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With coronavirus still making international travel difficult, now is the perfect time to consider a road trip in the Southwestern United States. Arizona and Utah have a combined eight national parks, as well as a multitude of National Park Service sites and trails, state parks and other incredible places well worth a visit.
It’s easy to visit multiple parks on a single Utah or Arizona trip because many are close together and connected by convenient roads. You can string two, three or four parks in a row and spend a few days at each to get a taste of what these states have to offer.
Many national parks in Arizona and Utah are close to hotels you can book with points to save some hard-earned cash.
Before you start making plans, check your destination and your preferred hotel for COVID-related updates. A resource like The New York Times’ coronavirus map can give you an idea of what you’re driving into. Arizona has recently seen a significant spike in cases, so plan accordingly — even if that means postponing until the situation improves. Our national parks will be just as beautiful whenever you’re ready to hit the open road.
Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim – Page, Arizona)
Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon admiring its depth, width and color palette is one of the most humbling experiences you can have. The park is so vast that it’s sectioned into north and south rims, accessible via two main entrances. Here are some good hotel options near the North Rim:
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon
This is hands down the best option because it is within the park itself — an obvious time saver. Not the newest hotel, and not pet-friendly, but Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon has a great pool and offers free parking and shuttle service to connect you to multiple stops in the town of Tusayan and inside the park.
A night at this Holiday Inn costs around 22,500 IHG points.
Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell
Hyatt Place hotels are modern, practical and usually offer free breakfast. Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell is pet-friendly and even has a fantastic pool — which is a great way to cool off after a hot desert day.
A stay here will cost you 12,000 points per night.
Courtyard by Marriott Page at Lake Powell
The Courtyard Page at Lake Powell may not be the newest hotel, but its Southwestern style blends in with the local architecture, giving it a unique personality you won’t find at other Courtyards. Pets are welcome, there’s a great pool and gym, and you get free parking.
This is a Category 5 Marriott, so each night at this hotel will run you between 30,000 and 40,000 Bonvoy points.
» Learn more: Marriott Bonvoy program: The complete guide
Home2 Suites by Hilton Page Lake Powell
This no-frills hotel is a fine option in Page. Home2 Suites Page Lake Powell’s in-room microwave and full-size fridge, plus a free breakfast, make meals more convenient before and after after a long day at the park. A few provisions from the supermarket are all you need to avoid the hassle of seeking out prepared meals morning and night. This is yet another pet-friendly option in the area, and parking here is free.
A recent reservation search turned up rooms starting at 22,000 Hilton Honors points per night. But rates vary according to date and demand, so check your exact days to see how many points you’ll need.
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim – Flagstaff, Arizona)
The second section of the Grand Canyon, which also gets you to the other side of the Colorado River, has many of its own unique features and viewing opportunities. Here are some good hotel options near the South Rim:
Hyatt Residence Club Sedona
This is a lovely Southwestern style hotel, but it’s in Sedona — a bit of a trek to get to the park. The upside? Sedona is a cool town with its own amazing views. This Hyatt Residence Club has an outdoor pool to die for, but the rooms are somewhat aged.
The nightly rate is 15,000 World of Hyatt points.
SpringHill Suites Flagstaff
This modern SpringHill Suites in Flagstaff has a nice outdoor area and an indoor pool. It offers free breakfast and is pet-friendly, but they charge for parking.
Each night will cost you between 30,000 and 40,000 points, as this is a Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy property.
Hampton Inn & Suites Flagstaff
This Hampton Inn is right across from Northern Arizona University, and while the hotel’s public areas could use a refresh, the rooms have been renovated. Hampton Inn & Suites Flagstaff is not pet-friendly, but it has an indoor pool, serves free breakfast and offers free parking.
A recent award night search turned up rooms for 28,000 Hilton Honors points, but check your preferred dates as pricing is dynamic.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors program: The complete guide
Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff
Expect your good old, dependable, cookie-cutter Holiday Inn Express here. You won’t get a lot of amenities at Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff, and it’s not pet-friendly, but there’s an outdoor pool and free parking.
It costs 22,500 IHG points per night to stay here.
Saguaro National Park
At Saguaro National Park in Arizona, the main attraction is the miles and miles of cacti that give name to the park. Saguaro is close to Tucson, so you’ll find plenty of hotels to choose from in your preferred loyalty program. Here are a few of the most conveniently located and attractively priced hotels when booking with points.
Hyatt Place Tucson Central
The hip, modern, pet-friendly Hyatt Place Tucson Central has an outdoor pool for you to cool off. You also get free parking.
The nightly rate is 5,000 points from your World of Hyatt account.
» Learn more: World of Hyatt: The complete guide
JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa
This is a terrific property outside of Tucson with a spa, golf course and pool. JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa surrounds you with mountain views, cactus fields and dazzling green grassy areas and, bonus: There is a lazy river.
Being a Category 5, it will cost you between 30,000 and 40,000 points nightly.
