Back in June, I experienced Las Vegas a bit differently. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even enter a casino nor did I explore the strip and visit the M&M store (I really like that store). Instead, I rented an Economy car from Budget and made a two-day trip to visit Zion National Park in Utah and Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Total distance was roughly 600 miles, but the Budget whip made it through with no problem with gas to spare.
There are many ways to get there, but I decided the Las Vegas route would be easier for me since I not only have family in Nevada, but I will also be rendezvousing with some friends there for our Havasupai Falls trip later on the weekend. Give it a read if you haven’t. That place was truly an adventure!
I booked my ticket to Las Vegas from Kayak which came out to be less than $80. It was a red-eye flight which departed from Austin in the late evening and arrived in Las Vegas around midnight. With the 2h time zone different I wasn’t able to sleep much. I was too anxious perhaps. I don’t sleep much anyway. A word of caution is to be prepared to wait if you’re landing late at night. There’s only one shuttle that will transport you to the central area for car rental that will include companies like Budget, Axis etc. Total wait time will be at least an hour. The staff there aren’t friendly, and it seems like there was a mandatory smoke break every 15m or so. I remember waiting in that line was brutal.
Fast forward to 5A in the morning (don’t ask me where I slept) I stopped by the nearest coffee shop, grabbed an iced coffee with 2%, and made my way North on Interstate 15 for about 140 miles. It wasn’t long before my views of tall buildings and houses were replaced with empty roads carving through the mountain sides. Be sure to fill up fuel whenever you’re 50% because you may not know where or when the next fuel station is located at. Springdale will be your destination, and once you’re there grab yourself some breakfast, and stock up on water and snacks.
Here’s the physical address for your GPS to Zion National Park.
1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767
Where To park
If you have an RV, trailer, or are planning to camp go ahead and park inside the park. Otherwise, I would highly suggest parking in Springdale and walk or take the shuttle to the park. Be extra careful of signs that dictate whether or not your car will be tow. Park outside and save yourself the headache from not only paying the extra entree fees (more with a car), and not being able to find parking once you’re inside the park. Transportation while you’re on the park’s ground is strictly through their shuttle system so having your car inside doesn’t give you any advantage anyway.
Here’s map of the shuttle’s route. Be sure you’re aware of the time when the last shuttle departs unless your plan is to camp there. The last thing you want is to be stuck up at the Big Bend or something with no camping gear.
Be prepare to get wet. If you’re hauling camera gear then consider traveling as light as possible. Carry only what you need, and not what you think you’ll need. Consider having a water resistant backpack as well. Your phone? Cool glasses? Keep them all in the backpack. I can’t even tell you how many time I saw someone who was in front of me dropping their phones in the water. Bye bye iPhone. That splash sure do look good though.
If you’re planning to do the Narrows then take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava and get off there. From there, just follow the trail (you can’t miss it) and it’ll take you straight to the Virgin River. There’s a restroom right at the bus stop so empty your bladder. Potty on the trail is discouraged. I know I mentioned this before but anticipate on getting wet. I strongly recommend good hiking shoes, because the last thing you want is to cut your feet in the river. They’re going to get wet and heavy, but I rather have that happen than wearing sandals and getting cut up. An extra pair of socks wouldn’t hurt either so when you’re done with the trek you won’t have to walk around in damp socks. Gross.
The good thing about hiking the Narrows is that you can go as far in as you want, and turn back around whenever you’re tired. Short day-hike can range anywhere from 1-5h. Be careful during a flash flood the water level rises almost instantly within seconds or minutes. Since you’re going to be surrounded by walls that are a thousand feet tall you don’t have to worry so much about the heat. With that being said, still bring with you proper sun protection and hydration. I also packed a sack lunch.
Last advice about the Narrows, consider grabbing yourself a hiking stick. I didn’t have one and I regret it. Some areas of the river have fast currents, and visualizing depth in certain areas are impossible. I fell ass first a few time to save my camera. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes. Was it cold? You betcha!
If you start early enough you should be done with this mini hike by Noon. Take another break for food and take the shuttle to the Grotto picnic area for Angel’s Landing.
This is by far my favorite hike to date! One word of advice before attempting this 5-mile hike is water, water, and water. Did I mention water?! Don’t be that person that reaches the top and realize they’ve ran out of water. Grab yourself a Camelpak and a few extra bottle of water. Although short, 75% of this hike is in the heat. There isn’t much shelter from the scorching sun.
If you’re afraid of heights you should reconsider doing this. The last 0.5 miles is entirely holding on to chains and side railing. Because of this be cautious of what you’re carrying on this hike. The lighter and less bulky the better. You don’t want a bulky backpack dragging you down.
The trail begins with a 2-miles uphill trek follow a series of switchbacks up the steep West Rim Trail. Much of the path hugs the side of the sun-baked mountain offering an outstanding vista below of a shimmering river. The path turns toward a gap between Angel’s Landing and Cathedral Mountain. A cool breeze blows through the shady canyon leading to its name – Refrigerator Canyon. It is then followed by another series of switchbacks, called Squiggle the Wiggles. If your calves hasn’t hurt yet boy will it now. From there it isn’t long until you reach Scout’s Lookout. This is the saddle at the junction of the Angel’s Landing Trail and the West Rim Trail. The views here is impressive! You’re almost there. Don’t give up now. This last portion of the trail is no doubt the treacherous part. If you’re afraid of heights I suggest turning back around, or simply just hang out here. If you dare to continue you’ll have to navigate the next half-mile along a narrow isthmus with sheer cliffs on both sides. The drops are 1200′ on one side and 800′ on the other so be extremely careful. There has been death from hikers not paying attention and falling so be extremely careful.
This is the area where not having a bulky backpack is important. Cellphones and miscellaneous items should be kept in your bag. Don’t have them loosely in your pocket because they may fall out and tumble to their death. The Find My iPhone app ain’t going to help you much if it’s at the bottom of the canyon.
The view at the top is fairy-tale like. Take a breather and enjoy it. I took out my 2nd lunch and had it here. It was the best turkey sandwich with cheese I ever had. I lost track of how long I actually spent up there. Being here reminds me of how small humans really are. All of our troubles, no matter how big we perceive them to be are nothing. There are way bigger problems in the world. We should all learn to live together in harmony.
A word of advice. Try your best to do Angel’s Landing either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Avoid doing it in mid day. The scorching heat shows no mercy.
Gather whatever strength you have left and began your descending trip home. I made it back to my car at around 6P. It is time to leave Utah and head to Page. It should take you about 2h to reach Page.
I used Couch Surf while in Page to avoid expensive hotel fees. I honestly don’t care much for the “awesome” continental breakfast or wi-fi. Couch surfing allows me to meet local people in the area and save money. I love saving money.
It’s a short drive to here. Depending on where you stayed at, Horseshoe Bend is located along a busy highway. It’ll require about a mile hike, but overall nothing compared to Zion. Just like Zion National Park I would recommend arriving here early to avoid the heat. There isn’t much to do here besides admiring the view, which is amazing by the way! I missed my alarm and wasn’t able to wake up for some night photography. So sad.
Here’s the physical address.
U.S. 89, Page, AZ 86040
The Lower Antelope Canyon is about 30m from Horseshoe Bend so go ahead and head East. The Navajo name for the Upper Antelope Canyon is “the place where water runs through the rocks.” Lower Antelope Canyon is referred to as “spiral rock arches.”
Since you’re going to be on Navajo land you’ll have to pay a land fee. I believe it was $13 or so. You aren’t able to explore the canyon without being in a tour led by a Navajo tour guide company. It’s how they make their moolah! There are spectator tours as well as photography tour (more expensive.) Some places will allow tripods while other will not. I didn’t bother to book these tours online since I don’t like to be on a time constraint. Tours depart every hour or so, therefore waiting around is not so bad.
I highly recommend Lower Antelope Canyon Tours – Dixie Ellis. It is much cheaper than the rest of the place. If I recall correctly it cost me no more than $20 while other places that are 10 minutes away charges $50 or more.
Here’s the physical address.
Indn Rte 222, Page, AZ 86040
If you’re wondering what is the best Instagram filter to use while you’re here then I am going to let you on a little secret. It’s Lo-Fi and Mayfair.
What To Pack
Before completing this blog I just want to jot down some equipment I found useful on this trip
- Proper hiking shoes (w/ rock plate)
- Extra socks (SmartWool, merino wool etc.)
- Camelbak (at least 2L)
- Dry-fit clothing
- External battery pack
- Sack lunch and snacks
- Hiking sticks
Thank you for dropping by, and I hope you guys find this guide helpful! Leave a comment below if you have been to Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, and/or Antelope Canyon before! If I left something important out let me know as well.
– Ty N. (@ccm_ty)