In this post, I will cover the amazing collection of national parks in Arizona and Utah. Red and white layered mountains, great canyons carved by rivers, and landscapes that cannot be matched elsewhere are amazing sights to behold in these parks.
I am going to cover 4 parks in this post.
These parks are just a few hours away from one another so planning a road trip to visit all of them in one go is very much doable. You could either fly to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or Phoenix airport and then rent a car to drive to the parks. For our trip, we flew to Vegas & drove to the town of Page, which is about a 4 and 1/2 hrs drive.
Things to do in Zion National Park
1) Narrows Hike
This is definitely the most unique hike I have ever done because it is all in the water! We rented big rubber boots and a stick (essential for finding gaps in the river) and had a leisurely 4-hour hike. In October, it was not as cold as it would be in winter, so that helped. But fair warning— without the right shoes, it won’t be as much fun in that weather!
Tip: Make sure you have a stick while wading through the river. A sudden change in river depth in common, and you might end up getting drenched unexpectedly.
2) Angel’s Landing Hike
This was a challenging hike, especially towards the end. It’s half a mile of really narrow road, where one has to walk single file, valley on both the sides. I really liked everyone’s spirit— people were encouraging one another on the way and it felt like one big team marching towards a mission.
Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is about 90 min drive from Zion, so these two parks are often coupled. Personally, I feel that Bryce is a day trip at max (unless you want to camp in the park). It does not have any lengthy hikes but offers spectacular views of hoodoos, which are wind carved sandstone. These delicate hoodoos balancing in the valley is a sight to behold, especially at sunset. Here are some pics from our sunset visit to Bryce Canyon National park.
Things To Do in Antelope Canyon & Page
Ever since I had seen pics of Antelope Canyon, it had been on my wish list. As mentioned before, all these parks are within driving distance of one another and one could, in principle, combine these trips. I visited this part on a separate trip, so I stayed at Page, Arizona, to visit the following spots.
1) Antelope Canyon
The first and foremost thing you need to know about Antelope Canyon is that it is privately owned and can be visited ONLY as a guided tour. There are two options: Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon.
I only toured the Lower Canyons, so I do not have a direct point of comparison. But from what I understood, Lower Antelope canyon has more light and hence better views. Upper Antelope canyon is darker but attracts photographers who want to capture pictures of light beams that shine into the Canyon at specific times of the day.
Two main companies offer tours of both canyons. We had a really cool guide, who walked us through the quarter mile underground canyons, explained how the canyons are formed, and snapped some amazing pics!
2) Lake Powell cruise
While in Page, we stayed at the Lake Powell resort. As the name suggests, this resort is right by Lake Powell, so we took a short cruise to the Canyon area one of the afternoons. This was a spontaneous activity that turned out to be really fun. The weather was great, and we meandered through the narrow canals enjoying gorgeous views of colorful mountains from our breezy boat. The total tour was about 2 hours, which is about my patience limit on boats.
Tip: There’s another cruise of 7 hours, primarily for hardcore enthusiasts, that goes to the famous Rainbow bridge.
3) Horseshoe Bend
The Horseshoe Bend is one of the best (and underrated, spots to visit near Page. The river cuts through the mountain, forming a perfect horseshoe shape at this spot. The majestic scale of the landscape cannot be described, and in fact, is also not really captured in the pics. Which is why, it is so special. The feeling of grandeur and amazement only sets in once you see it in person (a comparable example would be visiting the Taj Mahal vs. looking at the pics).
Timing is crucial here though. We went there late in the morning the first time. This meant hiking about a mile in the hot sun (trust me, the mile feels much much longer) to reach the vista point. Secondly, while the majestic sight is impressive any time of the day, one section was partly in shadows at that time. Thankfully, this spot was only about 15 min drive from Lake Powell resort, so we went back the next day before sunrise. I would highly recommend visiting around sunrise for several reasons: even lighting (and photos), fewer people, and better conditions for hiking.
Tip: The sun can be extremely harsh during the daytime, so carrying water is a must for this hike, even if it seems short.
Things to do around Grand Canyon- North Rim
There are 3 places accessible for tourists to see the Grand Canyon. The West Rim, with its newly built skywalk, and the South Rim are more popular among tourists. People often forget that the North Rim is also an option; with 10 times fewer visitors, this spot is more for those who prefer calm and quiet places.
The Grand Canyon North Rim is almost on the way when driving from Las Vegas to Page. The things to do here vary depending on the season that you choose to visit. We visited around Thanksgiving, and it was almost the last few days that this rim was open to visitors. The views were spectacular, and we had the advantage of a peaceful visit as there were few people out there. However, hiking trails were closed, as snow had already started accumulating on the higher altitudes on the drive up. So summer months would be the best time for a visit for those interested in hiking in this area.
We went in before sunset and were awarded with the glorious view of the changing rock colors as the golden beams fell on the mountains during sunset.
I hope you enjoyed my travel summary of these National Parks. I missed visiting Arches National Park and Monument valley during my trip, but you can add those to your list as well. If you would like to add more tips, feel free to comment below!