the best of the southwest
It took us three months to recap our three-week road trip through the Southwest, the memories of our adventures sustaining us through the cold winter months in DC. Having just made it through a record-setting snowstorm, we are preparing to hibernate indoors once more this weekend. While the weather service warns of “life-threatening” Arctic chills, we’ll warm up with one last look at the highlights from our trip. This post is an index of sorts, a “best of” list of our travels.
We spent most of our time tramping through various national and state parks. Of the many memorable locations we visited, a few stand out above all others.
— Best long hike: Chesler Park/Druid Arch in Canyonlands. Stunning, indescribably beautiful and varied scenery all around. Our only regret is that we did not have more time to spend in the Needles district of Canyonlands.
— Best short hike: Hidden Canyon in Zion National Park. This one caught us by surprise with its awesomeness. Even the trail to the mouth of the canyon is full of adventure; venturing into the canyon itself offers the opportunity for off-the-beaten-path adventure in Utah’s most visited park.
— Most exhilarating hike: Angel’s Landing in Zion. This one is a no-brainer. Just looking at our photos makes our stomachs flutter with vertigo all over again.
Sometimes it’s the journey, and not the destination, that matters most. Other times, however, the view at the end of a long hike is what makes it all feel worthwhile. Our favorites:
— Best view: From Bryce Canyon’s unique hoodoos to the sweeping canyon panoramas of the Island in the Sky, there were many to choose from here. In a nod to the hidden gems that await in some of the smaller, less well-known locations, we decided to go with the view from Dead Horse Point in the small Utah state park of the same name.
— Best photo op: Can’t beat the surreal colors of the Antelope Canyon for the Southwest’s most memorable background. Just make sure to be quick about your portrait shoot; plenty of other visitors have cottoned on to this canyon’s beauty.
— Best off-the-beaten-path location: The area around Kanab, UT has some of the region’s most unique geology. Yet, much of it gets unnoticed because of the proximity of Zion and Bryce National Parks.
Oftentimes, the mise-en-scene can be as memorable as the attractions that are at the heart of every trip. We have already devoted an entire post to the best restaurants we found during our travels. Instead, we’ll mention a few other intangibles here.
– Most scenic route: Quite a few of Utah’s main byways pass through national parks, including Route 24 through Capitol Reef and Route 9 through Zion. Both are beautiful, but don’t quite come close to matching the razor-thin Hogback Road (Route 12) through the Grand Staircase for jaw-dropping views.
— Best lodging: We traveled on the cheap for the most part, but splurged towards the end of our road trip, spending a couple of nights at a B&B in Kanab. The owners were friendly and proved a great resource for sightseeing ideas when the rains washed out our original plans.
— Best beer: Utah is not generally known for its suds, but there are quite a few local breweries. Uinta Brewery was our favorite, both because of its near ubiquitous presence and because of its varied offerings.