My family came down and visited the hubby and I during the Christmas season. It was their first time here in the southwestern United States, so I had to parade them around the desolate and romantic country side of the unforgiving wild wild west!
Arches National Park
There is so much to see in Arches National Park from boulders balanced on pillars of stone, to massive arches and rock bowls big enough so swallow a home. There is so much to explore in this National Park that one day of hiking would not even begin to cover all the adventures one could have. TIPS: During the summer bring lots of water and a hat as the summer sun will beat you senseless! Also, do not bring your dog, too many people have to carry their dogs in the extreme desert heat.
On your way to or out of Arches National Park, ensure to break of of 191 onto 313 heading into Canyonlands National Park. This windy and curvy road will lead you to the Mesa Arch trailhead. This hike is very easy and relatively flat, so any age and any fitness level could see this beautiful sight! If you get to these attractions early, you'll skip the fee to the park and you'll skip the busloads of tourists!
Dead Horse Point
While on your way to Mesa Arch, you'll see a turnoff for Dead Horse Point. There are magnificent overlooks and fantastic trails to hike! My husband noticed that there is an abundance of mountain biking trails that he'd love to come back and try out! So if you're into mountain biking, this could be a great spot for you!
Twin Rocks Trading Post and the Caves.
There are two caves with Anasazi Ruins that should be explored in this region! The Monarch Caves, which need to be hiked to, and the simple cave on the side of the road past St. Christopher's Mission on Mission Road heading east! My family and I were on our way to Colorado when we passed by this cave on the side of the road, so of course I had to pull over and check it out. There was no one around, so we ventured down the sandy trail that led to it and discovered that the inside was a particularly interesting structure. This is not something I would drive just to see, but if you're passing through the small Utah town of, Bluff, definitely stop and take a look at this 13,000 year-old cave!
Monument Valley is a must! My favorite part of the valley is the drive through it. Though many venture into the area to ride horses, camp, and hike the region. Having lived in Utah for a couple years now, these rock formations have become a normal sight on our drives, so for us it wasn't as important to pay the fee to enter the famous overlook of the two mitten rock formations, but of course, if you need that picture, pay the fee and enjoy a beautiful sunrise or sunset over the hot desert!
When we drove through Page, Arizona we had full intent on visiting this famous sight, but we decided to skip it when we found out how expensive it was to see it. Hiking is something we feel should be free, as nature is something every human being should have the right to enjoy, so we were not a fan of paying $85 each to see a canyon that is mimicked throughout the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument at no cost. If you're willing to pay the fee, make sure you bring it in cash, because card will not be accepted (we tried!).
If you don't want to pay the fee for Antelope Canyon, check out the much more grandiose Horseshoe Bend! Expect a ton of tourists, but there is more than enough room for everyone to take a great pic! I did not notice any hiking trails, but thats not to say there isn't any. I would definitely be interested in kayaking the waters below to get a different perspective on the end of the Grand Canyon.
What is a Wild West Americana road trip without seeing the Grand Canyon!? The crazy part about driving up to the Grand Canyon is that the land seems flat, and then all of sudden the land drops beneath your feet and you drive up alongside the edge of the abyss. The Grand Canyon has many trails, many camping spots, and so many overlooks that it's hard to really pin point the best options, but for me, I just wanted to see it! So we took a bunch of pictures and left as our road trip was coming to an end. If was to have more time, I would definitely like to check out the hiking trails below!
Zion National Park
One of the last places I showed the family was Zion National Park. We did this park in two hours, basically driving through and stopping to take pics, but it would be well worth spending a weekend here to hike. Angel's Landing is one of it's most famous hikes, but the Narrows is what I would have loved to do! The Narrows is a hike through the watery caverns and creeks leading up through the canyons. It's important to be weary of what time of year you go as these narrows can be quite dangerous. Flash flooding kills hikers every year in Zion, so spring and fall can be really dangerous depending on the weather!
If you're headed back to Salt Lake City from Zion National Park, take a little detour to check out the forest of Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon! Again, we were in a hurry so we stopped to take pictures and that was it, but there are trails through the hoodoos that look fantastic and relatively easy for beginner-level hikers, so if you have time, take a stroll through Utah's stone forest!
Have any other suggestions for us? Let us know by commenting below!