Travelogue: Southwest Road Trip, Part 2 (Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend)

After seeing pictures of Antelope Canyon on Instagram, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Slot canyons are full of beautiful rock formations that are just hidden beneath the surface, and they’re so different from our Pacific Northwest terrain, or what I grew up with in California, so it’s just the kind of thing to get my travel bug going. The city of Page, AZ, is pretty small, but with a variety of slot canyons in the vicinity, there are a lot of hotel chains and services ready to take care of tourists, so it was actually a pretty easy component of our road trip to plan, and it’s a little less than 2 hours drive from Zion National Park without stopping.

Where We Stayed

Country Inn & Suites

The “suites” in the name is a misnomer (they don’t have separate rooms in the suites), but our two queen room was large and had a pack and play available for James. After the disappointment with outdoor pools not being open in February at our Zion hotel (understandable, but not advertised when I booked, and some outdoor pools are heated and open in winter), it was great to have a small heated pool and hot tub inside. There was also a reasonable breakfast and lots of dining space, which was great because we opted to eat grocery store tapas for dinner (most restaurants in town are chains with minimal choices for Peter’s allergies).

What We Did

We arrived in Page via Zion in the late afternoon and had time to leisurely get groceries and diapers from a Safeway in town, eat dinner in the hotel dining space, and hit the pool on the early side.

We had a fluke efficient morning getting the kids fed and ready, so we had some extra time to stop at a little playground en route to Lower Antelope Canyon to get the wiggles out. All the major slot canyons I’m aware of in the area (Canyon X and Upper Antelope Canyon are two of them) are on Navajo land and require a guided tour. After reviewing reviews and descriptions, I picked a 9:45 a.m. tour with Dixie Ellis (kids less than 4 are free, so Julia just squeaked by!). Lower Antelope is less busy than Upper Antelope (they are differently shaped – Upper Antelope is more like an A with small light beans and a short walk, Lower Antelope is more like a V with more light and a longer walk), and also had a bit of a walk so I thought it might feel less like a quick photo opp and more like an adventure. Our tour guide, Angie, was fantastic. As a younger Navajo person, she had a great sense of modern humor mixed with stories about life on a reservation. We had a diverse, but relatively small, group consisting of our family plus a retired couple and two honeymooning couples from Korea. Angie did a great job catering to everyone’s needs (taking lots of pictures for the honeymooners, making Space Balls jokes to Peter and me, etc). All told, the tour is just a tad over 1 mile long and they say it takes an hour, but we were out for about 90 minutes. The kids did really well, all things considered. You aren’t allowed to bring much of anything with you – we carried James in a baby carrier and he napped for about half the tour. We put a pouch in the carrier pocket, clipped a water bottle to a strap, changed James’ diaper before leaving the parking area, and crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t poop while we were out. Julia walked the whole way and enjoyed tracing patterns in the red sand on the canyon floor when she was waiting for our guide to talk to us or take pictures. Angie took all the pictures below that include the whole family.

After wrapping up the tour, Angie recommended that we visit Horseshoe Bend. It had already been on my list, but her suggestion put us over the edge since we were trying to balance nap times and drive times and it seemed like a medium-sized diversion. It’s $10 per car to park (National Park passes aren’t valid here), and there are limited facilities (essentially porta potty buildings), so we were grateful to have hand sanitizer and a space to change diapers in the back of the car. The hike is about 1.5 mi RT, so Julia walked on the way down, but rode in the toddler carrier on the way back. The walk has a low grade hill, but the trail has recently been improved to make it wheelchair and stroller accessible with a couple of shade structures along the way (although it would be horribly hot in summer). There are tons of rocks to climb at viewpoint and the bend really is a beautiful sight. We were happy to have made the extra stop!

After our hike, we headed out again towards Ivins, stopping at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin for a really delicious coffee and smoothie break.


When I booked the trip out to Page, I had some doubts that adding that extra length would be worth it, especially since James isn’t the best long drive companion. However, I’m so glad we went because Antelope Canyon was one of the highlights of our trip for everyone. The rock formations are so unique and spectacular and it’s an experience I’ll remember forever. I could have stayed an extra night to do another slot canyon, but there aren’t a lot of other facilities in town or restaurants with Peter-friendly food, so I think we had enough time for our family.

Next stop – Valley of Fire State Park!

For the Zion portion of our trip, click here.


Travelogue: Southwest Road Trip, Part 1 (Zion National Park)

Chalk this trip up to another “cheap flight” trip – Alaska had fare sales from Seattle to Vegas and while I didn’t have any interest in gambling, I’ve wanted to do some of the Southwestern parks for awhile. I’d also seen some great Instagram and blog posts from Local Passport Family, The Mom Trotter, Our Kindred Travels, and American Field Trip about Antelope Canyon and Zion National Park and it really got my wanderlust going. I thought this trip was overall pretty simple to plan (short, non-stop flight + shorter drives)., but I did have to do more searching for places that Peter could likely find things to eat. Road trips can be tough for someone with allergies (particularly to corn and soy, which are in everything, and are sneaky), so that was the one part of the planning phase that was a little stressful.

