From Saguaro to Sin City, the Southwest blazes with breathtaking sights, stunning hikes and iconic attractions everyone should experience at least once in their life. With an unforgiving landscape and temperatures that scorch in the summer, this is a short but sweet trip you need to be prepared for.
We’ve put together a three-day Southwestern road trip for the adventurous couple, or maybe a few friends. This adventure-packed itinerary features stops at Saguaro National Park, Valley of Fire State Park and even an overnight pit-stop in Las Vegas—an exciting yet romantic destination for couples. You’ll spend almost a full day in each park since there is so much to see.
Day 1 – Tucson, Arizona to Saguaro National Park
Begin your trip by flying into Tucson International Airport, about 30 minutes from Saguaro National Park, or simply drive directly to the park. Plan to arrive the night before so you can begin day one bright and early. If you’re traveling during the summer, it’s important to start exploring early in the morning to avoid hiking at the hottest point of the day. Afternoon thunderstorms are also common in summer, so plan accordingly.
Pack your boots, backpacks and plenty of water and sunscreen, because today is all about epic hikes in Saguaro National Park. From an endless sea of cacti to a hidden desert oasis, choose a few of these top hiking trails to see the best of Saguaro. The park is split into the east and west sections, with Tucson located in the middle.
We recommend making a stop at the grocery store in Tucson to pick up items for a lunch on the trail.
Most people visit Saguaro to see the majestic cacti up close and personal. About 2 million cacti are scattered across the park, specifically the Saguaro species that is native to the Sonoran Desert region. They all vary in age, which can be determined based on their size and number of arms. Cacti can grow very large as they mature. In fact, a Saguaro cactus is not considered fully grown until about 125 years of age, with the average lifespan ranging from 150-175 years old.
There are a variety of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding or driving through the stunning cactus forest.
Bridal Wreath Falls
Beginning at the Douglas Springs Trailhead, this moderate 5.6-mile hike has plenty of scenic views, including a glimpse of the Rincon Mountain District. But best of all? You might just find an oasis in the desert. Bridal Wreath Falls is a small but tranquil waterfall, and the amount of water you see is dependent on the season and drought conditions. While on the trail, be on the lookout for the park’s abundant wildlife population, such as antelope squirrels, black diamond rattlesnakes and Gila monsters.
The Hohokam people once inhabited the lands that make up Saguaro National Park, and you can see traces of their history on the Signal Hill trail. This fascinating 0.3-mile hike is a must-visit. Discover numerous petroglyphs, or ancient rock carvings, dating back anywhere from 550 to 1,550 years old. This is also an ideal lunch spot with a scenic picnic area to rest and refuel.
This is a challenging hike, well worth the reward. At about eight miles round trip, take the Sendero-Esperanza trail to the Hugh Norris trail to reach Wasson Peak. Once you hike to the summit, at 4,687 feet, take some time to admire the exceptional landscape and bird’s eye view of millions of Saguaro cacti. Such a sight is hard to come by.
Where To Stay Near Saguaro National Park
Nestled in Tucson Mountain Park, the Gilbert Ray Campground is close enough to easily access Saguaro National Park while offering additional access to moderate hiking and mountain biking trails. It’s also pet-friendly, so your furry friends are more than welcome to join you on your active adventure through Saguaro National Park. Just be sure they remain on a leash at all times.
If luxury is where you spark romance, check out the Lodge on the Desert. This stunning resort and spa is the ideal spot for couples seeking more luxurious accommodations during their road trip. The relaxing atmosphere is the perfect setting after a long, tiring day out on Saguaro’s hiking trails. If you’re staying in town, end the night with a romantic date night at Bob’s Steak and Chop House followed by dessert at Frost Gelato!
If you’ve decided to camp, make sure to pick up extra groceries in the morning.
Day 2 – Tucson To Las Vegas, Nevada
Viva Las Vegas, baby! Check out or pack up camp for the desert drive to Sin City. It takes approximately six to seven hours from Tucson. Make a stop at Crappy’s Breakfast Café, a popular establishment for visitors and locals alike, before hitting the road.
While the options for fun and relaxation are practically endless, consider checking out some of these top things to do in Las Vegas for your afternoon and evening.
This downtown Las Vegas gem is an incredible destination for first-timers. Historic Fremont Street is the original strip, featuring some of the area’s oldest casinos, the Mob Museum and exciting street performers. You can also take a zipline ride straight into a flashing slot machine across this iconic street!
The Las Vegas Strip
No trip to Nevada would seem complete without a stroll along the famous Las Vegas Strip. There are many casinos, resorts and shops right at your fingertips. Take a gondola ride at The Venetian, visit Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay and make sure to catch the Bellagio Fountain Show at night.
The High Roller
This trip is all about making memories together. Take home your next one on the top of a 550-foot Ferris wheel located at The LINQ Hotel. Catch next-level views of the city from the top of the High Roller Observation Wheel and take advantage of the bottomless alcoholic beverage package during your ride. This is also where you’ll be staying for the night.
The LINQ Hotel has plenty to offer. After a ride on the Ferris wheel, explore the interactive Museum of Selfies or order a drink at the ICEBAR made from more than 100 tons of ice. There are numerous restaurants on-site, including the West Coast staple, In-N-Out Burger. Plus, it’s relatively budget-friendly compared to others on the Strip. Dine here, or visit some iconic eateries such as Gordon Ramsay Burger.
Looking for the best and brightest of The Strip? Consider staying at the brand new Resorts World for a luxurious stay and play experience.
Day 3 – Las Vegas To Valley of Fire State Park
Don’t party too hard the night before, because day three requires another early start. Grab a bite to eat at Hash House A Go Go before driving to the Valley of Fire State Park, a 1.5-hour drive from the Strip. Enter through the park’s East Entrance, the only place to purchase passes.
Head straight to one of the most well-known hikes in the park. The Fire Wave is a memorable attraction unlike any other—not to mention, one of the best reasons to visit Valley of Fire. The natural rock formation is made of red sandstone which has stood for centuries, towering 174 feet high. Spend time exploring around the structure and taking photographs.
White Dome Trail
The White Dome trail and the iconic Fire Wave look as though they are straight out of a Martian film. It’s no wonder that many movies and television shows were filmed in this location, including a 1966 Western, “The Professionals.” You can even find ruins from the film on the trail. It also makes an excellent backdrop for photographs, particularly the short slot canyons.
Upon departure, make a stop at Elephant Rock. You might’ve noticed this arch-shaped structure which resembles the shape of an elephant’s trunk, hence its namesake, on the way in. Situated near the park’s Eastern Entrance, we recommend checking out this unique rock formation before you leave.
Where to Stay Near Valley of Fire State Park
Many campgrounds are situated in Valley of Fire State Park, including the scenic Arch Rock Campground. It is a low-key spot that is perfect for stargazing and snuggling up with your partner. Most campsites feature a grill and wireless connection access at an additional cost. Enjoy a nice camp cookout; you can pick up food supplies at the nearby Lin’s Fresh Market.
There are several tasty restaurants near Valley Of Fire State Park, including one owned by professional musician and illusionist Criss Angel. Find breakfast, lunch and pizza at Criss Angel’s blp—hence the name—in Moapa Valley, Nevada.
If you’ve flown in for this road trip, then take the drive back to Las Vegas where you can stay another night or return your car rental and catch a flight back home.