Want to explore the epic national parks of the Southwest but not sure where to start? As the National Parks TravelingMom, I know planning a national park adventure can require months. With busy family and professional lives, sometimes vacation planning doesn’t make it to the top of the to-do list. I understand. I want to share an option that might work for your family on the next school holiday or vacation. Here is my tour review of Viator’s 3-day national park adventure.
Bucket list national park destinations seem to be on everyone’s to-do list this year. And taking the kids to see the popular national parks of Arizona and Utah are a great place to start. So what do you do if you have the desire to explore the jewels of the southwest yet don’t know where to start?
I recently had the opportunity jump on a 3-day national park tour by Viator, a TripAdvisor company and the leading resource for tours and activities worldwide. The 3-day national park tour adventure departed from Las Vegas, Nevada, and I scored a last minute seat on the tour. That’s right Moms, let Viator do the planning and the driving for your next family trip.
Day One – Viator National Park Adventure
Leaving Las Vegas
I received all the information required to find the bus at the Luxor Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. I parked my car in their covered parking garage for $8 a day and gathered my bags for my three-day national park adventure.
The driver grabbed my wheelie suitcase and stowed it in the luggage compartment as I boarded the plush motor coach. This area of the Luxor is a popular departure point for group tours with several departing at the same time.
My tour guide, Emanuele, and driver Craig, got us on the road in no-time. This tour travels 1,000 miles over three days and two nights but the bus stops every two hours. Wow! A great option for everyone, especially kids, as we headed out of Las Vegas and passed Lake Mead.
To my surprise, my tour guide spoke fluent Italian, and as I looked around, I saw that the majority of fellow passengers were also Italian. Suddenly I felt a little more cosmopolitan.
As we cruised down Interstate 40, I enjoyed the desert scenery float by at a leisurely pace. When I explore the national parks on my own, I’m the driver who watches the road. So this was a treat for me.
Our tour guide pointed out all the major sights along the route and interesting tidbits that I didn’t know even after living in Las Vegas for several years. With a potty stop in Kingman, Arizona, we were back on the road again. Next stop scheduled, a taste of Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona, for vintage cars and classic Americana.
Back on the bus, our next destination was quaint Williams, Arizona. Lunches and dinner were on our own and not part of the tour price. As I walked down historic Route 66, I saw PIE, lit up in neon. Decision made; I walked through the door at the Pine Country Restaurant for a quick salad. The glass front cabinet oozed with whip cream concoctions that begged to be sampled, and my waiter boxed one up to-go.
Grand Canyon National Park
Back on the motor coach, my tour group headed north for Grand Canyon National Park. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon can be slow with traffic. Although riding in a cushy seat and letting someone else drive made all the difference.
The first stop was Mather Point, the most iconic view of the western United States. With over an hour to experience the majestic landscape, I walked along the rim trail, viewing the canyon through pinyon pine trees.
I stepped into the visitor center and stamped my National Park Passport book, a special book to place stamps from each national park site, and browsed the gift shop. I even had a moment to grab a quick drink before boarding the bus again.
Back onboard, Emanuele told us Desert View, near the eastern entrance of the Grand Canyon, would be our last stop in Grand Canyon National Park. The highlight of Desert View is the Desert View Watchtower.
Designed by Mary Colter, the primary architect of the historical buildings at the South Rim, Desert View Watch Tower is considered her best work. I delighted in climbing the circular stairs and seeing the Grand Canyon that Colter wanted visitors to see from the windows of her historic structure.
On our way again, our tour driver slowed the bus down for a view of the Canyon of the Little Colorado River before making our way to our next stop. The Trading Post in Cameron offers Native American crafts and jewelry as well as souvenirs and snacks. A working trading post since 1916, it offers the historic Tanner bridge and view of the Little Colorado River.
The first day drew to a close in Page, Arizona, that offered numerous restaurants, a grocery store, and even a Starbucks Coffee within walking distance. After receiving my room key from Emanuele, I made my way to Fiesta Mexicana, a Mexican restaurant right across the street from my room at the Clarion Inn.
With amenities like a deluxe breakfast and afternoon welcome cookies served with ice tea, I got more than I expected at the Clarion Inn. My room featured a small table with two chairs, a mini-refrigerator, a microwave and standard toiletries along with mouthwash and earplugs. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi was non-existent and I could never log on.
Day Two – Viator National Park Adventure
Leaving at 9 a.m., we drove to our first stop Glen Canyon Bridge for photos. Located just below the Glen Canyon Dam, the bridge is 700-feet above the Colorado River and moves when large trucks drive over it. An exhilarating experience if you are not afraid of bridges.
