I love using Frontier Airlines for extended weekend trips because their flights around the US are dirt cheap. Awesome deals can usually be found from the midwest to Denver, Orlando, Vegas, and Atlanta from $40 – $200 roundtrip. To save a checked bag fee, just pack your things in a bookbag for the extended weekend. (Note: Frontier Airlines is an a la cart airline so each addition, such as drinks and choosing a seat, cost $$)
There is SO much beauty in Nevada and Arizona, it was hard to narrows down the activities for only three days! Our main goal for this trip was to bring the kids to the Grand Canyon, so we built upon that. After work friday, the family hopped on a plane to Vegas, picked up a rental car, and grabbed a late dinner. Bright and early Saturday morning the adventure began!
Here are 5 top locations recommended for an extended weekend road trip around Arizona/Nevada, along with additional details on how to experience these majestic destinations. Enjoy!
*Note: Beginning in Las Vegas, these destinations are listed in the order we visited them, traveling East from Vegas to Page, Arizona.
1.) Hoover Dam – This world renowned landmark, once called Boulder Dam, borders the Arizona Nevada State Line. Everything about the structure is simply remarkable, from the construction in a short five years during the unfortunate times of the Great Depression to the amount of electricity provided to multiple states over the years. Currently the dam produces 4 billion kilowatts of electricity a year!! The Hoover Dam is known as one of the greatest engineering and construction achievements in history. Head south on highway 515 from Vegas and you’ll arrive in just 38 minutes! Tours can be booked but are not necessary. Park your car and walk across the Mike O’ Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for perfect views at no cost! You can learn about the bridge and the dam along your walk. Make sure to walk along the bridge far enough to reach the Nevada/Arizona state line. There is a plaque on the ground that cannot be missed. This is your opportunity to be in two places at once! 😉
2.) The Grand Canyon National Park – Be sure to stop for a bathroom/snack break before making the 3 hour 45 min drive from the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon. To get there, take 93S to 40E to 64N. Once you see this geologic wonder it will be easy to understand why it’s called “Grand”. This Canyon is over 227 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep. The Colorado River paves through the Canyon exposing almost two billion year old walls of ancient layered colorful rock. On this trip, we visited the South Rim where there is more activity and a greater amount of viewpoints, however I do hope to visit the more serene, less touristy North Rim one day. The South Rim provides almost two dozen viewpoints, each offering their own unique vistas of the canyon. At several viewpoints you can see straight down to the River! There is a shuttle from the visitors center that will transport you to each of the viewpoints. If you are feeling active and want to hike, I recommend the South Kaibab Trail. This hike will take you down into the canyon as far as you feel like going and offer spectacular 360 views. The shortest distance is to Ooh-Aah Point just .9 miles into the canyon, making for a 1.8 mile round trip, and the longest distance is Skeleton Point at 3 miles down, making for a 6 mile round trip. The trail is a maintained dirt trail, but does not offer much shade. Additionally, there is no water along the trail, so please be prepared. To get here, hop on the bus at the visitors center and go to Yaki Point. The trail begins just south of there. Other activities the Grand Canyon offers include: bike rentals, rafting trips, and ranger programs.
3.) Horseshoe Bend – Horseshoe Bend is located roughly 130 miles, or 2 hours, northeast of the Grand Canyon, however it is only 5 miles from the beginning of the Grand Canyon National Park. Drive here from the South Rim by taking highway 64E to 89N. This destination has become super popular just recently as visitors are eager to view the “bend” in the Colorado River, in which the river flow forms the shape of a horseshoe inside the canyon. There is a parking lot just off 89N (look carefully for a sign). From the lot, walk roughly 3/4 of a mile to the edge overlooking the bend. Lookers must be very careful as there are no railings. I prefer it this way, for selfish reasons, as I feel that adding railings and window panes ruin the natural feel of the destination. There is such a rush sitting at the edge of the cliff with your feet dangling free, looking down on the beautiful bluish green waters and locating the tiny rafts as they float down the river, their size a reminder of the great distance between us and them.
4.) Lower Antelope Canyon – A short 18 minute drive 89N and 98W will bring you to the famous Antelope Canyon. Book a hotel room here in Page, Arizona because you will need more than a day to marvel in all the beauty Page offers. Antelope Canyon is made up of two slot canyons, formed over time as water rushed through sandstone crevices causing the rock to erode and form these deep gorges. Over time the gorge grew larger eventually allowing hikers to experience its immense beauty. The two slot canyons are called Upper Antelope Canyon, or Tsé bighánílíní – the Navajo name, and Lower Antelope Canyon, or Hazdistazí. After a little research we decided on Lower Antelope Canyon as it was a cheaper option and is known to be less crowded. Upper Antelope Canyon is popular for the famous light beams, although a smaller crowd was more selling for me. The Canyon’s can only be toured with a guide, and there are only a few companies with permits for Lower Antelope Canyon. We booked with Ken’s Tours and were not disappointed! The best time to take a tour is between 11am – 1pm because the lighting on the sandstone walls is just perfect. Luckily we booked far enough in advance to secure a lunchtime tour. Plan to be on the tour a little over an hour, which isn’t nearly enough time to marvel at all the shapes and designs carved into the rock.
*Tip: Your tour group with Ken’s Tours will be limited to 15 people, but will feel very crowded inside the canyon. Drop to the back of your tour group for opportunities to capture photos without others in the background. There are many twists and turns in the canyon, so with a little patience you will be able to get the photo you’ve been dreaming of!
5.) Lake Powell – Lake Powell is the second largest man made reservoir in the United States and spans 186 miles long. If you booked that hotel room in Page like I mentioned above, you can spend your next day adventuring around a piece of Lake Powell just 15 minutes outside of Page, Arizona. Head to Wahweap Marina for various boat tour options, houseboat rentals, water toy rentals, or some fishing and swimming. Lodging is offered at Wahweap Marina, or you can stay elsewhere and pay a small entry fee when you arrive. Lake Powell’s calm, crisp, and expansive blue waters boarded by the burnt orange and brown sandstone canyon provided the perfect picturesque location to wind down the trip.
It wasn’t easy making the 4 hour drive back to Las Vegas to catch a red eye flight home however our faces were still smiling from the unforgettable memories made and breathtaking photos captured along the journey!