Where We Stayed

Ellis Island Hotel & Casino

We flew into Las Vegas in the afternoon and since it took FOREVER to take the shuttle to our rental car, I just wanted a spot for us all to crash for the night. I had booked Ellis because it was pretty inexpensive and had free parking. However, with hindsight being 20:20, I wouldn’t have stayed here again. Our Holiday Inn Club Vacations place later in the trip was about $10/night more and had 2 large bedrooms, multiple pools, etc vs. a small room with 2 queens at Ellis. The staff was very kind and friendly, but they were really busy and the whole hallway smelled like pot. The bathroom was so small that you almost ran the door into the toilet when you opened it, and it was just generally one of those “you get what you pay for” moments.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Zion National Park

This is a pretty new property (they celebrated their one year anniversary recently) that’s actually located in Virgin, UT (cue 5th grade jokes), which is about 20 minutes from the Zion National Park entrance. I booked it because it was less expensive than places in Springdale (the closest town to Zion) and because the description on listed a couple of pools, including a kids’ splash area. Unfortunately, the website didn’t say anything about the pools being closed while we were there (late February), only about them being heated, so that was a disappointment. My husband and I have different feelings about this place – he thought the 20 minute drive to town was definitely worth saving money. Given that the pool was out of service and there weren’t really any local restaurants or attractions, I would have paid more to stay in town where we could have walked to dinner. However, we still had a nice, large, clean room and it had 2 king beds instead of the usual queens, so we did have a little more space to sleep.

What We Did

After a mediocre night’s sleep at our Vegas hotel, we went out to the Sprouts grocery store (Vegas seems to be a grocery desert – there wasn’t much near town) just East of town to pick up snacks and a to-go breakfast of fruit, muffins and yogurt.

We needed a stopping point about half way to the park, and ended up going to Thunder Junction park in St. George, UT. It was such a great stop – a huge dinosaur themed park with areas for all ages. I was most impressed that it’s an “all abilities” park, so there were some spaces with ramps that a child in a wheelchair could access, and even a zip line that they could transfer into.

After about another hour of driving, we reached the Zion Visitor Center. The rangers must have already been overwhelmed with tourists because they weren’t the most helpful (example: Me: “Do you have any recommendations for a kid-friendly hike?” Ranger: “Just look at the map you got when you came in the entrance and choose what you think is right.”). However, we got some bare minimum directions to the Watchman Trail (you can find trail descriptions here) and set off. The kids fell asleep pretty quickly into the hike, so we were able to look at the beautiful scenery on our hike in peace and quiet after having been in the car with them all day.

We stopped for dinner at the Bit & Spur, which was delicious and family friendly (the kids really tested that out, too). Our waitress was really professional about dealing with Peter’s allergies, so we particularly appreciated that!

Our little wake-up call (James) didn’t care that we had changed time zones – he was still awake at 5:30 a.m. local time. So we grabbed hotel breakfast and headed out to the Canyon Overlook trail. I was grateful for the early start since we were able to snag a parking spot in the small lot across from the trail head (there are roughly 7-8 spots, including a handicap one, and a portapotty; right turn only to enter, so you have to plan it right because there’s a long tunnel adjacent to the entrance). The hike is really beautiful, with a few slippery/narrow places and a few drop offs. Like the Watchman trail, we carried the kids in carriers so this wasn’t a particular issue for us, but I was grateful for hiking boots and felt bad for a family we saw that started out with 3 young children in slip on shoes. Julia loved all the rocks to climb at the overlook – she still talks about them.

After a snack, we drove to Zion Lodge and took the Grotto Trail since the guide listed it as a place to see wildlife. The trail follows the main road very closely, so while Julia enjoyed picking up rocks and making stick forts, it wasn’t my favorite. Peter took James on a drive up the rest of the main road while Julia and I meandered back to the Lodge for lunch. I wasn’t impressed with the food and there was literally nothing Peter could eat except the lettuce at the salad bar (and beer!), but the views from the window were gorgeous.


With roughly a full day in Zion, I felt like we got a good introduction to the park with little kids. I would love to come back when they’re older and do more/longer hikes, especially when they can sit in the car for longer stretches and we can add more Southern Utah parks to our list. The hikes we were able to do were rated “moderate” on the trail description and I think that’s apt for a novice hiker (we like hiking, but we’re not pros). I was grateful for my hiking boots for some parts, and the kids rode in carriers rather than walking, but we didn’t need a frame backpack carrier or huge amounts of snacks/water and none of the hikes took us more than 1.5-2 hours round trip, even with time to explore at the destination.

I also really liked the season – shuttle use was only required on weekends in late February and the park was lively, but not crowded. Temperatures were also perfect (we had light puffy jackets and hats/gloves with us, but took them off for many of the hikes) with sunny skies. I would not be a good fit for a summer trip to Zion – the desert heat would keep me out of the park most of the time, which defeats the purpose of going!

For our next trip, I’d probably stay in the town of Springdale for the convenience to the park entrance and the better restaurant options, although if it were a summer trip, I’d definitely pick our hotel with a pool again!

Stay tuned for the next leg of our trip – Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ!