Utah Family: Bryce & Zion Canyons

Family Tour, Utah Family: Bryce & Zion CanyonsFamily Tour, Utah Family: Bryce & Zion Canyons

Utah Family

Bryce & Zion Canyons

overview

Join an adventure on foot, mule, and zip line through the slickrock spires and Ponderosa-pine valleys of the truly wild West. Your family is sure to love trekking in the footsteps of Native Americans, cowboys, explorers, and pioneers as you explore the stunning beauty of Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. Spot bighorn sheep beneath natural arches of wind-carved red rock. Search for fossils in the whimsical limestone formations of the Paria River Valley. Marvel at a dazzling night sky on a ranger-guided astronomy walk. Splash around in the pristine Virgin River as you pick your way through the slender slot canyon of the Narrows. Cool off by refreshing waterfalls. Look for a hoodoo—that is, a bubbly rock pinnacle—that looks like someone you know. The beauty of the American West is alive in Utah, and your family is perfectly positioned to enjoy every moment of it.

Activity Level
Moderate;
2-8 miles daily
Meet
Las Vegas, Nevada
Depart
Las Vegas, Nevada
Daily Itinerary
Download printable
itinerary
View All

From our blog

Family Adventure 
6 days, 5 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one dinner and all non-alcoholic beverages included; welcome and farewell cocktails
  • All accommodations (with private bathrooms) while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The exclusive ease of a mobile phone rental with our Cellhire partnership.
    Receive preferred calling rates, free phone rental, and complimentary shipping of mobile phones
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff

gallery

Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Bryce Canyon National Park
View on map
2
Bryce Canyon National Park
View on map
3
Springdale
View on map
4
Springdale
View on map
5
Springdale
View on map
6
Departure
View on map
Day 1

Bryce Canyon National Park

Arrival in Las Vegas. Transfer to Bryce Canyon National Park. Timber Creek Overlook Trail; 1 mile, easy to moderate, 100-ft elevation gain. Fairyland Rim Trail; 3 miles, easy to moderate, 350-ft elevation gain, with easier ¼-mile option or driving directly to lodge

Upon meeting your guides and group in Las Vegas, you travel by van north to Utah, to the day’s final destination of Bryce Canyon National Park, with several stops en route to break up the approximate 4-hour total drive. The drive follows the course of the Virgin River—rising almost 8,000 feet from its terminus at Lake Mead to its origin at Navajo Lake on the Colorado Plateau—the greater geologic area that includes not only Bryce and Zion canyons, but also the Grand Canyon. Following the Old Spanish Trail, used by early Spanish explorers and later 19th-century trappers, the drive enters the Mojave Desert with its iconic Joshua trees. About an hour from Las Vegas, and cutting through Arizona’s northwest corner, a rest stop at the Virgin River Gorge offers dramatic scenery made up of Paleozoic Era rocks, the most ancient rock of the entire tour and the same as the first few layers of the Grand Canyon—here, be sure to look out for desert bighorn sheep.

Next stop is a walk at Kolob Canyon, in the upper portion of Zion National Park, where you stretch your legs along the ridgetop Timber Creek Overlook Trail and enjoy a picnic lunch. At an elevation of over 6,000 feet, you’ve left the Las Vegas heat behind as you look over the lower parts of Zion, established as a national park in 1919, with the addition of this Kolob portion in 1956.

Continuing the drive to Bryce Canyon, you disembark from your van at Fairyland Point for the walk along the Fairyland Rim trail, bringing you on foot to the Bryce Canyon Lodge—your home for the next two nights. Panoramic views of Bryce Canyon are a magical introduction as you walk past the red, orange, and white hoodoos, fantastic rock spires glowing in the afternoon light, and underneath Ponderosa pines. In the distance, you have views of the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, Aquarius Plateau, and Navajo Mountain. You may choose to shorten the walk, or arrive by van to your 1920s park lodge, a National Historic Landmark, its privileged location within the park providing unlimited access to the spectacle of Bryce Canyon’s rim and a crystalline night sky. You gather for dinner at the rustic yet elegant main lodge.

Bryce Canyon Lodge

A National Historic Landmark, the renovated 1920s park lodge offers simple rooms, most with balconies, situated a few feet from the canyon rim at the heart of the national park.

Day 2

Bryce Canyon National Park

Morning walk: Bryce Point to Sunset Point via Peekaboo and Navajo Loops; 3.5-4 miles, moderate, 700-1,000-ft elevation gain, with longer option. Afternoon walk options: Longer option: Queen's Garden Loop and Navajo Loop; 3 miles, easy to moderate, 500-ft elevation gain. Shorter option: Bristlecone Loop via Rainbow and Yovimpa Points; 1 mile, easy 50-ft elevation gain

After a hearty breakfast in the lodge’s dining room, today’s walk starts on the rim of the canyon with spectacular views from Bryce Point of Bryce Amphitheater and the Paria River Valley beyond. Passing the multicolored limestone rock formations, both surreal and whimsical, you descend gently into the heart of the canyon, walking through a stand of bristlecone pines—the park’s oldest living trees said to date back over 2,000 years. You ascend gradually out of the canyon on the Navajo Loop through the “Wall Street” formation, between massive orange limestone fins, the result of an ancient lakebed, now providing cooling shade and continue on for a view of “Thor’s Hammer.”

