If I’m being honest, some of my favorite trips are when I get to travel with other photographers. They just get my need to constantly stop and photograph the beauty around me.
So when one of my best buds and fellow photographer, Jennifer Kielich, said she wanted to travel and see more of the US national parks, I was so down for a girls’ getaway with her! We decided that we were going to check out the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon on this trip. We decided to fly in and out of Las Vegas McCarran airport and road trip it out to the parks. We jam-packed 4 days of some of the most breathtaking sites I’ve seen. I never realized how much I was missing out on with the national parks that we are so fortunate to have out west, but now I know it’s something that I will definitively make time to see more of each year.
As I said, this was a bit of a whirlwind 4-day trip + would definitely love to go back, but here are some tips, recommendations, and details about our trip that I think will help you out if you’d like to plan a similar trip!
Hotel Accommodations – Yavapai Lodge
We had originally wanted to do some glamping on this trip, but with our time constraints, we figured it’d be best to be right there in the park itself so we didn’t have to add any additional travel time. The Yavapai Lodge in right within the heart of the South Rim area of the Grand Canyon in the Grand Canyon Village which made it a prime spot for us. It definitely wasn’t anything glamourous, and I’ll admit that the wifi/cell reception wasn’t that great…but we are there to enjoy nature and disconnect, so it wasn’t a biggie. Also, we traveled here at the end of November, so it was a bit chilly and with the way they had their eco-friendly showers set up, it got quite chilly in there, but it was all good once the hot water got running! We stayed in the West Lodge and it was just a short little drive to the shuttle pick-up/drop-off to the head to the observation decks along the rim.
Overall review of my stay at the Yavapai Lodge – 4/5.0
What should you do in the Grand Canyon?
There is so much you can do here, but we had less than 24-hours in the Canyon, so we wanted to make sure we made the most out of seeing the sunset + sunrise within the canyon. I wish we had had more time to explore around some of the trails, but if you are looking for spots to see the sunrise and sunset over the canyon…these are your spots!
Sunset at Hopi Point
This offered some of the most amazing unobstructed views into the canyon for the first time. Sunset over the canyon and into the valleys was absolutely breathtaking! We took the shuttle and got there about a half-hour before sunset and it was perfect!
Sunrise at Yavapai Point
We were originally going to check out Mathers point, but our shuttle bus driver told us that Yavapai point was the place to be for sunrise over the canyon, so that’s where we headed and it did not disappoint! Although being up and waiting for the bus shuttle at 6 AM in 30-degree weather was uncomfortable, it was so worth it for the morning view on the south rim of the Grand Canyon!
After sunrise over the canyon, we were off on a 2.5-hour drive towards Page, Arizona to check out a tour of Antelope Canyon. The only place we ate at while in the Grand Canyon was at our hotel at Yavapai Lounge Restaurant which was your typical food hall type of experience. Not terrible, but definitely not anything to write home about. It was right in our hotel though so it was convenient because let me tell you…driving in the canyon at night without street lights, lots of turns and trees can be a bit intimidating! Haha.
Next stop, we hit up the infamous red slot canyon – Antelope Canyon for a 1 PM tour! We ended up doing the Antelope Canyon X with Taadidiin Tours and it was the most perfect tour for our photographer’s hearts! The specific tour we did was the Canyon X Photo Tour. When we did this tour in November of 2018 it was $84 each (including the $8 hiking permit to be on Navajo land). This 3-hour tour was an intimate group of about 6 of us and we pretty much had the canyon to ourselves (with a few other small hiking only groups passing by every once in a while). We were able to bring our “big girl” cameras (Canon 5DM3s and our tripods and they let us spend as much time as we wanted to photograph within the slots. Our amazing guide also would offer suggestions for great spots/angles to try and shoot. I HIGHLY recommend this tour company! They were amazing!
Accomodations – AirBnB
We ended up staying in the cutest little Airbnb in Page, AZ that I loved! It was right in the center of the town, it was a clean, and super quiet neighborhood. We were also very close to Horseshoe Bend where we went to watch the sunset.
So something to keep in mind when you head to horseshoe bed…give yourself plenty of extra time before sunset time because a) the parking lot is a good 10-15 minute walk to the end of the bend and b) it’s not like the ocean where the sun sets at the exact time…it sets behind the canyon a few minutes earlier than that. We almost missed it but we got there in the nick of time! Phew! And what a spectacular sight it was to see!
After spending a night in Page, Arizona, we drove back 4.5 hours towards Vegas (something to keep in mind when doing this trip is the time change between Vegas and Arizona!), with a few stops along the way. Seriously, the views we saw on our drive and just the amazing creations that mother nature made in this area is utterly breathtaking! While the drive could have been tiring, it was wasn’t because there was so much beauty to see around us!
Accommodations – Serene Hotel
We ended up staying a little bit off the strip (towards the airport) at Serene Hotel. It was a pretty hotel and I could tell they had remodeled in recent years, but I’d probably give it just a “meh” rating. You could tell some of the remodeling was more bandage than fixes and it wasn’t anything fancy, and the walls were thin so we woke with a start in the middle of the night to some drunk couple arguing outside, but it sufficed. It was a good price and a quick trip to the airport.
What should you do in Las Vegas?
Most people would do the strip and go to shows, buffets, and gamble, but this was a super short visit and I’ve honestly done all that before. So this time around we checked off a few different ideas….
Seven Magic Mountains
This art installation a bit down from the Vegas strip was something that had popped up in my Instagram feed before and hadn’t realized that it even existed, so we decided to make a visit happen! We headed there for sunset and I will forewarn you…it’s a popular spot at that time of day! I think if I ever headed there again, I’d aim for early morning to avoid the crowds. This installation is free to see, but trying to photograph within it without a million people in your shots was tough! You had to be strategic with your shots, that’s for sure! Haha. Still fun to see!
Welcome to Vegas sign
We decided to venture to the famous Vegas sign for a few shots and we got lucky with a couple of men in front of us in line that were going to a Blink 182 concert that decided to give us quite the surprise with their posing in front of the sign! Haha
Neon Museum – Brilliant Show
Jen and I knew we wanted to see the Neon Sign Graveyard to photograph, but then found out they had an evening show where you get to see the signs come back to life to music, along with a historic video of how Vegas grew over the years and it was so legit! I’m so glad we decided to do that because it was more than just shooting around with the “dead” signs, we got to experience the story and history of Vegas as well! Very cool experience!
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