We did a road trip a year ago from Las Vegas,NV to Denver, CO driving through the beautiful landscape of Utah. Our goal was to get a lot of hiking done and cover most of the national parks on the way. We covered 5 national parks and few other amazing sites. Here is an account of the same.
We drove from Vegas straight to Zion National Park. You require at least 1.5 – 2 days to explore Zion. We did 2 long hikes Angels Landing and Observation Point. We could not do the Narrows hike as the water level was too high. But, on good days I would skip Observation Point hike for Narrows. So keep these 3 in mind. Zion also offers great views and shorter hikes. You can drive around for 2-3 hours and be amazed!
Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park which was around 2 hours from Zion. We reached there before Sunset and did the Sunset Point hike which takes you into the canyons where you feel so insignificant around the hoodoos surrounding you. You can decide the length of your hike depending on the amount of time you have. Make sure you get back in time for Sunset at the Inspiration point. This is a great panorama point to soak in the beauty of this place when the sun setting behind you lights up all the hoodoos.
Oh I just remembered something. You need to book a hotel at Zion well in advance if you are planning to go there during any long weekend. It is a small town and there are way too many visitors. We were not aware of this and our plan was not yet concrete so when we actually started looking at the hotels it was too late and everything was booked out, including the campsites. Even the first come first serve campsites were taken when we reached there. So we drove into some deserted crossroad and slept in the car! If you end up in that situation make sure your car has a moon roof because if the weather is good and skies are clear you see millions of stars in the sky!
We crashed at a hotel in Kenab the next night, which is a good stopping point between Bryce and Page AZ. Next morning we drove from Kenab to Page, AZ stopping at Lone Rock beach, Glen Canyon dam and other vista points of the Glen Canyon National Park. Though this park is very picturesque, most of it is only accessible by water. So if you own/rent a boat, you can explore a lot. The color of the water is beautiful and with a lone rock at the center and many mountains behind. This is a nice stop for some pictures.
We continued our journey to Page to see the most photographed sites in the southwest region of USA – Antelope Canyons. These are slot canyons, formed by flash floods, buried under the earth’s surface and creates beautiful painting joining with the sunlight. The best time to visit Upper Antelope Canyon is around noon when the sun is right above you and you can see the light beams inside the canyons. Lower Antelope canyons can be visited at around 10am or around 2pm. They are managed my the Navajo Parks and Recreation department and you need to take a guided tour to visit these canyons so make your reservations. One way to skip a guided tour at the Lower Canyons is if you are a photographer (which means you need to have a DSLR and a tripod) and you are given 2 hours to wander inside the canyons by yourself!
Have you heard of the Horse Shoe Bend? It is 5 miles from page and an amazing place where you look down upon the Colorado river making a U-turn. This magnificent place can be missed very easily as they have just one sign board. Exercise caution there as the cliffs are very steep and there are no railings to hold you back.
After this point we had greater distances to cover so we drove to Blanding and stayed the night there and started early next morning . We drove to Canyonlands national park (Needles visitor center) via Monument Valley. If you plan it any other way I would suggest visiting monument valley either during sunrise or sunset; it is magical!
Canyonlands was just a fleeting visit. We picked a short and great hiking route which gives you a flavor of Canyonlands. Slick rock hike is a 360 degree loop trail from where you can see the Island of the Sky, the Needles and the Maze. This was not initially in our plan so this was a great hike to realize what we would have missed and also to realize we need to come back here!
Our next stop was my favorite destination in Utah – Moab! This quaint town is bustling with activity and has great restaurants to eat. You can choose from wide range of activities which include climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking, rafting and more!!! Also it is the closest to Arches National Park which has over 2000 natural sandstone arches. Great for hiking and greater for pictures. Do not forget to hike up to the delicate arch for a beautiful sunset.
With Arches we ended our hiking trip though we were still left with a 6 hour drive through the luscious green Rockies to Denver to board our flight back to Minneapolis. We were so fun lagged for over a week after we got back home. It was such an awesome trip. I can safely say that Utah is so far my favorite state for the amount of surprises it had to offer.
Ideal time to visit – Spring or Fall. It is extremely hot in summer and you need to carry lots of water else you might get dehydrated quickly.
Number of Days – 5 full days at the least, 6 days if you take it easy, +1 to include Capitol Reef and Canyonlands.
Photography Tip – Do not change lenses inside Antelope Canyon as it can be very windy and sand can get in. Sunset at Bryce and Delicate Arch.
Misc Tip – Buy a national Park Annual pass if you are planning on visiting more than 3 parks. It is valid for a year and can be used in all National parks in US and costs $80.
Email us @ firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more info For pictures – D Mad Photography (Album : Landscape)
Keep your feet happy..Go Hike!