The best 2-week road trip in the American West
The American West is synonymous with immensity and offers endless wonders to behold.
For the right balance of ocean, vibrant cities, desert, mountains and natural treasures, here is the best 2-week itinerary for your Western USA road trip.
As Ray Charles famously sang, Hit the road, Jack!
American West tour map
2-week tour Summary
Days 1-2 : Los Angeles
Your American adventure begins in the City of Angels, Los Angeles.
Why not start your trip by mingling with the locals in the oldest part of downtown L.A. Make your way to Olvera Street for some typical Mexican cuisine, a favourite among Californians.
After a well-deserved night's rest, enjoy a full day exploring this most exciting of Californian cities.
Start by exploring behind the scenes of Hollywood with a visit to a film studio. I particularly recommend Universal Studio or Warner Bros , which offer family-oriented tours.
On your way there, take the time to admire Beverly Hills , an affluent neighbourhood that is home to many Hollywood stars.
After immersing yourself in the world of cinema, treat yourself to what California does best: sun, sand and surf!
Santa Monica is the perfect place to have some fun. Its pier is well known for its festive atmosphere. It is also the end of Route 66.
A few kilometres away, Venice Beach has a much more bohemian feel with its many street artists and skateboarders. If you want a photo of the famous Venice sign, you will find it at the corner of Pacific and Windward.
Day 3 : Las Vegas (461 km)
It's time to leave the City of Angels in your Los Angeles rental car.
Today's destination is without a doubt one of the most eccentric destinations in the United States: Las Vegas.
Your stay here would not be complete without a stroll along the Strip , a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard lined with casinos and hotels, each one more flamboyant than the last.
The most impressive of these are Caesar's Palace, the Wynn and the Venetian.
In the evening, be sure to take in the famous fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel . It's a must-see that will captivate the whole family.
You'll also want to experience Fremont Street , which is pedestrian-only between Main Street and 4th.
Here you'll see everything from neon signs to light shows projected on an immense canopy screen suspended above the street, street performers, and a zipline... Note that this section of the "City of Sin" isn't recommended for children in the evening.
Days 4-5 : Grand Canyon (439 km)
This morning, take Route 66 from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, widely considered to be the most iconic stretch of this legendary highway!
Once you reach the Grand Canyon, begin your discovery with the eastern section, called the South Rim . It's definitely the most impressive!
Your first stop is Mather Point , the most beautiful viewpoint in the park.
Although it is very popular with tourists, you'll soon forget your surroundings as you take in the breathtaking view.
The next day, make the most of your full day inside the park to explore the Rim Trail .
This trail runs along Hermit Road. It is possible to hike the trail, but the best option is to take the park shuttle and get off at the various points of interest.
One don't-miss stop is Mohave Point , a scenic overlook where you will literally feel as if you are floating above the Grand Canyon.
To end the day on a high note, take a drive along Desert View Drive at sunset.
This scenic route is beautiful all the way along, but especially at Lipan Point , which offers dramatic and colourful panoramic views...
However, if your accommodation is not inside the park, I strongly recommend arriving before 9 a.m. to be sure of finding a parking space.
Day 6 : Monument Valley (369 km)
Today's route leads to an icon for any fan of American Westerns: Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is located on Navajo Nation Land.
There is an entry fee of $20 US per vehicle (4 people) or $10 US per person. Children 9 and under are admitted free.
Be sure to take the Monument Valley Scenic Drive , the best way to enjoy the beauty of these legendary Far West landscapes.
And head to John Ford Point for the iconic view of the region.
Day 7 : Lake Powell (277 km)
Today's destination is Lake Powell, a region marked by colourful contrasts with its clear blue lake surrounded by pink and red sandstone rocks.
Along the way, be sure to stop at the impressive Horseshoe Bend .
There, a thirty-minute hike will take you to the most spectacular view of the Colorado River.
Distance: 2.4 km round-trip
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Elevation gain: 73 metres
Once you reach your destination, make your way to Antelope Canyon .
The site can only be visited with a Navajo Guide, who will tell you all about the history, culture and geology of this magnificent natural treasure.
These unusual formations are both spectacular and surprising. The play of light will leave you speechless and will delight any photography enthusiast.
Allow about 1.5 hours for this tour.
Day 8 : Bryce Canyon (232 km)
Next, head for one of the most spectacular parks in the southwestern US: Bryce Canyon.
It's hard to find the right words to do justice to the landscape. Bryce Canyon is like a natural amphitheatre, filled with sandstone arches, pillars and spires.
