On October 2017 we went on one of our best trips ever! I planned a detailed itinerary and this made the whole difference in order to enjoy what that incredible region has to offer.
From our home in Vancouver, Canada we flew to Las Vegas. It’s a short flight, just under three hours, and very affordable due to competition between airlines.
We flew United Airlines and arrived in Vegas around 11am. We stayed at Elara by Hilton Las Vegas, with a good location and beautiful views. As almost always happen at the “vacations properties hotels”, they will try to give you “free” excursions, “free” meetings, “free perks”. We just ignored them as we already know the target is to sell something (properties, etc).
It was our first time in Vegas, so we walked the “tourist circuit”, along The Bellagio, The Venetian, the ‘Tour Eiffel”, the Caesar’s Palace, the “Fontana di Trevi”, the Mirage and others.
Dinner was at a wonderful restaurant called “Maggiano’s Little Italy” located at Fashion Show Mall where I ate raviolis and hubby ate veal.
From Vegas to Zion Canyon
On the next day (October 4th) we picked-up a rental car from Budget Rent a Car. A brand new Nissan, still without plates, where we were the very first users. So cool as nothing compares to the smell of a brand new car!
Our first stop was the small town of Springdale, Utah, where we stayed at the Holliday Inn Express.
About the Holiday Inn Express: Excellent location, spacious and modern room, great swimming pool with beautiful views of the canyons. There are several places to eat within walking distance. We particularly enjoyed the “King’s Landing Bistro” and “Dom Pedro’s”.
We stayed in Zion National Park during 3 days and for sure this is a place where we intend to return, as there are tons of activities.
Tip: Don’t miss a chance to visit the Springdale Visitor Center on 1101 Zion Park Blvd. where you will grab useful information about the area.
Some interesting routes along this area:
Scenic Byway 9 – Scenic Byway 9 through Zion National Park to its Junction with Scenic Byway 89 in Mount Carmel Junction is also called the Zion Mount Carmel Hwy.
If you want a nice stroll after that, walk the flat, paved Parus Trail from Canyon Junction back to the Brice Canyon. It basically parallels the river and has a lovely view of the Watchman at the end of the day.
Riverside Walk (the first part of the Narrows.)
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – The towering White Cliffs shine from US-89, bypassing Mount Carmel Junction to Zion and from Mount Carmel Junction on the way to the visitor center.
- Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway – From Mount Carmel Junction through Zion, note the following:
Checkerboard Mesa – A unique mesa with impressive crossbedding found along SR-9 just after entering the park.
East Temple – Rising up high and seen shortly beyond Checkerboard Mesa.
Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel – A 1.1 mile tunnel blasted through the mountain connecting the east side of the park with the south side.
Great Arch – The blind arch is seen just after leaving the south side of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
Switchbacks – They begin when leaving the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel on the south side, allowing for a thrilling drive to the canyon floor.
We continued through Dixie National Forest to Bryce Canyon, where we stayed during two nights.
The road is in excellent condition and there are many scenic spots along the way. I found the arches along Red Canyon and the Petrified Forest super interesting. Along the way we went on several hikes, on market trail and most of them were easy and short.
As you can see on the pictures above, it’s necessary to be extra careful while driving as the animals frequently cross the road. More than once our car was surrounded by cattle.
Bryce Canyon Tips:
Easy drives within the park have spectacular views. Make sure you stop along the way at the Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce Viewpoints.
Start your day as early as possible. We left our hotel when it was still dark and enjoyed the twilight zone as we entered the park. There were only the two of us when we got there and we were able to park at all viewpoints without any issues, as we were ahead of other tourists.
We stopped at all viewpoints along the park, and in my opinion, these are the highlights:
- Sunrise Point (that’s the reason we were there during sunrise)
- Bryce Point
- Paria View
- Farview Point
- Piracy Point
- Natural Bridge
- Rainbow Point
- Fairyland Point
We stayed very close to the Park entrance at The Bryce Canyon Inn. It’s a “no frills” hotel, with excellent staff. The hotel is also very clean and comfortable. The location couldn’t be better and there’s also an excellent pizzeria within the hotel entrance.
