American Road Trip – National & State Parks Edition

In this blog post, we travel to four National Parks across three States over two weeks including Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon as well as visiting other State Parks, clocking up over 1,400 miles along the way.

Day 1 – Death Valley National Park

The second part of our American Road Trip began immediately after leaving Las Vegas, Nevada. We hired another car and headed straight for Death Valley National Park in Eastern California – the hottest place on Planet Earth around 150 miles away.

Can you believe the temperature once reached 56.7°C (134°F) here?! We had to endure 48°C (118°F) in Death Valley, making it comfortably the hottest place I’ve ever been to. As you can probably imagine, there is nothing ‘comfortable’ about being in that.

To put this into perspective, there were red warning signs outside trailheads strongly advising people not to hike after 10 A.M.

Although we knew there wasn’t a great deal to do, it was still somewhere we both wanted to go. We stayed at The Ranch at Death Valley for one night – just one of two places you can actually stay at in the National Park.

Around 17:00 P.M., with the temperature still in the high forties, we stopped off at Zabriski Point, Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.

On our way back, we drove the Artists Palette Scenic Loop and afterwards went on a short 0.6 mile hike to Natural Bridge, which really wasn’t worth our time.

The next day, we headed for the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. This was actually worth seeing!

Day 2 – The Valley of Fire State Park

Our next stop was an overnight stay in Moapa Valley, Nevada around 200 miles away because we wanted to visit Valley of Fire State Park in the Mohave Desert nearby.

This was one of my favourite highlights during our American Road Trip and I consider it to be a bit of a hidden gem, because it wasn’t touristy at all.

Well worth a visit, especially if you’re staying in Las Vegas as it’s only 43 miles away.

Day 3-4 – Ponderosa Ranch: Shooting Experience, Jeep Safari & Stargazing

We hit the road once again, this time driving around two hours to the Ponderosa Ranch Resort – just outside of Zion National Park, Utah. For two nights, we stayed in a Cowboy Cabin.

I was particularly looking forward to coming here because we had booked to go on a group S.W.A.T. Shooting Experience.

I have obviously never had the opportunity of firing a gun before, so this was another big tick off my bucket list. (For the record, I’m not an advocate of the gun laws in the U.S., but you learn to accept them).

We fired a .22 semi automatic rifle and then a .9 mm semi automatic pistol at metal targets on a shooting range – boy did it feel good! We then moved to shooting with the rifle whilst searching for seven hidden targets. I couldn’t have wished for a better experience.

On our second day, we chilled out by the pool, kayaked in the lake and then went on the Brushy Grove Jeep Safari’ in the afternoon, which was sold as an ‘extreme off-road adventure’.

We passed an old abandoned miners cabin, took in the views of the West Temple, Checkerboard Mesa, The Narrows, as well as other prominent Zion landmarks and learnt about the century-old Ponderosa Pine Trees.

Later in the evening at 22:00 P.M, we went on a group Stargazing tour where we spent an hour looking up at the night sky whilst a tour guide explained to us about constellations and the names of stars.

Luckily, the night before, we saw a shooting star and managed to photograph some incredible pictures of the night sky at 04:00 A.M in the morning.

Day 5-6: Zion National Park – Emerald Pools & The Narrows

Feeling rather tired after two very average nights sleep, we left the Ponderosa Ranch and headed for Springdale – a town just a few miles outside of Zion National Park.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a permit to do Angels Landing – one of America’s most popular hikes. However, I wasn’t too disappointed as the hike itself is incredibly challenging, so much so that 13 people have died doing it…

Using the AllTrails app, we opted to do the 3-mile Emerald Pools Trail, combining it with part of the West Rim Trail. This hike didn’t give us the insane views we would have got from Angels Landing, but they were still pretty good.

Afterwards, we hired canyon shoes, neoprene waterproof socks and a hiking stick, as we had planned to do some of The Narrows hike in the Virgin River from the Temple of Sinawava tomorrow.

I’m glad we hired the boots and socks, as it meant we were able to venture further into the river without the risk of catching hypothermia! At one point, the water reached up to our chest.

The next day, on our drive out of Zion National Park, we hiked the one mile out-and-back Trail to the Canyon Overlook. The views from the top were spectacular.

Day 7-9: Bryce Canyon National Park – Mossy Cave and Bryce Amphitheatre Hikes

Still in the State of Utah, after driving 90-miles, we arrived at our hotel in Tropic around 10-miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided to do a very short 0.6mile hike to Mossy Cave in the afternoon. The cave itself wasn’t particularly inspiring, but there was a little waterfall nearby which we stopped at.

The next day we paid the $35 entrance fee to drive into Bryce Canyon – famous for its for crimson-coloured Hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations.

In the afternoon, we hiked the 1.5 mile Navajo Loop Trail in the Amphitheater. This hike was short, but it was a particularly challenging route because of the steep incline on the way back up.

Afterwards, we drove to Rainbow Point which has an elevation of 9114m, stopping at several other viewpoints along the way. From here, you could see for miles and clearly see the Pink Cliffs out of which the Hoodoos were sculpted. 

We returned back to Bryce Amphitheater the next day, this time to hike the 3.2 mile Wall Street and Queens Garden Loop Trail. There were so, so many switchbacks!

Day 10-11: Page – The Belly of the Dragon, Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Lower Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Continuing our onward journey, we drove 156 miles to Page in Arizona, stopping off at The Belly of the Dragon trailhead along the way. We used this as more of a stop off to stretch our legs, but it was still worth seeing.

Page is a small town in Arizona approximately 130 miles away from the North Rim or more popular South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Most people will stop here in order to go to the Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Before checking into our hotel, we went to check out Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. This short hike gives spectacular vistas of the Colorado River as it flows through Glen Canyon and of Glen Canyon Dam itself. 

Later in the afternoon, we made our way over to the Lower Antelope Canyon, as we had booked to go on a guided hike with Ken’s Tours. This is the only way of actually getting to go into the Canyon as it is protected by the Navajo Parks and Recreation. We booked our tickets one week in advance, as we knew it was very, very popular.

We had just over an hour in the Canyon with our guide, who explained all about how the Canyon was formed. He was also more than happy to take as many pictures as we wanted. This was another particular highlight of our American Road Trip for me.

Before leaving Page, we did the short mile one mile out-and-back hike to the stunning Horseshoe Bend. I needn’t say anymore.

Day 12-13: Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim

After spending time at the Horseshoe Bend, we began the 133-mile drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Along the way, we stopped off at several viewpoints taking in different views of the Grand Canyon. In all honesty, there are not too many easy hikes you can do without hiking down into the Grand Canyon itself.

Unfortunately, Emily didn’t feel particularly well the day after, so I had a chilled day watching the Golf U.S. Open whilst she rested. In the evening, we drove up to the Visitor Centre to see more of the Grand Canyon and then stopped off at a Clinic, where Emily would have been charged $200 just to be seen.

Luckily, we found some tablets from a local shop which helped her. We really are so fortunate to have the NHS.

Thankfully, Em felt much better on the day we were leaving, so we opted to do 2.5 miles of the paved South Rim Trail.

Day 14: Grand Canyon Caverns & Hoover Dam

On our way back to Las Vegas, we stopped off overnight in Seligman on Route 66, as we had booked to go on a guided tour of the Grand Canyon Caverns on our last day. This was a really cool experience.

Before returning to Las Vegas, we made one final stop at the Hoover Dam.

And so that brings an end to our American Road Trip. We’ve had an incredible two weeks! Next, we fly to Anchorage to start our Contiki tour of Grand Alaska!

To read my previous blog post about our time in Las Vegas, click here.

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our travels, then you can enter your email to receive notifications of blog updates at the bottom of this article; follow my blog by clicking the link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @alatw95.

Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure.

Thanks for stopping by, until the next time…

Al

Published by alatw95

26 | Freelance Journalist | Travelling the World 🌏

3 thoughts on “American Road Trip – National & State Parks Edition

  1. Wow, wow, wow you two certainly know how to travel and share your adventures. Just breath taking. Alec your blog is incredible and you go into so much detail.
    Do you write notes while you travel so you don’t forget ? Photos and videos amazing too.
    Can’t wait for Grand Alaska.
    What an incredible journey for being so young. This experience will I am sure set you up for whatever is ahead in the years ahead. Xxxxxx

    1. Thanks, Lynne. Glad you’re enjoying my blog posts. I write around the pictures and videos. Usually takes me somewhere between 4-6 hours (including sorting all the uploads) to get a post written. We’re having the time of our lives!

  2. The photos and blog are really interesting and so much more informative than programmes/articles I’ve ever seen about the area. Horseshoe Bend was amazing. You’re both very brave paddle boarding and going in the water. I’d be worried about snakes. Really looking forward to Alaska and Canada as places I want to venture to. Take care, have fun and stay safe.

Leave a Reply