EV with road trip map

The Ultimate Electric Vehicle Road Trip

Hint: it's easier—and more fun—than you think

Road trips are so much more than just going from point A to point B—after all, the journey is the main attraction. So, when we planned a trip to attend my husband’s college reunion in Las Vegas, New Mexico, we chose to fly into the other Las Vegas, about 700 miles away. We wanted to take in the wide open spaces of the Southwest with its canyons, hoodoos, and big skies. Plus, it was fun to say we were on a Vegas-to-Vegas road trip.

But to add to the madness, we decided to forgo a traditional car rental (and thus leave rising gas prices in the dust!) and make the trip in an electric vehicle. Would it even be possible? With vast distances between small towns, would we even be able to find enough charging stations?

Going Electric

My husband took the trip as a challenge, immediately diving into planning apps like Plug Share and A Better Route Planner, both of which help you find charging stations and even let you rate them. With the latter, you can create your whole itinerary and even choose the type of car you’re driving, so it will only show you the chargers that work with your model. Once we saw that our proposed trip was doable, we started looking at Turo, a platform that allows owners to rent their cars. (Similar to renting an Airbnb, check the rules for each listing because restrictions can vary depending on a car owner's wishes or preferences.) We lucked out, and the car's owner was really excited to hear about our plans and even offered to include a cooler for us.

Grand Canyon

Our first charging stop after leaving Sin City was in Kingman, Arizona, right on the Historic Route 66, the quintessential road trip highway. While the car charged, we bought some souvenirs and ate in a classic diner serving the standard burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We had plenty of juice to make it all the way to Grand Canyon Village, which had destination chargers right near where we were staying at Yavapai Lodge. After checking in and plugging in the car, we jumped on a free park shuttle to catch the sunset along the south rim. Staying right in the park meant we could easily catch both the sunset and the sunrise. 

Flagstaff

In nearby Flagstaff, about 80 miles south of Grand Canyon Village, the DoubleTree by Hilton, the Hampton Inn & Suites, and the Holiday Inn Express have EV chargers. We only stopped here for a night so that we could spend most of the day at the Grand Canyon and not have as long a drive the next day, but the convenience was excellent.

Petrified Forest National Park
Larry Lee / Getty Images

Petrified Forest National Park

Next, we topped up our battery in Holbrook, Arizona, while we sheltered from a dust storm followed by heavy rain. Then, we made our way toward the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park as the sun came back out. Fallen logs, now completely petrified with minerals in a rainbow of colors, lay broken along the dry dusty earth. It’s illegal to pick up any pieces of petrified wood within the National park, but you can get some in gift shops in the park and in the surrounding area—it's a must-have souvenir for any fossil lover.

Albuquerque

In the past, our visits to Albuquerque included stops at the Natural History Museum and the Explora Science Center, and Children's Museum. This time, we plotted out a "Breaking Bad" and "Stranger Things" filming location tour. Having binge-watched both series during the pandemic, it was fun to drive from one end of the city to the other, checking out familiar-looking spots while not burning any gas. An excellent place for lunch is at the Indian Pueblo Kitchen (make sure to try the house-made fry bread) inside the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center

Santa Fe

Before heading to our furthest point, Las Vegas, New Mexico, we spent a night in Santa Fe, near the historic center. The Inn of the Governors is within walking distance, and while it didn't have an EV charger, the valet kindly showed us where we could plug into a regular AC outlet in their covered garage—this is where having the car's adapter plug came in really handy. We found chargers at the County Clerk's Office for a faster boost. We popped into the Georgia O'Keefe Museum while we waited and had a tasty lunch at the Pizza Gallery on Grant Street.  

Endless Highway Monument Valley Panorama Route 163 Arizona Utah USA
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Ship Rock and Monument Valley

The return trip west started with a stop to see Ship Rock, or Tsé Bitʼaʼí in Navajo, which means "rock with wings." This impressive monadnock rises over 1,500 feet from the plain below, with cows grazing lazily in its shadow. Rock climbing is banned not only here but everywhere in Navajo Nation. These rocks and lands are sacred, and the best way to learn more is to hire a Navajo guide. We did just that, and our guide, Vera from Monument Valley Tribal Tours, took us off-roading in an open jeep. We drove past the iconic mittens to visit a traditional kiva where an elder showed us her weaving skills while sharing their Navajo beliefs and customs. Charging was a little more challenging in these parts and required a detour to Blanding, Utah, but worth it to see the unspoiled beauty of the sculpted earth and learn about the people who have such a deep connection to it. 

Page, Arizona

Outside the northwestern border of the Navajo Nation, near Page, Arizona, the Colorado river curves around Horseshoe Bend, a worthy photo stop after charging at one of the eight public charging stations in the city. We also took a guided tour in Antelope Canyon, walking between the wavy walls of orange sandstone of the slot canyons. Our guide, Joe, did a masterful job of showing us how slot canyons are formed using a pile of sand and pouring water from his water bottle over the mound.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Rocks spires, called hoodoos, glowed orange as the sun rose. We stayed just outside Bryce Canyon's gates in the Ruby's Inn complex, where there were several destination chargers. We were a little tired after staying up late for a stargazing tour with Dark Ranger Telescope Tours, where the planets and constellations played hide and seek with the clouds at first, then eventually rolled away, revealing the Milky Way in all its glory. We didn't mind sacrificing sleep when rewarded with shows like this.

Zion national park in autumn.
ketkarn sakultap / Getty Images

Zion National Park

Layered sandstone walls rose on either side of the road, making us crane our necks to admire the grandeur that is Zion. In the summer months, cars can only drive up to a certain point, so we parked and hopped on a shuttle to enjoy the leisurely Riverside Walk Trail. We stayed just east of the park in a glamping tent at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. Nervous about where to charge the car nearby, I inquired with the resort. To my surprise, they said they were installing some on the property that were ready by the time we arrived. Perfect!

Saying Goodbye

Driving back to Las Vegas, Nevada, the temperature rose steadily as the altitude dropped. When we stopped to charge in Mesquite, the thermometer read 111 degrees F. We had started the day canyoneering with East Zion Adventures wearing sweatshirts in 60 degrees F! Feeling exhausted from the heat and days packed with adventures, we were happy to finally get some rest but a little sad to part with our EV car. The owner is looking to sell it soon, and to be honest, if we didn’t live across a border 2,500 miles away, we just might have driven home with it.

With states like Colorado creating a network of chargers no further than 50 miles apart on specific highways and California banning the sale of new gas-powered cars starting in 2035, it’s only going to get easier to go electric on road trips. While charging may take longer than pumping gas, seeing a complete charge for just $20 was a huge plus—we went home with dreams of buying our own EV very soon!

Illustration by Julie Bang