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The Grand Canyon and Beyond: The Ultimate 7-Day Itinerary in Northern Arizona & Southern Utah

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Pack your hiking boots, sunscreen and selfie stick. You’re going to need all of them for what promises to be your Best. Week. Ever.

If you have seven full days to explore the star attractions of the area of the American Southwest known as the Grand Circle, you already know how lucky you are. What you may not know is which order to visit them in, how many days to spend at each place, and what you can do there. Well, grab your tablet, phone or – gasp! – pen and paper, sit back and relax and get ready to start planning the ultimate 7-day vacation to the Grand Canyon and  beyond!

Before we dive into it, there are a few things to keep “front and center” in your mind:

  1. Since Las Vegas, NV is a popular “jumping off” point for a good majority of travelers to this area, this itinerary will be based on the assumption that you’re staging your trip from there as well.
  2. Buses, trains and other mass transit options are scarce to non-existent in this part of the country, therefore, this will be a self-drive itinerary. Click here if driving is not an option.
  3. Speaking of driving, drive times are on the long side. That’s how we roll in this part of the country, and you should be ready to do so as well. You’ll also notice that we give rather wide variations on drive time estimates. The first number is an estimate for “direct drive,” which rarely happens. You always have to factor in bathroom breaks, meal stops, and the inevitable “oh, wow, look at that!” moment.
  4. Grand Canyon South Rim lodging will be the most time-sensitive element of your trip plans. Hotel availability in this National Park should be the “lynchpin” around which your plans revolve, and evolve. Though this itinerary will go off the assumption that it will be the first stop on your tour, be prepared to hit these attractions in reverse order should Grand Canyon hotels be fully booked for the first part of your trip. Don’t worry, you’ll still have a great time!
  5. This itinerary includes several National Parks which charge anywhere from $20-$30 per vehicle to enter. Save money and time by purchasing the “America The Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.” For just $80, this handy little card grants you access to all National Parks, Monuments and other Federal Fee Areas for 1 year’s time. Exclusions: Native American Tribal Parks such as Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, the Little Colorado River Overlook, Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks. Pre-order online (allow 6-8 weeks for processing) or simply purchase it in-person at the first National Park you visit.
  6. Book everything in advance, and we do mean everything, especially if your visit will take place during the peak visitation times, which is typically between March and November. Hotels, tours, dinners at higher-end restaurants, all should be prearranged. You can’t just “wing it” and hope for the best. Trust us, we live here.    

Here’s how we’re breaking down your week:

  • Day 1 – Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
  • Day 2 – Grand Canyon to Monument Valley
  • Day 3 & 4 – Page/Lake Powell
  • Day 5 – Bryce Canyon
  • Day 6 & 7 – Zion National Park

So let’s do this!

Day 1

Morning: Drive from Las Vegas, NV to Grand Canyon South Rim: driving time – 4.5-6.5 hours.*

Head Southeast on US93. With an early enough start, you might stop at Hoover Dam, tour the visitor’s center and watch a short film presentation on the construction of this enormous yet elegant structure that made the West what it is today. If making good time is your first priority, proceed directly over the Pat Tillman-Mike O’Callaghan Memorial Bridge and enjoy the view of Hoover Dam from a lofty perch of 900’ above the bedrock!

Continue South to Kingman, AZ and head East on I-40. If you’re getting hungry at this point, Kingman has a good number of restaurants to choose from. Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner is a favorite in this area for its retro decor and hearty Mexican and American fare. You might also use this opportunity to stop into a grocery store, purchase a small cooler and stock up on supplies for a rimside picnic at the Grand Canyon. More on that later.

In Williams, AZ, head North on AZ64. Train, history or Route 66 buffs may also enjoy a stop in this Grand Canyon gateway community that is home base of the Grand Canyon Railway.

3 miles South of the entrance gate of Grand Canyon South Rim is the small town of Tusayan, AZ, also known as Grand Canyon Village South. Here you can stop and see the world-famous IMAX film presentation, “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” or do a little shopping before you head into the park.

Upon arrival at Grand Canyon South Rim, stop at the Canyon View Information Plaza located near Mather Point. Browse the informational displays to learn more about how the canyon was formed, talk with a helpful park ranger on how to make the most of your time at the South Rim, or hop on the free Village Loop Shuttle and tour the Grand Canyon Village Historic District. Don’t forget to grab that cooler and sandwich fixins you bought earlier. Park restaurants tend to get crazy at mid-day, so better to enjoy a relaxing “al fresco” lunch than to waste valuable sightseeing time waiting for a table at a restaurant.

Early afternoon: check into your Grand Canyon hotel and do a little decompressing from the day’s drive and activities. Not ready to downshift? Take in more Grand Canyon views on the free Hermit’s Rest/West Rim (Red) shuttle line, or get a taste of the inner canyon with a short hike on the Bright Angel Trail. If you take us up on the latter, remember to double your time down as your estimated time to hike back out. 30 minutes down = 60 minutes out. Water and sun protection must also be carried.

Sunset: be somewhere – anywhere – on the canyon rim! Try to get to your chosen spot 30 minutes prior to sunset, and remain for another 30 minutes afterward to experience the full range of light changes, and the best photo ops. Popular viewpoints for Grand Canyon sunset viewing include, but are not limited to:

For dinner, choose from one of six restaurants within Grand Canyon Village, the deli at Grand Canyon Market Plaza, or the diverse array of options in Tusayan/Grand Canyon Village South.

In the course of your trip plans, you may have heard that dinner at El Tovar Hotel is a culinary don’t-miss, and you’d have heard right! Reservations, though not required per se, are strongly recommended. They can be made 6 months in advance for guests of the El Tovar, and up to 30 days in advance for everyone else. Click here for contact information. If the prospect of dinner here doesn’t appeal or work out, breakfast or lunch at the El Tovar are just as memorable, and delicious!

 

Day 2

Sunrise: If you missed sunset the night before, or even if you didn’t, greet your day in “grand” style be witnessing sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Like sunset, there’s no such thing as a “bad” place to be for sunrise, but there’s no denying that the best views are on the Desert View/East Rim Drive, which, by coincidence you’ll be passing through on your way to your next destination: Monument Valley!

Morning: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Monument Valley, UT: Drive time: 3-5 hours

Note that the Navajo Indian Reservation observes Daylight Saving Time whereas the remainder of Arizona does not. You will “lose” an hour traveling from Grand Canyon South Rim to Monument Valley.

Head due East on AZ64 toward Cameron, AZ. Time permitting, stop at:

  • Grandview Point (the author’s personal favorite for sunrise!)
  • Navajo Point
  • Zuni Point
  • Moran Point
  • Lipan Point
  • Desert View Watchtower

Upon exiting the park, you’ll be on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands. A stop at the Little Colorado River Overlook will give you a greater appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the Colorado River ecosystem, and its spiritual significance to the native peoples of this area.

Visit the Historic Cameron Trading Post at the junction of AZ64 and US89 for a bathroom break/leg stretch, or breakfast. The Navajo Taco with an egg on top must be seen (and eaten) to be believed! Don’t be surprised, or concerned, if you end up with leftovers. Remember that cooler you bought? Grab a to-go box and enjoy your leftovers as a snack later on.

Head North on US89 for a short distance, then turn off on US160 East toward Tuba City and Kayenta. Time permitting, you might stop at the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks just West of Tuba City. One of the largest sites of its kind in the world, you can see clearly where a three-toed dinosaur left its indelible mark in the sandstone millions of years ago.

In the mood for some hiking? Make a detour off US160 to AZ564 and visit Navajo National Monument. A 2.5-mile round-trip hike up the Sandal Trail (no, that doesn’t mean you should wear sandals on it!) rewards you with a bird’s eye view of the Betatakin/Talastima cliff dwelling complex, one of the most sophisticated and well-preserved examples of Ancestral Puebloan architecture in the Southwest.

Continue East-Northeast to Kayenta, AZ, then proceed due North on US163 toward Monument Valley. Time permitting, and/or if you’re craving a Whopper®, stop at the Kayenta Burger King and learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers, a group of 29 soldiers who used their native language to help the U.S. transmit coded messages that were virtually indecipherable to Japanese and German radio operators during World War II. Featuring authentic artifacts and first-hand accounts, the Navajo Code Talkers’ Exhibit is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive exhibits on the subject matter in Northern Arizona – and it’s free, how cool is that?

Early afternoon: arrive in Monument Valley. Stop at the Tribal Park Visitor’s Center and take in the iconic views of Merrick Butte and the Mittens. One look at this dramatic panorama and you’ll know why movie producers fell in love with this area! The displays here will inform you about how these formations were made, and acquaint you with the traditional “Blessing Way” lifestyle observed by many residents of this area. If you’ve followed our advice at the beginning of this article, you’ll have made advance reservations for a guided tour of Monument Valley. If not, the staff at the Visitors Center can advise you about available options and make bookings for you.