Lake Powell Cruise
On the Viator motor coach, our next stop was right around the corner at Glen Canyon National Recreational Area for a 90-minute cruise aboard the Desert Shadow. Considered by many to be one of most beautiful lakes in the United States, its dramatic desert scenery is best experienced on the water.
As I glided along the emerald water of Lake Powell, a headset gave a thorough tour. After cruising by the Glen Canyon Dam, the Desert Shadow headed for Antelope Canyon to tour 4 miles of the 10-mile long section of the slot canyon.
After the cruise, we enjoyed a lunch break. A restaurant is located inside of the marina building along with a gift shop. Or do like I did, purchase a salad at the grocery in Page, Arizona.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Back on the motor coach, our tour departed for next destination, Bryce Canyon National Park. Expansive views at every turn of the head, the Paunsaugunt Plateau’s dramatic scenery is a hiker’s dream.
The Viator motor coach stopped for an hour at Sunset Point, where I hiked to Sunrise Point before walking through the Bryce Canyon Lodge. I found souvenirs in the gift shop and nice restrooms to use. I added an additional stop at Inspiration Point for a quick photo.
During my tour, we encountered an afternoon rain storm and unfortunately did not take the scheduled hike in Bryce Canyon National Park.
The Viator motor coach whisked the group to our hotel in Kanab at the Days Inn. Emanuele handed over the room keys again, and I made my way to my room. My room featured a small table with two chairs, a mini-refrigerator, a microwave and standard toiletries. Again, I had trouble with the Wi-Fi and I could never log on.
Kanab offered less in the way of dining close to the hotel, but I found a soda fountain and an ice cream shop. Located inside of the Kanab Pharmacy, it grilled up paninis and hot dogs for the kids.
Day Three – Viator National Park Adventure
After a hot breakfast at the hotel, my final day on my Viator 3-day national park tour started at 9 a.m. Emanuele, our tour guide, informed us that Zion National Park would be our main destination for the day.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is west of Kanab, Utah, so we drove west and entered through the eastern entrance of the park. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway passes by the Checkerboard Mesa so the motor coach stopped for a couple of quick photos. Next up, we drove through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, the one-mile tunnel has several windows with panoramic views that should not be missed.
After disembarking at the Zion Lodge, I grabbed a map and headed out to hike. The Lower Emerald Pools hike features a waterfall. Of course, I decided on that trail, refilled the water bottle, slathered on some sunscreen, and put on my hat before walking across the Virgin River bridge.
The Lower Emerald Pool Trail provides a semi-shaded 1.2-mile paved round-trip hike to a 100-foot water fall. The trail slips under the rim and the water tumbles down from above.
As I tilted my head up, a drop of the waterfall landed on my cheek. The indigo sky drew my eyes upward while the red sandstone walls radiated warmth. The emerald moss clinging to the rock filled me with a sense of vitality. Only a hike under a waterfall can transform a moment into a memory.
A few pictures later, I hiked back Zion Lodge for an after hike treat. On the outdoor patio, I found a coffee and beer cart. I took my iced vanilla latte over to the lodge’s front porch rocking chairs and enjoyed the scenery.
After close to two hours in Zion National Park, we loaded up in the motor coach and headed south. A quick lunch stop at St. George, and we arrived back at the Luxor parking lot right on time, 4 p.m. Still plenty of time to explore The Strip or catch a show.
Final Thoughts on Viator’s Organized Tours
As I said my good-byes and walked away, I took a moment to think about my trip. In all the national park trips I have planned, I never considered an organized tour.
For families, Viator makes it easy. My experience was pleasurable from start to finish. I explored 4 national park sites without the hassle of planning a road trip. The rooms were included and all the details easy to manage. As a busy Mom, I appreciated the efficiency.
For families with preschoolers and babies, this trip is best saved for when the kids are in school when the kiddos can sit and entertain themselves for 2-hour blocks.
Sometimes a national park road trip can be intimidating for a Mom traveling alone with her kids. I get it. And I would suggest this as an option.
Since Viator offers trips around the world, I can’t wait to try another one.
What I loved about my 3 Day Viator National Park tour
- I jumped on this tour at the last minute, just days before departure.
- My departure city, Las Vegas, offers lots of entertainment before or after the tour.
- The comfy motor coach allowed me to catch up on reading, and I even took a nap between stops. As someone who is usually behind the wheel, this was a nice bonus.
- The power ports located at all the seats provided hours of entertainment, great for kids.
What could be better
- My motor coach didn’t offer a tray table or a cup holder.
- Due to the remote location of the parks, Wi-Fi and data were skimpy.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
Be sure and pack:
- A small pillow and large scarf for afternoon bus ride naps.
- Cubes and cords for your electronic devices, all the seats on my bus had standard electrical plugs.
- Electronic entertainment and earbuds
- A day pack with a refillable water bottle for hiking, snacks, a hat and sunscreen.