Nothing screams summer like a road trip. This year my partner and I did a southern Utah vacation or should I say road trip. Our intentions were to do lots of hiking and be around the water. This route takes you through multiple National Parks, Zion, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell. So grab your boots, fill up your tank and let’s hit the road.
3 Days: Zion
1 Day: Bryce Canyon
1 Day : North Rim Grand Canyon
2 Days : Lake Powell/Page, Arizona
Drive from Las Vegas to Zion via Valley of Fire.
We started our southern Utah vacation in Las Vegas because its close and a nice place to end your trip if you can travel longer than a week.
The drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park takes less than 2 hours so driving through the Valley of Fire State Park doesn’t add on too much extra time on a already long travel day.
Temperatures get up in the 100’s in the summer. We drove through dead of summer and in my rear view mirror it looked like smoke in the distance, hence the name Valley of Fire. It costs $10 per vehicle to enter the park. When we drove through around sunset, payment was on the honor system, we snapped a few classic shots and were on our way.
In order to keep costs down we camp. There are are a handful of campgrounds in Zion or Springdale that will give you great proximity and the amenities that you need.
We camped at Zion Canyon Campground
. It was located right off stop 3 on the Springdale line. It was pricey at $45 a night for campground standards but had showers, grills, WiFi in some areas. Book a tent site down by the river, we were bummed that we didn’t.
If you want to stay inside the National Park but not camp then check out Zion Lodge. It’s the only place that offers accommodations and food inside the park.
Springdale is the closest town to Zion. It’s at most a 10 minute shuttle ride to the enterance of Zion depending on where you stay. Flanigan`s Inn has amazing views, an outdoor pool, and good cheap breakfast.
Spend the evening getting your site situated as you’ll be spending the next 4 nights here.
DAY 2 ZION
Wake up and start hiking Emerald Pools by 7 or 8. If you’re staying inside the park you’ll jump on the free shuttle and get off at stop 5. There is a free Springdale shuttle that takes you to the entrance of Zion National Park and from there you’ll hop on the free Zion shuttle.
It’s 3 miles round trip to hike to all three emerald pools. It shouldn’t take you over 3 hours to do the trail. When we was here last, Middle and Upper Pools were closed due to a land slide. Even if you just hike to Lower Emerald Falls, it’s an easy walk and a nice introduction to Zion.
Lunch. We always pack ample snacks and find the perfect spot to hang out, relax and eat. If you’re more into eating out, Zion Canyon in the park has decent food and is the only place inside that sells beer.
Temple of Sinawava & Narrows Hike
Head to the Temple of Sinawava because you’re going to do the Narrows hike. This is stop number 9 on the free shuttle and the last stop. This hike is what Zion is renown for. The hike takes you along and through the Virgin River. The canyon walls can get as tall as 2,000 feet and you’ll be wet from the river so its a refreshing and cool, a pleasant break from the hot, desert.
The Narrows hike is one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. You can start the hike at any time of the day because the farther you go, the less crowds they’ll be. This makes is easy to get that people-less picture and it just feels good to romp around freely a river bed deep in a canyon.
Bryce Canyon ⇑
Explore Bryce Canyon. The scenic drive only takes an hour so it’s a great day trip from your home base in Zion.
There’s a free shuttle that runs into Bryce Canyon from the visitors center, which is before the entrance. I always drive into the park first to find a parking spot as most people take the shuttle. I’ve always gotten a spot.
Start your tour of Bryce Canyon at Sunrise Point, you’ll be hiking the Queens Garden and Navajo loop trail to get up and close with the mysterious hoodoos. The connecting trail is only 3 miles round trip and will be a bit challenging on the switchbacks coming back up. The orange trail winds down into the canyon bobbing and weaving hoodoos and pine trees. You’ll be in awe of mother earths delicate beauty.
The trail will end at Sunset Point. Stroll back the half mile on a paved path along the rim of the canyon towards your vehicle at sunrise point.
Drive towards Rainbow Point making no stops along the way as you’ll hit those on the way back when they’re on the right side of the road. There’s plenty of places to stop and take pictures and see different parts of the canyon. A few of my favorites are Natural Bridge and Inspiration Point.