You will be driving along byway 12. It’s one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Make sure you have time to appreciate it accordingly!
Hikes: There are trails for all ages and fitness levels, from easy to strenuous, with varying scenery. The Rim Trail is paved and has outstanding views of hoodoos.
There are several interesting kikes close to Bryce Canyon, and I recommend parking the car at “Mossy Cave Trailhead” and enjoying the easy walk along “Tropic Ditch Falls” and “Mossy Cave”.
Not to be missed: Kodachrome Basin State Park
One of the most scenic spots in Utah, Kodachrome Basin has sixty-seven monolithic stone spires that are over 180 million years old. There are more than 12 miles of recreational trails, modern washrooms and a visitor center.
Red Canyon: Another “must visit” attraction along highway 12
Red Canyon can be easily missed when you travel to or from Bryce Canyon. Make sure o stop, get out of your car and go on one of the many easy hiking trails or just enjoy the breathtaking views of the canyons.
From Bryce Canyon to Page, along Hwy 89, there’s another great stop: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Unless you are planning on renting an ATV or buggy, this is a quick stop where you will admire huge pink dunes and have great photo opportunities.
Page – Lake Powell Area
After two nights at “The Brice Canyon Inn” we drove to Page – Lake Powell Area where we stayed at the Holiday Inn
Page seats atop a mesa overlooking Glen Canyon Nation Recreation Area and Lake Powell, the reservoir created by Glem Canyon Dam. The reservoir is the most astonishing body of water in the west.
There are several tours in Page – Lake Powell area departing from Wahweap Marina. The Natural Bridge Tour travels 50 miles to Natural Bridge, where passengers disembark for the hike to the 290-foot tall Rainbow Bridge. A two and a half hour tour encompasses Antelope and Navajo canyons for a view of Glen Canyon Dam and colorful Navajo Tapestry walls.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
The highlight of this tour is the Rainbow Bridge National Monument and it’s really an unique experience. The bridge is the tallest natural bridge in the world and can be reached after an easy and short hike. Please note that to respect traditional religions, no one is allowed to walk under the bridge.
Horseshoe Bend is located close to Page and it’s a must sea attraction in the area. The name was inspired by its unusual shape, a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River.
Glen Canyon Dam
It’s possible to go on a tour of Glen Canyon Dam. We booked one day before, and found it really informative.
From Page we drove to the Grand Canyon through Desert View Drive.
It must be booked well in advance but deserves the effort: Staying at “El Tovar”, inside the National Park, is an experience that shouldn’t be missed! We stayed there during two nights and had dinner on both nights at the El Tovar Restaurant, where the first experience was excellent and the second not so good as our waiter was distract and took long to get our orders and even longer to bring our food.
During the day we had lunch in other restaurants inside the park and we found the food good.
The North Rim and South Rim are accessed from opposite sides of the canyon, but most people visit the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim. The main access point is the South Entrance, where the main visitor center is located.
Desert View is the first stop in the park if you are coming from the east and entering the park through the Desert View Entrance. Despite its appearance, the tower is not an ancient ruin. It was built in 1932. The tower was built around a concrete and steel structure and it’s stone exterior creates a dramatic effect, as it is a “real ruin”. 🙂 There’s an outdoor observation deck on the second level and an observation deck on the top floor. The views are breathtaking.
After visiting the Grand Canyon we drove back to Las Vegas. Driving a short stretch of the famous “Route 66” was really cool!
We also stopped at the Hoover Dam, in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Nevada and Arizona.
In La Vegas we stayed at The Vidara Hotel & Spa during two nights. The room was huge, with a big living room, a king size bedroom and a modern kitchen (that wasn’t used).
We also went to watch Cirque du Soleil performance “O” , which we found amazing.
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping
We ate at several good restaurants and found the best meal to be at Scarpetta. The restaurant had a nice view to the Bellagio water show and the most important things: Excellent food and service.
From Vegas we flew back home onboard of United Airlines friendly skies.
Have you been to the Canyons? If you want to share some tips for those going there, please feel free to use the comments area. Thank you!