Planning a trip out West is on your bucket-list? It was definitely on ours for the past few years. So, in November 2017, we decided to pack our bags and buy cheap tickets through Allegiant.com to fly from Louisville to Las Vegas.
Spending 4 or 5 days in the Southwest States is definitely perfect if you are always on the GO like us. When we travel, we just love to explore and are definitely not the “stay at the resort and chill” type. We travel really well together in all types of places. And we mostly just feel the need to see everything the destination has to offer.
Anyway, we usually wake up super early and go to bed equally early to drive before the sunrise and/or catch the sunsets. They are our favourite times of the day. So if you are like us, this itinerary might just work perfectly for you ! If you like to chill a bit more, I would suggest adding a few days to your vacation.
OUR TRIP AT ONE GLANCE
22 hours – Around 1300 Miles (2000 kms) – 5 days – 2 National Parks
My highlights :
- Hiking in Zion National Park on Emerald Pools Trail
- Watching the sunrise at Monument Valley
- Stargazing in Sedona, Arizona
What I will not do again :
- Queue to go to Lower Antelope Canyon
- Eat so much junk food on the road 🙂
Now let’s get into more details day by day…
DAY 1 – LAS VEGAS TO ZION NP
We took a flight mid-day on a weekday and arrived in Las Vegas Airport around 4pm. Allegiant was really fine and the tickets were definitely worth it. We got our rental car and picked a Toyota RAV 4 just to be more comfortable throughout the whole trip. Be sure to plan an hour at the car rental station because you need to wait for a shuttle from the airport to get there and then go through the parking maze to get your car. It just takes a bit of time.
We hit the road immediately to go and spend the night close to Zion National Park. We stayed at Zion Mountain Ranch. An amazing ranch just outside the park offering amazing nature views amongst the buffalos, horses and other birds… The cabin itself was big, heated with a little wood stove. It was just magnificent to wake up in the middle of nature the day after…
DAY 2 – ZION NATIONAL PARK TO KAYENTA
We left our beautiful cabin around 5:30am to go and see the sunrise in Zion National Park. Ok, amazing little tip if you are on a budget : you won’t pay the entrance fee to Zion if you arrive during the night shift. The gates are open for you to drive through freely. Arriving at Zion was one of my favourite all-time moments – the sunrise was just way different than anything I had ever seen.
The sun was rising slowly on the mountain and we stopped a few times to check the views. We arrived at the bottom of one of the well-known hikes you can find in Zion : Emerald Pool Trails. As it was in November, the weather was cold but at least no one was around. We ended being almost alone on the trail. We saw a few deers during the 2-mile hike until the pinnacle : Upper Emerald Pool. The view is so worth it up there and the hike is not hard at all. We did it in probably 1 hour one way (2 hours total but we got lost and had to go outside of the trail so I would not advise that haha). Lower Emerald pool is a very pretty waterfall but it was mostly frozen at the time. On the other hand, Middle Emerald Pool is a very quiet spot with beautiful views on the mountains.
Check the picture below :
As I said, we got awfully lost on the way back..running through a field to try to find the car. This was quite epic and funny but I was a little less confident than Bobby that we would find our way back on time.
We left Zion, still enjoying the scenic drive on our way to Lower Antelope Canyon. Let me tell you, the canyon is something you will NOT want to miss. It is sincerely a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. However, this is probably the least organised touristic place I have ever witnessed. I have hated every minute of the wait (there were more than 2 hours delay on our planned tour) and the way they parked us while we queued to enter the park. It is full of people and absolutely doesn’t feel like a special place. I had the impression to have booked a tour with 300 other people.
Since they were extremely late, we took the car and ran to Horseshoe Bend in the meantime. That’s how bad it was. So just to give you an idea, we were able to go to Horseshoe bend, park the car, change our clothes in the car, do the 45-minute walk to the outlook, take a few pictures, go back and then they were still not ready to let us inside Antelope Canyon…
Horseshoe bend is extremely impressive. It is way bigger than I thought from the pictures I had seen. We got nervous because of the heights and especially the fact that there are no fence of any kind and that people stay close as hell from the edge.
I had booked a 1pm tour in Antelope Canyon to try to get the best lighting inside and we ended up getting in at 4pm, just before the sun was setting. Overall very disappointing experience but once again, it would be really sad not to see it. Lower Antelope being thinner and longer than Upper Antelope, you can see beautiful rock formations and it is a wonder!
