Another World on the doorstep of Las Vegas
We had around a week to fill in en route back to the UK from Hawaii and fancied a stop in Las Vegas but only for a few days. What really appealed was to do a bit of a road-trip and see a bit of the “great outdoors” so we had a chat with our travel agent who came up with an amazing plan!
Given the flight from Honolulu didn’t get in to Las Vegas until just before midnight he suggested we pick up the rental car and drive the short distance (8 miles) to a pre-booked hotel in Henderson. The main car rental depot (shared by most of the major companies) is not within Las Vegas airport but a free courtesy bus ride south towards… you guessed it, Henderson! Because of the days of the week involved this helped keep our time in Las Vegas off the peak weekend dates. It also meant that we had the rental car ready to head off as early as we fancied the next morning without the hassle of taking up valuable time at the rental depot.
Henderson is less than 30 minutes from the Hoover Dam which we are so glad we visited. Although it was a fairly lengthy drive to the Grand Canyon we took his advice and did a small (20+ miles) detour and covered an interesting stretch of Route 66 taking a brief lunch stop at the irresistible Road Kill Café in Seligman with its famous “You Kill It, We Grill It” slogan. We arrived late afternoon at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, tired but exhilarated by the immense views from standing on the edge of the World. Words, photos and video can never do justice to what you feel as you experience the sheer magnificence of one of America’s most popular National Parks. We stayed just south of the park entrance at Tusayan at a simple, yet adequate Holiday Inn Express which, for the overnight hours we were there was more than adequate.
Next stop Page, Arizona where the legacy of the Grand Canyon seemed to be following our tyre tracks. The standout sight was Horseshoe Bend which was a mile-or-so hike in the heat of the main road. After a dusty clamber through Antelope Canyon with our very own Navajo guide we cooled off for an hour sailing on Lake Powell ready for a good night’s sleep.
Another early start as we headed north to Bryce Canyon. As ever an initial visit to the Visitor Center ensured that our limited time here was not wasted. Most employees at the National Parks go out of their way to make sure your visit is enhanced. Charlie was no exception as he marked out a few trails we may want to try that were within our capabilities. It’s over 8,000 feet above sea level at Bryce and the air is dry. Dehydration can be a serious matter and we were advised to carry plenty of water with us on the trail to the base of the park. OMG! We had never experienced anything like it – the view from the top stretched out over the towering “Hoodoos” creating the image of impassable terrain yet the clearly marked trails guided you through this magical wilderness. A true contender for one of the most incredible places we have seen on this planet! We overnighted at Ruby’s Inn which seems to be the centre of activities such as quad biking, horse riding and a seasonal, small scale rodeo.
The next morning we had a relatively short drive south to Zion National Park. Other reasons why our travel agent had recommended that we do this circular route anti-clockwise was to get the big distances out of the way first and save the wonderful east-to-west drive through Zion National Park. What an amazing drive! The meandering road overlooks the valley floor as you descend through tunnelled out rock faces towards the Visitor Center by the west entrance. The north/south valley road is seasonally closed to cars but is accessible by frequent courtesy buses with regular stops up and down the valley.
Whilst most of the trails are relatively easy some carry major safety warnings, such as “Since 2004 six people have died falling from the cliffs on this route”. Zion is a large, sprawling park and we heeded the good advice and split our stay over 2 separate days by spending 2 nights at charming Springdale which is just outside the east entrance. Early the following morning we took another free bus from outside or hotel into the park to avoid the hassle of parking and to experience the relative solitude of Zion before it got too busy. Over the 2 days we were able to have some chill out time by the pool at the excellent Best Western.
It was hard to believe what we had accomplished in just a few days yet we felt remarkably refreshed having had some free time as well. An easy 3 hour drive brought us to Las Vegas and the transition from the real world to fantasy was complete.