Since my wife and I are hiking fanatics, we decided that we needed to plan a hiking vacation, nothing but hiking for entertainment and amusement. We had two choices we were pondering; go north to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, or visit the Grand Canyon along with some other national parks in the southwest area.
Since New Hampshire is an 11 hour drive away, we opted for the Southwest and booked our tickets for Las Vegas! But why Vegas if we were going to the Grand Canyon?
Once we decided on the Southwest, we noticed there are tons of hiking trails in the area in addition to the Grand Canyon. So we planned our trip in the following way:
Related: Starting with Day 2, click the link for each day for a more details on that particular hike! [Day 2 complete, following days coming soon]
We arrived Saturday night at Las Vegas and drive north to Utah for our first destination: Zion National Park.
Tip: If you want relax an evening with a glass of wine at your Airbnb during your trip; I suggest buying your bottle in Las Vegas before heading out for Utah. It is extremely difficult to find alcohol in Utah. Also, get your snacks and goodies in Vegas as well, as it will be harder to find anything on the road once you are in Utah.
After a good night’s rest but a very early wake-up, we headed to Zion Park for our first day of hiking. Our original plan was to hike Observation Point Trail and The Narrow’s Trail, but both were closed due to safety concerns. Apparently there were some rocks falling over the trails and snow still melting created flash flood safety concerns.
So instead, we hiked the West Rim Trail to Scout Lookout Point and I also hiked Angels Landing Trail. After this hike, we drove out through Route 9 park entrance, which has a lot of nice winding roads with tunnels. A few miles after the park exit, you will pass by the Checkerboard Mesa, which is worthy of a quick stop for pictures. After this, we were on our way to Hatch, Utah for our Airbnb near Bryce National Canyon.
Distance hiked: 7.4 miles
Tips: Even though we arrived early at Zion Park at 7:30am, there were still a lot of people waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Zion uses a shuttle system to take you to the trailheads. From the parking lot to the Grotto Trailhead stop, it took us about an hour due to the long line for the shuttles. My suggestion is to skip the main parking entirely when arriving in the morning. Instead keep driving up Route 9 until you reach the Shuttles Only sign. Once there, look for parking on the side of the road, then walk to the nearest trailhead to wait for the shuttles from the parking lot, which always leave 2 or 3 seats empty for hikers like you! Had we done this, it would have saved use at least 45 minutes, but we didn’t know it until we saw other hikers doing it… probably locals.
Also, there are no grocery stores in Hatch. Another reason for getting those snacks and goodies in Las Vegas. Stop n Stock!
Another early rise! Did I ever mention I’m not a morning person? My wife almost needs to drag me out of bed, but once I’m up, I’m ready and hyped for the hiking that waits! After a short 25min drive, we were in Bryce Canyon National Park. There are many hikes to do here, and we chose the Figure 8 Hike Loop.
I really appreciated that even though it was mid-June, the temperature here was in the nice 50s in the morning. Later throughout the hike it got hot, but much cooler compared to our first day at Zion. We really enjoyed this park as the rock formations are so unique to it. After this hike, we visited the Bryce Observation Point for some amazing views and pictures, and then we checked out the Visitor’s Center but didn’t stay for too long since we had a 5 hour drive to the Grand Canyon area in Arizona.
As for the “Airbnb” we booked for the Grand Canyon, well for the next 3 days we chose to stay at a campground that had a small RV equipped with a nice futon. Check these pictures out!
This place gave us a real feel for the desert. With no electric power, the stars at night were a show, along with the nightly bonfire and sharing stories with other campers
Distance Hiked: 7.8 miles
Tips: Don’t wait until arriving to the Grand Canyon area to fill up on gas. It’s a lot more expensive, I learned the hard way. We also stopped at the Horseshoe Bend. There’s a mandatory $10 parking fee but it’s worth it. After a 15 minute walk, you reach the edge of the Colorado River to the amazing view of the bend in the river. This stop will also let you stretch your legs from the long drive.
I woke up with the roosters literally. I had no idea there could be roosters in the desert. Funny thing about this place, even though it reaches 100 degrees during the sunny day, at night it cools down to a comfortable 50s or 60s! Our first day at the Grand Canyon, we hiked South Kaibab Trail.
It’s a tough hike and goes from the canyon rim down to the Colorado River, but due to the extreme heat we only made it about half way before turning around. After this we had some food in the town right outside of the Grand Canyon Park and headed back to our campsite for some more marshmallows and wine by the bonfire!
Distance Hiked: 6 miles
Tips: Pack a lot of water and snacks for the hike. After your hike, look for food in the village inside of the park. It is much yummier and cheaper than the food outside of the park! Also, if you need a shower, there are 5 minute hot showers available for $2.50 inside the park.
Today we woke-up very early, 5am early. I’m sure my wife splashed some cold water on me to get me out of bed. After the Kaibab hike, we really were excited about today’s hike and we were pondering the idea of making it all the way down the river. We did the Bright Angel Trail which goes down to the river connecting with The South Kaibab Trail from the previous day.
The difference with this trail is that is has water refilling stations about every 1.5 miles. The heat and poor planning didn’t let us do the loop, but read more about the hike for additional details. But after about 9 hours, we were back at the rim with a big smile on our faces after a great hike. As our adventure at the Grand Canyon was at a finish, we continued toward exploring Sedona.
So we drove down to Cottonwood, Arizona for our next Airbnb. The area of Sedona has a very mystic vibe to it, but it is a great area with amazing hikes and views. After settling in in our private room Airbnb, we felt like it was a 5-star hotel after 2 nights camping in the desert.
Distance Hiked: 12 miles
Tips: The Bright Angel Trail lets you refill water. Besides refilling water, we would wet our shirts and head, refreshing us for a few minutes on the sunny hike.
This day we slept in. Our bodies were already exhausted from all the hiking from the previous days. So we slept in until around 9:30am and had a great breakfast courtesy of our Airbnb. After eating, we did the Beaver Creek Bell Trail that led to an amazing, refreshing water swimming hole. We spent about 2 hours here and what a delight it was after all the hot hiking during the previous days.
After a late lunch, we headed to Cathedral Rock Trail and waited for the sunset once we reached the top. It was an interesting and very technical hike down once it got dark. We had to watch our footing very carefully. After dinner, we were back at our room resting for the next day.
Distance Hiked: 8.5 miles
Tips: There are many swimming hole options in this area. Take advantage of them!
Our last day hiking! Well actually, our bodies were pretty exhausted by now. So we went to another swimming hole at Grasshopper Point. You need to pay a $9 entrance fee, and then a short 5 minute walk to the water! This place was much more crowded than the Beaver Creek since it was easily accessible.
Regardless, we still had a great time here. The water felt much colder here, but it was probably due to the fact that we didn’t work a sweat out to reach the water hole. After some few hours here, we wrapped up and headed south to Phoenix for our last night before heading back home. During the drive down the road, we saw huge cacti! Our original plan was to go out and explore the night life in the city, but we had some issues with our Airbnb, and after finding a new place spent all the night chilling at the pool.
Distance Hiked: 0.5 miles
Tips: There were some few parking spots on the street near Grasshopper Point that would’ve avoided the $9 parking fee, but I’m sure that’s something the locals could elaborate better on. This was also the first time we had a bad Airbnb experience, but thankfully we found a great place to stay in. Make sure to read these tips on how to book a good place!
Our final day was a travel day, but after driving more than 1080 miles in about 24 hours, this is one great vacation we won’t be forgetting any time soon!
Total Distance Hiked: 42.2 miles