Las Vegas is a great place to begin a road trip for lots of reasons. First of all, it is Las Vegas, fun capital of the west. Las Vegas is easy to reach by plane so you don’t even have to use your own car for a road trip. Typically auto rentals are cheaper here than in many cities. If you use a rental car from Las Vegas you not only save all the driving time it might take you to get here to begin your road trip, but you put all the wear and tear on the rental car instead of your own. It’s also a great opportunity to try out any new model you might be thinking of buying. And, there is a good chance the new model will get much better gas mileage than your old clunker so a good bit of your rental cost might be offset by the fuel cost savings.
Las Vegas is only a couple of hours south of beautiful St. George, Utah which is a great place to really begin your road trip. Of course, you’ll want to stop in Mesquite for a short break while you fill up your gas tank with the cheapest gas you will probably encounter on the trip. Take the second exit and pull into the Smith’s grocery store station. You’ll also be able to run into the store and pick up some snacks for your trip at regular grocery store prices rather than overpriced gas station prices.
A road trip in Utah always seems like a good idea. Sometimes the weather doesn’t agree, but if you make the right plans it can work out well. From St. George, Utah to Salt Lake City is only about a four or five hour drive if you stay on I-15. But, why would you want to stay on I-15? Sure, if it’s a business trip and you have a deadline you may have to do just that. If not, there are a lot of reasons to take a few side trips along the way. It’s only about 420 miles from Vegas to SLC, but with all the great stops along the way you can probably count on driving close to 1500 miles roundtrip. At 30 mpg or better with your new rental car you probably won’t spend more than about $150 for gas.
If you head for the west side of St. George you will find the beautiful Snow Canyon State Park beckoning you. You could just drive up the center of the park and enjoy the terrific views, but that would be a shame if you miss all the great hiking trails in the park. You’ll have to pay an entrance fee, but it’s worth it. Just be sure and pick up a copy of the park brochure with a list of hikes. If you only have a little time, try the hike to Johnson’s Arch.
Once you leave the park and start the drive north on I-15 you’ll quickly discover signs pointing off to the east directing you to Zion National Park. If this is your first trip through the area anyone will tell you that ZNP is a side trip that you absolutely cannot miss. Zion could easily be a destination of its own, but you’ll need to spend most of a full day at the very least to enjoy this spectacular park. There are plenty of trails and, if the weather is right, you’ll want to hike up at least a little way into the famous Zion Narrows.
If you’ve decided to take your time on this trip north you might want to keep heading east out of Zion and spend some time at the Zion Mountain Ranch, where you can find a great little cabin for your overnight stay. Be sure and see the bison herd and enjoy your breakfast before traveling north for a quick visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. It makes a nice loop trip if you spend a couple of hours at this otherworldly park before heading on west through Cedar Breaks National Monument and a peek at Brian Head as you reconnect with I-15. You will have missed a beautiful, long hike to Kolob Arch, but maybe you can do that on your back south if you come back to St. George or Las Vegas at the end of your road trip.
As you proceed north along I-15 you’ll see that you’re passing close by Fishlake National Forest and several more state parks, all worthy of visits and maybe even an overnight or two.
When you get up near Spanish Fork you’ll soon see a very large lake off to the left. But, don’t be fooled – it’s not the Great Salt Lake, not yet. You’ll be looking out over Utah Lake and you’ll be getting close to Timpanogos Cave National Monument, a bit off to the east from the freeway, but worth a visit.
If you’ve made a few discoveries about the beautiful state of Utah that you didn’t previously know about then you’re already received an adequate reward for your adventurous spirit. But, maybe that’s not reward enough so let me make a suggestion on the ideal way to complete this beautiful road trip along I-15 in Utah.
Plan on a couple of days in Salt Lake City. It’s a lovely city and a very walkable one in the downtown area. And, the best reward you could give yourself is a stay at the finest, and only, Five Diamond Hotel in the city. I’m talking about the Grand America Hotel on Main Street just a few short blocks from Temple Square. The Grand America has everything you might need for a perfect visit. Not only is it within walking distance of the heart of the city, it is also right on the light rail line which will wisk you to any place you need to go, especially if you wish to explore beyond the city center.
The Grand America was built before the Olympics just a few years ago and is a wonderful, modern facility. But, it has all the grandeur of a classic hotel the likes of which you might discover in a visit to a fine establishment like the Fairmont hotels in Quebec City or Banff. You can be certain that you won’t be disappointed. In the midst of all the classic grandeur you will be surrounded by the latest in modern accoutrements, from the large flat panel TV sets in your suite to the most up-to-date equipment in the exercise room to be found in the Grand Spa. Of course, there is a full menu available in the Spa, with body treatments, facials, waxing services, massages and a complete list of Grand Spa Signature treatments, including a special Couples Experience, Executive Men’s program, Personal trainers, spa shopping and more. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, of course, and in a fine Mediterranean tradition – don’t forget your swimwear.
As you might expect in a place with the name Grand America Hotel, fine dining is a very important aspect of the whole experience. You won’t be disappointed, whether you choose the afternoon tea, a mid-day snack or a fine evening meal. But, there is one meal you should not miss at this hotel. The only problem is that you have to time your visit to get here on a special day. That special day is Sunday and that special meal is Sunday Brunch at the Grand America. This is a truly spectacular event so do not schedule it as a quick meal before you depart. Plan this meal into your day with at least an hour and a half or two hours to really enjoy it. I won’t try to tell you everything on the menu, but I’ll tell you some of the things I sampled although I’m pretty sure I’ll likely miss an item or two.
I couldn’t resist the prime rib and just a little bit of the leg of lamb at the carving station. The fabulous jumbo shrimp kept calling me and I probably had a few too many, but they were so good! I could have had crab legs, as well, but I wanted to try one of the fruit filled crepes. The pancakes looked delicious, but, I did skip them and had a waffle instead with some wonderful toppings. I had a small omelet cooked to order – the small was at my request, and it was cooked to perfection. There were a number of breads – that’s a real weakness for me – and I tried only two or three. I saw a variety of fresh fruit juices, but I had only a bit of tomato juice – my one concession to a low calorie count during this feast. The dessert table was laden with a variety that forced me to try several. I couldn’t find any that I didn’t like – the bread pudding was just the way I like it.
I seem to recall a chocolate fountain and lots of other things, like an assortment of cheeses, some of which I sampled and some of which I managed to resist, but this is a meal that is simply to be enjoyed. Worry about the calories tomorrow – today just take your time, enjoy the offerings and just make sure you revel in every bite, and then,
Keep on Traveling!