We were due for a "land cruise" and thought it was time to cross Las Vegas and some of the national parks off of our "bucket list".  We had such an amazing time last September on a Gate 1 Travel "independent" tour of Greece and felt something similar would be just the ticket this time around.  As luck would have it, Gate 1 Travel also has "independent" tours of the national parks.  A little searching on their website and a few clicks later and we booked an 8 day trip starting and ending in Las Vegas.  The package included a rental car and hotel stays in four locations.  That's it, what we did and saw in between was on our own AND at our own pace. 

Las Vegas Nevada:

We  booked early flights into Las Vegas so we would have most of the day and evening to explore.  This was our first trip to Las Vegas and we wanted to have some time to check out the sights and capture a few images.  Our package included a first and last night stay at the  Elara, Hilton Garden Vacations hotel just off the strip.  The hotel had an entrance into the Miracle Mile Shops, an indoor mall with a decor that emulated the outdoors including an occasional thunderstorm.  It was great!  Check in was a breeze then we went to our tenth floor suite, opened the door, turned on the lights and were amazed at the electrically operated shade that uncovered a floor to ceiling, wall to wall window with a view of the city.  We settled in then went out to check out the sights, the lights, and grab some dinner. 



Zion National Park, Utah:

The longest leg of our trip was from Las Vegas to Bryce Utah by way of Zion National Park.  We arrived at Zion and encountered crowds with no parking available at the visitor center.  We ended up parking on the street in the nearby town and taking a shuttle to the visitor center.  Once in the park, it was another shuttle into the park which made stops at several trail heads.  We set out on one of the trails but it was hot, we were tired, and still had some distance to cover to Bryce Utah so we cut the hike short and made our way back to the car.  Most of our picture taking was from the shuttle and from our car as we drove thru the park on our way to Bryce.  One interesting story was the 1.1 mile unlit tunnel we entered without lights because the rental car was so basic they didn't come on automatically.  We figured out how to turn on the lights after a few seconds groping in the dark in search of the switch.



Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah:

We arrived at the Best Western Plus in Bryce Utah late in the afternoon so we decided to stay put, find dinner, and relax for the evening.  Our package included a two night stay at this location which gave us a full day to enjoy the park.  Bryce Canyon National Park was only a couple miles up the road so this turned out to be a prime location.  The park's primary feature are the Hoodoos which can be seen from a path along the canyon rim.  We found that to really enjoy the experience one has to venture on one of the below the rim trails that takes you among the Hoodoos.  We selected the Navaho Trail and walked the winding (and narrow) trail down into the canyon and realized that getting OUT was going to be a very strenuous deal for these old bones.  We had our hiking boots, packed some granola bars, and some water so we were as ready as we'd ever be.  This afternoon hike turned out to be, without a doubt, the highlight of this trip!  We were tired when we finally got out but were so pleased with ourselves for having done it.  One note about the Navaho Trail, it's best to walk it in a clockwise direction which we did quite by accident.  I should also mention that Las Vegas is at about a 2,100 foot elevation and Bryce Utah is at just over 8,000 foot so the couple hundred miles we drove to get here was fundamentally uphill but the rental car still averaged 38mpg.   



Lake Powell:

Our next stop was a one night stay in Page Arizona at the Courtyard by Marriott.  Nearby attractions were the Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and, of course, Lake Powell itself.  We decided to spend the afternoon on a boat tour of the lake.  The boat tour took us completely around Antelope Island and up into one of the narrow canyons.



Grand Canyon National Park:

Following our one night in Page, AZ, we headed down to Williams Arizona for a two night stay at The Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel.  The full day at this location was supposed to be our full day for the Grand Canyon but heavy rains and flash flooding were forecast so we decided to check out the canyon on our way down from Page.  This turned out to be the correct move as the predicted storms came true.  We drove the entire length of the park road that runs along the south rim.  Hiking a trail part way down into the canyon and/or touring from the north rim would have been nice but there simply wasn't enough time. 




Hoover Dam:

It was time to work our way back to Las Vegas for one night prior to our flight home.  The road from Williams AZ to Las Vegas goes right by the Hoover Dam so stopping for a tour was in order.  Parking was $10/car and we signed up for the Generating Floor Tour ($15/pp).  We completed the tour, walked the museum, then walked across the dam itself.     



Images From The Road:

We captured a number of images as we drove from point "A" to point "B".  The scenery was just so different for us that we just had to capture a few images right from the car. 


Please Note:  Click on any image for more specific information about it.  Clicking on the little map will bring up a satellite image showing where we were when the image was taken.  Camera setting information can also be found.

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