Your Guide to Southern Utah & Northern Arizona
We said goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 with a trip out to Utah that included stops in Las Vegas and Northern Arizona.
John’s sister, Linda (love her), and her husband, Steve (he’s okay – jokinggg), invited us to spend a week with them, their kids, and some of Steve’s family at a place they rented in Kanab, Utah near the Arizona border. Being that I’ve wanted to visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend for some time now, we decided to make it happen!
We flew into Las Vegas because it was the closest airport to Kanab, but still a three-hour drive. We arrived in the evening, so we stayed the night in Vegas. John gambled and I went to bed at 9 pm. I’m a grandma. But, I did wake up at 11 pm to eat pizza, so there’s that.
The next few days were spent in Utah at a beautiful house with sandstone cliffs pretty much in the backyard. In the evenings, we sat outside by the fire, ate lots of food, and did lots of laughing. Our days were filled with sightseeing, a little hiking, and just spending quality time with everyone.
Because we enjoyed the trip so much, I wanted to fill you all in on the best sites in the area. We squeezed all the activities below into three days, which worked out perfectly. The downside was that we didn’t have more time to explore and hike Zion National Park. So, if you’re a big hiker, I definitely recommend staying closer to Zion and dedicating a couple days to that.
Southwest Utah and Northwest Arizona have a lot to offer. You won’t be disappointed. My recommendation though is that you visit during spring or summer rather than winter. But, that’s not to say I still didn’t think it was beautiful, it just had the potential to be even more beautiful.
Let’s get started.
Antelope Canyon X
Canyon X is another slot canyon in Arizona formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone from flash flooding.
We choose to tour Canyon X over Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon because it’s said to be less crowded. But, don’t expect zero crowds because it was still relatively busy. Nonetheless, the canyon is still beautiful! It’s just as amazing in person as it is the many pictures you find online.
As with all of Antelope Canyon, Canyon X can only be visited with a tour guide, and Taadidiin Tours – set up about 10 miles southeast of Page, Arizona – is the only tour company that is permitted to provide tours of Canyon X. Just an FYI: don’t expect to see a building. It’s just a couple fold up tables.
We were able to do the tour without a reservation, but I recommend you make a reservation. We had to wait in line for about 45 minutes. Although they say they bring groups to the canyon about every ten minutes, the groups that they take are small and there was a line of people before us. Also, when people show up for reservations, they are obviously prioritized.
To get to the canyon, you are driven 3 miles on a trail in an SUV or truck to the top of the entrance. From there, you walk down a steep, sandy 100-meter hill to reach the slots. You are then able to freely explore the canyon. Once you’re done, they drive you back up the hill in a UTV… or you can walk it, which John thought was a good idea, so that’s what he did. People gave us weird looks. We obviously made it just fine, but the elevation made it a little tougher on the lungs. From there, they drive you back out to your car. Everyone was friendly, and they made the process easy.
What to wear: Hiking boots or tennis shoes (they will get filled with sand) and athletic clothes or whatever you want really – it’s an easy “hike”.
What to bring: Sunscreen, one bottle of water will do, and maybe a snack, but not necessary.
Horseshoe Bend is just as it sounds. The Colorado River flows around sandstone cliffs creating a horseshoe shape. It’s an amazing experience, but a little bit of a scary one with a 1,000-foot drop overlook.
The hike to horseshoe bend is relatively short and easy, three-quarters of a mile each way on a sandy trail. By the time we arrived in the early afternoon, the lookout area was PACKED. Like people everywhere. I recommend going their early/mid-morning in hopes that the crowd will be smaller.
There is a parking lot, but it fills up fast. We had to park about a quarter of a mile away. By the time we left, people were parked almost a mile down the road! So, I’d avoid the evenings.
