Updated: Apr 17, 2020
AHHH! I'm so excited to finally share the details of the very first hiking trip my husband, Colton, and I took on July 18-26th, 2018! This trip was truly a dream come true. We were headed to see so many of the beautiful hiking destinations I had been saving to my Pinterest Board, "Bucket List Places" throughout all of my college years!
For details on how to start planning a trip like this, read my blog post entitled, "Planning a multi National Park Van Voyage.' In this post you'll learn how we managed to see 8 different national parks over the course of 2 different 1 week vacations, all while living out of a campervan!
This post will be dedicated to describing the hikes we conquered, the campgrounds we parked in, and much more!
Our Trip Route:
Day 1: Flew into and spent the night exploring Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 2 & 3: Valley of Fire State Park (D) on the way to Zion National Park (E)
Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park (F)
Day 5: Arches National Park (G)
Day 6-8: Grand Canyon Nation Park (H)
Day 9: Sedona, AZ (I)
Day 1: Flying into Las Vegas
This was my first time in Las Vegas. I basically thought the casinos would be lively and loud when our plane's wheels hit the ground. I remember vividly driving around the town in the middle of the afternoon thinking it was more like a ghost town at the time (this definitely changed come 9 pm). We stopped for an In-N-Out Burger before heading to Walmart to load up the campervan for the week.
We chose to make this a roundtrip for the Escape campervan, but I do want to share that this company allows you to pick up and drop off the vans wherever one of their stores are!
Click on our van, we lovingly named Blanche, The Green Machine, to browse #EscapeCampervans website!
Though various models of vans are available at Escape Campervans, each come with a mini fridge, gas stove, and pump sink. They just launched Jeep Wranglers to rent as campervans- what a way to adventure!
Ideas on what groceries to buy for a trip like this:
*We strongly encourage all Vegas visitors to stop at Hash House A Go Go for breakfast, you will NOT be disappointed!
Day 2 & 3: Valley of Fire State Park / Zion National Park
Valley of Fire State Park
A short, 59 minute drive from Las Vegas and just over 2 hours from Zion, this park is amazing! I thought we would take a quick, scenic drive through the park. HA! We ended up spending over 2 hours climbing the brilliantly orange rock. It is a must-see stop for anyone venturing to Zion from the Vegas area!
Zion National Park
Our main hike: Observation Point
Length: 8 miles round trip / 2,148 ft elevation change
Difficulty level: Strenuous
Time it took us: 8 am- 2 pm
*Be prepared for plans to change! We had planned to hike Angel's Landing which was closed during our trip due to flash flood damage. We've made it a pretty common habit to check in with park rangers at the main visitor center area when arriving to parks. They offer great insight on current trail conditions and closures as well as suggest trails based off of your hiking experience.
Echo Canyon via Observation Point Trail
This was my first strenuous hike. In the past, Colton and I had done hikes around northeastern Ohio that were unknown and easy, at best. The night we drove into the park and learned that Angel's Landing was closed. I was initially relieved, having not been sure of the frightening heights the trail is known for. Our next choice would have been The Narrows, but rangers encouraged hikers elsewhere; flood season had caused large pieces debris to be in the water. So we ended up upon Observation Point, a hike I can still say I am proud to have accomplished (it actually ends up being higher elevation than Angel's Landing!)
Hubs atop Mount Baldy via Observation Point Trail
Our campground: Watchman Campground
Reservations: Recommended during peak season (Feb-Nov) any other time, first come, first serve
Cost: $20/night tent sites
Bathroom situation: Drinking water, flush toilets & utility sinks only. No showers!
*Showers are hard to come by on trips like these- bring bath wipes and extra deodorant!
"Zion" (in Christian thought) the heavenly city or kingdom of heaven.
The park is beautiful simply driving through! Springdale, UT (the nearby town) is really good for souvenirs & yummy food. We recommend The Spotted Dog for dinner, but maybe don't wear your sweaty hiking clothes like we did!
Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park
Drive time from Zion: ~3 hours
Our main hike: The Queens/Navajo Loop
Length: 2.9 mile loop / 623 feet elevation change
Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate
Time it took us: 2.5 hours
*Inspiration Point is an beautiful spot for a break & lunch
The Queens/Navajo Loop
Our campground: Ruby's Inn RV Park and Campground, a few minute drive to the park entrance
Reservations: This was not our original plan, but we were able to claim a stop for the night
Cost: $35/night tent sites
Bathroom situation: Showers, toilets & laundry available
This town is really cool. Everything is named after whoever Ruby is/was. It was very touristy and Western theme, it made for a fun evening exploring the local shops.
