We picked up a rental car at the Las Vegas ariport, stopped just long enough to buy snacks, then took I-15 toward southen Utah. Our last stop was 1050 miles down the road in Montrose, Colorado. We spent the night in or near four National Parks and visited four other parks or monuments along the way.
- Zion National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Cedar Breaks National Monumnent
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Arches National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
These photos are organized chronologically from the begining of our trip. With a few exceptions, the photos from each park are in chronological order.
You can also view all the photos on the page in slideshow mode.
Zion Canyon National Park
We enjoyed two nights at Zion, staying at the excellent Cliffrose Lodge, just outside the park’s entrance in Springdale, Utah.
Hiking the Narrows
At the end of the road in Zion canyon the shutttle stops at the Temple of Sinewava and the only way to venture further up the canyon is on foot. When the short paved trail ends, you hike in the Virgin river.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The next two nights we slept in the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge, in the park and a short walk from the rim of the canyon. Bryce is of course famous for the number and desity of its hoodoos, the clay and rock pilliars produced by erosion at the edge of the plateau.
Waking up at Bryce
The best thing about staying in the lodge is the eight minute walk to sunrise point.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks is about 57 miles west of Bryce Canyon National park, with a rim over 2000 feet higher: 10,350 feet above sea level at the visitors center. There is a nice, short nature hike in the gnarled alpine forest crowning the rim.
We stopped at Red Canyon on the way back to Bryce from Cedar Breaks. It’s not far from Bryce and worth a stop to marvel at the deep red rocks and wander around a few short trails near the visitors center.
Utah Scenic Byways 12 & 24
Leaving Bryce, we spent most of a day driving to Moab, Utah. Our route took two highways designated as scenic byways by the state of Utah and passing through two other national parks or monuments. Utah state highway 12 passes through part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. At its east end is a junction with Utah state highway 24, which passes through Capitol Reef National Park.
There is a lot to see and photograph along these two roads… and we drove past most of it without stopping. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken some more photographs to show the changing landscape, but sometimes on a road trip, you just need to motor on.
Arches National Park
We reached Moab late in the afternoon. After settling in at our hotel and having a nice dinner, we vetured into the park, hoping to see the sunset. We were just a little too late. We stopped at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, sat on the hot red rocks and watched the stars come out in the twilight.
It’s always good to look around in a national park and not always at the huge rock or monument in front of you. There was an electical storm going on to the south. I tried for a long time to photograph the lightning, but it was pretty far away and my timing was off (bad luck). I made one exposure might make some sense with a little explaination.
At the begining of our full day at Arches, we set off in the morning intending to hike the “primitive trail” in the Devils Garden beginning when the main trail ends near Landscape Arch. We were a little intimidated by the steep “slickrock” on the trail and wary of the weather. The sunny morning had turned dark and ominous by the time we got to Landscape Arch. Turns out we were correct to be cautions–a hard rain started a few minutes later, and we scrambled back to our car. We waited out the squal driving to some other viewpoints and settled for enjoying the short easy hikes out at the Windows and–my favorite spot that day–Double Arch.
Mesa Verde National Park
As we left Moab, Utah and Arches I knew we were again leaving behind sights we didn’t take time to see this trip. Including, of course, Canyonlands National Park, which we didn’t visit at all. We headed into Colorado knowing we were getting close to the end of the road and would be spending only one more night inside a park at Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.
People of the Ancesntral Pueblean culture made Mesa Verde home for over 700 years, from the year 600 to 1300. To put that in perspective relative to United States history, English colonizers arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, a mere 412 years ago. You could say all the other parks we visited were, basically, pretty piles of rocks and holes in the ground where you can obseve and marvel at change (erosion mostly) on the geologtic scale of millions and billions of years. The landscape here is beautiful in its own way, but the marvels are archeological. The scope of history is human-scale, yet it still feels vast and humbling.
Mesa Top Sites
Moon, Cloud & Stars
There was a big moon and some cloud cover on our night on the mesa.
Square Tower House
There have been several wildfires in the park.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Our last stop was Montrose, Colorado, where we spent a few days relazing with Heidi’s family before flying home to Seattle. We had time to vist one more national park: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, just outside Montrose. The canyon is a deep, ragged slash in the earth dug by the Gunnison River for two million years. It was an interesting bookend opposite Zion Canyon. Where the walls of Zion glow a rosy red, the crags at Black Canyon slice, dice and swallow the light.
It was very windy when we visited Black Canyon. Note that the trusty green cap Heidi wore for most of our trip is missing from photo on the right of her with her auunt Kiely.