I’m still dreaming of these painted deserts. Of long drives with the windows down. Of hikes and no cell phone coverage. Of filling my camera with memories and new and beautiful scenes that we were invited to step into each day.
I thought it would be hard to beat the Grand Canyon, but there are so many amazing places in Arizona and Southern Utah. We certainly didn’t hit them all on our whirlwind road trip, but here are some of our highlights from the second half of our adventure out West!
Page, Arizona is a funny place. It’s a tiny little town nestled in the middle of nowhere, with two of the most impressive natural wonders in the Southwestern United States just a couple of miles from its city center. You’ll know you’re getting close when you start seeing pontoon boats parked in the middle of the desert. Lake Powell emerges like an oasis, and you might have to pinch yourself to believe that the cobalt blue water is more than a mirage.
We had lunch at a gas-station-turned-bbq-joint (#classy) before heading to the internet-hyped Horseshoe Bend.
Like the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the painful anticipation of Horseshoe Bend is part of what makes it so stunning. As we took a 20-minute walk over the sandy dunes leading from the parking lot up to the ledge, we heard languages from all over the world as people passed us. (It’s kind of crazy when you think about it: A desolate, desert town somehow maintains the diversity of a United Nations meeting.) We walked toward this immense hole in the ground—one slow, sandy step at a time—and we finally made it to the edge.
And we were terrified.
Never have I ever seen a drop like this. Ever. Thousands of feet down—straight down—we see what resembles ripples at the water’s edge. But they’re not ripples—they’re boats. White water rafters exploring the Colorado River set up camp for the night at the base of the bend, and their minuscule size magnified the staggering reality of the scene. It’s a long way down; let’s just stick with that.
Just down the street, we found tours for Antelope Canyon. (Like Horseshoe Bend, it's become pretty internet-famous over the years.) A Navajo guide took us through the Upper Canyon and led us through the intricate caverns. We were on the last tour of the day, around 4:00 pm, but if you want to catch the light beams that stream into the canyon you’ll want to try to visit right around noon.
That night, we stayed in a little hotel that overlooked Lake Powell. If you’re looking to extend your trip in the area, a lake day could be a great option! If you’re going to get a sunburn in the desert anyway, it might as well be while you’re lounging on a boat, right?
Zion National Park
When we went to bed that night, we had every intention of heading straight for Las Vegas the next morning. But when we woke up, neither of us could resist the idea of making a slight detour over to Zion National Park. So off to Utah we went!
We assumed that if we couldn’t do Zion justice, we should bypass it altogether and hit it on a future trip. I’m so glad we changed our minds. Maybe it was because we almost missed it, or maybe because we felt transported to another world when we stepped into the park, but either way this was absolutely a highlight of our trip. We asked a park ranger for a recommendation when we arrived (Do this, by the way. Great lesson learned.) and based on our time constraints, she suggested Canyon Overlook Trail. It was only a mile roundtrip and offered some incredible views of the valley below. If you don’t have the time or skill set to tackle Angel’s Landing or The Narrows (both on our list for a future trip...) definitely check out the Canyon Overlook Trail.
Zion stole our hearts for sure, and we can’t wait to return. I’ve bookmarked Huckberry’s Guide to Zion for a future trip. Check it out if you’re interested in spending more time there!
We decided to fly home from Las Vegas to avoid backtracking at all on our road trip, which ended up working out so well. We saw something new every day! During our quick stop through Vegas, we saw a water acrobatics show, watched the Bellagio fountains, and stayed in an inexpensive hotel room on the Strip. Neither of us have much Vegas endurance, so the next morning we popped over to Downtown Las Vegas before heading to the airport.
If you’re looking to do some exploring away from the Strip, consider taking a tour of Zappos headquarters, wandering through the Container Park (a Tony Shea funded project for local entrepreneurs to share their work with the community through temporary storefronts) or stopping by Atomic Liquor (where patrons used to watch atomic tests from the restaurant’s rooftop). Oh, and definitely hit up Donut Bar. I wasn’t brave enough to try to the pop tart-stuffed donut, but the creme brûlée donut was deee-licious. Quite the way to “round" off the week and a pretty incredible trip.
More travel updates to come! Keep an eye out for highlights from our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest!