We have finally visited Utah (yay!). In the past, we always had this mindset that Utah is just bunch of rocks and deserts, and wow, we were so wrong. This trip took us 5 months to plan. We read many books and tons of websites to research for the best time and place to hike, to photograph, to eat, etc. While some part of the trip was exhausting, it was plan almost to perfection. During these 11 days, we visited 4 national parks (Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, Arches NP, Canyonland NP), Cedar Break National Monument, Antelope Canyon (in Arizona) and Monument Valley.
The hoodoos in Bryce Canyon NP are truly breathtaking. It is certainly a big difference seeing them in the photos than witnessing thousands of them in front of our eyes. Some of the hikes were pretty strenuous and the weather was incredible hot at the bottom of the canyon. During the first day of our hikes, we had already seen a few injured hikers that required treatments from the park rangers. We also came across a few hikers at the bottom of the canyon who were undecided the best way to get back up to the top of the canyon.
During our journey to Zion NP, we stopped by at Cedar Break NM. It was FREEZING cold there with the elevation above 10000 feet. Anyhow, we managed to do a very cold 2-mile hike with only our light sweaters we nearly lost our fingers and ears in the midst of the coldness. Based on our research, while Cedar Break NM is much smaller than Bryce Canyon NP, the hoodoos are more spectacular here because they are more concentrated in one place.
If there is one national park we can highly recommend in Utah, it will certainly be Zion NP hands down. In Bryce Canyon NP, we view from the top of the canyon whereas in Zion NP, we view from the bottom of the canyon. The views are really beautiful, not to mention we got to enjoy nice fall colors in the park too. We had successfully hiked all the way up to the Angels Landing, a trail that took us a few months to psych ourselves up before hiking it. During this hike, we moved along the narrow rock fin with dizzying 800 to 1200 feet drop-offs on both sides. The last mile of hike is almost vertical where we had to hold on to the installed chains and climbed the rocks to get to the top. There were a few hikers wondering if we would be able to get all the way to the top since I was carrying almost 20 lbs of bag and tripod. Nevertheless, we made it there. The view from the Angels Landing was stunning. Most of the hikes we did in Zion NP were very exhausting because most of the trails are covered with inches of sand. It was almost like hiking on the sandy beaches. The temperature difference between the shaded and non-shaded areas can be as astounding as 20 degrees. So, we frequently wore and removed our jackets throughout our hikes. Another memorable hike we did was the river hike at the Zion Narrows. We didn’t rent any wetsuits (because Asians are tough), but we did have our hiking poles and neoprene socks (heh!) to prevent numbness on our toes. The water was freezing cold, and at one point, the water was at chest level high and our entire body almost numbed up (okay, maybe Asians are not that tough). We didnt hike too deep into the canyon because it was getting late and unbearably cold.
Antelope Canyon is one place we REALLY want to do in this trip. We purposely took at farther route to Arches NP because we wanted to visit this place. Antelope Canyon is dubbed as one of the most breathtaking and most photographed slot canyon in American Southwest. We visited the lower part instead of the more popular and prettier upper part of Antelope Canyon. Unlike the latter, we were allowed to move leisurely without having a tour guide rushing us from one place to another because there are usually less visitors at the lower part of Antelope Canyon. The entrance to the slot canyon is basically a long narrow crack on the ground where we climbed 20 to 30 feet below the ground pretty insane. Our tour guide played his guitar where the melodic sound was echoed throughout the slot canyon so that we knew he didn’t left us there to die.
We passed by the Monument Valley before heading to Arches NP. Arches NP is home to the world’s highest concentration of natural sandstone arches with more than 2000 arches. Standing under most of these arches always makes us, already tiny Asians, even smaller. Some of these arches seem to be very fragile and some are bound to collapse in near future. The Wall Arch is one perfect example where it collapsed on August 4, 2008. It was 71-feet wide and 33.5-feet high and it was ranked 12th in size among over 2000 known arches in the park. We were kind of disappointed that we didnt get to sign up for the ranger-led tour to the Fiery Furnace since hikers are not allowed to hike there without proper permits. The sunset view at the Delicate Arch was pretty spectacular although the hike was fairly long and tiring.
We spent half of our day in Canyonland NP even though it wasnt in our original plan. However, since we were done covering entire Arches NP, we decided to spend a few hours in Canyonland NP covering the viewpoints and overlooks in the park. Canyonland NP can be broken down into 3 parts, each with different park entrance: Island in the Sky, the Needles and the Maze. We visited only the Island in the Sky section. The view is pretty extraordinary. It was like viewing the Grand Canyon, the only difference is the canyon seems to be embedded into the ground. It is one of those places where we just had to put down our camera and camcorder to absorb the beauty of the place for a few long minutes before capturing them.
Our drive back to Salt Lake City was equally beautiful too. We enjoyed the peak fall colors where there were explosions (really) of striking colors on the mountain walls, the neighborhood, the parks everywhere. We even had free personal tours given by the sisters at the Temple Square because we had to catch our flight back home in a few hours time.
So, 11 days, 63-mile hike, witnessed 6 sunrises and 7 sunsets, countless of red bean cans and ramen noodles, gallons of water and Gatorade, numerous time to the restrooms (and nearby bushes), several scratches on my camera and tripod, broke my trail GPS, 62 GB of HD videos and 6000 RAW photos… these sum up our entire trip. It is unimaginable that we hiked that much. Sure, it was tiring, at times, very exhausting because most of the hikes we did were fairly strenuous and dangerous, but we were up for it and we managed to see more spectacular views than most typical tourists do in just 11 days.
P/S: There are ~500 photos in this web album and they are geo-tagged. The photo captions are prefixed with the following to indicate the location it was taken:-
- AC: Antelope Canyon
- ANP: Arches NP
- BCNP: Bryce Canyon NP
- CBNM: Cedar Break National Monument
- CNP: Canyonland NP
- MV: Monument Valley
- SLC: Salt Lake City
- ZNP: Zion NP