Fall 2018: Colorado - Arizona - Utah Trip

Our 50th Anniversary was in October 2018!  We wanted to do something special with the whole family so we tossed it out and let the daughters work on ideas.  They led us to St. George, UT which sounded like a great place for us all to enjoy.  John and I decided to drive, take extra time and stop at some other places in Colorado and Arizona on the way.  We had *planned* to stop at some more sites on the way home, but were discouraged by the 1-3" of snow predicted at Bryce Canyon! 

So, this is a collection of pictures that tells the story of our trip to St. George, via Colorado and Arizona, through photos and captions.  We had a great time and saw parts of the country that were new to us. Click on any title to browse the pictures in that set!  Where appropriate, links to the relevant websites are included within the description. (And these pictures will open into a larger version in a new window if you want a better look.)

Independence Monument Colorado

We left home Sunday, September 23 and stopped in North Platte, Nebraska that night, arriving in Fruita, Colorado (just past Grand Junction) on Monday afternoon.  We took advantage of the hour we gained by traveling west and decided to visit the Colorado National Monument that hadn't exactly been on our itinerary, though it was a "maybe."  But we were there, and we had time and what a great decision!  It was an amazing place - our first hint of the "red rocks" to come during this trip.  We drove about two thirds of the way around Rim Rock Drive before we ran out of daylight.  The picture to the right is known as the Independence Monument.

Spider Rock

Canyon de Chelly

Tuesday we drove south through eastern Utah, heading to Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Arizona. We hadn't planned on stopping at Arches National Park and that decision was reinforced when we saw the long line (a mile or two) of cars waiting to enter, but just the scenery on the drive was stupendous!  That afternoon we drove the South Rim Drive, stopping at all the viewpoints and walking all of the trails.  To the left is the iconic Spider Rock. The monument is entirely within the Navajo Nation and, with the exception of one public trail (at the White House ruins) the only way to go down into the canyon itself is accompanied by an authorized Navajo guide.  So on Wednesday morning we drove the North Rim Drive, visiting 3 more overlooks, and then spent the afternoon on a tour with TJ from Beauty Way Jeep Tours.  It was very definitely worth the time and cost to learn more about the culture and history from someone who's lived there his whole life!

Horseshoe Bend - Antelope Canyon

WhitewaterWe left Chinle Thursday morning and headed north.  We had a reservation in the late afternoon to go through Antelope Canyon.  The drive was beautiful (as you'll see); we had a picnic lunch at a park in Page and still had extra time so drove down to Horseshoe Bend to see what the attraction was.  The crowds included tour buses!  The walk from the parking lot to the actual "bend" in the Colorado River was less than a mile but part of it is very steep, and there is no shade until you come to the rest stop about half way.  We didn't find it very strenuous and it's a great view but I wouldn't have booked a tour to go see it.  Then on to Antelope Canyon.  Since the canyon is in the Navajo Nation, again you must have a guided tour - we booked the lower canyon with Ken's Tours.  It was very crowded and advanced reservations were a necessity but it was so worth it!  After that we had about an hour and a half to drive to Jacob Lake Inn where we had a great dinner and spent the night to be ready for the Grand Canyon on Friday.

Grand Canyon North Rim

Vista Encantada

Since we used half a day for our detour through Page (without regret) we had just one full day to spend at the Grand Canyon.  We were happy with the rustic cabin at Jacob Lake Inn - it was a good location to easily get in and out of the North Rim area.  We stopped at the Visitor Center and hiked down to Bright Angel Point from there, then picked up picnic lunch supplies at the General Store and headed to Cape Royal Road.  We stopped at all of the overlooks and took a couple of short hikes (and a lot of pictures - Vista Encantada above and Cape Royal below).  A great day!

