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yk + family 10-day trip to Zion/Bryce/Page/Grand Canyon North Rim/Vegas

yk + family 10-day trip to Zion/Bryce/Page/Grand Canyon North Rim/Vegas

Old Jun 27th, 2023, 12:46 PM
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yk + family 10-day trip to Zion/Bryce/Page/Grand Canyon North Rim/Vegas

Hi! We (me, spouse, and our 10-year-old son) have just returned from a 10 day trip to a couple of National Parks. I started planning this trip 6 months ago and would love to share our experiences. We left June 14 and returned June 24. The heat in Vegas and Page were tolerable (low 90sF) while mornings at Bryce and Grand Canyon were pretty chilly (low 40sF)

Our itinerary was:
Boston -> Vegas, 1 night in Vegas
3 nights in Zion (Cable Mountain Lodge)
2 nights in Bryce (Lodge at Bryce Canyon)
2 nights in Page (HI Express & Suite)
1 night in Grand Canyon north rim (Kaibab Lodge)
1 night in Vegas then fly home to Boston

We booked our flights on JetBlue (r/t from Boston) on Dec 31, 2022. Hotels/lodgings were booked within the first 2 weeks of Jan 2023, including a Lower Antelope Canyon tour. There were some subsequent changes because I had booked ourselves to stay at the lodge at Grand Canyon North Rim, but 1 month prior, I received an email notifying me that due to water main break, they had to cancel our reservation. The closest accommodation is the Kaibab Lodge which miraculously still had rooms available so I booked it for one night.

The last things I booked was car rental from Vegas airport (booked 2 weeks prior), and then dinner at Din Tai Fung on the last evening of our trip (booked 1 week prior)

Since January, I started exercising more often because I know we will be hiking at high altitude, and I worry about my stamina, especially at Bryce Canyon where you first hike down from the rim, and then hike back up. I was glad I did as I am in much better shape than I was back 6 months ago. I also am glad I brought trekking poles; I found them super useful at Zion and Bryce.

Days 0 & 1 (Wednesday/Thursday)
We flew nonstop from Boston to Vegas; our flight was scheduled for 6pm with arrival time of 9pm pacific time. Our aircraft arrived to Boston late, then the airport was hit by a severe thunderstorm. As a result, our flight was delayed for 3 hours and we didn't arrive into Las Vegas until midnight. Have you ever rented a car at Las Vegas airport? The rental car center is like several miles away! We first had to wait for the shuttle to get there, which took a while at midnight, and then there was a long line at Hertz. I wish I had known with my Hertz status we could have skipped the line and picked whichever car we wanted. lesson learned. And the final comedy of errors... I drove us to the wrong hotel!!!

I made a reservation at the MGM Signature (recommended by a friend, as it's one of the few hotels on the strip that do NOT have a casino on site), but I drove us to MGM Grand instead. After parking the car and attempting to check-in, the front desk informed me of my mistake. We could either walk back to the garage and drive over, or we could just walk directly to Signature instead. Both options take the same amount of time. We opted to walk , which was actually quite a long walk (maybe 1 mile?). By the time we finally checked in at the correct hotel and got to our room, it was 2:15am 😴

I was rather sad because we got a very good rate (
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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 12:48 PM
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I was rather sad because we got a very good rate (under $200 midweek) for a huge, and I mean HUGE room (deluxe suite) for that evening, and we barely got to enjoy it. Check out was 11am but they were kind enough to let us have a late checkout at 12. We got up around 10 and went downstairs for brunch at the restaurant onsite called Delights. It's not a full-service restaurant, but rather you order at counter and they bring the food to you. Prices are high (I guess that's true for most of Las Vegas) but certainly convenient. Our brunch was $72.

At hotel check-out, the front desk took pity on me for parking at the wrong garage... MGM grand charges $17 but MGM Signature offers free parking, so they comp'ed me for my parking. I went to pick up the car myself then drove over to pick up the family, so save all of us from dragging our luggage through 1-mile long casinos.

We were finally on the road to Zion around 12:30pm. Traffic on Thursday midday wasn't bad. With the time change, we arrived at Cable Mountain Lodge around 4pm. This is the priciest lodging I booked ($500/n), and I did that for its convenience. It is located just outside the park and there is a bridge that connects to the park entrance. From our room to the park entrance, it's just a 5-minute walk. I booked us a 1 bedroom suite, which is super spacious with a full kitchen (full-size fridge!) and a pull-out sofa for my son in the living room. It has a pool as well. As a guest you get get discounts from all the businesses in the Zion Canyon Village, including the coffee shop, the restaurant, and a grocery market.

