The final part of my road trip around Utah and Arizona carries on from Bryce Canyon…
Day 9 – Bryce Canyon National Park to Las Vegas
Today will mark your final leg of the road trip as you venture into Zion National Park. The drive down Highways 89 and 9 to reach Zion the provides the kind of red-rock views that have become increasingly familiar but never less interesting.
Zion itself is very different to any national park you’ve visited so far. Most have been typically vast in scale, the star features generously spaced out with fairly barren areas in between. Zion packs a lot more in a smaller area. But that does not mean that the towering red and white rock peaks are any less spectacular. It just means that you have to be ready for a constant feast for the eyes. And Zion has a colourful charm that really makes it stand out from the rest of the parks. The red rock is redder than anywhere you’ve been so far while the layers of white rock add variation to the colour. And when you drive down Zion Canyon you’ll find trees and even grass lining the Virgin river that flows through the canyon’s centre.
If you’re short on time then the drive through Zion Canyon is the way to go. Along the way there are some good short walks with plenty of interesting things to discover including the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools. But if you’re up for taking on a bit more of a challenge then the Angels Landing trail is definitely the way to go. I met some people who said this was their favourite hike of all the parks they’ve visited. But it is not for the faint hearted. At times the trail narrows to just 5ft, 1,500ft above the canyon floor, while the final ascent to the top is an energy sapping struggle. But the view at the top is unbelievable and well worth the struggles.
Something else I wanted to mention about Zion is the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. The tunnel is an engineering feat: a 9ft wide, 5,600ft long tunnel cut through the sandstone of Zion, 225ft in the year. This follows through to 3 and a half miles worth of switchbacks and, while the queue of cars caused by the tunnel traffic lights will prevent you from tackling the switchbacks on your own, they’re still great fun to drive.
From Zion head on the freeway (15) back to Vegas.
Day 10 – Las Vegas
This is your final full day in the States and Vegas is a great place to finish off the road trip. Partly, because it provides fantastic contrast to all of the things you’ve seen so far: epic natural beauty versus excessive human indulgence. But secondly because Vegas is a great place to just unwind. Spas, bars, good food, great entertainment, it’s a great place to kick back, relax and allow your brain to recover from all of the overhwhelming things you’ve seen. So indulge. Catch a show, go shopping or even ride a roller coaster more than 1,000ft above the strip. Either way, like everywhere else you’ve been, Vegas is an unforgettable place.
Day 11 – Las Vegas
Today is the day of departure. Use the chance for a bit of last minute shopping or go hunting for souvenirs. As your flight takes off from Vegas look out for the rigid boundaries of a city famous for finding humanity at it’s most excessive and then let your eyes gaze to the vast, spectacular wilderness beyond. The contrast is extraordinary and it provides a fitting ending to an awesome trip.