This afternoon, choose from two distinct walking options: the longer, the Queen’s Garden Loop (named for a hoodoo that looks like Queen Victoria in profile) and Navajo Loop, begins and ends at your lodge, descending to the canyon floor passing the Twin Bridges and bringing you into Bryce Amphitheater, before rising gradually.

The shorter option is reached via a 20-minute drive to Bryce’s southern point at an elevation of 9,100 feet. This easy walk beginning on the canyon rim offers tremendous views for hundreds of miles in all directions: to the north are Bryce’s 14 amphitheaters; northeast, the red and orange cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau; to the east, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of the world’s greatest source of dinosaur fossils; and to the south, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is visible.

This evening you linger over refined Western fare, perhaps a grilled steak or Alaskan salmon, at the historic lodge dining room. After dinner, take in a multimedia astronomy program, followed by stargazing with telescopes.

Bryce Canyon Lodge

A National Historic Landmark, the renovated 1920s park lodge offers simple rooms, most with balconies, situated a few feet from the canyon rim at the heart of the national park.

Day 3

Springdale

Transfer from Bryce National Park to Zion National Park. Option sunrise walk: Bryce Point to Sunset Point; 2.2 miles, easy. Mule ride to floor of Bryce Canyon. Afternoon visit to Zion Ponderosa Ranch

Early risers may wish to join your guide for a serene sunrise walk; the early rays rising over the Aquarius Plateau bathing the hoodoos in warm hues. After breakfast and departing the lodge, you’ll meet at the horse corral by Sunrise Point to be outfitted with a mule or horse for a two-hour ride into the heart of Bryce Canyon. Following the breathtaking switchbacks of an old horse trail, you’ll descend to the floor of the canyon, passing hearty tufts of wild juniper and sage and listening to local cowboy guides tell stories about the history and geology of the canyon.

After departing Bryce Canyon, you head to Zion Ponderosa Ranch, a 4,000-acre active resort where you can spend the afternoon canyoneering, zip-lining, or simply relaxing by the pool. When you’re ready to press on, the entrance to Zion Canyon is breathtaking. You emerge from the historic Zion- Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which was cut laboriously through 1.1 miles of sandstone, and descend into Zion’s main canyon, carved by the Virgin River out of windblown sandstone. It is a true natural wonder, not only due to its unique geology and stunning scenery, but also for the incredible variety of flora and fauna—from peregrine falcons to the desert tortoise, and the Zion snail, found nowhere else on Earth. In addition to its rich natural history, evidence of human history extends 2,000 years to the Ancestral Puebloans, as well as the Paiutes of 800 years ago.

Your home for the next three nights is an inn resort along the Virgin River in the charming town of Springdale. After some time to unpack and freshen up in your spacious room, you venture out for dinner at a favorite local restaurant.

Desert Pearl Inn

Springdale, Utah

Local stone, Douglas fir beams, and reclaimed redwood are architecturally designed to create a perfect setting at the gates of Zion National Park. The inn’s spacious and stylishly decorated rooms have balconies overlooking the Virgin River and surrounding cliffs. A swimming pool and hot tub are welcome at day’s end.

Day 4

Springdale

Echo Canyon, 5-6 miles, moderate to challenging, 1,000-ft elevation gain; and Riverside Walk along the Virgin River; 2 miles, easy. The Narrows; 5 miles, easy to moderate. Waterlevel dependent

After breakfast in a nearby café, the first destination is Weeping Rock, from where you depart for the walk to Echo Canyon, a beautiful “hanging canyon” with gorgeous carved curves of orange sandstone, and towering Cable Mountain soaring overhead. Starting with a few uphill switchbacks, the paved trail continues to climb about 1,000 feet up to middle Echo Canyon, with its pools and undulating slickrock, a marvel of nature’s artistry. You return by the same route out of this beautiful canyon.

Following a packed picnic lunch in the heart of the park, your guides offer an additional afternoon walk to the Gateway of the Narrows. This easy, popular walk along the Virgin River begins at the farthest end of Zion Canyon at the Temple of Sinawava. As you walk beneath massive cliffs, you pass a number of lush hanging gardens and pockets of wildflowers.

