My American Southwest Road Trip!
Heading to the southwest anytime soon? If not, hopefully this will inspire you to plan a trip soon! The southwest was surprisingly one of my favorite places i’ve ever been. There’s so much to love I don’t know where to start. I’m currently planning a trip back to Utah and Arizona right now for my boyfriends graduation trip, and it’s ALL I can think about! I’m going to show you guys where I went and give you information on the hikes I did, the places we camped, and the places I wish I would have gone along the way!
Here’s where we went:
ZION NATIONAL PARK
We started at my favorite place on earth- Zion National Park. I may make a whole blog post about Zion after my trip this summer because I could go on and on about it. The landscapes here are so crazy!
We did all the popular hikes here, since we were only there for a few days. Unlike most national parks, the most “popular” hikes here are actually the best ones. I found them to be amazing and not overrated or overpopulated at all.
The Narrows were incredible. As many photos as you see it will never compare to actually hiking it. The “trail” is the virgin river between huge walls of canyons. You walk upstream, in sometimes knee deep, sometimes chest deep waters. You hike on huge slippery rocks the whole time so be prepared to fall… a lot. It just makes it that much more fun.
I have to warn you, this hike is not easy. It’s steep switchbacks for hours in very hot weather. If you can do it, this hike is so worth it. It is incredibly hard but incredibly rewarding. The hike starts at Grotto Trailhead and eventually leads to angels landing. The last part of this hike is exhilarating and not for those of you afraid of heights. The top is an amazing place to rest, eat a lunch, and enjoy the incredible views around you.
If you reserve campgrounds in time, you can camp right in the park. The spots do fill up fast so we ended up camping elsewhere. We camped at Bryce-Zion Campground which was about 30 minutes away from Zion and was perfect for us. We didn’t have the perk of being right in the park, but i’d say that’s the only downfall to staying at Bryce-Zion. The campground isn’t the most stunning, but they have full showers, laundry, and wifi. Normally I don’t care about those things while camping, but in the middle of a road trip they came in handy. There was a day the heat of the desert made a lot of our drinks explode (yes, explode) in our car and all over our things, which made the washer and dryer heaven sent. Bryce-Zion is also halfway between the two parks so it’s a great place to stay if you’re visiting both. Obviously, if you’re sure you don’t want those luxuries, I would recommend staying in Zion itself and skip the daily commute!
CORAL PINK SAND DUNES
I wouldn’t set aside a whole day for CPSD but it’s a fun and interesting place to spend a few hours. It’s very close to Zion (and on the way if you stay at Bryce-Zion campground) so we spent a half day at Zion, and stopped at the dunes on our way back. They’re pretty simple, there aren’t crazy hiking trails or anything but it’s great to explore around. Next time I visit I’ll definitely be bringing a sled or snowboard for to go down the sand dunes!
Horseshoe bend is about 2 hours away from Zion, so it’s the perfect scenic stop if you’re headed to Arizona, and it’s the halfway point between Zion and The Grand Canyon. Again, this isn’t a place I would spend all day. It’s very populated and it’s a simple walk there and back. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see horseshoe bend but it is a great stopping point on a road trip.
THE GRAND CANYON
I have a lot of regrets about the grand canyon, most just being I wish I would have stayed here longer. We had hiked so much on our trip we were kind of worn out by the time we got here, so we didn’t do much. We did wake up every morning and watch the sunrise at different lookout points, but it wasn’t enough. There are so many great hikes in The Grand Canyon and HERE is a great article about them.
Our last stop was Monument Valley. It’s actually closer to horseshoe bend, so depending on where you’re going it might make more sense to stop there before The Grand Canyon. We were headed back to Kansas City, so we went back up north for Monument Valley. Monument Valley is BEAUTIFUL and what I think of when I think of the desert. We stayed there for half a day, spent the night, and left the next morning and it was perfect. Other than just enjoying the views, and maybe doing a scenic drive, there isn’t a lot to do. Not having a lot to do was the perfect end to a road trip. Relaxing at our campsite watching the sunset over the buttes was incredible.
The places I wish I would have added to my trip:
We were so close when we were at Zion but we fell in love with Zion so hard we decided to spend our available days there and skip Bryce. Since then, I’ve seen so many photos of Bryce Canyon that I truly regret not going. I will be going back this summer and i’ll make sure to go this time- and i’ll write a post about it!
This place is hardly ever mentioned when talking about the southwest, so I didn’t go. Since last years trip I’ve seen such beautiful photos from photographers I follow that I really regret not making it a stop. Made from petrified rocks and strange, alien-like landscapes, I think there would be unlimited exploring to do.
All in all, the southwest is incredible for the reasons that aren’t note-worthy by most standards. Driving the backroads, seeing reservations, and stopping in small towns are always what makes trips special. I never thought I would love Utah and Arizona as much as I did, but now I have a hard time explaining how truly great it is, and photos don’t get the feeling of being there across.