A Guide to Four Days in the Desert

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Length:  4 Days 

Airport:  Las Vegas McCarren Airport – LAS

Highlights:  Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Hoover Dam, Zion National Park, Valley of Fire State Park, Lake Mead, and a night in Las Vegas

DAY 1

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Fly into Las Vegas as early as you can get in and pick up your rental car. You will have to ride a ten-minute shuttle from the airport to the rental location. And when you return the car, set the GPS for the airport and follow the signs to the rental car return.

Your first stop should be at a Target on the way out of town. Be sure to get some ice for your cooler and buy a Styrofoam one if you need to. A gallon of water or two also probably won’t hurt. Get some sandwich fixings, a couple cans of soup, and other easy on the road, in the middle of nowhere kind of food items. Don’t forget something for breakfast the next morning! You’ll be heading out before the hotel’s breakfast bar opens. One thing I absolutely love for the middle of nowhere trips is the little pouches of applesauce for toddlers – no bowls or spoons needed!

Then hit the open road. It is about a four and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Page, Arizona. You will want to book two nights in a hotel of your choosing in Page. I booked the Rodeway Inn because it was only 6000 points per night.

DAY 2 

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Rise and shine. You should have booked a Lower Antelope Canyon Tour. I booked the second general tour of the day offered and chose not to do the photographers tour because I’ve never had an issue getting the photos I want on standard tours.

Sometimes I luck out, I’m gonna be honest, I luck out a lot. Now my luck has probably run out because I wrote about how lucky I am publically. Oops. I lucked out and my guide typically guides the photography tours. He helped me set all the settings on my camera to get the best shots of the slot canyon.

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After Antelope canyon, head out for Monument Valley.

Skip the tribal park if you want to save $20. All the photos you see of Monument Valley can be seen from the main highway that takes you up into Utah. After seeing monument valley you can drive to Mexican hat, but it isn’t a must-see item.

Monument Valley is definitely something that would look better during sunrise, but if you go at sunset it is still just as stunning. After that, make the drive back to Page. It’ll get dark before you make it back so be sure to stop along the way to get some stunning shots of the stars.

Unfortunately, I am still learning how to photograph the stars and none of my photos turned out good enough to share.

DAY 3

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Pack up and get ready for the drive back to Vegas. Check out of your hotel and hit the open road. If you wake up early enough, you should check out the breakfast buffet at the Lake Powell Resort. They have mind-blowingly (is this even a word?) delicious food and the million dollar views from the window are perfect.

I cannot stress enough how worth it, it is to make the detour to Zion National Park. It seems like nowadays, Zion is on everyone’s bucket list of must-visit national parks. Now I know why.

All I have to say is WOW. Well. Worth. The. Extra. Drive.

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I even got to see sheep chilling out on a cliff eating dinner.

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I can’t wait to head back to the region and get some more use out of my annual park pass.

At the end of the day, you will be rolling into Vegas in the dark. I recommend staying at the Freemont hotel on, you guessed it, Freemont Street. Check in, get your stuff up to your room and head out to check out everything that Freemont street has to offer.

There’s three concerts to choose from, various street performers and magicians, and even a zipline that runs from one end to the other. Bars also line the street so you can get your fill of whatever your drink of choice may be.

Day 4

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Pack up and check out of your hotel. You’ll be living out of your car for the next 12 hours.

Start off at Red Rocks National Monument. I didn’t get to spend much time here because I thought I was going to run out of gas and didn’t have a clue where the nearest gas station was.

PRO TIP: check your gas level before venturing off into the desert.

Next head north out of Vegas to Mount Charleston. Follow the road across and stop at the desert lookout. From there you can see where the US Military tested the atomic bombs. Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy and foggy on the day I went, so I couldn’t see out as far as I would have liked.

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After you’ve checked out Mount Charleston, next on your list should be the Valley of Fire State Park. You will have to pay a $10 entrance fee, but the rocks are so red and so pretty that it is almost worth it.

The park closes at sunset. Something I wish the woman who charged my card would have told me. I only had about half an hour to explore and take photos before it all shutdown for the night. Even with the limited time, I managed to get some beautiful photos of of the red rocks at sunset. The cloudy and foggy day definitely paid off when the sun began to set.

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I drove the remainder of the way through Lake Mead National Recreation Area in the dark. Again, you can get some gorgeous night photos here so long as you don’t mind the glow of Vegas in the sky.

After that, I made my way back to Freemont Street and watched another concert until I had to return the car and head to the airport.

I got on the midnight red eye flight and made my way back to Fargo.

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What I Would Have Done Differently

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say and there are always things that I wish I would have done differently.

For this particular trip, I wish I would have visited Monument Valley in the Morning and Horseshoe Bend in the evening. I also wish I would have made the time to check out Bryce Canyon National Park and gotten to the Valley of Fire a little earlier in the day and not spent so much time exploring Mount Charleston.

This trip, like any trip, is flexible. Nothing really requires a booking that is set in stone. So it will appeal to all the spontaneous people out there.

Have fun and don’t think too much about the 1200+ miles you’ll be driving. It definitely can be done considering I did it all by myself!

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Would you ever venture off into the desert on your own? How about drive 1200 miles on your own? Be fearless!

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