Trip Date: May 24-30, 2019
With the extended weekend ahead, Tiffany and I planned out our next big road trip where we ended up driving 1,543 miles spending 4 days and 4 nights wandering 2 states, exploring 3 state parks, 1 national park and a quick overnighter in Grand Staircase-Escalante. There were many firsts on this trip, such as my first visit to Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada, Hole in the Rock Road in Utah and it was my first time seeing Bryce Canyon covered in snow!
Our trip began late on Friday night. It was the first road trip we have taken together where we started late and drove through most of the night. After a 6-hour drive, we arrived at a BLM campsite around 2 AM and just little ways outside Valley of Fire State Park.
Valley of Fire State Park was not part of our original plans, but neither of us had been there and it was a place we both wanted to explore. Starting with the famous road shots from Mouses Tank Road. We had fun taking turns, snapping photos of each other making sure the road was clear for our close-ups. 😉
Even though we had a long drive ahead of us, we wanted to squeeze in as many adventures in Valley of Fire as possible. Starting with a short, but fun hike to the Fire Wave! Even though we started our adventures early morning, we were in Valley of Fire where temperatures reach +100 daily! The Fire Wave hike is 1.2 miles round-trip with little elevation gain. I clearly remember being the only ones on trail that morning, and that quickly changed on our hike out. We spent a good amount of time taking in the views and snapping photos.
NEXT STOP -> UTAH!
Gunlock State Park, just outside of St. George, Utah is famous for its amazing waterfalls. Unfortunately, the park hadn’t seen much rain over the years and the waterfalls have been fairly dried up since 2008. After a very wet season last year, the waterfalls of Gunlock State Park were flowing (and I mean raging) and we just had to witness this for ourselves. Luckily, there is not much of a hike that is required and the falls can be accessed right outside of the state park. You could only imagine the number of people that were also there, taking advantage of the waterfalls, many brought swimsuits and made an entire day of it!
We left Gunlock State Park a little later than we hoped for but eventually made way to our next destination, Hole in the Rock Road. I had heard of this road and all that it has to offer but was afraid my SUV was too low (not high clearance) and not 4×4. Of course, after doing some research before our trip, I felt safe taking my SUV. When we arrived, compact cars were driving down this bumpy dirt road, all for the sake of adventure! Original plans were to backpack Reflection Canyon, however with high winds in the forecast, we were not comfortable camping in such an exposed area.
We ended up choosing a different day hike, Zebra Slot Canyon. This hike had been on Tiffany’s radar for quite some time, so we were excited to hike it. Again, with the very wet season, we had the year before, making it very difficult to complete the hike through the slot canyon. 😦 Zebra Slot Canyon hike is 5.2 miles round-trip. We were able to hike to the actual canyon, but it was in the canyon where we had to turn around. The water was chest-deep and probably the coldest water I have ever been in! And you know how much I enjoy jumping in alpine lakes, I thought this water was cold!
Others decided to turn around and not get wet. And then there was a group dressed in wet suits making their way out of the canyon. And then, there was us. Normal hiking clothes, with a strong urge to make it through. We dropped our day packs at the entrance of the canyon and slowly made our way through. Slowly, but not surely as the water was SO cold, I was losing my breath! We barely made it. But at least we tried. And now, we have to wait and dry off. It was sad knowing how close we were to the actual Zebra part of the canyon, but our bodies were not dealing with the cold!
When we got back to the car, we went over our options for the remainder of the trip. I wanted to backpack since I was already mentally prepared to do so. So, we ended up backpacking Coyote Gulch. Tiffany had been here once (or more) times before, but this place had been on my list fooooorever! So you can only imagine how excited I was to finally experience it.
Apparently, there is more than one way to hike this trail, so Tiffany decided we hike what she was already familiar with. This was sort of a shortcut trail, landing us exactly where we needed to be for the night, rather than hiking in 5.3 miles. This shortcut trail, I believe is known as ‘the sneaker route’ requires basic rappelling down a 250-ft. rock! This was also a first for me. I had never done any type of rappelling, let alone carrying a 30 lb. pack while doing so! In all honesty, it looked way harder than it was! There are two ropes, that hikers carry in and leave until they hike out (for others to use as well), and two people climbing/descending side by side. I let Tiffany go first, since she had done it before, but was a little more worried than I.
When we finally got into the canyon, it was everything I had ever imagined it to be! Starting our hike late afternoon, and arriving in the canyon we had about an hour or so of daylight left to wander and explore. After setting up camp, eating our Subway sandwiches, we walked around a little more before calling it an early night.
The next day, we packed up and continued on our hike to one of the main arches of Coyote Gulch, Jacob Hamblin arch. It was a beautiful morning and we were surprised to see how many people woke up and hiked out. We took our time walking in the creek, soaking up the views and taking way too many photos. I loved being able to hike in sandals for a majority of the time! We hiked out the same way we hiked in, this time waiting in a line for others to also climb out.
After leaving Hole in the Rock Road, still having a full day ahead of us before our trip came to an end, we found ourselves in Bryce Canyon National Park! I had only been here once before, but never really explored the park, let alone, hike it. So we went on a little hike and hiked most of the Fairyland Loop trail before losing daylight. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs after the 2-hour drive from Hole in the Rock. We ended up finding BLM camp little ways outside of Bryce Canyon and stayed there for the night.
We woke up to a winter wonderland! It must have snowed all night! There was snow everywhere and we just HAD to go back to Bryce Canyon, for I have ALWAYS wanted to see Bryce Canyon covered in snow! Though it was a total surprise, we must have been somewhat prepared for snow, because luckily for us, we both packed for winter conditions. 🙂 It was such a magical experience to witness the snowfall on Bryce Canyon. Probably even more magical since we were just hiking there the day before and the entire park was snow-free! We didn’t stay very long, but just enough to capture some photos.
The last and final destination of our Memorial Day weekend roadie, we ended up at Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. With the previous rainfall, the creeks at Red Cliffs were also full of water and flowing pretty well. We did a short little hike, that was really fun and also involved the assistance of a rope for one small section. We spent about an hour before making our way back home, but not without first stopping in Vegas for a boba run and to meet up a friend who was also road tripping in Utah that weekend! We ended up bypassing the horrible Vegas traffic back to LA (holiday weekend) by taking the scenic route through the Mojave desert and as always, that did not disappoint.