An Off-the-Beaten-Path, Pet-Friendly Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
By Kim Merryman
Last March, I booked an Escape Campervan for a two-week spring break Southwest road trip from California through the American Southwest. I wanted to get off the beaten path and stay mostly out of National Parks since I was going to have my dog with me. I was so excited to explore some new places in the desert, but less than a week before I planned to pick up the camper van, California was ordered to shelter in place.
I hope I’ll get to take this trip Southwest road trip someday soon, but in the meantime, you can take advantage of the planning I did and get there first. Book a campervan from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City and explore the less crowded, but just as beautiful parts of the American Southwest. This trip is ideal in spring or fall weather.
The Best Route For A Roadtrip To The Southwest
If you’re coming from LA or Las Vegas, make your first overnight in Mojave National Preserve. The Preserve has multiple camping options, including two first-come, first-served campgrounds and several primitive camp spots. Among the various hikes is Kelso Dunes with sand dune views as far as you can see at the top.
Make A Stop in Arizona
If you’re coming from the Phoenix Escape Campervans location or heading east from Mojave National Preserve, spend some time in the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. Check out this kid-friendly Sedona itinerary for ideas.
Before you head to New Mexico, stay a night in the quiet Homolovi State Park campground. Take a walk on the park’s short, easy trails leading to Hopi archeological sites with petroglyphs.
On your way out of Arizona, stop at Petrified Forest National Park, one of the few national parks that allow pets on trails. You can even get your dog a BARK ranger permit by signing to follow the pet rules. The park website offers itineraries based on how much time you have and your interests.
Stay A Day in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a perfect mid-trip place to clean up and refuel. Book a site at Trailer Ranch for the luxuries of showers and a load of laundry.
There is so much to do in Santa Fe. Get some classic New Mexican green chile at one of the many famous eateries in town. Take the pup for a walk or run on the Dale Ball Trail system. Check out Meow Wolf, a far-out immersive art experience in 70+ rooms of installations. They recently re-opened with COVID-19 safety precautions. Support the vendors at the Plaza and get a look at some beautiful turquoise and silver jewelry.
Don’t Miss Out on the Beauty of Utah
On the way to your Utah destinations, stop at the Four Corners Monument to get a photo of yourself in four states at once. While you’re at it, support the vendors there by purchasing jewelry, blankets, and tasty fry bread.
Spend a night or two in one of the developed campsites or try dispersed camping on the BLM land in stunning and remote Bears Ears National Monument, recently designated a national monument. It’s not very developed for tourism and contains many delicate archeological sites sacred to Indigenous peoples. Be sure to read the Monument’s tips for visiting with respect before you go. Tip: I’ve been lost in Bears Ears before and cell service is spotty at best, so I recommend purchasing a guidebook and map to take with you.
Again, skip the crowds of Utah’s most popular national parks and head to the pet-friendly Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to explore some of the best of Utah’s geological spectacles, including arches, slot canyons, waterfalls, and hoodoos. There are tons of dispersed BLM camping opportunities here as well.
Head back to the Escape Campervan location where you started or go north and drop your van off at the Salt Lake City Escape Campervans location. Consider spending a day or two in Salt Lake City exploring its lovely parks, nearby hiking, and excellent food.
Plan Your Southwest Road Trip Today
I hope you’ll take advantage of all the planning I did for my pet-friendly, off-the-beaten-path road trip through the Southwest even though I haven’t been able to yet! Book an Escape Campervan from Las Vegas, LA, Phoenix, or Salt Lake City today and explore the desert!