National Parks Road Trip

When I got back from my trip, the first thing my dad said was, “So, do your friends now know just how outdoorsy you are?” I couldn’t help but laugh. While I am a city girl, my favorite place to be is far away from the city. There’s a lot of irony in that sentence, but going on an adventure like the one we just went on makes me so nostalgic. I grew up camping and hiking, so while for some, the idea of spending a whole week outdoors in tents is the complete opposite of a vacation, I love every aspect of it. Even the parts that aren’t so great, because honestly, those are the stories we are going to be telling our future children for years to come. So, if you are ready for an adventure, but don’t want to leave the comfort of your couch, this post is for you.

It all started back in the Spring. Before my brother deployed, he asked me if I had any trips planned while he was gone. Thinking about it for a moment, I said that I would love to do a National Parks Road Trip, just like a similar trip he had done a few years back. When I asked where the best parks are, he quickly answered, “Utah. By far.” So, when I got back home, an idea sparked in my mind. My friend, Amy, and I purchased a travel book on Utah and gifted it to our friend, Starr, for her birthday. When she opened it, she looked at us both, and we broke out into smiles, “We are going to Utah!” I nearly squealed. “Really?” She looked up at us both. And, right then and there, the planning begun.

Fast forward a few months later and we found ourselves leaving Los Angeles at 6AM on a Saturday to head for the mountains of Flagstaff, AZ. Upon our arrival, we checked into our AirBnB (the only house accommodation of our trip) and settled in to adjust to the altitude, which meant taking the next couple days easy, especially for girls who live at ocean level. A few years ago, I got severe altitude sickness in Peru, so I’m always careful when traveling to higher altitude. That’s another story for another day.

After climbing to 10,300 ft by just sitting on a ski lift (that’s one way to climb a mountain), we headed to the grocery store where we got our groceries for the entire week. No, we didn’t do our grocery shopping at the top of the mountain. For those who are wondering the best way to eat while camping, make sure you plan your meals ahead of time, pack a cooler with you on the road, and then once you arrive in town (before heading into the middle of nowhere for a few days), pack it all up.

Monday would begin the most interesting part of our adventure. We drove just over an hour through the beautiful Coconino National Forest to Grand Canyon. When we arrived, we had planned on doing an easy hike (which is why I had my Teva’s on in the photos. I would not recommend hiking Bright Angel Trail(Grand Canyon’s most difficult hike) in Teva’s. But, I am a Malech. Which means I have a healthy dose of stubborness, competition, and spontaneity in my blood, so there we were, not stopping for anything as we took Bright Angel on. A half mile in, a park ranger stopped us to let us know about an excessive heat wave warning and what we needed to do along the way so we wouldn’t overheat. Apart from trekking the Inca Trail in Peru, this was one of the toughest hikes any of us had been on. Not only were we battling the heat, but our bodies were still adjusting to the elevation. However, the views? They were 100% worth it. I am highly aware that we could have just gone to an overlook and enjoyed the views just the same, but I think hiking it made the view all the more beautiful. You appreciate it in a way that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

After enjoying a much needed lunch overlooking what looked like a mirage of a painting, we got in the car and headed to our AirBnB for the night. After getting lost in the middle of the desert, my Civic battled the difficult terrain and we all made it one piece to home for the night…a school bus.

Our friendly and very hungry neighbors

As you can see from the photo above, the bed couldn’t fit three people like advertised, so Amy (to the right) volunteered herself as tribute to sleep on the floor of the bus. In the middle of the night, she realized that such a decision was the worst idea ever. But, is volunteering as tribute ever a good idea?

After a not so great night of sleep, due to violent winds knocking the bus around all night, we hit the road, Jack.

Overlooking Horseshoe Bend

The best part about doing a road trip is that there is so much to see between Destination Point A and B. Horseshoe Bend was definitely worth the stop. I don’t need to say anything else. Just take a look at these next photos.

As we smiled and enjoyed the views, little did we realize what was ahead. If we did, I think we would have never left these rocks. When we got back into the car, I received a notification from our AirBnB host letting us know that an arctic freeze was coming in from Canada that night. Mind you, we just came from an excessive heat wave. I am seriously so amazed(and grateful) that none of us got sick on this trip. Despite the forecast, there was still optimism in our step as we crossed over into Utah.

Our AirBnB was a Tipi for the night. Which seemed like the coolest idea ever when I booked it. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the arctic freeze and the fact that we were the only ones up there(that is until a car drove up in the middle of the night and parked next to our Tipi. Also, another story for another day), it would have been a great night. At least, the star gazing was incredible, for the 30 seconds we braved the cold and peeped outside our Tipi.

In the words of Amy, “You know you’ve reached a low point when the port o potty becomes a place of refuge.” I don’t think I need to say anything more.

We were more than excited to pack up our bags, blast the heater in the car and grab coffee from a local shoppe outside Bryce Canyon. While we had just completed the worst night of our trip, this morning was the start of our favorite day. I had no idea that this would be the day I would fall in love. So, if the photos don’t do this place justice, let me tell you that if you do get to visit Utah, Bryce Canyon is a must.

As we hiked the Navajo Trail, it felt sacred and other worldly. The wind rustled through the pine trees, the hoodos towered above us, and all of the details that surrounded us pointed to our Creator, a reminder that no detail is left unnoticed by our God. There are only a few places that I have been to around the world that have made me tear up and this was one of them. I was completely in awe and know that this was not my last trip to Bryce.

We only spent one day here, but 75% of my photos were from Bryce, because every angle you turned, you wanted to try to capture what you were experiencing.

With our hearts revived, we drove the 1 hour and 40 minutes to our campsite right outside East Zion. If you are looking for a place to camp near Zion, highly recommend this place. It was by far the best campsite that I have ever stayed. Hot showers, hot running water to wash dishes, really clean bathrooms, need I say more?

We stayed three nights here, so we could fully experience Zion, which included a couple day hikes and one full day hiking The Narrows. If you visit during the warmer part of the year, I highly recommend hiking The Narrows. While it was a strenuous hike, it was also the most fun hike that we had ever been on. You are in waist deep water at some parts of the river and you can’t help but feel like a little kid again. With the canyons towering above you and the ice cold water numbing everything but your wonder, it is a hike that I will never forget.

Hiking The Narrows

Zion National Park is hard to put into words. It is truly a breathtaking place. I’m just going to wrap up this post with photos of Zion and say that if you ever get the chance to do a road trip through Utah and Arizona, I highly recommend it.

Until next time, cheers!

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