To see what we got up to before here check our other posts: Road Trip Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3
Day 13: Thursday (Part 2) - Bryce Canyon
After the not so great Antelope Canyon tour (read about it in Part 3) we hit the road from Page and soon passed back into Utah. A couple of hours later we arrived at Bryce Canyon, and luckily snagged one of the last campsites in the north campground. We parked the van and set off on a little explore by foot. We ended up heading around the rim of the canyon to several lookout points and did a small loop trail into the canyon, before climbing back out just in time to watch the sunset from the rim.
Whilst nowhere near as big as the Grand Canyon, we loved Bryce and found it extremely beautiful with it's iconic rock "hoodoo" formations. There is also plenty of differing landscapes to see from a maze of trails in a relatively small area. We cooked some dinner, had a few cheeky beers and hit the hay.
Day 14: Friday - Bryce Canyon
After 2 weeks in the van it was great to be able to park it in one place all day and just walk around the park from our campsite. We went to the visitors centre, saw a ranger talk, took a long walk along the rim and then back down into the maze again along the "peek-a-boo" trail. I'll let the photos do the talking here, but basically we had a lot of fun and had some pretty tired legs by the end of the day after seeing some amazing stuff.
Day 15: Saturday - Zion National Park.
Zion is an extremely popular, and actually quite small national park a couple hours north of Vegas. It's so popular that this time of year we had heard from plenty of people along the way that campsites fill up by 9 am most days at this time of year. They weren't wrong.
Hence we got up at 4 am and left Bryce in the dark to make the relatively short drive south to Zion. We got to the park around 7 am, and literally 2 minutes after entering were treated to the sight of a big herd of big horned sheep climbing down a sheer rock wall to go grazing for some breakfast. Despite having no opposing thumbs or even fingers to speak of, those sheep are amazing climbers!
We carried on to the campgrounds and pulled into the first available spot we saw, which turned out to be one of the last in the whole park. It was before 8 am, and as we set up cooking breakfast we watched a huge procession of fellow campers searching unsuccessfully for an unoccupied camp site.
After breakkie we jumped on a shuttle further up into the park. Zion runs these regular buses through the main paved roads as there is really limited parking and the traffic would be a nightmare otherwise.
We ended up doing several walks that day, along the river, to the emerald pools, and a really sketchy one to the "hidden canyon." The last involved walking along slippery sandstone ledges a long way above the canyon floor, holding onto some heavy duty steel chains. Needless to say in our slippery running shoes it was a little more stressful than enjoyable.
The day ended with a stroll along the river and a quick dip in the cool water at our campsite before heading intothe nearby town for some tasty thai food for dinner. We were pretty tired after a 2nd day in a row of walking close to 20 km, and after the 4 am wake up, an early night was on the cards.
Day 16: Sunday - Zion National Park
We had a little sleep in before prepping a breakfast with the ends of our food supplies and heading into town for a coffee. It was nearly midday before we knew it, so we prepped some lunch and jumped on the park shuttle to the end of the line.
We jumped off and walked along one of the paths we had visited the day before, but today a little more prepared. Our plan was to head up into "the narrows," which is deemed as a "hike" but basically involves walking and wading upstream through a highwalled and narrow canyon, and then turning around and walking back down.
Today we had packed much lighter than the day before, and had to a decent extent waterproofed our camera. After smashing down some home made tuna rolls on the edge of the river, we were off.
The rocky river bed was completely obscured by the silty river water, so it was hard to find your footing and at first going was slow. However after about 10 minutes we got the hang of it and were racing upstream passing plenty of people along the way.
The canyon was absolutely beautiful, and unfortunately I don't think our photos do it justice due to the difference in light from the top to the bottom. However picture yourself wading through a riverbed in water anywhere from ankle to chest deep surrounded by sheer rock walls and you kind of get an idea.
It was FUN! But also a little terrifying as there were constant reminders of how high waters can get there in flash floods. When you see huge tree trunks uprooted and placed 10 m and more above the river level, it's a pretty humbling reminder that this is a place not to mess with or take lightly.
