Road Tripping Through The Southwest Of The US

Filed Under: Travel

In mid-June, Ford and I did a four day road trip through Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado (I recognize that technically not all of those states are the “southwest,” but I feel comfortable enough with the general theme).

In this post I wanted to talk a bit more about our road trip, and then in the next three installments I’ll be reviewing the hotels we stayed at.

The inspiration for our road trip

Around mid-June I was planning on taking some sort of trip again, mainly to be able to report on how things are going in the travel world. My goal was was to fly somewhere and then plan a brief domestic trip centered around the outdoors from there, since that seemed like the safest option.

Friends of ours were doing a road trip from California to Colorado, and all the pictures they shared were breathtaking. I had never really done a road trip in that part of the country, so it seemed like a great itinerary.

I asked my friend an endless number of questions about their trip, and I guess I got so annoying that he actually created a four day itinerary for us, with lots of awesome recommendations (which was far too nice).

Our road trip itinerary

Let me start by acknowledging a few important things:

  • We were rushed on this trip, as four days wasn’t nearly enough to see everything we wanted to see; at the same time, that was what worked best in terms of finding someone to care for Winston while we were gone
  • We planned this days in advance, and we weren’t fully prepared for all the logistics; National Park logistics can be complicated under normal circumstances, let alone during coronavirus, where they are largely operating with different protocols
  • This post isn’t at all intended to be a National Park guide, or anything (Steph is our resident expert on that); rather I’m just sharing my experiences as someone who has visited very few National Parks in the past

Here’s an overview of our itinerary:

  • We landed at Las Vegas McCarran Airport, and drove to Springdale, Utah, in order to visit Zion National Park; we spent a night at the SpringHill Suites Zion National Park
  • The next day we drove to Page, Arizona, in order to see Horseshoe Bend; we spent a night at the Hyatt Place Page
  • The next day we drove to Moab, Utah, in order to visit Arches National Park; we spent two nights at the Hoodoo Hilton Curio Collection Moab

Here’s a (rough) map of our route, between hotels and airports:

Our road trip route

Now let me share our day-to-day itinerary.

Day 1: Driving to Springdale

We landed in Las Vegas at around 11AM. From there we had to pick up our rental car, and make the roughly 2hr30min drive to Springdale, Utah.

Arriving at Las Vegas McCarran Airport

Everything took a bit longer than we had hoped — that included getting on the shuttle to the rental car center (since only 10 people were allowed on each bus), we stopped to get some food (since there was no meal service on our flight), we had to pick up hiking equipment, etc.

I already loved the views on this drive, though they got significantly more beautiful in subsequent days.

Entering the state of Utah

Driving to Springdale, Utah

Also, for whatever reason I hadn’t processed that Springdale, Utah, was actually one hour ahead, so it was nearly 4PM by the time we made it to Springdale.

Our initial plan was to go on a hike in Zion National Park the same afternoon, but we learned that wouldn’t be all that practical (I’ll talk more about that below). Fortunately Zion National Park has a 12 mile highway you can easily drive through to enjoy the views, so we did that the first evening.

Zion National Park

Day 2: Zion National Park, Driving to Page, Horseshoe Bend

In the morning we wanted to hike The Narrows, which is probably the most well known hike in the park. What we had learned upon arriving in Springdale is that this wouldn’t be so easy:

  • The entrance to The Narrows is many miles into Zion National Park, in a part that cars can’t just freely drive into
  • Ordinarily the park runs a shuttle service that brings you deep into the park, but currently that’s not being operated, due to coronavirus
  • As a result, you have to either arrive very early by car (because they only let in a few hundred cars), or have to book a private shuttle; we reached out to several companies, all of which basically said they’re no longer taking reservations via email or phone, “as the daily volume of requests has been in the hundreds, for a resource in the dozens”

Therefore our best option was to just arrive early. The park opens at 6AM, and they let a few hundred cars in, but it fills up almost immediately. The problem was figuring out how early we had to arrive in order to secure a spot — some people told us we’d need to arrive by 2AM, while others said 5:30AM would be sufficient.

We ended up getting to the entrance around 4AM, and there were roughly 130 cars ahead of us (at least that’s what a lady who was counting all the cars told us). Being parked in the pitch dark for two hours without any sort of cell phone data wasn’t ideal, but I was happy that we made it in.

Waiting for Zion National Park to open

Driving in the “restricted” part of Zion National Park

The Narrows hike is primarily through water, which was a new concept for me. I mean, I’ve walked through water, but not for miles on end. We ended up hiking for about four hours, and enjoyed ourselves.

Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

After our early morning hike, we packed up our car and made the 2hr30min drive to Page, Arizona. The views on this drive were even better than during the drive the previous day.

Driving to Page, Arizona

Entering the state of Arizona

In the itinerary that my friend put together, he recommended stopping at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Buckskin Gulch. Unfortunately we decided to skip those, given that we got up at 3:30AM, and were exhausted after our hike.

Instead we checked into our hotel. We then drove around Page, which is not the most exciting city on earth… I’m trying to be nice here. Page is right next to Lake Powell, so the views in the area are at least great. By the way, Page is also the nearest city to Amangiri, which is probably the best hotel in the US.

Then in the evening we headed to Horseshoe Bend, which is just a short drive from town. There was a $10 entrance fee, and then it was a roughly 10 minute walk to get to the actual attraction.

Walking to Horseshoe Bend

Walking to Horseshoe Bend

Seriously, how gorgeous is this?!?

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

By comparison to Zion National Park, the logistics here couldn’t have been easier — parking was plentiful, it was a short walk, and the views were possibly even more breathtaking. Horseshoe Bend is possibly the most beautiful, easy to access landmark I’ve ever seen.

Day 3: A leisurely drive to Moab

The next morning we made the 4hr30min drive from Page, Arizona, to Moab, Utah. The portion of driving between Page and Moab was probably my all around favorite part of this trip.

Obviously visiting National Parks is great, but the amount of natural beauty and even charming towns you can enjoy just driving in this part of the country blew me away.

Driving to Moab, Utah

Beyond the physical beauty, I also want to say that driving in general in this part of the country was so enjoyable. There were wide open roads, sometimes we didn’t see other cars for miles, the speed limit was high, and I didn’t notice any speed traps.

We really took our time with this drive, and stopped at Monument Valley, near the border between Arizona and Utah.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

We also stopped for a bit at Valley of the Gods, which had 17 miles of dirt roads with some awesome views.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

It was surreal to be in areas this beautiful with so few people. We didn’t see a single other person or car in our miles of driving in the Valley of the Gods, for example.

We arrived in Moab in the evening, and had an early dinner and called it a night.

Day 4: Exploring Arches National Park, UTVing

We got up early and enjoyed Arches National Park. The logistics were so much easier than Zion National Park. We could just drive right in, and then there are 36 miles of roads with a bunch of scenic lookouts.

While there’s great hiking, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of this place without even leaving your car.

Driving through Arches National Park

Driving through Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

The most famous structure in the park is Delicate Arch, which requires a roughly 30 minute hike to get to. Fortunately you can quite easily park near the base, so there’s no planning required.

Hiking to Delicate Arch

Hiking to Delicate Arch

Hiking to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

After spending the morning in the park, in the early afternoon we drove down a long dirt road along the Colorado River.

Driving along the Colorado River

In the evening we booked a UTV tour to Hell’s Revenge. This was terrifying at first, but fun once we got the hang of it. I can’t say the tour company we used was terribly professional:

  • When we walked into their office, the owner said “we don’t allow masks in here”
  • The guy told us “someone just wrecked a brand new $25,000 UTV today by driving stupid,” and then proceeded to say “you break it, you buy it,” with no option for insurance

Somehow we still decided to do the tour, which lasted about 2.5 hours.

UTV tour to Hell’s Revenge

Views while on the UTV

Views while on the UTV

Hell’s Revenge, Utah

Day 5: Driving to Grand Junction

We were flying out of Grand Junction, which is the closest commercial airport to Moab, Utah (or at least closest airport with one-stop service to Miami). That was a roughly two hour drive.

The speed limit on the highway in most of Utah was 80mph, which I’ve never before seen in the US. That was kind of cool, and the views continued to be incredible. I almost want to move to Utah just for how fun the driving is.

Bottom line

I’m so glad we had the chance to do this road trip. I can’t believe I had never explored this part of the country before, and now that I’ve done it once, I absolutely want to go back.

It goes without saying it was planned last minute and was probably unnecessarily rushed, but we still had a great time. If I had to rank my enjoyment of things on this trip:

  • I almost enjoyed the driving more than actually visiting the National Parks, because I can’t wrap my head around how beautiful the scenery is around these roads, and how you can just pull over anywhere and explore
  • We liked Arches National Park the most; I’m not sure it was more beautiful than Zion National Park, but the logistics were so much easier
  • Horseshoe Bend is breathtaking, and so easy to access
  • I’d definitely return to Zion National Park, though would want to plan it better next time, and take more than one day

Have you done a road trip in this part of the country? Any recommendations for other road trips in the US I should do?

  1. Flying and vacationing during a pandemic is one example of why America is incapable of getting this thing under control while people in other countries followed proper guidelines without getting hung up on some freedom fetish and are now reaping the rewards.

  2. While I liked the article and Lucky, Katie is correct. CNN has an article where the title sums it up,

    Americans who stayed home before they were told to saved lives, study finds

    By Lauren Mascarenhas and Sandee LaMotte, CNN

    Updated 9:35 PM EDT, Wed July 01, 2020

  3. Cool pictures but had it been me, I wouldn’t have categorized the trip as absolutely necessary.
    But I fully understand it was just for additional page clicks on your site.

  4. @ Katie — I think that’s an oversimplification. I essentially self quarantined for the two weeks prior to the trip, so I’m confident I didn’t have coronavirus when I left. All of our activities were based around the outdoors, and aside from sleeping in our hotel rooms, we weren’t ever inside (and it’s increasingly clear that a vast majority of transmission happens indoors). We also took precautions in terms of wearing masks, wiping everything down, etc. We also got tested upon our return home.

    Sure, ideally we’d all stay home and never leave, but I’m also not sure how long that is supposed to last. Will we ever have a vaccine? Will this ever end? Should we just completely shut down the world forever?

    Obviously America is in a disastrous situation, but if you ask me that has little to do with taking one flight to go on a road trip where you’re outdoors. It’s because we have people who value freedom over doing what’s for the greater good (not wearing masks on principle), because so many people have been irresponsible while staying home (indoor parties with dozens of people), and because we have very bad leadership (how the hell have bars, indoor restaurants, gyms, and indoor places of worship reopened?).

    I take this pandemic *very* seriously, and I feel comfortable with our decision to take this trip. But I also respect your perspective.

  5. I would not have rewarded the stupidity of the “no masks allowed” company with my business.

  6. @ derek — And I totally agree with that article. I did stay home before government mandates — I did so since early March.

  7. @CP – not just that, they don’t offer insurance, while whining that someone wrecked a new ATV.
    Rushed trips lead to rushed decisions.

  8. Next time continue from Grand Jct to Denver; the drive on I-70 is gorgeous! Especially Glenwood Canyon, which felt like driving through the middle of a miniature Grand Canyon

  9. I disagree with Katie and Derek – travel can be done safely. Wear masks, carry hand sanitizer, avoid big groups like crowded bars, follow local protocols. Travel businesses remain open during this time period and need patronage, and people need to do whatever they need for mental health (including vacations) as long as it is safe. These absolute viewpoints don’t do any good. Honestly Lucky’s trip here looks pretty safe. I just booked my first trip for two weeks from now, I’d like to see more trip reports during this time.

  10. Thanks for sharing Ben! I have saved your article as a guide for my family’s trip to the parks.

  11. I did almost the same trip, but shorter, 3 days 2 nights. We did not get up early to go into Zion, instead drove through the Zion tunnels highway, and took a jeep tour outside the park. From zion we went to arches and then drove to Vail CO! We still got some snow.

    Was a 3 day adventure like never before!

  12. Wow this is one super rushed trip which obviously missed out a lot.

    For two rich people who don’t have an office job, it should’ve been absolutely possible for you to bring Winston and done a proper long trip for a few weeks. Tons of hotels allow pets.

  13. @ Greg — We intentionally didn’t make this trip weeks-long, because the goal was partly to see if we would actually feel comfortable traveling. I’m happy it wasn’t much longer, because we were surprised by the lack of mask usage. This trip was truly intended to be the equivalent of dipping our toes back into travel.

  14. It seems you are in the damned if you do and damned if you don’t middle ground. All sides will be taking their shots at your decision.

    I am glad you supported the travel industry and felt you did it within the boundaries that allowed you to feel comfortable.

  15. Virtually all bloggers are advocating for leisure travel since April and some are boasting about doing so. Many readers are also demanding more trip reports during the pandemic and shunning the efforts to learn more about the issues impacting leisure travel because they prefer short term self indulgences to long term sustainable safe travel, not just responsible travel. It surely does not help when government officials and federal agencies leaders are failing from the beginning and making no effort to change course. Those who display a cavalier attitude toward the deadly infectious disease have no right to spread the contagion to others, especially the medical professionals, and inflict financial calamities in the society and the world. The pandemic truly reveals the decline of the superpower due to the incompetent leadership, the attacks on science, the exponential threats of lies, and the defiant populace.

