29 Dec The Utah to Arizona Road Trip – 2 Week Itinerary
The Utah to Arizona road trip is one of the best trips I’ve planned and experienced. The two states offer astounding scenery, hiking trails and activities that will leave your mouth agape.
The food scene is intense. I had to quit eating out so much since it was hitting the pockets deeply.
Nissan Rogue from Enterprise. It holds up great for the Utah to Arizona road trip. However, I will never rent an SUV again because of the slow acceleration (UPDATE: Rented the Mitsubishi Outlander for my Oregon – Washington road trip). Honestly, just go with a 4×4 or Jeep, you will not regret this,
Salt Lake City
Duration: 1 night
What to do: The “Golden” temple square, Park City
We drive to Park City the evening we land—not the greatest idea. The drive there is mountainous and beautiful. Park City is a skier’s haven, however it we arrive at night and the ski slopes and mountains are dimly visible from the street lights. We eat dinner in a homely restaurant in a ski lodge—tuna tartare with vegetables and potato mash. The drive back is intense—it’s mid-April and heavy snow blows towards our windshield. Funny—I leave Canada to get away from the cold and I assumed Utah would be hot in April (as you can see, I didn’t research the weather).
I’m hungry again. After the 40-minute drive back to Salt Lake City we stop at Taco Bell’s drive thru. A salad and a cheese quesadilla are next on the menu. We devour the food in the parking lot and ponder our next move.
Chip is open late, has amazing Google reviews and is near our Airbnb. A triple win for us; we buy a selection of gourmet cookies and head to rest in the Airbnb.
After a snacking on leftover gourmet cookies, we head to a nearby Walmart to buy more snacks and hiking gear such as head lamps. I’m excited to see the guns on sale, because of the novelty I presume. You don’t see that in Canada.
We head to hotel café, pull out our laptops and do work. I complete my course assignment for my International Development Program at the University of British Columbia.
Being Canadian, I’m excited to try classic American restaurants. We restaurant hop with The Garden first on the list. It’s located in the Joseph Smith Building and overlooks our first destination—Temple Square, a large Mormon structure. Food and service were spectacular, and the view is to die for.
Next, we make our way to Olive Garden. I’m eager to try their bread sticks (don’t laugh). And then to Noodles & Company to have pasta. I guarantee all this food is a two-day thing. Fuel for the rest of the trip. We stop by Nordstrom Rack—the best I’ve ever been to—and I purchase a long burgundy coat. It comes in handy for the rest of the trip and looks amazing in photos against the red rocks.
We set on the 3-hour drive to the second destination of the Utah to Arizona road trip – Moab, Utah.
Duration: 1 night
What to do: Arches National Park
We drive there at 5am to catch the sunrise. The butte shadows against dark blue sky are mesmerizing. It’s a long drive up a mountain on a narrow winding road, with many stopping points along the way. I resisted the urge to stop and take photos. The hike to the arch is beautiful with the taverns and canyons and wildlife and plants. Many times, we stop to stare in awe. If your concerned if the Delicate Arch looks like it does in those breathtaking Instagram photos, then yes, it’s huge and magnificent. Although we hike there early, it’s busy, but I do end up with good photos without people. I recommend going early.
It’s daylight now. We stop many times for photos during the drive down the mountain as the huge red rocks and buttes make for wonderful backdrops.
Later that day, we are en route to Monument Valley.
Duration: 1 night
What to do: view the Milky Way, Little/Big Dipper, stay in a tent, visit Gump Road and Valley of the Gods
Once in Monument Valley, we make a spontaneous right at a sign that reads Valley of the Gods. Upon reaching, the name becomes understandable – the buttes replicate shrines.
The Airbnb is a tent in a remote, open location on indigenous land, which immerses in complete darkness at nightfall. Ideal for viewing the Milky Way. The washroom is a rather clean outhouse located a few metres away from the Airbnb.
Our Airbnb hosts know someone who leads horseback riding tours of Monument Valley so we quickly book that for the evening of. The tour is beautiful and takes place right before sunset. Our horses weave in and around the red hills and rocks as the buttes bask in the sun’s golden glow.
Our Airbnb hosts have the firepit roaring upon our return. We roast sausages wrapped in beef bacon strips and marshmallows that we bought at Qadazari halal grocers in Salt Lake City. It’s a chilly night so the two 16 oz. propane tanks we bought to work the heater generator in the tent keep us warm.
We awake early, around 3am, to shoot the Milky Way and then to drive to Gump Road. Thankfully there is just one other person there and the road isn’t busy so shooting photos is easy.