After our tour ended, the sun was setting so we drove to Kayenta, where we spent the night in a motel to get an early start the following day.
DAY 3 – GRAND CANYON TO SEDONA
Another early morning for us that day as we woke up around 4:00am to go directly to Oljato Monument Valley. This one really deserves an early alarm as the sunrise overlooking the 11-mile road is SO BEAUTIFUL. We especially appreciated being in silence and without the crowds to enjoy the beauty of nature. Right between Utah and Arizona, this little piece of heaven made us feel very small on this big rock – the kind of moment you remember forever…
But even at 5:00am over there, we were not completely alone. A few photographers were here with their tripods, trying to film the sunrise from beginning to end. At the time, we didn’t have a tripod nor any experience but we still managed to get good pictures. The rest is in our memories…
After an emotional morning there, we headed to Grand Canyon.
We grabbed lunch there before our hiking afternoon. the goal was to achieve as much as possible of South Kaibab Trail. We knew we were not going to do the whole 6-mile round hike since the elevation is huge (7260 feet) and we were definitely not at our fittest ha ha.
We went all the way down to Ooh-Aah Point and a little further towards Cedar Point and back up. We spent a total of 3 hours on the trail, time to take the view in and breathe the warm and sandy air down there. It was very hot for end of November and we were happy we packed lots of water and had layered our outfits…The way back is the hardest part since it goes upward. That’s why we didn’t want to push too far and not be able to finish back to the car.
Once done, we took a short walk on the Angel’s Landing Trail. Very family-friendly, this trail allowed us to witness a few extra views that were really awesome. A little away from the craziness of South Kaibab Trail, which was actually fuller than I expected.
We spent 2 hours in the car after that, driving to Sedona, where we chilled half-an-hour and stopped for dinner before going stargazing.
Stargazing in Sedona was the most beautiful and interesting. The sky was very clear that night and we were able to check the moon through a telescope. We checked out a myriad of constellations especially Orion’s belt. I wish I had pictures of this but unfortunately, I did not have the skills nor the tripod at the time. So memories are in our head and today we have a theskynight.com print in our home that represents the position of the stars that night.
We toured with Evening Sky Tours which had very good guides and all the great material you might need for this kind of cold nights (Coats, blankets, telescope etc)… It was a bit pricey so if you are on a budget I wouldn’t recommend this activity as you might be able to go and watch the stars yourself. But really the guides were so knowledgeable and so lovely, we don’t regret at all to have indulged.
DAY 4 – ARIZONA TO LAS VEGAS
Our morning in Sedona was quite special. As usual we woke up early to try and catch the sunrise. We failed this time as we started to be a little tired from the trip. So right after the sunrise, we made our way to Devil’s Bridge to hike the whole trail.
The trail itself is very easy at the beginning but then gains a good amount of elevation. I struggled a bit at the end as I have short legs and going up some rocks became difficult. But thank god for husbands, right? Bobby helped me finish and the view at the end was extremely rewarding. When we got there, we stumbled upon a couple in the middle of their proposal. I have to admit, I think it’s a beautiful spot to ask your spouse to marry you. Would totally recommend!
It took us a total of 3 hours to do the roundtrip hike.
After the hike, we went all the way back to Las Vegas to enjoy one last afternoon + night before our flight the following day.
We checked-in at our hotel – The Excalibur… yeah, as a foreigner I do like to stay on the Strip – it’s just typical AF. The check-in went really fast and we were out on the strip in a half-hour. We went and had dinner at RA SUSHI BAR, a fairly good sushi restaurant on the other side of the Strip. It is not the cheapest but we were able to eat outside on a sunny day.
Of course, Vegas is Vegas so we ended the night with casino games – I got a little crazy on the roulette table and I think we can safely say we lost all our remaining money there…hahaha
DAY 5 – VIVA LAS VEGAS AND ADIOS
Day 5 was basically just travelling but I think I have to share the beautiful sunrise we caught from the hotel room…
Basically, this is a sample of a pretty complete itinerary you could do around the West if you have limited time like us. We really wanted to see Bryce Canyon as well but we couldn’t find the time on that busy Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully we can do that another time. The priority this time was to check out Arizona and take our time hiking in Zion, Antelope and South Kaibab.
This itinerary includes quite a lot of driving with an average of 4 hours per day but we knew what we were getting into and Bobby is an excellent driver (that’s a lie 😂).
If you guys find it useful or have questions, feel free to let me know. I’d be happy to help…