Check into your Monument Valley hotel, relax or enjoy dinner at your hotel’s on-site restaurant, or one of the local spots in Mexican Hat, UT or Kayenta, AZ.

Day 3

Morning: rise early, eat a good breakfast, and enjoy a guided tour of Monument Valley. The valley interior can only be accessed by a 17-mile dirt road. Though private vehicles are allowed to drive on this road, the practice is discouraged, especially for those driving rental cars. Car rental contracts expressly forbid off-road driving and any damage sustained by disobeying this rule will be your responsibility. A guided tour is not only safer, but will be more informative and memorable since they are conducted by local Navajo guides.

Depending on your traveling party, personal preference, physical fitness, interests and budget, you can choose from:

  • Guided jeep or 4×4 tours
  • Horseback rides
  • Guided hikes

Tour durations vary from 2 hours to all day. Horseback tours are typically conducted on gentle trail horses walking nose-to-tail; age and weight requirements may apply. Hiking tours may require previous desert hiking experience and may not be suitable for younger children. Click here for more information on guided Monument Valley Tours.

Late morning/early afternoon: Drive from Monument Valley, UT to Page, AZ – Drive time: 2-3 hours.

Note: Page, Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. You will “gain” an hour as you pass from the Navajo Reservation to Page, AZ. Even though Antelope Canyon is situated on Navajo Indian Tribal Land, most Antelope Canyon tour operators go by Mountain Standard Time for the convenience of Page visitors.

From Monument Valley, UT, head South on US163, West on US160, then Northwest on US98. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – this stretch of road doesn’t offer much in the way of points of interest to stop at, until you hit Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park just outside of Page, AZ. This world-famous slot canyon is on the “must-do” list for 99.99999% of travelers to Northern Arizona. Consequently, it’s become very popular. Advance reservations for tours is a must!

From the Tribal Park Entrance gate on US98, you can tour Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon, or both. Lower is the more physical of the two, requiring some stair climbing and mild boulder scrambling. Upper is a cakewalk, 100 yards of flat, easy trail, punctuated by some areas of deep sugar sand depending on weather conditions at the time of your visit.

Though mid-day is considered “prime time” to tour these canyons, visiting during the later afternoon hours (or earlier in the morning, if you prefer) has several advantages. The shapes and colors of the canyon walls are still beautiful, morphing into richer, deeper hues as the sun sinks lower in the sky. The biggest plus is you’ll have fewer people to contend with as you enjoy a more congenial and mellow experience with your guide.

Allow 90-minutes to 2 hours to experience each side of Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon Tour Reservations

If all that walking has made you hungry, take a late lunch or early dinner at the Sandbar, a lakeside restaurant in the Antelope Point Marina complex, or pick up some hand-made sandwiches for another “al fresco” picnic lunch from the Deli at Big Lake Trading Post.

Late afternoon: After touring Antelope Canyon, head West on US98 to US89 and turn left. Between mile markers 544 and 545 you’ll see signage for the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, another natural wonder that has helped put this corner of Northern Arizona “on the map.”

A .6 mile walk on a dirt trail will take you to a stunning view of a hairpin turn of the Colorado River, or an “entrenched meander” in geologist-speak. Be sure to allow 60-90 minutes to enjoy the view, maybe even take in the sunset (or a few bites of your sandwiches from Big Lake), but be sure to keep children and pets under control at all times. There are no guardrails here and it’s a long drop to the river! Also, remember to pack out your trash. “Leave no trace” is your M.O. for this trip.

Though manageable for most people in good physical condition, the uphill incline at the beginning of the Horseshoe Bend Overlook trail may be a challenge for anyone with mobility issues. Tips for those unable to walk to Horseshoe Bend. This area is also completely exposed to the elements, so water, hats and sunscreen should be carried with you.

Evening: Check in at your hotel in Page, AZ, get a good night’s rest, or a good dinner at one of many quality Page, AZ restaurants.

Day 4

Sunrise (optional): Does your day back home usually start with a brisk walk or jog to get the motor running? Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to take a vacation from your fitness regimen. Here, you can get some exercise and do a little sightseeing on the Page Rim View Trail. Popular with local walkers, runners and cyclists, this unpaved trail makes a 10-mile circuit around Manson Mesa, Page’s original townsite. Most adults and children who are at least moderately fit report enjoying this walk that offers beautiful views of Lake Powell (but no lake access). Springtime visitors are treated to a visual bonus of desert  wildflowers in bloom. Once on the trail, you aren’t committed to doing the full 10 miles! There are several paths back to “civilization” you can take if you wish. Keep in mind it is completely exposed to the elements, so bring water, wear sunscreen, and of course, appropriate walking or running shoes.  

Your day is going to be busy, and a good breakfast will keep your energy up. Select Page, AZ hotel room rates include continental or cooked-to-order breakfast. Guests at vacation homes or repurposed apartments can do their own cooking. Groceries can be purchased at Super Wal-Mart or Safeway. The River’s End Cafe inside Colorado River Discovery, the Ranch House Grille and Canyon Crepes are among Page’s most popular breakfast stand-bys.

Option 1 – 6.30 AM: Check in for the Glen Canyon Half-Day Float Trip. This scenic raft trip travels 15 miles down a flat stretch of the Colorado River, through Glen Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Suitable for children 4 and up, rafts launch from the base of the mighty Glen Canyon Dam. At Petroglyph Beach, you can take a cool dip in the river, and ponder the meanings of carvings in the canyon walls left by Ancestral Puebloan people thousands of years ago. This is also the perfect time to enjoy a snack or bag lunch from one of the local grocery stores or restaurants. After disembarking from the your river raft, a motorcoach will pick you up at Historic Lees Ferry, and bring you back to Page at approximately 11:30 AM.  

After lunch, or a quick bite, walk or drive to the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum where you can learn more about the museum’s namesake, the Civil War veteran who in 1869, became the first known person to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The success of his expedition opened the Southwest U.S. up to settlement and development, and raised questions about civilization vs. preservation that remain unresolved even now. Specimens of locally-excavated dinosaurs, and ancient artifacts made by the native peoples of the Colorado Plateau are also on display at the JWP. It’s a great place for souvenir shopping as well.

Option 2 – 7:00 AM: Check in for the Lake Powell & Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour at Lake Powell (formerly known as “Wahweap”) Marina. This 6-hour tour will show you the majesty of Lake Powell from the most intimate and personal perspective: by boat. Cruise past secluded sandy beaches, fjord-like inlets of Warm Creek Bay, Padre Bay and Navajo Canyon en route to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the largest natural stone arch discovered to date. A sacred site to many Native Americans in the Four Corners area, people of many faith traditions find the gravity-defying bridge against the backdrop of sapphire water evokes similar feelings of reverence. For Hollywood producers, Lake Powell evokes visions of dollar signs as a backdrop for big budget epics.

The return trip to Lake Powell Resort features a stop at Dangling Rope Marina, a facility that only boats can access. If you’re feeling the heat, a delicious soft-serve ice cream cream cone from the local snack bar will cool you off nicely. Depending on Lake Powell’s water level, a 3-mile round-trip walk may be required to get to the viewing area of Rainbow Bridge and back to the boat dock. Individuals with mobility problems or difficulty with sun exposure should know that portions of this walk are slightly uphill, and devoid of shade. Please consider these facts carefully – we want you to enjoy this tour! Water, coffee and lemonade are provided on the tour boat free of charge. Snacks and/or preferred beverages may be brought in reasonable amounts.  

Afterwards, everything from light appetizers and custom coffee beverages to gourmet entrees with a world-class wine list can be had at one of five on-site dining outlets at Lake Powell Marina. The food is great, and the lakeside views are even better! Or, head directly back to town, but first, stop at the Glen Canyon Dam for a tour with the Glen Canyon Natural History Association. In 45 short but memorable minutes, you’ll venture deep inside this monumental and controversial structure that brought Lake Powell into existence, and remains an integral part of the Colorado River Storage Project. Tours are conducted on a first-come first-served basis. As a federally-managed facility, Department of Homeland Security regulations are strictly enforced at Glen Canyon Dam. You will be required to pass through a metal detector, and carry money, keys and identification in pockets since bags or purses may not be brought on the tour. No knives or any weapons will be permitted in the building, and armed guards monitor the facility 24/7.

Relax and reflect on your day’s discoveries back at your hotel, or discover a cool place for dinner. Those with energy to burn later might take the short drive off the mesa to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, also known as the “White House” overlook, or put on your dancing shoes and cut a rug to some great local bands at Ken’s Old West, the Windy Mesa or the Dam Bar before hitting the hay.

Day 5

Early morning: Drive from Page, AZ to Bryce Canyon National Park, UT – Drive time: 2.5-4.5 hours

Note: Utah does observe Daylight Saving Time, whereas Arizona does not. You will “lose” an hour traveling from Arizona to Utah during DST.

