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National Parks

grand Canyon

Las Vegas  – Zion – Bryce – Lake Powell – Monument Valley – Grand Canyon – Las Vegas

This trip takes in some of the best national parks in the area. Including the big one, The Grand Canyon. You can easily do this trip in both directions. If one direction misses the Grand Canyon over the weekend, I’d plump for that.

Start your trip with as many nights as you would like in the fabulous Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas you head up the US15 into Utah. It is a pleasant 2 hour 45 ish drive to the gate of Zion national park. En route you go through Mesquite. This can be a nice stop of as there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and also a handful of casino hotels which can be fun to have a look at if you have never been to a casino outside of Vegas before.

At Zion national Park there are a number of places that you can choose to stay. You can stay in the park itself at the Zion Lodge. Or you can stay in one of the towns surrounding the park. I chose to stay in Springdale, which I would wholeheartedly recommend if you don’t want to stay in the park itself or if the park lodge is fully booked. It is very convenient being right at the entrance. There is a free shuttle bus that stops outside all of the hotels and takes you into the park, and the choice of restaurants and hotels for a picturesque little town is very good.

The number of nights you spend in Zion would depend on how much hiking you want to do. If you are planning on spending your time hoping between the main sites on the shuttle you could probably get away with 2 nights, if you make an early start from Vegas and get into the park for a couple of hours on the first afternoon and for a day on the second day. If you want to do some of the parks numerous hikes then you could stay for 3 or more nights.

It is a rather lovely drive through Zion park when you leave and head towards Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is about 2 hours from Springdale if you are staying there. Slightly less from the Zion Lodge.

One night may suffice for Bryce Canyon. We spent the afternoon after driving up from Zion driving the rim of the canyon and stopping off at all the photography viewpoints. Then we stayed on site at the Bryce Canyon lodge, (but there are other options nearby), we got up early and did a short hike before breakfast. If you stay longer than the one night, you may be able to fit in a trip to the nearby Grand Staircase national monument. This is only a 20 minute drive from Bryce.

The drive between Bryce and Lake Powell is roughly 5 hours 45 minutes to Page, Arizona. You could break up the journey en route by visiting Capital Reef National Park. Alternatvely, you could head for the Glen Canyon National Recreation area which is also part of Lake Powell. This is on the Utah side and Bullfrog is the closest town. This is 4 hours 30 roughly from Bryce, but does not go via Capital Reef.

Lake Powell is very pretty. It is actually a reservoir. You can get boat trips out on the lake and it is a popular spot for fishing. It is easy to while away a couple of days here doing watery activities. If you prefer to spend your time taking photos of the lake, one night will probably be enough for you.

Bullfrog, UT to Monument Valley is 3 hours 50 roughly. Page to Monument Valley is 2 hours 30.

You will no doubt have heard of Monument Valley and seen it in films many times before. It is an excellent area to visit to get a real idea of how native americans still live now as well as seeing the valley itself first hand.

There are two hotels actually in the valley itself. Goulding’s and The View. Both are very good. The first has a small Wild West museum, the second pips top prize for the best views. Another option is to stay in the town of Kayenta, which has many chain motels, such as Holiday Inn express and fast food and chain restaurants a plenty.

How long you stay depends again on what you would like to do. You could complete the drive around the valley in one day, but there are opportunities to go on a horse riding trip with the native Indians and other such activities which could keep you in the area longer.

From Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon (South Rim) itself is 3 hours 30 minutes. From Kayenta slightly less. You could first visit either or both of the towns of Flagstaff or Sedona. Both are on the tourist circuit. Sedona perhaps a little more so, although it is possible to base yourself in Flagstaff and do the Grand Canyon on daytrips.

Hoover Dam

For lodging in the Grand Canyon itself there are a number of different options, and the experience of staying on the edge of the Canyon definitely make it worth considering. All accommodation is run by the same people (at the South Rim) Xanterra. This makes it fairly easy comparing prices of different options and availability. That is one thing that needs to be top of your list of holiday jobs. If you are planning to stay at the Grand Canyon book as early as you can. The accommodation gets booked up quick. However, if you see it is already fully booked, don’t despair just yet. Keep checking back, people release their rooms on a daily basis as there is no penalty for doing so up until the last minute. Book a fully refundable back up option, check back every day and be patient. I managed to get last minute reservations for Yellowstone on an August weekend as I managed to grab a reservation that someone had released. No rooms available at all on park for weeks and weeks and then one morning I woke up and had a look and there it was – one room for the exact dates we wanted! Of course you have to be fairly flexible for this option as a room in any of the hotels/price ranges could come up. To guarantee exactly what you want book very early.

Again, it is a bit ‘how long is a piece of string’ for how long you stay at the Grand Canyon. If you are travelling in from Flagstaff or Sedona and can start early and stay in the park in the evening you could make a very long day of it and see most of the South Rim (quickly) and get plenty of photos, finished off with toasting the day from one of the restaurants on site. To do it straight from Monument Valley in my opinion only one day would be too rushed, you would need two. If you are a keen hiker or photographer you may decide to stay even longer.

Grand Canyon back to Las Vegas is 4 and a half hours. You pass some interesting little route 66 towns on the way back and get to drive straight over the hoover dam!