Written by Kevin Monahan @kevindeanmonahan
Utah is a place filled with mountains, lakes, waterfalls, desert and mind blowing geological formations. There is so much to see in this state that those who do a road trip may want to break it down by different regions. While you are visiting southern Utah, I would even suggest adding northern Arizona to your list and visit some equally impressive sites. Below I will be telling you about my favorite places I have visited in both Utah and Arizona. Enjoy!
1. Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce is known for its orange colored hoodoos and spire-shaped rock formations and is something you likely have never seen before. With several different hiking trails and multiple parking lots that lead to easily accessible overlooks it is perfect for everyone. To get the most out of Bryce in a short period I would suggest hiking the Navajo-Peekaboo-Queens Garden loop. This links 3 trails together and is a total of 8.6 miles but will allow you to see the best of Bryce. You will start off at Sunset Point and hike down into the amphitheater where you will pass through arches, see a narrow canyon and plenty of hoodoos. I suggest going to Bryce or Sunrise Point for catching the sunset and Inspiration Point for the sunrise. I repeat go to Inspiration Point for sunrise! You won’t be disappointed.
2. Coyote Gulch, Escalante: If you are up for a backpacking trip this place should be on the top of your list. On this trip you can expect to see towering canyon walls, sparkling streams, arches, a natural bridge, Indian pictographs and several waterfalls. The best campsite in my opinion would be near Jacob Hamilton Arch and from there it is easy to take day hikes to explore the rest of the canyon. Depending on where you start from and how far you want to explore, the hike can be anywhere from 13-25 miles.
3. Horseshoe Bend: Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River located near Page, Arizona. Sunrise and sunset are probably the two best times to visit this place due to the lighting. When you are here you will immediately see how massive this bend is and will have trouble fitting the entire backdrop into your camera unless you have a very wide angle lens.
4. Lower Antelope Canyon: This is honestly a place you need to see to believe! Formed by erosion and flooding, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon offer visitors a unique area to experience. While I can only speak for Lower Antelope Canyon, I have heard the upper one is just as amazing and actually more frequently visited. In the lower canyon you will walk up and down ladders since it is much deeper than its close neighbor. Visitors will wander through the carved out slot canyon with towering red-orange sandstone above them that at many times looks like waves. Depending on the day, the sunlight overhead will hit the warm sand kicked up in the air by fellow visitors passing by creating beams of light. The only way to experience these canyons are through organized tours since it is on the Navajo Indian Reservation. I went through Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and it couldn’t have been better. A normal tour is about an hour and fifteen minutes and will cost $28 while a photography tour will cost $50 and last about two hours. Despite being a photographer, I chose to take the normal tour to save money and still got all the shots I needed and more.
5. Zion National Park: It is hard not to include Zion on my list. Despite being overwhelmingly packed and busy, there is no wonder why. My favorite part was the drive through the park; this scenic route will pass by towering cliffs and monoliths, rivers and more. With plenty of pullouts along the way it is very easy to stop and take pictures that will leave you satisfied. If you are up for a challenge then I would highly suggest hiking up Angels Landing. This unforgettable adventure will lead you to an amazing overlook of Zion and give you a story to tell. Chains are bolted into the cliff to guide hikers as they make their way to the viewpoint so it isn’t for the faint of heart or those who have a severe fear of heights. This place can get real packed so make sure to start early to avoid the crowd and the hot sun!