This was the start of it all. Our 2-year wedding anniversary trip. Here is our 3-day National Parks Tour.
Emily was heading to Las Vegas for a work conference and we saw that as a good opportunity for Derek to come along, so he flew out to meet me for the tail end of the conference. We had both done the Vegas thing before; the drinking, the gambling, and waking up with a vague memory of the night before. We thought we'd switch gears and go to the beautiful National Parks in the area.
Derek got in on Thursday evening, picked up the rental car and headed over to the MGM, where Emily was staying. We had an awesome dinner - shout out to Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak!
We got up early and began the journey to the Grand Canyon South Rim – this was just over a 4-hour drive. When we arrived at the park, we purchased an annual National Parks pass for $80 (since we were going to head to 4 parks over the weekend, we opted for the annual pass, since each park on its own would cost $30).
We started at the Bright Angel Trailhead and hiked down the trail into the Canyon for about an hour. We knew that it was going to take twice as long coming back up, so we planned accordingly (bring water!). There were quite a few people hiking for the first 15 minutes, but the crowds thinned as we got lower into the Canyon.
After we were done exploring the area, we started driving east out of the park on Highway 64. Luckily, the sun was setting, it as cloudy and misty, and there were about 8 lookout points, from Grandview Point to Dessert View, that we continued to stop out and catch the sunset. We finished the day by driving 2.5 hours to Page, AZ (and staying at the most expensive Motel 6). I would book your lodging ahead of time or camp.
We arrived at Waheap Marina in the morning and boarded a boat with a top deck. If you have never heard of Lake Powell, google it. It was the coolest boat cruise I had ever been on. The cruise lasted about 2.5 hours. We cruised through Antelope Canyon and Navajo Canyon. These canyons were insane. The Navajo Canyon walls are 600 feet above the water. When we returned, we headed on towards Bryce Canyon. The cruise was $75 per person and included an audio set.
After the cruise, we started on our way to Bryce Canyon, which is about a 2.5-hour drive. We ate lunch in Kanab at Rocking V Café. When we got to Bryce Canyon, we drove out to Rainbow Point - which is the very tip of the park. We hiked Bristlecone Loop and decided to drive back out of the park and to stop at Inspiration Point for sunset. Just our luck (with all the rain) - there was an actual rainbow landing on Rainbow Point. After the sunset, we drove an hour to our lodging for the night – Parkway Motel in Orderville, Utah.
We wanted to catch the sunrise at Zion, so we woke up real early. And it is probably a good thing it was dark and we didn't realize we were driving on cliffs. It was only about a 30 minute drive to the park. We drove to the start of Canyon Overlook Trail - which is on the east side of the park. It was a little difficult to find the trailhead, but THIS WAS THE COOLEST THING WE HAVE EVER DONE. The pictures speak for themselves.
After sunrise, we drove to the visitor center and hopped on a shuttle bus to the last stop in the park – Riverside Walk. We hiked backed as far as we could before we realized why everyone around us was wearing water shoes...
We left Zion around lunch time, grabbed lunch at Oscar’s Café in Springdale and then headed back towards Las Vegas (about 3 hours).
It was a lot of driving in 3 days, but oh so worth it. There are so many parks to see in Utah and Arizona, next time we will be back for a whole week, ready to camp!
What we learned
1. Don't run out of gas in the dessert.
2. These National Parks deserve more than 3 days. Next time, we are going back for a week with our tent!