My itch to go to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon started when a coworker came back from her adventures there. The pictures were beautiful but when she described it as a religious experience, and she is not religious, I knew I had to go.
Hubby was not excited about going to Zion because he didn’t understand my excitement about red and orange rocks…and how they could be worth traveling for. We had been to Red Rock Canyon outside of Vegas a few times, so I don’t think he knew that Zion would be a greater scale and magnitude. But I had my mind made up…we had to go to Zion and Bryce. It was a must-do.
We decided to go in September around Labor Day because best times of the year to go. The heat of the summer is going away and it isn’t snowing. Yet. I booked our flights in March and so began our research and planning for the adventure to come.
Our preparation involved:
- Reading books to learn about what to wear, what to bring, what to expect, etc.
- Exploring trails to determine which ones we were going to hike.
- Buying the appropriate clothes and shoes, with the help of the folks at our local adventure outfitter store.
- The quick-drying, synthetic clothing (shorts, tops, underwear, and socks) and trail runner shoes were well worth the investment. We washed our clothes after each day and hung them to dry overnight. This meant packing less clothing, too!
Sure we spent some money to prepare for this trip, but we hit up seasonal sales in the spring and summer and it helped a lot. We felt good about saving at least as much money as we spent.
We are both planners, so we plan our entire vacations in advance. Here is our itinerary for this one:
Day 1: Flew into Vegas. Picked up rental car (named our price through Travelocity). Stayed in Vegas for the night…hung out on the strip for a little while.
Day 2: Drove to Zion from Vegas (3 hours); arrived around 1pm and checked in (we stayed in Springdale – the little town just outside of the Park); changed clothes and hiked the Emerald Pools. I think next time we will stop at Valley of Fire since it is on the way to Zion. I have always wanted to go there!
Day 3: Woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, hiked Angel’s Landing. This was the only thing we had planned for this day because we knew it would be a difficult (and tiring) hike…we were glad we planned it that way for those reasons, too. Roundtrip, this hike is about 5 miles. At the top, you are about 1500 feet high.
Day 4: Drove to Bryce Canyon (~45 mins from Zion). BEAUTIFUL scenery on this drive! The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Tunnel is an experience in itself. Upon arrival to Bryce, we drive out to the farthest and highest viewpoint (Rainbow Point), and then drove back down stopping at each viewpoint along the way. Then, we hiked the Navajo Loop, which was short, sweet, and very beautiful. The interesting thing about Bryce Canyon is that it almost feeling like the rocks are moving, causing the views to change. If you stand in one spot and look out and then take a few steps and look at the same spot it is entirely different…and yet the same. It was beautiful. A fantastic day trip!
Day 5: Full day of canyoneering. This was hubby’s insistence pick. Unlike hubby, I had never been rappelling and I was not too keen on it. Fortunately, he (finally) agreed that we could do the intermediate package rather than the high-adventure/advanced one. It’s all based on fitness level, but I was more concerned about my fear level. Haha We hiked into the canyons and rappelled several times. We experienced slot canyons and rappelled down into the cold water a few times. We went with a group through Zion Adventure Company, and in summary this adventure is highly recommended and WELL worth the money!!!
Day 6: Drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (this took longer than anticipated…about 3 hours); hiked a couple light trails, enjoyed the vistas, and called it day. Drove back to Springdale/Zion for dinner. The North Rim is an 8 hour drive from the more popular South Rim and it has different vistas. In all honesty, I have heard about how amazing the Grand Canyon is but I think Zion overshadowed it. To me, Zion was much more majestic.
Day 7: Hiked the Narrows. Rented walking sticks and SO glad we did! This hike is an experience, for sure, as you are actually hiking IN the Virgin River – the river that has carved Zion. The current is swift, the rocks are slippery, and the water is pretty cold (but you get used to the temp in the heat of the day). There are parts where the water was chest high. I only wish we could have gone further into the Narrows. The goal is to eventually see the famous Subway (not the train or the franchise). Our trail runners worked marvelously well, providing the right grip and ankle support for the rocks and rushing water. We saw people rappelling down part of the canyons in to the Narrows…guess what else we want to do now? 😉
Day 8: Drove back to Vegas for our flight home. It’s weird to say but even after all of that hiking – about 28 miles, give or take – we were rejuvenated. Zion was so impactful that we tell everyone it should be a must-add to their bucket lists.