You’ve landed in Las Vegas. The pinnacle of luxury, excess and overindulgence. But, Las Vegas is not the destination, it’s just part of the journey. Your real trip is not only a week in Zion National Park, but the jaunt from Las Vegas to Zion and what will be the ultimate day trip.
Leaving Las Vegas-Las Vegas Motor Speedway
You can’t leave Las Vegas without satisfying your need for speed. If you want to kick off the ultimate road trip right, book a session to drive the NASCAR Racing Experience on the Speedway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If you aren’t into driving, you can take a ride with a NASCAR crew member to get an exhilarating thrill on the track.
This experience runs anywhere from $250 to $4,000 depending on what package you choose. Pick from exotics such as Porsches and Ferraris or choose from an array of NASCAR race cars. What better way to spend your first hours on the road than spending it on the track!
Valley of Fire State Park
Touted as a park that is as good if not better than many national parks, you can’t miss Valley of Fire State Park on your road trip down Interstate 15. Driving straight through this fantastic part of the southwest will only take you fifteen minutes.
But, if you want to stop and stretch your legs, you can take in the scenery with a quick hike through the 1.5 mile Fire Wave. As you meander through sandy trails, the path turns to jagged sandstone, then red, fiery rocks that tumble and glide through to the most magnificent scenery in Nevada. If you have time, see petroglyphs as you walk the less than a mile down Petroglyph Canyon. Some of these petroglyphs date back to 4,000 years old, so this is definitely worth making time for.
Stop at Mouse’s Tank at the picnic area on your way back from seeing the petroglyphs and have a bite to eat in the picnic area. You’ll need to refuel for the next leg of your journey.
Virgin River Gorge
You are now deep in the middle of God’s country. The sky above meets the cliff faces and the Virgin River below that seems spiritual and has the reverence that only a place like this can bring.
Stop here at one of the pullouts that span the river at many points and take a moment to immerse yourself in the southwestern scenery. Take a quick walk down to the river and get your feet wet. It will be well worth the little amount of time it will take.
Snow Canyon State Park
You’ve traveled from Las Vegas and are over halfway to your destination. But, another stop is on the horizon and should not be overlooked. Snow Canyon State Park in St. George, Utah is a draw to anyone in the area due to its magnificent fossilized sandstone cliffs and canyons.
At 4,100 feet this environment is in a higher elevation, but is still in a desert climate. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in which the park lies, was established for the mere fact the desert tortoise needed a protected habitat. No building or developing is allowed in the area which makes this the perfect place for a state park.
A midday stroll or an action packed bike ride through the canyon might be on the docket before you continue onto your destination. Take a hike on one of the famous easy and quick trails such as the 1.2 mile Petrified Dunes Trail. This will take you passed the dunes that have fossilized and seem to be frozen in time.
The main attraction, is the Snow Canyon Paved Loop. This 18 mile loop through the red rock sandstone should be at the top of every adventurers list. Rent a bike right outside the park gates and start at the top at 3,960 feet. That way, there’s no other place to go other than down! Coast or speed down the path before you, as you see the gorgeous southwestern desert pass you. Go full tilt, and you could clock yourself going as fast as 30 mph. What a thrill!
Sitting out on one of the three terraced areas at the Cliffside Restaurant, looking over St. George, you can appreciate the oasis that the original settlers saw here when the area was settled in 1861 by Mormons looking for a better way of life. They found something special in St. George that lives on today not far from the gates of Zion.
The Cliffside Restaurant is no exception. The food is fabulous at this restaurant, but as the name implies, the view is also impeccable. Satisfy your hunger caused by activities of the day at this cliffside kitchen known for freshness and creativity with the menu. Try the Four Cheese and Pear Pasta or their signature Cliffside Burger, either meat-filled or meatless.
Sand Hollow State Park
Your belly is full and you still have some fun to have before getting to the gates of Zion. If you have enough time and didn’t spend too much time at Snow Canyon, consider renting an ATV at Sand Hollow State Park for an experience that tops all others.
Explore this fantastic gem in the desert by putting the petal to the metal along the soft hills and valleys of Sand MT OHV Area located within the state park. Enjoy the lake and the mountains and the joy of flying over giant sand hills as you explore the desert by ATV or dune buggy. You can rent OHVs (off -highway vehicles) from a retailer within the park and try what others say is the best way to experience the desert.
Grafton Ghost Town
Before you reach the town of Springdale take a last little jaunt to Grafton Ghost Town. Settled in 1859, this fertile Virgin River floodplain was a draw for many for farming and ranching. Looming in the shadows of the mountains of Zion, it was abandoned at the turn of the century due to opportunities in other thriving settlements.
However, you will find the settlement as it was left so long ago, which gives an understanding and appreciation for what it took to live in a time when the environment could be inhospitable.
By this time the light is waning and you are road weary but filled with equal parts, fulfillment and excitement as you await what comes next with your visit to Zion National Park. Springdale is considered the gates to Zion, as it sits right outside the park.
As you enter the town you will notice a change in terrain as the Virgin River gives life to the exploding flora that surrounds it. The Watchman peak towers over the town as if guarding it from the harsh elements of the outside world. You can see why settlers and the Native American before them found this place captivating as well as spiritual.
It is here that you will settle into your accommodations for the week and plan your itinerary for one of the most sought after vacation experiences available. Zion is not only a park that everyone wants to see, but it is an oasis in the desert waiting for YOU to explore. Settle in, relax and contemplate all the experiences you have had on your trek to Zion on this ultimate road trip.