Thanks to you Forum-Posters who helped me plan this trip!
I highly recommend this trip for families, or people of all ages who like the outdoors.
Day 1 –Las Vegas. We stayed at the Signature MGM Grand, very quiet, suite had very plush bed and giant bathroom, nice pools, great view. It’s 1 block off The Strip.
Day2- Played golf at Royal Links in Las Vegas. Nice round. Each hold is modeled after a famous Scottish / irish or English golf hole. Some of the sand traps (pot bunkers) were 6 feet deep! / Then we drove to Zion NP and hiked half of Emerald Pools. We drove up to the tunnel, across the switchbacks. Very dramatic scenery.
We stayed at Flanigan’s Inn, in one of their 2 bedroom suites. I loved the quiet vibe, the loft and high ceilings. There is a small pool with deck chairs. Very relaxing vibe. I could have spent another night or two here. The food at the hotel restaurant, The Spotted Dog, was delicious after a long day. The wine was good, too. I’d suggest you make reservations because the place was still totally packed at 9pm when we showed up without reservations. There is a small bar where you can have a drink while you wait for your table. The little town of Springdale is lovely.
Day3 – Zion & Grand Canyon:
Zion National Park - Did some more small hikes. Hiked to the beginning of the Narrows – very pretty. Hiked to Canyon Overlook – Gorgeous! (highly recommend this hike but not for those with fear of heights!). Very short hike to Weeping Rock. And some unmarked hiking near the river. Weeping Rock is a bit over-hyped, in my opinion.
Then we drove to the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. The route was through Kanab, down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We got there in time for sunset – which was spectacular. We didn’t want to rush through Zion like that, but the Grand Canyon Lodge had only 1 room available for 1 night during our entire trip – so it was necessary to rush. Zion NP really deserves 2 or 3 full days.
We had a late dinner at the Lodge but had to wait about 30 minutes because we hadn’t made reservations. The food seemed pretty good – but the sunset views were spectacular! The lodging feels like a log cabin from 1900. It is rustic and very comfortable, but very dusty. The windows are quite old. We were in the 1 unit that’s handicapped accessible, which was the one right near the lodge. It is very conveniently located.
Day 4 – Grand Canyon-North Rim, & drive to Bryce Canyon:
We hiked about 4 miles total in the Grand Canyon – down to The Tunnel. I forget the name of the trail but it was lovely. Gorgeous views! There was some shade but it was mostly very hot. Bring lots of water! People were riding very large mules on the same path so, every now and then, we’d have to stand over to the side while a group of riders passed us. There was a bit of dodging mule urine on the path. The obvious downside to this hike is that the entire second half is all straight uphill! I got pretty tired right toward the top (the last 20 minutes). All the way down I was wondering why anyone would want to ride a mule on such a lovely hiking trail. Then half the way up I wished I could bribe someone into giving me his or her mule!
We drove to Bryce Canyon – without having lodging lined up ahead of time. We drove to Bryce Canyon and peeked over the edge into the canyon. We looked at the Lodge in the park but decided not to stay there because it looked really dusty. We were lucky to find a room somewhere right around the corner from Ruby’s. I forget the name of the place but it was the only motel there – and it was nothing special – and yet fairly expensive for how basic it was! (beggars can’t be choosers!) The motel room had a little kitchen and sitting room, which would be good for self-catering if you’re on a longer hiking trip. Ruby’s hotel and the more modern one also owned by Ruby’s were both fully booked. We had dinner at the giant buffet at Ruby’s. The food was just so-so, but it was very convenient and we were dead tired after our Grand Canyon hike.
Day 5 – Bryce Canyon
We hiked a 3 or 4 mile loop into the Canyon. It is gorgeous. Loads of red rock and hoodoos. There were a multitude of other hikers on this trail, more than we saw anywhere else. That was the only downside to Bryce. It also seemed hotter and dustier here than in Zion or Grand Canyon. This may be because there was less vegetation on the canyon floor. For views of dramatic rocky formations, this is the place! I also enjoyed seeing some trees that has apparently been struck by lightning. They provide a nice contrast with the landscape.
Day 6 – Drove through Escalante/Grand Staircase NP via Scenic Route 12. This park is so huge – we did not have time to explore it properly. We stopped at the Interagency Visitor Center in or near Escalante, and the very helpful ranger showed us how to find dinosaur footprints. He gave us a satellite image of the area, which involved a 20 mile drive down a dirt road (need 4WD) – and then climbing up some 1-2 story high white rock cliffs. On top of these cliffs were apparently 800 dinosaur footprints. We found about 60 of them – and it was REALLY cool! We felt like explorers, trekking off to find something interesting in the middle of nowhere. There was a muddy dried up river to cross (which had recently experienced some rain), but luckily our feet did not sink into 7 inches of mud like whomever had visited the dinosaur area before we did. I would have no idea how to get back here – but the people at the Interagency Visitor Center will be able to direct you. It was totally worth it and a highlight of the trip for me. One of the predator footprints was the circumference of my arms (if I make a circle)! And you can see the toes in the predator footprints. The herbivore footprints are round. There is one set of footprints which shows multiple feet and a tail that was dragged through the mud. We saw the photo of this fossilized track, but we could not locate it on the cliffs. Wear hiking boots with VERY good grip! In fact, all of these hikes require good tread because slick rock can be slippery.
We spent the night in Boulder at some very basic motel after the people at Boulder Mountain Lodge said that they only had one of their most expensive rooms available (for something like $300). We went with some other very cheap motel for $92 about 3 blocks down the road. It was pretty run down and I don’t remember the name, but the woman at the front desk (the owner) was friendly. We had dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill, which was just decent but fresh food. The wine was better than the food, actually. The restaurant has charm.
Day 7 – We hiked Lower Calf Creek Falls, which is a 6 mile hike. One of my FAVORITE hikes of all time! It’s the perfect mix of scenery – river, slick rock, cliffs, birds, flowers. And at the end is a beautiful little waterfall and a tiny beach. And dogs are allowed on leash! What could be better?? Unfortunately, my dogs were at home in San Francisco but I got to pet other people’s dogs. There is a camp ground right here – so if you like camping or hiking, I’d highly recommend this place!
We drove to Moab, where we’d rented a nice, 3 bedroom condo for 4 days.
Day 8, 9, 10 – Moab –
Moab is a great base from which to explore Zion National Park, Canyonlands NP, Dead Horse Point Park, and Arches National Park. We visited all of these parks and hiked quite a bit at Zion and Arches. We just visited Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point without doing much hiking – but it’s equally easy to see the scenery from the viewpoints.
My traveling partner played golf in Moab, but said the course was boring. You can also ride horses or take 4WD trips in the dunes or on dirt roads. Moab is a very laid-back town. I felt very relaxed here.
There was one hike which we did not do – Fiery Furnace at Arches – because my traveling partner is afraid of heights and the photos that the guide at the visitor center showed us looked pretty extreme. I wish I had done this hike, but some things involve compromise.
Day 11 – Drive to Las Vegas.
The drive from Moab to Las Vegas is long and boring – but you can stop at a different section of Zion NP (Kolob Canyons), which is accessible from Route 15. We did not stop, as we were all hiked out!
In Las Vegas we stayed at The Platinum Hotel, which is 1 block off the strip and had nice, comfortable suites and free parking. The public areas of the hotel appear to very dated – like something from 1980. This doesn’t bother me but may bother some people. The bartender was nice and very helpful. We attended Cirque de Soleil and went to the movies.
Day 12 – Golf at Bali Hai. This course is right past the Strip. It’s very convenient and is an absolutely beautiful course. There is noise from the nearby airport, but we tuned it out. We had a delicious lunch here afterward.
Day 13 – Slept in and flew home.