Hampton Inn & Suites Tucson Marana
This is a pretty conventional Hampton Inn. But recent renovations give it a refreshed feel. Hampton Inn & Suites Tucson Marana has an outdoor pool and offers free breakfast and free parking.
Rooms were going for 29,000 Hilton Honors points per night on the random dates we searched. But as usual, check for your particular dates.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tucson
This property is a bit dated, but the location, price and outdoor pool make it worth a stay. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tucson is not pet-friendly, but you get free parking and free hot grab-and-go breakfast.
An award night costs 15,000 IHG points.
Zion National Park
Whoever said the scenery is distant and impersonal at Zion National Park probably didn't venture out to Angels Landing — that's a trail cut into solid rock that provides 360-degree views of Zion Canyon. Zion Canyon is helmed by the Virgin River, which carved the canyon’s reddish walls from Navajo sandstone. Though you’ll find a few arches here, come for the desert landscapes, mountains, canyons, rivers and woods.
Hyatt Place St George
About 35 miles away from Zion National Park, Hyatt Place St George has a fantastic pool and the elegant public spaces you expect at any Hyatt Place hotel. The rooms are modern and comfortable and come with free breakfast and free on-site parking.
The nightly rate is just 5,000 World of Hyatt points.
SpringHill Suites Springdale
This is not your typical SpringHill Suites. Set against a stunning sandstone formation, SpringHill Suites Springdale gives off the ambiance of a rustic lodge appointed with wood and stone accents. The rooms are very modern, the outdoor areas are amazing and there’s a nice pool where you can soak up the scenery. The hotel is pet-friendly, and it offers free parking and free electric vehicle charging.
Since this is a Category 6 Marriott hotel, it will cost between 40,000 and 60,000 Bonvoy points for each night.
Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale
The rooms at this lodge-style Hampton Inn are somewhat aged, but the backdrop of this property is stunning. There’s an outdoor pool, free breakfast, free parking and pets are welcome.
A night at the Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale came out to 54,000 Hilton Honors points on a recent search, but prices for your dates could vary.
Holiday Inn Express Springdale
Lodge-style hotels are, as you can see, pretty popular in these parts. At the Holiday Inn Express Springfield, this charming style is offset a little by rooms that are showing their age. But the property is pet-friendly and has free parking and an outdoor pool. A free shuttle will take you into town or to the park’s entrance.
You need 27,500 IHG points per night for an award stay at this hotel.
» Learn more: IHG Rewards: More value for the frugal traveler
Arches National Park
Home to Utah’s most iconic landscapes, Arches National Park boasts more than 2,000 arches carved by natural erosion into the area’s sandstone formations. Long hikes here are mesmerizing. And yeah, it looks nothing like the license plate — it's way better. Seeing the Arches in person is spectacular and humbling.
But while arches are abundant, shade is less so. Given that there's little to shield you from the scorching sun, bring copious amounts of water, wear a good hat and slather on the sunscreen.
Hyatt Place Moab
This is another excellent Hyatt Place, with a clean modern vibe and well-designed common areas. The rooms are small and streamlined, but their intelligent design means the spaces function well. Outdoors at the Hyatt Place Moab you’ll find perfectly manicured landscaping, a large pool area and views to be savored.
An award night at this pet-friendly hotel costs 8,000 World of Hyatt points.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Moab and SpringHill Suites Moab
These two properties are joined, so they share many of the common areas, including the pools and outdoor spaces. Both offer complimentary breakfast and free parking. Neither is pet-friendly. Since both properties are at Category 6 in the Bonvoy loyalty program, the better choice is probably the SpringHill Suites since it was built more recently.
An award night at either will cost you between 40,000 and 60,000 points.
Hampton Inn Moab
Just five 5 miles from Arches National Park, the Hampton Inn Moab is a good choice in the area. There’s free breakfast, free parking and an outdoor pool to enjoy after long days exploring the park.
Depending on when you go, you might find award nights at around 39,000 Hilton Honors points. But check your exact dates because prices vary.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Moab
This is hardly the most modern of Holiday Inns, but if you’re not too offended by the early ’90s-style carpets and window treatments, it will do just fine for a trip to Arches National Park. You’ll enjoy outdoor pools, free parking and free breakfast. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Moab is not pet-friendly.
You can stay here for 30,000 IHG points per night.
The bottom line
With an abundance of national parks, national sites and state parks in the region, there’s no need to limit your Southwestern road trip to just Grand Canyon or Arches. Do some research on stops you can add to your trip.
If you can’t get enough canyons, check out Bryce Canyon, Glen Canyon and Canyonlands parks in Utah. Also consider Dinosaur National Monument and Capitol Reef. There’s also the unbelievably gorgeous Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
In Arizona, consider a stop at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Petrified Forest National Park or Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Other sites not operated by the National Park Service, like Monument Valley Tribal Park, Antelope Canyon and even Sedona, offer a more relaxed pace and, in some cases, luxurious spas where you can find soothing escape after all that outdoor adventure.
Remember that the COVID pandemic has temporarily shut down a lot of parks and businesses. So check for updates before you book and again right before you depart, and plan accordingly.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card