Zion (Top of Angels Landing ⇑)
Hope you ate your Wheatie’s because today you’re hiking Angels Landing. To avoid crowds go early in the morning or late afternoon. We started hiking around 2:30 pm and there was virtually nobody hiking with us which was especially important when you were on the chains.
Angels Landing is a strenuous hike that takes you up the side of a mountain through a series of switchbacks. The last half mile is up a narrow ridge with steep drop offs on either side. There are chains bolted in place for assistant up the ridge to Angels Landing. You go down the same way you go up so on a really busy day, it’s more stressful maneuvering around people going the opposite way, thus hiking hiking early or late will be an important factor.
More Hiking Suggestions↓
DAY 5: Drive to Lake Powell
Canyon OverLook Trail ⇑
Leave Zion early around 7 through the east entrance, the same way you drove to Bryce. Stop and hike Canyon OverLook Trail. The trail is located directly outside the tunnel on the left hand side. Parking is limited but the trail is worth it. It’s a easy 1 mike hike on sandstone and sand mixed. It gives great overlooks of Zion Canyon.
North Rim of the Grand Canyon ⇑
Continue on the road towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s about a 2 and a half hour drive to get to the North Rim Visitors Center. Stretch your legs and walk the half mile paved path of Bright Angel Point for a 280 view of the lesser visited North Rim. It’s something you have to see to believe and boy is she grand!
*I know that this guide is a southern Utah vacation and that the Grand Canyon is in Arizona. It’s to close not to visit!
Stop at the Marble Canyon and walk the bridge and get insane views of the mighty Colorado River.
DAY 6: Explore Lake Powell by water!
Next stop on our southern Utah vacation is Lake Powell. Let’s first talk about how beautiful Lake Powell is, the bright blue water surrounded by white sand stone rocks as glossy as the eye can see!
Lake Powell is a National Park that strattel’s the Utah and Arizona border and at capacity can hold 24,322,000 acre feet.
There are several ways to see Lake Powell. You can take a boat or guided kayak tour. You can rent a personal watercraft (PWC) for the day like a jet ski or boat, or do something more active like Stand Up Paddle (SUP) or a man propelled paddle boat.
Joe and I initially wanted to rent paddle boards but wanted to see as much of the lake as possible. We choose to rent a jet ski and it was my favorite day of the whole trip! We rented the jet ski for 4 hours and it cost about $320, which was a huge expense but worth the splurge as we had so much fun.
There are endless waterways to explore, rocks to jump off of, and small ‘beaches’ on little peninsulas to park and go for a swim. There was compartment on the jet ski that fit my small pack that was filled with water, snacks and camera gear. 4 hours of pure bliss playing on the water = AWESOMENESS.
Make sure you wear and bring sunscreen. You’ll roast out on that water and nothing is more uncomfortable then camping with a major sunburn.
Antelope Canyon ⇑
Today is the day of your southern Utah vacation that you get to tour iconic Antelope Canyon. You may recognize this canyon from pictures, in fact the most expensive photo in the world was taken in Upper Antelope Canyon, and sold for $6.5 million.
You can only explore Antelope Canyon on a guided tour. There are only a handful of tour providers in the town of Page (which is 10-15 minutes from Lake Powell.)
You can choose to tour lower Antelope Canyon or upper Antelope Canyon or if your feeling saucy, both.
Upper Antelope Canyon is more famous of the two, thus making it more crowded. It is most famous for its “beam of light” phenomenon. These beams slice through the roof of the canyon most reliably around noon on clear days. Upper Antelope Canyon is more accessible and easier to get so its “family friendly”.
Lower Antelope Canyon is a little different as you climb a short series ladders and staircases to enter.
We chose Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie. The whole tour took an hour and a half including the 15 minute ride to and from the canyon. I’m not a huge fan of guided tours. Overall it was beautiful and picture perfect.
Horseshoe Bend ⇑
Catch sunset at horseshoe bend located just outside Page, Arizona. The pictures speak for themselves and personal highlight.
Drive back to Las Vegas
You’re nature filled southern Utah vacation has come to an end. The drive back to Las Vegas takes a little over 4 hours.
How to prepare for this trip:
Book antelope canyon tour before hand here
Pack the perfect pack by following my guide here
On a budget? Read about How to Roadtripp on a budget.