One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – the Grand Canyon , iconic Buttes and Hoodos – and my personal favorite, Antelope Canyon.
|Destination||USA, Western National Parks|
|How and when I got there||Rental car, pick-up at Phoenix Airport, drop-off at LAX (Los Angeles); July 2012|
|Where I stayed||All prices in US Dollars are per room per night; AAA rate (membership in the German Automobile Association ADAC entitles for AAA rate).
Las Vegas: Caesar’s Palace (https://www.caesars.com/caesars-palace )
Lee Vining: Murphy’s Yosemite Motel (https://www.murpheysyosemite.com/ )
Mariposa: Yosemite Miners Inn (formerly “Mariposa Miners Inn”, https://www.yosemiteminersinn.com/ )
San Fransisco: Club Donatello (https://www.clubdonatello.org/ )
|Restaurants||Lee Vining: Whoa Nellie Deli (http://www.whoanelliedeli.com/)|
|Things to do||Our Highlights: Mono Lake at sunset, Mariposa Grove – Giant Sequoias|
|Recommendations in a nutshell||Same as for part 1 of this journey: Distances are huge – try to figure out a schedule with a maximum 4 hour drive per day; and remember Konfuzius: “The journey is the reward”|
|Recipe||The Wild Wild West Burger|
This is the second part of our US round trip: the first part is about New York City, the third part from Las Vegas to San Francisco, the fourth part about the West coast, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and the fifth part about Oahu, Hawaii.
We left New York via JFK – first flight to Salt Lake City. I had booked a direct flight to Phoenix, but Delta had rescheduled us to a flight via Salt Lake City, leading to a considerably later arrival time at Phoenix. Not nice, as we had to pick up our rental car (a very nice Toyota RAV4) and get to the Grand Canyon on the same day. Thus we arrived late in the evening at the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
From previous vacations I knew the North as well as the South Rim – though the North Rim is a lot less populated, it’s more complicated to get to when coming from the South. So, we decided to stay at the South Rim. There are several options at the Grand Canyon Village – we liked best the Kachina and Thunderbord Lodges, which are both right on the Rim footpath. Kachina was already sold out, so we got into the Thunderbird. Being too late for the sunset, we planned to get up for the sunrise the next morning. Unfortunately, we were so tired that we just slept in. But even in bright daylight the Grand Canyon is a fantastic sight.
Canyon de Chelly
From the Grand Canyon we went east to Chinle and the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Although quite a drive (approx. 5 hours), the landscape that we passed was impressive, in particular under different weather conditions, and not at all boring:
The Canyon de Chelly itself, and there in particular the small Anasazi ruins were a bit less impressive as anticipated, but still quite interesting.
The walk down into the canyon was nice despite the heat, but we liked more the different Lookouts above, our favorite being the Spider Rock Overlook.
And the canyon provides some more nice views:
From Chinle we went north to the Monument Valley, and this drive was amazing. The route starts out pretty flat, but coming nearer Monument Valley, you pass the first Rock formations, and they are quite impressive.
There’s only one hotel within the National Park boundaries, “The View”. Rooms with the magnificent view are a lot more expensive than the back side, but it’s definitely worth the money:
Caution: these rooms are sold out way ahead – during holiday seasons you will have to book 1 year in advance. We had an aperitif on the terrace, and the view from there is incredible. Later we had dinner in the adjacent restaurant, which is the only option inside the Park. The food was OK, but the view (we managed to get a table at the window) is as incredible as outside:
Early the next morning we went the Wildcat Trail, which is the only hiking trail inside the Tribal Park that visitors can hike unescorted by authorized Navajo guides.
The roundtrip trail circles the West Mitten Butte and provides perfect postcard motives:
Absolutely recommendable, an amazing experience! And on top: wild horses:
From Monument Valley we headed west into the direction of Lake Powell, via the famous Antelope Canyon. We went to the “Lower Antelope”, which is the more crowded one, but easier accessible. After waiting in line for almost 2 hours, we finally made it into the Canyon. I didn’t really know what to expect, but – of course – had seen the pictures.
In reality, the Canyon is even smaller that I had imagined; you virtually enter it via a very tiny gap in the ground…
But then – incredible!! We took hundreds of pictures! Unfortunately, the way is not too long – the walk is about half an hour – but it was still one of my all-time favorites.
We considered it a good idea to see some water in between the piles of rock…
…and stayed for one night at the quite luxurious Lake Powell Resorts & Marina. Expensive, but very nice. Red Rocks behind the blue water – great sight before sunset!
