Adventure Has A Voice
Updated: Jun 13
Adventure speaks to me. Sometimes she whispers..sometimes she roars. And I can never get enough. The very thing that drew me to becoming a travel agent was my obsession with experiencing new destinations. I love the planning, researching, details, and discovery that go into a creative itinerary.
I started preparing our 2022 family vacation back in July of 2021, when Covid was still wreaking havoc. Travel was at a standstill, and that left me with plenty of time for planning. After careful consideration, I decided we should stay in the U.S. and venture out to the Southwest and National Parks. It had been on my bucket list, and now was the perfect time. My younger two would be out of college in May, and we could explore the parks before it was both too hot and crowded. As I always do, I looked at various itineraries from tour books, blogs, and I also looked extensively through Trip Advisor for reviews on excursions, hotels, and restaurants. And now it was time to plan my trip!
Our vacation started with a flight into Phoenix and ended with us returning home from Las Vegas. It was a whirlwind, on the go, days packed full vacation...and one that we will never forget. Please see the details of our travels, and hopefully it will help you plan your next great adventure!
May 18: Day 1
SCOTTSDALE - 1 Nite
We had a morning flight on American Airlines from Boston to Phoenix. From there, we checked into Sheraton Desert Oasis Villas in Scottsdale for a one nite stay. The hotel rooms were clean and spacious with king size beds in each room and a living room area. We spent the evening with our old friends Joe and Michelle and enjoyed fabulous home cooking, which included Michelle's delicious flank steak marinade. We were treated to an incredible dinner and quality time with lifelong friends. It was a great start to our vacation. The Scottsdale landscape is one filled with beautiful mountain views and a variety of cactus as far as the eye can see. #Scottsdale #Sheraton #SheratonDesertOasis #Pricklypear #family #vacation #friendship #travel #Southwest #adventure #desert
Scottsdale Landscape, Michelle and me, and our dinner at the Cardini's house.
Detour: Between Scottsdale and Sedona (about 37 minutes from Sedona) is Montezuma Castle National Monument. We made a 20 minute stop, and it was well worth it. #MontezumaCastle www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm
May 19: Day 2
SEDONA - 1 Nite
Today was our day in Sedona..a place full of spirituality, serenity, and positivity...not to mention the hiking, shops, restaurants, and amazing red rock views. It's a majestic place for sure. In the morning, we hiked Bell Rock, a must stop in the area, took in Cathedral Rock, and visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This is a church built right into the mountain. I was moved to tears, honestly. I lit a candle for my mother in the chapel and spent a bit of time reflecting and praying. It's a magical chapel. If you need healing, this is a place you must visit. After lunch at 89 Agave Cantina (5 stars), we had our Broken Arrow Pink Jeep Tour, which was a blast. The kids loved four wheeling over the red rocks and getting the history of the area. We spent our nite at A Sunset Chateau - a 5 star B&B - which I highly recommend. Everything from the bedding to decor to quaintness of the B&B was top notch, and our stay also included a delicious breakfast. They have a pool, hot tub, and offer plenty of shade in the outdoor area. Let me end by saying, you should spend two nites in Sedona (at least). It's that magnificent.
#sedona #chapeloftheholycross #bellrock #cathedralrock #89agavecantina #pinkjeeptour #brokenarrow #ASunsetChateau #hiking #familyhike #nature #explore #naturelovers #serenebeauty #getoutside #travellers #traveladdict #oakcreekcanyon #vacation #westforktrail #serene #spiritual
Must sees in Sedona: Bell Rock & Cathedral Rock, a scenic drive of Oak Creek Canyon, Chapel of the Holy Cross
** Regrets: Not going to Airport Mesa Viewpoint (best views of Sedona) and not visiting Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.
Visiting Bell Rock in Sedona
PINK JEEP TOURS ROCK!
Chapel of the Holy Cross & the Jesus sculpture took my breath away
May 20: Day 3
Grand Canyon - 1 Nite
Before heading out to the Grand Canyon, we were able to fit one last morning hike in at the West Fork Trail. It was an easy and enjoyable four mile (guessing here) trail before our 2.5 hour drive to the South Rim. www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/west-fork-trail
The Girls found a little nook at West Fork
West Fork Trail in Sedona
Before you get to the South Rim, you'll drive through Kaibab National Forest, which is very cool and on the way. We arrived in the Grand Canyon later in the afternoon. We checked into the Thunderbird Lodge, and after a short walk around the rim, we prepared for our dinner at El Tovar. I made reservations way in advance because this restaurant is an American landmark, and although the structure and ambience of the restaurant are something special, the food was average...at best. Man, were we disappointed. Hopefully, they sort that out and get their kitchen up to speed. Especially, because the prices are exorbitant ($$$$). The Thunderbird Lodge is just okay (2.5 stars). Considering all the exercise you're getting in, it would have been nice if their beds were a lot more comfortable...and walls not so thin. It's slim pickins though at the Canyon, unless you stay out of the park. And I would avoid that.
**Tip: Get your national park pass online before making your trip. You'll be able to use it at almost every national park, saving you $$$.
Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon
May 21: Day 4
LAKE POWELL - 2 Nites
VRBO House Rental - laundry will get done!
In the morning, Dave, Megan, and Fiona hiked the rigorous Bright Angel Trail. I went down partially and put in a good 1.5 miles...but that was it for me. The incline on the return is crazy and takes double the time on the return. The weather was fabulous though..a cool 55 degrees in the morning, thankfully. Dave and the girls put in a good 3 hour hike and were pretty happy with their morning exploration of the canyon.
We took our time driving along the South Rim, stopping to take pics along the way. We parked at Desert View Watchtower and took in even more magnificent views. I don't think it's possible to get 'enough' of the GC...it's just that amazing. Lake Powell would be our destination for the next two nites for even more sightseeing and some relaxation. The plan was to to see Horseshoe Bend on arrival and then go to our 2 p.m. tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. Somewhere along the way though, we started to question the time change. Navigation/phones was giving us a one hour earlier arrival time. We started to panic that we wouldn't make our afternoon tour. As it turns out, we were an hour early for our tour..whose location is 10 miles from the (Utah) time change. It is not Utah..it is AZ. Navigation, however, was telling us a different story...very strange.
Lower Antelope Canyon is a fabulous excursion to plan when in Page, AZ. This is a DO NOT MISS when in this area. Our photographs give you an idea of how beautiful the underground canyon is; Canyon colors range in red, orange, and pink hues; It's breathtaking.
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
After our tour, we made our way to picturesque Horseshoe Bend, which was five minutes down the road. Horseshoe Bend and that part of the Colorado River are a section of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The Colorado River formed an estimated 1,000 ft deep, 270º horseshoe shaped bend in Glen Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend has been featured as a landmark for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It is one of the most photographed sites in northern Arizona. The cost to drive in is only $10. (National Park Pass doesn't work here)
May 22: Day 5
Today was our day to relax and take in Lake Powell, beautifully lined with a mulititude of reddish hues in sandstone walls. Booking a boat tour was always the plan...I just never got to it. I figured it was May, off season, and reservations wouldn't be an issue. I misjudged that one, big time! Always make reservations (I know this!!) After calling about five boat tour companies and finding out they were all booked solid, I became even more determined. I'm just not a quitter. I called up a random tour company that doesn't even do pontoon tours of Lake Powell, and asked if anyone would be available to give us a tour. And, man did I get lucky! The owner of Surf's Up Lake Powell, Mike Reynolds, told me it was his day off, but he'd be more than happy to give us a private boat tour! This must be my lucky day! Anyway, Mike was personable, professional, and just AWESOME! We met him at his sparkling new pontoon (which, as it turns out, he will be renting to people..but doesn't normally captain). Surf's Up is all about lake surfing, wakeboarding, and water sports. That's where his expertise as a captain comes in. We got an amazing 3 hour tour of scenic Lake Powell, and the weather couldn't have been nicer at 80 degrees..just perfect. Dave and Meg even jumped in to cool off.
Tonite we had dinner reservations at The Rainbow Room at the Lake Powell Resort. This restaurant offers AMAZING VIEWS of Lake Powell. It's worth it to go there just for the scenery, but I will say, our dinner was outstanding. This restaurant wasn't just about ambience, it delivered on food quality. All of our meals were incredible. www.lakepowell.com/dining/rainbow-room/
**We were able to use our national park pass to drive into the Lake Powell Resort drive, where The Rainbow Room is located.
May 23: Day 7
BRYCE CANYON - 2 Nites at Zion
Hoodoo you see?
And off to Bryce Canyon to see the hoodoos we go! What are hoodoos? They are really cool orange, red, and pinkish limestone spirals. After taking in views of the stunning Bryce amphitheater, we did Sunrise Point hike, Navajo Loop Trail, and a detour to Queen's Garden Trail. No cactus here...you're walking through a forest. It was a great day..long hike down and, of course, tiring coming up. We dressed in layers because the temp ranged from 55 to 80. This is a park not to be missed; the different landscape made it all worth our efforts. At the end of the day, we made out way back to Zion, via Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, for a 2 nite stay at Flanigan's Inn. www.flanigansinn.com (Shuttle Stop #3 - walking distance to park entrance) #hoodoos #BryceCanyon #SunrisePoint #NavajoLoopTrail #QueensGarden #forest #FlanigansInn #FlanigansResort #FlanigansZion #sandstone #cliffs
May 24: Day 8
ZION NATIONAL PARK: Stunning scenery, rock monoliths, and a geological showcase of massive sandstone cliffs.
We all slept wonderfully at Flanigan's Inn. We had terrace rooms with outdoor seating and views of the redrocks. The deer come right up to you on property and aren't shy at all. I would recommend upgrading to balcony rooms because they are on the 2nd floor, with even better views. The rooms are a good size, and our bathroom was on the larger size with a jacuzzi and walk in shower. Their is a pool and hot tub, that we all enjoyed. After breakfast, the family set out to conquer Angel's Landing (5.4 miles - 4h roundtrip), one of the world's most renowned hikes. I passed on this and decided to check out the shops downtown Springdale and relax by the pool. Everything I heard about Angel's Landing convinced me the hike would be too difficult for me, and after the family returned, successfully and uninjured, and told me all about it, I had made the right decision. They all said it was a strenuous, demanding, and exhausting hike. But, they all loved it and were ecstatic to have hiked it. Like troopers, after a late lunch, Dave and the girls joined me for the Lower Emerald Pools Hike. Really, this is an easy paved hike (1.2 miles - 50 min tops start to finish). The entrance is across from Zion Lodge. Momma needed an effortless hike! After our trek, we made our way over to Zion Adventure Company (next door to Flanigan's Inn), and we got fitted for water boots, water (scuba) socks, and a pole for our early morning hike to The Narrows. #Zion #ZionNationalPark #NationalParkPass #AngelsLanding #TheNarrows #LowerEmeraldPools #Difficulthike #ZionShuttle #besthike
Family Morning Hike to Angel's Landing (minus me)
Climbing the Chains!!!!!
Zion National Park offers free shuttle service within the park to the trailheads. So, if you're staying at a hotel in Springdale, you simply walk to the shuttle stop on the main strip (there are many), and it takes you to the park. Once inside, you continue to the trailhead of your choice. Easy peasy. If you're staying close to the park entrance (like we did), you can just walk through and take the shuttle from there. The morning shuttle is very busy..so staying close to the entrance is a bonus.
I will NEVER forget hiking The Narrows!!!! BEST DAY EVER!!!
May 25 and 26: Days 9 & 10
After another heavenly nite of sleep, alarms were set for 6:15a...because this morning, Dave, the girls, and myself were hiking The Narrows. I had been looking forward to this hike, the way the rest of the family was excited about Angel's Landing. The online pictures are extraordinary. I couldn't wait to experience it firsthand. The boys were sleeping in.
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and one of the most popular. It requires hiking in the Virgin River. The Narrows is the last shuttle stop in the park, and it took us 30 minutes to get there (and that's because we got inside the park super early). Normally, it takes a good hour to get to the Temple of Sinawava (Narrows trailhead). Arriving within the first hour of shuttle service meant we got to enjoy the beauty of the rock forms in this slot canyon without a lot of tourists. It was quiet, serene, and water levels were easy to navigate through. To say this hike was awe-inspiring is an understatement. DO NOT MISS.
The Narrows Outfitters:
In addition to Zion Adventures, there are a few outfitters in Springdale. Right next to the park entrance is the Cable Mountain Lodge, and Zion Outfitters is located on property. They were busy! I'm glad we got outfitted at Zion Adventures. Anyway, I highly recommend renting the proper gear and getting your rentals the day before to avoid early morning lines/traffic. I saw other bloggers commented that you would have to pay for an extra day if you rented the day before, but that did not happen to us.
Also, on our hike, we took notice in quite a few people wearing a variety of footwear including: sandals, sneakers, quality hiking shoes, and even Crocs. This is not advisable. The water in the Narrows is fast moving and can be dangerous. Get the proper gear. Do not listen to anyone who says you can use your own stuff. This is a small price to pay for your safety..your kids safety. I believe it cost $26 p/p to rent gear. #zionadventures #zionoutfitter
We had reservations tonite at The Spotted Dog (5 star), which was another amazing meal. They had great reviews on Trip Advisor. The standouts were the NY strip, cooked to perfection, red trout, which was outstanding, and the meatloaf (elk, bison, beef) was also a big hit. Everyone said their dinner was fabulous. I highly recommend making reservations here. www.flanigans.com/dine #TheSpottedDog #Goodeats #foodie #Springdale #Utah
After checkout, we were headed to Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch, an all inclusive Arizona dude ranch for the last two nites of our vacation. This family friendly ranch is owned and operated by our friends, JP and Tricia McCormick and family. We had a two bedroom suite, which offered a king bedroom with bathroom and adjoining bedroom with two bunk bed sets, living room area, and another bathroom. The entire ranch is designed southwestern in theme, from bedding to main hall, to the dining area. It was comfortable, clean, and the food was delicious. There is so much I want to say about the ranch because it really is a remarkable and highly rated (Trip Advisor) dude ranch. Everyone is approachable and sociable...from the owners, to the help, to the other guests. Tricia, JP, and family go out of their way to make you feel welcome and include you in ranch activities. Colby (our 20 year old) was involved in an old fashioned shootout our first nite. And on our second evening, with all the guests gathered around the fire pit, we were treated to Cayden McCormick's singing and guitar playing, while the girls held baby goats, listening and stargazing. That all happened after the spectacular views of the sun setting. Big pause here...the sunsets are breathtaking!
#stagecoachtrailsguestranch #stagecoachtrails #duderanch #Arizonaduderanch #wranglers #cowboys #horses #horsebackriding #Arizonasunsets #BestDudeRanches #cowboys #wranglers #Familyduderanches #allinclusiveduderanch #familyvacation #stagecoach #wagons #Yucca
Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch Yucca, AZ
The Wranglers at Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch: Tristan and Cayden McCormick
On property, they have horses, goats, a donkey, the family dogs, and a llama. Horse riding was scheduled for 6am and 6pm (due to the heat...about 100° mid afternoon), ATVs, wagon rides, and shooting are also available. My family enjoyed the shooting range, horseback riding, pool, taking in the scenery of the Old West, and walking around the terrain. The ranch has a wide collection of artistic pieces ranging from new to artifacts, including: old wagons, a stagecoach, prints, literature, ceramics, authentic Native American weapons, and sculptures throughout the property. So, this destination is not only for people seeking a dude ranch experience and nature but also for those interested in southwestern art. As an artist myself, I was very attracted to the creative, cultural, and decorative items on display.
May 27: Day 10 (Get Me Home!!!)
After another delicious breakfast..this time french toast, and after giving hugs to all of our friends at Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch, we were Las Vegas bound for our flight home.
Since the Hoover Dam was on the way to Vegas, we did a 30 minute detour - on and off the highway - and got a good glimpse of the American Landmark. It would have been nice to do a tour, but it was the end of our trip, and everyone was a bit fried. www.nps.gov/articles/nevada-and-arizona-hoover-dam.htm
*Obviously not doing the tour was a regret
We had planned to spend the day people watching in casinos, do a little gambling, shopping, drinking, and then make our way to dinner for sushi. We had a midnite flight, due to an airline schedule change. You gotta love schedule changes!! If you can help it, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE RED EYE! IT'S EXHAUSING! We arrived in Las Vegas around 2:30 pm, with temps nearly100°, and parked at The Venetian (free parking at the hotels), as our dinner reservation (not until 8:00 pm) was at Sushisamba, www.sushisamba.com, located inside that hotel. BEST SUSHI EVER!!!!! We spent the afternoon walking through the different themed casinos (Colby won $85 on a slot machine), and relaxing at The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmoplitan. We indulged in a drink called 'Verbena,' which is a freaky kinda drink for sure..worth trying, lol. Feels like poprocks on your tongue (and their most popular drink on the property). After a full day of walking, weird sightings, glam & glitz, and some raunchiness on the strip (lots of escort cards being handed out), we were ready to head home. #HooverDam #LasVegas #TheVenetian #Sushisamba #ChandelierBar #Verbena #Vegasbaby #Vivalasvegas #casinos #slotmachine
Viva Las Vegas! Cosmopolitan, Paris, & Venetian
I hope this itinerary helps you with your planning. The two things I would have done differently, if I could do a redo:
- Book flights roundtrip Las Vegas; the airfare would have been slightly more cost effective. We would have started our trip at Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch and ended our trip at Zion. Proximity to Las Vegas at each end is 2.5 hours.
- Booked Sedona for two nights. SEDONA IS EXTRAORDINARY.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find my daily recap w/pics on my insta page: tinahillloves