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Planning the Perfect Grand Circle Road Trip Itinerary

Shaka Guide

The Grand Circle is a vast and enchanting road trip across America’s Southwest, encompassing a trove of natural marvels, iconic landmarks, and rich cultural heritage.

It spans multiple states including:

From the awe-inspiring depths of the Grand Canyon to the towering hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park - embarking on this road trip offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of this region while making unforgettable memories. 

What spots are included in the “Grand Circle” 

hikers in national parks

It depends on who you ask! Most Grand Circle itineraries include:

However, some also include:

We’re including all of these places in our itinerary and then some! 

Along the way, you’ll see natural wonders like the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the longest stone arch in North America, and Angels Landing - an exhilarating hike with panoramic views. 

How Long Does the Grand Circle Road Trip Take? 

We recommend at least 12 days for this itinerary, however, if you have less time - you can certainly take a few parks out, or, if you have more time, feel free to spend multiple days at each destination!

This itinerary will help you make the most of your trip while using the Shaka Guide app to get an in-depth tour guide along the way! 

The Best Way to Experience the Grand Circle

The best way to experience the Grand Circle is with Shaka Guide by your side. We have audio tours for eight of the stops on this road trip, with two additional tours releasing this summer.

These audio tour guides give you a guided tour experience in the comfort of your car.

You’ll get stories, music, and travel tips as you explore the national parks, recreation areas, and historic spots that make up the Grand Circle.

Day 1: Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon 

red rock canyon tour stops map by shaka guide

Start your journey in Las Vegas. But rather than stay in the city - get out of the bright Vegas lights and head to Red Rock Canyon, located just 30 minutes away.

While you’re there, experience the captivating natural beauty of this unique desert landscape.

You’ll see towering sandstone cliffs and jagged rock formations. While you’re there, be sure to check out Red Rock Scenic Drive where you’ll be met with scenic views and hiking trails along the way! 

Check out Shaka Guide’s Red Rock Canyon Tour to make the most of your day. Also, be sure to book your timed reservation before visiting Red Rock Canyon - this is required if you’re going between October and May. 

RELATED: Red Rock Canyon Itinerary and Know Before You Go: Red Rock Canyon

Day 2: Zion National Park 

Drive to Zion National Park from Las Vegas: about 2 hours 

zion national park tour map

After exploring Nevada’s desert oasis at Red Rock Canyon, you’ll make your way to Utah where you’ll visit the first of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks - Zion.

This park is known for its dramatic landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Zion is one of the most visited national parks in the country and for good reason. Its thrilling hiking trails, like Angels Landing and The Narrows, attract travelers from around the world.

But, if hiking isn’t you’re thing there’s still plenty to do in the park. Check out Shaka Guide’s Zion National Park Tour where we’ll guide you to 26 stops in the park with stories and music along the way. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Zion National Park Travel Guide and Zion National Park Shuttle Guide

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Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park 

Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon: about 2 hours

bryce canyon tour stops map

The next stop is Bryce Canyon National Park. Here, mesmerizing rock formations, known as hoodoos, will leave you in awe.

These landscapes are millions of years in the making formed from erosion to create an otherworldly landscape. 

Check out Shaka Guide’s Bryce Canyon National Park Tour. We’ll guide you to the best spots to view hoodoos while discovering hiking trails and scenic lookouts. 

PRO TIP! Stay at Bryce Canyon for sunset - you won’t regret it. 

RELATED: Bryce Canyon National Park Itinerary and 15 Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Day 4: Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley

Drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: about 2 hours

capitol reef tour map stops

Visiting both Capitol Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is like stepping into a world of geological wonders and ancient landscapes frozen in time.

Capitol Reef's rugged terrain boasts towering sandstone cliffs, winding canyons, and colorful rock formations.

While you’re there, visit:

  • Hickman Bridge - a 125-foot-tall arch
  • Capitol Dome - a sandstone formation that gives the park its namesake
  • Fruita Schoolhouse - a historic grade school that’s preserved today

Check out Shaka Guide’s Capitol Reef National Park Tour to help plan your day before making your way to Goblin Valley State Park. 

Now, onto Goblin Valley - a state park with surreal landscapes of eerie hoodoos and bizarre rock formations.

Visitors can roam among the labyrinth of goblins, marveling at their whimsical shapes.

While you’re there, turn on Shaka Guide’s Goblin Valley State Park Tour. We’ve got the itinerary for you with seven hand-picked stops in the park. 

RELATED: Capitol Reef National Park Itinerary and Land of Goblins: Goblin Valley State Park

PRO TIP! If you have extra time, spend the day and take Shaka Guide’s Scenic Byway 12 Tour to guide you from Bryce Canyon to Torrey, Utah - just 10 minutes from Capitol Reef National Park.

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Day 5: Canyonlands and Moab 

Drive from Goblin Valley to Canyonlands: about 2 hours

canyonlands national park tour map

Visiting Canyonlands National Park and the nearby town of Moab in Utah is an unforgettable journey into the heart of the American Southwest's rugged beauty.

Canyonlands, with its vast expanses of colorful canyons, towering mesas, and winding rivers, offers a landscape of unparalleled grandeur and adventure – without the crowds! 

RELATED: Shaka Guide’s Canyonlands National Park Tour

Just a short drive away, the vibrant town of Moab serves as a gateway to the park, with charming shops and eclectic restaurants.

Surrounded by stunning red rock landscapes, Moab is the perfect place to base your stay before heading to Arches National Park! 

Day 6: Arches National Park 

Drive from Moab to Arches National Park: about 15 minutes

arches national park tour map

Arches National Park - the fifth and final Mighty 5 National Park we’ll be visiting on this road trip - is nestled in the high desert of eastern Utah.

The park is home to the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Double Arch?

But, that’s not all you’ll see, look for towering spires and scenic vistas while you’re there!

Along the way, you’ll go on a captivating journey through millions of years of geological history. 

Check out Shaka Guide’s Arches National Park Tour for your journey - we’ll guide you to the must-see stops with stories and music along the way.

👉 Listen to an audio story from this tour here. 

RELATED: Arches National Park Itinerary and Delicate Arch Hiking Guide

Day 7: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Drive from Arches to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: about 3 hours 

Say goodbye to Utah because we’re making our way to Colorado to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Black Canyon, with its sheer walls plunging thousands of feet into the Gunnison River below, presents a breathtaking spectacle of natural beauty and rugged grandeur.

Visitors can marvel at the canyon's dramatic vistas from overlooks along the rim, or embark on challenging hikes into its depths to witness the raw power of the river carving through ancient rock. 

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Day 8: Mesa Verde National Park

Drive from Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Mesa Verde: 4 hours

About three hours away is Mesa Verde National Park, which showcases the remarkable achievements of the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the region over a thousand years ago.

Here, visitors can explore well-preserved cliff dwellings and learn about the culture and history of these early inhabitants through guided tours and interpretive exhibits. 

Together, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde offers a fascinating glimpse into the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of the American Southwest. 

STAY TUNED - Shaka Guide is launching tours for both Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde National Park this summer! 

Day 9: Petrified Forest National Park

Drive from Mesa Verde to Petrified Forest National Park: 4 hours

petrified forest national park tour map

Let’s head to the next stage in our Grand Circle Road Trip, shall we? Welcome to Arizona, where the first stop is Petrified Forest National Park.

Don’t let the name scare you - a visit to Petrified Forest National Park is anything but petrifying!

The park is named for its large deposits of petrified wood - just one of the many geologic wonders you’ll see at the park.

While you’re there, hike through —-, check out ancient petroglyphs, and stop at the park’s Painted Desert with its sweeping vistas of red, orange, and purple-hued mesas.  

While you’re there, turn on Shaka Guide’s Petrified Forest National Park Tour. You’ll visit all these stops and more!

RELATED: The Ultimate Petrified Forest National Park Travel Guide and Top Hikes in Petrified Forest National Park

Day 10: Drive through Monument Valley to Page, AZ, Horseshoe Bend, and Lake Powell. 

Drive from Petrified Forest to Monument Valley: about 3 hours

horseshoe bend and page tour map by shaka guide

Driving through Monument Valley, you’ll be greeted by iconic sandstone buttes rising majestically from the desert floor.

Perhaps best known for its cameo in Forest Gump, this scenic drive is nothing short of a cinematic journey through the heart of the American West's cinematic landscapes.

Spend the morning passing through this unique gem before making your way to Page, Arizona where you can experience the breathtaking beauty of Horseshoe Bend.

Here, the emerald waters of the Colorado River carved a dramatic horseshoe-shaped bend into the canyon below.

From the overlook, you’re treated to panoramic views of the meandering river and the towering cliffs that surround it. 

Before you end your day head to Lake Powell - a vast reservoir created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.

Here, we’ll take a break from desert landscapes and spend the afternoon on the lake where you can boat, fish, and kayak. 

When you get to Page, Arizona, turn on Shaka Guide’s Horseshoe Bend and Page, AZ Tour - we’ll guide you the entire way, including to Lake Powell.

Day nine of our journey is about taking in the epic landscapes of the American Southwest - and with Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and Lake Powell as your stops, it will not disappoint. 

PRO TIP! You can break day nine up into two days. If you’re using the Shaka Guide Horseshoe Bend and Page, Arizona tour, you can just shut off when you’re done for the day, and resume the tour along the route tomorrow. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Horseshoe Bend Hiking Guide and Horseshoe Bend and Page, Arizona Itinerary

Day 11: Grand Canyon National Park

Drive from Lake Powell to Grand Canyon South Rim for about 3 hours. 

grand canyon south rim tour map

A place that needs no introduction - our next stop is the Grand Canyon South Rim and visiting is an awe-inspiring experience.

The sheer scale and depth of the canyon are humbling, stretching for miles and plunging nearly a mile into the earth below.

From the numerous overlooks along the rim, travelers are treated to a mesmerizing view.

But, the Grand Canyon South Rim is more than just the canyon.

While you’re there, embark on Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim Tour where you can take the Grand Canyon Railway; and visit the Yavapai Geology Museum; and Hopi House for local, Native American art. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Grand Canyon South Rim Travel Guide and Grand Canyon, North vs South Rim: Everything You Need to Know

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Day 12: Drive to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Drive From Grand Canyon to Hoover Dam: about 4 hours 

hoover dam downlaod tour map

Now, we’ll begin making our way back toward Vegas, but before we do, we’ll stop at an engineering marvel - the Hoover Dam.

When you get to Hoover Dam, you can take a guided tour (we recommend booking this in advance).

Alternatively, experience the dam at your leisure and walk across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

Before we end our day, we’ll make our way to Lake Mead Recreation Area - just a few minutes away. 

This is the largest reservoir in the United States and an interesting juxtaposition amid Nevada’s desert terrain.

Boating, fishing, and swimming are popular activities on the lake - so pick whichever activity appeals to you most. 

With its stunning vistas, rich history, and endless recreational opportunities, a visit to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead is a journey into the heart of the American Southwest's natural and cultural heritage.

Once you get to Hoover Dam, turn on Shaka Guide’s Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Tour!

You’ll have to join the tour along the route, but it will still be an awesome experience.

RELATED: The Ultimate Hoover Dam Travel Guide and The Ultimate Lake Mead Travel Guide

Day 13: Las Vegas

It’s time to say farewell to our epic adventure. On your final destination, you’ll depart from Las Vegas, bringing us back to where it all began.

But, our journey doesn’t end there!

Check out a complete list of Shaka Guide’s audio tours to pick your next trip. We can’t wait to explore together again. 

Packing List 

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On this road trip, you’ll be visiting nine national parks, a state park, and multiple historic sites.

You’ll need to pack a variety of provisions for your trip! Check out our recommended packing list below: 

Sneakers/ Hiking Books

Our tours feature multiple hikes. Many of them are considered easy to moderate, but sneakers will still be more comfortable. Of course, these hikes are optional. 

Hiking Clothes

If you’re planning on hiking, bring clothes that you feel comfortable walking in. We recommend comfortable pants or shorts and a T-shirt or tank top! You can also bring a hat and sunglasses. 

Water Bottle

Whether you’re hiking through Arches National Park, swimming at Lake Mead, or just taking in the views on a scenic drive through Four Stales -- be sure to bring a water bottle(s) for the trip. 

Bathing Suit/ Towel 

There are not too many places to swim on this road trip, but it’s good to have a swimsuit and towel on hand. 

Sweater, Sweatshirt, or Layers

You’ll be journeying across four states and multiple altitudes on this trip. Be sure to pack and wear layers. 

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Much of this road trip is in the desert. And, even if you’re not hiking, sharing can be hard to come by. Be sure to pack sunscreen. 

Sun Glasses and/or Hat

Bring a pair of shades or a hat for the trip. 

Picnics/ Snacks

What is a road trip without snacks? Some of these parks don’t have any restaurants and food in the gift shops is limited.

Be sure to read our know-before-you-go articles and plan out what food and snacks you’ll need for your trip.!


You won’t need much, but just in case there are some stops that are cash-only. 

Car Charger

We’re so excited that you’ve chosen to tour with Shaka Guide. To make sure we can escort you throughout your journey, you’ll want to have a car charger to keep us fueled and ready to go! 

Phone Mount

This isn’t essential, but it will be helpful as you’re driving. 

National Park Pass

If you’re visiting this many parks in one trip, be sure to get the National Park Pass - it’s a fraction of the cost of paying the entry at each of these parks individually. 

Leave No Trace 

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Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics that promotes responsible outdoor recreation to minimize human impact on natural environments.

It encourages individuals to leave wilderness areas in the same or better condition than they found them.

This ensures the preservation of natural habitats and ecosystems for future generations.

The principles of Leave No Trace include:

  • minimizing campfire impacts
  • disposing of waste properly
  • respecting wildlife
  • staying on designated trails, and
  • minimizing noise pollution

By adhering to these principles, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty of nature while preserving it for others to experience and appreciate.

Leave No Trace embodies the ethos of environmental stewardship and fosters a deeper connection to the natural world.

It reminds us of our collective responsibility to protect and conserve our planet's precious resources.

Parting Thoughts…

Embarking on the Grand Circle road trip is not just a journey through stunning landscapes and iconic landmarks, but a voyage of discovery and wonder.

As you traverse the vast expanses of the American Southwest, you’ll be greeted by towering red rock formations, ancient cliff dwellings, and breathtaking vistas that inspire awe at every turn.

From the majestic Grand Canyon to the serene shores of Lake Powell, each destination along the route offers a unique glimpse into the natural and cultural heritage of this storied region.

Whether exploring the depths of slot canyons, hiking among towering hoodoos, or gazing up at the Milky Way under the dark desert skies, the Grand Circle road trip is an unforgettable adventure. And Shaka Guide is here for you every step of the way.  

If you’re planning a Grand Circle Road Trip, check out Shaka Guide’s National Parks & Scenic Drives Bundle.

With 55 tours for $99.99, you’ll tour every national park on this trip and then some. 

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

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