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After a recent WeRoad trip to California, I flew out to Las Vegas to start a solo road trip with the idea of visiting the West’s greatest canyons and parks. With a 6 day itinerary, I was able to visit Valley of Fire State Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and, of course, the Grand Canyon.


Here’s some essential information on these places, and how to make the most of your day in each!


Cost

£1,000/ €1,150 / $1,210

Travel companies were quoting me £1,735 for a similar 5 day itinerary. I decided it would be cheaper to go solo, and I’d have the flexibility to travel how I wanted.

Included in my cost calculation is the flight from LA to Las Vegas, car hire, accommodation, fuel, and an Annual Pass to the national parks, as well as entrance to the parks not included in the pass.

The USA is an expensive place to travel but I was able to keep costs lower by making a packed lunch from the hotel’s breakfast every morning!


Before each journey...

check online for the park’s up to date information on opening times/availability. Some routes or points within parks may be closed due to weather or danger. You can find all the up to date information on the links below for each park.


Stay Hydrated

There are water stations at almost every restroom where you can top up your bottle to stay hydrated. During the summer, the temperatures can soar and you'll need to drink regularly!


Dress Smart

And by smart, I don’t mean elegant! Intelligently! Leave heels and dress shoes at home. You’ll need comfortable walking/hiking shoes/boots. There are paved areas but also rocky, uneven paths in the national parks. If you’re looking to hike, this is essential. Check the weather and make sure you have enough layers for cooler temperatures.

Remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad packing.



 

Valley of Fire State Park

Entry: $10 per vehicle. Opening hours: sunrise to sunset Visitors centre: 9am - 4pm


Historically used by Native Americans for many purposes, the Valley of Fire is Nevada’s largest state park. Valley of Fire gets its name from the red sandstone formations which glow in the fading sunlight.


Ask for a map when entering the park (they should offer it to you), and park up at the Visitor’s Centre to top up on water and read the map.

Hiking during summer months or when temperatures are higher than 29 degrees/85 Fahrenheit are not recommended. When I visited in September, the temperatures reached 45 degrees and I was barely able to stand 10 minutes outside of the car’s aircon! During the winter temperatures can range from freezing to 24 degrees/75F.


The map has a list of trails and features to visit. I’d recommend:

Mouse’s Tank

Rainbow Vista

And Fire Canyon Overook


There are two campgrounds near the west entrance with fire pits, water and picnic tables.


Zion Canyon National Park

Entry: $35 per vehicle/ included in the Annual Pass.

Opening hours: the park is always open 24/7 all year round.

Visitors Centre: 8am - 5pm

Check here for up to date information on access to specific sites within the park, and opening/closing times.



Visiting Utah’s first national park is a must if you’re in the area. Wake up early and beat the crowds, scoring a parking space in the visitor’s centre. If you get there post 10am during peak season (like I did - I overslept!), limited parking will get full and you’ll have to park in Springdale just outside the park. There’s plentiful parking in Springdale with free shuttle buses to get you to the park’s entrance. The only downside is that you’ll have to pay $15-20 for parking.


Ask for a map when entering. It contains a list of useful information like a hiking guide depending on your abilities, a map and information on the Zion Canyon shuttle bus.


I’d recommend:


Angels Landing

(difficult, and permit needed)

Angel’s Landing is a restricted access area. Only those who have permits are able to climb up to Angel’s Landing. The park is piloting a lottery system to distribute permits. To obtain a permit, you must apply with a non-refundable $9 per entry. I wasn’t lucky enough to score one, but perhaps the climb would have been too much for me in the September heat! If you are lucky enough to get one, make sure you arrive for your scheduled day and time to enjoy the journey!

For more information on the lottery, click here.

The Weeping Rock

(easy)

The Weeping Rock trail is an easy one. The trail is short (30 mins round trip/0.4 miles) but steep, and as you reach the dripping springs, the paved trail ends and is wet. In the winter it could be icy so watch your step!

It’s easy to see where it gets its name from!

The Narrows

(strenuous) if you have time

The Narrows is a longer trek so only do this if you have enough time (it’s 8 hours round trip/4.2 miles), and enough food and water to take you to the end! You could always do part of it and just turn back. It’s a popular hike as you get to hike through water, get wet, and get adventurous!


Take a look at this map before you go so that you can plan which trails you’d like to do if you’re looking to hike.


There are a couple of campgrounds for which you’ll need a reservation.


Bryce Canyon National Park

Entry: $35 per vehicle / included in the Annual Pass Opening times: Opening hours: the park is always open 24/7 all year round.