  16. It’s the most beautiful part of the country, and definitely worth taking the time to spend a few weeks to explore with a less ambitious schedule. You could even start in California do a review of the domestic 777 AA flies from MIA to LAX.

  17. OMG, you are telling me, that you’ve never been there? I can’t believe it. I know every mile on these roads and I don’t even live in the US, never did. I recommend Discover America Forum for your next roadtrip plans. 😉 Check the Highlight Map out and you know what I mean. You speak German, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

  18. Great report Ben! I live in Salt Lake City and just went down to Bryce Canyon last week and thought it was great! You can definitely do it in a day or two, and would definitely recommend stopping by next time you’re out here!

  19. @Ben out of curiosity, which car rental company did you rent with and what car did you rent?

  20. I have to agree with Katie, derek and globetrotter. This trip was irresponsible.

    I’ve been thinking about a road trip (long drive, no flying) to this area in September, but because of the virus explosion across the US, have decided not to go. That’s the responsible choice. It’s not going to kill me to stay at home or close to home. But it might kill you (and thousands of others) if I decide I’m special and can “get away with” some travel for fun.

    What an incredibly bad decision you made to support those idiots at the ATV shop with your money.

    The only travel that people should be doing are truly essential trips, period.

  21. I’d agree with an earlier poster on how beautiful Bryce Canyon is. Its too bad you didn’t get to check it out, given how close you were in Zion. I really enjoyed Zion and Arches, but have to say Bryce Canyon took the cake. You’ll have to do another trip out there sometime to check it out.

  22. This tri-state area is probably one of the most beautiful spots in the US, all within 5 hours of each other. Thanks for highlighting this visit Ben.

  23. @Katie

    I think it’s not helpful to shame everyone for simply going out. I think this article in The Atlantic has got it right:

    Being outdoors and socially distanced from others is pretty damn safe, and as far as I can tell, this trip has brought little risk to Ben or those around him (minus the ATV activity, because the employees there are idiots. If they actively ban the use of mask, I bet they don’t take cleaning the vehicles after each use seriously too, and would refuse to do business with them on that basis alone).

    America’s in this situation because of all the other things, like people not wearing masks (e.g. in the Vegas airport, based on Ben’s observations), not social distancing, crowding/opening up too soon and a generally lack of leadership from their leader.

    Being outdoors is not one of those issues.

  24. Your life, your choice, I’d do much the same. (Except would drive from SAN)
    Like road trips, more so when no real time limit to it.
    Great way to spend a few days.

  25. About twenty years ago I did a road trip in this area, starting in Denver then driving around Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. I avoided hotel chains and stayed in B&Bs or similar. The whole trip was a homage to “Thelma and Louise” (alas, I didn’t meet Brad Pitt).

    Monument Valley was my favourite part: you can stay in a Native American hotel inside the park, or Goulding’s Lodge is a cheaper alternative — just outside the Park but with decent views into the valley.

    Experiencing the park at sunrise is extraordinary. Utterly lovely.

    I’d agree this is one of the most spectacular parts of the US to explore. Though personally I wouldn’t be having a holiday right now.

  26. I can’t believe you missed Antelope Canyon while you were in Page!! You’ll have to do that next time when you stay at Amangiri. 🙂

  27. My wife and I have done the entire PCH drive both ways and I have to say it was awesome in a convertible! Lots of amazing views along the way but can get busy and slow. Big Sur and Carmel/Monterey were very enjoyable and then the forests of northern CA and of course Point Reyes. OR was a new experience for us on our first trip and loved it. WA was somewhere I knew very well as was in Redmond for work regularly .

  28. Terrific trip report – thanks for sharing! While I really enjoy your hotel and airplane reviews, it was interesting to see a more detailed exploration of the places you visited and the activities that you did while you were on this trip. This is a great example of how to travel responsibly while this pandemic goes on and on.

    I hope you’ll cover in the final report whether this trip has inspired you to take additional trips or to postpone travel (until when?) based on the conditions you observed such as limited mask usage / hostility towards mask wearers, uneven hotel adherence to COVID policies, etc.

