This is one city where you can arrive within no plans and no itinerary and still find something extraordinary to do. Between the vast selection of shows, fine cuisines, breathtaking man-made landscapes, and eccentric architecture, Las Vegas is a city of superlatives. You can spend half a day here or add nights for a more in-depth experience.
Overnight: Las Vegas
Pick up your rental car and drive 3 hrs to the town of Springdale just outside of Zion National Park. Zion Canyon is the main destination for most visitors to Zion National Park. Since private vehicles are not allowed to drive into Zion Canyon during the busy season (April - October), a convenient shuttle bus loops through the canyon, stopping at all popular attractions. Just make sure you find out what time the shuttle stops running during those months if you plan to stay inside the park to watch a stunning display of the night sky. We suggest a sunset walk and picnic by the Virgin River. Most trailhead parking lots up Zion Canyon have foot trails that lead you right up to the river banks. At the Zion Visitor Centre, knowledgeable park experts are here daily to provide a wealth of information about Zion National Park, and the other surrounding parks and attractions.
Located in the southwest corner of Utah, the Zion area is a destination that offers more than 2,400 square miles of adventure and inspiration. Start the day by walking the short Canyon Overlook trail that has produced some of the most breathtaking shots of Zion Canyon ever photographed. It is a favourite among photographers and casual tourists alike. The expanse of Zion Canyon is open before the Overlook, with its monumental formations visible on either side of the canyon. The switchbacks below the west end of the Mount Carmel Tunnel, West Temple, the Towers of the Virgins, the Streaked Wall, and the Beehives all make up part of this tremendous view. East Temple rises directly above the Overlook and Great Arch lies recessed into the cliff-face below the Overlook. The trailhead is reached by following Highway 9, to the east entrance of the Mount Carmel Tunnel, directly below the East Temple Saddle. This afternoon, head for the Emerald Pools. All hikes here lead to sparkling waterfalls and glistening pools with majestic sights to be seen all along the trails, including views of Lady Mountain, the Great White Throne, Red Arch Mountain and cliffs in all directions. The Emerald Pools trails can be hiked year-round. Summers are hot and so hiking is most pleasant during morning hours. Spring and fall are ideal times to hike.
A short 2 hr long drive will take you to Bryce Canyon City. Aim to do the 1.3 miles long Navajo Loop Trail, which is one of the park's most popular and awesome hikes. You will forget the short uphill sections because you feel you are playing in a magical desert landscape. Take a picnic lunch to Bryce Point at the south end of the park. Pack your food and have dinner at Paria View while you watch the sunset. Bryce's high elevation makes for hot summer days but cool nights and Bryce Canyon's Dark Skies are some of the darkest in the country. Prepare to be amazed, and bring your star chart and a sense of awe. The national park provides free telescope viewing and a shuttle to get around the park, so check in with the visitor centre for details.
Overnight: Bryce Canyon City
Bryce Canyon National Park is a series of natural amphitheatres sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock "hoodoos." The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Summertime offers a myriad of walking and hiking trails and a 37-mile scenic drive overlooking incredible vistas (with a summer shuttle option to avoid the traffic and parking). Check the Bryce Canyon Visitor Centre to sign up for the daily ranger-led activities. The Geology Talks are year-round and last half an hour and shed light on the Paunsaugunt Plateau and what makes hoodoos and if Bryce Canyon really a canyon? You can head out also for 1.5 hour long Ranger escorted Rim Walk and listen to stories about wildlife, geology and cultural history while taking in gorgeous views. This afternoon, discover Grand Staircase Escalante, which contains the most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah. On the All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12, travel over the high-alpine Boulder Mountain and traverse the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The allure of the Grand Staircase region is phenomenal. A sequence of brightly coloured cliffs mark the transitional "step" zone between Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
Overnight: Bryce Canyon City
Start the day with a 1.5 hr drive to Kanab, that has lured filmmakers to Utah for nearly 80 years. The buildings all over town have plenty of movie posters and autographed photos to support Kanab's self-proclaimed title, "Little Hollywood," while abandoned film sets near town have become tourist attractions without becoming tourist traps. Continue east on Highway 89 to the mysterious and haunting beauty of Antelope Canyon, also known as "Corkscrew Canyon". Here, you will travel to the Upper Antelope Canyon in a 4WD tour truck with a Navajo guide and step into the desert, an amazing fantasy world of stone which has been carved over many years with wind and water. The colours are rich and deep in the morning and afternoon. Your guide will explain some of the interesting geology, culture and history of this stunning region. A final 2.5 hour drive brings you to Monument Valley, where you’ll spend the evening seeing the best of this region. The tour will begin as your Navajo guide leads you on a journey into the spectacular backcountry of the Valley, exploring the natural and historic landmarks like sprawling rock arches, bridges and petroglyph rock art. Along the way, your guide will perform a Navajo cultural demonstration as you make your way to the Rain God Mesa area. Here you’ll watch the beautiful colors of sunset over the landscape as you eat a dinner of Navajo tacos and steaks. After dinner, you’ll be treated to a one-of-a-kind campfire, with Native American dancing, flute playing, drumming, chanting, and storytelling.
