So there I was, flying into LA, en route to Utah. Passing over the desert and what seem to be miles upon miles of rocks, I was awestruck by the spectacularity of the formations. Cliffs and canyons ranging in magnificent colours, but all maintaining the luscious orange glow in keeping with the surrounding desert and with the strong beam of the sunlight that basked over the plains.
After a long journey, the jet lag did not seem to matter as I had an exciting adventure ahead.
Arriving in Utah was spectacular; I had arrived in the real America! The colourful assortment of these unbelievable naturally formed canyons was incredible. Was I in Mars? It was like nowhere I had ever been before. Even the finest pictures of these landscapes just do not do it justice.
Driving long distances was not a chore, but instead a real journey of excitement and discovery. Every couple of miles driving led to a new form of landscape and another perfect ‘Kodak’ moment. To help you imagine, think of the landscapes featured in Planet of the Apes and Indiana Jones – then magnify those conceptions by one hundred. That will just start to give you an image of the kind of breathtaking landscapes that surround you.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Today we were visiting Bryce Canyon, and we were ready to start ‘Elevating’. Arriving into Bryce was a bit different to the landscapes I was getting used to. It was a flat landscape and the only mountains visible were the snow-capped peaks of the La Sal Mountain Range in the horizon. We pulled up into Bryce Canyon National Park, surrounded by tall trees and a park- like atmosphere. I started to question what all the fuss was about, but oh, how wrong could I be? We started to approach a cliff edge with a small railing surrounding it.
When I reached the end of it my breath was taken away, and it wasn’t because of the altitude! It was because, as far as the eye could see lay an assortment of ‘Hoodoos’. The freeze-thaw cycles had certainly been cruel to these canyons over the years, but WOW did it make for the most incredible and unique view, which I really cannot find words to describe.
Bryce Canyon National Park
We hiked down into the valley and found all kinds of wildlife ranging from different species of birds to chipmunks. The picture below allows you to see the true scale of how tall the Hoodoos actually are – just look at the relative size of the people at the bottom of the valley.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Stellar’s Jay (D.Phillips, Bryce Canyon)
Golden-mantled ground squirrel (D.Phillips, Bryce Canyon)
Next we went elevating in Zion. Zion is another spectacular natural masterpiece. We had two options – hike to Angels Landing or Emerald Pools.
We decided as a group to hike to Emerald Pools. We started hiking up; taking in the marvel of this rock, which was millions of years old. There was once again plenty of nature to see, including incredibly tame Mule Deer. Mid way through the hike we reached something similar to a grotto, with thousands-of-years-old water still trying to trickle through. This water had created a red clayey, muddy terrain underfoot, which added to the colour and atmosphere of Zion. We took in this sight and stood in awe of its age, before continuing on our hike. We reached our destination and straight in front of us was a waterfall.
In the desert?!
Yes, there stood a proud, glistening waterfall, with a blue lagoon at the summit and a sandy beach-like stretch curving around it. So there we were in the desert, in the middle of a canyon, admiring a waterfall and sceneary reminiscent of a secluded spot in Thailand….could this trip get any better?
We took a well-earned rest and revelled in the atmosphere, then started to make our decent back down the canyon, taking a slightly different route and enjoying the brilliant sights along the way. We were ready for an enjoyable lunch surrounded by the Zion Canyons.
Zion National Park
Our next elevating journey took us to Moab. Moab is a unique little American town, with an enormous amount to offer. Here you can have a nice meal, enjoy some adventure activities (time allowing), and take in some of the most spectacular sights that Utah has to offer – The Arches! Here, approximately 2000 natural sandstone arches exist. The Arches National Park offers some of the most fantastic hikes and allows you to explore many of its wonders on foot. However, the drive through the national park allows you to get a view of all the most important spectacles it has to offer, including ‘The Three Gossips’, the ‘Fiery Furnace’ and the ‘Organ’ to name but a few. But most famously ‘Delicate Arch’. This arch is best seen from a distance and also by standing under it. The hike is approximately three hours and well worth it, with astounding views to relish all the way though. With a clear blue sky and sun shining over it, emphasising the red-orangey glow of its surroundings, this arch is one of the most breathtaking sights, and is definitely one for your bucket list!
Finally, the Canyonlands, by all accounts the most famous landscape of them all. Yet they all have such fantastically unique offerings that they are actually incomparable. For me, the view of the Canyonlands was taken from Dead Horse Point State Park – in my opinion one of the best ways to view the Canyonlands National Park. With the Colorado River meandering through, it was simply dazzling. Dead Horse Point has a morbid myth surrounding it, but for some reason this added to the enchantment that this view had to offer!
I could go on and on and on about how fantastic these places are, but they really need to be seen to be believed. Nor does this blog or any pictures allow me to express to you exactly how extraordinary these landscapes are. But I have to finish by saying that I do not believe there is another place on this planet that offers such outstanding natural beauty such as this, and it is a must see in your lifetime.
We offer this unique journey, through Nevada, Utah and Arizona (also including a night in Las Vegas) and much, much more on our ‘America’s Canyonlands’ D+/Sightseeing holiday.
This is a must-do trip, so head over to this page now to see all upcoming departures.