The words on this page can never do justice to the natural beauty that we experienced on this incredible adventure.
Like so many others infected with wanderlust, we carefully planned this trip to make the most of our time, to see the sites that we've dreamed about for years. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are "bucket list" trips... their landscapes are almost otherworldly. We had high expectations for this adventure.
We flew into Las Vegas, grabbed our rental car, and began the 3-hour journey to our home base in Kanab, UT. The terrain changed constantly, from lush to barren, from high to higher. We saw peaks, valleys, and plateaus like none other. The drive did not disappoint!
It should be noted that this excursion was planned during the dark days of the COVID pandemic. Many of our plans were altered for safety reasons. The economic impact of the pandemic caused other twists and turns along the way.
A week before our departure, we received a message that our accommodations had been canceled as the lodge decided not to open for the season. We didn't panic (much) and very quickly adjusted course and found ourselves a comfortable place to stay at the Canyons Hotel. The hotel provided an incredible breakfast to us daily, which we enjoyed in the room due to COVID regulations. We wouldn't hesitate to book another stay at Canyons Hotel. It was fantastic.
Kanab is a quiet town with a rich Hollywood history. John Wayne stayed in Kanab so frequently that he paid to have a pool installed at his lodge of choice! It was the perfect central location to visit the parks. Upon arrival, we showered, ate, and set out to find a few lesser-known caves and desert trails.
I was reminded that going up to explore caves is always easier than going down, especially for those of us with a real fear of heights! I will say that we didn't escape unscathed. Never mind the details... haha!
Bryce Canyon National Park was our first stop on Day 2 of our adventure. It was absolutely breathtaking. It was like seeing a celebrity in real life! We spent a full day wandering around the park from bottom to top. Spiraling around hoodoos and experiencing the weather extremes of elevation changes was exhilarating!
Plan for layering your clothes when you visit Bryce. The temps ranged from hot to cold-enough-for-snow in late April.
The crowds were thickest at the beginning and end of each trail that we explored; however, everyone maintained a respectful distance. We had no issues with parking or noise, even when arriving during the more heavily trafficked time of day.
We logged about 15 miles on Day 2. Our bodies were tired, but our souls were singing! We applied our HippieShine Muscle Rub directly on the bottoms of our feet each evening of our trip. It was remarkable how well our 40+ year old bodies recovered with its help each night!
We headed to Zion National Park on Day 3. It was clear that Zion had a bigger draw for visitors than we saw the day before. The park was PACKED. It took a while to reach the visitors' center once we entered the park (largely due to traffic), but the sights along the drive were awe-inspiring. From the Checkerboard Mesa to the big-horned sheep to the massive cliffs that surrounded us, we almost forgot to breathe as we made our way along the winding path to the shuttle that would take us beyond the gates.
The shuttle. Oh, the shuttle... We had secured our shuttle tickets in advance of our trip. The line snaked around a chained-off "cattle shoot" and there were hundreds of people awaiting their turn to board.
We're not typically sensitive to it, but the noise level was unsettling. It was as though there was a competition among the crowd to be heard. The noise was an unwelcome factor throughout the day, as many groups hiked the trails with personal soundtracks playing. There was a lot of shouting and lack of trail etiquette. We've never experienced that level of "amusement park din" at a national park before!
We boarded the shuttle when it was our turn and headed into the northern part of the park. The shuttle let us out at the onsite resort and we began to make our way to the trails.
Due to trail repairs, we were unable to visit Angels Landing, which was a disappointment. However, with the crowds the way they were, it was probably best! We did hit all of the other more notable destinations, including the three Emerald Pools, the Narrows (trail only), and many others. We ended our day atop the Canyon Overlook trail to watch the sunset.
Our first day in Zion was a mixed bag of emotions. It is such an inspiring place! It was a shame to have the crowds impact our visit. We decided to return the following day and blaze our own trails, which proved to be a great decision. Day 4 of our trip was spent scrambling boulders around the park, following winding paths to unknown destinations, and following the river in Kolob Canyon. It was excellent!
We left the park in enough time to visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. If you're ever in Kanab, don't miss this beautiful park! We spent time climbing the dunes, watching kids sled and dune buggies racing. If you plan to visit, you can rent sleds from the park office for $25 each. No need to bring your own!
Other highlights of our time in Kanab included dinner at the Thunderbird Cafe (home of the "ho-made" pies - definitely order pie), entering the lottery to visit The Wave (unsuccessful, but met some cool new friends), and visiting the Moqui Cave museum.
One of our new friends from The Wave lottery recommended that we visit Valley of Fire State Park on our way back to Las Vegas. So we quickly adjusted our schedule to make our way through the Mojave Desert to find this remarkable destination. We are always up for new adventures and typically fly by the seat of our pants. It also helped that we had planned to take the red eye back to Atlanta so we had all day to have an unplanned adventure!
Valley of Fire was jaw dropping, absolutely incredible. We felt like we were visiting an entirely different planet. It would have made the trip worth it to have simply visited this destination. When you enter, you are greeted with massive red stone formations, but as you go deeper into the park, the landscape changes over and over again. It reminded me of a patchwork quilt... the varying colors, the diverse textures, the unusual outcrops...
It feels like a spiritually significant place, and then you see the petroglyphs. Whoa. We spent what felt like ages staring up at the ancient messages that surrounded us, speculating what they could possibly mean, imagining the community that inscribed them there. One day was simply not enough time to celebrate the natural marvel of Valley of Fire. We will definitely go back.
All-in-all, this was a remarkable adventure with big memories, a lot of photos, and miles-upon-miles-upon-miles on our feet! HippieShine CBD and Muscle Rub kept us comfortably going for five busy days. Our bodies were able to recover more quickly overnight, keeping inflammation at bay. As an added bonus, the organic ingredients in the muscle rub, including beeswax and essential oils, soothed our slight sunburns and took away the red overnight. There are so many uses for this remarkable product.
The moral of this adventure is to leave room in your schedule to accommodate the unexpected! You never know what wonders might await you down the road you weren't planning to travel.
Wander more. Breathe peace. Live happy. Let your HippieShine!