  29. Lucky, I’m glad you took this trip in the end. I think it’s important for you to be able to provide some real world experience to your readers and I trust that you are doing so in the most respectful and responsible manner. It was clear throughout your trip you we’re not advocating for everyone to get back out there and you shared your many concerns throughout the experience. I would like to think mask compliance in Vegas and other areas has gone up, especially since the governor of Nevada issued a mandate requiring them in public. I live in CA about 45 minutes from Reno, and while folks in my town embraced the masks early on, it wasn’t until the past week or two that I noticed more people in Reno wearing them as well.

    Also, I appreciate a trip like this and your west coast (Big Sur) trip last year because it’s so easy for bloggers and other travel media to get caught up in ticking another country off the list that people forget just how incredibly beautiful our country is. Some of the best uses of mile and points can be domestic redemption’s to areas like this, especially in the off season.

    Last point, it’s a shame the UTV business in Moab was so stupid regarding the masks. They have one 25-bed hospital in town… it wouldn’t take much to overrun them. In addition to off-roading, Moab is also a world-class mountain biking destination and I would be curious to see how the bike shops and bike shuttle services have been handling the Covid-crowds. Given the more earthy-crunchy left leaning clientele, I’m sure they are far more accepting of masks.

  30. Any chance you could share the itinerary from your friend? I am beginning a similar road trip today and would love to have a few more recommendations!

  31. You missed out on a ton of good stuff in Moab – Canyonlands National Park is excellent. The Devil’s Garden hike in Arches is easily one of the best in the region, and has arches that in my opinion are more impressive than Delicate Arch.

    And Moab has an airport with United Express service to Denver. Not sure if the flight is operating now or not given COVID reductions.

  32. Thanks for taking this trip Ben! You totally have the right attitude about it. I just moved to Denver for work (I’m a doctor at a hospital there) and can’t wait to make a southern Utah camping trip with your suggestions. Wearing masks, social distancing, and being in a sunny, highly ventilated area is relatively low risk. Glad you had a great time!

  33. The southwest might be the most underrated area of the US. There’s so much beautiful scenery in a realtively small area and, like you discovered, it’s generally pretty easy to access. Next time check out Bryce Canyon. A few years ago friends and I did a Zion and Bryce trip and everyone agreed that Bryce was far more impressive and enjoyable. It’s also worth checking out Lake Mead in Las Vegas and Valley of Fire on the way to Utah.

  34. Do yourself a favor and read Desert Solitaire by Ed Abby. He is a great writer, and was a ranger at Arches for a number of years. The book chronicle some of his adventures while there. Another book by him, The Monkey Wrench Gang is also a great read about the area. While fictional, it has a strong base in actual events surrounding the early environmental movement in the area.

  35. I understand the reasoning behind this trip and appreciate the precautions you took. However, it was still irresponsible of you to travel. Some people may have good reasons to do it, yours were not. You should stay home.

  36. Thanks for the pics! I wanted to add that much of what you drove through on day 3 (in southeastern Utah, including the Valley of the Gods) is Bears Ears National Monument, which was set aside in 2016 to protect indigenous sacred lands from oil & gas drilling. However, the government is working to largely remove this protection, and we need to stand up to this to protect the landscape and maintain its use for indigenous people as they have been doing for hundreds of years.

    It’s a key step towards addressing the wrongdoings this country has committed towards indigenous peoples.

  37. Around the same time you were on this trip, I took off to the Black Hills and Badlands in SD for a few days. I also took every precaution before and during my “return to travel.” Masks seemed better enforced on my American flights, but masks were definitely not a thing once I got to SD. I also got to check out the Admirals Clubs in PHL and ORD, which re-opened the day before I traveled. I was never shamed for wearing one, but I was definitely the only masked person on many occasions. The Black Hills were stunning, I highly recommend if you enjoy hiking. I planned long (10+ mile) day hikes and the logistics were interesting with the phased re-opening of the parks (I had to scrap my Badlands hike plans due to closures). I didn’t encounter a ton of people in the Black Hills area, aside from Mt. Rushmore. But when I stayed in Rapid City at the tail end of the trip, the utter lack of masks at the front desk and in the restaurant at the Hotel Alex Johnson Curio by Hilton was a bit alarming.

  38. I really do not think you should have rewarded the “no masks allowed” company with your business. At the very least can you write a review on yelp and tripadvisor for the business highlighting this disgusting attitude i.e. name and shame them. This kind of nonsense is – at least in part – why we such a bad situation right. now.

  39. Utah is absolutely one of my most favorite states to drive through. It seems to me as if every 15 minutes the scenery changes to something even more fantastic than what I had just seen previously. California is also another wonderful to drive through. Our country’s national parks are absolute gems waiting to be explored.

