Being in my late 20s, I just don’t find the appeal of ringing in the New Year at a club filled with hundreds of strangers. Call me a granny, but if being so meant avoiding high heels and ear-splitting music in a sweaty box, then I embrace it!
And embrace I did.
As a last minute decision, my job gave us December 30th and January 2nd off, which meant we got an elusive paid four day New Year’s Eve weekend. Now, four days is not a ton of time for a relaxing vacation, but plenty of time to do an admittedly exhausting, yet immensely satisfying road trip.
I called up my cousin and convinced one of my girlfriends to join me and boyfran on a spontaneous NYE trip to…. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park! I’ve heard Bryce Canyon was *magical* during the winter, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to venture out there. And thought I’d say what’s up to Zion along the way.
The Route: San Diego > Las Vegas/Henderson > Springdale/Zion > Bryce Canyon > Las Vegas > San Diego
Total Time Spent: 4.5 days, 4 nights
Total Miles: ~1,206
ZION NATIONAL PARK
The drive to Zion is beautiful and worth a mention. The sedimentary rock canyons along the way are jaw-dropping and one of the reasons why I love long drives to Utah. Real-life Carsland, n’awmean.
Once we arrived, it was a winter wonderland! The cliffs were lightly dusted with snow. Totally ‘grammable.
We drove along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and made random stops here and there, ultimately arriving at Temple of Sinawava where The Narrows begin. For this trip, we all decided that we’ll pass on the river walk between the Narrows and come back when the river is less prone to flash floods. #safetyfirst. But you can totally rent a winter-proof dry bib outfit from Zion Outfitters. Plenty of folks did that.
The next day, we went on a quick morning hike to the lower, middle, and upper Emerald Pools. Before beginning a winter hike through snowy or icy conditions, make sure to pack some crampons to slip over your snow-proof boots. They were life-savers on the icy patches. With the temps hovering below and above freezing, the grounds were suspect… Black ice is real.
Back to the actual hike. Since there was heavy cloud coverage, the pools were more gray than emerald — but I’ll take nature in any color.
The temps were roughly in the high 30s at this point. Hiking can go from hot to cold, depending on the incline and elevation. Specifically, during this hike, lightweight layers were key.
We also did a quick hike through Canyon Overlook in the upper East Canyon. The drive there is beautiful and you go through a long, DARK tunnel. Again, fog restricted us from seeing much, but it was a nice little hike. Wear proper shoes with some grip… This one lady was wearing ballet flats. What.
Next time, we’ll hike Angel’s Landing and the Narrows!
By noon, it was time to venture to the land of orange hoodoos and rock formations. The cloudy, gray sky turned bright blue as we drove into Bryce Canyon. I literally gasped when I saw the sight in front of me.
Everything that I’ve heard about Bryce Canyon during the winter was true. And it’s something you have to see in person.
We walked around Sunset Point and hiked part of the Navajo Trail. The Navajo Trail is ideal for checking out the hoodoos up close and personal. They tower over you as you stare at them in awe. To note: Navajo Trail features a pretty intense incline on the way back. I was out of breath a few times.
By 4pm, it was time to hustle back up the trail before sunset. This is super important if you’re hiking during the winter. The sun sets very early and you don’t want to be trapped out there at night if you don’t have the proper gear.
As a place to lodge in Bryce Canyon, I highly recommend the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn. The rooms were nice and comfortable, warm, and the place offers an indoor pool — if you’re willing to venture out into the 20 degree cold at night to get there. For dinner, we risked the dense fog outside and drove to Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant for some AMAZING steak and pie. The wait was long and they’re closed most of winter, but if you can eat here, I highly recommend this spot.
After filling our bellies with a very satisfying meal, we headed back to our room and watched some idiots set off VERY illegal fireworks over the frozen, snow-covered lake, and barely made it to midnight for the NYE countdown. Party hardy.
The next day, we woke up bright and early and decided to drive up to Rainbow Point before heading back to Vegas for our final night of this road trip.
It was FREEZING at Rainbow Point. At 9,100 ft., you can imagine the windchill up there. But check out this view.
We also stopped at the Natural Arch. Classic Bryce Canyon photo.
It was time to say good bye to this orange landscape and make the 4 hour trip back to Vegas and then the ~6 hour drive back to San Diego.
And I wouldn’t have celebrated the start of 2017 any other way.
WHERE I SLEPT:
- Bumbleberry Inn: free breakfast, free parking, huge rooms, right next to the entrance of zion nps
- Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn: free parking, indoor pool, near the entrance of bryce canyon nps, has a nordic XC center to rent skis
- Rio All-Suite and Casino: off the Vegas strip, huge rooms, free parking (when i went), cheap
WHERE I ATE:
- Babystacks Cafe: quirky American Hawaiian breakfast spot in Henderson
- Meme’s Cafe: crepes! sammies! low-alcohol content wine for $5! Utah is interesting.
- Sol Foods Supermarket: health-foods grocery store. I enjoyed their hot soup 🙂
- Deep Creek Coffee Company: excellent coffee, green drinks, and acai bowls. boyfran loved their oatmeal.
- Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant: probably the best meal you’ll find in Bryce Canyon. Expect a wait.
- the grocery store inside Ruby’s Inn: connected to a huge gift shop. snagged some instant oatmeal and bananas.
- Taco Bell: awwwwyeah.
- Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan: tapas style buffet. it’s all right.
TRAILS I HIKED:
- Lower, Middle, Upper Emerald Pools
- Temple of Sinawava
- The Narrows, kind of
- Canyon Overlook
- Navajo Trail