*Pack a few extra quarters for the potential of laundry machines- it was a glorious surprise!
This area was wild to me...you enter the park driving through forest and all the sudden the bright orange hoodoos seem to appear out of nowhere.
"Hoodoo"a column or pinnacle of weathered rock.
Bryce's hoodoos form due to going through hundreds of freeze-thaw cycles annually.
Day 5: Arches National Park
Drive time from Bryce: ~3 hours
Our main hike: Fiery Furnace Guided Tour
Length: ~2 miles
Difficulty level: Moderate
Time it took us: ~3 hours, lots of stops were made, learning about how the arches form
Balanced Rock & Double Arch
PERMIT REQUIRED TO HIKE IN FIERY FURNACE
I was a little unsure about hiking with a group for a tour. The park ranger had us think about big moments in life that shaped/formed us & related this constant growth & destruction the earth has to form arches. It was actually really beautiful!
Colton climbed Double Arch
Our campground: Slickrock Campground
Cost: $29/night tent sites
Bathroom situation: Showers & toilets available
*Moab, UT was my favorite city to explore!
You can see a lot in one or two days due to being able to drive to parking lots only a short walk from a lot of arches! This was my favorite park from the entire trip!
Day 6-8: Grand Canyon National Park
Drive from Arches: ~6 hours
*I know this is a lot of driving, but it was so awesome. We drove through a lot of No Man's Land, Utah. Beautiful scenery was scattered throughout the ENTIRE drive- lots of weaving around mountain ranges- like nothing I'd ever done before. There were a ton of cattle ranches and little western towns. It was a rarity to pass another driver on the road, but when we did it was a an elderly man with a cowboy hat who waved like he knew us all his life!
The Way Down:
Our main hike: Rim to river via the South Kaibab Trail
Length: 6.8 miles one way / 4,860 feet elevation change
(no water & very little shade)
Difficulty level: Strenuous
Time it took us: 4 hours / 5:30- 9:30 am
*BACKCOUNTRY PERMIT REQUIRED TO SPEND NIGHT UNDER THE RIM-BRING IT & ID WITH YOU! MUST DISPLAY BACKCOUNTRY PERMIT AT CAMPSITES!
Trekking poles will save you on this trail! It is A LOT of declining stairs and I found my knees tiring quickly. Invest in a good pair and it will allow you to shift the weight off your joints!
Our Campground: Bright Angel Campground
Reservations: No, but sites are 1st come, 1st serve- claimed via backcountry permits
Cost: $26 for backcountry permit- must be displayed at campsite
Bathroom Situation: Flush toilets & drinking water available
Prepare for the weather: It was 116 degrees in the shade and 120 in the sun- take advantage of the river! It was truly a life saver! We witnessed another hiker being lifted out via helicopter due to overheating.
Phantom Ranch has cabins available for rent & a little convenience store that sells refreshing lemonade and other food items. Fans are blaring full speed; we spent a few hours here playing cards to keep out of the smoldering heat.
We also purchased their sack lunches for a little over $20/each for the hike up. Each lunch consisted of a bagel, cream cheese, craisins, peanuts, oreos, apple, vitalyte, and a 3 inch summer sausage. This came in handy for us. We ate more of our food supply on the way down than anticipated. It was nice to not have to worry about packing extra food in our bags.
Hubs in the river, it was still cold for Mid July
Crossing the Colorado River via the South Kaibab Trail, an epic end to a challenging hike
The Way Back:
Our main hike: River to rim via the Bright Angel Trail
Length: 9.3 miles one way / 5,006 ft elevation gain
Difficulty level: Strenuous
Time it took us: 6.1 hours / 3:00-9:10 am- headlamps are handy when hiking this early
*Switchbacks are real, my friends- give yourself plenty of time!
When you FINALLY reach the top, we recommend El Tovar Lodge for lunch! The waitress laughed as we limped to the table, telling us she'd recognize the "Canyon Shuffle" anywhere!
Understandably so, we were exhausted and had chose to rent anot