After about 2 hours heading upstream we knew we were getting pretty close to the mandatory day hike turnaround point. With the sun dipping below the canyon walls overhead and the temperature heading down with it, we rounded a bend in the river mostly blocked by a huge boulder. With neither one of us wanting to have to fully swim around and risk the camera drowning, we decided to call it quits and turn around.
At this point in the trip I'd have to say that we are both close to the least fit we have been in our entire lives. Frequent long days on buses, lack of routine and spending huge amounts of time in crowded, dirty latin American cities with no safe footpaths to go for a run on has added up to us being very unfit (by our own standards).
So for some reason when we turned around to head back downstream we ran. It wasn't something that was verbalised between us, or even consciously thought of for that matter, but before we knew it we were both running like maniacs downstream. We had no idea what was under our feet for every steep until our shoes hit it. And it was even more fun.
We arrived back at the bus stop soaked, grimy from the river water and puffing like the slobs we were but also with some ridiculously big grins on our faces.
That night we ate the end of our supplies, made an awesome little campfire and destroyed a packet of marshmallows between us as well as the leftover beers.
We couldn't believe that more than 2 weeks had gone by since the beginning of our little road trip and were both sad that it had come to an end. However we were both extremely excited to move on to the next step of the trip knowing that we have another road trip ahead of us in California in November.
Day 17: Monday - Las Vegas
That morning we got up before dawn and hit the road for the last time.We were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the desert, and arrived in Vegas to drop off the van.
We did the cheesy Vegas touristy things and hit up plenty of casinos along the strip and the old school area in Freemont. Needless to say after 2+ weeks of camping in some of the least populated places in the country, the big city lights were somewhat of a shock. We still had an awesome time and ate like kings at the buffet in out hotel for 3 meals a day. Apart from xmas day, I can't remember eating more in my life. And we did it 2 days in a row.
Our 2 days here flew by, and before we knew it we were heading back to the airport for the next leg.
Next stop, New York!!
To see what we got up to before here check our other posts: Road Trip Part 1 & Part 2
Day 10: Monday - Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon
We got up and had breakky before packing up the penthouse and hitting the road. Today we had planned to head to Monument Valley. We weren't too sure what this was going to include but we had saved a bit of time by only taking one night in Grand Teton so we were able to be flexible. We got to the valley around lunchtime and stopped at a little pull in site for some pictures and a cheeky sandwich or two.
We didn't hang here for long, but as this wasn't a planned stop we felt like we had seen everything we needed, so we hit the road again.
The next several national parks we were keen to visit were all relatively close to one another, as well as our final drop off destination in Las Vegas, so we stopped for a little planning session to set out the most efficient route to visit all three and minimize driving time, and decided the next stop was going to be the Grand Canyon.
2 hours later we arrived at the eastern entrance to the south rim of the park. By this stage it was getting a little late in the afternoon and we were a tad nervous about missing out on a campsite, but sure enough we snagged one of the last spots in the "Desert View" campsite.
We had gained an hour crossing into Arizona, so we made the most of theslightly increased daylight and headed the lookout close to our campground. As the name suggests, the Grand Canyon is absolutely massive. Around 450 km long, 29 km across at the widest point and nearly 2 km deep at the deepest, the sheer size is beyond words. Hence, we'll just let some pictures do the talking and highly suggest you go there.
After this we headed into the main village, cooked some dinner and listened to an awesome presentation by Dave the volunteer ranger about the crazy early explorers to the Canyon and the artists the brought with them to try and report back to the public about the sheer amazing size and beauty of this place in the days before photography and whilst photography was in it's infancy.
That night we learnt about a young Australian guy who had been killed only 2 days before in a horrific accident when he was struck by lightening whilst hiking near the canyon rim. Needless to say when we got hammered by a huge lightening storm all that night we didn't sleep too well.
Day 11: Tuesday - Grand Canyon
We woke up to cloudy skies but thankfully in one piece after a pretty scary night. That morning we headed into the main south rim village and got a couple of coffees and had some muesli and yogurt for breakkie. Gotta love having a fridge in your van!
