. Are you game to cross off the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Zion in one jaunt? Then stop by these hotels and parkside places to stay to see it all in comfort.

Rest up and restore in Las Vegas

NoMad Las Vegas

Casino Hotel
4.5/5 (273 Reviews)
NoMad Las Vegas_ef752d6a
Courtesy of NoMad Las Vegas / Expedia
From $103 per night per room

Before driving the Grand Circle, give your legs a rest at NoMad Las Vegas. This swanky hotel on the Strip has a Moroccan-themed pool with cabanas and cocktails, a low-lit bar for evening libations and a smart spa that spoils with signature massages and hydra facials.

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Las Vegas Natural History Museum

Museum
Map View
Las Vegas, OCT 4, 2020 - Interior view of the Las Vegas Natural History Museum
© Chon Kit Leong / Alamy Stock Photo
Before exploring the Grand Circle, get a primer of the region’s history at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Only a short cab ride north of NoMad, this fascinating museum showcases exhibits from around the globe and treasures found right in Nevada. Long before mobsters and moguls arrived in Sin City, prehistoric mammoths, camels, aquatic ichthyosaurs and more called Las Vegas their stomping grounds, and the Wild Nevada Gallery exhibit complements them perfectly with its multisensory display of contemporary local plants and animals.

Go big at the Grand Canyon

Under Canvas Grand Canyon

Resort, Lodge
4.6/5 (335 Reviews)
Under Canvas Grand Canyon
Courtesy of Under Canvas Grand Canyon / Expedia
From $290 per night per room

Sleep under the stars in style at Under Canvas Grand Canyon – on the edge of the first park you’ll reach on the drive and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Less than 30 minutes from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and surrounded by secluded forest, this glamping site has a Zen garden, a firepit and a host of group activities if you’re game to make new friends. With a private bathroom, luxurious linens and a wood-burning stove under your deluxe canvas tent, you’ll wake up each morning and forget you’re “roughing it.”

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Grand Canyon National Park

Park
Map View
© kottapsm / Alamy Stock Photo
Images and videos never truly capture the astounding beauty and magnificence of the Grand Canyon. A visit here is a must for all travelers on America’s Grand Circle. You’ll stand slack-jawed and speechless as you marvel at the 277mi-long (446km) natural phenomenon that stretches into the horizon. Somehow, the Grand Canyon becomes even more breathtaking when viewed from the bottom of its 1mi-deep (1.6km) floor.

Splash out beside Lake Powell

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  • Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast

    Independent Hotel, Bed and Breakfast, Inn
    4.9/5 (133 Reviews)
    Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed & Breakfast
    Courtesy of Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast / Expedia
    From $172 per night per room

    Even if you don’t leave the property that hosts Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast, you’ll still be treated to unforgettable views of the lake and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Comfortable rooms, a rooftop jacuzzi with views of the wilderness and delicious breakfast make this B&B an excellent stay – especially for adventure-seeking couples and honeymooners. Add in endless opportunities to hike, bike, fish and boat, and Dreamkatchers is an exceptional base near Lake Powell.

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    Lake Powell

    Natural Feature
    Map View
    © Dannaphotos / Alamy Stock Photo
    Splashing into both Arizona and Utah, Lake Powell is one of the coolest puddles of the Colorado River for outdoor adventure. Dive into an afternoon of fishing, boating and rafting, or cruise around nearly 2,000mi (3,219km) of shoreline searching for that perfect photo op – the Cathedral in the Desert in Glen Canyon is a great one. When hunger strikes, Wahweap Marina serves up a range of restaurants and bars with a helping of waterfront views.

    Explore Western culture in Monument Valley

    Goulding’s Lodge

    Hotel, Camping
    Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley Arizona Goulding lies entirely within the Navajo Indian Reservation on the Utah Arizona border.
    © Brenda Kean / Alamy Stock Photo
    Unavailable for the next 3 months

    You’ll lose track of all the landmarks you can see from your private balcony at Goulding’s Lodge. The flat-topped Eagle Mesa and other Monument Valley highlights are readily visible whether you’re crashing in a villa, apartment or cabin. But it’s the lodge’s history that’s of note; the owners encouraged director John Ford to film Stagecoach (1939), starring John Wayne, in the valley. The restaurant is even named after the film. The standard rooms have everything you need for a comfortable stay, while the villas have kitchenettes or full kitchens. Alternatively, choose the campground and spend all night making s’mores under the stars.

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    Monument Valley

    Natural Feature
    Map View
    Famous Monument Valley in the desert of Utah
    © 4k-Clips / Alamy Stock Photo
    Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park crossing the Arizona-Utah border. You can book a tour with a local guide and venture into the rough terrain that boasts sandstone marvels as high as 1,000ft (305m). The visitor center grants an instant panoramic view of Merrick Butte and Mittens Butte, but there’s no substitute for an educational tour that breathes life into the area.

    Loop through Arches and Canyonlands

    Under Canvas Moab

    Camping, Camping
    4.2/5 (704 Reviews)
    Under Canvas Moab_98a54b65
    Courtesy of Under Canvas Moab / Expedia
    Unavailable for the next 3 months

    You’ll never have to choose between Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park when you go glamping at Under Canvas Moab. Its tents are pitched between the two sites, giving you easy access to all the hiking, biking and rock climbing you desire. When night falls on Utah’s Canyon Country, you’ll find warmth in the king-size Stargazer tent, with a wood-burning stove and a sky view above the bed. Feel free to cozy up to your neighbors, too, with conversation around the communal firepit.

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    Arches National Park

    Park
    Map View
    © Lucky Photographer / Alamy Stock Photo
    The namesake structures of Arches National Park are worth visiting, but first-time visitors should note that there’s plenty more to do than take snapshots of the geological features. Horseback riding, canyoneering, rock climbing, stargazing and more can easily be added to your schedule. If you’re short on time, take an auto-tour along the 18mi (29km) scenic road en route to Zion – your next Grand Circle destination.

    End of the road in Zion

    Cable Mountain Lodge

    Lodge
    4.8/5 (760 Reviews)
    Cable Mountain Lodge_84232421
    Courtesy of Cable Mountain Lodge / Expedia
    Unavailable for the next 3 months

    Cable Mountain Lodge is so close to Zion National Park that you’ll be at the visitor center moments after you lace up your hiking boots. From the one-of-a-kind Canyon Loft residences with park panoramas to the family-friendly Wallbed suites with room for the whole clan, every accommodation at the lodge is luxurious – which you’ve earned after so much adventure on the trip. No matter which room you choose, we recommend having at least one picnic along the Virgin River.

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    Zion National Park

    Park
    Map View
    © Rowan Romeyn / Alamy Stock Photo
    If it’s adventure you seek, Zion National Park stands ready to deliver. Backpacking and bicycling are just the tip of the canyon; canyoneering, camping and climbing are also on the menu. Those who crave a challenge can trek the Narrows of Zion Canyon, which involves hiking from the Temple of Sinawava down along the Virgin River. Looking for fun that’s less adventurous? Ranger-led activities are available, including drop-in tours.
    These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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