7 Day Road Trip Out West - Where to Go, What to Do
Adventure and beyoooonnnd!
I definitely felt like a young Ellie and Carl from "Up" on this recent trip with Graham; a week long loop starting and ending in Las Vegas with hiking stops planned at several national parks in Arizona and Utah. I'm sharing photos and our itinerary in hopes it can help you plan your own perfect adventure because "Adventure is Out There"!
Special Notes: While my hikes and trips were organized, I didn't book any but one camp site as I wanted to allow for changes in itinerary.
Notable places to eat are highlighted. :) All photos are mine except those of me which were taken by Graham.
Day 1 - Camp at Zion
My memories of Zion were always the fondest of my family's road trips. On my last visit I had hiked the Narrows with my family (and basically did a slip-n-slide on the way back), but my eyes were set on the Angels Landing trail this time around. It was definitely the most daunting of our hikes, but one of the most spectacular and rewarding. Wear appropriate hiking shoes and bring lots of water.
We camped at the Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort and really enjoyed grilling dinner over an open fire. The best way to start the week in a tent is to realize you can just lay in your sleeping bag, open your eyes and see the stars!
As the skies were perfectly clear, I was dead set on shooting the night sky. We woke up at midnight to drive into the park and pull over at various points to take a few shots.
Day 2 - Camp at Capitol Reef
On our way to Capitol Reef next morning, we stopped for breakfast at my favorite restaurant from the entire trip, Zion Mountain Ranch. I wished we could have had dinner here too and if we weren't camping, I would have definitely rented one of their cabins. Check it out for yourself, it's darling.
When we picture a family settling on land and building a farm in the middle of the empty West, this place is it. Chickens and rabbits roamed around the beautiful property and our table stood with a perfect view of a couple roosters making sure we were wide awake.
We drove through Red Rock and stopped at Bryce Canyon and did another short hike
The highlight of this day was PIE. While driving we made sure to re-live the Pie episode of The Office chanting PIE, PIE, PIE! It was worth it. We pulled up to the historic Gifford Homestead and chose Rhubarb and Cherry mini pies. Mmmmm
Since there were no spots left at any of the State Park camping sites (as I suspected due to our late arrival), we stayed on primitive "public land". Literally off road with a few other RV and campers. While not having water or plumbing isn't so pretty, for me this was the most fun. I still laugh thinking about how we put together dinner, without anything. The only gas station had limited refrigerated food so we got a can of baked beans and literally cooked it over a piece of slate rock we found...then used that can to heat up water to use in ramen bowls. Facepalm.
Day 3 & 4 - Camp in Moab
We got up before the sun and drove out towards Moab, where we arrived early enough to have breakfast at Eklectica Coffee & Collectables. Really enjoyed sitting amongst their beautiful flower garden.
We hiked to Delicate Arch and made it our mission to visit as many other arches in the park, the majority of which are pretty quick and easy. Instead of grilling out we had a late lunch/early dinner at Milt's Stop & Eat - which we both highly recommend. Old school & delicious.
The following day, we drove to Island in the Sky to experience the other parts of the State Park. Stunning views all around.
We came back to Arches at midnight to do some night photography, hiking to Landscape Arch in the pitch black with our lanterns. We got a few shots, but eventually sped walk back to the car with thoughts of mountain lions (and more absurdly, murderous clowns) lurking behind our shadows.
Day 5 - Camp in Glen Canyon
Our morning drive took us to Lake Powell which was not originally on my plan. Instead I had planned to take Graham to Mesa Verde (however one of the main sections of the park was under construction AND our rental car company had a weird agreement condition that impeded our unlimited mileage outside of the adjacent states of Nevada). It turned out for the best because we ended up driving through Monument Valley. The drive was far from lackluster and we stopped several times to snap pictures, especially when a few wild horses decided to cross the road.
We arrived in time to see a beautiful sunset at Horseshoe Bend. We finished our day enjoying live music and BBQ in downtown Page at Big John's Texas BBQ.
Day 6 - Sleep in Grand Canyon
We booked a leisure boat tour of Lake Powell, that I honestly didn't think was super incredible. If I had time, I would have preferred to have made plans to visit Rainbow Bridge...next time. I did however make one important reservation for this trip and that was for a tour of Antelope Canyon, which cannot be visited independently. It feels like such a "basic" thing to do as a photographer, but it's really not to be missed. A surrealists dream with 50 of your closest friends. ;) In all honesty, it's surprising that you're able to get shots without any other tourists, but it does happen and it's so narrow that you do end up losing sight of everyone else there with you. Our guide was terrific and we really enjoyed it.
Before heading out, we had lunch at R D's Drive-In, which probably hasn't changed since the 60's and I liked it that way. :P
The drive to the Grand Canyon took a while, but we arrived in the late afternoon. The campgrounds were all full and there were enough Mountain Lion warnings to creep me out that we decided that on this last day we'd give in and get a hotel room.
Day 7 - heading home
We woke up at the break of dawn to begin our hike down the Grand Canyon...I'm not sure at which mile marker we made it, but let's just say, it wasn't our best effort... we opted instead to give our legs a break and drive to the Hoover Dam and have one little stroll around Las Vegas, which was far less exciting. Our last meal was really great as we sat at the kitchen counter and both of us love seeing the kitchen action. It didn't hurt that the food was incredible too. :) (Carson Kitchen)