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National Park Road Trip Guide: Southwest Edition

Celebrate 100 years of the NPS with the road trip of a lifetime

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

There’s nothing quite like a road trip through the desert; red rock, big sky, and nothing but the horizon ahead. A road trip to the national parks of the American Southwest is even better because after a few hours of cruising through the barren expanse, you’ll reach endlessly deep canyons, stunning rock formations, and rolling sand dunes that look straight out of the Sahara Desert. We know you’ve had your eye on at least a few of these national parks and with the National Park Service centennial coming up, there’s no better time to hit the road and cross them off your bucket list.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Explore the Great Sand Dunes

Photo: Justin Ritucci

Backpack the Great Sand Dunes

Photo: Michael O’Keeffe

Mesa Verde National Park

Explore Mesa Top Loop

Photo: Jason Hatfield

Pit Stop: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Photo: Gemina Garland-Lewis

Climb down into the Depths of Carlsbad

Photo: Lucos Pols

Saguaro National Park

HIke to Javelina Rock

Photo: Chema Domenech

Pit Stop: Phoenix, Arizona

Photo: Kevin Kaminski

Petrified Forest National Park

Hike the Blue Forest Trail

Photo: Jared Blitz

Grand Canyon National Park

Backpack to Cremation Canyon

Photo: Tiffany Nguyen

Hike Plateau Poing via Bright Angel Trail

Photo: John Stambaugh

Capturing the Monsoons in Grand Canyon National Park

Photo: Michael Strickland

Bryce Canyon National Park

Backpack the Under the Rim Trail

Photo: Emily Goodman

Hike Mossy Cave

Photo: Rebecca Jones

Zion National Park

Hike Many Pools

Photo: Spencer Rudy

Backpack the West Rim Trail

Photo: Rebecca Wood

Arches National Park

Hike the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop

Photo: Ryan Dewane

Explore the Fiery Furnace

Photo: Devin K

Canyonlands National Park

Hike Chesler Park and Joint Trails

Photo: Tobin Akehurst

Camp at Squaw Flat Campground

Photo: Madison Sankovitz

Capitol Reef National Park

Hike Sulphur Creek

Photo: Thomas Burton

Hike Cassidy Arch

Photo: Nick Oman

Great Basin National Park

Camp and Hike in Great Basin National Park

Photo: Jason Shepherd

Cover photo: Nick Oman

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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