Sheryl’s Utah Exploration
I just spent a fantastic 9 days with a great bunch of people hiking and camping through the National Parks in Utah!
Before leaving, whenever I told people I was heading to Utah I came across the same reaction over and over again: Why Utah? Why not something more exotic? My answer was always about landscape, hiking and amazing national parks! Once people realized Utah is home to Zion N.P, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley some people understood.
I headed out with Intrepid on one of their Basix style trips, starting and finishing in a hotel in Vegas. The rest of the time was spent camping with one night stay on Navajo Native land. This trip was amazing!
After our arrival day we headed straight to Zion Canyon where we did the most challenging hike of all. Most of us in my group of 13 headed to the park and trekked the Angel Landing trail. The trek was so gorgeous!
There were sections near the top that were very angled and narrow, but the addition of chains along the rock face for support were helpful.
The views along the way were breathtaking; I loved it. Along the way I took breaks and saw chipmunks looking for lost trail mix and lizards sunning themselves. It was such a great hike. I was happy that the group didn’t try to stay together and we all walked our own pace. None of us walked alone though since we all seemed to find someone around our own pace.
Then off to Bryce Canyon! The landscape was completely different from Zion. Anyone concerned about getting bored heading to too many national Parks in the area has nothing to worry about. Every park in Utah is completely different and unique in its own way. Bryce reminded me a lot of a place I visited in Vietnam, but much larger. The canyon has been carved away through time and looks like some giant has made rows of sand castle blobby spires.
At Bryce we had an overview of where we were headed from some of the viewpoints. From there we were dropped off at the trail head and made our way down into the canyon. We decided on the Peek-a-Boo trail and every time you turned a bend there was something else spectacular to see. There was more vegetation here and again, some chipmunks to greet us when my hiking pal and I stopped for lunch. The textures of the rocks and naturally formed holes and rough arches and bridges were so much fun. This area also has hoodoo and chimney shaped structures. The colours of the rocks were fantastic and I loved the peaks and the bright blue sky!
Moab was the next stop and we actually had a lot of rain here. Our first night we tried to head to the Delicate Arch in the National park for sunset, but as we were driving closer to the trail head the sky opened and massive amounts of rain came down! We decided to wait until the next day and try again. That night we were able to have dinner at the campground with no rain before it started again. I had the best sleep hearing the rain on my tent. 🙂
The next day some of us headed to Arches National Park to trek and others went mountain biking or white water rafting. There was one person in my group who was supposed to do rock climbing, but because of the rain the night before, her trip was cancelled and she joined us. Another great trail filled with natural arches everywhere. We stayed together on this trail since we were getting picked up 5 hours later and there were only 5 of us. We took the scenic Devils Garden trail and finished off with the more challenging Primitive trail. This is an area with lots of options, so others in the group did white water rafting and mountain biking.
The Devils Garden section was a scenic walk heading above some of the arches and giving amazing views of the park. The Primitive Trail was more physical and had a couple of tricky spots. Two or three areas were smooth massive boulders of rocks that were slippery because of sand on the smooth stones so I had to sit down and slide down them. I wasn’t the only one doing this, and it actually made the trail a lot of fun.
The Delicate Arch Trail was still closed due to the previous night’s rain, so something to look forward the next time I head to Utah!
Next stop was Monument Valley! This is Navajo country and we had the pleasure of being guided through the park from a local Navajo guide named Ron. He drove us around in a jeep showing us landscapes that have been filmed 1000 times in all the John Wayne westerns as well as films like Tomb Raider and Mission Impossible.
I loved the stark beauty of the Utah area. We were treated to some beautiful music in a natural domed area before heading for dinner and a Navajo pow-wow style dance. We stayed on Navajo land for the night and slept out under a blanket of stars. It was such a great experience and so beautiful.
Along the way back to Vegas we stopped at Antelope Canyon! This was one of the optional trips and about half of the group headed into the Lower Antelope Canyon since the Upper Canyon tour was booked up for the next 3 hours. The Lower Canyon is less expensive, less crowded and magnificent.
I am not sure how it compares to the Upper Canyon, but walking through the slot canyon style maze offered more then I had thought. We spent over an hour walking through and taking a ton of photos. Our guide here said his grandmother and her friend found the caves when they were children. Since they are below ground and really camouflaged from above they were able to keep it as a secret playground for many years.
Maybe next time I will head to the Upper Canyon that is half above and half below the surface.
Our last night before Vegas we stayed the night at a Dude Ranch camp ground where people went horse back riding. Close to this area we visited Glen Dam and the beautiful Horseshoe Canyon.
I loved this trip, and it was a great taste of some of the parks in Utah. I know camping is not for everyone, but if you enjoy it, this trip is perfect! This trip was actually one part of a three portion trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. About half of our group was doing all three sections and I hated to leave.
If you love hiking or cycling and don’t have people to travel with you, a small group tour is perfect in the US! It’s a great way to see the parks and meet some really great people along the way without the stress of driving and arranging accommodations.
If anyone is interested in this Utah tour or something similar, please let me know and I can help set this up for you. I can also help you arrange a rental car and accommodations for you if you decide you’d like to do it on your own.
Now it’s time to think about my next trip! Jordan, Turkey, or maybe back to see the northern part of Costa Rica? It’s too early to tell yet.
July 3, 2015