Valley of Fire, Zion NP, and Vegas May 2019
I can't get enough of National Parks- seriously. I love hiking. I love being outdoors. I love exploring new and different landscapes. And I love spending quality time with my hubby. This trip provided all of those things. I think we spend the perfect amount of time in each place, got to see and do a ton, and still got in some pretty legit rest and relaxation time despite all this.
Our journey began with a rainy night in Vegas. A couple got kicked off our plane, which delayed our flight into Vegas, and when we did end up landing we had missed our dinner reservation, and it was crazy storming. So the first night basically sucked, we went straight to our hotel, crashed, and woke up hoping to reset our outlooks for the rest of the trip. We stayed at the Hilton on the strip, but for only a minute. No restaurant on site, but they did have a grab and go mini stop and shop where we grabbed a terrible pizza when we arrived, and a bagel breakfast in the morning before we headed out. From there, we walked 15 mins down the strip to the Hertz at the Encore to pick up our rental car, and started the adventure.
We drove an hour outside of Vegas, and made a pit stop at the Valley of Fire state park. What an amazing park! You pay a $10 entrance fee, and are treated to a ton of cool hikes and viewpoints of the red rocks all around you. The drive itself through the park was totally worth the money. We tried hiking the White domes trail - however one of the slot canyons was pretty under water, so we hiked the opposite way for about a couple of hours up and back and did a little of the Prospect hike as well. Not a strenuous hike at all, but fun to climb on the rocks and make our way through some valleys. A good warm up for sure to all the hiking we did in Zion. From the Valley of Fire it was about another 2.5 hours to Zion. The closer you get to the park, the better the views from the car! Once we arrived into Springdale (the town right outside of the Zion entrance) we checked into the Hampton Inn. This was about a half hour walk from the Zion entrance and visitors center, and right in the middle of Springdale, so lots of restaurant and shop options within a mile radius. It was also on the Springdale shuttle route- which had a stop right outside of the hotel. The shuttle takes you to all points in Springdale, then connects at the Zion visitors center where you can then hop on the Zion shuttle- which takes you all through Zion Canyon (8 stops in total- hits all the main attractions and trailheads). Once checked in we walked 10min to dinner at Kings Landing- a restaurant in a boutique hotel which had amazing views of the mountains. This was probably the best meal of the trip, and the priciest, but most of the time those things go together right?
Zion time! We woke up super early, one of the first to get that Hampton Inn breakfast buffet I'm so accustomed to, and drove to the visitors center parking lot to catch the first Zion canyon shuttle. We were not the only ones to have this idea- so we actually ended up on the 2nd set of shuttles into Zion. They come every 15mins, and are even more frequent throughout the day, so extremely convenient (plus you really have no other option during season) We picked the perfect day to hike Angels Landing- it started out sunny and chilly in the morning, but warmed up to the mid-70s by the afternoon. We took the shuttle to the Grotto parking lot stop #6. From there our morning consisted of hiking Angels Landing, and once on top of the canyon, we took on part of the West Rim hike as well. This was a super tough hike for sure, Angels Landing had lots of narrow spots, chains on one side to hold onto, lots of people single file and 1000+ ft drops. But as always, totally worth it. Don't sleep on that West Rim hike either- it gave us a different set of canyon views which was pretty cool. That killed about the entire morning, so after hiking all that we took the shuttle back to the visitors center and had lunch at the Zion brewery- which was surprisingly good! After fueling up we hopped back on the shuttle to check out the Riverwalk, or what I prefer to call, the pretend Narrows. Because of all the rain they had gotten previously that week, as well as snow melt, the actual Narrows hike was closed, but the Riverwalk is a good, easy alternative (which honestly I needed after Angels Landing). We did dinner at Spotted Dog and ice cream after at HooDoos next door.
This morning after Hampton Inn breakfast, we drove to the East side of the park, through the Mt Carmel tunnel to the trailhead for Canyon Overlook. This was recommended to us by a store employee- and it was a pretty easy 30min hike - but had an amazing viewpoint of the Canyon at the end (hence the name). A great warm up hike. From there we drove to the visitors center, parked, and did the Watchman trail which gives you views of Springdale - about a 1.5 hour hike, a little bit tough but again no where near as tough as Angels Landing. After that, we grabbed lunch at Meme's Cafe (not the best but did the trick), walked back to the shuttle and took it to the Lower Emerald Pools stop. Another quick hike (more like a walk), 30 min round trip, to a small waterfall over a canyon wall. Apparently the trail usually continues to the Middle and Upper Emerald pools, but a landslide is currently blocking it, so Lower views are all you get. After all this, we needed a break, so we headed back to the hotel for some pool time, followed by happy hour at Jacks 5 min away to watch the Sixers Game 7. If you are looking for a classic sports bar in Springdale- Jacks is it. After the game, we had some Mexican for dinner at Bit and Spur across the street.
Goodbye Zion! We drove back to Vegas in the morning, only about 2.5 hours this time since we did not make a pit stop at any parks. Joe had a work conference to attend, so we checked into the Bellagio, where I got one full day in Vegas at least. I stayed at the Bellagio all day - we had lunch at Lago, dinner at Harvest, and while Joe set up his booth I got a full pool day at probably my favorite pool of all time. The Bellagio has several pools, but the main once is absolutely ginormous and the perfect temperature. The people watching is also unparalleled, and it's relatively quiet compared to alot of Vegas pool scenes- like people are actually relaxing. My only complaint, is that people smoke cigarettes in the pool. I'm fine with people who smoke, its just the ash getting in the pool, its gross. But that day I only noticed 2 people doing this. Anyways if you are a lover of pools the Bellagio is the best. After pool time and dinner, I headed to McCarren for my red eye flight home.
Zion is an amazing national park! Like I mentioned before, 2.5 days is pretty much the perfect amount of time to dedicate to seeing Zion, and building in a rest day in Vegas is key! Also this time of year was perfect weather wise. Cool mornings and warmer afternoons. I hope to get back out this way again next year and try to do Bryce or Death Valley NPs.
Costs of trip:
Hotel in Springdale/Zion 3 nights: $900
Car rental 3 days: $350
Valley of Fire State park: $10
Yearly NP passholder, so entrance to Zion- free
1-8 Valley of Fire