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May 10, 2018

Top 5 Travel Destinations: #5: Utah, Arizona

It’s no secret that I LOVE traveling!  I fiend for nature and hikes so this series will be more geared towards the outdoors.  Utah and Arizona are at the #5 spot.  It’s probably one of the biggest bang for your bucks trip, too!  Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks and Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend are the specific locations we’ll be talking about.

I’m no expert and I definitely have LOTS of destinations still left to see but I wanted to write about the places I’ve been thus far and give advice on things to see and do.  If you’re searching for good eats and city adventures, this will NOT be the series for you, sorry!

WANT TO SEE MORE FROM THIS TRAVEL SERIES?

#3 Travel Destination: Banff & Jasper National Park

#4 Travel Destination: Oregon

#5 Travel Destination: Utah

Destinations:

  1. Zion National Park
  2. Antelope Canyon
  3. Horseshoe Bend
  4. Bryce National Park
  5. Arches National Park
  6. Canyonlands National Park

Personal Opinion/Timing Tips:  I try to maximize my time when I’m on vacation.  I don’t get paid time off, so Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays are my days to travel.  I try to take the least amount of time off and see the most while I’m on vacation.

You can do Zion in 2 full days.  Bryce can be done in 1/2 a day.  Arches and Canyonlands can be done in 1.5 days.  Arches and Canyonlands is a 3-4 hour drive from Zion/Bryce.  If you wanted to, you could do all 4 parks in 5 days.

Where to fly in to: Vegas

If you fly in to Vegas, Zion is an easy 1.5 hour drive.  This would be my recommendation because of the many flight options in and out of Vegas.  There are a lot of options to shop for camping supplies as well.

Tip: Utah has strict alcohol rules, buy your alcohol in Nevada!

Cost of Entry

Most national parks require a fee for entry.  If you plan on visiting all the parks, get the annual pass since it would cost less than paying for entry in to each park.  The annual pass costs $80 as of 4/2018.  The fees change often so check with the national park service.

If you buy a 1 park entry pass, it’ll cost $30 for a 7 day period.

 

Zion

Where to Stay:

  1. Camp: South Campgrounds offer reservations.  Watchman Campgrounds is first come first serve (arrive before 8am for best chances of getting a spot)  Both campgrounds offer running toilet and water but NO showers.
  2. Hotels in adjacent city.  Springdale is right outside Zion (you could walk to the entrance of the park if you wanted to).  I usually opt for the Hampton Inn because they offer free breakfast and clean rooms.

Hikes

  1. Angel’s Landing (strenuous) 4.8 miles roundtrip, 1500 ft elevation gain, 3-4 hours
  2. Canyon Overlook (easy) 1 mile roundtrip, barely any elevation gain, 1 hour
  3. The Narrows (you will get wet) you go as far as you want and turn around whenever you want, no elevation gain but you are wading through water
  4. On my list: The Subway 6.6 miles roundtrip, 400ft descent, 600ft ascent, 6-8 hours, permit required

 

Views when entering Zion National Park

On top of Angel’s Landing, representing the Florida Gators

The first set of switchbacks on your way up to Angel’s Landing

Another set of switchbacks on the way up.

Breathtaking views and good company. I LOVE traveling with my friends.

The rope and climbing section of Angel’s Landing Trail.  It’s short but if you’re scared of heights, beware.

Having some fun up top.

Our campsite at Watchman’s.  Running toilets and water but no showers are offered.  Waking up to this view is unbeatable.

My travel buddy, Amy, and me in the Narrows during 4th of July weekend.  This is right before we got a warning to exit the canyon due to rain.  CAUTION: always check the weather report before entering.  People have died from drowning during rainstorms.

Canyon overlook is a short hike with magnificent views.

Big Horn sheep on the side of the road.

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Where to stay:

Page, Arizona is a small, adjacent town with hotels.  We camped at Lake Powell when we went.  It was very hot and dry in July but the sunrise was gorgeous from the campgrounds.

Things to do:

Antelope Canyon is owned by the Navajo Indian tribe and is only accessible through tours.  Currently it is $68 per person.  There are 2 options: the upper and lower antelope canyon.  We did the lower canyon.  It does require that you climb through a few small spaces and up/down ladders.  The upper canyon is said to be more accessible.  The canyon was very packed and busy when we went and the tour moves quickly so get those photos in fast.

Horseshoe bend is BEST seen at sunrise or sunset.  There is a 1 mile, easy hike to get to the edge of the canyon.  It is only a small drive from Antelope.  I would suggest packing a picnic and enjoying the views and sunset.

 

Bryce Canyon

Where to stay:  

We drove from Zion.  Its about a 1.5 hour drive from the campgrounds to Bryce.  The drive takes you through the heart of Zion (which I highly recommend that you do whether you go to Bryce or not).  You are driving through a lot of nothing so make sure you have some good music, a full tank of gas, and prior directions (there is barely any cell service).

Hikes:

We did the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop combo.  It’s an easy hike with little elevation gain. It is a 2.9 mile loop with a 600 ft elevation gain and will take about 2 hours.

 

 

Arches National Park & Canyonlands

Where to stay:

These two parks are about a 15 minute drive from each other.  We stayed in a hotel nearby when we visited.  There aren’t many campsites with running water in the area and this is why we decided on staying at a hotel.

Hikes:

Arches:

  1. Delicate Arch: 3 miles roundtrip with little elevation gain, there is no tree coverage so bring the sunscreen and hat!
  2. Double Arch: Easy, 0.5 mile roundtrip hike
  3. Stop at the small sightseeing areas on your drive to each Arch

 

Double Arch

Delicate Arch

A random stop on our way to Delicate Arch

 

Canyonlands

  1. Mesa Arch: must see at sunset, easy 0.5 roundstrip hike
  2. Green River Overlook: about 7 miles from the Sky Visitor Center, this pit stop is a good place to picnic and enjoy the canyons and gorges carved from the Green River

 

Mesa Arch

The steep drop from under Mesa Arch

The Green River

WANT TO SEE MORE FROM THIS TRAVEL SERIES?

# 1 Travel destination: Glacier National park

# 2 Travel Destination: New Zealand

#3 TRAVEL DESTINATION: BANFF & JASPER NATIONAL PARK

#4 TRAVEL DESTINATION: OREGON

#5 TRAVEL DESTINATION: UTAH

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