Should the water level be conducive, you may have the option of doing the Narrows. One of the most remarkable hikes in Zion is the walk up the Narrows, the slot canyon carved by the Virgin River beyond the one-mile, paved Riverside Walk. When water in the Narrows is low enough to be safe, you will have the opportunity to try this amazing adventure. You wade across the river to the opposite shore, continue walking upon the river bank, then again, crisscrossing the water in order to make headway up the canyon, as the river winds its way from one side canyon wall to the other sidewall. Beneath the towering 1,500-foot cliffs of Navajo sandstone, box elders shine greenly amidst the amber rock and the sky becomes a ribbon of blue high above. The bottom up walk is 1½ miles to Orderville Canyon, where you turn around and return the same way you came, now going with the flow of the river and discovering how adept you have become at walking in the water. You will be equipped with all the right gear to make the trip comfortable: water boots, neoprene socks, and walking sticks. (Please be sure to have quick-drying pants as noted in the packing list.) For those who simply want to keep their feet dry, there will be an alternative walk to the Emerald Pools.

This evening, you return to Springdale for dinner on your own, with your guides offering many suggestions ranging from outdoor cafés to fine dining restaurants.

Desert Pearl Inn

Springdale, Utah

Local stone, Douglas fir beams, and reclaimed redwood are architecturally designed to create a perfect setting at the gates of Zion National Park. The inn’s spacious and stylishly decorated rooms have balconies overlooking the Virgin River and surrounding cliffs. A swimming pool and hot tub are welcome at day’s end.

Day 5

Springdale

Scout's Lookout; 4 miles, moderate to challenging, 1,300-ft elevation gain; Angel's Landing; 5 miles, challenging with steep exposures

After breakfast, you set off from the Grotto trailhead on a moderate walk to Scout’s Lookout (elevation gain of 1,300 feet). A winding trail leads from the valley floor through a series of switchbacks into Refrigerator Canyon, where, as its name implies, you are sheltered and cooled from the desert sun. You continue through Walter’s Wiggles, closely cut switchbacks leading to the spectacular Scout’s Lookout. The park unfolds below, with views of the Virgin River and canyon walls. From here your option is to ascend the dramatic Angel’s Landing Trail another half mile and 500 feet up to a peak of rock in the center of Zion Canyon or hike a few hundred feet farther up the West Rim, where you’ll share a packed trail lunch with your companions under a Ponderosa pine on top of the world. Everyone will descend the same route to the river in the early afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy by relaxing at your inn’s inviting swimming pool and hot tub, or taking advantage of the visitor center at Zion National Park. Part of this visit may include viewing the film at the park’s IMAX theater, which features an excellent film highlighting the region’s fascinating natural and human history.

This evening you venture into lively Springdale for a celebratory farewell dinner at a favorite local restaurant serving fresh innovative cuisine.

Desert Pearl Inn

Springdale, Utah

Local stone, Douglas fir beams, and reclaimed redwood are architecturally designed to create a perfect setting at the gates of Zion National Park. The inn’s spacious and stylishly decorated rooms have balconies overlooking the Virgin River and surrounding cliffs. A swimming pool and hot tub are welcome at day’s end.

Day 6

Departure

Red Cliffs archaeological site; 2 miles, easy to moderate, 200-ft elevation gain. Transfer to Las Vegas

After breakfast, a final walk takes you through the Red Cliffs archaeological site. Inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly known as the Anasazi) from AD 600 to 1200, it is thought they left the region in search of the permanent water source of the Rio Grande, where their descendants, the modern Pueblo Indians, live today. The hilltop site contains the rectangular and circular ruins of numerous habitation and storage rooms, and likely provided clear views of enemies and game. Below were the flatter areas for farming corn, squash, and beans, and the water source of the cottonwood-lined Quail Creek. It’s possible to still find 1,000-year-old pottery shards on the ground, underneath red sandstone cliffs. After the walk, you enjoy lunch at a lovely restaurant featuring locally grown organic fare with Southwest flavors in St. George, Utah’s Ancestor Square. The three-hour drive leaves the Colorado Plateau as you descend back into the Mojave Desert and Basin and Range Province of the Nevada lowlands, bidding farewell to the colorful canyons.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Carolyn Beecher

Carolyn Beecher is in her element in Glacier National Park, where she has been guiding for over 20 years. Her love of nature is contagious as she offers fun facts about flora, wildlife, geology, and cultural history. She makes her home in the foothills of Montana's Mission Mountains, where she has lived and worked since 1980. Also a big fan of Utah's canyon country, she has been backpacking and exploring the red rocks and slot canyons since the 1980s. She'll tune your ears to the song of the canyon wren, and open your eyes to the big skies of the West—sharing the intricacies of nature’s tapestry is her passion.

Heather Harding

Heather Harding has been guiding for many years on both Washington's Olympic Peninsula, where she lives, and in the canyons and plateaus of the Southwest, where she earned college degrees in biology and Southwest Studies. Heather brings a world-wide background of whale research and Waldorf teaching to her guiding. Heather winters on Maui, where she runs her non-profit whale foundation, with her partner and frequent co-guide Eric Kessler.

PDF Download Capture: