For years it’s been on my list to visit Utah! I love being outside in the mountains and hiking around in the sunshine! I saw photos someone posted of Zion National Park a few years ago. Since that day it’s been a dream of mine to go explore it for myself. So, I decided that in the middle of a super busy season of life, I was adding a trip to Utah in the mix!
It wasn’t my initial plan to go on this trip alone. I spontaneously booked a flight that left on my 27th birthday and returned 6 days later! Once that was done I asked around to see if anyone was able to join me. No one was available and I had a lot of mixed emotions about traveling across the country all by myself. I planned and prepped as much as I could and on April 21st, I boarded a flight to Las Vegas!
After landing and finding my rental car I hopped on the highway to La Verkin, UT! This is where I booked an airbnb that was beyond perfect! It’s called Angel’s Landing Pad and had a jacuzzi with a breathtaking view! The night I got there, after I settled in, I had a moment of “Oh my goodness, what have I done”. There was a lot of emotions happening as I sat on the stairs and watched the sunset. I had never in my life done something like this before and panicked a little bit. Exhaustion definitely played a huge role in this as I had been up since 4am and traveling all day.
Fast forward to the next morning, I woke up with all the excitement in the world as I laced up my hiking boots! Day one was all about Zion National Park. I wish I was able to describe the emotions I had throughout this whole trip. I would catch myself smiling in the middle of a hike with pure joy and disbelief that I was actually there! More times than I can count, I said “WOW” and “Are you KIDDING me?!” out loud to myself because of the shear beauty of this place!
To best give a little itinerary of what I did while out exploring southern Utah I thought I’d break it down by each day. There are some iPhone photos and some more professional photos all mixed in here together.
Day 1 – April 22nd (Earth Day)
Zion National Park was on the top of my list for Day 1! The day before I secured a shuttle pass, which I highly recommend getting. (You’ll have to check the website about this as I believe this may have only been in place because of the pandemic) These tickets are super tough to get. You have to book them either the month before or at 5pm the day before. These sell out within two minutes so I felt like I won the lottery by landing one! I started off at the Lower Emerald Pools trail which then led to Middle Pools and Upper Pools. This was the perfect hike to start with. Not too strenuous but still incredibly beautiful!
I was feeling great and decided to keep hiking! I saw a sign for Angel’s Landing and headed toward to to find the trailhead as I was going to hike it a different day. Well, turns out that sign I saw WAS the trailhead and before I knew it I was hiking Angel’s Landing! What. A. Thrill! Might be one of the most strenuous hikes I have ever done in my life. So many switchbacks, bright direct sunshine, and very high elevation! It was incredible! For the last part of the hike, in order to get to the very top, you have to hold onto chains. Chains that were attached to the rocks because parts of the hike were so narrow that having something to hold onto was a necessity!
Day 2 – April 23rd
My second day in Utah was all about Bryce Canyon! I woke with the sun, hopped in my car and headed out to the beautiful Bryce Canyon! It was about a 2 hour drive from my airbnb in LaVerkin but well worth the drive! I parked at the first stop for the free shuttle and began at the visitor’s center. At each park I went to, I always asked the park rangers for their advice on which trails to hike and any other information they could give me. These park rangers are your friends!! They are beyond knowledgeable and are willing to help you have the safest and most fun experience while visiting the park.
I knew from earlier researching that I wanted to do the Peekaboo Loop at Bryce Canyon. Which just so happened to be quite a long hike but the views from every corner you turned were incredible! Hence the name, Peekaboo Loop! Definitely more on the strenuous side but well worth every pit stop to catch my breath and take in the majestic scene that was before me.
Day 3 – April 24th
Today was canyoneering day! This is something I have never done before, which seems to be a theme of this whole trip! After booking my room on Airbnb I researched experiences in the area. This canyoneering experience popped up and I booked it immediately! That way I could talk myself out of doing it and I was locked in. This had to be one of the most thrilling/scariest things I have ever done. I’m not afraid of heights but when you have a 19 year old kid holding a rope so you don’t fall into a canyon surrounded by rocks is a little frightening. However, it was an absolute blast!
I jumped into an ATV, after getting into my harness, with two couples and our guide. He took up to the base of a short half mile hike before we began to rappel throughout a hidden canyon! To be honest, I was so nervous my whole body was shaking but there was no going back at this point, so off the side of a short drop I went! Our guide was FABULOUS and the other guests in my group were so much fun! Turns out we were all from the East Coast living our best explorative lives in Utah! I wish I could describe what this experience was like in more detail but it’s one of those things you just have to go do yourself. This is something I would absolutely do again!
After rappelling for a few hours we got back in the ATV and headed back to the beginning. There was a little food truck next to the office so I grabbed a salad and off to Zion National Park I went. As I drove to the canyoneering place, Hidden Wonders, that morning I drove through the scenic highway of Zion. Talk about a breathtaking experience! Even if you don’t get out of your car and aren’t a hiker, you have to drive though this park! It’s feels like you are in a totally different world and can only fully understand this by seeing it all yourself. I knew I wanted to eat lunch with a view so as I was driving throughout the park I stopped over at a random pull off, got out, climbed up a few rocks and ate my lunch in the middle of Zion! It was pretty epic! After all the adventures that day I stopped into downtown Springfield for a new hat and a cookie and called it a day!
Day 4 – April 25th
Somehow the day before I was able to land a shuttle ticket for Zion National Park. After arriving at the park I got off at Zion Lodge to hike the sand bench trail. This trail was made for horses but anyone can hike it. It was all sand so I only walked about a half mile in before turning around to do a different hike. I got back on the shuttle and went to up to The Temple of Sinawava, the last stop of the shuttle! I hiked up the short 1.5 mile trail to the base of the Narrows!
The Narrows hike is the one hike I really wanted to do because it’s all through water and looks insane! I ended up not hiking it this trip for three reasons. One, there was bacteria in the water and the Park Rangers said to go at your own risk which made me nervous. Two, the water was approximately 35 degrees which was a bit too chilly for me, even with a wet suit. Three, I was alone and hiking a long hike through really cold water didn’t sound like the best decision to do all by myself. I will definitely be back to conquer this hike at some point!
Once I got back to the visitors center I walked across the street to the Watchman Trailhead. This hike was gorgeous! It wasn’t tough at all and the 360 views from the top were STUNNING! I ended this hike midday which felt like the perfect time for pizza and a beer! I drove back to the Airbnb, got changed and went to a great restaurant called the River Rock Roasting Co. This is the only restaurant I went to the whole trip because I liked it so much and it was less than 5 minutes from where I was staying. I intended on sitting outside but the wind was so intense plates were flying off of the table! So I ended up eating inside by the window which was just as nice! After dinner, I drove around to find ice cream and ended up settling for a king cone from the gas station. The neared ice cream shop was 30 minutes away so gas station ice cream for the win! The king cone was perfect and I ate it by the jacuzzi looking at the mountains one last time before packing up and leaving the next day!
Every single night that I was in Utah I ate a cookie as I watched the sun set over the mountains. This experience in itself was kind of surreal but the perfect way to end each day! Traveling across the country by myself was super intimidating and a little scary at first. But I can confidently say that I will absolutely do it again! There is something so empowering and liberating about going on a trip alone. I truly loved every single minute of this experience and am already planning another adventure later this year!
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