13 Days of Driving Southwest USA [Part 1]

In April of 2017 I embarked on a 13 day road trip across the Southwestern United States, visiting 6 National Parks, 7 Different States and scaled over 7,000 Kilometres of highway

 

This 3 part series will tell the story of my road trip across the Southwestern United States to some of the most well known National Parks through Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

Day 1 – 9.5 Hour Drive

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After weeks of preparation, planning and over packing the day came to leave for the first stop on the the biggest road trip I had ever embarked upon. First stop: Pocatello, Idaho! A quiet, clean city in southern Idaho.

The first day was uneventful and consisted mainly of driving until nightfall it was consistently scenic – Passing through state parks, small towns, lakes, mountain passes and farm land there was much to be seen. One of my favourite parts of long road trips is watching how quickly the landscape changes, this road trip that took me to New Mexico showed a dramatic change in climate through the entire thirteen day experience.

I was surprised at how easy crossing the border with my jeep loaded to the brim with belongings was, the only thing I was asked was “You are driving all the way to New mexico?” and with a simple nod and a questioning look from the officer, I was free to roam the USA!

By the time I approached Pocatello it was nearly summer temperatures with no snow in sight; a dramatic change from the heavy amount of snow that I had just left behind in my snowy mountain town of Kimberley, British Columbia Canada.

The first night consisted of staying at a budget motel – directly across from the cities cemetery might I add. Despite all of that I was more than happy to be in a bed after a long day of driving.

Day 2 – 6.5 Hours

After driving through all of Montana and most of Idaho the previous day it was time to drive all the way to the southern tip of Utah – home of Zion National Park!

Again, watching the landscape change dramatically from farm fields, mountains to desert is remarkable making Utah truly one of my favourite states due to its massive amount of diversity. A semi-long day of driving laid ahead which meant another early start to the day to leave room to explore Zion for the afternoon – isn’t vacationing supposed to be about sleeping in?!

The first (and only) evening in Zion National Park was spent driving through the iconic Mount Caramel Highway, leading to a short hike up to the observation point of the canyon and a spectacular overlook of Zion. The rest of the evening was spent sightseeing and enjoying the tourist town of Springdale, Utah just at the tip of the park.

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This was my first real look at a desert landscape and I absolutely loved it – However, after a long, cold winter in Canada with record snowfall it was admittedly hard to adjust to the hot temperatures of southern Utah desert.

I had spent the evening at a shared air BnB in Hurricane a half hour away from the park – It was all I could find that was available as every camping spot and hotel was booked closer to Zion! I had never stayed in a shared air BnB before and do not think I will do it again – shared accommodation is definitely not my thing, I have learned! Nevertheless it was a place to stay when there was no other place to go and worked well for the night.

As a precautionary side note – If you are planning on visiting Zion National Park someday I highly suggest visiting on the shoulder seasons (otherwise, not June-August) I visited in mid April and the crowds and lineups to get anywhere were already massive. Not only that but I could imagine the extreme heat being dangerous during the summer months of July and August.

Day 3 – 2 Hours
Part 1: Angels Landing

Todays goal was to complete Zion National Parks feature hike: Angels Landing before noon to make it to Las Vegas, Nevada by the early afternoon!

In order to access many trailheads for hiking in Zion National Park, a shuttle is in place during the peak season to avoid heavy amounts of traffic through the junction area.
A 5-7AM start is required in order to get to Zion, beat the crowds, and the heat.

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Despite another early morning, Angels Landing is a wonderful hike that truly shows off the beauty and enormity of Zion National Park and is worth getting up early for.
However, what I did not know prior to the hike is the steep drop off and chains to climb to the top of the true summit! 5 people have lost their lives hiking here, a humbling thought as you make your way to the top.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared or reconsidering my life choices at least once during the final push to the top.

On top of the already daunting climb I had a pants mishap – my pants unraveled at the seam of my inner thigh! Not only was this extremely uncomfortable but it was also painful due to the chaffing. Hiking in the heat for over 5 kilometres with a hole in your pants is not the funnest thing to experience, but makes for a funny story long after the pain has went away.

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Part 2: Las Vegas, Baby!

Hello Nevada! Can you believe this was my first time experiencing Las Vegas?! After a long morning of hiking followed by a couple hour drive I was ready for an evening in Las Vegas before setting out again. The evening was spent exploring the strip and enjoying the Bellagio Light show. A wonderful treat in the heart of the strip.

Dining at Gordon Ramsays Burger Bar in Planet Hollywood was a MUST do,  so was drinking from three foot long cups (I am not much of a drinker but it’s Vegas! you basically have to, right?!)

To top it all off I won at the three different casinos! I actually came ahead over $600.00 USD! A wonderful way to end an eventful day.

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With under 24 hours to spend in Las Vegas time was limited to what could be done. I vowed to come back to this wonderful adult playground for longer than a day next and intend to do so as soon as possible! Las Vegas is almost a step back from reality and is such an exciting place to be. I now understand why it is called the city that never sleeps.

I had stayed at the Luxor at the end of the strip and enjoyed my time there, It was a wonderful first time experience in Las Vegas, the beds were heavenly which made it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning for the drive to the Grand Canyon!

That wraps up part one of my three part series on the first 3 days of my Southwestern USA road trip! Be sure to subscribe to my blog as I will be posting each and every week!

 

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