  40. It’s hard to believe the amount of people saying they wouldn’t travel right now. Are you all waiting until there is a vaccine? What is your plan exactly?

    ~ The Honorable Reginald

  41. Excited for this trip report. Btw you should bring to the attention how spirit airlines just flew an empty plane to Turks and Caicos to pick up a stranded family. I believe reporter David Begnaud has the footage on his Instagram

  42. Pink Sand Dunes State Park is absolutely gorgeous. It is not visited by too many people. If you go to Zion, it is well worth a visit.

  43. Thanks! Great reading and eye candy.

    2 questions:

    a) with the “no masks allowed” dude, did you both take them off? Or, leave them on?

    b) could you please give us (who don’t live in the US) some idea of what the temperatures were? Was it cool/cold in the evenings (sweaters, jackets needed?) and 4 a.m. hour? Boiling in the day?


  44. I can understand Lucky’s desire to travel; I would love to have the option but personally I have no desire to social distance and wear a face mask as that defeats my reason for traveling (interacting with local cultures and making new friends) so for now I’m just staying home (fortunately I rented a nice house in the country side in northern Mexico, unfortunately this area is rapidly becoming the new epicenter for corona in Mexico). Lucky seems to be taking the appropriate precautions and therefore I see no reason others to judge his travel.

    However, what really disgusts me with the United States is the cavalier attitude towards the BLM protests. The mainstream media reports record numbers of new cases yet refuses to correlate them to the time of the first protests. It is obvious for even a casual observer to see that the correlation is nearly 100 percent. Let’s be honest and not pretend that “certain” activities without any social distancing are acceptable while others are not. None of them should be permitted, period.

  45. While Page, AZ may not be the most exciting location, it has one of the most beautiful
    public golf courses you will ever play.

  46. Good for you! Glad you enjoyed your trip. Some of the most beautiful parts of this great Country. WY has some 80 mph areas too…;-), and incredible scenery. The more populated parts of Utah aren’t nearly as enjoyable to drive. Too much traffic! LOL!

  47. Alan – many of the largest BLM protests were in cities like:
    – Minneapolis (obviously)
    – NYC
    – DC
    – Chicago
    – New Orleans
    – Boston
    – San Francisco
    None of these cities saw any kind of spike post BLM. The only city that I think where there was a real link was Los Angeles, where BLM protests coincided with a general explosion of all activity

    I get the argument that the media and others were more lenient to BLM protests than other kinds of gatherings – in my opinion, the conclusion is to be more permitting of ALL outdoor gatherings (including protests), not to unfairly single out BLM. In the case of BLM, you had millions of young people with pent up energy that went out to demonstrate for a just and righteous cause – it should be applauded. At the same time we should encourage those that want to dine outdoors or go to the beach to do so as well.

  48. I will restrict my comments only to the destination itself.

    +1 to everyone already commenting about the beauty of the desert southwest.

    Lucky, you definitely should make a return trip someday, especially to enjoy sunsets and sunrises as others have noted. The hotel and the cabins at Monument Valley make for a homey and relaxed experience perfect for both sunrise and sunset. Prices were reasonable given the remote location and I had good service every time. Food was reasonable. My out of state family and overseas family both loved it. Rooms were clean and comfy.

    You missed Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Natural Bridges NM, the north rim of Grand Canyon NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Cedar Breaks NM, and Colorado NM right off I-70 west of Grand Junction, CO. So much to see….maybe one day the conditions will be right and you can bring your parents, slow down the pace, and chances are they will be so appreciative if they would not have made such a trip on their own.

    One more thing to plan for next time: Stargazing, and no need for a telescope. On a clear night when the moon is not too big or bright, Just find a safe place to park and sit outside in one of the national parks at night in the total darkness, turn off all the car lights, flashlights and mobile devices. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for 20 min or so and gaze up in wonderment at the stars. It’s really special and unlikely that you get to enjoy that experience at home.

  49. ” Will we ever have a vaccine? Will this ever end? Should we just completely shut down the world forever?” – These are the comments that are frequently said by people who just don’t want to do what is necessary. These same people are the reason why the pandemic is soo bad in this country. Who the hell is saying we need to shut down the world forever? I have NEVER heard anyone claim that other than people who are trying to justify opening now. A lot of the world is getting back to some semblance of normalcy because they actually took the virus seriously and got the situation under control. If people had some self control for a couple of weeks and took the proper precautions we too could get the situation under control. Simply look at China, Taiwain, Japan, Vietnam, many countries in europe, etc. Nobody ever claimed people have to wait for a vaccine or that this will go on forever. The problem is the people who refuse to do what we all now know works in controlling this virus. Its obnoxious and offensive will people push the false logic that we would have to take these steps forever. Pandemic is the worst its ever been in the US, because of this poor logic.

