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Trip Report Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion in late July/early Aug with kids

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I hail from Honolulu, Hawaii. My DH, two daughters (9 and 6) and DS (4) traveled to Red Rock Country for summer vacation. We are an active family who loves the outdoors. We have never been to the Grand Canyon before, and decided to follow an itinerary suggested by Fodor Forum members.

From Vegas, we drove to Zion, then Bryce, then Page, AZ for a river rafting trip (smooth floating) and to visit Lower Antelope Canyon. Lastly, we did Grand Canyon before heading back to Vegas.

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    DAY 1: VEGAS
    The morning we arrived in Vegas was 105 degrees. We got limo service to my parents’ condo, and as soon as we stepped in the door, were greeted with the sound of rushing water—a leaking pipe in the kitchen! We left for the strip after a short nap, and walked around and had lunch at The Venetian. Then we met up with some friends at the Mirage pool and swam and played for a bit before retiring early due to jet lag.
    DAY 2: ZION
    The 2nd day of our trip, we drove to Zion (a bearable 97 degrees). We totally lucked out with two nights at Zion Lodge—we were lucky enough to have scored one night a few days before our departure, and when we got there, they surprised us with another night! Thankfully, Cliffrose Lodge graciously accepted the cancellation of our reservation so that we could stay at Zion Lodge. It was really a blessing to stay there—it made things so convenient—like being able to go back to the Lodge to nap between hikes, and also participating in the nightly ranger talks. We spent the morning at the Temple of Sinawava, doing the riverside walk…continued up The Narrows—we did 4 crossings up to the kids’ waists! We’re thankful we got to do that—after the thunderstorm late that afternoon, it seems it was closed the next morning due to flash flood warnings. We had a quick lunch on the river of PB&honey sandwiches, then back to the Lodge for ice cream and naps (only then did we realize there was a one-hour time difference between Zion and Vegas!)
    In the afternoon, we hiked to Weeping Rock, then got dinner from the café. We ate in our room while watching Olympics . At 9pm we went to the main lodge for the ranger talk evening program on nocturnal skies, and the kids found out about the Junior Ranger program.
    DAY 3: ZION
    The 3rd day of our trip was also spent at Zion. We joined a 9am Kayenta Trail ranger walk (we were the only ones, so it was like having a private tour guide to ourselves!) The kids loved it. We hiked to the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools on the Grotto Trail. There was construction on the trail so that the Upper Pool was not joined to the Lower Emerald Pool, but the kids and I did that hike after lunch (PB in our room) while Dad napped (!) There was a slight rain off and on, which made the hike nice and comfortable. After that short hike, we returned to the room so the kids could join Dad in a short nap. After everyone awoke, we did the Kolob Canyon drive during a thunderstorm. On the way back to Zion Lodge, we had dinner at Café Soleil in Springdale. Yummy! We highly recommend the pineapple coconut smoothie. I had a great soup and sandwich, DH had a gyro, and the kids had pizza. Reasonable, too.
    Back at the Lodge, we attended a 9pm talk about birds (we saw many of them on the trip, including a plethora of ravens!)
    Day 4: On to Bryce! We stopped at the Visitor Center to get the kids their Junior Ranger pins, and did the Canyon Overlook Trail on our way out of Zion (we had to double back to the trailhead—it’s a bit easy to miss—thankfully we didn’t have to go through the tunnel traffic again). We were rewarded on the hike with viewings of bighorn sheep (or “Horn heads!” as my four-year-old named them.)
    We arrived in Bryce and checked in at Ruby’s Inn before heading to Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. We watched the 22-minute film and then hiked the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail through the hoodoos—the kids powered through in 90 minutes! Very impressive. We then drove to Rainbow Point, stopping at Agua Canyon and Natural Bridge viewpoints. We had dinner at Fosters Family Steak House (there was a looong wait everywhere). The restaurant had good trout and pie.
    DAY 5: PAGE, AZ
    On our 5th day, we woke for sunrise at Bryce Point (it was a bit cloudy, but still pretty.) We had breakfast at Bryce Canyon Lodge’s Valhalla Café (a rip-off) and then went to the Visitor Center to get the kids their Junior Ranger badges and a special pin for doing a 3+mile hike.
    We drove to Page and arrived at the Colorado Discovery Raft Center at 12:30pm—one hour early due to the time change! Again, we did not realize the time change until dinner—we had arrived back at the Center after the rafting trip by 6pm, but I had told other riders that it was 6:50pm—oops! The rafting trip was wonderful. We saw bighorn sheep, blue herons, and wild stallions. The weather was cool and overcast. The kids loved it when our guide sped up and went fast, driving over our own wake. Maybe in a few years we’ll take them back for white water rafting. We had dinner at Fiesta Mexicana—we made a reservation for 8pm, but showed up at 7pm—oops! The food was delicious and plentiful, but there was an hour wait for food and a half hour wait for the check, unfortunately.
    DAY 6: PAGE to GRAND CANYON
    On day 6, we missed sunrise (had hoped to go to Horseshoe Bend for this), but it was at 5:30am, not 6:30am—oops!! DH rushed and drove there, but did not know there was a half-mile hike to the overlook. Oh well, so much for sunrise. We did Lower Antelope Canyon which was amazing. Got some great pics there. Then back to Horseshoe Bend to do the actual “hike” and see the actual rewarding view!
    Then on to Grand Canyon! We arrived at Watchtower first and did the Desert View Drive, though we didn’t stop at any of the views—just headed to the Visitor Center and walked a bit of the Rim Trail. After we checked in at Malwik Lodge, we hiked Bright Angel Trail to the first rest house. We had hoped to get to Hopi Point for the 7:30pm sunset, but logistics were a bit strained. We scarfed a quick dinner at the Malwik Cafeteria, and tried to hop on a 7:15pm shuttle to Hopi Point, but it left literally 5 seconds before we arrived at the stop. There was a sign posted that said the last shuttle left the opposite end at 7:15pm, which really confused me. I thought if we got on a shuttle out to Hopi, we’d have to end up walking back (2+ miles in the dark), but apparently the shuttle takes 40 minutes to come back, so it would have picked us up at Hopi Point around 7:40 or so…anyway, the whole thing was really confusing and left us a bit disappointed.
    DAY 7: GRAND CANYON
    I ended up waking up early the next morning to catch the 5:30am sunrise on Day 7 instead. That was also not very well thought out, since it was pitch dark when I arose, and had to try to find my way to the shuttle stop in the dark. After running around for about 10 minutes, I thankfully ran into some hikers who pointed me in the right direction. Sunrise was beautiful and peaceful (well, except for the tour bus) and it was great to start the day that way. By the time I got back to Malwik Lodge and woke DH and kids, we had missed the S. Kaibab trailhead ranger talk / hike to Cedar Ridge. We ended up doing the Bright Angel Trail again, this time all the way to the 1.5 mile rest point. The hike uphill was pretty tough and very hot, but the kids did great again, and we were lucky enough to see a few condors! Got back in time for lunch at El Tovar and to watch some of the Native Indian dance performance.
    Then it was back on the road to Vegas, the longest drive of our road trip (and yet, the only one during which the kids did not nap!) We went to a late dinner at Komex (DS finally fell asleep during the drive there, and slept all through dinner), then went to hit the town (DDs fell asleep while we drove to the strip and tried to find parking). By the time we parked the car, all 3 kids were asleep. Against all parenting rules, we woke them all up (it was now about 10pm) to see the water fountain shows at Bellagio and the volcano at the Mirage. It was midnight and disgustingly hot (110 degrees!)when we decided we needed ice cream, but ice cream eluded us—the kiosks had shut down, and even McDonald’s turns off their ice cream machine at midnight! I thought Vegas was The City that Never Sleeps?!
    DAY 8: HOMEWARD BOUND
    The next morning, we took a quick dip in the condo pool before heading to the airport and back home. What a wonderful trip—lots of nature and adventure, beautiful sights, outdoor exercise, and family bonding time!

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    You had a great trip. Amazing how well the kids did.

    Your clock issues must have become comical.

    Would love to see the photos.

    By the way, Hoeseshoe Bend isn't a sunrise destination. It's 1000 feet down so it takes time to get light down there. It's a noon time destination. But it appears you got back there.

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    That sounds like a great vacation! It must have been great to see the more natural side of Nevada.

    The Zion lounge looks beautiful and provided so much for your family to do.

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    How great that your kids got to see this beautiful part of the country. Staying in the parks makes it so much easier to participate in the programs and they are so much less crowded before and after the "tourist hours".

    Thanks for reporting.

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