Did you know many of America’s national parks are just a short drive away from one another? Thus it’s easy to see several of the country’s most majestic sights in one trip, such as Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.
But don’t just simply gaze at these natural wonders, hit the trails, go horseback riding, or even rappel down canyon walls to fully immerse yourself in these awe-inspiring landmarks.
Here’s a look at the ideal itinerary for exploring the Grand Canyon and its nearby iconic parks:
Day 1: Marvel at the mesmerizing lights of the Las Vegas strip
Before embarking on your national park adventure, spend a night in electric Las Vegas. Take a stroll down the Vegas strip to look at the famous hotels and casinos and their glittering lights. While it’s no National Park, it certainly is an impressive experience.
And Vegas is more than shows, slots, and the Strip. Historic Las Vegas takes you to some “off the beaten path” sights worthy of a look. Nature lovers should head to the outskirts of the city and visit Red Rock Canyon. Located just a few miles from Las Vegas within the Mojave Desert, the vivid hues and formations of the Aztec Sandstone cliffs will never cease to amaze onlookers. Look out for fossils! Around 500 million years ago, Red Rock Canyon was at the bottom of an ocean basin. The limestone in the area contains the remnants of sea life that would have thrived all those years ago.
Looking for an awesome activity at night? Check out the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall completely covered by an electronic billboard with nightly shows. Don’t miss out on the vibrant and colorful fireworks display featuring a rocking soundtrack. For the grand finale, stop by the world famous Bellagio fountains for a spectacular show of carefully crafted and choreographed spouts of water dancing to a soundtrack of your favorite classical pieces, pop songs, and showtunes.
The glitzy sights of Las Vegas are one of a kind, but they are certainly nothing like the calm, peaceful, and serene scenery you’ll be taking in over the next week!
Day 2: Get a falcon’s eye view of Zion National Park
The towering peaks and deep canyons of Zion National Park deserve to be seen from a different viewpoint than from the ground. Hop into a helicopter for an aerial adventure above the stunning sights of West Temple, the Canaan Mountain Wilderness, and Kolob Terrace. Many of the sections you fly over are rarely seen by park visitors. This bird’s eye view of the park is a special experience, indeed.
And speaking of birds, Zion National Park is helping many species grow through the park’s protection. Species such as the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, Mexican spotted owl, and California condor all call Zion’s landscape home. It’s especially wonderful to see the California condor making a comeback—thirty years ago, there were just 22 birds left in the world. Now, the population has increased to about 400 birds, 70 of which live in the surrounding areas of Zion National Park.
Day 3: Canyoneering: A thrilling way to see Zion’s diverse landscapes.
Perhaps you’ve been rock climbing before, but have you ever been canyoneering? Imagine descending into narrow slot canyons with ropes, sometimes rappelling, sometimes hiking, and even sometimes wading through water. Sound intimidating? It’s not! No prior experience is needed to have a great time exploring Zion’s canyons in a different way.
With canyoneering, you’re in for an adventure. Basically, canyoneering is starting at the top of a canyon and doing whatever it takes to get to the bottom. There are two kinds of canyons for those who love the sport—technical and non-technical. A technical canyon requires gear, ropes, and expert knowledge to navigate; you can usually navigate a non-technical canyon without any special equipment. The most famous non-technical canyon in Zion is the Narrows—give it a try!
Day 4: You’ve never seen the night sky look so big as it does in Canyon Country
Stargazing is a spectacular experience; away from the light pollution of the cities, the stars put on an amazing show. Visit the Museum patio in Zion for views of the East Temple—or strap on a headlamp and walk the Pa’Rus Trail. The flat, paved trail is a great option for a night walk to stare at the stars.
And there’s nothing more beautiful than sunset in Zion National Park. Take a sunset jeep tour to remote areas of the park for a once-in-a-lifetime sunset experience.
Day 5: Check out Bryce Canyon’s strangely beautiful monolithic hoodoos
The first time you see the towering spires of Bryce Canyon’s maze of hoodoos, words will probably fail you. Fairy chimneys? Rock tents? Geological goblins? Actually, hoodoos are towers of sedimentary stone that have formed by freezing cycles and erosion patterns.
Hoodoos aren’t permanent; the same forces that create them also contribute to their destruction. You can help preserve Bryce’s hoodoos by staying on designated trails—even walking around the base of a hoodoo can weaken its foundation. Better yet, take a trail ride on horseback through the canyon to witness even more of these geological oddities closeup.
Day 6: Adventure awaits on your ATV tour of Red and Casto Canyons
White, pink, and even green sandstone cliffs, fields of jagged hoodoos, ponderosa pines, and of course, acres of arresting red rock—and you can see it all as you cruise the canyons on your own ATV. If you really want to get out and cover a lot more ground to see even more of these wonders, this is the adventure for you.
Can you imagine a more exciting way to explore the canyons? Imagine rolling along the canyon floor gazing up at 500-foot canyon cliffs and following the scenic Sevier Fault on your ATV. It’s a definite bucket-list experience your family will love.
Day 7: Explore one of the world’s greatest wonders in one of America’s most iconic parks—the Grand Canyon
The scale of the canyon boggles the mind: One mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long. You could spend weeks exploring and never see it all. Over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, immersed in the spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring views.
Unlike the more “touristy” South Rim, the North Rim offers you an opportunity to chart your own path away from the crowds. Make your way to the Grand Canyon Lodge for breathtaking views from the veranda—you can even see and hear Roaring Springs, the North Rim’s only water source.
Day 8: Ride down the Grand Canyon trails on a friendly, sure-footed mule
The North Kaibab trail is an impressive descent of some 2,300 feet to Supai Tunnel; you’ll be blown away by the views from the saddle of your sturdy mule. It’s a fun and novel way to explore the canyon below the rim without working up a sweat.
These sure-footed steeds handle the steep switchbacks and sliding shale along the canyon every day. The mule rides are one of the most popular attractions at the park—reservations sell out almost two years in advance!
Day 9: Become Butch Cassidy (or the Sundance Kid!) for a day at Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon has been a popular setting for Hollywood films—in addition to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, other westerns such as Jeremiah Johnson, The Electric Horseman, and Bullet for a Badman were all filmed here. You’ll love exploring the dozen or so trails that wind their way through the canyon walls and floors.
Don’t be surprised to catch sight of some truly iconic desert wildlife here. Keep your eyes peeled for gila monsters, desert tortoises, coyotes, sidewinders, and darting Utah banded geckos.
Ready for adventure?
If a Grand Canyon excursion is on your personal travel bucket list, don’t miss out on these awesome experiences. Ready to plan your trip? Get in touch today—or sign up for our free email course to learn more about RV vacations in America’s iconic parks.