The Canyons and National Parks Utah, Arizona and Colorado
Visit the vast sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, not really a canyon – more a collection of amphitheatres punctuated by hoodoos - and the grand daddy of all canyons, the Grand Canyon on this fly drive holiday between Las Vegas and Denver. In between you will also be able to see the Hoover Dam, marvel at the extraordinary colours and shapes of the Arches and Canyonlands as well as the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and the soaring Rocky Mountains.
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The excitement starts in Las Vegas; you know what they say “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” – Enjoy! Spend a couple of days exploring the strip, go to one of the many shows, take a helicopter ride over the city for the best views of all the fun and roam the floors of the casinos.
TIP Get Frontier America to get you tickets for the show.
2 nights Las Vegas
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
Leave the bright lights behind you and head for the Grand Canyon. Along the way do stop at the Hoover Dam without which Las Vegas would not exist. You will go along a small part of Route 66 and there is a short detour from Kingman which will allow you to experience a bit more of this historic route. Your hotel at the Grand Canyon will either be on the edge of the South Rim or in Grand Canyon Village just outside the park.
2 nights Grand Canyon
A full day to explore the Canyon. You may like just to explore on your own but if you wish Frontier America can organise a flight over the Canyon, a guided hike – being below the rim gives a totally different view of the canyon (for any level of hiker), a Pink Jeep tour (particularly special in the evening when the colours of the canyon truly come alive or a three hour mule ride along the East Rim Trail. If you can spare an extra day, you can stay overnight at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Reached only by mule, foot or by rafting the Colorado River, this is a unique experience. TIP It is worth rising early and watching the sun rise over the canyon.
Grand Canyon to Zion National Park
You will leave one remarkable natural wonder but only to be stunned by another and yet another! You are entering the lands of amazing colours and you should certainly make a short detour on you way to Zion National Park to see the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. The clue is in the name and we are sure you won’t be disappointed. Zion National Park is next on the itinerary. The name 'Zion' means a place of peace and refuge. It is a sanctuary with over 146,000 acres of cliffs, canyons, diverse plant and animal life. Zion is a photographer’s dream with its glorious colours, slot canyons, soaring arches and waterfalls and we suggest you spend at least two nights here using it as your base to explore Bryce Canyon the next day.
Canyons are created in different ways. Zion is known for its slot canyons which begin their existence as a hairline crack in rock, which is beaten upon by rapidly flowing water until they becomes larger; finally over a vast period of time and a multitude of flash floods have eroded the rock, a narrow crevice is formed. The final result is caves, twisting and turning, often allowing only a glitter of glowing light into their depths. Wind, water and time carve lines on the walls of some slot canyons like Red Cave where flowing patterns run fluidly like the wind that help make them.
2 nights Zion National ParkClose
Bryce Canyon is only about 90 minutes from Zion but looks very different. Here instead of inspiring canyons you will find vast amphitheatres with extraordinary shaped hoodoos; rose coloured spires challenge the imagination. If you don’t want to walk, there is a shuttle service connecting all the major sites. Another way is to go on horseback or by ATV.
It is a 4 ½ hour drive to Monument Valley which is perhaps the most photographed landscape in all America. The monoliths and buttes have been a favourite Hollywood backdrop for over 80 years and you are bound to recognise some scenes. Monument Valley is still a traditional Navajo Indian homeland and although limited vehicular access is now allowed, back country hiking and biking is not. There are, however, some horseback tours available. Accommodation is available in nearby Kayenta or you can stay in a native hogan.
If you don't fancy heading to Kayenta straight away, or want to skip it altogether, Frontier America recommends heading to Lake Powell and spending a few days on one of the houseboats.
Please note that alcoholic beverages are prohibited on Navajo lands.
1 night in Kayenta
Kayenta to Mesa Verde
Today you will cross over into Colorado and visit Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, the park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. The highlight is undoubtedly the 150-room Cliff Palace but don’t miss Balcony House the dizzying heights of which are accessed by a 32-foot ladder and can only be visited with a park ranger.
1 night Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde to Canyonlands
Today you will return to Utah and the National Parks of the Canyonlands and the Arches where you should stay at least two nights to allow time to explore the more than 2000 natural, red sandstone arches including the iconic Delicate Arch. Many trails take you through a surreal landscape of eroded canyons, under soaring arches and around windows of stone. In the Canyonlands, be sure to go Grand View Point with its 360 degree view of the canyons below. The Needles district offers a very different beauty with remote loop hikes to spectacular red rock gardens.
Frontier America can organise a half-day 4x4 excursion into the Arches or Canyonlands to really get you off the beaten path. Either trip can be combined with a white water raft or jetboat on the Colorado River. We can also arrange a Hummer Tour, mountain biking or horseriding.
TIP Ask Frontier America about multi-day rafting or a challenging 4-night 4x4/hiking camping trip
2 nights in Canyonlands
Canyonlands to Aspen
You have a choice to day. If you have run out of time, you will have to join the Interstate 70 heading for Denver which is only a 5 ½ hour drive. We would recommend a stop for a night or two in the mountain towns of Vail or Beaver Creek, if this is not possible, we will arrange for you to stay in Denver before your return flight.
If you don’t have to return home just yet, Frontier America would strongly recommend you continue your holiday to Aspen, ski destination of choice for many celebrities but in summer a delightful holiday playground followed by three nights living the cowboy life on a ranch and with the end of the holiday spent in Colorado Springs.
2 nights in Aspen
Aspen Summer gondola rides on both Snowmass and Aspen Mountain offer up access to miles of trails and new experiences. Explore hiking and biking terrain for every level, from first-timer to expert. After all the canyons you have seen, enjoy the greenery of the Elk mountains, the extensive views of the Maroon Bells ( claiming to be the "most-photographed spot in Colorado) and Roaring Fork Valley. Enjoy free, live outdoor music all summer long. Children can join Camp Aspen/Snowmass, with mountain boarding, skateboarding, paintball and loads of other activities.Close
Aspen to Zapata Ranch
Zapata is a working ranch which takes guests of all abilities for a minimum of three days. If one of your party is a non-rider, there are plenty of other activities such as excellent fly-fishing, nature hikes, birding and wildlife watching.
If you do enjoy riding, or indeed would like to learn, you are invited to join the cowboys as they check the herds, fix fences, learn about cattle and bison and generally join in the life of the ranch. All this activity is bound to give you a healthy appetite. You will not be allowed to hungry. The ranch has wonderful food the preparation of which is overseen by Mike Rosenberg, who has worked for both the Carnegie and Kennedy families as well as 30 years spent on the ranch. Locally produced food (often from the ranch) is the speciality.
3 nights at Zapata Ranch
Zapata Ranch to Colorado Springs
Spend your last couple of days in Colorado enjoying the sunshine and visiting The Garden of the Gods park (rated number 3 in the world by Trip Advisor), take the cog railway up the famous Pikes Peak or visit the Western Museum of Mining and Industry; this rather long title masks a fascinating insight into the history of Colorado, mining and geology.
2 nights in Colorado Springs
This is a selection of hotels for this itinerary. Some areas have many more choices; please use the search function above if you wish to find an alternative hotel.
Zion National Park
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Lake Powell House Boats
Rent a house boat on Lake Powell. Everything is provided and no previous boating experience is necessary. The scenery is spectacular and the weather should be perfect. A three day minimum rental is required but should you stay for 7 nights, your 7th night would be free.
Imagine all the comforts of home - comfy beds, great living space, a fully appointed kitchen and a solid sound system - on your private houseboat, surrounded by Lake Powell’s breathtaking scenery. Even a first-time boater can learn how to pilot a houseboat after just a short lesson. Explore one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the country.
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