Winter Break Road Trip : Part 2/2 – Brian Head UT Back to Orange County, CA

We spent the first part of our 6 day road trip making our way through Southern Utah, stopping at many fun and beautiful sites on the way to Brian Head Ski Resort including .

Although one intent of this road trip was to get some skiing in (days 3 and 4), we were also able to squeeze in a good amount of hiking and sightseeing. On our return drive (days 5 and 6), we stopped at Snow Canyon State Park, Valley of Fire, Red Rock National Conservation Area and Mojave National Preserve.

Day 5: Snow Canyon State Park Utah and Valley of Fire State Park

Snow Canyon State Park: 1002 Snow Canyon Dr, Ivins, UT 84738

Several of our adventurous friends suggested we stop at Snow Canyon State Park. We only had time for one hike in this park, but definitely plan to return to explore more in the future! We checked out the Lava Flow Trail – a 1.7-mile round trip, family friendly, path. There were three lava tubes that our boys enjoyed crawling into and checking out. We recommended bringing a flashlight or headlamp, because it can get quite dark in the lava tubes.

Snow Canyon State Park is located in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The park features a canyon carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone of the Red Mountains, as well as the extinct Santa Clara Volcano, lava tubes, lava flows, and sand dunes. It is a great stop when traveling between Las Vegas and Utah destinations including Zion, Bryce, and Brian Head. Here is some info to help plan your visit:

Day-use Fees:
Utah Resident: $10 per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 per vehicle (up to eight people) Seniors 65 and older (with UT driver’s license); $5 pedestrian/cyclists (up to eight people)
Non-resident: $15 per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 pedestrian/cyclist (up to 8 people)
Camping is available at this park

Food: Although we started doing tailgating picnics during, and due to the pandemic – these take out / picnic meals have been fun, and we plan to keep on doing them! It is also a good way to save money when traveling with kids, if you pack your own food. Bonus points if we get to eat in a beautiful location. My favorite gear for tailgating picnics are our trekology folding table and chairs. Originally bought for camping, we find ourselves using them all the time! They fold down so small, we keep them in the trunk. On longer roadtrips, we bring a big 2 gallon jug of drinking water, which also doubles as a seat. This is us in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah enjoying the sweet pork tacos from Angelicas Mexican Grill which we picked up in St George. They were delicious!

Valley of Fire State Park: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040

Valley of Fire State Park is an hour drive from the Las Vegas strip, and is one of our favorite stops when we’re visiting Vegas, or driving to or from Utah.

Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. It is a beautiful park with unique and stunning terrain, ancient tress and ancient petroglyphs. We have been there twice, and found several family friendly vistas and trails. Due to limited time and daylight on this visit, we focused on one hike to the Fire Wave via the Pink/ Pastel Canyon trail, and enjoyed the views from Mouse Tank Road as we exited the park at sunset.

Info for visiting Valley of Fire:

  • Entrance fees are $10.00 ($15.00 for Non-NV Vehicles) at fee station or self-pay booth
  • The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, unless camping in campgrounds or group camping area. After sunset, activity is limited to those areas.
  • The visitor center provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory, and history of the park and the nearby region. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The rest of the park closes at sunset.
  • Pets are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash of not more than six feet in length. Pets are not allowed in the Visitor Center.
  • The use of drones or any remote controlled aircraft is not allowed.
  • During summer months, it can get really hot and most trails have limited cover, so wear sunscreen, bring hats, and lots of water! The two times we have visited the park have been in the winter, which was very comfortable. 
  • All artifacts and other signs of early civilization and recent history are protected by state and federal law.  Please leave no trace and no graffiti. 

While most of the sites and hikes are listed in the map/guide that you can get from the entrance station and visitor center, our favorite hike – the Pink/ Pastel Canyon to Fire Wave is not marked. To find the start of this hike: From Valley of Fire Hwy, take the turnoff onto White Domes/Mouse’s Tank Rd (toward the Visitor Center). Take a left turn at the split from the visitor center, to continue North up White Domes/Mouse’s Tank Rd. Go 3.9 miles up White Domes/Mouse’s Tank road, to wash sign #5. It will be the second dip, just past the 4th “Dip” sign. Park just off the highway. You should see the mouth of the canyon when you step out of your car and start walking toward the canyon walls (East). Credit to these directions : You can also find hike details on the All Trails app.

Stay: We used our Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at a hotel (Element Summerlin) near the Red Rock National Conservation Area

Day 6: Red Rock National Conservation Area and Mojave National Preserve

Red Rock National Conservation Area: 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161

Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. This is a popular park for rock climbers, but you can find a variety of things to do including a 13-mile scenic drive, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and picnic areas. Here is some helpful info to plan your visit and FAQs.

  • How long does it take to drive the Scenic Drive? The speed limit on the one-way, 13 mile route is mostly 35 mph. It takes about 45 minutes to drive without stopping. If you plan on stopping for photos, hike of picnic, please plan for additional time.
  • What trail can I take my kids on? The most popular trails for kids are the Lost Creek Children’s Discovery trail and Red Spring boardwalk. Both are less than a mile roundtrip. We explored the Calico Tanks Trail and the boys loved scrambling the rocks along the way.
  • Timed entry reservations are required for the Scenic Drive between October 31 – May 31 for entry between 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Timed entry reservations can be made at here on , or by calling (877) 444-6777.

Mojave National Preserve/ Kelso Sand Dunes:

We hit a lot of traffic heading out of the Vegas area Sunday afternoon and debated whether to head straight home vs take the scenic route through the Mojave National preserve. We decided to do the latter and drove through fields of Joshua Trees. When it was close to sunset, we decided to take the bumpy dirt road to Kelso dunes to check it out.

The hike to and from the dunes is about 3 miles and needless to say, we did not make it. I knew the sun was setting and didn’t want to hike in the dark. We still had a long drive home with work and school the next day. Even though we didn’t make it to the “destination” we enjoyed stretching our legs and a magnificent sunset. It was the perfect way to close out our February 2021 break adventure.

Here are some tips for safely hiking the Kelso Dunes from the national park service website:

  • Hiking the dunes in summer is not recommended. Temperatures can reach up to 120° F (49° C) in the summer.
  • Water is not available at the trailhead. Bring water with you.
  • There is no shade on the trail. Wear sunscreen.
  • Though the trail lis only 3 miles round-trip and involves 600 feet of elevation gain, it is a strenuous hike. For most people, the round trip takes 2-3 hours.
  • The road to the trailhead is bumpy and potholed. Drive slowly and carefully.

Many people drive from Southern California or Las Vegas to ski at Brian Head. I hope these blog posts from our February 2021 road trip provide some ideas for other fun things to do on the way there and back. There will surely be something for each person in your group to enjoy!

*This is not a sponsored post. All opinions expressed are our own. Due the the ongoing pandemic, park hours and facilities may have temporary closures or reduced hours, or limited service. Please check for updated information before you go.  

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I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, doctor, adventure enthusiast, food lover, and photographer. I spend a lot of time researching fun things for my family to do, explore and eat - so I created this space to share some information that might be helpful to others.

2 thoughts on “Winter Break Road Trip : Part 2/2 – Brian Head UT Back to Orange County, CA

  1. We are so glad that you posted this! It has made our trip so much more exciting and you have paved the way. So much fun!

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