  50. ” If they actively ban the use of mask, I bet they don’t take cleaning the vehicles after each use seriously too, and would refuse to do business with them on that basis alone).” I would question how well they maintain the vehicles mechanically at that point as well. Doesn’t seem like customer safety is a high concern for that business.

  51. Great trip report and photos, Ben. I loved Monument Valley, but Horseshoe Bend looks stunning too.

    My only quibble is with you giving money to that ATV company. The masks thing is one bit (seems stupid but I appreciate the whole thing seems to be a bit politicised in the USA) however them not offering insurance is just bonkers especially if one was recently damaged. I don’t think they deserve the business if they’re going to be that irresponsible.

  52. Next time go and stay at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and hike down to the canyon floor. I can’t wait to go back.

  53. I lived in Salt Lake City for a few years and my wife and I took several trips in the area. One of the most incredible drives I have taken was from Grand Junction down to Durango to ride the Durango and Silverton Railroad (another incredible experience). A portion of the trip can be down right scarry as you drive south along US Highway 550 with step drop offs and no guard rails especially when you get passed by a TNM&O (Greyhound subsidiary) bus in no passing zone along the highway.

    I also agree that I probably would have walked out not the tour company first for saying no masks (but it is probably common knowing the area) and then the whole part about no insurance and the way he talked. Maybe if enough people would walk out he get the picture, or maybe not.

  54. First of all, I think this was a great trip report and was a great live to live vicariously through others.

    Second, it’s easy to say this trip was irresponsible, but we can’t stay shut down forever. There are people whose business is hurting or people who have lost their job (potentially even mine). As long as you are wearing masks, socially distancing and using common sense, the danger is minimal. Certainly, every day you get out of bed is a risk, there is no guarantee you will survive until that evening. Life is for enjoying, or you’re not living.

  55. Sorel River Ranch in Moab is stunning lodging, nestled in a canyon. Units are socially distanced.

    Rent a houseboat on Lake Powell, close to Page. The scenery & experience are memorable.

    Then go on to Sedona, my favorite Great Southwest destination. There is only one…so very special. You guys would love a private creekside cottage on Oak Creek at L’Auberge de Sedona. No rushing allowed here, take your time & soak up the energy!

  56. Ben, thanks for the great trip report about my favorite part of the US. I agree with everyone recommending Bryce Canyon. The views from the rim and hiking among the hoodoos are just out of this world. Sunrise views are particularly great, and based on your other posts getting up early is not a problem for you 🙂

    If you go there again, you may want to take a dirt road shortcut between Page and Bryce. I think it’s called Cottonwood Canyon Road. And while the Horseshoe Bend is probably the greatest attraction of Page area, there are also slot canyons, such as Antelope, that are worth a visit. Just make sure you are there during the dry season – flash floods can be deadly in slot canyons.

  57. @Anthony
    There were plenty of protests in nearly all of the states that have had spikes. My point is the media has given the BLM a pass but singles out Trump rallies, beach goers etc. No matter how just one thinks these are they do not justify the increase in hospitalizations in all of these states. Asian countries never permitted this nonsense and their results speak for themselves.

  58. Good times!
    It certainly is surreal out there. In some ways it’s the best time to be out on the road, in some ways it’s the worst.
    Just returned from 14 days… traversed the length of HWY 50 from Sacramento to Ocean City, then up to Bangor, ME, then meandered my way back. All told: 30 states, 20+ cities, 8800+ miles.

    One of the most interesting moments to me was being in the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. That place is massive… practically feels like an airport terminal. And I was one of only a handful of people there. That was the great part. The disappointing part was to see all the awesome looking restaurants shut down. (Definately returning post-pandemic)

    You learn on the road that the internet doesn’t reflect reality. We’re all still mostly getting along, and our faux internet rage is staying confined to the internet. We can argue the intimate details of what we should be doing ad nauseum online. But stepping outside we’re all generally respectful of each others take on masks. Funnily enough it seems to be old ladies most defiant of masks… and I’m far more concerned how they’ll weather the virus than myself.

