Andrew and I have a goal of visiting all the National Parks together. This summer, we were lucky enough to cross 3 parks off our list for a total of 10. As of December 20 there are 62, so we still have a ways to go! And the rest definitely have a lot to beat, because this trip was amazing.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to knock out all 3 parks in 10 days without feeling rushed at all. Here is a breakdown of our trip:
Grand Canyon: 2 nights at the Bright Angel Lodge
Page, AZ: 2 nights at the Days Inn Lake Powell
Bryce Canyon: 2 nights at the Bryce Canyon Inn
Zion: 3 nights at the Bumbleberry Inn
Grand Canyon National Park
We flew in to Vegas, picked up our rental car, and drove the 4.5 hours to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were lucky enough to snag one of the last rooms at the Bright Angel Lodge (9 months in advance!) right on the rim of the canyon. The rooms didn’t have their own showers (there were shared ones in the hall) but we honestly didn’t mind at all since we barely spent any time in the room. Once we checked in, we walked out for our first views of the canyon.
First view of the Grand Canyon!
We went to bed early to prepare for our early morning hike the next day. A ranger recommended going to Yaki Point for sunrise, so we caught a shuttle from our hotel at 5:00 am to make the 6:00 sunrise!
The early morning wake-up was worth it!
After sunrise, we walked to the trailhead of South Kaibab to start our first big hike. I completely underestimated how difficult it is to hike straight down into a canyon…and then also straight back up. We made it a couple of miles down before deciding to head back up. We saw some amazing views on this steep hike!
Not gonna lie…a little jealous of Andrew’s perfect Instagram pic!
That night, we went to dinner at the El Tovar dining room. It’s the ‘fanciest’ restaurant in the Grand Canyon. While it was a nice experience and cool to see the El Tovar hotel, the food wasn’t that special for the price. You’re really paying for the views and experience, so just depends on if you think that is worth it!
Since we were staying at the Bright Angel Lodge, we had to do the Bright Angel Trail! It was so convenient to be able to roll out of bed and walk the few minutes to the trailhead. We hiked a few miles down into the canyon super early in the morning, and made it back in time for breakfast at the lodge! There may have been a little sprinting at the end to make that happen 🙂
Page, AZ (Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend)
We decided to break up the national parks with a stop in Page, Arizona (a 2.5 hour drive from the Grand Canyon). We stayed here for a couple of nights to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. I highly recommend adding this stop if you have the time! Antelope Canyon requires the purchase of a tour ticket to see it, it isn’t something you can go to on your own. There are 2 portions: upper and lower canyon. While doing my research, I couldn’t figure out which one would be better…so we bought tickets to both! If I had to pick one, I’d probably pick lower – but both were amazing experiences! We did our lower canyon tour through Dixie’s and the upper through Adventurous Antelope Canyon.
Lower Antelope Canyon
The Upper Canyon is known for the famous light beam, but this can only be seen during certain times. We were lucky enough to see it on our way out!
The parking lot for Horseshoe Bend is accessible by car with a parking fee. It’s a pretty short walk from the car to the lookout point, but it was over 100 degrees so it felt like forever!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon was another 2.5 hours from Page. We weren’t able to get lodging in the park, so we stayed at the Bryce Canyon Inn in Tropic which was about a 20 minute drive from the park entrance. We went in and out a lot so this drive got old, but it was also close to some good restaurants and coffee shops. We did a short hike with a trailhead closer to where we were staying when we first got in called the Mossy Cave Hiking Trail. It was a great way to be introduced to the beautiful scenery of Bryce Canyon!
Mossy Cave Trail
We felt like we covered all the highlights of the park with the hikes we did over the next 2 days: the figure 8 combination loop (Queens Garden, Navajo, and Peekaboo loops/trails) and the Fairyland Loop Trail. I LOVED Bryce. Honestly, I think it’s a very underrated park. It wasn’t as packed as the Grand Canyon or Zion and the scenery was amazing. I never knew what was in store for me around each bend. I could have stared at the hoodoos forever!
Pro tip: Check out IDK Barbecue in Tropic (just outside of Bryce) for some amazing BBQ sandwiches after a long day of hiking!
Zion National Park
Zion is only a 1.5 hour drive from Bryce Canyon. Our drive to the Bumbleberry Inn took us through part of the park and we got a peak of the grand, majestic views of Zion. I highly recommend staying at the Bumbleberry Inn – it is right in the center of the town with lots of places to eat and shop. There is also a pool where you can relax and look at the views. There is a shuttle stop close by, which is important since you can’t drive your own car into the main section of the park during summer.
We knew we wanted to hit the big 2 hikes in Zion: the Narrows and Angels Landing. We picked the day with the warmest weather to hike the Narrows since we knew we would be in the water the whole time. One of my biggest worries when planning for this trip was the gear I should buy/rent to wear in the narrows. I ended up being perfectly satisfied with not renting the professional gear from an outfitter! However, neoprene socks were a lifesaver. As long as you have these you’ll be set! I wore these with non-waterproof hiking shoes, shorts, a tank top, and a long-sleeve dri-fit top. Andrew wore running shoes with his neoprene socks and that worked out too.
We each brought one hiking pole in and I’m so glad – it was super helpful to help keep your balance when walking over slippery rocks through moving water. We also brought a drybag to keep our valuables inside our backpack.
The Narrows hiking attire
You can really hike as far as you want for a day hike in the Narrows – just remember that you have to make your way out too! The narrow canyons near the beginning are probably the coolest views, but it’s also nice to make your way past all the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet in the canyon by yourselves.
The Narrows is probably my favorite hike of all time – it’s so unique
Our next full day, we did Angel’s Landing. I personally wanted to do Observation Point instead because it is even higher elevation than Angel’s Landing and you get to avoid the narrow, scary ridge of Angel’s Landing. Unfortunately, Observation Point was closed due to rockfall. The hike up to Angel’s Landing is steep and intense. Once we got up to the area with the ridge and the chain, I decided I was too nervous to go all the way to the top. I knew I’d be missing an incredible view, but also didn’t want to push myself too far out of my comfort zone. Andrew went to the top and shared his pics with me, and that was good enough 🙂
What should our next National Park be?!
By the way, you may have noticed my hiking poles in some of these pics. You may judge me, but these saved my knees and made the steep hikes in and out of canyons way easier! Highly recommend purchasing some. Here are the ones I bought.