Review of the 3 Day National Park Explorer From Vegas
After a few days of enjoying the sights & sounds of Sin City, my husband and I were really looking forward to getting out on the road and discovering some of America’s famous national parks on the 3 Day National Park Explorer From Las Vegas.
We were in for a real treat – the tour turned out to be an incredible experience, and the perfect antidote to the craziness of Vegas!
Day 1 – Zion, Bryce Canyon & Fun Around The Campfire
We made our merry way to the tour meeting point – which, being located under the 1,149 feet tall Stratosphere Tower at the end of the Strip – wasn’t exactly hard to find. After being greeted by our tour guide Rachel & saying hello to our fellow travellers, we were on the road.
There were 14 of us in a comfy air-conditioned minibus, with a trailer behind that provided ample space for everyone’s luggage. The size of the group was just right – many similar tours are done on huge coaches but the smaller size of the group made this feel far more personal.
Before we knew it, and after a stop for refreshments/restrooms, we were in the picturesque Zion National Park, home of towering red sandstone cliffs and famous hiking trails. We were given maps and a detailed run-down of the best things to do, plus a lunch pack – then had several hours to explore at our leisure.We chose to sit on the cool grass under a HUGE tree and enjoy our lunch gazing out at the striking scenery, do a bit of gentle hiking and also travel around on the bus loop listening to the commentary.
Later in the afternoon we arrived at Bryce Canyon – less well known than its larger cousin the Grand Canyon, but some think (and we didn’t disagree) it’s actually more scenic. We enjoyed trekking around the rim and checking out the famous “hoodoo” rock formations from above – other members of the group descended further into the canyon itself, be advised you need decent walking shoes for this!
After a good few hours exploring Bryce, we were taken to the camping ground for the night, where we all shared an alfresco dinner together and a good old American campfire, complete with cold beers, toasted marshmallows and s’mores (marshmallows and melted Herseys chocolate in between two biscuits … yum!). We had chosen the hotel lodging option, and slept soundly after an adventurous day!
Day 2 – Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley
The second day of the tour was personally my favourite – it was a day full of one brilliant experience after another. First stop was the Glen Canyon Dam over Lake Powell, similar to the Hoover Dam – a very picturesque spot for some lunch, with an informative visitor centre and a very high bridge you can walk over to admire the views.
After that there was an optional excursion to a Antelope Canyon, an underground “slot” canyon with world-famous sandstone formations that attract photographers from all over to try and capture their beauty. After descending into the Canyon, we were taken through by a Navajo expert guide, who was also happy to give advice on the best settings on your camera/smartphone to get great pics. The canyon was stunning, almost otherworldly – there’s a bit of climbing involved to get through it, but nothing too strenuous.
Next up was what, for me, was the highlight of the whole trip – Monument Valley National Park. A sacred place for the native Navajo tribe, it provides the world-famous backdrop for many a Western movie. We explored the visitor centre and took lots of photos, then were taken on a fantastic Jeep tour around the park, getting right up close to the amazing rock formations.
We were even treated to a flute performance by a few of the Navajo native Americans, then as the sun went down, the women of the tribe cooked a fabulous meal of tacos on local bread, washed down with a special green tea that was very refreshing after a long hot day. We absolutely loved Monument Valley – it’s a very peaceful, spiritual place – and are determined to go back one day. We were advised to wake up early (around 5am) the next day to catch the sunrise over the park – it was magical and well worth it!
Day 3 – The Finale, A Day At The Grand Canyon And Getting Our Kicks On Route 66
The third and final day was spent almost entirely at the Grand Canyon. There was much excitement on the bus as we made our approach, with occasional gaps in the trees rewarding us with tantalizing glimpses of the canyon every so often. We were lucky enough to come across some wild elk on the way, and Rachel pulled the bus over so we could take photos (from a safe distance!).
The bus dropped us off just a few yards from the rim, and we were given a packed lunch and a detailed explanation of the various viewing points we could explore. We had chosen to do the optional helicopter flight so we had around 2 hours free, whereas those not flying had around 3-4 hours. We spent our time strolling along the rim looking out with wonder at the view and taking lots of photos, and keeping an eye out for the famous endangered Californian Condor flying overhead – we didn’t spot one, but our Aussie tour-mates were lucky enough to get one on camera.
After that we were whisked off to go on our helicopter flight, which was simply amazing. I’d highly recommend you do it – there’s no better way to appreciate the scale and beauty of the canyon, and you only live once right? We got a good hour of flight time over the canyon, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It’s very difficult to describe the magnificence of the Grand Canyon or to adequately capture a photo of it that really does it justice – all I can say is, if you’re in the vicinity, go and see it! This tour is one of the few that go to the South Rim, which is the most stunning. A lot of tours from Vegas go to the West Rim, which is nowhere near as scenic – make sure you find out which rim you’re visiting before booking.
After departing the canyon to head back to Vegas we were a little sad as we thought the tour was over – but Rachel had one more surprise in store for us. Our final stop-off point was an amazing all-American diner called the Snow Cap, on a little piece of highway that still remains from the historic Route 66. It was fantastic – there were loads of old automobiles to take pictures of, plus lots of tongue-in-cheek pieces of kitcsh Americana dotted around. The owners of the diner are pranksters, pretending to squirt mustard at people and handing out pieces of hay to people who asked for a straw – it was great fun and I enjoyed the best burger, fries and milkshake I’d had in my whole 10 day trip to the US.
The final stretch back to Vegas was around a 3-4 hour drive, during which most people slept – we had packed a lot into three days! I can’t recommend this tour highly enough if you’re heading to Las Vegas and want to see the national parks in a relatively short space of time – the amount of ground you cover is amazing, plus you benefit from the local knowledge of having an expert guide. Rachel couldn’t do enough for us, really going the extra mile – even to the extent of making sure the beer we’d bought was placed in our hotel room fridges well in advance of us arriving (something the Aussies were very grateful for!).
If you want to see some amazing natural wonders, travel efficiently and in comfort, make friends, and take some truly amazing pics to make your Facebook friends jealous – then this tour is definitely for you. Book the 3 Day National Park Explorer in advance to ensure your seat on the trip – they’re very popular and spaces are limited to maintain the “small group” feel that makes it so special.
About the author
Jamie is a member of the Marketing team at AttractionTix. Her passions in life include travel, festivals, food and her dog Rosie, not in any particular order. Her top travel experience was a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon during a trip to Las Vegas.