Zion National Park was glowing with its reddish, pink, orange, and yellow hues. Its rocky and semi-desert landscape was the gateway to the state of Utah, in the United States. Driving through it felt like being immersed in a nature theme park.
This is how I began my first road trip journey through the west of the country. After 10 years living in New York, it was about time to explore those spectacular national parks, still inhabited by American Indian communities. Driving from Las Vegas, Nevada, I went through Route 89, visiting 4 sites: Zion, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe bend and Lake Powell.
Imposing walls, which form the canyon, majestic topography, hills, gorges, high precipices, lookouts, streams, lakes, ponds, swamps, desert… All of it is Zion.
If you are a lover of camping and nature, it will take you at least 5 days to explore it fully. The park has 15 trails with easy, moderate and intense walks. The free buses take you from the parking lot to the beginning of each journey. In my case I chose ‘Canyon Overlook’. It is the only location where you can park your vehicle at a nearby point.
The experience is fascinating. Part of the path is carved out of the stone, and there are chasms where you must hold onto the ropes and climb on rocks. The heat of July is intense, but with a water bottle, comfortable clothes and a cap, you will reach the panoramic viewpoint in an hour. This is where the mountains trails meet and shape the canyon.
Narrows is the most famous and difficult because you walk along the Virgin River and the journey takes 8 hours. Angels Landing is the ideal for beginners, suitable for those who do not suffer from vertigo. Since I was running out of time, I couldn’t complete another trail. I had three hours ahead of me to reach the town of Page by car, near my next point: Antelope.
Antelope Canyon is located within the desert in the state of Arizona. For the Navajo communities, Antelope is a spiritual place, where you can feel in harmony with nature. This canyon, with dramatic curvatures in its walls, is undoubtedly one of the most photographed and visited sites in the country.
Because it’s such a narrow passage, the light that penetrates and bounces of the sandstone rock is reflected in a multitude of orange, yellow and red tones.
Only Navajo guided tours are available, and the best time for its light effect is at 12pm. Get those tickets early. It’s almost mission impossible, so plan to buy them weeks in advance.
Fortunately, I got them for the 11 am tour. While I waited, the heat, once again, was getting to me. A van took us down a sandy route to the Upper Antelope, where we encountered a flood of tourists already lining up to enter.
Inside, the atmosphere was more than unique. It was magical. As noon approached, Antelope gave us a display: a fusion of light and shadow. In certain parts, it was like being inside a cave. Taking photos was challenging due to the number of tourists and the confinement of the narrow canyon. The shape of the site is not helpful either.
After an hour surrounded by this fantastic game of colors, we walked 15 minutes towards the next stop: Horseshoe bend
My favorite spot. Perhaps, the most spectacular natural view in the US. It is like a canvas: The height of the Glen canyon, and the perfect meander surrounded by the Colorado River (400m high), will take your breath away.
The route from the parking lot to the canyons edge is very short. Only 15 minutes. But this is the desert, and with an average temperature of 104 degrees, you will find dozens of signs advising you to bring plenty of water and sun protection. And believe me, they are right to warn you. After 5 minutes I found it difficult to breathe and walk at the same time.
Once in the observation point, you get to enjoy the view. Fill yourself with energy and photograph every corner. Some daring tourist approached the edge to get the perfect portrait for the hour: The sun falling in the sky.
Once I finished this adventure, I began my drive back to Las Vegas. But an entrance sign to Lake Powell caught my attention. Dozens of mobile homes were parked along the shores of the artificial lake that is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States.
Seeing the crystal-clear waters while enduring the sweltering temperature, it was impossible for me not to make a final stop and take a dive before returning to Nevada.
- Entry to Zion is $ 35 per vehicle. The pass lasts up to a week.
- There are not many nearby towns. The best options are the towns of Springdale (near Zion) and Page (Antelope).
- Antelope has two cannons. High and low. The best view is the first. The entrance is 60 USD for adults and 30 USD for children. You can only pay in cash.
- The airports near these sites are the ones serving Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona