So this is a break from our regularly scheduled bookish programming, but since I creep on a lot of travel blogs while I meticulously plan our vacations, I figured I’d post this in case it’s helpful to someone.

My husband and I left our kids with my parents (thanks parents! 😘), and road-tripped through Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon for a week in September 2021. I’ll post our itinerary with short notes and then some overall trip thoughts at the end.

Saturday:
– Flew Delta into Las Vegas. Arrived Late.
– Rented car from Enterprise.
– Stayed at Marriott’s Grand Chateau
-> Nice, reasonably priced hotel right off the main strip. Recommend.

Sunday:
– Woke up late. Ate breakfast at The Egg and I.
->Huge portions, great muffins, yum. Recommend.
– Drove 3 hours to Zion National Park.
– Got National Park Pass and Gear (waterproof shoes and stick) for the Narrows from Zion Adventure Company.
->Friendly staff and they give you a short little overview of what to expect in the canyon and some safety tips. Recommend.
– Ate dinner at the Whiptail Grill.
-> Quick service and delicious food. Highly Recommend.
– Stayed at Bumbleberry Inn
-> An old-fashioned inn in walking distance of the park entrance. We got lucky with a nice view of the peaks behind our balcony, and they give free breakfast vouchers for Oscar’s Café across the street. Recommend.

Monday:
– Complementary breakfast at Oscar’s Café
-> Fast service, great food. Recommend.
– Take the park shuttle and hike the Narrows (10 mi)
-> So there’s a town shuttle that runs along Springdale to the park, but we found it was quicker to just walk the mile-ish to the entrance. The shuttles were busy when we got on them around 0800, but they move fast. If you want to avoid the crowds, definitely go as early as possible. The Narrows was an AMAZING hike. One of our favorites of the trip. It’s flat, but you’ll be walking through water nearly the entire way (up to about waist deep) so the waterproof shoes and stick were invaluable. It stays pretty cool in the narrow canyon, and the water was also quite cool in September, so we started off with sweaters and shorts, and eventually went down to our t-shirts. (Pretty much our M.O for the whole time with temps in the 40s in the morning and in the 80s in the afternoon.) There’s a fork in the trail to go left or right, and I definitely recommend going down both if you have the time and energy. We carried about 6 liters of water with us, but due to the cool weather, I only ended up drinking 1 liter. (Adam might have drank 2.) The Narrows is also cool, because it’s an out and back, so you can go until you feel tired and ready to turn around. They told us it would take us the same amount of time going up as it would returning, but we were definitely faster returning. (Mostly because we were used to tromping around in the water, but also because we were going with the current.) There were definitely a lot of people in there, but not unpleasantly so, and I did see some adventurous small kids braving the cold water as well. Highly Recommend.
– Returned shoes and stick and ate dinner at the Whiptail Grill (because we just couldn’t resist)

The Narrows Hike!

Tuesday:
– Complementary breakfast at Oscar’s Cafe
– Hiked Angel’s Landing (5 mi)
-> Another beautiful hike! My husband’s a bit acrophobic, so he waited for me at the bathrooms near the top (along with a bunch of other people) while I hiked out on the ridge. It’s probably the scariest hike I’ve ever done because the path is narrow and those drops are SHEER, but you adjust pretty quickly. The only big problem is that it was SO crowded (and we went on a random Tuesday in September!) SO SO SO crowded, and there’s lots of spots on the ridge, where there’s not room for two people abreast which really adds to the disconcerting feeling like you’re about to be pushed off. But they’re are hand rails to hold on to in most places. It took me about 2 hours to get out and back due to the crowds. Still worth it, and I definitely recommend… however GO AS EARLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. I did hear they’re making this into a permit-only hike in January, and I honestly think that’ll make for a better experience. And I do want to emphasize, the view is nice at the end, but there are lots of nice views of Zion. This hike is really all about the journey and the challenge (not the destination.) If that sounds good to you though and you get the chance, definitely take it! Highly Recommend
– Hiked the Emerald Pools (2.5 mi)
->We had some time so we went off to the nearby Emerald Pools which… were a little underwhelming, but it was a pleasant hike nonetheless, especially if you’re not up for the more intense Angel’s Landing right next door. We hiked from the Grotto, to the three pools, and then to Zion Lodge.
– Ate dinner at Pizza & Noodle
-> Service took a while and the food was just okay. Should’ve eaten at Whiptail again!

Angels Landing Hike!


Wednesday:
– Complementary breakfast at Oscar’s Cafe
– Drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Bryce Canyon
– Hike Fairyland (8 miles) – top right pic below
-> Loved this hike down into the canyon! Lots of ups and downs, great views and changes of scenery. Highly Recommend. Took 5 L of water between the two of us and that was plenty. Highly Recommend.
– Hike the Queen’s Garden, Navajo Loop, Peekaboo Trail Figure 8 combination trail (6.4 miles)
-> It took some convincing to get my Husband to do the whole Figure 8 after Fairyland, but it was a great hike. While I loved doing both this one and Fairyland, if you’re short on time (and energy), I’d go for this one. (Although it is significantly more crowded.) Highly Recommend.
– Stay at Bryce Canyon Log Cabins
-> Pleasant cabins just outside of Bryce Canyon with a view of the plateaus. Recommend.
– Ate dinner at Pizza Place (this is the actual name)
->There aren’t many places to eat around Bryce so this place was WAY crowded. We got carry out. It took awhile, but it was decent enough pizza.

