I’ve always been a planner, through and through, but even more so after the birth of Landon — when it involves a kid, you just have to be organized or everything falls apart. So as Rob and I were planning for our first big trip (read: one that involved a flight) away with him, we initially landed on the Pacific Coast Highway and Yosemite, figuring those were two pretty lowkey areas where we could enjoy ourselves with him. About six weeks before our trip, however, a massive wildfire broke out in the area surrounding Yosemite NP and we couldn’t decide what to do: wait it out and hope it didn’t make it into the Valley or change our plans entirely at the last minute. Clearly, the planner in me took over and opted for the latter. A UT/AZ National Parks trip had always been on our radar, but with so many in the general area, it was hard to narrow down exactly what we wanted to see the most. Given that we had just over a week, we stuck to a small circuit that took us in and out of Vegas, hitting Zion, Bryce, Antelope Canyon/Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon. It was definitely a whirlwind, especially with a 10-month-old in tow, but we had a blast and wouldn’t have changed a thing — it’s funny how life works out sometimes!
As I mentioned above, we flew in and out of LAS due to proximity and cost. I’ll be honest, the second we landed we couldn’t wait to leave. We decided to spend the day there to give Landon time to adjust before jumping in to our trip and while that was a good decision, there isn’t much I would recommend in Vegas unless you’re on a bachelorette party (did that before, it was a blast!). We saw a few sites and left first thing the next morning. On our way to Zion, we stopped in Valley of the Fire State Park where we saw an Nevada’s smaller version of the wave and a beautiful natural arch.
Next we made it on to Zion; in hindsight, I almost wish we had done this park last because it was by far our favorite. Zion National Park is like nothing I’ve ever seen — the landscape is breathtaking. Angel’s Landing was closed and, honestly, we never would have done something that risky with Landon, so we opted for the next best thing — The Narrows. This is a hike through slot canyons where you’re in water for 90% of the trip. It was the coolest hike I have ever done and would recommend it 100 times over. The best thing is you can go in as far as you and like and then simply turn back. For us, we made a goal of hiking to “Wall Street” and it took about 5 or so hours roundtrip. The water reached our thighs at the highest point, but was primarily around our calves for most of the trip. Landon had a minor 15-minute meltdown, but pretty much just enjoyed watching everyone walk by! Due to the length, we only did one hike this day and then watched the sunset from Canyon Junction.
Our second day in Zion was filled with several shorter hikes including Weeping Rock, the Lower Emerald Pools, Pa’rus, and Canyon Overlook. Loved all of these, but the sunset views from Canyon Overlook were unreal!
The next day we packed up SUPER early (thank goodness for still being on east coast time internally) and made our way to Bryce for sunrise. I won’t lie, I knew Bryce was a smaller park and I’d seen a ton of pictures online and thought it looked pretty cool, but not like anything super special. The first time we made our way out to Sunset Point (yep, seems counterintuitive for sunrise, but trust me on this!), I almost cried. It was absolutely stunning and watching the sun come up over the vastness of the park made you feel so small. We did a really neat hike through the valley and then stopped at a few more lookout points. Unfortunately, there was a small wildfire so we couldn’t drive the entire length of the park, but we felt we saw quite a bit in a day! Be on the lookout for the blue bear we spotted in the woods of Bryce…
Lake Powell was our third stop, primarily so we could visit Antelope Canyon. I’ve dreamed of seeing the sunbeams in the upper canyons for years and I knew it was a small chance since we were late in the season (they peak mid-summer) and it was mostly a cloudy day. The canyons are gorgeous, regardless, so I was still super excited but had my fingers crossed. We did the upper canyons first and it was on our way out, just moments before the exit, when our guide stopped us to show where a beam was coming in. We took off and I snapped a few images just before it was swept away by clouds overhead. It was totally unreal and one of the most beautiful things I saw on our entire trip. That afternoon, we also visited the lower canyons and I have to say, I think they were even prettier overall as the orange hue was much richer. But the lure of those elusive beams, only available in the Upper Canyon, would make me have to revisit both in the future.
Our next day in Lake Powell was spent actually on the lake! We did a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural bridge in the world. The boat trip was a littttttle long with a 10-month-old, but the bridge was so cool! And we got to see a dinosaur footprint, which, oddly enough, was a highlight of the trip for me. We ended the evening with a trip to Horseshoe Bend to see the sunset… with about 1,000 of our closest friends. The popularity of this spot is a little out of hand and took away some of the charm of this gorgeous spot — I’d definitely recommend it, just be ready to fight for a view!
Finally, we couldn’t have done this trip without a stop in Grand Canyon National Park; I’d love to come back someday and do Grand Canyon properly, but this was a nice taste and such a cool way to end the trip. Much like Bryce, the first time I viewed the vast valley I was breathless. Grand Canyon may not be the most unique or beautiful of the National Parks, but it is absolutely epic in it’s own way. And we spotted that adorable blue bear again!
And, finally, a stop at the Hoover Dam, of course! =P