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Trip Report Trip Report - Vegas, Zion, Bryce

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Trip was from Oct. 21 - 28 to celebrate my 50th birthday. Thanks for all pre-trip planning
info from folks on this site.

Day 1: Flew into Vegas. There was an annoying "ambassador" allowed on the shuttle bus to the hotels whose job was really to bribe you to see some condos for sale. We stayed at the Mirage. We were originally planning on heading out straight away to Utah but found out Elton John would be in concert the next night so changed it up to see him...having never done so before. That weekend in Vegas, you could have seen Elton John, Garth Brooks, and Jimmy Buffett. For a middle-aged person like myself...this was music heaven.

Day 2: Walked the strip to see all the hotels, avoiding the casinos as much as possible. I love to gamble which is why avoiding them is a good move for me. I liked Las Vegas except for the guys on the sidewalk handing out "girls in your room in 20 minutes" cards and the amount of smoking.

This was my first time to Vegas and the Mirage was an ok place to stay at and reasonably priced but all its restaurants directly front the casino and the casino is darker and more cave-like than many of the other hotels. Our favorite hotel hands-down in walking the strip from a "adults only" perspective was the Bellagio. From a "family" perspective, I'd pick Mandalay Bay. They have a neat wave pool that kids would love. We ate breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning at the Palio bakery in the Bellagio. UrbanSpoon gives it 86% approval. All I can say is those other 14% are smoking rope or need their bacon fix because the pastries are to die for. If you go here, there will be a line but it moves fast and a lot of people take their stuff to go so there is plenty of seating even though it is a small place.

The Elton John concert ran about 2 hours. It was really good but with as many popular songs as Elton John has, one can't help but leave disappointed that not all ones' favorites were played. One drawback to the concert for me was almost too much of the band going on. I'd much prefer Elton John and his piano solo.

Day 3: Woke up, ate at Palio, got our rental car and drove to Zion. Ate lunch at the Whiptail Grill which is a converted gas station. We had the special...pineapple chicken flautas and they were awesome. One restaurant definitely not to judge by its cover.

Checked into the Desert Pearl Inn in Springdale. LOVED this place. Like many places in this area, it is built to blend into the landscape as much as possible so its road presentation doesn't scream "stay here". However, the riverside rooms are to die for. Second floor is especially nice because they have vaulted ceilings. The room has a mini-kitchen great for a quick breakfast, a couch, a nice tv, hardwood floors, and a wonderful balcony with Adirondack chairs that overlooks the river and a canyon wall. That said, if budget is an issue, you can probably find a cheaper place to lay your head...but if you're going to be hanging out for a few days and money is not an issue, I'd pick this place. We actually ended up staying an extra night than we had originally planned because we liked the place so much. However, they didn't have the riverside room available for the 3rd night, so they moved us to a poolside room. It was still a nice room but not the wonderful isolation/view of the riverside one.

Took the shuttle bus to Zion and did the Emerald Pools hike. Nice and pleasant hike which took us a little under two hours. Saw lots of deer.

Day 4: Got gear from Zion Adventure to hike the Narrows: Dry suits, Neoprene socks, hiking boots, hiking pole. Started the Narrows hike about 11 and finished about 5 including the Riverside Walk. We went up until the water got shoulder height and then
turned around. Definitely a must do for Zion. The gear we rented kept us totally warm and comfortable. Only a few folks in the river this day were hiking in regular gear and they looked pretty cold and uncomfortable...so definitely worth the investment. Ate at Oscar's...had the pork verde burrito...great place!

Day 5: Got fresh baked scones from the Desert Pearl coffee shop...still warm...yummm.
Hiked to Scouts Lookup. We started part way up Angels Landing but turned back. It was expected though as I knew beforehand that heights were not DH's thing. Bypassing it also seemed like better odds towards celebrating a 51st birthday. :-) Ate at the Bit and Spur for dinner. It was an ok place but not as awesome as the Whiptail or Oscars.

Day 6: Drove to Bryce. There was snow overnight in Bryce and the wind was fierce so the temperatures were freezing. Since all we had were sweatshirts/gloves/hats, we bought coats at Ruby's for a VERY exorbitant price...but alas we stayed warm during our hike which was the important thing. We did the scenic drive and stopped at various overlooks. Walked the Bristlecone Trail...nice/easy but not overly interesting. Unless you're physically challenged and can't hike, I would definitely forego the drive and the overlooks (except for Bryce Point). The hikes are 100 times more rewarding than the overlooks. After the drive, we hiked the Queen's garden trail...Queen's connecting trail...Navajo loop..Queen's connecting trail...Queen's garden trail. It definitely matters which way you hike some of these trails. We found descending into the Queen's garden trail way cooler than hiking out of it...feels like you're in Dr. Seuss land. The whole hike took us about 3 hours. We could have skipped the backtracking and walked the rim trail instead back to our car but preferred to hike into the canyon again and see the rest of the Navajo Loop. If you can do this whole hike, I'd recommend it...but if you're short on time, either the Navajo Loop or the Queen's trail standalone are worth it.

We ate at the Bryce Lodge. Fairly fancy place with wait staff in nice duds...to contrast with most of the clientele's dusty hiking duds. :-) Food was very good. We then checked into the Best Western Grand. Functional/comfortable hotel...nothing to write home about...however the total of Bryce Canyon City including this hotel really has this "truck stop" sort of feeling so a big contrast to the Desert Pearl inn. If you're going to stay more than one night at Bryce, you might want to look into other options...perhaps B&Bs that aren't readily apparent.

Day 7: Ate breakfast at the hotel's buffet. Standard hot/cold rewarmed mediocre food but it served its purpose. We then did the Fairyland Loop which starts a little outside the actual park and goes for 8 miles. It took us about 4 hours. Only about a dozen people that we encountered on the trail all day. The trail didn't seem as awesome as the Queen/Navajo loop but I think some of that was because it was not the first hoodoo hike. Probably whichever you did first would seem coolest. Drove back to Vegas and stayed at the La Quinta hotel at the airport. This was a little unpromising at first when we drove up to it because the planes were landing right there and the noise was very loud outside. Inside though it was so well insulated; you couldn't hear a thing.

Day 8: Woke up early....air flight back home.

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