That day we got some pretty mixed weather, beautiful blue one minute and thunderstorms the next. That combined with Bec still being a little fragile after being sick a few days before meant we didn't venture down into the canyon but did several beautiful and easier walks around the rim. I would have loved to do a huge 2 day trek down into the canyon and camp at the bottom, but we will have to leave that one on the bucket list for another time when we're prepared a little differently. We still had an awesome day at the top, and got some great snaps to show it. Back to the campsite for an early dinner and a few bevvies before hitting the road again.
Day 12: Wednesday - Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and Page.
The next day we got up and hit the road. After a couple of hours we arrived at Horseshoe Bend, which is an amazing little canyon carved out by a bend in the Colorado River located between Canyonlands and theGrand Canyon national parks on the river's course. We hung out here for an hour or so, and then headed into the neighboring town Page to find a place to sleep for the night.
We found a nice little caravan park, booked a spot and then jumped back into the van and headed down to Lake Powell. That afternoon we had a swim in the lake and a little walk around the beautiful Glen Valley next door at sunset.
Day 13: Thursday - (Part 1) Upper Antelope Canyon
The next morning we had booked a tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon on the outskirts of Page. This Canyon is on Native American owned land and is not a National or State Park, and due to the possibility of flash floods in the area and an incident several years ago where several people drowned in the canyon during such a flood, you are unable to enter the canyon by yourself without a guide.
I have to say that this tour of the Canyon was easily the most disappointing part of our entire little detour to the USA. We booked a tour time slot in the middle of the day so the sun would be directly overhead and certain parts of the canyon would be lit up most for photos. We knew the canyon would be crowded at this time of day but we weren't prepared for an absolute zoo. Our guide rushed us through taking standard photos for us with our cameras, with little to no time for us to take our own photos at all, let alone waiting for our own photos without hundreds of other tourists in the background. After we had been in then canyon an hour exactly, our whole group was kicked out and forced to return to the car despite us not having seen the entire canyon (which is only a couple hundred metres long) nor getting a chance to take photos of the light beam chamber, which was the whole reason we had booked that time slot.
We learnt later that guides don't get paid for tours that run overtime, due to a ridiculous system developed by community elders and tour groups to try and cram as many people through the canyon as possible per day.
Whilst the canyon was beautiful, neither of us would suggest doing the tour to see it for yourselves. The tours were very poorly run and very expensive considering the minimal time you get inside the canyon to enjoy it. The production line, "get 'em in, get 'em out" style of tour left a really sour taste in our mouths, and the crowds combined with limited time in the canyon is something that the community elders and tour company managers really have to sit down and address.
If you really feel you MUST go to see Upper Antelope Canyon for yourself, then we suggest going early morning or afternoon to avoid the crowds. It really isn't worth your cash otherwise.
Anyway, this we jumped back in the van and headed back into Utah to the beautiful Bryce Canyon. Stay tuned for more!
To see what we got up to before this check out Road Trip Part 1
Day 6: Thursday - Grand Teton National Park
We got up early and left the campsite at Canyon. Less than 10 minutes down the road we saw 2 cars parked half off the shoulder with their hazard lights on and not a driver in site. We pulled over to see what was going on and spied people with cameras at the top of a nearby hill. We both jumped out and were treated with seeing a grizzly rummaging around in some bushes looking for breakfast. He had crossed the road right in front of the cars in front of us!
After a while the grizzly disappeared into the bushes looking for more breakfast so we let him be and did the same. A few more miles down the road we pulled up next to the lake and cooked an awesome bacon and egg breakkie right by the lake. Thanks again JUCY!
After breakfast we headed on out of Yellowstone. After 4 days we were sad to see it go, but we literally crossed straight into the bordering and beautiful Grand Teton national park to the south. We stopped along the north road a few times for some pictures of the jaw dropping scenery of the Teton Mountain Range with Jackson Lake before heading on to reserve a campsite at Colter Bay campgrounds.
That afternoon we saw a ranger talk about the history of the US national park service, had a picnic lunch down by the water and took a nice walk around a little peninsula out on the lake.
In the evening we drove down to Oxbow Bend - a spot on the river - for a ranger led animal spot.
Although the spot was beautiful - on a hill overlooking a river with surrounding woods and a big open field - I was a little skeptical if we would see anything due to the large amount of people around. However, the ranger on duty had a large array of binoculars, and scopes to keep us busy and a huge basket full of antlers, and various animal pelts owned by the National Parks service to keep us busy if there were no breathing animals to be seen.
No need to worry though, because after about 15 minutes a giant female grizzly appeared through the scrub on the other side of the river for all of us to see. She was literally only 50m away from us, and thankfully due to the river this was deemed safe (normally you have to give bears and wolves 100m, for the safety of all involved). She cruised along the river bed posing for us for about 5 minutes before again disappearing into the bushes. 10 minutes later another grizzly, albeit smaller popped out of the bushes right in front of us. He then proceeded to swim right across the river towards us! When he reached the close bank he disappeared into the bushes to our left. Most people were pretty good and stayed back, but a few idiots proceeded to run towards the bear, despite the fact that a man had been killed and partially eaten by a grizzly in yellowstone just weeks before our arrival.
Anyway, when the bear eventually popped out of the woods luckily he was far away enough that nothing bad happened, but some morons proceeded to chase after him on foot with iPhones and selfie sticks to get some horrible photos. The bear managed to get away without having to eat anyone, and the ranger nearby breathed an audible sigh of relief before delving out a stern telling off to the idiots involved.
After this we hung around a bit more and were rewarded with seeing a huge beaver and a big herd of elk. We then headed back to the campground and had a little fire, a tasty dinner and a few bevvies under some of the most amazing stars I have ever seen before hitting the hay.
Day 7: Friday - Grand Teton, Jackson Hole and Provo
We got up early, packed up camp and drove down towards Jenny lake looking for a spot to have breakfast and for some daytime activities. After the bear frenzy the night before we were keen to stay close to the main areas due to our lack of bear spray. We ended up having a beautiful breakfast at a picnic spot looking out at the mountains before heading on to the visitors centre.
Here we did a little planning wifi session and realized that we probably had a little less time than we thought considering how much ground we had to cover. We decided to leave Grand Teton and put some miles in again, this time heading back south. We stopped for lunch in Jackson Hole, a super cute little ski town just south of the park.We had a little explore of the town, and discovered the best sweets and candy shop of all time, much to Bec's delight. After stocking up on a watermelon sized bag of candy and some delicious salted caramel fudge, we were back on the road.
Day 8: Saturday - Moab and Canyonlands National Park
We left Provo early in the morning and headed through the Utah desert to the little town of Moab. Here we reserved a campsite at a KOA campground, and headed back into town for a late breakfast at a cafe. After fueling up here, we decided to head into Canyonlands national park.
Canyonlands is cut into 3 separate sections by the fork of the Colorado and Green rivers, and as such needs some serious time, dedication, and a 4x4 to see most of the park. We had none of these, so we had to placate ourselves with seeing the northern section called "Island in the sky."
We drove around and took several walks to plenty of amazing viewpoints and saw some seriously crazy naturalrock formations. We should also mention that Bec was feeling a little under the weather here, and as the Mercury was over 100f (high 30's in celcius) thus wasn't helping. As our geology skills aren't suited to explain this amazing part of the Colorado Plateau sufficiently, we'll let pictures do the talking here.
We headed back to the campsite for an early dinner and relax, happy to get out of the sun.
Day 9: Sunday - Moab and Arches National Park
We woke up late on Sunday after some much needed sleep. Bec wasn't feeling too great still, so we found a spot in the relative cool of the shade and made the most of the campgrounds immaculately maintained pool.That evening we drove just out of town to Arches National Park. Utah and the Colorado Plateau has some seriously freaky scenery, due to the great changes in daytime and night time temperature throughout the year, and also due to the regions history of having inland seas and lakes leading to a great variety of rocks found.
Again, geology knowledge isn't sufficient to do this amazing place justice, so pictures will talk for us.
We explored several areas and walked to the famed "Delicate Arch" to watch the sunset, that ended up being completely covered out by clouds, with some snacks and a few frothies. No worries, we saw some beautiful spots!
Back to the campground for a little dinner and a great nights sleep in the "Penthouse."
Next up we're covering Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Page, Arizona!
G'day I'm Bec
I'm an Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.
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