If you reside near Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, or Las Vegas, the Grand Circle is just a 3-4 hour journey away, providing a fantastic opportunity to embark on a National Parks of the Grand Circle Tour. Alternatively, you can fly into any of these cities to begin your adventure.
Starting from any of these locations, you can comfortably explore nine national parks. Camping or lodging options are available inside or nearby most of the parks.
The Grand Circle encompasses some of the most breathtaking national parks in the American West, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon. Great Basin National Park is also part of the Grand Circle, although it's slightly off the main route.
Beginning our Grand Circle Tour from Las Vegas, you'll have easy access to Zion National Park, just under three hours away in Springdale, Utah, where you'll find numerous lodging and camping options.
Zion National Park is home to massive sandstone towers and cliffs of various hues, as well as the captivating Virgin River in a narrow slot canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park, just an hour and twenty minutes from Zion, boasts the world's largest collection of Hoodoos.
Next, Capitol Reef National Park, a hidden gem of cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges, is only a two-hour drive from Bryce Canyon. From there, you'll reach Moab, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, in about two hours.
Arches National Park showcases a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures, with over 2,000 natural stone arches. Canyonlands National Park offers a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically shaped buttes carved by the Green and Colorado rivers and their tributaries.
After exploring Utah's "Mighty Five," head to Colorado to visit the awe-inspiring Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. From there, continue south to Mesa Verde National Park, which offers a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there for over 700 years.
Next up is Petrified Forest National Park, featuring fossils from the Late Triassic period, as well as over 600 archaeological sites. Finally, reach the Grand Canyon National Park, which will overwhelm your senses with its immense size and unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms.
If you're inclined to visit Great Basin National Park, consider adding it to your itinerary before or after Zion National Park.
For more itineraries and fascinating stories about national parks, check out the Park to Park Highway Series, which follows the journey of a group of 12 men who embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime, 5,000-mile, 76-day loop to visit the 13 national parks that had been established by 1920.
This expert-guided itinerary is supported by Rob Decker, a photographer and graphic artist who studied photography with Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park in 1979. He is now on a mission to photograph and create iconic WPA-style posters of all national parks as we celebrate the next 100 years of the National Park Service. 10% of his annual profits are donated to organizations that support our National Parks.