I just got back from a West Coast National Parks trip with my boyfriend and two friends! I managed to fit in 5 national parks in 9 days. I’ll definitely write more detailed accounts of each National Park on the blog later. But for now, check out our itinerary if you’re looking to get away from the daily grind for a short time yourself.
Day 0: Cincinnati to St. George
We flew out of the Cincinnati airport at around 7PM. We arrived in the Las Vegas airport at around 9PM.
No, it wasn’t a 2 hour plane ride. I wish. Vegas is three hours behind the city in which we started. Flying into Vegas at night is insane. There were three drunk people…just around my row! I’m not sure if it would be different if you went in the morning, but that might be a better option if you don’t want to deal with that on a flight (even if it is entertaining).
As soon as we got in, we looked for our baggage. Tip: Frontier’s baggage is in a completely different building in the Vegas airport. What’s up with that? Thankfully, we got our stuff right before a worker was going to take it into the office.
From the baggage area, we took a shuttle to the rental car place. Then we finally hit the road in our rental for our first hotel in St. George, about two hours away. So we didn’t get into the hotel until around 1. At which point I passed out.
Day 1: Zion National Park
We started the day with breakfast in the hotel. Then we stopped by the gas station for jugs of water/ Plus, I needed sunglasses. And Starbucks.
Finally, we hit the road for Zion, which was about an hour away. We started with a hike up Angel’s Landing. We were pretty wiped after that, so we finished with a brief wade in the water at the Narrows.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by a delicious hole-in-the-wall place (stay tuned for my blog post on Zion for more information). Somehow, the boys were still hungry, so we also stopped by the In-N-Out near our hotel before going to sleep early.
Day 2: The Grand Canyon
We got up early and hit the road by 6AM. The drive to the Grand Canyon from our hotel in St. George was about 3 hours, so we didn’t want to start the hike too late.
By the time we were at the Grand Canyon and started hiking the North Kaibon Trail, though, we realized getting there and starting by 9 was still too late. For one thing, it got hot really quickly. For another, the trail was much longer to hike than we were originally thinking. But we did go all the way down to the river, which I’m still proud of.
On the trail, I had to remind myself not to play the comparison game. One guy went ahead of all of us. Then I tried to keep up with the other two and couldn’t. Maybe because they’re more experienced, maybe because I’m petite. But it doesn’t even matter.
Yes, I am fit. But obviously there is more to go. I just need to look at the progress I have made. A park ranger said that he suggests to “normal people” that they go to the overpoint and then turn back. I went way past that point. And yet I felt bad about turning back at the bridge. Obviously, I was too hard on myself.
Anyway, we went to take more pictures at the Visitor’s Center. Which turned out to have even more amazing views than the hike.
We ate lunch at the Visitor’s Center, then went to check into our next hotel in Vegas. Then dinner, then sleep.
Day 3: Red Rocks
We actually slept in until 9 today. We had discussed getting up at 8 the day before, but then none of us set an alarm. This meant that we missed the hotel breakfast, so we went to a Dunkin Donuts before we hit the road for the next National Park.
It was hot hot hot in Red Rocks. There weren’t as many people hiking this trail. Probably because they weren’t foolish like us and knew how hot it was. But it was kind of nice to be alone in a sea or large red rocks.
We went to the Strip in Vegas to walk around and do some sightseeing, as well as for dinner. We went to bed by 9 again since the next day was another early morning.
Day 4: Yosemite
We woke up at 5 to hit the road by 5:30. Vegas to Yosemite was about an eight hour car ride.
We went to the park first. We got there by 3, which was just enough time to do the Yosemite Falls trail. That trail turned out to be the first part of our hike the next day.
After the hike, we stopped by the store in Yosemite for food, water, and souvenirs. Then we ate some dinner and finally checked into the hotel so we could go to sleep early. The next day was the earliest day of the trip.
Day 5: Yosemite, Part 2
We woke up at 4 to get on the El Capitan trail by 5:30. My boyfriend and I didn’t get off of the trail until 3. That tells you how long of a hike El Capitan was. Going up was brutal. I cried at the top of the mountain because of my exhaustion, but also because the view was so magnificent. Going down wasn’t much better. I was so sore and felt like I had so much further to go.
But it’s like a marathon. I’ve already forgotten the pain and want to do another impressive hike. I don’t know what it is that makes me love these sorts of sports so much. Maybe it’s because there’s literally nothing to think about or worry about except putting one foot in front of the other. That helps with my anxiety.
And the the views. The views make me stop and thank God for all that He has done in this world.
Afterwards, we went to get food and beer to celebrate. We were so exhausted that we took naps in the hotel room after we ate. We watched a movie while drinking the beer, although none of us got out of our beds. That was all any of us had energy for.
Day 6: Sequoia
We slept in until 7:30 because no one set an alarm again. But I know that’s what we needed after such a hard day the day before. When we finally did get up and read, we hit the road for Sequoia.
Sequoia is only about 3 hours away from Yosemite. All of us went to see the Sherman Tree. But my boyfriend was getting a bad sinus infection, so we dropped off our two friends for the hike they had planned and drove out of the park for an urgent care. After we drove another hour to pick up the guys, I did some yoga just so I got some exercise in.
Dinner and sleep was on the rest of the agenda for that day.
Day 7: Joshua Tree
We woke up at 7:30 and got breakfast in the hotel. We relaxed in the hotel until 11 since we weren’t in a rush to get to the next park.
After we left, we drove 5 hours to Palm Beach. The traffic in LA made it longer than it actually was. Of course. Once we checked into the hotel, we drove out to Joshua Tree for a beautiful sunset.
Note: Don’t go into the South Entrance. It is BORING. And it’s about 50 miles before you hit any of the interesting stuff.
Day 8: Joshua Tree, Part 2
My alarm went off at 7:15. We got breakfast in the hotel and then hit the road by 8:30.
My boyfriend and one of the guys I was with tried to do some rock climbing, but even the easiest boulders were harder than they were used to. My friend still got three routes, though. He tried for a long time to get a fourth route, but then he decided to give up so we could leave. (I said I’d say he made it. Shhh don’t tell him I told the truth.)
We just relaxed in the hotel room again until dinner. Then we went to sleep early once more so we could wake up early for the airport.
Day 9: Los Angeles to Cincinnati
We left the hotel by 5:30 so that we could drive towards LAX. The aiport was about two and a half hours away from out hotel. I think we expected more traffic than we actually hit, because we ended up getting to the gate 2 hours early. We probably could have slept a little longer. Oh well. Better safe than sorry when you’re traveling!
So there you have it. An itinerary for a West Coast National Parks trip! Stay tuned for more detailed posts.
Have you ever been to any of these National Parks? I would love to hear about your experiences!