Traveling is underestimated. Despite the cost, traveling is life changing. We all live in our own bubble of comfort (our home towns/places we’re familiar with), but there’s SO much in this world that has been left unseen by so many people. It wasn’t until I traveled out west to Colorado back in 2017 that I realized how little of this world I’ve seen. The mountains and scenic views in Boulder, Colorado BLEW MY MIND! The number of times I stopped and said “WOW, IS THIS REAL” cannot be counted on two hands. I’ve put together a southern Utah guide for your future vacation.
Back when I was younger I went to Arizona and stayed at the Phoenician hotel thanks to my uncle having an AMAZING discount (if you’re willing to travel to Arizona lavishly I highly recommend this hotel). We went with our family and cousins and it was a blast. I mean, what kid wouldn’t have fun staying at a resort that not only had 9 pools, cabanas, and a slide, but also left chocolate on your bed every single night (winning)!? In hindsight, I was too young to appreciate the vacation and all that the hotel had to offer. The hotel is directly in front of a mountain with beautiful scenery, but I couldn’t enjoy it because my brother kept playing jokes on me with snakes and desert animals.
Wait, I’m here to tell you about Utah, not Arizona! My fiance and I went this past April (2018) for our yearly trip. We’re both trying to fly to places we’ve never been, and Utah seemed to be popping up in our newsfeeds more and more often. Let me tell you people, Utah is very different in terms of people. We didn’t really meet anyone at all as no one seemed interested to divulge in conversations as they would in the Midwest. We spent most of our time hiking Zion National Park, Snow Canyon (local in the St. George area), Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Bryce Canyon.
The best part about the parks in Utah are that they are all different from one another. They atmospheres are vastly diverse and it made the trip much more interesting. We stayed in an Airbnb in St. George (one we used is linked here as it was AMAZING, cheap ($68 a night, great hosts, remodeled, big, and had plenty of pools and amenities) which was about one to three hours from everywhere we traveled via a rental car. St. George was relatively cheap and it was in a developing town with plenty of food and shopping (groceries and necessities).
Zion National Park was our first destination after we left the airport. It was stunning! So many valleys, different views, greenery, and beautiful views. We did the Angel’s Landing trail until we got to the chain section and completely chickened out. We went with out gut instinct and decided to turn around after getting through a portion of the chains. A few weeks before our trip, a young girl passed away as she slipped and fell off the canyon, so that was in the back of our minds (our thoughts and prayers go out to her family). Not to mention there were hundreds of people coming back that had already finished the trail and there is only one chain to share. It felt like an obstacle course with too many obstacles in the way. The views were breath taking from where we stopped, so we were pleased with our decision. We ended up doing the Emerald Pools trails afterwards. They were stunning as well, but would be even more stunning if there was plenty of rainfall prior to the visit for waterfall purposes. When you get to Zion you take a bus to the desired trail. SIDENOTE: We went a few weeks AFTER the Spring Break frenzy and I highly recommend you do the same. We were told that people who came on Spring Break had to wait MORE THAN TWO HOURS to get on a bus to bring them to the trail they planned on hiking. We only had to wait about 5 minutes. You have to pay for parking, but the parking passes are for a week, so it’s worth it if you’re planning on coming back to the park again within a week.
The second destination of our trip ended up being Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is in the absolute MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I’m serious. It was about three hours from St. George and it was more windy than I’ve ever experienced. Not to mention you’re in the middle of a desert so there was no way of avoiding the sand and mini pebbles smacking you right in the face. It was a very warm day but it felt very cold due to the wind. If you plan on going to Antelope with a camera (read their rules about cameras depending which tour you book), make sure your camera is covered the entire time as there’s about a 95% chance you’ll get tiny sand particles in your lenses. Antelope was super cool, but I don’t think I’d do it again (especially driving 3 hours for the tour). I think I ruin a lot of expectations by looking at destinations via Instagram. Pretty much what you see on Instagram is what you’ll see and feel when you’re in the canyon; however, our tour guide was hilarious, educational, and a whole lot of fun.
From Antelope, we ended up at Horseshoe Bend as it wasn’t too far away. Again, I’ve seen this on Instagram a number of times so I wasn’t blown away or anything. It’s basically a valley within a canyon in the shape of a horseshoe. It’s a tourist attraction as well so there’s not much peace or quiet around. I think this spot would be perfect during sunrise or sunset. We ended up going around lunch time so it was broad day light and nothing special. But hey, I can say I’ve been there, right!? We’re blessed to be able to travel and I am forever grateful for that opportunity. I just want to be honest in order to help you plan your priorities for your next trip.
We had a day where we ended up relaxing at the pools at our Airbnb , so we decided to stay local for the morning hours and remainder of the day. That being said, we ended up at a local state park named “Snow Canyon.” Again, this was different from the rest! This reminded me of your local state park in your hometown, but with mountains, sand, and canyons instead of trees & dirt paths. There were some pretty cool views and we rarely ran into a single person which was kind of nice. Nothing but nature and silence. You don’t have to add this to your list, but if you have some time to kill you could easily to this for an hour or more (there are plenty of trails). You’ll have to pay for parking, so have some cash on hand! Again, I think this would be great during sunrise or sunset! I swear golden lighting makes the views so much better.
Lastly, we ended up at Bryce Canyon the day before we left. We hiked for about 9+ miles at Bryce and it was STUNNING (see pictures below). There was a large rock that I noticed because a hole in the rock looked like Illinois (pic below). When we picked up our puppy from the breeder we ended up talking to the owners about Utah and the husband mentioned “We saw a rock that looked like…” before he could finished I pulled out the picture on my phone and said, “Illinois”? Pretty cool that someone with a different perspective was able to point out the same observation (I mean my blog is about seeing from another perspective)! Anyways, Bryce was STUNNING. Every single view was different than the next. The nature and greens were breath taking, and the touch of snow really added to the views. We arrived by 8AM (I recommend arriving early for parking or even earlier for the views with sunrise) so the weather was in the 30s/40s, but we hiked so long I felt like it was 65 degrees. Bring gloves and a hat just in case (anytime around May or before).
I recommend visiting the national parks for the majority of your stay! Utah residents aren’t big drinkers (mormons), so don’t expect your stay to consists of lots of bars (unless you make your own of course). ENJOY!