Reviewed: My top southwest USA road trip stays
Sometimes a long-distance road trip can pass by in a blur – early mornings, long driving days, dinner at a roadside diner, then crashing out in a roadside motel before starting it all again the next day. But as I said before in my road trip guide, my plan for seeing the southwest USA was to take things a bit slower. So as we were going to spend at least a couple of nights in each place we stopped in, I wanted to find accommodation that was comfortable and good value, as well as preferably being locally owned with some individual touches. And the southwest didn’t let me down. I came across some budget gems – from log cabins to an adobe studio rental. These are four of my favourite southwest road trip stays.
Bryce Country Cabins – Tropic, Utah
Tropic in Utah is a teeny little town which is one of the closest places to stay for Bryce Canyon National Park. We stayed two nights in these cute little wooden cabins on the edge of town. They’re small but perfect formed. Each has two queen-sized beds, and en suite bathroom along with a small kitchenette with microwave, coffee maker and fridge. With all that pine they look a bit like something you’d expect to see in the Alps, and in April the weather was appropriately wintery. But the cabin was really warm and cosy, with thick patchwork quilts on the beds as well as electric heaters.
The cabins are built just off the side of Scenic Byway 12, which passes through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park as well as Bryce Canyon. Out the back there are tables and chairs where you can sit with a drink, overlooking miles and miles of farmland with the mountains in the distance. There’s a pizza place and restaurant in Tropic – both of which do take-out – or if the sun’s out there are barbeques you can borrow at the cabins.
The details… Bryce Country Cabins have various different size cabins. An individual cabin like ours costs $99 a night plus tax for two people or $125 for four. There are also deluxe cabins which have a separate kitchen-diner and larger Pioneer cabins for families.
Quail Park Lodge – Kanab, Utah
A roadside motel is the quintessential US road trip stay, but so many are generic and uninspiring. Not the Quail Park Lodge in Kanab though. From outside it’s a vintage 1960s motel, with neon roadside sign and colourful accessories, but inside it’s more like a hotel. The 13 rooms have been refurbished and updated in the last few years. So you get hotel-quality bed linen, dressing gowns, spa toiletries and iPod docking stations, as well as the usual things like cable TV, DVD players, a fridge and microwave. But the best thing about the place was the extra touches – like a free glass of wine when you arrive, free pastries, fruit and coffee in the lobby each morning, and even free international phone calls.
Kanab is home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – you can even bring one of their dogs back to stay at the Lodge – as well as being a central spot in between the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. There are various shops and restaurants within walking distance of the Lodge – or you can borrow one of their vintage bikes – and more within a few minutes drive. Although being a motel means it’s on the roadside, there wasn’t too much noise and there’s bit of outside space with a small pool and terrace.
The details… Quail Park Lodge is located just off Highway 89 on the edge of Kanab. Rooms cost $79–$139 a night plus tax, with a choice of two queen beds or one king, some with separate sitting areas.
Apartment rental – Moab, Utah
There’s been a huge growth in apartment and room rental sites recently, so you’re not just limited to staying in hotels and motels. After struggling to find anywhere affordable in Moab we came across this studio. The friendly owners, Fritz and Suzanne, and their terrier Oscar live next door but the studio is totally self-contained, with a bedroom-come-living-room with a kitchenette, and a shower room. There are lots of local touches – from the adobe building itself to the furniture, wall hangings and pottery.
Moab is within easy reach of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as being the area’s adventure centre – there’s mountain biking, rafting, climbing and canyoneering all nearby. The studio is located on the far southern edge of town, so you need a car to get there and around. The bonus of being a bit more remote though was that it was so quiet and peaceful and we got amazing sunset views across the mountains from our patio. The owners also supply you with breakfast supplies and can give you lots of advice and information about the local area.
The details… You can rent the apartment direct from the owners via the VRBO website and it costs $105 (November–February) or $115 (rest of the year) a night, plus tax.
The Old Santa Fe Inn – Santa Fe, New Mexico
We only had one day in Santa Fe so wanted to be right in the heart of the action, so went for the Santa Fe Inn. It was perfectly located a short walk from the plaza in one direction and the railroad district in the other. It’s designed in a motel-style U-shape with your parking space outside your room, but was one of the most luxurious places we stayed in (though also probably the priciest of the four). The style is very colonial New Mexico with lots of dark wood, local art and big bunches of dried chilies hanging outside.
We had a room with a king-sized bed which also had a sitting room/office area in the entrance, a small terrace out front and a bathroom with a walk-in wardrobe and jacuzzi bath. It also had a kiva fireplace in case it got cold – these are a local feature that look a bit like an enormous beehive in the corner of the room. There’s a big breakfast buffet every morning, plus Starbucks tea and coffee in the lobby all day and free cookies or chips and salsa each afternoon.
The details… We stayed in a traditional kiva room at the Old Santa Fe Inn, which starts from $119 a night plus tax. There are also traditional rooms without the fire from $99 and large suites with a separate sitting room from $169.
So those were my favorite southwest road trip stays – which would you most like to stay in?