Since the Zion NP visitors center is open until fairly late, we took a walk over to pick up visitors guide and junior ranger activity book. My son just finished 4th grade and he has the 4th grade Every Kid outdoors pass which gets all of us free admission to the National parks.

After that, it started raining so we walked to the Zion Canyon Brewery for dinner, which is right next to our hotel. I had the Elk Burger and husband had mediterranean chicken salad. Both were very good. Our son got something from the kids menu. Dinner was $60. Next door is the grocery market (Happy Camper Market) and we stocked up on breakfast foods (granola, yogurt, milk, fruit) and lunch sandwich items (bread, cold cuts, cheese) for the next few days (~ $90)

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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 01:05 PM
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yk: Your posts didn't work because of using an arrow with a parentheses and apparently the system took that as a close quote

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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 01:28 PM
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Along for the ride.
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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 01:58 PM
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Me too! Good job getting into hiking shape, yk.
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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 03:15 PM
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Love that area although we drive up from Southern California. Usually try to get as far as Mesquite (at the Eureka) so more time the next day in Zion. I did once stay at the Plaza Hotel near Fremont Street to see Las Vegas itself. It was kinda gross smelling of cigarettes in the hallway.

I didn't know about the Fourth Grader pass, that is very cool.
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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 07:43 PM
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Day 2 (Friday)

Day 2
The real hiking starts today. Unfortunately it rained all night and was still raining in the morning. I had imagined in Utah it only rains in brief thunderstorms; I honestly didn't think it would rain for hours. We started the day with "homemade" breakfast — granola, yogurt, milk, fruit, and hotel coffee. And then we made sandwich lunches to bring with us. (we had brought along ice packs and insulated lunch bags.) It was still raining so we had no choice but to start our hikes. I decided we would do the hardest hike first, to get it out of the way... Headed into the park and got on the Zion shuttle with no lines. It was around 8:30am I think? Not sure if it's because it's early or because of the rain. We got off at Stop 6 (Grotto) to hike up West Rim trail to Scout Lookout. We weren't planning to do Angel's Landing so no pass is required. This is a 2-mile hike with >1000' ascent. Luckily it was only light rain the entire time and it actually helped cool us off. The view from the top was not bad despite a bit misty. On the way down we even saw a Mexican spotted owl!

We were done by 11:30am, so we got on the next Shuttle and headed to the last stop, The Temple of Sinawava to hike the easy Riverside Trail. (Narrows was closed due to high water flow). At the bus stop there was some shelter so we ate our sandwich lunch. Riverside Walk is really easy but much more crowded. Afterwards, we planned to take the shuttle to Stop 2 for the Museum, but when we arrived at Stop 8 (Big Bend), the bus driver announced that there are park rangers at the stop with telescopes set up for viewing the endangered California Condors. So we got off and had a good look! They are super cool animals and reside along the cliffs. The next shuttle came along and we took it to Stop 2 for the Zion Human History Museum.

By the time we arrived at the Museum, the rain finally stopped and the sun was starting to peek out. Our arrival worked out well with one of the Ranger program where a Park Ranger talked about animal misconceptions. We then toured the museum so my son can complete more of his junior ranger activity book. Finally we took the shuttle back to Visitors Center and headed back to our hotel around 4pm.

Although it's still early, we've had enough hiking for the day, so we got into the hotel pool for a dip. Dinner that evening was at Thai Sapa, located just 5 minutes from our hotel across the street. We didn't feel like taking the Springdale shuttle or get into our car to drive elsewhere, and Thai sounded good anyway. My husband had drunker noodle, I shared a beef pho with my son, and we also got edamame and Thai spring rolls. Dinner was $85
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Old Jun 27th, 2023, 07:48 PM
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Photos from Day 2


Hiking up in the rain

Looking back down on the switchbacks to Scout Lookout

Riverside trail

Sun finally out at end of the day
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 10:22 AM
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Good start on your trip to the NPs, yk. Last time we were in the area, we stayed at the Flamingo because Hertz has a satellite desk there and we could leave the car in a designated area there and drop the keys at a box near their desk for our very early departure. We had an early flight on the way in and did pick up the car at the regular site and waited way too long in line there too.

I am looking for the rest of the report, thanks for taking us along.
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 10:38 AM
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Love reading your reports YK. Thank you for taking us along.

Scout's lookout is a big hike - congrats for doing that! Many people turn around part way...

At Zion, the small grocery store next to Cable Mtn Lodge is indeed well stocked, albeit with a limited selection. There's another market right in Sprindale that has a similar selection but with a deli counter and take out foods that work well for a "we're-too-tired-to-go-out / eat-in-room dinner..." . We'll also stop one of the big supermarkets in Hurricane which is the last town before Springdale to get groceries.
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 10:54 AM
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Mexican Spotted Owl, wow!

We did hike Walter's Wiggles and no way would we have done Angels Landing, permit or not!! Just too chicken
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 02:47 PM
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Enjoying your trip to Zion. It’s a beautiful place to explore.
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 03:47 PM
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Wonderful, yk!
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 07:10 PM
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Day 3 — Zion Kolob Canyons

Day 3, Saturday, Zion Kolob Canyons

Zion National park is in the Top 5 of most visited National Parks in the US, and given this was a Saturday in June (and sunny!) we expected huge crowds, which we experienced a bit the day before on the Riverside Trail. As a result, we took advice from a friend of mine who went last summer, to head over to Kolob Canyons side to hike the Taylor Creek Trail. Unfortunately, part of Kolob Canyons road is closed due to road damage, but fortunately Taylor Creek trailhead is prior to the road closure. Kolob Canyons is about a 50-min drive from the main Zion entrance (south entrance)

Taylor Creek trail is 5 mile r/t which ends in this MASSIVE double arch alcove. Along the trail, you have to pass over the creek many times (50 times by our count). Unless it's right after a huge storm, or snow melt season, it's easy to cross the creek with strategically-placed stones and not get your feet wet at all. My trekking poles also helped with my balance when crossing. The scenery is different than the main Zion Canyon but no less pretty. As for the double arch alcove, it is quite something. The entire hike took us 4 hours, including lunch break at the alcove. My son has completed enough junior ranger book activities to earn him a badge, so we stopped at the visitors center at Kolob Canyons on our way out to get his badge (shorter lines there, and they have their own cancellation stamp station).

5 miles is quite a long hike for us so by the time we returned to our hotel, we decided we would just go enjoy the pool for the rest of the afternoon. We returned to Zion Brewery for dinner that night (dinner $101).


Scenery along Taylor Creek trail


At the end of the hike — double arch alcove

Last edited by yk; Jun 28th, 2023 at 07:13 PM.
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Old Jun 28th, 2023, 08:29 PM
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Day 4 - Zion to Bryce Canyon

Day 4 (Sunday) Zion onto Bryce
We got up early today as it is the day to check out (11am), but I wanted to get one last hike in before leaving. We had packed up the night before. So after breakfast, we set off for the Watchman Trail; its trailhead is right by the Visitors Center. It is 3.3 miles r/t with a decent ascent (>300'). We managed to start our hike at 8:15am and got to the top by 9am. Because it was still "early", most of our hike up was in the shade of the mountain, which is significantly cooler. I wouldn't try to hike this trail in the afternoon in the heat of summer. At the top, there is a short 15-min loop which takes you to a viewpoint. I do recommend it because it allows you a good look INTO the canyon, which isn't viewable from the top. We made it back to base by 10am so we had time to return to our room and check out before 11am. Before leaving, we stopped at the coffee shop for coffee and muffins, and then we went to the grocery market one last time to stock up on more breakfast and lunch supplies ($51) for the next leg of our trip at Bryce Canyon, as we know grocery supplies are limited at Bryce.

We headed east and drove through the 1-mile tunnel. We looked for parking spots at the Canyon Overlook Trail right at the end of the tunnel but it being a Sunday around midday, there were none to be found so we just kept driving. The scenery just outside of the tunnel is different but just as stunning. We did a few quick stops at several scenic pullouts, including the checkerboard mesa.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon at 2pm. We first went to the Visitors center to pick up park guide and junior ranger booklet. Then we continued to the lodge as we were staying there for 2 nights. I booked us Lodge rooms (assigned to the Sunset motel) with 2 Queens. Honestly I can't remember why I picked Lodge rooms vs Western Cabin; perhaps cabins were not available by the time I booked (early Jan) or I decided they were too pricey. Finally in the room, well actually, out in the balcony, which is very nice, we had our late sandwich lunch.

Since it was still mid-afternoon, we walked out to the rim for the view. Bryce is so different from Zion; for at least 1-2 miles outside of Zion you can already see the majestic mountains ahead. Whereas at Bryce, you can't see anything even after you are in the park and at the lodge. You really have to walk right up to the rim before you can see the view. We decided to follow the rim trail to Inspiration point. BIG MISTAKE. On the map it says 0.7 miles, which we thought, " oh easy peasy." But it's uphill, plus the elevation at 8000', that 0.7 mile hike took us forever! But when we finally got up there, it was certainly worth it. Inspiration point has 3 levels, and we made it to the highest level. (later on we were told by park rangers that we should have taken the shuttle there and then walk down).

Eating dinner at the restaurant at the Lodge was the most convenient, and I thought the food was mostly decent. Service was lovely. I was surprised how uncrowded it was at the restaurant... I had thought it would be quite full, esp given it was Sunday Father's day. I mean, all the lodging was fully booked so where were people eating??? My husband had the salmon and I had pasta (which was unfortunately overcooked). Dinner $109. Afterwards we hung out at the main lodge (to use wifi) and then we joined the nightly 8:30pm ranger program at the lodge and learned about the different animals in the park (prairie dogs, antelopes, etc). Since this trip was done around summer solstice, sunset was 9pm but it doesn't get truly dark until after 10pm. We stayed until then so we could look at the night sky.

Bryce Canyon is regarded as one of the darkest places in US reachable by a paved road. Having said that, I think we were all a bit underwhelmed. Perhaps because it wasn't late enough. We stayed out for almost an hour, and in the end we did see the Milky Way. This is my very first time seeing it and TBH I had imagined it would look like those super duper high resolution photos that you associate with. But in reality it looks just kind of like a hazy cloud.
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Old Jun 29th, 2023, 03:09 AM
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You do a terrific job planning and then still able to make changes because of weather, etc. Your photos are wonderful. good job getting into shape. What fun to happen on a good time to see condors amd to see spotted owl.
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Old Jun 29th, 2023, 06:19 PM
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Day 5 — Bryce Canyon

Day 5 (Monday) – Bryce Canyon

After breakfast in our room (once again, granola, yogurt, fruit, hotel coffee), we set off to Sunrise Point to do the Queens Garden Trail / Navajo Loop combination. The NPS guide recommends doing this trail clockwise. We had a later than usual start of our hike at 10am due to staying up late the night before for the night sky. The trail is 3 miles with 600' elevation gain. The "trouble" with Bryce is that all hikes start at the rim and you first go down, and then you have to hike back up, at 8000' elevation. In any case, the hike is really enjoyable; going down into the canyon brings you much closer to the hoodoos, and seeing them up close and from the bottom up, is a completely different perspective than looking down from the rim. We made sure we brought plenty of water and paced ourselves. Bryce Canyon NPS also has a Hike the Hoodoos scavenger hunt, which my son wanted to do. On the loop combo he earned 2 medallions. Anyway, when we hiked up the Navajo Loop 2 bridges side, I actually felt okay, better than the day before hiking up to inspiration point. Perhaps my body has adjusted to the altitude?

IN all it took us just about 2 hours to complete the hike. We then went back to our room to make sandwiches and ate them out on our balcony. I was pretty tired after so we all took a short break. then we set off by car to drive the 18-mile scenic route. We drove to the very end of the road to Rainbow Point to hike the Bristlecone Loop Trail. It's an easy 1-mile loop and has a different viewpoint direction. It is also one of the Hike the Hoodoos location. After that, we got back into the car and drove back on the road, stopping at a few pullouts including the Natural Bridge, and finally back to the visitors center where my son collected his second Junior Ranger badge of the trip, plus the Prize for Hiking the Hoodoos. The prize is a neat sticker that says "I hiked the hoodoos" which he proudly put on his newly-purchased Bryce Canyon insulated water bottle.

We returned to the Lodge for another sit-down dinner. Once again it was quite empty ( we ate on the early side, around 5:30p). This time I had the tofu bowl which was really good. My husband and the steak. Dinner was $113.

BTW, there is a "general store" inside Bryce Canyon, but it's about 3/4 mile from the Lodge, and it's *very small* with very limited options. I was glad that we bought groceries in Zion and brought them along. Otherwise, we would need to drive out of the park to get more food supplies. Also, even though Bryce Lodge says they have laundry service, the laundry is located in the same building as the general store. We packed enough clothes so we didn't have to do laundry while we were at Bryce, which would have been rather inconvenient.

Last edited by yk; Jun 29th, 2023 at 06:41 PM.
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Old Jun 30th, 2023, 03:04 AM
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Good for you, hiking at altitude when you live near sea level. I start to suck wind at 4500 ft and find I need to really slow down.
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Old Jun 30th, 2023, 04:56 PM
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Really great report, text and photos both. We went to many of the same places. Makes me want to get back there...
Your Walter's Wiggles shot is really cool, can't believe no one is on the trail.

We often do the same hotel breakfast that you do, except with muesli instead of granola. Fast, healthy, inexpensive, what's not to like?!

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Old Jun 30th, 2023, 05:22 PM
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Last hike in Zion; view from vista on watchman trail loop

Bryce Canyon

Hiking up on Navajo loopl at Bryce

View from Bristlecone trail

Natural bridge
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