Oh, Utah… What a wonderful state it truly is, and I am lucky to call the mountains of Utah my home. Shortly after moving I was determined to see as much of my new home state as possible. Utah has an incredible amount of state parks, national parks, and national forests that are wonderful reasons to explore different regions of the state. Naturally, when a dear friend of mine came to visit I seized the opportunity to cross a few of the destinations off of my southwest bucket list in a four-day park extravaganza.
Day one: We left early in the morning and arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park only to be left in awe of the vibrant scenery that looked like it belonged on planet Mars. The Rim Trail was the first hike we did and it provided wonderful views of the canyon from above as well as the quintessential Bryce Canyon photo opportunities. We quickly became fascinated with the Hoodoo rock formations and decided to hike Navajo Loop Trail and the Queen’s Garden Trail in the canyon itself so we could see the spires up close. Seeing the magnitude of the Hoodoos from the canyon floor was absolutely stunning and did not disappoint! We exited the canyon and drove about 30 minutes to Kodachrome Basin State Park to set up camp for the night. After arriving, we decided to hike the Sentinel Trail that leads visitors to the only natural arch in the park and also offers amazing views of Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante, and the cliffs surrounding the park itself. Once we finished hiking we returned to our quiet and spacious campsite for some technology free serenity (there is no cell service in the park) and peaceful views.
Day two: The first two parks that we visited made us incredibly excited about our next stop, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. After a quick pit stop at the Jacob Lake gas station for a delicious lemon zucchini cookie, we arrived to the forested North Rim area of the Grand Canyon. The camp host greeted us with a huge smile and suggested that we travel down to the North Kaibab Trail for a moderate hike and finish the day at Cape Royal to watch the sunset. We followed her suggestions and ended the day with breathtaking views at Cape Royal as well as incredibly sore legs after hiking back up the North Kaibab Trail. My one suggestion to anyone doing this hike in the day is to bring Gatorade in addition to plenty of water. We spoke with a paramedic who worked at the park and he said that his most common rescue call is due to hyponatremia, or low sodium levels.
Day three: We packed up our campsite at the Grand Canyon and headed back to Utah for our final destination, Zion National Park. Once we arrived and set up camp, we walked to the visitor center to get in line for the park shuttles that take guests to various hiking and scenic access points during the peak season. The line for the shuttle was longer than usual due to Memorial Day weekend and we arrived at the Narrows trailhead with less daylight than what would have been ideal. This particular hike seemed to be one of the main attractions that weekend and it was very crowded. Due to the congested trail and dwindling daylight, we decided to turn around after a few miles and head back to camp. Although we didn’t get to accomplish as much as we would have liked, the scenery was stunning and had us chatting the rest of the evening about how lucky we were to be able to spend time together in such a majestic environment.
Day four: After seeing how impacted the trails were due to the holiday weekend, we decided to wake up early, pack up camp, and catch the first shuttle in the morning to the Observation Point Trail. The trail was strenuous, but it led us to a viewing point at 6,521 feet above see level that offered a marvelous outlook of the canyon below. When we finished the trail we hopped back on the shuttle to the visitor center, stopped at the Zion Brewery for lunch just outside the park, and started our drive back to the mountains thrilled about how much we accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Our adventure together was wildly successful despite having the trip packed with multiple hikes each day, changing campsites daily, driving 3-4 hours per day, and not seeing each other for two years prior. Looking back, I attribute the success mainly to our mutual love of the outdoors. Our time together in nature presented challenges, joys, serenity, and opportunities to truly be ourselves. We were forced to rely on each other to set up camp, to cook meals, and for encouragement in challenging moments. Nature strengthened our friendship more than I could have ever anticipated, and I now highly encourage any woman to go explore the outdoors with her friends!