Cape Royal

St. George Area

St. George

Saturday morning, September 29, we headed to St. George, UT, where we had rented two next door houses for the week and we were going to pick up half of the family at the airport around noon.  Again, the scenery along the drive, especially at  LeFevre Overlook, was amazing.  We found the houses easily, emptied the van and John went off to the airport while I did laundry and explored the accommodations.  Katie, George and Bekah flew into Las Vegas and rented a 7-passenger Infiniti SUV so we'd have transportation for all of us - they made a couple of shopping stops and arrived later in the afternoon.  We were there for a week and did a lot of things right around St. George so this section is somewhat "miscellaneous" including an afternoon at Sand Hollow beach and our fancy anniversary dinner at the Cliffside Restaurant (thanks to Katie, Bekah and Sarah for that special evening). The more major activities have their own sections below.  At the end of this section is a set of old pictures re-created by the daughters as our anniversary present - in addition to the wonderful meal!   What a great idea. 

ZionZion National Park

We spent most of two days in Zion National Park.  The first day (Monday October 1) most of us walked to the Lower Emerald Pool (the upper path was closed).  We had lunch at the Lodge.  Kethra went horseback riding.  John and I walked the Grotto Trail and then got the shuttle back to the museum where we met up with the others.  The next Zion day (Friday October 5) we all split up and so I only have pictures of the part I did!  I hiked the Riverside Walk (where I met Sean and Sarah).  Then I ate lunch at the Lodge, hiked the Pa'rus trail from the Visitor Center to the Museum, browsed the museum a bit and then went to pick up the Brew Pub gang.  After Riverwalk, Sarah and Sean did the Weeping Rock trail; Bekah and Kethra went horseback riding, then the Weeping Rock trail; John hiked the West Rim Trail almost to the Wiggles (then he started feeling the altitude); Katie and Conner went all the way to Angel's Landing then, with George, went up Riverwalk to the Narrows - Conner continued down into the Narrows for a while before coming back and meeting them.  The shuttle system really made it pretty easy to "do our own thing" and just meet back at the vehicles at a set time.

Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon

There were two different trips to Snow Canyon State Park during our week.  I didn't go the first time on Sunday but I added a few pictures that Katie took that morning.  The next trip was John, George, Bekah and me on Tuesday.  We hiked up to the Jenny slot canyon; hiked some of Hidden Pinyon and Whiptail trails and finally about a mile (round trip) of Johnson Canyon.

Desert Garden (and Pioneer Park)

Desert Garden

The Red Hills Desert Garden and Pioneer Park are adjacent public (free) areas right in St. George along East Red Hills Parkway.  On Wednesday (October 3) we took a carload over for a few hours.  I was among the garden contingent and enjoyed it immensely - some fauna as well as all the flora!  Meanwhile, a few others climbed rocks next door.  Definitely a recommended stop if you're in the area.


Anasazi Petroglyph Hike

On Thursday we all undertook another short hike that was quite memorable - we followed the Tempi'po'op Trail in the Santa Clara River Reserve to some wonderful views and a collection of petroglyphs carved into the cliffs.  It's a little tricky to locate but the two links above should help you find the Trailhead near Ivins.  We just went up to the main group of petroglyphs (the tempi'po'op or "rock writing") but the trail continues if you want a longer walk.   It was a beautiful day for it and  the scenery was wonderful!


EpilogueFriday at Zion was our last "holiday" day.  We tried to finish up the leftovers for supper that evening.  Saturday morning, George took the early airport run for those leaving from SGU (Sarah, Sean, Kethra and Conner - Tyler had already left earlier in the week).  The rest of us finished packing and locking up.  We had brunch at Starbucks to share our favorite times of the week and get psyched to go back home!  Katie, George and Bekah headed off to the Las Vegas airport and John and I set off north.  As I mentioned earlier, we had planned to go east and do some more hiking in the Bryce Canyon and Grand Escalante area - but those will have to be another trip!  The weather turned quickly cold and there were predictions for significant snow over the next few days so we bailed out and headed home.  We did see some very interesting scenery (in the rain) after we turned east on I-70 - different even than what we had seen in the past two weeks.  We took just a few not-very-good cell phone pics of those formations because the weather was so awful; and I added a fascinating "weather" picture at the end to illustrate!  We stopped for the night in Fruita and then again in North Platte, getting home Monday October 8.   It was a fun time and I hope we can do something like that all together again!

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