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Trip Report Zion/Bryce/Grand Canyon trip report (long)

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I got a ton of great information from this forum while plannign my trip and decided to post a report.

My husband and I were planning to run the St. George marathon along with several friends and decided that if work and other things permitted we would extend this to a vacation to see some of the parks in the area. As it turned out I could not run the race but my husband did. For any runners reading this, everyone raved about the beauty of this course, the bonfires at the start, organization etc, certainly seems a good one to put on your list.

We flew into Vegas from DFW and drove down to St. George. Race day a friend and I decided to spectate near mile 16 which is near the Snow Canyon state park. A beautiful place we didn't have time to explore but did drive through to get to the spectating point. Lovely red rocks, some dark volcanic rocks. Couldn't have asked for a better specttaing viewpoint.

After the race some of the runners in our group decided they were up for a visit to Zion. It was a good way for my husband and me to get an overview of the park for the rest of out trip. We mostly took the shuttle around to a couple of places. Pictures don't do the place justice, spectacularly beautiful.

Oct 5th -6th Zion
The following morning hubby and I drove to Zion a short drive from St. George. We stayed at Flanigan's inn, a charming place close to the park entrance. Since my husband was recovering we decided to do some short hikes the first day and did the Emerald pools(all three). The pools are beautiful and the rock face above is just stunning. We also took the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawawa and walked to the start of the Narrows. The Narrows hike is one I would love to do sometime.

Angels Landing
The following day we did the Angel's landing trail. My husband decided not to do the steep last section given his trashed from the race quads. Having navigated the first section of chains I felt comfortable to go up the last .5 up the fin. And it was early enough that there weren't too many people up. This is a very exciting hike and I am glad I did it. II was so focused on gaining a foothold, handhold etc that didn't leave time to get too wigged out over the steep drops . :) Very doable as long as there is no fear of heights or acrophobia and I saw people of all ages shapes and sizes scrambling up.

I met another lady from Texas and she and I pretty much stuck together. Hikers along the way were really nice too, good sense of camaraderie and support. View from the top makes it all worthwhile. Just spectacular. If you do this spend sometime at the top, I saw many just scrambling back down immediately. On the way down I unexpectedly met some friends clambering up!

The way back was fine till we got to the last section on chains that leads to Scouts' overlook, there were lots more people, clueless people who had started the hike. I was 2/3 of the way down when a group just started hiking up instead of waiting for me to get down all the way. And they said they sure as hell weren't going back to let me pass, and they were terrified and clutching on to the chains for dear life and I didn't fancy being on the edge of the cliff next to them. So I had to clamber back up the chains and wait in a safe place. I can see how this could be very unsafe with more crowds, kids runnign around etc. Anyway eventually got back to Scouts' landing feeling pretty happy with myself :) Definitely recommend an early start for this one.

Observation point:
Since my husband skipped Angels' he decided he wanted to do this trail to get a view from the top. This goes through Echo canyon which was just one of the loveliest parts of the hike. This trail has steep dropoffs but you walk on a very wide ledge with a mountain to one side to cling to. Still for me this one was scarier in parts than Angel's. Again the view from the top is amazing. You can see all the major peaks and a great view of Angel's Landing, the great white throne, the organ etc

Oct 7th Bryce Canyon National Park
The next morning we drove to Bryce Canyon NP. This is a beautiful drive and it took us longer because we kept pulling off to gawk at the scenery. We stayed at Ruby's Inn. The evening we mainly drove to the various observation points. It was really cold, but there were tons of tourists mainly from overseas. Babel of languages. We also drove back that night through the park for a view by moonlight, highly recommend this. Surreal and just stunning almost like the hoodoos come to life. The night sky at Bryce is also something to behold, tons of stars. Spectacular.

The following morning we were up early for a hike on the Queens Garden/ Navajo loop. We met maybe 4 other people and had the trails pretty much to ourselves, in the morning light the canyon looks very different, a golden glow to all the structures. Just absolutely lovely. I do wish we'd planned for another day at Bryce, i would have loved to explore it a bit more, but we'd planned to drive to the Grand Canyon that day.

Oct 8th-9th Grand Canyon
The drive to the South rim from Bryce is gorgeous. I was astonished by how much the landscape changes, farmlands, pines in the upper elevations, flat desert of Arizona, Vermilion cliffs. Just amazing. Unfortunately it also snowed near the North Rim area and our car skid off the road. No cell coverage, emergency call feature did not work. I am amazed and humbled by how many people stopped to see if they could help. Finally a pickup truck stopped they had shovels and manged to dig out the wheels and get us on our way. Incredibly grateful for the kindness of strangers.

Rest of the drive was incident free and we got to Grand Canyon an hour before the sunset. My first view of the canyon, just beautiful in light of the setting sun. This whole trip I've just been in awe of the beauty of the places we visited, each so different and magnificent. We stayed at the Grand hotel about a mile or so from the park entrance. Next morning we headed to the Bright Angel trail for a short hike down(1.5 down and back). This is a nice hike with rest stops and water available along the way. Great views. Amusingly because my husband still had somewhat trashed quads from the race our down hikes into the canyon took longer than the uphill hike back to the rim. Great views as you go down, and since we'd started a little later we saw people that were hiking back up from the river! Another thing that's on my list to do.

Lunch at the Bright Angel lodge. Then we parked at Mather point and took the shuttle to the South Kaibab trail for another short hike. This is a very nice trail, steep and strenuous but well worth it for the fabulous views for a relatively short hike. We went down to Cedar ridge about 1.5 miles in. Saw a couple of guys on the ridge cooking (they offered to share :) Again the trip back up was quicker. :) This would be a fun way to get down to the river. Way back we stopped at Pipe creek view and walked to Mather point on the rim trail. Dinner reservations were at El Tovar, cool to see the historic lodge. Food was okay, dessert was amazing. We saw some Elk on the grounds, f I a baby and two adults. We also saw deer on a couple of occasions.

The next day we headed back to Vegas. Enroute we stopped at Seligman, AZ and had breakfast at Westside Lilio's. Charming place, to my surprise there were a busload of French speaking kids there later I googled and found this place has been covered by UK TV etc and is somewhat famous. Drive back took us by Hoover Dam which had crazy traffic as usual.

In Vegas we headed to Mandalay Bay to check out Minus 5 a vodka lounge completely made of ice. The drinks are served in glasses made of ice. Seating is blocks of ice covered by deerskin. They give you parkas, gloves and boots to wear, with an option of upgrading to a fur coat. It is very Las Vegas complete with an ice sculpture of Elvis. :D Then it was time to head back.

Final thoughts:
Aside from the obvious beauty of the parks I was impressed by how well maintained these parks are. the roads were in perfect condition, frequent shuttles, helpful employees. Kudos to NPS. I would've loved to stay in the park lodges but didn't plan early enough to get reservations. This was a good time of the year to travel, cooler temps fewer people.

Thanks to all posters on this board from whose posts I gathered a ton of good information.

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