Trip Recap: National Parks of the Southwest 2017

By: JD Conroy

On June 25th a group of American Classic Travelers returned from a 9-day journey to the Southwest National Parks. On this trip we traveled across 3 states, 5 National Parks, 1 National Recreation Area, 1 Native American Reservation, and 2 major American Cities. We saw so much and had a lot of fun.  I wanted to share some of our experiences with you! Enjoy reading this Trip Recap! 


Trip Route

We flew into Salt Lake City and spent our first night at the Grand America Hotel. The next day we journeyed a few hours south to Moab, Utah. We saw Canyonlands and Arches National Park before leaving Moab for Monument Valley and Lake Powell located on the border of Arizona and Utah. Then we continued south into Arizona, visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Next we traveled North into Utah to see Bryce and Zion National Park before heading to Las Vegas for the final night of our trip. 


Guided Tour of Temple Square

Our flight to Salt Lake City landed at 12:00 PM. At 1:00 PM we arrived at the City Creek Center for free time for lunch in downtown Salt Lake City. After lunch we toured Temple Square where we learned about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Brigham Young's fascinating journey to Utah. We saw the Mormon Temple and we went inside the Mormon Tabernacle. 


Check into the 5-Star Grand America Hotel 

The elegant Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City was built for the rich and famous attending the 2002 Winter Olympics. We enjoyed our beautifully decorated rooms and the amazing amenities at the Grand America: the Grand Cafe Restaurant, spa, french patisserie, tour boutique, outdoor pool, landscaped courtyards, and gorgeous gardens.


The Mormon Tabernacle

We saw the Mormon Tabernacle perform live for their annual Father's Day Special Show. Hearing the angelic sound of America's Choir was truly an event to remember.


Guided Tour of Salt Lake City

Debi, our local guide, hopped on board our motorcoach and showed us downtown Salt Lake City, the Utah State Capitol, the University of Utah, Fort Douglas, and "This is the Place" State Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon where the Mormon Pioneers first entered the Valley. 


Arrive at Red Cliffs Lodge

The Red Cliffs Lodge is perched on the banks of the Colorado River, surrounded by magnificent 2,000-foot cliffs. This lodge has dramatic 20-foot ceilings, natural wood-paneled walls, rustic log furniture, knotty pine accents, and hand-finished Mexican tile floors. It was home to a number of classic western movies including Rio Grande!


Waking up at Red Cliffs Lodge

We woke up at Red Cliffs Lodge with some horses in our back yard! This was a sight that is almost too good to be true - a big blue morning sky, a group of horses, and red canyon walls. Our breakfast at the Red Cliffs Lodge included all you can eat, hot, buffet breakfast which included bacon, scrambled eggs, cowboy potatoes, yogurt, fresh fruit, assorted bagels, muffins, croissants and breads, and hot and cold cereals. 


Guided Tour of Arches National Park

Preston, our local guide and a life-long resident of Moab, Utah, led us on a tour of Arches National Park. Because of its unbelievable orange rock formations and wonderfully desolate landscape, we felt as if we were exploring Mars while we toured Arches National Park. On our tour we learned about the park's geological history, its 2,000 natural sandstone arches, and its wildlife.


Guided Tour of Canyonlands and Dead Horse Park

Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park are home to magnificent canyons and stunning red rock. These amazing parks have been home to a number of major motion pictures including Thelma & Louise and Mission Impossible. 


Canyonlands Sight & Sound Boat Cruise

Day three of our tour came to a close with a relaxing boat ride down the Colorado River for the Canyonlands Light & Boat Show. Preston, our local guide, told us about the Colorado River, the Native Americans who had lived near the river, and how the area was settled by Europeans as we cruised down the river during sunset. After sunset, lights were shone on the canyon walls telling the story of Moab, Utah, and the history of the Southwest. After the show, we waded down the Colorado River in the dark of night and stared up at the clear sky to see a jaw-dropping view of the stars. 


Monument Valley

Monument Valley is the American West's most iconic scene. These three buttes sit majestically in Navajo Nation on the border of Arizona and Utah. A favorite of both John Ford and John Wayne, Monument Valley has been featured in dozens of movies including Stagecoach, Rio Grande, and Forrest Gump.


Lake Powell Resort

After a full day of scenic travel we arrived at the Lake Powell Resort for a 1-night stay. The Lake Powell Resort is home to an amazing pool overlooking Lake Powell. 


Sunset Dinner Cruise on Lake Powell

We enjoyed a sunset dinner cruise aboard the Canyon Princess on Lake Powell in Arizona. The striking contrast of Lake Powell's bright blue water and red rock walls brings hundreds of thousands of people to this National Recreation Area every year. 


Glen Canyon Dam

The Glen Canyon Dam reserves water from the Colorado River and supplies millions of people with drinking water every day. The Dam also serves as a major source of hydroelectric power. With the amount of concrete used to build Glen Canyon Dam, the government could have built a highway from Chicago to Phoenix!


The Navajo Bridge & The Vermillion Cliffs

We enjoyed some amazing scenic travel from Lake Powell to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We saw the Navajo Bridge, the Vermillion Cliffs and the Kaibab Plateau.


The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Despite the fact that the Grand Canyon is one of the world's most recognizable places and one of America's most visited destinations, it's Northern Rim provides a quiet, off-the-beaten-path getaway. Due to both its short season (its only open May - October) and its remote location, North Rim receives 9 times less visitors per year than the busy South Rim. 


Goodbye to the Grand Canyon's North Rim Lodge 

It was hard to say goodbye to the North Rim Lodge on the Grand Canyon. Pictured above is the deck of the North Rim Lodge. We were able to watch the wondrous Grand Canyon sunset and sunrise from the comfortable chairs of the North Rim Lodge deck. 


Guided Tour of Bryce Canyon National Park

Famous for its pinnacle-shaped Hoodoos, Bryce Canyon is home to  picture-perfect, colorful scenery.


Zion National Park

Zion National Park is filled with red Navajo Sandstone and lush green vegetation, a contrast which creates countless picturesque scenes throughout the park.


Check Into the Paris Hotel

Home to a lively casino, gourmet restaurants, luxurious rooms, and a giant replica of the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Hotel was a perfect home for our 1-night stay in Las Vegas. 


Free Time to Explore Las Vegas Strip

With its bright lights, never-ending energy, and lavish resorts and casinos, the Las Vegas Strip is like no other place on Earth. We had free time to explore the Las Vegas Strip on the last night of our trip.


Flight Home

After enjoying a gourmet breakfast at the Paris Hotel's Le Village Buffet, we left for the Las Vegas Airport to fly back home to Chicago. 


Thanks to Anson & Le Bus Motorcoach Company

Anson was our steady motorcoach operator for all 9 days of our trip. Thanks to Anson and Le Bus Motorcoach Company for a smooth, comfortable ride!