Overnight: Monument Valley
In some ways, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the definitive West. You’ll explore more of the park this morning in the area known as Mystery Valley. Imagine unveiling the secrets of the old legacy of the Ancestral Pueblo indigenous peoples. Like strands of early-morning mist, the mystic legends of these Ancient Ones float through and pervade the area. Born and raised in Monument Valley, your Navajo guide will lead you to authentic rock arts where their sacred grounds still remain. As you drive alongside the painted walls and age-old dwellings, you’ll begin to discover and imagine the lives of these ancient forefathers. Following the prehistoric trails, you also discover the majestic natural bridges, arching across the desert floor, delicately connecting the massive sandstone rocks. After time in Monument Valley, take a nearly 3 hr drive north to the town of Moab, home to Arches National Park. A paved 36-mile scenic drive from the park entrance provides numerous parking areas for trail access and scenic overlooks. You will discover a sun-soaked red rock wonderland of eroded sandstone fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos, balanced rocks and arches.
Canyonlands National Park is home to many different types of landscapes, including one of the West's most photographed landforms, Mesa Arch. The park has four separate districts, each with its own characteristic landscape. You’ll visit the second district of Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky. You’ll begin in a 4x4 vehicle down in the Colorado River corridor. As you drive through the park, you’ll stop to take in the sights and the red rock desert rarely seen by other visitors. Your knowledgeable guides will share information on Canyonlands and its natural history. The Ancestral Pueblo people left evidence of their ancient culture in the canyons and you’ll stop to explore their mysterious and beautiful rock art. You’ll also visit the famous Gooseneck overlook of the Colorado River, and travel part of the White Rim to Musselman Arch. You’ll finish by climbing the Shafer Trail’s switchbacks to the top of Island in the Sky.Driving to Arches National Park, experience an unforgettable evening in this location. Sit back and take in the astounding views as a professional guide takes you through the park. From the vehicle, you'll see views of famous Balanced Rock, Courthouse Towers, La Sal Mountains, Petrified Dunes, and Panorama Point. You'll also enjoy short guided walks to the North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch, as well as the legendary Delicate Arch Overlook. The views only get better as the setting sun paints the surrounding sandstone monoliths and La Sal Mountains spectacular shades of color.
Drop off your car rental today then experience the Canyonlands onboard the Rocky Mountaineer’s newest route, Rockies to the Red Rocks. From vast canyons and chromatic deserts, to red sandstone landscapes that twist through the bright blue sky, this stunning rail route is filled with highlights best seen from their expansive glass-dome coaches. The breathtaking scenery is complemented by vibrant storytelling, regionally-inspired cuisine and impeccable service. Get the sense of adventure with the exceptional service on this journey of a lifetime. You depart Moab in the afternoon and travel onboard Rocky Mountaineer for the first day of your two-day journey. You will cross the Utah-Colorado border with stunning mountain views in the background before arriving in the resort town of Glenwood Springs.
Overnight: Glenwood Springs
Today you depart Glenwood Springs for day two of your two-day train journey. Take in the spectacular views of rugged canyons and the Colorado River before crossing the Continental Divide. Soon, you will reach the vibrant city of Denver, The Mile High City. Denver is an outdoor city known for its world-class cultural attractions, craft breweries, dining and music scene. You have some free time this evening to explore the city at your leisure. View world class exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum, stroll the pedestrian promenade of 16th Street Mall, or discover one of the city’s most iconic historic landmarks, Denver Union Station.
Check out from your hotel and head to the airport for your return home after your epic journey through some of the most stunning landscapes on earth.