A Road Trip of the West: Must See National Parks

A Road Trip of the West: Must See National Parks

13 July

My sister recently returned from an incredible tour of some of the best national parks in the west.  I did a mini version of this road trip to the Grand Canyon a few years back however Zion, Antelope and Bryce are all still on my bucket list.  I talked her into sharing her itinerary here because it sounded so epic–plus she sure took her time researching and mapping out the perfect route so this is definitely one to bookmark for the future.  But what she leaves out in the below is that she got engaged (!!!) at the very end of the trip in the Grand Canyon!  I knew ahead of time (her fiancé asked for my help with the ring which I was so flattered about)–but this made their six day drive painfully long for my family and I as we couldn’t wait to get that phone call that he had popped the question!  Now onto their journey…

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For those of you who need time away from a noisy, fast paced city like myself, and are dreaming of a week of open land, higher elevation with canyon views, and the scent of trees and nature, this is your guide to experience a week of National parks.

Tip: Rent a convertible  |  Our week of adventure started in Vegas with a convertible Camaro.  My fiancé insisted we rent a convertible, and he admits the car was the only research he did as far as the planning went for our trip.  I spent more time imagining the trails we would hike and was excited for our nights of glamping–but I didn’t anticipate how amazing our journey on the road in between the parks would be.  Turns out, the convertible made for some of our favorite moments.  Like the evening we left Zion National Park at golden hour.  Top down, no obstructed views–just the canyon surrounding us.

Route |  Our trip took us from Vegas to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and to the Grand Canyon in 6 days.  This route gave us less than three hours of driving in between locations, so the drive never seemed long, and was part of the adventure along the way.

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A Road Trip of the West: Must See National Parks

Day 1  |  Vegas to Zion

We left Vegas in the morning, which gave us the day in Zion.  We knew we wanted to tackle the well known Angels Landing hike, so we kicked off our adventure with this 5 mile, 4/5 hour route.  I highly recommend driving to Springdale and parking there since the parking is limited inside the park and there are Zion shuttles that come regularly to bring travelers into the park.  If you have heard how intimidating Angels Landing is, don’t let this stop you.  I had a moment of fear when I approached the view of the trail, saw the narrow spine of the mountain and the drop-offs on both sides of the trail.  The hike is strenuous, but there are plenty of chains to grasp onto as well as carved steps.  Be cautious of other hikers, don’t rush anyone and don’t let anyone rush you. You’ll be fine if you keep low to the ground to hold your balance during the difficult areas.  An overwhelming gorgeous 360 degree canyon view will be waiting for you.

From Zion we drove about 50 minutes to Kanab for glamping at Basecamp 37.  We loved it so much that we decided one night was not enough.  Kanab is conveniently located near the boarder of Utah and Arizona, which meant we could pass through the town again on our way back to Vegas from the Grand Canyon.  There are three tents set up here all facing outward toward open land.  This is my kind of camping: a tent with a king sized bed, a clean newly renovated bathroom, and an outdoor kitchenette.  We had planned to start Day 2 early, but found ourselves enjoying the quiet morning drinking coffee on our tent’s porch.  This may have pushed our schedule back, but Basecamp37 reminded us that a vacation should be about soaking up those simple moments, and siting in silence for once.

Day 2  |  Zion

Back to Zion, but to the Narrows.  Down into the canyon we trekked through the Virgin River.  This was an adventure I had never experienced before!  We walked mostly in ankle high water, but at some points the water was waist high.  It was a blast, a great way to cool off in the 100 degree heat and was an incredible view of the canyon.  (Note: We rented waterproof shoes, and socks for this.  Some adventurers I passed wore tennis shoes, but I saw them struggling at a slower pace.)  If you’re making a trip to the Narrows, do it right, have ankle support for climbing over rocks and pushing through currents.  We grabbed dinner that evening in Springdale about 30 minutes off the 89.  Springdale has more hotel and restaurant options, and staying right off the 89 was convenient for our drive to Bryce canyon. There can be traffic at certain times of the day entering Zion, but we avoided this by getting straight on the highway and arriving at Bryce early in the morning.

Day 3  |  Bryce to Page, Arizona

In Bryce we took the scenic drive, stopping at the overlooks and a hike along the way.  I was fascinated by the spire shaped rock formations, the expansive overlook of what is known as Bryce amphitheater, but we were happy with spending just one day in Bryce.  With an early start we tackled the scenic views and were back on the road around 4:30pm.  and on to Page, Arizona.  This 2 hour 45 minute drive got us to Page in time for dinner and also meant that with the driving out of the way we could have another early start to our next day.

A Road Trip of the West: Must See National Parks

Day 4 |  Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell

 I was eager to see Antelope Canyon more than anything; anxious to see the way light is projected into the Canyon, creating a variety of colors.  This canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park, and the only way to enter is with a Navajo tour guide.  I had researched that the best time to view the light in the canyon is in the mornings, so I booked a 9:30am tour with Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon tours, and the light was perfect!  Antelope Canyon is not a space you can experience on your own, but with a line of others.  It was still breathtaking.  Don’t get wrapped up in the annoyance of being in a crowded space, instead be mesmerized by the lines of the canyon walls; the loops and spiral arches.

Horseshoe Bend is only 15 minutes away from Antelope Canyon.  This is where the Colorado River makes a turn, and is a gorgeous lookout point.  The contrast of the canyon rock and deep blue river is stunning.  We got sandwiches and planned to have a picnic there.  Maybe not the best choice for a windy day; we almost lost our hats on many occasions and our sandwiches got a bit sandy, but there was so much laughter.

The rest of Day 4 was unplanned, we considered driving towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping in a town nearby to break up the drive.  But we learned that there aren’t really towns worth stopping for, nothing larger than Page in the North.  So we decided not to rush on to the next town and instead we booked another night in Page and headed to Lake Powell, and dipped in the lake.  After all our active days this lazy lake afternoon was exactly what we needed.

A Road Trip of the West: Must See National Parks

Day 5  |  Grand Canyon

On to the Great Grand Canyon!  We won the lottery: we booked a log cabin at the Grand Canyon Lodge just five days prior.  Little did we know it takes a year in advance to reserve a cabin.  I am forever grateful for whoever canceled last minute and gave us an opportunity of a lifetime.  Most choose the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to visit specifically for the reason that there are more accommodations available in the area.  Visiting the North Rim cut out the travel time and gave us more hiking time.  Since we were staying at the Lodge we fit in more hikes than normal, watched the sunset over the canyon with wine, then watched the sunrise with coffee.  It was magical!  Reserve your spot at the Grand Canyon Lodge now!

Day 6  |  Grand Canyon – Kanab, Arizona

We checked out of our log cabin and went on the Widforss Trail hike, which became our favorite hike of the trip.  The trail offers views of the Grand Canyon with plenty of Ponderoa Pines to smell.  It then guides you deep into a forest that eventually will rise to a plateau and ridge with an overlook of the Canyon.  From our hike we ventured on to Kanab where we were thrilled to return to BaseCamp37 for stargazing.

On to Vegas to wrap up the trip.  This was a perfect way to end our week of non-stop adventure.  We rested our muscles lounging by the pool and man did it feel good to clean up for a show, put those athletic shorts aside and feel girly again.

Photography + Post | Erica Valponi

  • Dana McDowell

    Ooh, this makes me wistful–when I was in college I would visit my sister in Arizona for entire summers. Love the photos and the composition of this post!

    • aw how amazing to spend the entire summer together! I know her trip made me want to go so badly!

  • Dylana

    Crazy, I’ve never been! Need to do this road trip soon someday!

    xx

    http://www.dylanasuarez.com

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