Visitors Centre: 8am - 6pm (Spring & Autumn), 8am - 8pm (Summer), 8am - 4:30pm (Winter)

Check here for up to date information on access to specific sites within the park, and opening/closing times.



Bryce Canyon was one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen! You won’t be disappointed!

An early wake up call will be well worth it. Park in the visitor’s centre and use the park’s shuttle bus to visit the following:


Sunset point - Sunrise point (or vice versa)

1 mile / 1 hour

This is a gentle walk along the rim of the canyon which will give you some amazing sights. It’s the only paved section of the rim trail making it perfect for those who are looking for a very easy stroll, those with wheelchairs and those with dogs.


Queen’s Garden Trail

1.3 miles (2.9km)/ 1-2 hours

Start at Sunrise Point and make your way down into the canyon. The views are spectacular! It’s quite steep at some points so be careful! And remember that you’ll have to hike back up, so walk down as far as you’re willing to walk back up! If you go down all the way you’ll find the Queen Victoria hoodoo, named because its silhouette resembles her!


Navajo Loop

Only available in the summer.

1.3 miles (2.1km)/ 1-2 hours

Start from Sunset Point and descend into the canyon. Near the start you’ll come to a steep descent with zig zag bends (switchbacks) which will make you want to either back or take a zillion photos before heading down! These iconic bends lead you into the canyon and you will go through Two Bridges and Wall Street, although both Wall Street was closed when I visited, so check before you get your hopes up! Otherwise you can join this hike with the Queens Garden Trail…



Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop

2.9 miles (4.6km) / 2-3 hours

I highly recommend this hike, I absolutely loved it! Start from Sunrise Point and descend into the canyon to Queen’s Garden, then follow the signs to ascend out of the canyon via the Navajo Loop trail on those iconic switchbacks!

And then, if you want a nice cooldown to your hike, you can walk along the rim trail from Sunset point to Sunset Point!


Here’s a list of the hikes to help you plan your day at Bryce National Park!


Antelope Canyon

Ticket: $73 1hr tour with Ken's Tours


Extremely photogenic, Antelope Canyon as been captured by Microsoft for its desktops and been seen around the world via computer monitor screens. This canyon is located underground and named so because antelope used to run through it!

There’s lower and upper antelope canyon. I’d recommend visiting Lower Antelope Canyon with Ken’s Tours. The guides are knowledgable and, although the tours are pricey, it’s well worth it.

Be aware that you’ll be in enclosed spaces and narrow openings.

If you haven’t booked in advanced, you can always head to the ticket window and see when the next spots are available. There were plenty of spots when I visited.


Horseshoe Bend

$8 per vehicle

Opening times: Sunrise to sunset all year round


Located close to Antelope Canyon, is Horseshoe Bend. From the car park, you’ll take a short walk to the incredible sight of the Horseshoe Bend. Take enough water, and make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. There are areas with no barriers so don’t get too close to the edge!!

Grand Canyon

Entry: $35 per vehicle / included in the Annual Pass

Opening times: South Rim is open 24/7 all year round

Visitor Centre: South Rim visitor centre fluctuates this year. Click here to find up to date times.


The grand finale in my 6 day itinerary road trip! And it didn’t disappoint! Get there early and watch the sunrise from Mather Point. Make sure you take layers to wrap up as it can get chilly whilst waiting.

At this time in the morning, the visitor's centre won't be open. However, when I visited, they left out this useful information to get started!



Rim Trail

2.1 miles (3.4km)

After watching the sunrise, head west along the rim from Mather Point to Yavapai Point. There you’ll find the Geology Museum with interesting information on the canyon’s formation. Continue along the rim and you’ll find that you’re on the Trail of Time - as you journey to Verkamp’s you’ll also journey through time to see how long it took nature to form the Grand Canyon.

At Verkamp’s you can walk a little further to reach the cafe at the Grand Canyon village. Treat yourself to a breakfast burrito and a hot drink. In the village you’ll also find a souvenir store, and lodges where you have the option to stay for the night and wake up right next to the canyon!

Bright Angel Trail

If you’re up for another hike, head into the canyon by taking the Bright Angel trail. This trail takes you right into the canyon all the way to Colorado River, but it’s not recommended to hike there within one day. The descent has a 1,500m elevation change and could cause altitude sickness.


Here are some options for hiking into the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail.


You may encounter mule traffic! They have right of way so make sure you get out of the way to avoid getting trodden on!



 

I’ve written the essential information I feel like you need to enjoy your time in these parks. I understand that we don’t all have the time in the world to read long introductions, fancy descriptions, and the most important is that you have what you need to prepare for an amazing adventure!


If you have any other questions, or feel like I’m missing information that would be useful, feel free to reach out to me!




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