A Southwest American Road Trip: Zion | Bryce Canyon | Grand Canyon National Parks

One April, we spent our spring break exploring some new-to-us territory in the southwestern United States.  We had long wanted to visit some of our country’s national parks and we found that spring would be the perfect time for this type of trip.  Our trek took us through three states:  Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.  We flew in and out of Las Vegas, as it was closest in proximity to where we began our national park trek.  We also visited three national parks:  Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon.  Besides the national parks, we also visited Glen Canyon Dam, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and a half-day float on the Colorado River.  It was a mix of big and small sites coupled with adventure, perfect for our family of older kids and teens.  Below we share all about our southwest road trip.

When We Visited:

April 2018, our spring break.  The weather was great for all the hiking we would be doing.  Temperatures were generally in the 60s, the skies were sunny, it was glorious!

We had three main destinations on this trip to base out of:  Las Vegas, NV, Springdale, UT, and Page, AZ.

A map of our driving route

Las Vegas, Nevada

Where we stayed

Cosmopolitan Hotel | 1 night | Las Vegas strip

Since we were flying in and out of Las Vegas we figured we would stay one night here and explore.  We are not really fans of Las Vegas but our kids were curious so we sought out some family friendly activities.  While here, we checked out the arcade in New York New York and realized it was rather run down and ok for a quick stop but not for much longer.  While here, we caught a Cirque du Soleil show in the evening, which we all really enjoyed.  We also visited the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign.  We opted to take our pictures slightly off center from the sign so we could avoid standing in the long line.  After a long travel day and exploring of Las Vegas, we were eager to head off to the parks the next day.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada!

Zion National Park

Where we stayed

Cable Mountain Lodge | 3 nights | Springdale, Utah

Our drive started by leaving Las Vegas and heading to Utah to begin our national parks adventure at Zion National Park.  We stayed at Cable Mountain Lodge, the best location to stay at while visiting Zion.  The lodge is just outside the park, so an ideal location to access the park, yet we didn’t have to deal with the constant park traffic just to get to our lodge.  On site was a pool, laundry facility, restaurant, market, and gear rental store.  We stayed in a one bedroom suite with a kitchen which was perfect for our family of five.

ZION NATIONAL PARK FACTS

  • LOCATION:  Utah
  • CLOSEST MAJOR CITY:  Las Vegas, Nevada
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  4.6 million (2022)
  • 3rd most visited US National Park out of 63
  • BECAME A NATIONAL PARK:  1919
  • TOP THINGS TO DO:  Hike the Narrows & take in the views at Angel’s Landing, not for the faint of heart

While here, we caught the shuttle to the park right from the lodge.  And right out the door of our room we were able to walk onto one of our favorite trails of the park, Watchman’s Trail.  We made it to the top to catch sunset and back down before dark.  

We ate some great food at the on-site pub, swam in the pool, and could not get enough of the views of Zion National Park from our room.  Even just driving through the park, where the views were never ending, captivated us.  We also saw big horn sheep!  

Beautiful Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park  

Bryce Canyon National Park is only 88 miles from Zion, so it was an easy day trip from where we were staying at Cable Mountain Lodge.  This park is relatively small so it is easy to explore the highlights in one day.  The neat thing about Bryce Canyon is that you can view the hoodoo spires from above while walking the rim.  There are some great hikes to get down into the canyon where you get close up views of the hoodoo spires as well.

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK FACTS

Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos on Earth

  • LOCATION:  Utah
  • CLOSEST CITY:  Las Vegas, Nevada
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  2.1 million (2021)
  • 15th most visited US National Park out of 63
  • BECAME A NATIONAL PARK:  1928
  • TOP THINGS TO DO:  Take in the views from the rim

Bryce Canyon was easy to navigate.  The hike down into the hoodoos was a little steep in some areas but if you had family members who would not be able to participate, they could easily stay at the top and just take in the view from above.  Bryce Canyon is the perfect park for anyone with mobility issues because it can still be enjoyed without hiking.

Unique Bryce Canyon National Park

Page, Arizona

Where we stayed

Courtyard Marriott Page | 2 nights Page, Arizona

After our time in Zion and Bryce Canyon, we headed down to Page, Arizona.  Lodging options in Page are budget to mid-range and not plentiful.  Be sure to book your accommodations well ahead of time!  Our view on Page is that the natural wonders in the area are abundant and the town is scrambling to meet the rush of tourists.  While we were limited with our lodging and dining choices during our visit, we were still thrilled to have spent time here exploring all the natural wonders.

Glen Canyon Dam  

After we settled into our hotel, we stopped at Glen Canyon Dam, which was right by the bridge we had crossed to enter Page. 

Glen Canyon Dam rises 710 feet above the Colorado River.  We checked out the visitor’s center and had a great view of the dam, Lake Powell, and the Colorado River from above.

Glen Canyon Dam | Page, Arizona

Antelope Canyon

Later the same afternoon, we had reservations at Antelope Canyon, one of the many slot canyons in the area.  There are a few things to note with this tour:  It is on Navajo land so you will be guided the whole time.  You also need to pay a cash fee to access the land.  Lastly, Antelope Canyon follows Arizona Standard Time, meaning they do not observe Daylight Savings Time.  If visiting in the spring, summer, or fall, be sure to note the time differences.

Our tour of Antelope Canyon was amazing!  Walking through the slot canyons was peaceful yet intriguing.  Our guide shared history of the canyon while we walked through and was continuously pointing out the best vantage points for photos.  We made our way through the whole canyon and then turned around and walked back to the entrance.  This is a very popular attraction so be sure to book once you know your travel dates.

Stunning Antelope Canyon | Page, Arizona

Floating the Colorado River 

While in Page, we went on a float on the Colorado River!  It is a 15 mile leisure float, which takes about 3 hours to complete.  Our guide talked to us about the history as we floated on the beautiful river.  We started at the base of Glen Canyon Dam and passed soaring red rock cliffs, rounded the river at Horseshoe Bend, and enjoyed some shore time at Petroglyph Beach where we ate a packed picnic lunch.  At the very end, as we rounded our final corner, we were treated to watching wild horses were drink at the river.  We finished the float, disembarked at Lee’s Ferry, and took the bus back to our starting point in Page.  This was a wonderful way to end our time in Page.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

On our way back to Las Vegas, we took the route along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon at Grand Canyon National Park.  We stopped in Grand Canyon Village, grabbed some picnic supplies from the market, and had a lovely picnic lunch among the pines.  From here, we spent some time at the visitor’s center and watched the film, Grand Canyon:  A Journey of Wonder.  We then checked out some of the exhibits before heading out to Mather Point to take in the incredible views of the grandest canyon of all.

The grandest canyon of all

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK FACTS

  • LOCATION:  Arizona
  • CLOSEST CITY:  Las Vegas, Nevada (West Rim)
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  4.7 million (2022)
  • 2nd most visited US National Park out of 63
  • BECAME A NATIONAL PARK:  1919
  • TOP THING TO DO:  Take in the views from the rim

On the way back to Las Vegas, we stopped at various lookout points, which was a great way to road trip back to break up the trip.

All in all this was a fabulous trip!  We saw 3 new states, 3 new national parks, and many other sites along the way.  The American southwest is so full of amazing places to visit.  The perfect combination of beautiful places and fun things to do made this a wonderful family vacation.

                        

Read More!

In the meantime, we went back to Utah to visit the rest of the national parks within the state, collectively known as “Utah’s Mighty Five”.  Be sure to read our post of this trip:  Rounding out Utah’s Mighty Five:  Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks.  We also created a guide for visiting all five of Utah’s National Parks in one trip entitled, Guide to Visiting Utah’s Mighty Five.  If you want the ultimate southwest adventure, be sure to check out, The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip, which takes you through 3 states and 6 national parks!

We also have an article on Why Canyonlands Should Be Your Next National Park as well as The Best Time to Visit Delicate Arch.  

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time my husband is grain/gluten-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we seem to encompass a large amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

On this trip, it was relatively easy to access food due to having the rental car and access to grocery stores and markets along the way.  As we left Las Vegas, we stopped at Whole Foods to grab some prepared items that would be good for our first two days of hiking and packing picnic lunches.  We also bought fresh fruit that would be easy to take along, such as oranges, apples, and grapes. 

Also on our way out of Vegas at the beginning of the trip, it was Easter Sunday so we booked a reservation at Honey Salt ahead of time.  Everyone was able to find things here, and it was an incredible meal!  Honey Salt is a farm to table restaurant and they focus on local, fresh ingredients.

In Page we ate at State 48 Tavern and everyone was able to find things here, plus it was delicious!

We also visited some quick dining places such as Subway and Chipotle along the way.

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.