Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Are you looking to be covid-safe but still get some good outdoor photos/experiences? I have the trip for you!
My family and I were able to visit some beautiful sites in northern Arizona and the Las Vegas area (for less than $1,250 for 4 of us, btw - y'all know I find the deals) in early January 2021. We rented a car for only $64 for 4 days, and had some of the greatest driving views I've ever seen! We were able to visit the following highlights:
If you want my help planning the specifics of your trip, definitely click here to learn about my trip planning service TGSOTravel! But, I'll give you all a quick overview on the route we took. It was like a big circle: going up into parts of Utah, around and down through Arizona, then back to the Vegas Area.
Our first major stop from Vegas was Horseshoe Bend. Driving from the McCarran International Airport (LAS) usually takes between 4-5 hours, and there are two routes, the north and the south route. We decided on the north route because it was shorter and would allow us to see more different landscapes with less re-driving (or driving on the same road back and forth). We stopped overnight in St. George, UT, which was almost the midpoint.
Horseshoe Bend costs $10 per car to enter. Because we went in January, the parking lots were not full at all (but I have read that during the summer it's crucial to get there early to get a spot in the main lot). It's about a 15-20min walk to the actual Horseshoe Bend, and the trail is pretty easy. Once you get there, the views are amazing (which of course means, great photos)! There are a number of different photo opportunities - some for daredevils like me and others for those who want to stay safe behind the rails haha.
After Horseshoe Bend, we headed to Williams, AZ where we stayed for two nights. It was about a 2.5 hour drive to Williams, which is a cute Route 66 town that gives a jump back into time vibe. We didn't explore much because they weren't following covid-guidelines enough for me. But, it was a great place to stay in terms of proximity to the Grand Canyon South Rim.
The next day was our trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim. North Rim is closed during the winter months, so that's how we chose South Rim. It was about 1.5 hours from Williams, but a very straight and easy drive. We spent the entire day at the Grand Canyon seeing a bunch of the different points along Hermits Road (which cars can only drive on during 2-3 months per year) and the Orange/Blue Grand Canyon bus routes. I'll be writing more about the specifics of the Grand Canyon rundown in a separate post. We didn't do any hikes, but we did walk along the Rim Trail for a little over a mile and visited the Yavapai Geology Museum. We bought our lunch and snacks with us, which I would definitely recommend because the day is super long.
Here's a potentially unpopular opinion... but the views start to look the same after seeing so many back to back like that. It was a nice experience for sure and I am super glad I was able to check it off the bucket list, but I didn't fall in love with it. Maybe that's because we didn't actually hike into the Canyon, but yeah it was definitely cool. More importantly though, it has soooo many good photo opportunities!
After spending the day at the Canyon, we were beat! My siblings got a chance to nap while we were in the car driving between different stops; but I was the driver for the day, so at the end, I definitely needed a nap lol. Of course, I still had to drive the 1.5 hour back to Williams. When we got back to our Airbnb, I literally passed out in the bed. It was a worthwhile day though.
The next day, we headed back towards Las Vegas (which was a little over three hours). On the way, we made an impromptu stop at the Hoover Dam. The best part of this probably was... nothing lol. I felt very underwhelmed at the Hoover Dam. We took a couple pics, and then got back on the road. Definitely glad we didn't plan to see more here.
After the Hoover Dam, we did an escape room with was super fun. Yes, we escaped in case you were wondering. And then our last stop was Seven Magic Mountains (about 20 minutes from the LAS airport). I had been wanting to see that exhibit for literally years at this point, so I'm super happy we were able to see it. It was hard to get photos without people in it because we went during the middle of the day, but still a beautiful site. Definitely recommend!
This trip was fun because I got to spend time with my family, and be safe! We were able to wear our masks (only taking them off for photos really) and social distance everywhere we went. We didn't eat inside any restaurants, take out only. We drove around in our rental car, so didn't have to use transportation (outside of the plane of course) with anyone else. And all of our highlighted activities were outside (with the exception of the Geology museum at the Grand Canyon), which made us feel so safe! Even with the Escape Room, we were the only ones (besides the two employees) in the building.
It was a lot of driving, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for solo travel. But, if you're looking to do a road trip with a small group of people/family, and find outdoor places for great photo opportunities, I would definitely recommend this trip with the four highlights mentioned here (well, at least three of them if you choose to forego the Hoover Dam lol).
Ciao for now,