Five Days Through the Southwestern U.S.: Itinerary + Budget

The actual itinerary for a trip I took with ten friends visiting the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks! We travelled mid-March; the weather was mid-60s during the day and perfect for hiking, and pretty chilly at night. Planning a trip for such a large group was a bit tricky, but I think the key to having a great time was having a plan. We did not look too much into specific trails before arriving at the parks, and opted for the advice of more seasoned hikers and campsite hosts. Our group of eleven rented three JUCY camper vans out of Las Vegas; we unanimously loved them, because you could sleep four people in each and all had little kitchens in the back. The caravan was quite a sight for passing drivers, and we loved backing them together and cooking or crowding around a campfire at night all together. This post from Adventure Journal details other van rental companies around America. All “per van” costs are divided at four people per van, though we technically had one van of three – we decided it was more fair actually split everything evenly as opposed to per van so that the van of fewer people didn’t have to spend more, and we all moved pretty freely between vans for driving and cooking. We also chose to split between all of us the cost of three $80 America the Beautiful annual passes; because each park entrance fee was about $30 per car, this was less expensive in the long run. Plus, if any of us wants to visit another park this year, it’s essentially free.


Day 1

10 AM: Pick up JUCY vans. Since we were picking up three vans, it took a bit longer than anticipated to sign everyone as drivers and get tutorials of opening the “penthouse,” using the stoves, etc.
12 PM: We stopped at a Walmart in Las Vegas to pick up groceries for the week; we did not want to risk driving through long stretches of desert without a store, so this was definitely the move. We each spent $30-40 on groceries, sharing the costs of things like dish soap and loaves of bread.
2 PM: Hoover Dam! You only need to spend about half an hour here, but it’s super cool to see such a large system.
 6 PM-ish: Arrive at Grand Canyon National Park, a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas

Stay: Mather Campground, located on South Rim
$18/night/campsite/4 = $4.50/person/van


Day 2

5:30 AM: Go see the sunrise at Mather Point!! This is one of the best views of your life!!
10 AM: After breakfast and making sandwiches for lunch, we went on a Grand Canyon morning hike. Since we only had our campsite for one night, we had to park the vans near the trailhead. We chose to hike Bright Angel Trail, which was a little slushy as it had recently snowed. It is recommended you account for your hike up Bright Angel to take twice as long as your hike down, but we somehow managed to sprint our group of eleven up the canyon in no time at all. Bring lunch and snacks!
2 PM-ish: Leave Grand Canyon National Park after quick stop at general store and bathroom breaks. On the way out, you drive through Navajo County with some great canyon vistas; we pulled over a couple of times for the view, plus bought some handmade dreamcatchers and jewelry.
5 PM-ish: Arrive at Lake Powell Lone Rock Beach campsite, about 2.5 hours from the Grand Canyon. This is a super cool campsite because you can drive right up to the lake and park in sand. Because we were there in the wintertime, the little single beach bathrooms were not open.

Stay: Lake Powell Lone Rock Beach Primitive Campsite – no reservations, just a giant beach you drive through. It was pretty empty in March, but I am sure it would be a little harder to find privacy in the summertime. $14/night/group = $1.27 each

If you have a little more time, in this area of Lake Powell there are some other cool stops I’d love to check out next time: Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, The Wave, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are all along this route.

IMG_0316Photo by Tyler Reid


Day 3

6 AM: We watched the sunrise over the lake from our vans, and walked the shoreline a bit in the morning, and then made breakfast all together before packing up.
11 AM: Arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park, about 2.5 hours from our Lake Powell campsite; we stopped at a McDonald’s on the way from breakfast.
1 PM: After lunch, we did a couple short hikes and explored the hoodoos.

Stay: North Campsite – no group reservations, but plenty of first-come first-serve.
In the winter, only Loop A is open, which is all RV spots. There was only one open spot left by the time we arrived, so we just squeezed all three vans into a big RV spot.
$30/night per campsite/4 = $7.50/person/van if you were to park properly, but we spent $2.73 each

Photo by Tyler Reid


Day 4

6 AM: After watching the sunrise from a tucked away lookout point near our campsite, we made breakfast and packed up our vans.
11 AM: Arrive at Zion National Park, about 2.5-3 hours from Bryce Canyon. Because we hadn’t reserved our campsites in advance, it was super crucial we got there early.
1 PM: After lunch, we had plenty of daylight to hike the Angel’s Landing trail. Of course, we brought all the water our packs could hold; the hike was long and there are no water spouts along the trail.
8 PM: This was a night of luxury – there is a brewery inside of Zion where we ate dinner! We all definitely appreciated a break from camper van cooking on our last night.

Stay: Watchman Campground (1/4 mile from South Entrance)
$20/night per campsite/4 = $5/person/van


Day 5

8 AM: Saw a peak of the sunrise around our campsite, made breakfast, and packed up. As we had to check out of the campsite by eleven, we also went ahead and moved the vans to a general parking area.
11 AM: Had just enough time to squeeze in a last short hike! We were recommended the Emerald Pools by campsite hosts, and it was a great way to finish off the trip before returning the vans.
4 PM-ish: Zion is about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas. We dropped off most people at our Las Vegas hotel to avoid commotion and cut down on Ubers from the JUCY office. Three people returned the vans after double-checking things.

Photo by Laura Dromerick

Budget Breakdown:

Excluding our flights, the road trip portion of our trip costs each person a rough total of:
$13.50 on campsites
$21.81 per person to contribute to each car’s America The Beautiful park pass
$40 on groceries, approximate
$50 on food along the road and at Zion Brewery, approximate 
$142 on JUCY Van rental;  $42/day (4 days) + $.50 per mile (~800 miles)/4 people per van
$45 on gas

Tell me about your favorite road trip! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *