Southwest National Parks Road Trip
April, 2014, my brother and I embarked on a road trip to see the rugged Southwest territory of the United States, famous for its picturesque landscapes and amazing rock formations rich with history and quintessential views of the American “West” as depicted by movies and magazines. For me, this region is the Mecca for an active outdoor person, filled with hiking trails, rock climbing, camping, mountain climbing, horseback riding and so much more.
With the limited vacation time we are allowed here in the US, I am often constrained by the time available to use for my holidays and for my road trip I was limited to 8 days to cover 10 different locations of interest. It was an ambitious plan and became one memorable trip.
* my corresponding post can be viewed by clicking on the photo, when available *
Our first destination was one of the “seven wonders of the world”, the Grand Canyon. The canyon is appropriately named as this is one “Grand” canyon. My itinerary only allowed for 1 night here. We viewed the canyon from the popular south rim and I also wanted a different perspective and the east rim, or Desert View Drive, didn’t disappoint.
The next stop was natures movie set called Monument Valley in southern Utah. The pillars of the valley have been a background for multiple movies, most notably John Wayne westerns.
On the way to our next destination of Page Arizona, we visited the Cliffside dwellings of Navajo National Monument, between Monument Valley and Page Arizona. This is only 15 minutes from highway 160 and is a great short stop If you haven’t seen the more accessible Anasazi dwellings in Colorado or New Mexico. In this location, the dwellings are not accessible since it is in a location not conducive to visitors. Once you see this cliffside, you’ll see why the Anasazi chose it. They could have defended this location for periods of months, as long as their rations would allow them. Unfortunately, the viewing platform is on the opposite cliff and would require binoculars, or a zoom lens for photographers, who wish to get a closer look of the dwellings.
This platform not only has a beautiful view of the canyon but also the nearby valley. This does require a short hike along the cliff to get to the platform but should be no problem for most people.
The next stop was Page Arizona which was my biggest surprise of the trip, my hidden gem. Planning my itinerary, I knew about Antalope Canyon, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, and Colorado River rafting or fishing, but there is so much more to do in the area such as Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, The Wave, Glen Canyon Dam. The city is also conveniently close to so many other attractions such as Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and the many national parks of southern Utah.
Page is definitely a place I will visit again and my primary focus will be The Wave.
The many attractions is why I decided to stay 3 nights here. Our first day, we viewed Glen Canyon Dam on our way to tour Lake Powell through a short boat trip. The Lake has since lost a large percentage of the total water volume but still provides a great recreational destination with many coves which will allow for privacy if that’s what you desire.
In the afternoon we visited the much heralded Antalope Canyon, a visual treat but over-crowded.
The 2nd day, we found ourselves at the bottom of the canyon, through the one mile Glen Canyon Dam access tunnel, on a motorized rafting trip through the Colorado River. The expedition also included a visit to petroglyphs along the river wall itched hundreds of years ago.
* don’t forget to click the photo for my corresponding post, when available *
The next morning we were on our way to Bryce Canyon but before we left Page we visited the famed Horseshoe Bend, a picturesque bend in the Colorado River we rafted the day before.
Through the mountains of southern Utah we drove and then arrived at Bryce Canyon in the afternoon, just enough time to hike the rim of the canyon.
The next morning, we had an early start and we were on our way to neighboring Dixie National Forest to go horseback riding down the Butch Cassidy Trail.
The afternoon was set aside for our hike to the bottom of Bryce Canyon through the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail.
The next day we found ourselves tired but regretting the fact we had to start our journey home. That didn’t mean the fun was over. We were on our way through the beautiful countryside and mountains toward Zion National Park, only two hours from Bryce.
The route we took directed us through the mile long tunnel and switch back roads of highway 9 to the valley floor of Zion National Park. But, before our descent down that road, we parked long enough to hike the Viewpoint Trail, an amazing view of the valley and the surrounding mountains is the reward for the hike. Unfortunately, my itinerary only allowed for a short hike since we were only driving through without an overnight stay in the park or the neighboring town of Springdale, Utah. Zion is my favorite location for hiking but this was my third visit so I only allowed enough time for one hike and lunch in Springdale. The end of this day found us in Las Vegas, too tired to gamble or catch a show, only here to rest on our last night of the trip. The next day we were on the road again making the drive we had made hundreds of times from Las Vegas to Southern California.
In retrospect the road trip was epic, all be it too short at certain locations but we maximized every minute of the trip and creating memories that will last forever.
If you’re thinking of doing a road trip in the U.S., a great source for you maybe The Daily Adventures of Me. Jamie has compiled a list of some great adventures for you.