Utah / Arizona Park Tour 2016 -Part 1

Saturday June 11th was our “Day of Days.”   This is the quote Margaret Gehrke would write in her journal back in 1915 before any trip to the National Parks.   I have admittedly been counting down the days to this trip for the past 4 months.

Our flight out of Columbus, Ohio departed about 45 minutes late but otherwise was smooth all the way to Las Vegas.   I have been to LV many times on business trips but always by myself.   For years, both of my daughters have said they wanted me to take them to LV to see it for themselves.   This trip held extra excitement for me to shift into tour guide mode and show them the highlights LV has to offer in just 4 or 5 hours.

After picking up our rental van and eating lunch, we walked over to Caesar’s Palace.   My daughters absolutely loved the Forum Shops.  This was one of the biggest touristy things they wanted to do.

After 2 hours in Caesar’s, we walked over to the Bellagio.   No trip is complete without watching the fountain show.20160611_160146 Me and my oldest daughter taking a selfie during the fountain show.  While walking back to The Venetian, we saw a guy holding a sign that said, “.25 cent jokes”  “It’s a really good deal right?”    We laughed about this the rest of our trip.

After 4 or 5 hours in Las Vegas, I was ready to leave the commercialization and find the wildness my soul longs for in the National Parks.   We headed East on RT. 15 to our hotel in Hurricane, UT.    Our hotel was a Super 8 that we paid $100/night.   Hurricane was a great little town that I recommend using as a base camp if you plan on staying multiple days exploring Zion.  There were many restaurants, gas stations and hotel options.    After waking up at 4:30am EST, flying and driving all day – we were pooped and ready for bed at 10pm MST.

Day 2:  I awoke at 6am ready for hiking.  However, when you are traveling with teenage kids and in our case and another family of 5; it’s hard to get 10 people fed, showered and out the door.  The hotel had a reasonable breakfast with a hot waffle maker.  This is always a favorite with my kids when traveling.

My friend Tim and I went grocery shopping at Lin’s Market Place by 7:30am.  We needed to stock up on snacks and lunch supplies for the days ahead.   This is not only a way  for”Regularguy” travelers to save money but a necessity in some cases where there are no food services in or near the parks.

Our van pulled out of the hotel at 8:45 and made the drive to Zion.  We stopped and got our sign picture before heading to the visitor center for our stamp.DSC_0848

Zion NP is the 6th most visited National Park so expect big crowds when visiting.   Its proximity to Las Vegas is my theory as to why the park gets so crowded.   The main parking lot is the biggest I have ever seen comparable only to the parking lot at Old Faithful in Yellowstone.   The main parking lot is big since visitors are encouraged to navigate the park using the shuttle system.  We waiting in line for 15 minutes before catching our shuttle.  We jumped off at the stop for the Emerald Pools Trailhead.

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Hopefully my sense of peace and contentment comes through in this picture having my wife and kids all with me doing what I love to do.   The lower 2 sections of Emerald Pools is relatively easy to hike.  There is no shortage of amazing views in Zion.  I chose the featured image at the top of this page because it was candid and caught me mesmerized by the contrasting greens and towering red rock formations.

The upper section of this trail was crowded and much more difficult.  My oldest daughter is pregnant and started running out of steam at this point of the hike.  She chose to rest and the middle pool and wait for us to return.  Heidie enjoyed taking off her boots and trying out the upper pool.  I’m guessing at other times of the year there would actually be a water fall present but there was not while we were there.

After our hike, we took the shuttle back to the visitor’s center.   We got out our newly purchased $6.99 styrofoam cooler.  While carrying from the van, the bottom totally broke out of it.  We were able to salvage all of our food and drinks but it makes for one of those funny stories you laugh about later.  We found a nice place in the shade and all ate lunch.   Our stomachs were full but the cooler had to be left behind in the trash dumpster.

In summary, 1/2 day is simply not enough time to spend at Zion.  My wife and I are committed to returning and hiking the narrows next time.  We weren’t able to spend any time shopping or exploring the town part of Zion at all.   Stand by for my next post and the continuation of our 3 state adventure.

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6 thoughts on “Utah / Arizona Park Tour 2016 -Part 1

  1. We just got back from a trip including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and squeezed in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion on the way back (I posted daily travelogues on my blog if you’re interested). Oh, yeah, we did Hollywood/Universal Studios too and drove down the strip in Las Vegas without stopping. It was great, but I felt like you–1/2 a day or even a day in any of these parks is not enough. Even just driving through Utah on the interstate was awesome and the five parks there are next on our list. I look forward to following your trip.

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  2. So nice that you were able to show your daughters LV! We passed through for a similar amount of time and like you, enjoyed the Bellagio fountain show, too. Totally agree with you that Hurricane is a great base for Zion. Loved Emerald Pools, too. Your family looks so happy in all of the photos–great job planning a fantastic trip! Looking forward to reading more about it.

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  3. Really awesome blog. I am looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure. I am actually in the middle of finishing up a similar road trip series you might find interesting. I have to put Zion on my list of places to visit. I’ll be going back to Moab next year and have finish up exploring Arches and Canyon Lands. I want to do the White Rim trail in about a week.

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    1. Hello, sounds like you share my passion for exploration and adventure. You won’t regret hiking the White Rim trail. I’ll check out your blog.

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      1. I actually plan on driving the 4×4 trail and hiking a bunch of the side trails along the way. We are planning about 9 days for the tip. 2 there and back and 6 on the trail. Should be a lot of fun. Hoping to go the second week in May.

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