Trip Date: November 23-28, 2018
When a friend asks you to go explore some of America’s Southwest deserts you don’t question the reasons as to why you simply join in on the excitement and make it happen. The most exciting thing for me was that she already had a tentative plan and a majority of the places on her list, I hadn’t even heard of! We spent six days on the road from Los Angeles to Arizona and Utah; hiking, off-roading, getting lost and creating memories.
This trip was a budget road trip; meaning that we tried to save money whenever possible. That meant not booking any hotels, campsites or guides in advance (if at all). Also being a post Thanksgiving trip, we pretty much survived on leftovers! (Thanks for the turkey, Tiff!) The master plan was to pretty much sleep in the car every night because the weather was just too cold to tent camp.
Here is how we spent six days on the road and eleven things we were able to see and experience during our time in Arizona + Utah.
Day 1: Los Angeles -> Flagstaff, Arizona
No matter how many times you go over your plans some days just don’t go accordingly. Luckily, we made it to Flagstaff. Original plans were to car camp at this primitive campsite, off this very rugged dirt road some 30 miles from the highway. We must have made it about 10-15 miles on a very rocky dirt road before having to turn around. 4×4 vehicle is definitely required. Luckily, we didn’t get ourselves stuck, but we did find ourselves in an auto repair shop about an hour or so later.
Was this really going to set the mood for our road trip, when it was only our first day?
After some minor adjustments to my car, we were good to go and back on the road just as the sun started to set. We ended up sleeping in the car that night, somewhere a few miles off of the highway.
Day 2: Flagstaff -> Canyon De Chelly -> Monument Valley -> Mexican Hat
Waking up to a new day in a new state was refreshing. It was a chilly morning so we took our time getting up and ready for the day. We had about an hour drive to our first destination: Canyon De Chelly National Monument. I had not heard of this national monument prior to our trip so, it was exciting to explore a new place.
Canyon De Chelly Basic Information:
- Pronounced [kan-yuh n duh shey]
- There is only one self-guided hike within the national monument.
- There are 10 overlooks that you can drive to.
- Two paved rim drives: North Rim (3 overlooks) + South Rim (7 overlooks)
- Ranger led programs are free from Memorial Day to Labor Day and include additional hikes that can only be done with a ranger.
- Camping is available at Cottonwood Campground for a fee. First-come, First-serve.
After driving to a few of the lookouts, we decided to check out the only public trail in the park: White House Overlook to White House Ruins. This 1.5 mile (one-way) trail descends 600 feet into the canyon and ends at the White House Ruins. It was a neat little hike and an awesome perspective to hike down in the canyon below.
After spending about 2 hours at Canyon De Chelly, we got back on the road to our next destination: Monument Valley. This had been on my list for some time now so I was very excited to finally see it. We had about an hour in a half drive, so we’d arrive at Monument Valley one hour before sunset.
The drive to Utah from Arizona was pretty along HWY 163. The weather was perfect up until we got caught in a sand storm. The winds were extremely high that day; nothing like I’d ever driven in before. We started to worry if we would be able to see anything with all the sand in the air.
When we arrived, the winds were still strong. However, the views weren’t all that bad. Because it was about an hour till sunset, we did not have time to drive along the dirt road within the park. Instead, we decided to stay long enough to snap some photos near the parking lot.
Due to the high winds and being blasted in the face with sand, we decided to cut our time in Monument Valley a little short. As much as we wanted to watch the sunset, we thought that the wind and sand would make for unclear photos. Luckily for us, on our way to find a campsite, we witnessed the most amazing sunset near Forrest Gump Point. You know we had to jump out for a photo.
I just love when things like that work out. We wanted to stay for sunset but couldn’t handle the strong winds and sand, yet- we were blessed with a beautiful sunset once we ditched the crowds. Everything worked out for the best.
By the time we arrived at the BLM land we planned to camp at for the night, it was already completely dark and we were unable to see Mexican Hat. Once we found a nice open flat spot, we set up “car” camp for the night, prepared dinner and called it a night.
Day 3: Valley of Gods -> Goosenecks State Park -> Navajo National Monument
When we woke up the next morning and started to plan out our day, we did not realize how close we were to Valley of the Gods. Quickly added that to our route and so glad that we did. What an awesome drive it was. Now, I really wish I owned a 4×4, but we were still able to complete the entire drive in my AWD SUV.
