The burning glow of red rock canyons, starry nights and authentic ranches on Utah and Arizona holidays
The Wild West’s clicking spurs of days gone by is still easy to find in these two south-west states but with sleek sandstone hideaways and luxury hotels popping up everywhere from Salt Lake to Scottsdale, blazing desert fantasies are high-end reality on holidays to Arizona and Utah.
Whether you’re escaping the scorching heat in your luxury pool surrounded by towering cliffs or witnessing the majestic natural beauty of Navajoland as the sun rises, sipping tequila while sitting amongst needle-sharp cactus saguaros, or hiking through blood-red rocky ravines or towering hoodoos, this region is the gateway to outdoor adventure and iconic sights.
There’s that thrilling first Champagne helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon’s epic maze-like formations, the star-filled heavens that seem to shine a little brighter in the dark sky reserves of Sedona and Bryce Canyon, and horse riding through desert terrain as towering peaks meet clouds. As you stand in the shadow of sandstone temples in Zion or under a sweep of ocre rock in Arches National Park, you'll just about grasping the sheer magnitude of it all.
Our Personal Travel Experts have been to Utah and Arizona, so whether you want full-on Frontier fashion at a dude ranch or award-winning luxury bound by dramatic natural landscape, give us a call and we’ll help craft your dream desert holiday.
- During a stay at The View hotel in Monument Valley you can wake to one of the most impressive sunrises in the world
- Spend a few days on the outskirts of the Wild West adventure capital of Moab – set between two of Utah’s ‘Mighty 5’ national parks
- Experience the heat of the desert at Death Valley National Park from Dante’s Peak at 1669 metres above sea level to Badwater Basin at 86 metres below sea level
- Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks lie within easy reach of Las Vegas and offer breathtaking vistas and unique activities
Top hotels in Arizona & Utah
Best time to visit Arizona & Utah
• Much of the American West experiences high temperatures during the summer accompanied by thunderstorms and monsoon rains which can cause flash flooding
• During winter the temperatures can often drop below freezing and there is risk of snow until at least mid-to-late March
• The most pleasant time to visit the parks of the American West is generally in spring and autumn when there are fewer crowds, less chance of rain and pleasant temperatures
• Regions such as Bryce Canyon, which are located at higher altitudes, are cooler often with winter-like weather sometimes lasting until mid-Spring
• In Death Valley the late spring and summer temperatures start to rise and can soar above 50 degrees centigrade. At this time the tarmac famously becomes hot enough to fry an egg on (but don't – it doesn't work without a pan, makes a lot of mess and is quite rightly frowned upon by the park's rangers).
Arizona & Utah holiday highlights
Please note that USA national parks require passes and these are not included. If you are planning to visit four or more national parks or recreation areas it may be worth purchasing an annual pass. We recommend pre-booking online at www.nps.gov/fees for a charge of around $80 per vehicle. Passes can also be obtained at the park.
It is standard practice for resorts/hotels within the USA to charge a mandatory resort fee which is payable locally. This fee can be anywhere between 5USD to 40 USD per room per night and is not included in the cost of your Kuoni holiday.
In the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona’s capital Phoenix offers vibrant city entertainment and leisure activities it’s the gateway for many desert adventures. Once described as ‘a desert version of Miami’s South Beach’, Scottsdale boasts a ‘Wild West’ style old town, a fashionable nightlife scene, upmarket shopping, galleries, spas and golf courses. Situated at a crossroads on a historic trade route, the city of Tucson has a mix of European, Native America, Mexican and Asian cultures. The cacti-scattered Saguaro National Park is located nearby.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the whole of the United States and it is not hard to see why. Expansive views encompass almost two billion years of geology exposed by the Colorado River, the wind and the rain. The national park itself consists of the South and North Rims while the West Rim, with its glass-floored Skywalk, is the nearest part of the canyon for visitors from Las Vegas and is part of the sacred lands of the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
A popular spot on the Colorado River on the Utah-Arizona state line, man-made Lake Powell was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon following the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. A haven for swimming, boating, waterskiing and fishing, it also hosts incredible red rock landscapes the waving walls of Antelope Canyon and the majestic Rainbow Bridge – the world’s largest natural arch. Just to the west of the city of Page, downstream from the dam is Horseshoe Bend, a natural meander of the Colorado River.
Welcome to the Wild West, just as you are likely to have imagined it. Straddling the Arizona-Utah state line in the lands of the Navajo Indians, this awe-inspiring landscape consists of red-rock mesas and buttes rising up out of the desert floor. The back-drop of many Western films, the landscape is instantly recognisable. From the visitors centre, we highly recommend you head down into the valley floor with a Navajo guide to discover traditions and cultures and witness the valley’s most iconic natural landmarks.
The first of Utah’s five national parks, Zion National Park is a wonderland of dramatic sandstone cliffs and rock towers and other unique rock formations. On entering the park, particularly from the west, the view you are greeted with is truly spectacular – an other-worldly landscape of wave-like rocks. There are plenty of unique hiking trails to take here, such as the Narrows – walking between the walls of the canyon in waters of the Virgin River – and Angel’s Landing an uphill hike which is not for the faint hearted!
You may be forgiven for doubting that the landscapes of Bryce Canyon are of this planet. Millions of years of freeze-thaw cycles have created a series of ‘amphitheatres’ where hoodoos – delicately carved pillars of eroded rock – line the walls and floor. Hike or drive along the rim or even walk down into the canyon itself amongst the hoodoos which tower above you. Far from any source of light pollution, the park is a prime stargazing spot and there are even Night Sky Programs, run by park rangers, to join throughout the year.
To the north of the Utah city of Moab is the incredible Arches National Park, home to approximately 2000 natural stone arches as well as balanced rocks, and fiery-red sandstone fins. Highlights of the park include the iconic Delicate Arch which is reached by a three mile round hike over slick rock; and Landscape Arch which is the longest arch in the park and sits in the Devil’s Garden section of the park. For a truly unique experience join a tour into the Fiery Furnace – a labyrinth of sandstone fins (bookable in advance through the NPS website).
The lesser visited of Moab’s two nearby national parks is the vast expanse of Canyonlands, where you will find numerous canyons, buttes and mesas as well as both the Green and confluence of Colorade Rivers. Split into four sections, which at the most are a six hours’ drive from one another, it is hard to experience the whole park in just one trip. The Island in the Sky is the most popular section which provides many lookout points over the canyons as well as the famous Mesa Arch – plan to be here for a wondrous sunrise if you can.
An intriguing city with a spectacular backdrop, Salt Lake City is the state capital of Utah. Perhaps most famous as the centre of The Church of the Latter Day Saints (a visit to the Salt Lake Temple is a unique cultural experience), the city is also a great start or midway point on an epic western road trip. It’s a great base from which to enjoy winter sports in the surrounding mountains. To the north of the city is the Great Salt Lake, the remainder of the pre-historic Lake Bonneville and the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere.