The next morning you can leave early (stopping at a few of the overlooks to watch the sunrise) and trying to spot wild cats if you can. The drive to Springdale is filled with canyons and rivers. However, we highly recommend stopping at the Rocking V in Kanab, UT for lunch. As the reviews on other sites had claimed, the owner Victor is very friendly and grew up in Texas so the menu has Texas influences (enchiladas, jalapenos, etc.) and he enjoys talking about his time in Texas. More important, the quality of the food would get three times the price in a big city as it does in Kanab. On the way out of town, be sure to look for the cliff where high school graduates paint the years of their graduation on the side of the mountain.
Next stop is Springdale. Get your cameras ready as you’ll pass a variety of rock formations; wildlife including buffalo, turkey and sheep; and tunnels through the mountains to arrive at the valley floor. At the Grand Canyon, you stay at hotels around the top of the rim and hike down into it. If you want to stay at the bottom you have to book very early for Phantom Ranch in communal bunks. But in Springdale, you stay in the bottom of the canyon with mountains all around you.
It’s only fair to share that Springdale is one of our favorite places we’ve visited. It is as though every chef who grew tired of big city politics pulled up and opened a restaurant in this mountain valley. Add to that backpacking free spirits, retirees and a whole lot of art shops and outdoor tour companies and you have Springdale.
We chose to stay at the Desert Pearl Inn, where the rooms are more like private apartments looking back out over the river. However, you could stay anywhere. The La Quinta is probably the nicest we’ve ever seen. Same for the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. Google them to see what we are talking about. So there is housing for anyone’s budget. And with such great food, shops and guides it’s best to stay in Springdale and make Bryce Canyon a fun day trip (two hours each way). There is also lodging within the park itself, but we enjoyed the town so much, it was easy to stay a few minutes from the park and enjoy all of the amenities.
As for the food, Oscar’s is a favorite with M&M Pancakes for breakfast or the Volcano Brownie Sundae after hiking (which is almost a miniature replica of Angels Landing). Meme’s will do great for another breakfast and Whiptail Grill does an interesting Zion spin on Tex Mex if you’re missing chips and salsa by this point.
When we first arrived, we scheduled a UTV ride with Buddy at Mild-to-Wild Rhino tours around the Gooseberry mesa. Buddy was great with kids and very knowledgeable of the area. We had two UTV’s and he was able to keep it exciting by heading up steep inclines; leading us on trails where wheels came off the ground by several feet; or letting the kids drive as you make your way around the edge of the mesa.
For the following day, you can plan a day to either hike Angels Landing to Scout’s Lookout – or continue to go further along the final chain link rope to the peak if you are that brave. Or, if it is Summer and a bit warmer, you can also coordinate with the local outfitters to hike the Narrows through water filled canyons. Afterwards, it’s an easy stroll along the Lower Emerald Pool trail to see the waterfalls coming out of the mountains.
For the last day, a quick drive to Bryce Canyon is enough to see the orange hoodoos. I’m not sure if it’s the color of the hoodoos or just being so remote, but the sky in Bryce Canyon is bluer than we’ve ever seen in our lives. Before you enter the park or right after you leave, a quick stop at Ruby’s Inn General Store is perfect for finding souvenirs and shirts. It is a mega-tourist store with anything you could want related to the canyon and you can’t miss it.
Within Bryce Canyon are several stops for trailheads. A good start is to head up to Inspiration Point to get a bird’s-eye view of the entire canyon. And then a second stop a bit lower to take the Navajo Loop to Queen’s Garden trail to explore the small canyon. If you decide to enjoy lunch mid-hike in the canyon, beware of the overly aggressive birds who make Angry Birds seem like a reality. Actually, they are not that bad, but I wouldn’t leave a sandwich sitting beside you for more than a second or it will be gone.
And for more details on surrounding areas see our full itineraries for Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, New Mexico/Arizona or Moab/Dunton Hot Springs or destination notes for the Painted Desert, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Amangiri/Slot Canyons, Route 66, Arches, Canyonlands, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Tucson, Phoenix, and Albuquerque.