Duration: 2 nights
What to do: Kayak in Lake Powell, hike to Horseshoe bend, Antelope Canyon tour
Kayaks can be rented from from Powell Kayak or Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks. Staff will secure the kayaks to your SUV roof and you can drive to Lake Powell. It’s $30 to enter the parking lot.
It’s an immeasurable experience, kayaking in Lake Powell and gliding between the taverns.
The hard part is pulling the kayaks out of the lake and hoisting them on the car roof ourselves. On our drive back to Powell Kayak, the rope tied around the kayaks comes loose and the right kayak slides down the side of the car. We pullover on the narrow road and try to hoist both kayaks back on the roof.
The hike to Horseshoe Bend is short and the view is magnificent. We go early, but the crowds are already there. There are many areas to walk along the edge of the horseshoe to snap photos.
We drive to our 2:30pm photography tour in Antelope Canyon star with Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours, LLC. They help position our tripods and lens and tell us where to point and shoot. Our guide is knowledgeable. He takes us to another nearby canyon and takes our photos.
Zion National Park
Duration: 2 nights
What to do: Angel’s Landing, Emerald Lake, any other hike
Zion National Park is breathtaking. Some hikes are closed due to construction, including the Narrows. We do the short hike to Emerald Pond’s waterfalls and then head to our Airbnb as the rain pour doesn’t stop. Tomorrow we embark the infamous Angel’s Landing.
Angel’s Landing. The sign reads six people have died since 2004. I cling to the metal chain and step up. My brown North Face leather boots slip on the dusty red rocks and I cling for dear life. It’s just the beginning.
The higher I climb the more thrilling the views. For most parts, the trail is narrow allowing one person at a time. To let go of the chain is futile.
The drive to the Grand Canyon from Zion National Park turns into a dirt road. I wish we rented a 4×4. We stop to admire a cow herd and the sunset cascading the distant mountains in a yellow hue.
What to do: Grand Canyon National Park
Duration: 2 nights
What to do: See Mather’s Point, Angel’s Light hike, Hermit’s Resting Point, Mojave Point
We drive to the Grand Canyon early and eat breakfast there. My travel partner is making my teeth grit for the past few days. We walk to Mather’s Point, me with coffee in hand. None of us says a word. We wait for the visitor centre to open for some reason—to ask a question maybe. We walk in right at 10am.
Travel partner: Do you want to see the Grand Canyon video?Me: No
It’s a 10 minute documentary on formation, depth and history of the Grand Canyon. I want to start hiking early as possible to avoid the afternoon heat.
I soon find myself back at the Airbnb being cursed at. My travel partner packs and catches a flight home. I lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling. The Utah to Arizona road trip was going good, but the resentment between me and my travel partner grew unbearable.
I’m emotionally drained, yet return to the Grand Canyon for sunset.
First day solo and I’m hungry for adventure.
I head to the Grand Canyon and catch the shuttle bus that goes around Grand Canyon National Park. I hike the first mile and half of Bright Angel. The hike back is uphill and tough.
I take the shuttle to Hermit’s Resting Point and Mojave Point. I’m amazed at God’s creation.
Duration: 3 nights
What to do: Hike Devil’s Bridge, Doe Mountain, visit Moon Canyon Creek, Airport Mesa Point
I drive up a winding road to Airport Mesa Point for the renowned sunrise. It’s a beautiful.
The Devil’s Bridge parking lot is a 30-minute walk to the trailhead on a rocky, dirt road. Again, I wish I had a 4×4.
I stop for an acai bowl at Berry Divine Acai Bowls and head to the Airbnb. Nausea overwhelms me and I fall sick shortly after.
A few hours later I feel better, but I’m fatigued. I scarf down a lentil and sardine salad made by my Airbnb host’s girlfriend and go to sleep.
My Airbnb is in Clarkson, 30 minutes from Sedona. I take in the Republican air (well, now Democrat judging by the 2020 election). I love going to the nearby Safeway near midnight. The stares are aplenty, but everyone is sweet and kind.
I wake up fatigued. I muster the strength to hike Doe Mountain late afternoon but take it slow. I feel tired and light headed.
I drive to Moon Canyon Creek to photograph Cathedral Rock during sunrise. I’m not disappointed. It’s empty and I wander the area alone.
I head back to my Airbnb and pack up to explore Phoenix.
Tangier Outlet and Arrowhead Point in Phoenix are shopping stops. I have a red eye flight with not much to do in Phoenix. I end up at the airport early.
The end of my Utah to Arizona road trip brings a tinge of sadness. I would do the trip again in a heartbeat.