In September 2016 we have traveled together through one of the most beautiful parts of America. The west coast road trip is usually divided into 2 parts – the canyon and the californian loop. The canyon loop contains mainly canyons in Utah and Arizona, while the other one is famous for the beauties of California. The main insights and the itinerary shortcut of the USA west coast road trip is also available in the post “An ultimate travel plan shortcut through the american west coast“.
The following post will tell you more about the whole story behind our first part of the USA west coast road trip – the canyon loop.
Day 1: Tuesday
Flying from Baltimore to Las Vegas with Spirit airlines, which you rather do not read the reviews about before your flight. Believe me, as I saw that this exact airline is the 12th out of 13 worst airlines, I was completely determined to book a new one with someone else. However, they were not only the cheapest, but had the only one direct flight (5 hours) to Vegas from Baltimore or Washington D.C..
Anyway, we survived, arrived to Vegas on time in the late evening. I suggest to take an Uber or Lyft (if you are not registered yet, use the links to do so in order to get some discounts) to the hotel (approx $20). During the night we are enjoying the thousands of Vegas lights at the observation deck at the top of the tower for free, since we are accommodated in the hotel (otherwise, it is $20).
Day 2: Wednesday
We dedicate the whole day to exploring all the famous hotels such as Bellagio or The Venetian down at the strip and relaxing at the rooftop pool in our Stratosphere hotel :). Stratosphere is, by the way, located a little far from the strip. That is why we decided to purchase a 24 hour bus ticket which we use to travel in between the hotels as well as for traveling back to the airport. The prices are the following: a 2 hour pass for $6, a 24-hour pass for $8 or 3-day pass for $20. You can buy them at any ticket kiosk at the bus stops.
Day 3: Thursday
After the chek-out at 11am we are heading to the airport to rent the car we’ve reserved in advance. However, 2 or 3 bus switches are needed in order to get to the airport from the hotel, and with all of the luggages, I would suggest again taking Uber or Lyft for an easier (but more boring) drive.
Upon our arrival we are trying our first car rental company, Enterprise. Success!
Not only that the USAA membership was accepted so we do not need to pay the extra $25 fee/day for an under 25 years old driver, but we managed to pay it with a slovak non-embossed debit card from Tatra Banka!
The very first stop is the famous Las Vegas sign (actually the first stop was a Walmart trip, but this is really not I want you to know about :D), although the line for taking a picture is huuuuge and we have no motivation at all to wait there in that heat and sun for hours. The canyons are waiting, so we decide to continue to the next stop, which is Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.
35 miles southeast from Las Vegas, at the Colorado river, one of the biggest Dams holding the largest amount of water in USA is located. Walking through Hoover Dam from the 30′ with its 726.4 ft (221.4 m) height and 1,244 ft (379 m) length, responsible for the death of 112 people is a lifetime experience…
It would have taken 125 years for the concrete to cure, if it had been poured at once. Luckily the construction workers knew that and the concrete was poured slowly by parts.
Our next stop would have been the Grand Canyon, if it wouldn’t take 5 hours to drive to the viewpoint we have chosen. We have decided to watch the sunset at the Mather point, however we would arrive there a little late…cool, the first day and we are already in delay. Anyway, so we are heading to our airbnb room in Flagstaff instead and planning to wake up in the early morning (at 4am) to watch the sunrise. Problem solved 🙂
Day 4: Friday
It is 5.30am and the biggest WOW in my life. It is colossal and giant. So quiet, so spectacular and endless.
Grand Canyon has always been a MUST SEE in each USA west coast road trip. To enter the park either a $20/car ticket is needed or a $80 annual pass which is valid in almost every national park in USA for 1 year . The pass is however not valid in Antelope Canyon – since that is a guided tour, and Monument valley – $5 if you arrive before the sherrif leaves, muhaha – because the Indians are mean…(just kidding :D). You can buy the pass directly at the entrance from a sheriff :).
One of the most important things according the Grand Canyon is to pick up one or two points, which you want to visit. As its name already says, it is HUGE and it is not enough to plan only “Grand canyon” to your itinerary. We have seen the Mather point and we also drove through the Desert view Drive seeing deers everywhere. Some people do the Skywalk, which I suppose it’s a little bit crowded.
Another 110 miles in front of us until we reach our next stop – Horseshoe bend. In order to see the Colorado river forming the bend, you have to walk around 15 minutes through a desert… wear appropriate shoes and bring water! The horseshoe bend is beautiful, but too crowded in the afternoon by all the J1’s :)…
After taking a bunch of selfies we are heading to see the sunset in Monument Valley (Utah). The trip takes 2 hours, but we must stop several times because of the views…upon our arrival, seeing all those people sleeping in their cars we regret our decision of buying the tickets to the Antelope Canyon in advance for the next morning. We enjoy the sunset and the dark night sky anyway…
By the way, even though Arizona and Utah are in the same timezone, the time during summer differs by 1 hour for a simple reason. Arizona is simply not using the “summer time”. That means, that during the summer, they are one hour behind every state in the Mountain Time Zone. Though the time in Arizona is the same than in Nevada or California. That basically means, that while we are traveling from one state to another more times per day, we have no clue what the real time is.
At 10pm (Utah time) is time to go to our camp in Page, close to the Antelope Canyon, where we have a tour at 8am (Arizona time) the next day…
Day 5: Saturday
Waking up in the car at the camp in Page after one of the best sleeps so far! (Maybe because no one was stealing my blanket, haha…). After checking in at 55 S Lake Powell Blvd Page, AZ 86040 we are told to sit on one of the jeeps which takes us to the entrance hole of Upper Antelope Canyon. The drive through the desert takes approximately 10 minutes and it is an experience itself. However, after seeing that crowd going into the canyon, we are not really happy about being there…it is really the typical example of how people can ruin the atmosphere of a specific place. Unfortunately, the guides are taking in more tour groups, than the canyon can handle…
After returning to our car we are washing away all the sand of our bodies in the Lake Powell, which is formed by the Colorado River while enjoying the views of Glen Canyon. By spending a little time at Wahweap viewpoint observing the whole Lake area we gain enough energy to check another dam, a smaller, yet not less spectacular – Glen Canyon Dam.
In the afternoon we are on the roads again heading to Bryce canyon across the Dixie National Forest. After almost 3 hours we are finally close enough but suddenly we decide to digress a little bit to a cute western town called Panguitch. Worth to see.
But now, again, we are struggling with choosing the right viewpoint to go at the Bryce Canyon. Out of 3 main points, the Sunrise, Sunset and Inspiration point we are choosing the last one. Just because I told so. Bryce Canyon is different from the others. It is not even a real canyon but rather a natural amphitheater of hundreds of hoodoos. It looks like a hiding place of all the native Indians.
Driving again across the dark forest with an enormous amount of wild animals we are getting closer and closer to our supercute bungalow in the middle of nowhere in Fredonia, but this is a whole another story :)…
Day 6: Sunday
Waking up at the ranch makes us not want to leave and continue our trip. After we realize, the next stop is Zion Canyon, suddenly we are sitting in the car driving again. Sunday…is not the best day to visit a National park, but we had no other choice. Even though we arrived quite early, we have to park our car down at the street in the town of Springdale and wait for the Spingdale shuttle bus to take us to Zion Canyon Shuttle bus stop.
The Zion Canyon Visitor Centre is the first stop of the Zion Canyon Shuttle bus. It is possible to go by car as far as to Canyon Junction bus stop, but there is no way to find a parking place there during the weekend. There is a lot of trails which you can choose from. Among the most famous ones belong for instance the Angels Landing (3-6 hours , looking down to the canyon – The Grotto bus stop) or The Narrows (6 hours, being inside of the canyon – Temple of Sinawava, last bus stop). (More info plus maps)
During our first trail to the Emerald pools we are thinking about which trail to take the next. The decision fell on The Narrows…
Our sneakers are soaking wet while we are walking along the Virgin river. However, it is a way different experience of what we are used to. Watching other people falling to the river up to chest, we are holding our cameras higher and higher…
Although tired and wet, we are amazed by every corner of this trail and we are looking forward what’s going to be behind the following one. After each national park it is getting harder for us to choose our favorite spot of the USA west coast road trip.
It is 7 o’clock with the longest road in front of us. Heading to Death Valley – the largest (after the one in Alaska obviously) and the dryest national park in the United States. It is also one of the hottest places in the world…and not because I was there.
The road leads again through Las Vegas. That means, that the originally planned 5 hours ride turns out to be a 6,5…Nevermind, I have my cap from Hard Rock café Las Vegas and I can happily continue in the roadtrip.
Are we there yet??
As we see no cars on the road, we suppose we are almost there. Finally a table saying “No service in 60 miles” invites us to the Valley of Death. It sounds more creepy this way. This also makes us think that we should stop by the gas station. The prices are way higher than in any other state, not just because it is a desert but also because it’s the californian dreaaam.
The Furnace Creek Visitor center is the most creepy place I have ever been to. It’s midnight. The darkest sky ever. No cars, no people, no wind, no sound, no souls. Just a warning table not to be outside between 10am and 10pm. Well, thanks for warning.
As we start to look for some camp, we realize all of those camps are open only during the season… (which yes, you guess right, it’s not during the summertime). Finally the third one is open. Ehh… I am not sure whether a “camp” is the appropriate name for this parking lot. However, at least it has some dark building with a shower sign and HOT drinking water…and some weird animal noises. This USA west coast road trip is getting more and more interesting.
To be continued…