Road Trip 2017: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada

Father-daughter trip 2017. Full disclosure, my dad planned this entire thing. (Honestly I barely weighed in besides "I want to hike a lot.") And because my dad planned it, the trip was 1: meticulously and thoroughly executed, and 2: not my usual super inexpensive trip! We stayed in nice hotels and had nice dinners and gambled in Vegas! I think total for both of us for 7 nights ended up being around $3000.

It was a seriously amazing trip though. I was so inspired by all the beautiful things I saw, and it felt so good to leave the busy/technology-riddled world behind and spend 7 nights on the road. We went the first week in September, and the weather was perfect. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

This was so lovely. We took the 11 mile precarious dirt ride up the side of the mountain all the way to the top, and stopped a few places along with way to hike. We saw elk, marmots, a fox, and even a young bear! YES a bear! 

I took a solo hike on one of the trails, and it was really life-giving. The air was crisp, and the stream was cold, and the atmosphere was teaming with that thing you only find out alone in nature. That thing I'm not sure quite how to describe...


How we got there:
Flew into Denver Colorado. Drove to Estes Park and spent the night. Got up early in the morning for Rocky Mountain National Park.

Arches National Park

Arches was great! I mean look at that picture! Beautiful! Also hot! There's so many arches to walk out and see, and each walk is a good hike in the relentless heat. So make sure you come prepared with water and some steal resolve to get to your arch. Also know your limits out there! 

One really nice hike that does provide some shade is Park Avenue, shown below if you scroll right. It's about a 30 minute walk

Because my dad didn't want to hike too far in the heat, we were choosy about which arches to go see. My favorite one was Sand Dune Arch. It was my favorite because it was in a narrow, shady, cool canyon, with really soft red sand. It was just a nice atmosphere. There were also some really fun rocks to climb back there, shown above if you scroll right.


How we got there:
After Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to Moab, UT to spend the night. Then we drove to Arches the next morning! P.S. The entrance to Arches is spectacular! 

Grand Canyon National Park

So the Grand Canyon was actually my least favorite part of the trip. But that's probably because we didn't do any hiking? We just went to the South Rim to a few of the overlooks. So once the initial shock of "holy shit this is huge and looks like a painting and am I actually on The Truman Show" wears's time to move on. Honestly, the thing was just so big it didn't even look real. 

If I went again, the right move would be to go on some hikes down into the canyon. I think I could have appreciated it a lot more from that perspective. Standing on the overlook with a bunch of other people, vying for space really took away a lot of the majesty and romance of the place. 

My real next move is to river raft down the entire Colorado River! 


How we got there:
After Arches, we drove to Flagstaff, AZ. The next morning, we went to the Grand Canyon! While we were in Flagstaff, we ate at The McMillan Bar & Kitchen which was v good. 

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend was really scary! First of all, it seems like it's "right off the road." But it's actually a good 20-30 minute walk with absolutely no shade. So take water. Back to it being scary....there is no guard rail, and there's sand, and rippled rock all the way to the edge, so you really need to be careful. Vertigo could be a real issue here, and it's about a 200 ft drop. 

There were also a lot of people getting dangerously close to the edge to snap the "perfect picture" which really had me on edge [ಠ_ಠ]. We basically walked down, snapped a few pics, and headed right back! I wouldn't recommend this if you have young children. But as you can see, it really is very beautiful, and totally worth a stop.

How we got there:
We drove from the Grand Canyon to Page, AZ. This is on the way there, on Hwy 89, just before you get to Page. 

Lake Powell

Lake Powell was quite lovely. The blue water butting up against the red dirt was really stunning, and unlike any landscape I've seen before. The water temperature was perfect and there were several people swimming. I would have gone swimming, but our trip here was impromptu and I was not prepared. 

You can rent boats here which seemed like a fun option for an afternoon activity. I also saw a jackrabbit when we were hiking around!

The Slot Canyons – Owl, Rattlesnake, Antelope

Here it is! You've all seen these in your favorite Nat Geo, as computer screen savers, and maybe in "127 hours"...slot canyons! Let me first say, these are obviously ridiculously stunning and majestic and almost otherworldly. But, you do have to see these on a guided tour. And a lot of these tours are "photo tours" which means your tour guide tells you where to stand, and when to stop, and what setting to put your iPhone on. It was just a little different than I expected...


The canyons we went through were Owl, Rattlesnake, and Antelope. Owl and Rattlesnake were the most fun because we were in our small group of 9. And Rattlesnake was pretty cool because it snakes around [get it?] and you get to climb through small slits and up ladders and the like. 

Antelope is probably the one you recognize most, with the light shaft coming through it. That canyon was the most crowded, with hundreds of people filing in and out. It felt more like a museum than being out in nature. In fact, if you pan down about a foot in that image on the left, you'd see around 50 people just there. So again, very beautiful, but lots and lots of people and shuffling and photo taking. Less romantic than it seems, but surely worth seeing in real life. 

How we got there:
This is right outside of Page, AZ, and is Navajo* owned land which is why you have to take a tour. We used Antelope Canyon Photo Tours

*Our tour guide told us a sobering fact. The Navajo isn't even the term they call themselves. They call themselves Dene, which means "people" in their language. Actually navajo means "thieves," and was a name given to them by the Spanish. 

Zion National Park

Zion was way too cool! So it deserved a post entirely to itself! Hiking The Narrows was definitely one of the best things I've ever done. I think canyoneering might be my new thing??? (see also: canyoneering in Guatemala


How we got there:
After our day in the slot canyons, we drove to Hurricane, Utah. In the morning, we got up early and drove to Zion. However, I would actually recommend staying in Springdale, UT. It was much closer and really cute.