The Westward expanse of our United States of America is an attractive destination for travelers who wish to explore deserts, mountains, or forests. Utah is home to five national parks and fascinating landscapes. We explored Utah over the course of a nine day adventure.
We left Birmingham at 2 PM on Friday to drive to Dallas, Texas, and spend the night with Taylor’s parents. We weren’t able to visit for long, as the next morning found us on the road bright and early to Cortez, Colorado. We passed through Cortez after we decided to forego camping in Canyon of the Ancients and drove the entire distance to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.
Midnight in Arches National Park doesn’t allow for much sight-seeing, so we picked a parking spot at the Park Avenue Trailhead just inside the park’s entrance. After a quick sleep in our borrowed Nissan Rogue, a sunrise hot air balloon ride with pilot Lou Bartell of Canyonlands Ballooning awaited us. As the sun rose, we ascended into the morning skies and found a spectacular view of Arches National Park. The wind carried us across highway 191 to a beautiful view of Canyonlands National Park.
After our post-flight champagne toast, we drove 15 miles down Highway 313 to Canyonlands National Park. We arrived at The Island in the Sky entrance where we took pictures and hiked around some rock formations a little bit. We kept driving through the park, stopping at every picturesque place we saw. After we got our fill of the park and realized what time it was, we headed to Arches National Park.
We saw all the major highlights like Balancing Rock, Double Arch, the North and South Window Arches, and Delicate Arch. We spent the entire day climbing all over the awesome orange clay formations and getting a true feel for the land. After our last hike up to the Delicate Arch, we were exhausted and found a campsite back near our balloon take off spot.
Capitol Reef National Park was a pit stop on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park. We examined petroglyphs, took a few pictures, and stopped at the visitor’s center to buy a few souvenirs before heading out of the park.
A meal from Cowboy’s Buffet and Steak Room at Ruby’s Inn prepared us for hiking around Bryce Canyon National Park. Before we got into the actual canyon we stopped at the major sights around the park including Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise points. Seeing the hoodoos from above made us giddy for our hike on The Under the Rim trail to our reserved campsite. After a night under the stars and the hoodoos, we hiked back to the canyon’s rim and made plans visit the park again to hike all 22 miles of Under the Rim.
Arguably the most spectacular experiences of our trip awaited us at Zion National Park. A mesmerizing drive into the park included tunnels, bighorn sheep, and child-like wonderment. The drive was soon followed by a swim in the Virgin River and a meal from Zion Brewing Company.
The Two Cranes Inn is where we laid our heads before braving the length of the splendid Narrows. The main hike of our trip was the 18 mile trek through The Narrows. Our hike was an incredible journey with surprises around every turn of the thousand-foot high walls. After this exhausting hike we spent our second night at the Zion River Resort.
We had one last adventure planned in this magnificent park. We made the dangerous climb up Angel’s Landing via the West Rim Trail. One breathtaking view and one hot hike down later, we tearily said goodbye to Zion and started the last leg of our nine-day adventure.
Page, Arizona, is where we would eat our last local meal of the trip and make our final two scenic pitstops. Canyon Crepes may have provided the most hearty breakfast of the trip as we made the phone call to book a tour through Antelope Canyon.
Julie with Dixie Ellis Canyon Tours guided us through this incredible work of erosion as we attempted to keep our jaws out of the sand. After taking hundreds of pictures we headed to our last stop, Horseshoe Bend. We took in the views and gawked in its greatness while reflecting on how spectacular our trip had been.
A delicious meal from El Bruno’s in Cuba, Arizona, and a nights rest in Albuquerque later, we arrived in Dallas at Taylor’s family home once more. We were treated with a fantastic meal from the grill as we discussed just how satisfying our second visit to the American West had been. What will be life long memories were still fresh in our minds as we drove the final distance from Dallas to Birmingham the next day.