There are several states in the US that require more of your attention than others if you are into hiking, nature, desert, and general wilderness. Places where you can be the only person in miles and miles, and where the only thing you have is your companions, car and the road. This is our story of one such place.
We were planning this roadtrip for several weeks, trying to figure out the best way to explore as much as we can, in only 4 days. It involved loads of driving, loads of patience (which we did and didn’t have, depending on the situation) and loads of Taco Bell.
First day, we spent entire day driving to our first destination: Arches National Park. Only about 600 miles and about 14 hours of driving, including small brakes. We got to a town named Moab, just outside of Arches National Park, around midnight, bought some food for the morning and went to our camp, in pitch dark. Let me tell you, this was not fun at all. What I didn’t mention before, is that I arrived in the US the day earlier, and the very next day, the first day of our trip, I drove all the way to Moab. I was pissed, barely awake, cranky and not happy with that decision at all.
The camp site that we found was amazing little place, just outside of the city, where we woke up fairly early to watch the sunrise. Surrounded by amazing views of the red rocks, sand and hills, we got ready for our day. The night was very warm so it was a pure pleasure to sleep there in the tent under the stars.
Arches National Park
Many people I talked about the Arches National Park were not too enthusiastic about the place. From “don’t go there” to “it is OK, I guess”, we were not too convinced but there were also people who wholeheartedly recommended going there. And after we did that, I do understand why.
The path from the park entrance to the start of the trail to the Delicate Arch is breathtaking. There are many arches and rocks on the side that you can see and enjoy, but we did want to hike to one of the Arches and stand under it. We chose Delicate Arch because it is the most famous one.
The trail was not too long and not too short, so we packed our bags and started our hike. At the beginning of the trail, you can see the very well-preserved Ute Indian petroglyphs. Those were the first ones we saw and they alone were worth the trip. Being not too old they are estimated to have been carved between 1500s and 1850s.
We started fairly early, so there were not too many people on the trail with us (but still plenty of them). Hike takes about 1.5 hours and the end of the trail takes you from the “Window”, sort of a hole in the rock, to the place where you get the first glimpse of the Delicate Arch.
I remember this hike being gorgeous, but not easy. We started early in the morning when the sun wasn’t high yet but it was already getting to the point where we were hoping for a single cloud, or some shade. So, if you do get to go there, keep in mind that you should start your hike as soon as possible, with loads of liquids and some head protection.
The next stop was the one and only Grand Canyon National Park. It took a while to get there, and since we were going in the good direction, we decided it would be a crime not to go through Monument Valley. That famous view of a straight road, red sand and rock formations in the distance is a dream of every person traveling around these parts to see. It took us a while to take pictures as there were lots of people with the same idea and everyone wanted to have the photo alone. You also need to look out for the cars going on the road but somehow at this point drivers knew that there will be people so they weren’t going THAT fast.
Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon
Agata went to the Horseshoe Bend before, but others and I never did. Horseshoe Bend is not that far away from Glen Canyon, and in a sense, it’s an extension of the Grand Canyon. Colorado river flows through it, and it is the one that carved this amazing curvature. The canyon here is about 300 meters (1000 feet) above the Colorado river.
If you have more time (and of course, money), you can rent a boat or a kayak on a Colorado river to go through the canyon and experience it from a different perspective. Mind you, the view from the top of the canyon is already amazing. When looking at the pictures on the Internet it might look small, but being there, at the edge, gives you the reason to appreciate the magnificent size of this formation.
There are safety rails at the edge but despite that many people fell by being not careful enough or by coming too close to the edge – never stand at the edge, the best picture is not worth risking. If you want to do that, simply go down on your knees and then sit. That way you will be much safer.
Grand Canyon National Park
We arrived here during the night as well, which was one of the best things that happened during this trip. It is one of the best places in the world where you have almost no light pollution. The weather was perfect for stargazing, even better because we were there traveling during the end of the Perseid Meteor Shower, also known as The Tears of St. Lawrence.
Our campsite was just outside of the National Park, in the Kaibab National Forest. There were many campsites there, and many people around their fires. The forest was dark, and night without the moon, so we went to sleep. In the morning, we realized what an amazing place it is. Thick pine trees, elk roaming through the forest, cayotes… The Canyon was not that far away from our campsite. We came there just in time to see sun rising over the Canyon. White-throated swifts were flying above us, singing their songs, Steller’s Jays, Zone-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures, all very active and in great views for us.
We went to Grand Canyon Village, as there were two great viewpoints to observe the Canyon, Yavapai and Hopi point. Let me tell you, the Grand Canyon truly is… grand. You will hear people say, (I know I heard it more than once), “Oh Grand Canyon, it’s just a huge hole in the ground, no big deal”. It is true, but it is so much more. You will stand in awe, when you stand in front of this hole, knowing that the whole thing was carved by the river currently in the bottom of that hole, over so many years…
You know, when one is traveling for days, during very hot, hot days, people tend to get a bit… well, let say that animals know we are coming from miles away.
It wasn’t that bad for us, but it was getting to that point for sure. Finding (working) public showers on the road is not easy and finding it in the desert is even harder. Most showers were either not working, or were not operational… The girls all had a shower, but I was always late, as there was always something wrong somewhere. Lake Powell was therefore a perfect stopover.
I swam in many rivers (I honestly prefer rivers to the ocean or the sea), and this one was much different. The water was not super clear, but it was warm and extremely pleasant to swim in. It was a weird sight, sand and rock everywhere you look, and this huge body of water right in the middle of it. Shrubs here and there…
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
After a short swim and enjoying this oasis in the desert, we continued to our next destination, which was Zion National Park. We were about an hour or two before our destination, we passed this sign saying Coral Pink Sand Dunes 8. Only 8 miles? And why was this familiar? In few seconds, I remembered a trip my friend took to Zion and that he was actually going here himself.
So, we decided that 8 miles is really not that big of a distance, we have “plenty” of time, and we wanted to see the sand dunes.
We got there, took off our shoes and went on the sand. It was in the middle of the day, and it was hot outside. You would expect the sand to be unbearably hot, but it was pleasantly cold to the touch. The color was also much different than any other I saw before; it was almost orange. But the dunes… there were huge.
We tried to find some animals ofn the sand, maybe some snakes, scorpions, any kind of tracks, but the best we got were grasshoppers and lizards, quad tracks and human footprints. We climbed up the sand dune, sat up there and enjoyed the view and a little bit before we continued with our trip to…
Zion National Park
…Zion National Park. First thing that happened when we entered the Park was a herd of Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis), about 20 of them. We arrived during the sunset, so we did a little bit of exploring and went to our campsite a bit away from the east entrance.
Zion NP official website has loads of information you might find useful if you are planning the trip there. One such info is – come early to the park so you can park the car in the parking lot next to the Visitor Center. Driving personal cars through the NP is not permitted, but the organized transportation will get you everywhere very fast.
Another info that we found useful and unfortunate is – Angels Landing trail, one of the most famous trails was closed due to rockfall. I was planning this trip for almost 2 years, and this was the only thing that I didn’t think about or could influence. But it did happen, so we had to choose a different hike. The Narrows, another trail was also closed because of high water level so we decided to go on a hike that we were not familiar with.
Hidden Canyon. Takes about 2-3 hours and you gain quite some altitude, but the view is really rewarding. The rocks you walk on have different colored layers, almost like a rainbow. There is a chain that you can hold on to and sometimes it was very helpful as the path was slippery. We climbed a bit higher than the viewpoint as some people told us about a “secret” path we can take. They said they didn’t try but we are young and strong so we might be able to get there. And we did, with some small difficulties and risk but it was definitely worth it.
Zion National Park is something else. It was way too short and we will definitely try to come back there one day and do the hikes that we missed.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The last stop during our trip was Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided that it is fairly close from ZNP and since we are already there we should stop there as well. We did not have too much time as on that they we had to be back in Yellowstone because girls didn’t have more days off so we couldn’t do any hikes.
We drove through the park and stopped at few points – Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Thor’s Hammer and Natural Bridge. The views are stunning, the formations that you see are unbelievable and they will make you wonder how the heck is it possible that they were formed by nature.
The whole trip was amazing, the only thing we regret is not having more time because to see everything we had to drive a lot and that wasted our time a bit. But it was worth every minute of struggling because the views and the nature in the national parks is the biggest reward.
Next post will be about our recent trip to Georgia!
So stay tuned for next posts and follow our footprints on the other side of the world!
P.S. Are you even following us on Instagram? There is a new trip in the works, so if you want to be updated and enjoy it with us, follow us here!