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My Favorite Road Trip: Southwest USA

A Tangle of Canyons, Valleys and Ravines

Take a ride into the American Southwest with AAA Washington’s Nicole Chapman. Find out why it is best to take your time and the scenic route on a trip from Spokane to Palm Springs.

AAA Washington travel agent Nicole Chapman has discovered the beauty and vastness of the United States on road trips to the Southwest. One favorite is from her home in Spokane to Palm Springs in southern California. There are many roadside attractions (including gas stations with big ceramic goats on the roof), cafés that serve “roadkill-themed food” and enough sightseeing to fill your mind with rich images.

“The reason I like that particular trip,” Chapman says, “is the parks and sights you get to see, especially as you go through Arizona and Utah.”

Starting from Eastern Washington, Chapman suggests going through Idaho and the Fourth of July Pass into Montana. This area is especially gorgeous during summer, she says. Travelers can then stop at the Hiawatha bike trail, rent some bikes and pedal with great views. The route is mostly downhill the entire way, and you can take a shuttle bus back to the top of the mountain on the Idaho-Montana border. Then, Chapman says, head south via Interstate 5 and wend through Salt Lake City.

“I recommend spending time in Moab,” she says. “It’s an incredible town with cute shops, good restaurants and fantastic parks, both state and national.”

Nicole and family
Nicole Chapman with her grandparent and aunt. Photo courtesy of Nicole Chapman.

Chapman remembers taking a small plane in Moab that took her and her grandparents over Canyonlands National Park in Utah, which is a place so vast that is hard to take in entirely while on the ground. Outlaw Butch Cassidy once holed up there.

“It’s a tangled mess of canyons and valleys and ravines,” Chapman says.

Another stop she recommends is Arches National Park, which is “stunningly gorgeous.” Then, as you continue down the U.S., check out Monument Valley in Utah as you head to Arizona into Page, which is a small town on the border of the two states. There, you’ll see stunning sandstone rock formations and more. Those who enjoy lake sports can check out Lake Powell.

“If you’re doing this trip fast and furious,” Chapman says, “it can take about five days. But I would recommend giving it a full week. A couple of nights in Moab, a night or two in Page. I would say if you can give it a week, that would be ideal.”

Also, don’t miss Antelope Canyon, which is about two hours northeast of the Grand Canyon, Chapman says. It is “beyond beautiful” and a little “sliver of blue sky” above all the elegant, colorful rocks.

“There is nothing like being in a car on a weird, deserted stretch of road,” Chapman says, “and seeing landscape in front of you. The possibilities are open, you can go anywhere you want. You can stop on any stretch of road and stay all day if you want. Or you can keep going. The possibilities are endless.”

–Written by Jake Uitti
–Top photo is courtesy of Nicole Chapman.

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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