Arizona, Utah, Nevada Roadtrip
December 19, 2019
This was my first Thanksgiving in the USA, and what could be a better way to celebrate all the things I am thankful for than a little roadtrip.
We planned the whole excursion completely neglecting the fact that Arizona and Utah are much cooler than California at the end of November. We checked the weather a few days prior to setting off and to our surprise, we found out it will be rather chilly and snowy ❄️❄️❄️
That did not scare us though, we packed extra layers and off we go!
Besides, have you ever seen a desert covered in snow?
We flew from San Francisco, CA to Phoenix, AZ at noon the day before Thanksgiving. This way we managed to avoid the crowds going to visit their families for some turkey lunch.
Once we’ve made it to Phoenix, we rented a car and drove into the city. We walked around downtown and visited a local coffee and tea shop, Songbird Coffee & Tea House. If you ever are in Phoenix, do pay them a visit. Not only for its friendly and artistic atmosphere, but also the variety of teas you can get there is simply jaw dropping! Not to mention the fact that the whole of downtown has this cool and hip but not pretentious vibe.
I highly recommend making this trip during the evening. The sunset we witnessed there was probably one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen in my life, and so we kicked off our roadtrip for real.
Thursday: Sedona and Grand Canyon
Sedona is a little desert town in Arizona. Famous for its artists and jewellers. It is a gem itself. Mostly due to its surrounding red-rock buttes and steep canyon walls. We visited Uptown Sedona dense with lodges, resorts, art galleries and spas. And then we went for the most delicious pizza outside of Italy at Gerardo’s Italian Kitchen. We saw some other guests’ orders of pasta too, and we wished we were able to eat more to try that too!
When we arrived to Sedona, it’s been already getting dark given the time of the year, so we missed out on the views along the way. You can imagine our surprise in the morning when we walked out of the lodge located right next to the famous airport lookout. Here is what we woke up to on Thursday morning, quite scenic, no?
Since it was Thanksgiving, we didn’t expect to find many places open. Instead of wasting our time looking, we decided to go for a hike through Devil’s Bridge Trail. The town’s outskirts are famous for its many trailheads in Red Rock State Park. I highly recommend picking one or more if you’re staying here longer.
Having experienced the closeness of the red rocks we have previously only seen from afar, we didn’t think any other sight can beat it whilst on this trip.
Little did we know what we are going to experience in just a few days..
Next stop, after lunch and coffee of course, was Grand Canyon itself. You may wonder why would anybody want to visit the canyon in the middle of winter when a lot of trails and the whole of North Trim are closed off due to the snowfall. Indeed, we weren’t sure if we should even bother, but since it was on our way to Utah anyway, we decided to give it a shot. And I am so glad we did!
The canyon is just magical at this time of the year. It is completely different experience than visiting it in the summer months. An additional perk, no crowds! Yes, it was cold. And yes, it started snowing shortly after we arrived there, so we couldn’t take any of the trails, but it was all worth it for the mystical aura surrounding the canyon.
Nothing I could describe in words, so sharing here one of the many photos to give you a feel of what it was like. In other words, if you have an opportunity to come here in the winter months, do not hesitate, you won’t be disappointed!
After a few hours there and warming hot chocolate at the canyon’s lodge, we were ready to move onto our next stop.
Friday: Page, Utah
We booked a hotel in Page, Utah, which is only 1.5hrs’ drive away from Grand Canyon. Or rather it should be.. due to the heavy snowfall, Route 8 that was supposed to get us there, got closed down about 30mins before we got back on the road, and so we had to find another way. It took us twice as long to drive, and when we finally made it to Page, it was already very late, and it did not help it was the Thanksgiving night. Hungry and tired we managed to find a Chinese buffet that was just shutting down. But they let us order the take-away, sensing our desperation, I assume 😆Here is to doing the Thanksgiving dinner in style! 😆😆😆
Friday morning: Horseshoe Bend
We found it hard to get up the next morning after the adventures of the previous night. However, the sights we were about visit made it all worth it. Radisson Blue we stayed at was only a few minutes’ drive away from Horseshoe Bend. I still can’t believe how in the middle of nowhere, in a place you would not expect to find anything exciting, suddenly you stumble across this unearthly sight. What is even more fascinating is the fact you hardly need to make any effort to witness it. Something I am really not used to as an avid hiker. You just accept that the view is the reward for the effort you’re putting into the hike or a climb. But not on this occasion.
Horsheshoe Bend is not a part of national parks, so you cannot use your annual pass there, but it costs only $5 per person to enter. Once you’ve left you car at the designated car park, your hike begins from there. I imagine it may be a little tiring on a hot summer day as the trail leads through the desert. Hence, the signs all over the place to take water with you.
However, another plus side of visiting in November is that the temperatures were very pleasant. We took the trail and walked there not suspecting to find anything like what we witnessed, especially for the zero effort 20 mins’ walk. I have seen the photos of the bend before, but I really wasn’t prepared for the sheer vastness of it. The photos can never do its justice. The only picture that I think puts it in a bit of perspective, is this one:
Notice how little I seem to be in the background of all these rocks?
We spent about 20mins walking around the rocks, taking pictures and just admiring the awe inspiring vista. Such a perfect start to the day!
Friday afternoon: Antelope Canyon
From there, we went straight to book our next adventure, Upper Antelope Canyon. You will usually have a choice of two canyons, either Upper (easier) or Lower (longer and more strenuous) or the Boat Tour from Point Marina. However, because of the heavy rainfall in the days proceeding our trip, the last two options were unavailable to us.
We reserved the spots with Antelope Canyon Tours and went to have some lunch as we had some time to kill until 2pm when our tour was to begin.
Upon our return, the guides organised everyone into small groups of six and drove us to Upper Antelope Canyon. The Navajo Indian guide walked us through sensuously swirling canyon walls. I fell in love at first sight. It is incredible what the power of water, wind, and eons can make. Some of these formations have their own names, as their shapes resemble things such as a heart or King Kong.
Without a doubt, this was the greatest highlight of the whole roadtrip for me as I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. The whole trip takes around 1.5hrs.
Friday afternoon: Springdale, Utah
Final hours of Friday we spent driving to Springdale, through snowy winter scenery on the boarder between Arizona and Utah. Once we’ve arrived to Great Western hotel, all we wanted to do was to go out due to enchanting Christmassy decorations and atmosphere. We did not even feel how tired we were! Springdale is located right outside Zion National Park, but again we couldn’t see much until the following morning.
We woke up to the beautiful sunny morning, the hotel surrounded with snow and mountains.
We had the whole Saturday to go and explore Zion Park. After relatively short drive, we found ourselves at the Majestic View, and the red rocks looked majestic indeed on the snowy background.
Having passed the park’s entrance, we drove into the car park, and wanted to drive our car around Zion to check out a couple of trails we’ve picked. But as it turned out, the road was open only to the park buses.
In 1997, visitation was 2.4 million and increasing. The shuttle system was established in 2000 to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon
We dropped off our car and took the shuttle to our first stop, Big Bend.
From there we hopped onto the next bus to take Riverside Walk trail. It was cold and slippery, but we so enjoyed this winter scenery we don’t get in California and being able to play in snow too. We spent around 5hrs outside, so by the time we had some late lunch, our bodies frozen completely. ⛄️⛄️
We enjoyed the pleasant warmth of the only open restaurant in that part of the park, and once our frozen bodies melted down, we were ready to get back to the car park to pick up our car and drive to somewhat warmer Nevada.
Saturday night: Las Vegas ✨
And now the time has home to savour our last stop of this incredible roadtrip i.e. Vegas. We stayed at the wonderful Venetian hotel and frankly, once we’d gotten there, we didn’t really feel like leaving. 💆
However, after a few hours of rest, we decided it was high time to go and explore. We did all the usual “whilst in Vegas” things. We started from a few drinks at The Dorsey and then went to see a water show at the Fountains of Bellagio. After that, we’d taken from what the neon-soaked Strip had to offer 💃🎲♠️ and enjoyed our night to the fullest. So much so we overslept the breakfast time next day, which was a shame given where we were, but luckily there always is Bouchon. I highly recommend this place to kick start your Sunday with delicious brunch in style. One more walk around the hotel and it was time to say Au revoir to both Vegas and our trip too.