It's a real paradise for hiking enthusiasts. You won't want to miss the Queen's Garden Trail for a close-up look at the unique geological formations.
Queen's Garden trail
Distance: 2.9 km round-trip
Time: 2 hours
Elevation gain: 98 metres
Then make a stop at Sunset Point for a magnificent overview of the hoodoos.
Despite its name, I recommend continuing on to Bryce Point , the southernmost viewpoint and the most spectacular spot from which to admire the sunset.
Rising to an elevation of 2,528 metres, it will certainly end your day on a high note!
Day 9 : Zion (216 km)
Another day, another spectacular national park! Today, it is Zion that awaits you.
This magnificent area was discovered by Mormons, for whom "Zion" means "paradise".
And that's certainly the impression you'll get from the landscapes you will find here!
Since you only have one day here, take the Zion Mount Carmel Highway . The best attractions can be found there.
One place you simply must stop is Canyon Overlook , which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the canyon and surrounding area.
To get there, you'll have to take the Zion Canyon Overlook trail, a fairly easy trail but not recommended if you have a fear of heights!
Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
Distance: 1.6 km round-trip
Time: 30 minutes
Elevation gain: 135 m
Day 10 : Death Valley (415 km)
Today's destination is... Death Valley.
Despite its chilling name, Death Valley is well worth the detour (and the sweat). It is important to note that summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius.
The best way to see the valley is to enter by Hwy 190 and drive to Dante's View .
When you reach the top, you will enjoy a vast landscape of sand dunes as far as the eye can see.
Continue on to Furnace Creek , a peaceful little oasis in the middle of the desert.
If you have the time, take Artists Drive to Artist's Palette .
The landscape is coloured in vivid shades caused by oxidation.
Day 11 : Mammoth Lakes (291 km)
Ready for a day of contrasts? Today's route leads from the desert to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Mammoth Lakes is not your typical California landscape. It is a mountain resort town nestled deep in a densely forested valley dotted with magnificent lakes.
Whatever the season, there is an activity for everyone... downhill skiing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and much more...
If you are fond of hiking, you will want to walk the Crystal Lake Trail .
As the name suggests, you will find yourself in the heart of the alpine beauty of Crystal Lake .
Along the way, you will enjoy panoramic views of Mammoth Lakes Basin and cross paths with Crystal Crag , a granite monolith more than 10,000 feet high.
Crystal Lake trail ::
Distance: 4.5 km return-trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Elevation gain: 254 m
Day 12 : Yosemite (164 km)
Another famous route awaits you today, the Tioga Road . This scenic high mountain road runs through the northern section of Yosemite National Park.
This spectacular park is your destination for today.
Your first stop is Tunnel View in Yosemite Valley.
Here you will enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the entire national park.
If you're travelling with the family or are feeling less energetic, you will enjoy Yosemite Falls . Together this series of three falls form the fifth tallest waterfall in the world, at 739 metres.
An easy thirty-minute trail will take you to the base of the Lower Falls .
For the more athletic or more courageous, the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the Upper Falls ... and takes 6 to 8 hours to complete (round-trip)!
Days 13 to 15 : San Francisco (315 km)
Today you head for your final destination, last but not least, San Francisco. The city known as the Paris of the West is the most European and most tolerant of American cities.
For a good start to your stay here, I recommend a visit to the De Young Museum . Its top floor offers the best view of the city.
In the evening, take a night tour of Alcatraz Prison ... if you dare! Did you know that the prison offers haunted tours? Be sure to book in advance.
San Francisco is known for its famous cable cars . An early morning ride will allow you to avoid the crowds... A great way to start your second day!
Be sure to visit the city's iconic attractions: the Painted Ladies , a row of colourful 1890s Victorian houses across from Alamo Square, as well as Lombard Street , the "crookedest street in the world".
Afterwards, why not watch the sea lions and do a bit of shopping on Fisherman's Wharf . And if you're feeling peckish, you're also in the right place to sample the local cuisine.
For a perfect ending to the day, and to soak up the city's atmosphere, take a walk across the Golden Gate bridge . This majestic bridge is even more magical at sunset!
All good things must come to an end... this is the last day of your adventure in the Land of Uncle Sam.
If your flight is in the evening, I recommend a quick tour of the Mission District , a colourful Latino neighbourhood.
Then it's time to head to the San Francisco airport for your flight home, your head and heart filled with lasting memories!
$1,842 / adult
You're now ready to conquer the American West in 2 weeks! If you have questions or comments, be sure to write in the comments section below.