Why we picked Utah and Arizona for our trip
Back in 2019 my mom, sister, and I were supposed to take a 2 week trip to England and Malta to celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday. However, my sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes HOURS before we were supposed to leave for our trip. Her doctor told her that she could not go on the trip because her blood sugar was way too high. We were pretty upset but we rescheduled our trip for March of 2020…we all know how that one turns out. Halfway through 2020 we are all pretty bummed our trip didn’t work out but we were still craving adventure and wanted to celebrate so I started doing some research and convinced my mom and sister that a 10 day road trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to Phoenix, Arizona was exactly what we needed. We planned our trip to land at the end of April/ beginning of May for the perfect southwest weather (typical temperatures found here)
Day 1: We flew into Salt Lake City and had brunch at the amazing Park Cafe . We enjoyed a short nap to help with the jet lag and then headed off to Bonneville Salt Flats for sunset and an engagement shoot. It’s definitely worth the drive from Salt Lake City! We felt like we were on another planet.
Day 2: We had planned to do a hike at Cottonwood Canyon but it rained all day so we spent the day shopping at the amazing mall downtown, got our nails done, and enjoyed an early dinner at Nomad Eatery. It was actually really nice having a laid back day after a long day of travel from day 1. If I were to do it again I would probably do Bonneville flats on the second day to avoid the drive after a long flight.
Day 3: We left Salt Lake and headed about 4 1/2 hours south towards Zion National Park! We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Springdale and I don’t have enough good things to say about our experience. The employees were helpful and informative, the rooms were great, the view was better, they had all of the amenities, and have tons of information about the area. Since we arrived in the afternoon we spent a few hours by the pool then enjoyed a wonderful experience at Kings Landing. If you are only going to eat out once your entire trip THIS is the place! The view is spectacular and the food is unmatched.
Day 4: The Narrows! If you’ve read anything about Zion you have probably read about the Narrows. It’s a hike through the narrowest part of Zion Canyon where you’ll be hiking through the Virgin River (yep, you’re going to get wet and the water is FREEZING). I read a lot of reviews before our trip because I wanted to be prepared. You’re definitely going to want to rent the water shoes and the bibs (unless being cold and wet for hours sounds fun to you). We saw a lot of people turning back early who didn’t rent the gear. We did our rental through Zion Outfitters which was perfect because you can walk from their shop right into the park. You’ll need to book your shuttle for Zion in advance because during their busy season, Zion doesn’t allow cars into the park. It’s a very simple and organized system but make sure you read the instructions before heading to the park (shuttle info here).
Day 5: Canyoneering in Kanab and Bryce Canyon National Park. We started our day at 5am with breakfast and an early drive to Kanab for our canyoneering adventure with Roam Outdoor Adventures! We had so much fun and our guide was very knowledgable about canyoneering and the ecosystem of southern Utah. After our adventure we enjoyed a good sit down lunch to rest our legs before we headed to Bryce Canyon for an afternoon hike. At Bryce we hiked Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail which we found highly recommended on Alltrails. Bryce should definitely be at the top of your National Park list because it is unlike any other park I’ve visited and maybe one of the most underrated.
Day 6: Time to leave Utah and head to Page, Arizona! Page is a little gem in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Be aware of the different timezones around Lake Powell. Make sure to spend your first evening in Page watching the sunset at Horseshoe Bend! I was lucky enough to shoot an engagement shoot there and it was incredible.
Day 7: Kayaking on Lake Powell to Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon was closed down when we visited so the only way to enter the canyon was by kayaking through it! We rented our gear from Lake Powell Paddle boards and Kayaks. They drop off and pick up the kayaks at your drop in point and the trip is an out and back so there’s not a lot of navigating you’ll have to do. This is a half day trip but SO worth it!
Day 8: Drive to Flagstaff, AZ. We left Page a little early to be able to enjoy a late afternoon horseback riding trip in Flagstaff. We had a great experience with High Mountain Trail Rides. They had horses for all level riders!
Day 9: The day that probably had the most anticipation: The Grand Canyon. My mom and sister had never seen the Grand Canyon before and it was such a treat to be able to be there for their first experience. It never gets old looking at the natural wonder. We went a little later in the afternoon to avoid the long entrance lines and to be able to catch sunset at Ooh Ah Point. Being able to watch the colors change is a must if you are going to visit the Grand Canyon.
Day 10: Drive to Phoenix! I would highly recommend taking the scenic route through Sedona on your way to Phoenix. We preferred to spend our day in Sedona then head to Phoenix to stay the night before we flew out the next morning.
I hope this post inspires you to explore more of our beautiful country! I would highly recommend getting the America The Beautiful Pass to save you lots of money and time getting into the National Parks. If you are leaving soon and don’t have time to get it in the mail you can always buy them at the entrance points at the first park you visit. Happy Travels!