    Of everywhere I went, just 3 businesses weren’t enforcing masks: a country fried chicken joint off the hwy in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, the Dave Ramsey headquarters in Nashville (the only place I too didn’t wear a mask), and a gas station in Texas near the New Mexico border. I am optimistic that we’re in for a drastic slowdown in spread soon… minus the inflation we’ll see from continued increased testing.

  59. @David

    There are lots of people who want to shut down indefinitely. We already had our shutdown between April and May. The initial shutdown was to flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm hospitals and we did that. Now people want to move the goalposts and shut down again. No thanks!

    ~ The Honorable Reginald

  60. @Reginald

    Shutting down indefinitely and shutting down forever are not the same thing. The shutdown was to flatten the curve, which has NOT been flatten due to individuals such as yourself making these poor arguments and trying to sway the public into being reckless.

    The irony is the shutdown would’ve ended much earlier, as every civilized country seems to be doing, had half the US cooperated with everyone else, instead of being whinny anti-science kids like yourself.

  61. @David
    So true! And China proves that even in a densely populated country the virus can be controlled. The US needs to quit pretending that “freedom” is somehow more important.

  62. I took a similar trip across the southwest over a week with my dad on my (purposefully inefficient) way from TX to AZ for an internship at the Grand Canyon when I was a undergrad. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  63. Lol, you totally missed the best part of Monument Valley. The person that missed that part of your itinerary, especially as close as you came to being there, needs to have their head checked/slapped.

  64. Beautiful pics and nice commentary, but dirt roads are not the same as gravel roads. If you’ve every driven on a dirt road, you’ll know the difference, especially when the rain washes out the road. From the pics it looks like gravel.

  65. My 10 year old daughter and I did almost the same trip at the end of May. We explored Zion via hike and horse ride, but stayed in nearby Kanab for two nights. Considered Page but felt the driving was too much for just a few sites. Decided to do a night up in Tropic to explore Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon instead. Both we’re stunningly beautiful. If you go back, I highly recommend those two parks. Zion was also packed during our visit. People parked everywhere which seemed WAY more dangerous than running the busses considering the sheer drop off the side of the road.

  66. We live in Orlando now, but my in-laws live in Pleasant Grove, UT.

    We do this “5 Big National Parks” trip every other year – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. One time we also did the Antelope Canyon in Page (AZ).

    We also love the Goblin Valley State Park – so unique and beautiful.

    The drive is so relaxing and the natural beauty is amazing and breathtakingly beautiful.
    There’s also a nice European Bakery (Kanab Creek) on Hwy 89.

    Nest year we plan to bike 200 miles on some parts of this scenic routes.

  67. Great review! Im flabbergasted that you never visited this part of your country. Its such an amazing area. Im not from the US, but the Netherlands and have driven thousands and thousands of miles on the US roads.
    There is so much to discover. Just check on the website US byways and you will find the most beautifull roads of the US.
    Some of my favourite:
    * Las Vegas to San Diego via Mojave, Joshua Tree, Salton sea and Anza Borrego (Nr 1)
    * canyon de chelly national monument
    *UT12 and UT24 Grand staircase escalante and Capitol reef. (eat fresh pie in fruita!)
    * salt lake city to yellowstone (must see!)
    *pines to palms highway (in the mountains near palm springs)

    I can go on for hours ;-). Let me know if you need advise.
    I must say you travelled responsibly! Wearing masks and good hand hygiene is key. I defenitely would have walked out the UTV rental office as soon as they said “no masks allowed”. Defenitely not worth your money.

  68. I’m torn about showing off my beautiful state…we’re so overcrowded now. Zion used to be incredibly accessible and now we avoid. Arches had been empty and now is an off season visit for us. Capitol Reef is now our go to, much less improved so much less busy. Great Basin NP is also a must hike location and not busy at all, get ready to camp.

  69. I will say, however, do more homework next time. Covid is ravaging the Navajo Nation and if you’re going to do anything at all down in the Four Corners region please aim it Navajo aid. I’d recommend staying away from the area and contributing to any aid projects.

  70. I think it’s also good to see other parts of the country. I get that globetrotting helps pay the bills and brings you joy, but it’s also great to see more of your own country. In the future I would suggest going to Jackson, Wyoming and visiting the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ve made several trips with my parents starting back in 2004 and they started going on their own every summer. Their last trip was September 2018, 4 months prior to my father’s passing. Both parents want their ashes spread along the Snake River in the valley. Truly picturesque.

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