National Park Road Trip in January Part 2: Utah National Parks in January
Day 6-7: Arches and Canyonland National Parks
The drive from Denver, CO to Moab, UT on I-70 was a nightmare because of snow, ice, and driving through mountains. Hannah drove all of this way since it was awful. We didn’t have chains on our tires, but Little Prius made it through. (Had we learned chains would definitely be needed more than 12 hours before we had to leave, we would’ve stopped by a store and grabbed some.)
Nevertheless, Arches and Canyonlands were AMAZING. We stopped at Canyonlands first and were going to stop at Dead Horse State Park, but were on a time crunch because of the dog and had one bar of gas so we couldn’t do a scenic drive in Canyonlands since we didn’t see a ton of it. Ultimately, it ended up working out well. For young kiddos, I created this Utah National Parks Hiking Journal which includes journaling pages for all 5 of Utah’s National Parks.
Arches has got to be one of the most fascinating, beautiful spots in the US. There weren’t that many crowds in January (a common complaint in the summer), but many local stores were closed until the spring. We went through this park in a day, but could’ve spent a couple of extra days there exploring more thoroughly.
We didn’t get to hike to Delicate Arch, but the many arches we did see were some of my favorite parts of the trip.
We also skipped Capitol Reef even though we saw a few signs for it. I’m glad we chose fewer places to spend more time at, but I’d still like to visit this fifth Utah National Park everyone forgets.
Day 8: Bryce Canyon
On our way to Zion National Park, we stopped by Bryce Canyon. (Around this time, we noticed our days progressively starting later.) Bryce Canyon is known for its collection of hoodoos, large rock spires. We briefly stopped by and walked both sunset and sunrise rim (which is dog friendly). The hike down to the hoodoos was a pure sheet of ice. Neither of us had spikes or chains on our shoes and even without Champ, I don’t think we would have done it. During the winter, I don’t think I would’ve made an extra trip for this since it was a bit out of our way, especially taking away from Zion.
In the summer, seeing the hoodoos from another perspective would be awesome.
Day 9: Zion National Park
Where do I begin? Arches was pretty incredible, but Zion was so vast and magnificent. Words don’t do this park justice.
We hiked the Emerald Pools trails which were muddy and some icy. This hike was so enjoyable and the views were astounding.
We kept hearing about Angel’s Landing so tackled this hike next. So…this trail was pure elevation at some parts, had thin trails with sharp drops, and no guard rail. I don’t like heights so this was a pretty terrifying experience. Someone told us at a certain point, the trail stops and spikes in your shoes are required to get to the top. I will most definitely be back to Zion (for several days instead of one!) to hike the other trails and get to the top of Angel’s Landing.
Day 10: Valley of Fire State Park
The drive to Valley of Fire was only a couple hours from Zion, but by this time, we were pretty much dead. State parks are dog-friendly and Champ was able to join us. This little park was light and fun. I’m obsessed with the red rocks. The start of Elephant Trails had this cute little sign.
Note: Since Valley of Fire is a state park and not a national park, we weren’t able to use our America the Beautiful pass. Entrance fees were $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for non-residents.
Had we had more energy, we would’ve stopped at Red Rock Canyon State Park, but Valley of Fire was still pretty cool. We grabbed In N Out, went to our AirBnb and proceeded to laugh our butts off while watching the entire first season of Schitt’s Creek.
Day 11: Las Vegas, NV
We started the day at the Seven Magic Mountains. We ran into some crazy Karens but otherwise, these rocks are so cool! I’m obsessed with color so these were a favorite.
The Bellagio hotel is known for beautiful floral displays. I visited Vegas a few months ago and loved their animals, but this theme was Chinese New Year. SO. BEAUTIFUL.
For breakfast, several people recommended Mon Ami Gabi’s french toast. I’ve tried going there twice but it didn’t work out – I’m so glad it worked this time! The food was soft and heavenly.
After exploring the hotels, we had dinner at Hell’s Kitchen. It was expensive but had amazing food! During my last trip to Vegas, we visited Buddy V’s Restaurant (From the show Cake Boss) and Giada at the Cromwell. All three were great meals. Hell’s Kitchen had the longest wait and was the most expensive. Buddy Valastro’s restaurant had the best service hands-down.
We ended our road trip with leaving Vegas at 4am, rushing in LA traffic, and arriving at Santa Monica Pier. There is so much to do around Los Angeles and Orange County, but sadly Hannah’s return flight cut our journey short.
The decision to say goodbye to my favorite people and debating on what to pack was stressful and hard. Planning lodging, doggy care, reservations (ie at Hell’s Kitchen), and packing food for the trip was A LOT OF WORK.
I don’t know if my move will be temporary or more permanent (which made packing even more difficult), but I know I’m on my way and I’m excited for this new experience.