Grab a breakfast burrito or bagel and cream cheese from your hotel’s continental breakfast spread and hit the road for Bryce Canyon. A straight-through drive is unlikely to happen as there are several points of interest to stop at along the way, including, but not limited to:

  • The “New Wave:” just past the Glen Canyon Dam and opposite the Lake Powell Resort turn-off on US89 is an unmarked road to a small cluster of rock formations that bear an uncanny resemblance to “The Wave.”  Unlike the “Old” Wave, the “New Wave” doesn’t require a permit, or charge admission. Because the road is not regularly maintained, it does wash out occasionally. If signage states “no admittance,” you’ll have to skip it.   
  • The Big Water Visitor Center: 15 miles Northwest of Page, AZ and just over the Utah border on US89, this unassuming facility offers up some impressive surprises, such as dinosaur bones excavated locally, a topographical relief map of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and paleontology and geology displays kids and adults will love.
  • The Paria Rimrocks-Toadstools Trail: Between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT on US89 between mile  markers 18 and 19 is a 1.5 mile round-trip trail leading to an unearthly rock garden where bizarre hoodoos, balanced rocks and other geological oddities grow. A moderate walk, don’t stop at what appears to be the end of the trail; the main hoodoo area is located up a short rock scramble.
  • Kanab, Utah: a charming small town with a star-crossed path of a different sort, Kanab was once a popular site for Western movies and television shows. These days, tourism gets top billing on the economic marquee. A good stop for shopping or dining, the Rocking V Cafe and Houston’s Trail’s End Restaurant are popular among locals and visitors.

Option 1 – 1:30 PM UTAH TIME (12:30 PM Arizona Time): Check in at the Bryce Canyon Lodge for your horseback ride to the very bottom of Bryce Canyon! From Sunrise Point, well-trained trail horses will descend into the canyon as local cowboys orient you to the compelling history and fascinating geology of Bryce Canyon. Go ahead and bring your cameras, because you will be able to take pictures and experience the Canyon at your fingertips on this ride that is safe for people of all riding experience levels, even none at all! Bryce Canyon Horseback Riding Reservations

Option 2 – 1:30 PM UTAH TIME (12:30 PM Arizona Time): Take the free National Park Service tour to Rainbow Point. From Rainbow Point and its “neighbor” Yovimpa Point, you can see a good portion of Bryce Canyon to the North as well as some impressive cliff formations and hoodoo structures in the distance. You can board the buses at any one of six shuttle stops:

  • Ruby’s Inn
  • Ruby’s Campground
  • Shuttle Parking and Boarding Area (across the street from Ruby’s Inn)
  • Bryce Canyon Lodge
  • North Campground
  • Sunset Campground

The tour consists of approximately eight stops at scenic viewpoints in the southern section of the park. Visitors are advised to dress appropriately for the weather and bring lunch, snacks, water, etc. Reservations are required and can be made in advance by calling 435-834-5290 between the hours of 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM local time.

Option 3 – 2:30 PM UTAH TIME (1:30 PM Arizona Time): Check in at the Bryce Canyon Car Care Center (Sinclair Station) for a guided ATV ride. In just one hour, you’ll experience the lesser known areas of Bryce Canyon in a manner that’s fun, exciting and best of all, very safe. This guided ride on well-maintained ATV’s will get your blood pumping, while providing you with views of a primeval alpine landscape, and Bryce Canyon itself. Bryce Canyon ATV Tour information

Enjoy dinner at Bryce Canyon Lodge or one of the dining establishments at Ruby’s Inn, Bryce Canyon City, or nearby Tropic, Utah before retiring for the night and getting a good rest before the next day’s adventures!

IMPORTANT: PLEASE TAKE THE ROUTE FROM PAGE TO BRYCE CANYON MARKED IN BLUE! THE ROUTE MARKED IN GRAY IS AN UNPAVED, INCONSISTENTLY MAINTAINED ROAD THAT IS PRONE TO WASH-OUTS, ROCK FALLS AND OTHER WEATHER RELATED DAMAGE. TAKING A RENTAL CAR ON THIS ROUTE WILL VOID YOUR RENTAL INSURANCE AND YOU COULD BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGE SUSTAINED.

Day 6

After breakfast, explore Bryce Canyon a bit more before going on to Zion National Park.

Option 1 – Ride the free hop-on/hop-off park shuttle to some of the viewpoints you might have missed on your first day here. The voluntary shuttle can be picked up at the shuttle station north of the park, or at Ruby’s Inn and the Grand Hotel. It then stops at:

  • Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
  • Sunset Campground (Southbound/does not enter campground)
  • Bryce Point
  • Inspiration Point
  • Sunset Campground (Northbound/on main road/does not enter campground)
  • Sunset Point
  • Bryce Canyon Lodge
  • Sunrise Point (General Store & High Plateau Inst. are nearby)
  • Bryce Canyon Visitor Center

Option 2 – Take one of several easy but spectacular hikes along the canyon rim, such as:

  • Mossy Cave (.8 mi / 1.3 km round trip) – a streamside walk up to a mossy overhang and small waterfall
  • Sunset Point to Sunrise Point Trail (1 mi / 1.6 km round trip) – see the amphitheater and its hoodoos via a paved and fairly level trail
  • Bristlecone Loop (1.0 mi / 1.6 km round trip) – a hike through a spruce-fir forests to bristlecone pine-adorned cliffs and canyon vistas
  • Queens Garden (1.8 mi / 2.9 km round trip) – the least difficult trail into the canyon, featuring ‘Queen Victoria’ (use your imagination) at the end of a short spur trail

Option 3 – Take one of several moderate scenic hikes into the canyon:

  • Navajo Trail (1.3 mi / 2.2 km round trip) – this trail begins at Sunset Point and goes through a slot canyon where tall Douglas Firs reach skyward in a quest for sunlight and water, ending down in Bryce Amphitheater
  • Tower Bridge (3 mi / 4.8 km round trip) – ancient Bristlecone Pines and the China Wall whet your appetite for the 1/4-mile shaded spur trail leading to the Tower Bridge formation
  • Hat Shop (4 mi / 6.4 km round trip) – observe a cluster of balanced-rock hoodoos after the descent to the Under-the-Rim Trail; not for visitors with bad knees

Note: what goes down must come up! Remember to double your hiking down time in order to calculate your hiking out time (1 hour down = 2 hours out) if you venture onto inner canyon trails. Adequate footwear, sun protection and water must be brought on any of the listed hikes.

Grab lunch to go (remember, you have that cooler!), then drive to Springdale, Utah: 2-3.5 hours

Afternoon: check into your Springdale, UT, hotel, take the free Springdale shuttle, then transfer to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Shuttle (mandatory for those not staying at in-park lodging) to the Zion Human History Museum. Here, you can get an excellent “pre-trip briefing” on the scenery and sanctuary that have made Zion National Park so famous. A free 20-minute video provides an overview of activities and park facilities, plus rangers are on hand to answer any questions you might have.

Get back on the shuttle and head up to Zion Lodge. Even those that are not staying at the historic hotel are welcome to stroll the grounds, dine at the on-site restaurants, or rent bikes for one hour or a full day from Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the authorized in-park concessioner. But as they say, the best things in life are free, and one of the best things about Zions is that the most fun can be had without spending a penny, in the form of hikes ranging in difficulty from “easy-peasy” to “are-you-kidding-me?” One of our favorites is the Upper Emerald Pools trail, a 3-mile round-trip hike requiring some uphilll walking, leads to a picturesque waterfall and pond. Swimming is not allowed, but generations of families have enjoyed this iconic Zion Canyon trail for many years. The Riverside Walk, also known as the “Gateway to the Narrows,” is an easy, scenic walk from the Temple of Sinawava to the shores of the Virgin River. Wear Tevas, Chacos or other footwear that hold up to water, but are still good for hiking. You’ll definitely want to get your feet wet! Easy Zion National Park Hikes

Head back to Springdale, UT for dinner. Restaurants are plentiful here, so choosing might be hard, but enjoying your meal won’t be. Get some sleep, and be down for some serious adventure in the morning!

Day 7

Option 1 – Hike the Narrows. This is the hike to take in Zion National Park for the ultimate bragging rights. Traversing a cool riverbed through a narrow slot canyon, a hike in the Narrows can be virtually whatever you want to make of it: a quick hour’s jaunt to get your feet wet (pardon the pun), or a 10-mile round-trip all day slog. Doing the hike from the “bottom up” (from the Temple of Sinawava as far as Big Spring) does not require a permit and is therefore the easier way to go; the “top down” approach (from Chamberlain Ranch to TOS) does require a permit, and more in the way of advanced planning. Don’t want to do any planning at all? Hire a licensed guide to hike the Narrows and let them do all that for you! Caution: The Narrows are subject to flash flood dangers, especially during the monsoon season of late July – early September. It may be closed to hikers during this or any other timeframe, or in weather conditions determined to be dangerous.

Option 2 Hike to Angel’s Landing. This is the grand-daddy of all Zion National Park hikes, not for the faint of heart, out-of-shape, or terrified of heights. Don’t believe us? A few people have fallen off the trail. We’ll just leave that there. Named for a terminus that evoked images of an angel landing on the head of a pin, Angel’s Landing is not a super-long hike (5 miles round-trip), but it’s a strenuous one on a steep uphill grade. Chains are placed on either side of the trail to aid those who might need extra leverage on the section between the Hogsback to the Landing. For those who initially think they might be able to handle it, but change their minds midway, Walter’s Wiggles makes for a good turn-around point. The trail begins and ends at the Grotto in Zion Canyon. Do your research, watch YouTube videos, and do more research before you commit to this hike. As with all hikes in the Southwest U.S., water and snacks should be brought, and appropriate broken-in footwear worn.

Option 3Go tubing on the Virgin River. Prefer an activity for your last day of touring that’s a little more kick back and relax-y and a little less huffy and puffy? Rent a river tube from one of several Springdale, UT outfitters, hop in and enjoy the 2-mile ride down the Virgin River, which carved Zion Canyon, and believe it or not, empties into Lake Mead near Las Vegas. Children must be at least 8 to take part in this activity, which is also contingent on a sufficient volume of water in the river. At the time this piece was written (May 2017), the snowpack in many Southwestern US watersheds is better than it’s been in many years, so Virgin River tubing should definitely be on for summer 2017!

Option 4 – Go horseback riding. Rides of one and three hours in length show you natural wonders of Zion National Park both out in the open, and behind the scenes such as the Three Patriarchs, the Beehives, and beautiful cactus gardens. The 1 hour ride (open to children 7 and up) follows the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs and back to the loading corral. For those more adventurous (and at least 10 years old) the three-hour trip will take you around the Sandbench Trail, gradually ascending 500,’ culminating with a breath-taking view of the Southern portion of Zion National Park. Advance reservations strongly recommended. Book a Zion National Park Horseback Ride.

Go back to your hotel, and if it has a hot tub, enjoy a nice long soak, order in for dinner, then rest up for the 2.5 hour drive back to Las Vegas.

Like the sound of this, or did we leave anything out? Feel free to leave us a comment below. And remember, your experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – will always be of help to future travelers in the area. Travel-related sites like TripAdvisor, Frommer’s, Fodors, even Facebook and Instagram love trip reports. Don’t forget to post one when you get back home!

340 Responses

  1. Hi,
    Thank u so much there’s a lot of good information here. We are planing a dream vacation in April for 8 days and the idea is to see as much as we can, I have 2 kids (14,9). We are arriving in Las Vegas on a sat and planing to leave on a road trip early Monday morning, what do you think we should do there? We have to be back in Vegas on Sunday since we are flying back home.

    1. Hi Karolinne,
      With kids in tow, I’d recommend modifying this itinerary a tad, namely dropping Monument Valley. Not that that area isn’t beautiful (it is!), but in my experience, it doesn’t seem to hold much appeal for children.
      Contrary to what some say, there is plenty to do in Las Vegas for families, so you should have no trouble filling your weekend with fun. Check out “60 Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids” for ideas.
      That said, here’s what I’d suggest:
      Monday: drive from Las Vegas to Sedona, AZ (~4.5 hour drive) with optional stop at Hoover Dam en route. Overnight in Sedona
      Tuesday: take Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, hiking in the afternoon, 2nd night in Sedona
      Wednesday: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3 hours), see IMAX movie “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” before entering park, spend afternoon taking free shuttles out to Hermit’s Rest overlooks, overnight at Grand Canyon
      Thursday: Drive to Page, AZ (~3.5-4 hours factoring in stops), hit the overlooks on the East Rim/Desert View Drive, lunch at Cameron Trading Post, tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page, AZ
      Friday: visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, take Glen Canyon Half Day Float Trip , 2nd night in Page
      Saturday: drive to Zion National Park (~2 hour drive), optional stops Big Water Visitors Center, Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, overnight in Springdale, UT
      Sunday: return to Las Vegas (~3.5-4 hour drive), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park, fly home
      It’s now just occurring to me that this proposed itinerary has failed to include Bryce Canyon. If you wish to include it (which I strongly recommend), you would need to either a. drop a day somewhere, like Sedona or Page, b. leave Las Vegas a day earlier or c. delay your return home by another day.
      Whatever you decide, keep in mind that April weather can be absolutely beautiful in one area, and pouring down rain or even snow in another. Be prepared by monitoring weather conditions about 2-3 weeks before you travel, and packing jackets, gloves, etc. just in case.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays!
      Alley 🙂

  2. Hi Alley, your posts are hugely informational and detailed, thanks for all the work you put in! My boyfriend and I are looking at doing a trip in March – I was looking over the main itinerary on this page here and thought it seemed like a great path for us, but wanted to make sure it works given the time of year (I saw one of your reply’s to a fellow poster mentioning possible snow storms for their trip which was for April). We’ve got about 7-9 days (March 20-29 availability over spring break). I’m flying from over the boarder up in British Columbia, while he’s coming in from Missouri. I’m wondering where you think our best starting point would be and what itinerary you would suggest – we’re really just interested in the parks/scenery, not as much towns/cities – Grand Canyon, Zion, and Antelope Canyon are the top of our list at the moment. Big thank you in advance for your time and consideration!

    1. Hi Ashley,
      You are right to be mildly concerned about the weather at the time of year you’re visiting. For that reason, you may want to modify this itinerary and use Phoenix, AZ, as your staging city. While Northern Arizona is still chilly, the weather in Phoenix is typically transitioning to “pleasantly balmy” in late March. Another advantage to flying into/out of Phoenix is that situates you perfectly to spend a few days in Sedona, AZ. I know you aren’t so much interested in cities and towns, per se, but all it takes is a few minutes to get out into the backcountry and leave civilization behind, if you want. Or, you might take advantage of some “chill time” after your vacation and enjoy some spa services, art galleries, window shopping, or just soaking in your hotel’s hot tub.
      With that in mind, here’s what I’d suggest:
      March 20th: fly to Phoenix, overnight in Phoenix
      March 21st: drive to Page, AZ (~5-6 hours depending on how often you stop for photos [it’s a very scenic drive]), overnight in Page
      March 22nd: visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, drive to Springdale, UT (~2.5-3 hours from Page, AZ), overnight in Springdale
      March 23rd: explore Zion National Park using free shuttle from Springdale **depending on recent weather, you may be limited in what hikes you can take, but there will be plenty to see and do!** Things To Do in Zion National Park in Winter
      March 24th: 2nd day/night in Zion
      March 25th: drive to Grand Canyon South Rim via Jacob Lake, Marble Canyon, and Lees Ferry: stop at Jacob Lake Inn to grab some cookies, enjoy lunch at Cliff Dweller’s Lodge, maybe take a hike to the Lonely Dell Ranch Site at Lees Ferry; approximate drive time, again, depending on number of stops, can range from 4-6 hours, so get an early start on the day, then overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
      March 26th: 2nd day/night at Grand Canyon
      March 27th: Drive to Sedona (~3 hours), take Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, overnight in Sedona
      March 28th: 2nd day/night in Sedona, possible activities: hiking ranging from easy to difficult, wine tastings (as long as you’re over 21, naturally), vortex tours, day trips to Montezuma Castle & Well, Tuzigoot, Jerome Ghost Town, etc. For even more ideas, check out Visiting Sedona’s Red Rock Country in Winter or A Winter Pilgrimmage to Sedona
      March 29th: Drive to Phoenix (~2-2.5 hours), fly home

      Another way to pull this off would be to fly into or out of Phoenix and into/out of Las Vegas, but verify rental car drop off fees before you commit to that. They’re said to be quite high for dropping a vehicle anywhere other than where you picked it up from.
      Hope that helps! Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  3. Hello Alley, many thanks for the informative page! Me and my BF are planning to visit the SW from the 30th of December(Leave from LV) until 4th of January(Back in LV). Would it be possible for you to suggest an itinerary along with suggested activities at each place keeping in mind that i personally have been to GC and Antelope Canyon and my BF has not? I already researched a bit about the things to do and was disappointed to know that a lot of activities like float tour of the Glen Canyon etc. will not be available during our visit.

    Considering that our trip will be during(30 Dec-4 Jan) and that we might have much options in terms of activities, what is your take on visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion(Angels Landing Hiking might be off limits/closed during Winters).

    Looking forward to your response
    PS: Both of us are avid Hikers and walkers with experience in Hikings only during summer.

    1. Hi Julia,
      Seeing as though your BF has not seen the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, I would definitely prioritize those two attractions as they are considered “icons” of the American Southwest! You have also correctly deduced that hiking in Zion and Bryce may not be ideal given the possibility of winter trail conditions, so what I would suggest is maybe saving Bryce and Zion for another visit during a warmer time of year, and building Sedona, AZ, into your itinerary. It’s a beautiful area with lots of opportunities for hiking in varying degrees of difficulty, and indoor-oriented activities in the event weather puts a kink in any outdoor sightseeing plans.
      With 5 days to work with, you could do something like this:
      December 30th: Drive from Las Vegas to Page, AZ (~5 hours), tour Glen Canyon Dam, overnight in Page **optional hike you might take en route, conditions permitting: Paria Rimrock/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, relatively easy, short but very scenic hike, trailhead located between mile marker 19 & 20 on US89 between Kanab, UT, and Page, AZ
      December 31st: Visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Antelope Canyon, hike the Beehives Trail aka the “New” Wave to Radio Tower Rock, spend 2nd night in Page, AZ
      January 1st: Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in multiple scenic viewpoint stops, and the Cameron Trading Post for lunch!), overnight at Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan
      January 2nd: Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona (~3 hours), stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, AZ, if desired, overnight in Sedona
      January 3rd: Hiking and sightseeing in Sedona, Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, 2nd night in Sedona
      January 4th: Drive back to Las Vegas (~4.5 hours), fly home
      The feasibility of all this will likely come down to availability for Antelope Canyon tours and Grand Canyon hotels. If necessary, you can also flip-flop this itinerary easily enough.
      Hope that helps!
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  4. Hi. My husband and I are traveling to the Grand canyon, lake Powell and Zion National Park. My husband Is wheelchair bound and can not take any steps, but can transfer well, as he has great upper body strength. Is there ANY way we could get into Antelope Canyon? Is this feasible? Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Katherine,
      The “official” stance of Antelope Canyon tour operators is that the slot canyon is inaccessible to individuals in wheelchairs, but as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I was able to find one account of a wheelchair driver who was able to tour Upper Antelope Canyon, with the right equipment and the help of a friend. The biggest challenge will be the trail through it: it can be deep sand, which may render it impassable to a wheelchair.
      My advice would be to read the story referenced in the link above, call the tour companies on the phone, ask that you be transported you to the canyon in a Suburban or other SUV-type vehicle and not a buckboard truck, and, as much as I hate to say it, be prepared to do something else in the event you can’t find a tour company willing to work with you. Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian Tribal land, ADA compliance is not mandatory for them.
      Please let us know how you get on. We would be very interested to learn what ultimately takes place here!
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  5. Good Morning!! I am trying to plan out my honeymoon and my wife and I would love to see some of the areas you listed above! We are going in late April of 2020. We would like to leave from vegas and do a short trip with possibly going to 1-2 national parks (Zion, Bryce Canon, etc..). What would be your most “must see” part of the area? I would rather drive somewhere and spend 2 days at each park than be on the road every day. Thank you for your help.

    p.s. Was thinking about leaving Vegas and going to Zion for 2 days and then Bryce for 2 days. Would this be worth it? Or is there better stops. Not entirely interested in making the 1,100 mile round trip you have laid out in other comments.

    1. Hey Tyler, and congratulations on your upcoming and/or recent nuptials!
      First thing that jumps out at me is that the Grand Canyon is not on your itinerary. If you or your wife have never been there, you should prioritize it over anything else in Northern Arizona or Southern Utah. Grand Canyon South Rim is about a 5-hour drive from Las Vegas. You can visit Hoover Dam en route if you wish. It’s definitely most desirable to stay overnight in the Grand Canyon itself, or Tusayan (7 miles outside the park), if Grand Canyon Village is sold out.
      If you’ve already been to the Grand Canyon, or plan on saving it for a separate trip, then your plan of doing 2 days each at Zion and Bryce is perfectly fine. However… Page, AZ, would make for a relatively easy stop between the two parks, and one you should strongly consider including so you can tour Antelope Canyon and visit Horseshoe Bend. Since Bryce Canyon is a relatively small park, square mileage-wise, you could scoot by with just staying for one night there and still accomplish a lot. So a revised itinerary could go something like this:
      Day 1 – Fly into Las Vegas, overnight in Las Vegas
      Day 2 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~5 hours), sightseeing on scenic rim drive, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 3 – Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours), maybe hike Paria Rimrocks/Toodstool Hoodoos trail en route, tour Antelope Canyon either that afternoon or following morning, overnight in Page
      Day 4 – Drive to Zion National Park, visit Horseshoe Bend on your way out of town, swing down to Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry area, stop at Navajo Bridge for possible California Condor sighting, visit Lonely Dell Ranch, have lunch at Cliff Dweller’s Lodge Restaurant, stop at Jacob Lake Inn to grab some home-made cookies at their bakery, overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 5- 2nd day/night in Zion, maybe hike Angel’s Landing or The Narrows (if it’s open), overnight in Springdale
      Day 6 – Drive back to Las Vegas (3.5-5 hour drive depending on progress of construction project on I-15 through Virgin River Gorge), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park, fly home

      So, all put together, that’s a little shy of 800 miles, but a lot of beautiful scenery!
      Hope that helps. Feel free to write in again if you wish to bounce more ideas off us.
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Alley, your site is very informative, thank you. I was hoping to bounce our itinerary off you and get your thoughts. My wife, kids (ages 14,12,10) and I will be travelling to Vegas for a dance competition in late June / early July 2020. We would like to tour the canyons and national parks of the great South west. As I plan, my thinking was leaving Vegas on July 5 and taking 8-10 days to travel through many of the spots you recommend, including Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Lake Powell, South Rim of the Canyon, Famous route 66, Sedona and flying home from Phoenix (which I believe will get me the best flight options home to Charlotte NC). You mention Monument Valley as another option to visit (I wasn’t originally thinking about that) and that actually would get us closer to the four corners which my 10 year old son has mentioned he would like to visit one day. Perhaps that is a full day trip to hit both spots? What do you think? Would it be better if we wanted to visit Sedona that we loop back to Vegas to fly home from there? While my family likes to hike and explore, we do need some down time throughout our trip as well and was thinking in Lake Powell and Sedona were two spots where we can slow it down a bit and stay 2 nights at each area. Thank you for your time and assistance.

        1. Hi Rich, and thank you for visiting!
          There’s no denying that the more time you can spend in the American Southwest, the better your memories will be. You are correct in that if you wanted to add Monument Valley and the 4 Corners to your itinerary, you would need to set aside at least a full day for these attractions, probably between Page, AZ, and Grand Canyon South Rim, with an overnight in Monument Valley. Lodging there is rather scant, so you’ll probably want to check availability in that area first, at either Goulding’s, The View, or hotels in Kayenta or Tuba City. Bear in mind that these areas are on Navajo Indian Tribal Land and as such, the possession, consumption, transport, or sale of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited.
          As to whether you fly home out of Las Vegas or Phoenix, either option is feasible. Which one you choose would probably come down to where you can get the better airfare. If you were to fly out of Phoenix, with a few days of “chill time” in Sedona to cap off your trip, you’d only have a 2-hour-and-change drive to the airport. If you were to fly home out of Las Vegas, it’s about a 5-hour drive from Sedona, or you could “flip-flop” the itinerary hitting Sedona first, with Zion as the last stop on your itinerary. Zion is a huge park with ample opportunities for both low- and high-intensity activity that deserves at least 2-3 days of your time. The drive to Las Vegas from Springdale, UT, the lodging community on the Western border of the park, would then be ~3-3.5 hours.
          Page, AZ, also deserves 2 days time as there are a lot of family-friendly activities you can enjoy there. Touring Antelope Canyon and a visit to Horseshoe Bend top the list; there’s also the Glen Canyon Half Day Float Trip and boat tours to Rainbow Bridge. The latter two activities each take up the better part of a day, so if you wanted to do both, you’d need to add a 3rd day in Page, AZ.
          A Las Vegas-Phoenix itinerary would go something like this:
          Day 1 – Drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (~3.5 hours), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park (start early — that area is HOT in the summer months), overnight in Springdale, UT
          Day 2 – 2nd day/night in Zion, overnight in Springdale, UT
          Day 3 – Drive to Bryce Canyon (~2.5-3 hour drive from Springdale), sightseeing along scenic rim drive, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
          Day 4 – Drive to Page, AZ (~3 hours), optional hike en route: Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos, tour Antope Canyon in the afternoon (or following morning), overnight in Page, AZ
          Day 5 – Visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise (cooler temperatures, fewer crowds), Glen Canyon Float Trip or Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour, 2nd night in Page, AZ
          Day 6 – Drive to Four Corners Monument (~3 hours from Page, AZ), return to Monument Valley via Bluff, UT, overnight at Monument Valley
          Day 7 – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~4-5 hours drive factoring in stops at GC viewpoints between Desert View and GC Village), breakfast/brunch at Cameron Trading Post, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim
          Day 8 – Drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona (~3 hour drive), overnight in Sedona
          Day 9 – 2nd day/night in Sedona, possible activities: Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, hiking in Oak Creek Canyon (the West Fork is pretty and easy), swimming at Slide Rock State Park Things to do in Sedona with kids Of course, if the adults wanted to just relax and take it easy, maybe get a massage or treat yourself to a “spa day,” those services are readily available (reservation recommended) in Sedona as well.
          Day 10 – Drive to Phoenix (~2.5 hours), fly home

          As indicated previously, a Vegas to Vegas loop wouldn’t require much in the way of radical modification to your trip plan, you would just be facing a longer drive at the end of your trip.

          A couple of parting thoughts re: 4 Corners – as you can probably see from the map, it’s quite a swing out of the way, and some travelers report finding it disappointing. That’s not to say that your son would agree, but you might want to consider dropping it from your travel plans if other destinations seem more attractive. Also, if you have trouble finding lodging available in the Monument Valley area, there might still be a way you can see it without physically going there, and that’s to fly over it. Fixed-wing airplanes depart Page Municipal Airport daily. Overflights of Monument Valley by Westwind Air Service take approximately 2 hours, and include a pass over Rainbow Bridge! Mornings are the best time to fly for the most dramatic light and lack of wind.
          Last but not least: the time of year you’re traveling, you’re up against peak summer heat. Any physically rigorous activity should be scheduled for the earlier morning hours for maximum safety and comfort. And don’t forget to hydrate!
          Hope that helps. Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays,
          Alley 🙂

  6. Hi Alley,
    Thank you for writing this article, and for taking the time to reply to everyone’s comments!

    My family & I (kids are 11 & 13) will be traveling to Las Vegas in April (April 4 – 11)…..
    I think your itinerary will work for us – except I’d like to skip the day at Lake Powell. Plus – I’m wondering with drive times factored in – is there enough time to see the sites we want to see each day? Would you mind taking a look at the rough plan I have so far?
    Sat. Apr. 4 – Arrive in Las Vegas; see a Cirque show
    Sun. Apr 5- Hoover Dam (maybe do the whole dam tour); drive to Grand Canyon; Stay in hotel at South Rim
    Monday – Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (take guided tour of Monument Valley – maybe on horseback); stay in area
    Tuesday – Page AZ – Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon; Horseshoe Bend; stay in area
    Wed. – Bryce Canyon; stay in area
    Thursday – Zion (my favorite park – not sure if daughters will love it as much – did Angels Landing years ago! Won’t do that hike with girls this trip); stay in area
    Friday – Return to Vegas
    Sat – fly home to East Coast
    *We could add another day if we’re missing something, & fly home Sunday – but that makes for an exhausting week back to work & school*

    Do we have enough time each day to do all this? I tend to pack too much stuff into everything I do, and while I love this approach to life – it doesn’t always work for my husband, and especially for kids! I do feel like much of the trip will be just scratching the surface of what there is to see/do in the area – but that’s ok. Hopefully the girls will fall in love with this area of the country, and will someday want to return! Any suggestions you have will be much appreciated!

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      Your itinerary looks pretty fun, and it sounds like you have a realistic expectation of what you can and can’t accomplish this time around.
      My only concern is that you’re having to pack up and drive to a new place every. single. day. A little downtime is sure to be welcome somewhere, and the most likely place where you can build this in is Monday April 6th, where you indicate wanting to visit Monument Valley.
      For one, lodging in Monument Valley is scarce to begin with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if everything is sold out at this point. Another consideration is that, in my experience, kids aren’t that impressed with it. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just what I’ve observed 😉 If you do decide to take it off the table, what you could do is instead spend 2 nights in Page, AZ, and use your full day to take the Glen Canyon Half Day Float Trip. As the name suggests, it does not go through any rapids, but is a wonderful family-oriented trip with lots of beautiful scenery and compelling history. If for some reason that does not appeal, and Monument Valley lodging availability doesn’t cooperate, you could visit it as a day trip out of Page, AZ. It’s a 2-hour drive each way, and you’d have to keep an eye on the clock so you’re not doing the return trip at night, plus there’s a time difference (Monument Valley is one hour ahead of Page), but a day visit is doable at that time of year. I know, I’ve done it. Another option: fly over it! Fixed-wing airplane flights over Monument Valley depart from the Page Municipal Airport, run ~90 minutes long, and show you a ton of beautiful scenery in addition to Monument Valley.
      When you get ready to return to Las Vegas, plan on making a detour through Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a stunning area, with scenery similar to that of the Coyote Buttes area, and you don’t need a permit to visit. April is a great time to be there since the weather isn’t so hot.
      Whatever you decide, be sure to make reservations for all lodging and guided tours (especially Antelope Canyon) well in advance of your trip.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi Alley,
        Your suggestions look amazing! We are looking to do a 7 night RV trip in June. We would like to fly in and out of Vegas and our two must do’s are the Grand Canyon and Moab. Do you have any suggestions on how to best schedule those two locations with a few of the other state parks mixed in? I know we’d like to spend 2 days in Moab.

        Thanks so much in advance!!

        1. Hi Kim and thanks so much for the compliments!
          Since you are traveling in June, one of the hotter months of the year, I’ll start off by advising you to stay at RV parks with electrical hook-ups. At that time of year, you’ll want to have access to air conditioning for maximum comfort, especially in areas like Moab, UT, and Page, AZ. Another piece of advice: try to hit the North Rim instead of the South Rim. For one, it’s a little more conveniently located to the rest of the parks you’ll want to visit, including Moab, UT, and tends to be a few degrees cooler than the South side. Plus it’s absolutely beautiful, and only open for 5 months a year. The hard part will be finding available RV sites at this point; the nearest park with full hook-ups is 1 hour North of the park (Kaibab Camper Village at Jacob Lake). If nothing is available there, Kanab, UT, will be your next best option, which will put you roughly a 90 minute drive, one way, from the North Rim. Keep in mind, also, that Grand Canyon North Rim roads tend to be narrow, two-lane affairs, which may make it challenging for a large RV, or a truck pulling a 5th-wheel. Hopefully your rig isn’t too long! Tips for Visiting Grand Canyon North Rim in an RV
          Availability of RV spaces at the North Rim, and availability of Antelope Canyon tours in Page, AZ, will probably be the two key factors in how your trip plans evolve. Assuming that all the stars line up for you, here’s what I’d recommend:
          Day 1: Drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon North Rim (~5 hour drive), overnight in Jacob Lake, AZ or Kanab, UT.
          Day 2: Drive from Jacob Lake, AZ or Kanab, UT, to Bryce Canyon (1-2 hour drive depending on where you stay the night before), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
          Day 3: Drive to Moab, UT, via Capitol Reef (~5.5 hour drive), overnight in Moab ***here, I’ve routed you to Capitol Reef via UT62 through Antimony and Loa; Scenic Byway 12 is the more picturesque route, but might be best avoided if you are driving a large RV. For opinions pro and con, read “Utah Scenic Byway 12 RV Trip” (pro) and “TripAdvisor: Highway 12 Scenic Byway – Avoid it in a large RV” (con)***
          Day 4: Explore Arches/Canyonlands, spend 2nd night in Moab
          Day 5: Drive to Page, AZ, via Monument Valley (~5.5 hour drive), tour Antelope Canyon in afternoon, overnight in Page, AZ
          Day 6: Drive to Zion National Park (~2 hours), overnight in Springdale, UT
          Day 7: Drive back to Las Vegas (or spend 2nd night in Springdale)

          If for some reason you can’t find RV park availability at the North Rim, you can substitute the South Rim relatively easily with by rearranging your itinerary like so:

          If need be, you can also flip-flop it and hit Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Moab, Page, then GC South Rim. Again, it just depends on when you can find RV park site availability. Now would not be too soon to start checking that!
          Hope that helps. Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays!
          Alley 🙂

  7. Hi Alley,
    I am hoping you can give me some direction! My family consists of myself, husband and 3 sons (15, 13, 10). I would like to visit the Grand Canyon June 2020. Other areas of interest would be Bryce, Zion, Sedona and possibly a stop at Hoover Dam. What other areas are must sees? We will be flying from our home in PA. I am thinking flying to Las Vegas will be the most economical. I would like to finish up the trip by spending a day or 2 in Vegas. I like to include a lot of experiences and adventures on our vacations. Could you recommend a possible itinerary? Please include possible excursions: hiking (max. 5 miles), helicopter tours, jeep rides, train trip (with the staged hold up), rafting, boat rides, etc.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Gwen,
      I hope you have more than 1 week to spend, because there’s a lot to see and do out here!
      One thing I’d advise right off the bat is to skip the Grand Canyon Railway trip. Not that it isn’t fun, but it’s not a very efficient use of what’s bound to be limited time: for one, it takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to make a trip that would only take you 1 hour by car. Another consideration is that you don’t actually see the Grand Canyon from the train; you don’t see it until you get to the park and get off the train. Upon arriving in the park, you only get 3.5 hours to explore, and without a vehicle, you will be limited to sightseeing within Grand Canyon Village, which is only the “tip of the iceberg.” If your interest in the Grand Canyon Railway stems from a love for old trains, you might get an early start out of Sedona so you can stop in Williams to see it take off, or venture down to the Grand Canyon Railway depot down the hill from the El Tovar Hotel to watch it arrive. Or consider the Grand Canyon Railway Express tour from the South Rim, where you are driven to Williams, AZ, by bus in the morning, and take the train back to the park, arriving back in time for lunch. For more information on why the Grand Canyon Railway may not be the best way to go this time around, watch this video on GrandCanyon.com: Should We Take The Train or Drive?
      With that out of the way, here’s what I would suggest, using Las Vegas as a staging city as you originally planned:
      Day 1 – Arrive in Las Vegas, stay the night
      Day 2 – Drive from Las Vegas to Sedona (~5 hour drive), overnight in Sedona
      Day 3 – Take Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, 2nd night in Sedona
      Day 4 – Drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon South Rim, w/optional stop in Williams, AZ, to see GCRy depart (~3 hour drive), overnight at Grand Canyon or Tusayan
      Day 5 – Morning hike to Cedar Ridge (3 miles round trip), or Grand Canyon helicopter tour, then drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page, AZ (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in stops), brunch/lunch at Cameron Trading Post, tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page
      Day 6 – Visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, take Glen Canyon Float Trip or Lake Powell Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour, 2nd night in Page
      Day 7 – Drive from Page, AZ, to Bryce Canyon National Park (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in stops), optional Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos hike en route, overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      Day 8 – Drive from Bryce to Zion National Park (~2-2.5 hour drive w/stops), overnight in Springdale, UT
      Day 9 – Hike The Narrows or Angel’s Landing, 2nd night in Springdale
      Day 10 – Drive back to Las Vegas (3.5-4.5 hour drive depending on whether Virgin River Gorge construction project has been completed)
      Day 11 – Las Vegas
      Day 12 – Fly home

      As you can see, there’s no shortage of fun to be had out here, and if you can spend more time, that’s even better! Check out this sample 14 Day Itinerary in Northern AZ & Southern UT on our companion site, HorseshoeBend.com
      One thing to keep in mind is that the time of year you’re visiting is going to be hot, therefore, any vigorous activities should be done as early as possible to avoid the peak heat of mid-day. Also: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Be sure everyone in your party is carrying water, and drinking it, at all times.
      First priority at this point is to book your lodging. In-park lodging especially tends to book out months in advance and might already be full. If you find that to be the case, look to the nearest gateway communities for your hotels. In November or December, 2020 seat inventory for Antelope Canyon tours will be opened up. That’s the 2nd most time-sensitive element of your itinerary.
      Hope that helps. Feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance!
      Alley 🙂

  8. There is so much helpful information here! Thank you! We are planning a trip the week of April 4-11. We’re from Virginia and have never been out west, and while we want to see as much as we can, this is also a much needed vacation. We want to do some hiking and relaxing with our 14 and 10 year old and we want to avoid chilly temps. Ideally we would have a day or two at the end to relax and maybe splurge at a nicer resort type place. We aren’t much on crowds and just want to get a taste of the terrain, food, culture, and history. Would flying into Vegas and doing a loop from Zion to Bryce to Page to Grand Canyon to Sedona to Phoenix be doable? That still feels like a lot of moving around and probably going between many crowded tourist spots. If we wanted to make that a slower paced trip, what should we eliminate? Do you have any particular lodging recommendations? Is there a hidden gem somewhere near Phoenix/Sedona that would be ideal for 24 hours of pampering for a family? I feel like Sedona will be pretty but also crowded. We don’t need to see the “ultimate” sites as long as we can get a taste of it. New landscapes, easy to moderate hikes, a day or two of relaxing, and unplugging is what we are really going for. Obviously, I’m overwhelmed and your site seems to be the best source of detailed information I’ve found so far. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

    1. Hey Sarah and thanks for visiting our site!
      If you’re wanting to avoid chilly temps, you might have chosen the wrong time to visit. Early April is in the “transitional” zone between winter and spring, and is notorious for late season snowstorms coming in from out of nowhere, especially at higher altitudes such as Zion and the Grand Canyon. Temperatures in Page and Sedona are usually pleasantly brisk at that time, while Phoenix will be on the balmy side. Unfortunately, if you wish to avoid crowds, too, you’re visiting over the Spring Break holiday, so things will be busy.
      That said, a loop from Vegas to Phoenix should be doable, assuming that April 4th and/or 11th aren’t travel days from/to home. Here’s what I’d recommend
      April 4th – drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (~4.5 hour drive), optional detour through Valley of Fire State Park (add another 1-2 hours to the drive time), overnight in Springdale, UT
      April 5th – sightseeing in Zion, using free park shuttle, 2nd night in Springdale
      April 6th – drive from Springdale, UT, to Bryce (~2-2.5 hour drive), overnight in Bryce Canyon area
      April 7th – drive from Bryce to Page, AZ (~3 hour drive), tour Antelope Canyon, overnight in Page, AZ
      April 8th – take Glen Canyon Half Day Float Trip or Lake Powell Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour, 2nd night in Page
      April 9th – visit Horseshoe Bend just after sunrise, drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in photo stops, bathroom breaks, meals [Cameron Trading Post is highly recommended!], etc.), overnight at Grand Canyon
      April 10th – drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Sedona (~3 hour drive), overnight in Sedona or Village of Oak Creek
      April 11th – fly home

      If the prospect of Sedona doesn’t appeal for the “chill time” portion of your holiday, you might consider flip-flopping the above itinerary (fly into Phoenix/out of Las Vegas) and use St. George, Utah, as your final “unplug and relax” destination. Like Sedona, it is surrounded by beautiful scenery, and is about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas.
      Hope that helps! Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. This is very helpful! Thank you so much! I had never heard of st. George. I’ll explore that a little bit and make some decisions. Thanks again!

        1. Hey again, Sarah!
          Glad our advice helped. Just so you know, St. George, UT, is a rapidly growing “city in waiting,” with a population of ~85,000. Sedona is much smaller, with a permanent resident population of ~15,000, that grows exponentially during peak tourism season. Both areas are beautiful, but by no means remote.
          Have a fun trip and don’t hesitate to hit us up again if you need further advice.
          Alley 🙂

  9. Hi Alley,
    I just visited your website and it was very interesting and informative I just need a few suggestions from you for the arizona trip we are planning this month october 20-27. we will I was thinking of driving to sedona after renting the car and spent 2 days in sedona. our itinary is as follows: please make changes if it is not doable.
    Day 1 sunday : fly into phoenix and take rental car and drive to sedona
    day2&3 monday and tuesday . spent 2 days in sedona
    day 3. wednesday : drive to page and see antelope canyon and horse shoe bend
    day 4. thursday :other attractions in page like, lake powell, monument valley etc
    day 5 friday: zion and bryce canyon
    day 6: saturday: arhes national park and drive to salt lake city.
    day 7. fly out from salt lake city(flight is in the evening)
    I like to get your thoght on this itinary and is it possible to follow this plan and also would like to know if we have any time to add any more places or have to take out places. we are not big hikers, most of it will be drive by. is it possible to do grand canyon on the way? I hope to get some feed back from you as soon as possible so I can make the hotel booking and book antelope canyon ticket. Thank you….

    1. Hey again, Susan!
      Thank you SO much for further clarification on your itinerary and goals for your vacation. Unfortunately, I still have to tell you that your plan is not realistic. You’re going to have to whittle back your expectations a bit, unless you want to be packing up and driving every single day of your vacation.
      For example, Bryce Canyon and Zion cannot be fully explored in one day. You need at least one day for each park. Kanab, UT, makes for a good central location to base yourself for this purpose. Also, the Moab, UT, area really requires at least 4-5 days to do justice to. Arches National Park only represents a small fraction of all there is to see and do there. There’s also Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Corona Arch, Hell’s Revenge, Castle Valley, ziplining, wine tasting… just to name a few! 25 Best Things To Do in Moab, UT So you’ll either need to take it off the table, or go into this trip knowing that you are only going to scratch the surface of Moab’s potential.
      If you want to add the Grand Canyon to your itinerary, the most logical place to do it would be between Sedona and Page. It’s possible to do it as a “drive-by,” but not ideal. It takes ~3 hours to drive from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, then another 3.5-4 hours to drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page, AZ. These are not Google maps figures, mind you, they’re more like “real life” figures, factoring in the many stops you’ll make along the way to take photos, grab a meal (Cameron Trading Post – Navajo tacos – yummo!), bathroom breaks, etc. To pull it off, you’ll need to keep an eye on the clock and be aware of when sunrise and sunset occur. You don’t want to do any driving after dark in this part of the U.S. due to roads that are very dimly lit, and populated by deer, elk, and other wildlife that pose a collision risk. Trust me, you don’t want to hit a deer in an area that’s pitch black, where cell service is spotty at best (if you can get any bars at all), and help will be a long time coming, not to mention VERY expensive. In late October, sunrise occurs at ~6:45 AM, and sunset takes place at around 5:30 PM.
      In light of those concerns, here’s what I’d recommend:
      Day 1 Sunday: fly into phoenix and take rental car and drive to sedona
      Day 2 Monday: tour Sedona (Pink Jeep, hiking, etc.), spend 2nd night in Sedona
      Day 3 Tuesday: drive from Sedona to Page, AZ, via the Grand Canyon, visit Horseshoe Bend on way into town, overnight in Page, AZ
      Day 4 Wednesday: tour Antelope Canyon in AM, drive to Moab, UT, via Monument Valley (~5.5 hour drive), overnight in Moab, UT — note I have you doing Monument Valley as “drive by” due to lack of lodging in the immediate area and possibility that all rooms are booked
      Day 5 Thursday: tour as much of Arches/Canyonlands area as possible, drive to Kanab, UT (~5 hour drive), overnight in Kanab, UT
      Day 6 Friday: Explore Zion National Park, 2nd night in Kanab, UT
      Day 7 Saturday: Drive to Bryce (~90 minutes from Kanab), explore the area for a couple of hours, then drive to SLC (~5 hours) for flight home

      If you were to take Moab off the table, that would free up more time to take a “quality over quantity” approach and enable you to take things at a more relaxed pace. But I understand if this trip is a “once in a lifetime” or at least a blue moon type of opportunity.
      Good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi, Alley!

        Wow! I am blown away by your knowledge of the area and would love your advice. I am looking to plan a similar trip, arriving in Phoenix late afternoon of Nov. 12 and departing late morning from Salt Lake City on Nov. 18. I’ve been to Sedona, so no need to spend time there. I also have the annual national parks pass that’s itching for a good workout before it expires. 🙂

        What would your recommended itinerary be? Would like to walk/hike 3-8 miles each day (intermediate hiker; nothing too strenuous). I’ll likely be traveling solo, so safe travels by car/accommodations are hugely welcomed!

        Thank you for your time and expertise!

        1. Hi Kellie, and thanks for your compliments, and for letting me know that you’ve already hit Sedona. That helps a lot!
          So, given your flight times, you essentially have 5 days to work with on this vacation. Another consideration: your trip coincides with the transitional period between fall and winter. You will encounter cooler weather, and quite possibly snow. Be ready to do some on-the-fly adjusting of your plans should you get delayed or detoured by inclement weather.
          That said, here’s what I’d recommend
          November 12th – arrive in Phoenix, overnight in Phoenix
          November 13th – drive from Phoenix to Grand Canyon South Rim (~5 hour drive), overnight at South Rim
          November 14th – hike to Cedar Ridge, drive to Page, AZ, in the afternoon (~3.5-4 hour drive factoring in stops), overnight in Page
          November 15th – visit Horseshoe Bend, tour Lower Antelope Canyon in AM, drive to Kanab, UT (~1.5 hour drive), hike Paria Rimrocks/Toadstool Hoodoos Trail en route overnight in Kanab, UT
          November 16th – hike Angel’s Landing in Zion, 2nd night in Kanab
          November 17th – drive from Kanab, UT, to Bryce Canyon (~2 hour drive), hike Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, overnight in Richfield, Salina, Gunnison, or other town mid-way between Bryce and SLC
          November 18th – drive to SLC, fly home

          All roads are fully-paved and well-traveled, so you should’t have any problem there. The main thing is to be sure that you do any and all driving during daylight hours. Roads in Northern AZ and Southern UT tend to be very dimly lit, and at the time of year you’re traveling, deer, elk, and other wildlife are migrating to their winter feeding grounds, and can be on the move anytime day or night. At the time of year you’re visiting, sunrise occurs at ~7:00 AM, sunset takes place around 5:15 PM.
          The one spot that’s most likely to warrant a change of itinerary is Bryce: at 8,000′ above sea level, it tends to receive snow well before other areas. In the unlikely instance a storm ends up closing the roads into the park, or causes you hesitation, simply give that extra day to Zion. Believe me, there’s no shortage of hikes in that park in varying degrees of difficulty and length.
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  10. Hi Alley, I was reading your trip planning and it looked awesome. I am planning a trip from oct 20 -oct 27 2019. we fly into phoenix early afternoon on 10/20 and planning to rent a car and drive to Sedona. I like to see Sedona, antelope canyon, horse shoe bend, Colorado river discovery float trip, grand canyon, page, zion, Bryce canyon,arches national park, monument valley. Navajo national monument etc. I don’t know which order I should plan the trip and how many days I need at each place. could you please advise on an itinerary?

    1. Good morning Susan!
      I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s no way you’re going to accomplish everything on your “wish list” with the limited time you have. First thing you’ll have to take off the table: Arches/Canyonlands. This area is simply too far out of the way to be realistic using Phoenix as your staging city, plus it requires at least 4-5 days to do justice to. Monument Valley may have to go as well, not so much because of the lack of time, but more due to the lack of lodging in that area; there’s not much to work with in the first place, and rooms are probably booked up already. Otherwise, you’ll be packing up and driving every single day of your trip, and that doesn’t sound like my idea of a vacation. You need some “chill time,” and Sedona is the most good place to get that. However, it’s another area that deserves 4-5 days time minimum to fully enjoy and explore, so don’t be surprised if after 2 days, you find yourself wishing you could stay longer! There might still be a way you can work Monument Valley in, even if you don’t go there; more on that in a minute….
      One piece of information I wish I had is where you’re flying out of, as that would help me advise you most accurately. In all honesty, this trip would work a lot better if you were flying out of Las Vegas, but for now, I’ll assume you’re flying into and out of Phoenix. How you structure your itinerary will depend on 3 things: 1. whether you want to get the longer drives out of the way first 2. availability of Grand Canyon lodging and 3. availability of Grand Canyon tours. Assuming that you’ll hit Sedona first, here’s how you can make the rest of it work.
      October 20th – Arrive in Phoenix, drive to Sedona (~2 hours), overnight in Sedona
      October 21st – Pink Jeep Broken Arrow tour, 2nd night in Sedona
      October 22nd – Drive to Zion National Park (~6 hours, factoring in stops), overnight in Kanab, Utah
      October 23rd – Drive to Bryce (~90 minutes from Kanab), hike and explore, 2nd night in Kanab, UT
      October 24th – Drive to Page, AZ (~60 minute drive, remember that Kanab is 1 hour ahead of Page), check in 10:00 AM for Glen Canyon Float Trip, visit Horseshoe Bend afterward (parking permitting), overnight in Page, AZ
      October 25th – Visit Horseshoe Bend first thing in AM if unable to do say day before (sunrise is at 6:45 AM), tour Antelope Canyon, then drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (~3.5 hour drive factoring in stops), overnight at South Rim
      October 26th – Sightseeing at Grand Canyon in AM, drive back to Phoenix (~4.5 hour drive), overnight in Phoenix
      October 27th – Fly home

      Back to the subject of Monument Valley: if you really want to see it (which I don’t blame you one bit for!), a couple of ways you could go about it in the likely event you can’t find lodging in the area, you could visit as a day trip from Page, AZ. It’s a 2-hour drive each way, and you’d have to keep an eye on the time so that you’re not doing any of the return trip in the dark. There’s also a time difference to contend with since the Navajo Reservation DOES observe Daylight Savings Time, but Page, AZ, does not, therefore, you’d “lose” an hour driving from Page, AZ, to Monument Valley, then “gain” it on the drive back to Page. Another option: you could swing by Monument Valley on the drive between Page, AZ, and the Grand Canyon, but if you did that, you’d be looking at a 2 hour drive from Page, AZ, to MV, then a 3.5 hour drive from MV to Grand Canyon South Rim. Day trips and “drive-by’s” are less than ideal, but with an eye on the clock and careful planning, they can be made to work. I know, I’ve done it 😉 The best solution to the problem of how to work Monument Valley IMO is to fly over it out of Page, AZ. Fixed-wing airplanes take ~90 minutes to fly over not only Monument Valley, but Rainbow Bridge, Lake Powell, and the Glen Canyon Dam. It’s a beautiful flight; I know, I’ve done that, too 😉 Mornings are the best time to fly for good light and less wind. For more information on Monument Valley air tours out of Page, AZ, visit Westwind Air Service Page/Lake Powell Air Tours
      Hope that helps – good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

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