Cottonwood Canyon Road
To get from Lake Powell to Bryce Canyon, you can take the highway no. 89, but – having spent money on a 4 wheel-drive – we decided give “offroad” a try: the cottonwood canyon road. That starts from highway 89 a few kilometers behind Bigwater and goes right through the countryside for almost 3 hours. It’s an unpaved road, but – at least under dry conditions – quite OK for any 4 wheel-drive. However, road conditions should definitely checked before going, e.g. under https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/news/road-conditions.htm .
During the first half of the way it was almost like a paved road (except a few sandy parts that turned out a bit tricky in order not to get stuck). Later we had to pass two small rivers, and crossing the second one gave us a bit of throbbing. The water came up to the lower half of the doors, leaving me praying that the motor would not stop and the doors would stay sealed. It took us certainly less than 30 seconds to get through the water, but it felt like half an hour…but all went well. And the Grand Staircase Escalante landscape is really worth seeing:
So in the end, it was a nice adventure and I would definitely do it again.
Accomodation in the Bryce Canyon area leaves you with a few hotel/motel options around or close to the park entrance. We stayed at the Best Western, but we also liked the Ruby’s Inn (https://www.rubysinn.com/ ) and went there for dinner (Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room, good selection of “American Traditionals”). There’s the “Bryce Canyon Lodge” right at the NP entrance, but it’s considerably more expensive (approx. 320 $), and you will need a car to get around anyway. So, there’s no real reason not to stay a bit further away, like the Ruby Lodge or the Best Westerns.
Bryce Canyon is definitely spectacular and worth the way down into the valley. The “hoodoos”, the spiky rock towers, are truly unique, and the mere amount of them is impressive…
…not to speak about their size:
We took the Navajo Trail, which goes down at Sunset Point and gives a very good impression of the entire valley, and continued on the Queens Garden Loop Trail.
Depending on the trail, it will take you half a day or longer to explore the canyon.
In order to see a lot within our limited time frame, we usually split our days in driving a few hours in the morning and visiting the site in the afternoon (and the next day, in case we stayed for 2 nights). Bryce Canyon was just one day, and still we got a quite good impression.
The next day was a kind of “transition day” in order to get from the Arizona/Utah National Parks to the Northern California ones. We went to Las Vegas and stayed there overnight. Caesar’s Palace, in the middle of the famous strip.
Despite being one of the “classical ones” the Caesar’s is still nice, popular and extremely well located to see the rest of the strip. We got a very nice room high up with a great view of the Caesar’s entrance and the adjacent hotels. The bathroom even featured a TV integrated into the mirror – not that we really needed it…
Being located in the middle of the “strip”, the Caesar’s is the ideal starting point for exploring the adjacent Casinos. Like the “Bellagio”, famous for being the target in “Ocean’s Eleven”:
And there are many more nice sites around:
Even inside the Casinos – the ceilings are impressive!
And of course – Las Vegas by night is phantastic:
We had dinner at the Caesar’s Restaurant beneath the Las Vegas Boulevard, because I insisted of having an “original Caesar’s Salad” – and was a bit disappointed, as the salad turned out yummy, but not really according to the traditional recipe. However, nowadays there’s a new restaurant (“Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen”) with a new menu – they still offer the famous Caesar’s Salad, but probably it’s a different recipe.
And here it is: my favorite recipe from the Western National Parks/Las Vegas – Original Caesar’s Salad
for a side dish for 4 persons:
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 anchovy fillets, minced (originally 4, but I don’t like the taste…)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 table spoons full fat yoghurt
- 80 ml olive oil
- Fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Romaine lettuce
- 4 slices crispy roasted toast, cut into croutons (small cubes)
- 100 g Parmesan in thin slices
Place egg yolk in a bowl, slowly add the olive oil and stir vigorously, until the suspension gets homogenous. Then add mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce, yoghurt, garlic, parsley and anchovy fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
Clean the salad and tear the leafs into pieces (not too small!), mix with dressing, finally add the croutons and the Parmesan – serve and enjoy!
Greetings from Antelope Canyon!
|New York City||USA, Western National Parks, Part 2||USA West Coast||Oahu, Hawaii|
*According to a German Court decision, all texts containing links to commercial pages (e.g. links to Tripadvisor, Airline, hotel or restaurant websites) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”. However (and referring to the “About Me” page) I would like to point out that I do NOT post any sponsored content in my texts; I pay for all my trips myself.