The drive took us a little over 30 minutes to complete but that was because we stopped for photos and to allow Tiffany to bust out her drone. I cannot wait to go back here! When we completed the drive, we decided to check out the Moki Dugway; a very steep dirt road that’s practically carved into the face of a cliff called Cedar Mesa. I’ll admit, the drive itself was a little intimidating, especially when a large big rig was coming down as we were driving up. It was neat to check out and the views were pretty awesome but I didn’t feel the need to get any photos here.
Instead, we were only 20 minutes away from Goosenecks State Park, another place on my list that I just have not gotten around to yet. Seeing photos of places like this just do not do it justice. I later found out that there is a campground here and will be saving that for another trip soon!
On our way to our next destination we passed through Monument Valley again and of course, we had to stop for some photos. Don’t let the pictures fool you though, we had to take our photos quick to avoid being hit by passing cars. It was quite the experience.
Not quite sure where we were going to camp for the night, but we knew where we wanted to start our day. We ended up camping at Sunset View Campground at Navajo National Monument and actually arrived at sunset. Again, too cold and windy to try and set up tent camp so we enjoyed a glass of wine while we watched the sunset.
Day 4: White Mesa Arch -> Eggshell Arch -> Glen Canyon National Recreation
We woke up extremely excited for the day. We had plans to visit not one, but two arches that I had never heard of prior to this trip! These arches are located on Navajo Nation and you must obtain permission from local Navajo leaseholders to visit the area.
The drive to White Mesa Arch was difficult for my low clearance vehicle, but with slow cautious driving, we eventually made our way to the dirt parking lot where we would ditch the car and hike two miles to the arch. It was a beautiful sunny morning but the air was chilly and it was a little windy. There was no way we would have been up to making the hike for sunrise and we wanted to be at the other arch for sunset.
We must have spent a good hour or so at the arch just taking in the views. The drive, the hike and baring the cold weather was all totally worth it.
Eggshell Arch, the entire reason the whole trip came about, was next on our list and only an hour drive away. We knew that we would have to hike a majority of the way due to rough terrain. The earlier we arrived, the sooner we hiked and the faster we got to Eggshell Arch. Apparently, this arch is also known as Thanksgiving Arch because around Thanksgiving the sun sets right under the arch, making for some awesome photos.
The hike to Eggshell Arch was long. I think we were more eager to just get there and finally see it in person. It took us about an hour in a half to the arch and when we arrived, we were excited to be the only ones there. Unfortunately, since we had to hike to the arch and are not really familiar with the area, we would risk getting lost at night if we had stayed for sunset. Either way, we enjoyed our time at Eggshell Arch.
Day 5: Horseshoe Bend -> Toadstool Hoodoos -> Zion National Park
Tentative plans for this day included SUPing at Lake Powell depending on weather conditions. Though the weather was OK, the wind chill was not. We opted out of SUPing and decided to check out Horseshoe Bend. Both of us had both been here before and almost didn’t stop to see it again. To no surprise, we arrived to a crowded parking lot. Checked out the bend, snapped some photos and left happy that we decided to make the stop.
We had enough time to actually make the drive to Zion National Park to catch the sunset from Angel’s Landing! When we got back on the road, we noticed that we would be passing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and wanted to check out the Toadstools!
A short, simple 1.5-mile round-trip hike is required to see the Toadstool Hoodoos and in my opinion, it was totally worth the stop.
Up next, en route to Zion National Park! We had just enough time to make the hour in a half drive, hike the 5-mile trail to Angel’s Landing and watch the sunset on our last full day of adventure before heading home.
How awesome would it had been to end our trip with an epic sunset from Angel’s Landing?! Unfortunately, I may have gotten a little too excited when we arrived and I ended up misplacing my keys. We tore the car apart looking for them, of course- losing precious time. We decided not to risk or rush it, so we made plans to return the next day for one final hike before heading home.
Day 6: Zion National Park -> Los Angeles, California
I am so glad that we were able to get in a decent day hike before getting back on the road for six hours. And I’m so glad that we were hiking in Zion National Park. We have both been a few times before, but I wanted to do a hike that neither of us had done.
Observation Point in Zion National Park is a beautiful, somewhat difficult hike. At 8 miles round-trip and 2,300 feet of elevation gain, no wonder the views from up above are the best!
I’m glad we were able to squeeze in so many activities within our six days on the road. It’s amazing the amount of time there is to explore and wander if you just allow yourself to do so, but after spending six days on the road without a bed or shower, it was time to head home- for our Southwest Roadie had officially come to an end.