The Perfect Las Vegas Vacation – Not Spent in Vegas
If you love your days action-packed and your nights star-studded, fly into Las Vegas – and leave. Nothing against all the fun of Las Vegas, but outside the city are two exceptional National Parks and a National Monument all easily visited in a long weekend…. a sure bet for a fabulous vacation.
Here’s how to have one of the best long weekends outside of Las Vegas….
Stop 1: Zion National Park
McCarren International Airport (LAS) to park entrance: 3 hours
Known for its exceptional hikes – such as one through a narrow river bed and slot canyons or another up a mind-boggling series of switch backs to Angel’s Landing – Zion National Park is sure to please the avid hiker. There are also several more modest hikes along the river or to cascade-fed pools, which are perfect for families. Depending on when your flight gets into Las Vegas, you can be at Zion National Park in the early afternoon and depending on your hiking interest/ability, you can spend a day – or several – in the park. Camping and lodging is available in the park or in the gateway town of Springdale.
Tip: During most of the year, the park is only accessible by the free park shuttle bus, so get to the shuttle parking lot early for your ride into the park.
Tip: One of the most popular hikes – The Narrows – is best done in summer/early fall when the water is lower (and warmer!) in the canyon. Be prepared to be wet, as you’ll be walking or wading through a river; bring a walking stick for support; and always check the weather report as rains miles away can cause flash flooding in the canyon.
Stop 2: Bryce Canyon National Park
Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park: 2 hours
Stunning rock formations called “hoodoos”, gentle hikes, and meandering footpaths make Bryce Canyon easily accessible for walkers and hikers of all abilities. And for stargazers, there is an annual astronomy festival in June, but pretty much any night will be quite the star-studded evening with talks and tours by Bryce Canyon’s Astronomy Rangers. Accommodations and camping can be found in Bryce and the nearby town of Tropic.
Tip: Mornings (as well as evenings) can be very cool, so if you are heading out to Sunrise Point to catch the sunrise, be sure to check the forecast and pack/dress accordingly.
Stop 3: Cedar Breaks National Monument
Bryce Canyon National Park to Cedar Breaks Visitor Center: 1 ½ hours
For a quieter escape to a park with dramatic rock formations, a wide variety of hiking trails, and superb night skies, be sure to add a stop at Cedar Breaks. And if you visit in late June, you may luck upon a spectacular display of columbines, bluebells, paintbrushes, and other wildflowers, highlighted during the annual Wildflower Festival.
Tip: At 10,000 feet, the park is often snow covered between October and June and Scenic Drive/Utah Highway 148 is often closed until late May or even early June, so plan accordingly.
Cedar Breaks National Monument to McCarren Airport (LAS): 3 ½ hours
It’s an easy freeway drive from Cedar Breaks to the Las Vegas airport, but still, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to return your rental car, go through TSA, and get to your flight on time – or stay one night in Las Vegas and test your luck at the casinos or catch in a show before flying home.
Final Tip: Sun Country Airlines flies nonstop from Portland to Las Vegas on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays through December 16, plus Saturdays in June - August. Flights start as low as $69* one-way.
*Fare is valid for one-way travel and is inclusive of all government taxes and fees. 14-day advance purchase required. Additional baggage and other service fees may apply. Seats are limited and fare may not be available on all flights or dates within the travel range. Valid for new bookings only. Fares, routes, and schedules are subject to change without notice. Restrictions apply.