Updated: Apr 15, 2019
So, I was able to score an awesome deal on Skyscanner.com to Las Vegas RT for $96 so naturally I purchased it! First of all it's Vegas and even if you're not into the party scene (like me) there are awesome state and national parks surrounding the outrageous city that will blow your mind - KABOOM. Here is the sample weekend itinerary that I have planned (with prices) and i've highlighted the tools I use to get the best prices on my travels. TOTAL PRICE for 2: $500 (Gas price was estimated and cheaper Airbnb's are possible!)
Day 1: Touchdown Vegas 10:30 am
We land early morning and we'll grab our car from Thrifty Dollar - I was lucky enough to score another great deal on our rental for $17 a day with a 3% rebate by booking it through Ebates!
The plan is to grab some waters and snacks - load up the car and hit the road by 11 am. The final destination is Zion National Park for an overnight stay but there are SO many places to see along the way to Zion. I use Roadtrippers.com to plan my road trips as they give you lots of filter options to find interesting stops along the way to your final destination. From Vegas, Zion is a 2.5 hour drive (easy peasy!) but it'll probably end up being more like a 6 hour drive with all the places I want to stop into, hike and explore.
Stop 1: Valley of Fire State Park:
Valley of Fire is about 1 hour from Vegas, so halfway to Zion and it's definitely a stop for the books. It's a $10 entry and well worth the chump change as you can hike, explore fire valley slot canyon, see the fire wave (just to name a few hikes and famous rock formations) while you drive one of the most scenic drives in the US once you turn off of I15-N to the Valley of Fire Highway.
Once you get into the park the rock formations will be obvious to you but some famous formations include the Beehives, Fire Cave, Arch Rock and climbing Atlatl Rock.
Make a left on Mouse Tank Road and you can Hike Balanced Rock or take the petroglyph canyon trail up ahead to see the famous Mouse Tank basin - a natural red sandstone rock basin. By the way, have seen petroglyphs before or even know what they are? I don't have time to explain it here but you can read about them in my article on New Mexico where I was first introduced to the unique pieces of Indian history.
Rainbow Vista trail will take you to the Rainbow Vista of Valley of Fire where the canyons, domes, towers, ridges and valleys were carved from sand deposited 150 million years ago, during the time when the dinosaurs walked the earth.
Listed below are a few other recommended hikes ↓ (*No Photos are my own)
Fire Canyon Silica Dome Hike
About a 1/2 mile hike. In this region, forces within the earth have been powerful enough to cause thousands of feet of surface rock to fold, break, and in some areas push several miles from their original location. Today, erosion has worn away the top of one great fold, exposing the sharply angles layer of rock, and creating numerous canyons. Silica Dome is where some climactic scenes for Star Trek: Generations was filmed. Look closely at the top of the dome and on rocks to the west for some repair spots where scaffolding was once attached. Captain Kirk meets his end on the south side of the dome at the bottom of a draw, after a scaffold collapses with him on it.
Directions: From the park entrance, follow the park road to the Visitor Center turnoff. Follow the road past the Visitor Center, and the turnoff for the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome lookout will be well marked on the right.
Pink Pastel Canyon
The loop is 2 miles in length, over fairly level terrain with just a few brief climbs and descents; sometimes along soft sand but mostly hard rock.
Fire Wave Hike
About a 45 minute hike and 1.5 miles round trip with 175 feet of elevation change.
Directions: go southeast on Valley of Fire Highway. Reach the park’s west entrance after 14.5 miles. Drive another 3.5 miles and turn left, following a sign for the visitor center and Mouse’s Tank. Go a tenth of a mile and bear left to stay on White Domes Road, bypassing the visitor center. Drive another 3.7 miles to Parking Lot #3, which is on the left across from the start of the trail.
White Domes Trail Hike
Hiking loop with colorful rocks and caves -White Domes Road is one of the park’s excellent scenic routes.
Day 2: Zion National Park (Please note no pictures are my own):
Once you get your fill of Fire Valley you are only about an hour outside of Zion! If you have time, there is a really cool ghost town named Grafton just outside Zion. It is a little bit inconvenient to drive to because you have to back track on another road, but I plan on visiting the ghost town on our way back to Vegas. I have found a ton of reasonably priced AirBnbs in Zion and also just outside the park. We will be staying in a fully furnished cabin with a kitchen and shower/bathroom for $115 a night. I also found a lot of "glamping" alternatives as well if you're looking for a more intimate experience in the desert. We are even considering staying in Vegas because it is still only a 2.5 hour drive to Zion so if you wanted to party downtown after Fire Valley and wake up early to be at the park by 10, you're good!
There are many hikes to experience in Zion and the two that I have picked based on time, experience and difficulty (being someone who does NOT hike at all) is observation point and Angels Landing. Be careful and do your homework on knowing whether or not you need a permit to hike. I know for those 2 particular hikes it does not require a permit. But hiking to the Emerald Pools will require a permit. I've heard the Narrows is an awesome hike, but to be careful and aware of flash floods so although a guide isn't mandatory, it is recommended.