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 in Las Vegas
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.
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, so check in with the visitor centre for details.
Overnight: Bryce Canyon City
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. Rangers present daily free talks on a variety of programs so be sure to check in at the visitor centre.
For a scenic tour of the Bryce Canyon area, we include a 1.5 hour horseback ride in the Dixie National Forest and the rim of Water Canyon Amphitheater, the first canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park. Leaving the rim, we climb Bristlecone Pine Ridge withstanding 1500 year old Bristlecone Pines. (one of the oldest living things on the North American continent.) From this ridge, you will also see Boat Mesa and Sinking Ship Peak, some of the higher points in Fairyland Amphitheater. This is a 6 km loop.
This afternoon, drive about 2.5 hours through the scenic Dixie National Forest to the town of St. George in southern Utah. Located in the southwest corner of Utah, just 90 minutes from Las Vegas, St. George experiences a much warmer climate than other parts of Utah. Although the city was named for 19th century Latter Day Saint Church George Smith, the area has been inhabited from 1000 BC onwards by the Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo and Southern Paiute nations who extensively traded here.
Besides a convergence of cultures, the St. George area is also at the centre of three geographical regions, the Mojave Desert, which extends west-southwest to California, the Colorado Plateau, which contains southern Utah’s other four national parks, and the Great Basin to the north. St. George is also a gateway to several National Parks besides Zion and Bryce Canyon
Overnight: St. George
Check out the St. George Visitor Centre for information on the range of activities ranging from ATV and horseback tours to boating and fishing tours available in the area. A short drive of under 2 hours will take you back to Las Vegas. Return your car and have the evening at leisure in Vegas.
Overnight: Las Vegas
Check out from your hotel and head to the airport for your return after your epic drive through some of the most stunning landscapes on earth.