In May of 2016, I graduated from the University of Central Florida. My boyfriend, Jeremy, (now my husband) planned a celebratory 8 day road trip through Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Honestly, I knew nothing about these places and was a little hesitant and not all that interested. Boy was I pleasantly surprised!
Travel tip: If you're headed to multiple national parks in a year time-frame, consider buying the annual pass for $80. Here's a link.
We flew into St. George, Utah and spent 8 days driving the big, funky circle pictured below.
Travel Tip: To lower data usage, or for use of maps when out of service, you can download sections of map in advance. We hope this detailed outline of our trip helps you plan your own!
Day 1 & 2: Zion National Park
Description: “Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.” - National Park Service. Price: $30
Trails We Hiked: Angels Landing (5 miles), Canyon Overlook Trail (1 mile), Observation Point (8 miles), and Emerald Pools Trail (2 miles).
Lodging: Lava Point Campground (2 nights)
Our Favorite Memory: Jenna making it all the way to the top of Angels Landing while using chains and rocks to get up.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park and Escalante
Description: “Bryce is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. Bryce Amphitheater which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos.” - National Park Service. Price: $
Trails We Hiked: Navajo Trail (1.3 miles) and Queens Garden (2.6 miles).
Escalante, Utah is a really cool small town with some beautiful and remote places. We drove many miles on a bumpy dirt road to explore Peek-A-Boo Gulch Slot Canyon (5 miles).
Our Favorite Memory: We met an older couple who were RV-ing around the country!
Lodging: Escalante Outfitters Cabin
Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park
Description: “Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.” - National Park Service. Price: $20
Trails We (would've liked to) Hike: Panorama Point (7.4 miles), Hickman Bridge (2 miles).
Our Favorite Memory: We enjoyed admiring and adding to the rock stacks.
Day 4: Arches National Park
Description: “Visit Arches to discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.” - National Park Service. Price: $30
Trails We Hiked: Delicate Arch at sunset (3 miles).
Our favorite memory: Photographer dramatically yelling at us to move out of their way at Delicate Arch! Years later, we can still hear them in our heads.
Lodging: KOA Campground in Moab. This was unplanned, last-minute, and a bit overpriced. We wanted to camp along the Colorado River along Route 128, but we got in late and spots were taken.
Day 5: Skydive Canyonlands
Such an incredible experience that we encourage everyone to try at least once in their lifetime!
After we finished skydiving, we ate brunch at a local Denny's and called our parents to share our experience!
Description: “Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.” - National Park Service. Price $30
Trails We Hiked: Mesa Arch (0.5 miles), Green River Overlook Trail (0.2 miles)
Our Favorite Memory: Experiencing the incredible sunset at Green River Overlook.
Lodging: Camped along Colorado River in Moab along Route 128 in first-come-first-served, inexpensive campsites with minimal amenities. This was our favorite campsite the whole trip.
Day 6: La Sal Mountains and Goosenecks State Park
A couple days before, when we were standing in awe under Delicate Arch with sweat on our faces, we were captivated by the snow-capped mountains in the distance that contrasted so nicely with the red sandstone. We decided that before leaving the area, we had to try and find the snow. We drove until we found it! The roads turned to dirt and eventually snow.
Description: “On the edge of a deep canyon above the sinuous river meander known as a gooseneck, this small park affords impressive views of one of the most striking examples of an entrenched river meander on the North American continent.” Price: $5
Trails We Hiked: Goosenecks Viewpoint Trail.
Our Favorite Memory: Appreciating the quietness and remoteness of this impressive spot where the river has carved a masterpiece over many, many years.
Description: “The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs and trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience. Enjoy this beautiful land.” - Navajo National Parks
Lodging: Gouldings Campground
Trails We Hiked: We hiked a short trail right from our campground and scrambled on some cool rocks. We also walked and drove around the tiny town and observed the locals.
Our Favorite Memory: Roasting marshmallows at our campfire.
Description: “Few geological formations are as picturesque and awe-inspiring as Antelope Canyon, a magnificent slot canyon just east of Page in Northern Arizona. With tall winding walls, it’s a monumental sandstone sculpture. A photographer’s dream, the canyon is known for its wave-like structure and the light beams that shine directly down into the openings of the canyon, creating a supernatural appearance.” - Antelope Canyon Tours.
Lower Antelope is $40 pp and Upper Antelope is $80 pp.
Trails we hiked: Lower (1.5 hours) and Upper Antelope Canyon (1.5 hours).
Our Favorite Memory: Appreciating mother nature's impressive sculptures and seeing beams of light and sand fall from above.
Our favorite memory: Sitting on the edge, blown away by the view!
We continued towards the Grand Canyon's North Rim.
Lodging: Jacob Lake Inn
Description: “Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.” - Grand Canyon National Park. Price $35
Trails We Hiked: North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs (8.4 miles with serious elevation change). We could've turned around sooner or continued further to Ribbon Falls. Hiking up top along the Rim would've also been nice.
We then headed back towards St. George to fly out the following day.
Lodging: Rodeway inn Red Hills in St. George
Our favorite memory: Eating the “cookie in a cloud” and Nutella turnover at the Jacob Lake Inn Bakery.
Zion National Park (Again!)
Of course Jeremy couldn’t get enough, so he woke up before the sun on that last morning in St George, drove an hour, and was on the first bus up the canyon in Zion headed for the Weeping Rock Trailhead.
He hiked Hidden Canyon - a quiet, 3-mile trail with a 1,000 ft climb and some serious cliffs. Being that it was early and this is a less popular trail, he only saw 2 other people the entire hike.
Miraculously, Jeremy made it back by checkout and we headed to Pioneer Park in St. George for a picnic and walk. Time to head to the airport to fly home. We covered a lot of ground in 8/9 days and it may be wise to consider a slower paced trip if you prefer that and have the time. We are so thankful to have experienced such a fun adventure together in these incredible places.
Thanks for reading. Now get out there and Quench Your Adventure!