I first visited Las Vegas in 2018 – it was August, crowded and the average daily temperature was 38C. It would be no understatement to say I was not taken with it all. Yet, I had the feeling that I could have had a better experience.
This year I had the lucky opportunity to go hiking in Utah and Arizona in spring (and just before the Covid-19 virus impacted all our lives – so lucky indeed)
As my daughter was already in the USA we agreed to meet in Las Vegas and stay a few days.
To my surprise Las Vegas is so much nicer in the spring.
We stayed at Caesar’s Palace (https://www.caesars.com/caesars-palace) which is the size of a small town and an experience in its self. Our room overlooked the fountains at the Bellagio, a very nice view.
I take no enjoyment in gambling away my hard-earned pension and do not understand Roulette or Blackjack so the casinos had no real draw for me. Although we did try our luck on the ‘Slot Machines’ – so much more complicated than the old ‘one-arm bandits’ at the end of seaside piers. We played with a very small amount although can see how players can be drawn in for the possibility of a big win.
This visit was more pleasurable, not only because it was quieter and cooler, but due to what we did. We became tourists, eating outdoors in pavement-side bistros and visiting tourist spots such as The Mob Museum (https://themobmuseum.org/ (real name The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement). This was an informative and interesting presentation of an area of modern history. Normally my tolerance of museums is 60 minutes yet here I was, happy to spend the afternoon. Plus, the shop actually sold items that were both useful and reasonably priced.
We also booked ourselves on to a walking tour of the Downtown area ( https://lasvegaswalkingtours.net/) Kelly, our guide was so knowledgeable as well as entertaining and I would fully recommend booking this tour if you visit. Kelly shared so many insights that only a ‘local’ would know and his presentation style was fun and easy to follow. I could relate many facts that explain the nature of Vegas – but that would spoil the story for you.
In no time at all we were heading to Springdale, Utah in our hire car for 2 days hiking in the Zion National Park.
We stayed at the Desert Pearl Inn (https://www.desertpearl.com/en/homepage) Again we were lucky with the view from our room – we overlooked a river and the distant hills. The gentle river became a raging torrent one morning after an overnight storm.
The national park entrance was only a 10 minute walk which meant we had no parking issues. The entrance fee was only $36.00 for both of us for 2 days and included access to the Shuttle Bus service.
(https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm) The Trails ranged from flat and wheel chair accessible to strenuous as well as The Narrows which required specific waterproof gear and courage.
If you do not want to hike but still wish to view the scenery you can board the shuttle bus at the Visitor Centre and do a round trip gazing from the window. Or, perhaps alight the Shuttle at selected stops, view the area then hop back on the bus (they seem to run approx. at 10 minute intervals).
We arrived in the evening on our first day so just walked a short distance along the Pa’rus Trail. The next morning we were up early and travelled on the Shuttle route to the end stop (Temple of Sinawava) . Before we set off on the Riverside Walk we watched an early group wading through the water to hike the Bottom Up Narrows.
We had taken provisions and spent the day walking the trails, using the shuttle occasionally to travel between trailheads. We lunched amongst the rocks at Emerald Pools and gradually made our way back to the park entrance. The day was dry and sunny – and of course, we were so awestruck by the scenery we did not notice our necks were burning!
We had to change our plans for the next day as it had rained heavily overnight and continued to drizzle throughout the day. So, on with the waterproofs, we walked the Pa’rus Trail to Canyon Overlook – it certainly looks different in the rain. Once at the Trail Junction and having walked over 5Km we decided we were too wet and cold to walk another trail so hopped on a shuttle and went for a warming lunch.
Then it was a short drive to the next adventure – Glamping (https://www.undercanvas.com/camps/zion/) This was more comfortable than I had thought it would be and the tent, once the log-burner was lit, became very cosy. Then the rain worsened and I lay awake for hours listening to the thunder and wondering where we would be in the morning if there was a landslide!. We woke in the morning to calm – and cows grazing in nearby fields as if nothing had been amiss.
Following breakfast we packed up and headed towards Antelope Canyon. We had already been informed that our pre-booked afternoon tour of the Lower Canyon was cancelled so thought we would head to our hotel in Page and sightsee along the route. Whilst on the drive we were contacted and informed the Upper Canyon tour booked for the following day was now cancelled and the area closed in order to reduce transmission of the Covid-19 virus. Very understandable, although disappointing. ( https://antelopecanyon.az/)
A swift change of plan and re-booking of hotels and we decided to head to Sedona, Arizona which was our final stop and stay an extra night.
To break the journey we stopped at Horseshoe Bend – nature at its most magnificent! It almost made up for missing out on Antelope Canyon.
Although we spent 6 hours in the car the scenery and wide roads ensured it was not the painful experience it would have been on the cramped roads in the UK.
Arriving in time for dinner in Sedona we ‘googled’ the eating possibilities and discovered an Italian restaurant within walking distance. Called Gerado’s Kitchen (http://gerardositaliankitchen.com/) They do not take bookings so we decided to go straight away – and so glad we did. It was Saturday night and the queue grow very quickly. Luckily we did not have to wait long, nor were we rushed once seated. Great food and atmosphere and hidden off the main road it had a very authentic atmosphere, fully recommend a visit.
Next morning we were up early and soon hiking in the hills. Parking at the trailheads can be a problem as the car parks are fairly small so parking along the roadside is common (although not popular with the those who live there).
There are a large number of trails to chose from, with a variety of difficulty, so we focussed on two main areas. A selection along the Soldiers Pass Road where I especially liked the Teacup Trail – not too strenuous, fairly flat with well laid paths. On our second day we headed to Long Canyon Road and were at the trail-head for the Devils Bridge Trail by 7.30.
This hike was more challenging and there was a section near the Bridge that I filmed from a distance whilst my daughter courageously jumped the bridge and waved back. Truth be told I was so far back that the photograph was actually taken by a kind Australian lady.
Heading back to the car at 10.30 we noticed the crowd had grown and the sun was warming so being out at dawn had been a good choice. After a second breakfast back in Sedona we headed out looking for a trail that had been recommended to us – we never found it but did spend the afternoon walking short scenic trails amongst trees that were showing signs of spring and on the ground flowers were starting to bloom. Occasionally the land widened and we would find ourselves back among the Red Rocks mountains.
Again, we were lucky with the weather which helped as we constantly had to change plans as the impact of Covid-19 being more evident. We had booked a night hike which involved Star-gazing and a Hike/Yoga afternoon both of which were cancelled. So, we just walked – the large spaces made social distancing easy to manage.
The city of Sedona is in a beautiful setting, was spacious and clean. Everyone was friendly and unhurried. I would certainly like to visit again.
We had planned to spend the final morning staying in the city itself before heading to Phoenix and our evening flights, unfortunately my flight had been cancelled and I was re-routed via Dallas leaving on a morning flight so instead we had a dawn drive to the airport.
Despite the constant changes to our plans the holiday had been totally enjoyable and of course – I will need to return so I can visit Antelope Canyon.