Fairyland (upper right) and the Peekaboo Trail (part of the Queen’s Garden figure 8)

Thursday:
– Ate breakfast at Bryce Canyon Coffee
-> Solid coffee and pastry place with a cozy atmosphere. Recommend.
– Drive 3 hours to Antelope Canyon and take lower canyon tour with Ken’s tours
-> Loved loved loved this tour! The Navajo nation requires masks during the pandemic, but since they were running at limited capacity, the lighter crowds were really nice. Our guide was lovely, and we got tons of great pictures. Highly Recommend.
– Ate lunch at the Bird House.
-> Counter service with delicious fried chicken and sides (my husband said possibly the best fried chicken he’s ever had). A surprising find. Recommend.
– Drive to see the big bend (*we totally forgot to do this* 😂)
-> Oops! Got a little distracted by Antelope Canyon. Oh well! Guess we’ll have to go next time. We did go peek down at the Glen Canyon Dam which was pretty impressive.
– Drive 2 hours to Grand Canyon
– Ate dinner at Maswik food court
-> Super meh. Which was kind of a theme for the food in the Grand Canyon Park. Next time, I would drive the 15 minutes out of the park to go find real food.
– Stayed at Thunderbird Lodge
-> Can NOT beat for convenience, but the lodge itself was pretty average. It was great to get an early start on the hikes. But it totally wouldn’t be a huge loss to stay outside of the park for cheaper.

Antelope Canyon

Friday:
– Hiked Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (12.2 miles)
-> Bright Angel Trail was a fun hike. But I will say it is mostly the same view the whole way. If you’re going to do it, I would definitely recommend going beyond Indian Garden to Plateau Point. Indian Garden is a little underwhelming, but at least at the point you can see the river. There’s three stops for water and bathrooms along the way, which was nice. It took us a little under 6 hours, and while it was tiring, the uphill wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I will say, just be SURE you bring enough water and are dressed comfortably for the weather. We saw many people not carrying any water and hiking in restricting clothing. A helicopter actually had to fly in and land almost on the trail for one guy (and this was in September when the weather was nearly pleasant!) So, you know, be prepared and know your own ability. Recommend.
– Took shuttle bus to Grand Canyon viewpoints
-> On the first look, the Grand Canyon is enormous and awe-inspiring. But due to the great size… all the viewpoints looked very similar to us, so I wouldn’t say its really necessary to see them all.
– Ate dinner at Fred Harvey Burger
-> Pretty much the only decent place to eat that was open in the actual park. A half hour wait to get a table (though they do text you so you can go wander around) for average burger and pub fare.

Plateau Point! In the bottom left, you can actually see where the trail goes from the rim.

Saturday
– Ate breakfast at Maswik food court
-> Still meh, but pretty much the only option
– Hiked South Kaibab Trail to Oo-ah point (1.7 mi)
-> We were originally planning to hike down to Skeleton Point, but my husband’s acrophobia was getting the better of him, and if we’re being honest, we were kind of being hiked out. Oo-ah point was a very short, steep trail to a nice view of the canyon. But it was super similar to Bright Angel (once again, due to the size of the canyon, the viewpoints look pretty similar), so I didn’t really feel the need to go all the way down.
– Drove 4.5 hours to Las Vegas (we actually passed over the Hoover Dam on the way, but didn’t really feel the need to go investigate)
– Ate Dinner at Ramen-Ya
-> Delicious ramen at a little hole in the wall on the Las Vegas Strip. Recommend.
– Stayed at Marriott’s Grand Chateau

Sunday
– Returned car and flew home!

TL;DR

We definitely enjoyed our week-long road-trip through the national parks. With 3 nights at Zion, 1 night at Bryce, and 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, I thought we had plenty of time in each spot. If it weren’t for COVID, maybe we would’ve caught a show in Vegas on the last night, but that’s not really our scene in general anyway.

Zion was our favorite spot, then Bryce, and GC coming in #3.

The only thing I would’ve done differently is maybe stop over at the Big Bend on our drive from Bryce to GC. Also, I would’ve loved to stay at Phantom Ranch and do the Rim to Rim, but it was totally booked for October when I was planning this trip in April. So book early!

Overall, this was one of our slower-paced vacations. Although we were always up early to hit the trails, we were never in a rush, and we had plenty of time in the evenings to unwind. Hopefully, if you’re interested in planning vacay here, this has been helpful, but if you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask! And maybe when I get some more time on my hands, I’ll post some of our older vacation itineraries as well. 😊

And now this hermit gets to rest up until the next great adventure. 😊

4 thoughts on “Wandering the American Southwest

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