With so many people and the entire lookout on a cliff edge, I would be careful about doing the hike with very active, young children or anyone afraid of heights. We saw so many people doing things that made me so nervous. But, we also saw a bride and groom on the cliff edge for a one-of-a-kind photo shoot overlooking the bend! And I must admit, we got a little risky with one of our pictures, too. Literally crawled out on my hands and knees and clung to the cliff as I peered over the edge.
Being that Horseshoe Bend and Canyon X are in the same general area, visiting both in one day is easy. If I did it over again, I would visit Horseshoe Bend in the morning and Canyon X following. Canyon X seems to have a constant flow of people whether it’s early or late in the day.
What to wear: I repeat. Hiking boots or tennis shoes (again, they will get filled with sand) and clothes (lol). I wore athletic clothes because that’s just me, but I saw a couple women walking around in jeans and booties – even saw one woman in short heels.
What to bring: Sunscreen, a bottle of water, and a snack.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park was breathtaking. The ginormous red cliffs covering 229 square miles are like something you only see in movies. The scenic drive takes you right through all of it where you bear witness to cliffs as tall as 3,000 feet.
Since our visit was during the winter, it was dry and the greenery was limited. As well, the emerald pools were almost non-existent. If I were to do it over, I’d visit during spring or summer to experience all Zion has to offer, including hiking the narrows, the narrowest section of the park with a river running through it.
Our trip to Zion only lasted a day. We drove through almost the entirety of the park and stopped for a few short hikes. With all the hikes Zion has to offer, it would be a great place to stay for multiple nights during the warmer months.
What to wear: Well, this depends on what you plan to do. If you don’t plan to hike, but just sightsee, then you can pretty much wear whatever you want. But, there are plenty of hiking trails as an FYI.
What to bring: Water and lunch or a few snacks. It takes a few hours to drive through the park, and longer if you stop and get out. Plan accordingly. And sunscreen if you’re hiking – gotta keep that skin nice!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a state park near Kanab, Utah, and it is awesome. The dunes were formed by erosion of nearby Navajo sandstone cliffs, giving the sand it’s coral color. It’s like going to the beach without the water… and with large dunes of sand.
At a local shop in Kanab, we rented knee/butt and standing boards to ride down the dunes. Again, awesome. But, you are guaranteed to get sand in your mouth, ears, and probably eyes. Wear sunglasses. And wax your boards for a smoother ride. If you forget wax from the shop, try asking the ranger on duty at the park entrance.
You can also rent ATVs to ride around the dunes, which would have been a blast. Unfortunately, all of the ATVs were rented out when we were there.
The hike out to the dunes is a short one, maybe a quarter to a half mile. The average person can make the trek. Walking in sand just always makes things more difficult.
What to wear: Again with the sand. When you get here, everyone takes their shoes off to walk in the sand. Obviously, you don’t have to though. For those of us that did some sand surfing, we all wore athletic clothes, the rest of the group was just in jeans and basic shirts.
What to bring: Water, obvi. Water goes everywhere. Sunscreen, especially in the summer. Depending on the length of time you’ll be there, you can bring snacks. We were there for only a couple hours.
Other places in Utah I would have liked to visit – but were just too far away – were Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park. So if you’re up for the drive, these are couple other options!
PSA: Liquor stores in Utah are few and far between. Beer is sold by the bottle or can and not by the pack. At least in the area that we were in. Just a little something to keep in mind.
The trip then ended with us back in Las Vegas for the night, before we flew out in the morning. But this time, I made sure we went to Freemont Street, which I enjoyed. We actually ordered tickets ahead of time for the Godzilla Zipline, but when we got there they were delayed about 45 minutes. We decided to just get a refund because, honestly, it didn’t look that fun. Instead, we gambled (I mean John), had some drinks, listened to an awesome country cover band, and ate the biggest skillet of nachos I’ve ever seen. You can find the masterpiece at Nacho Daddy.
That’s all I’ve got! Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom…or skipping to the bottom. Either way, you’re here. So thank you. I hope your 2018 is filled with lots of adventure!
Have you been to southern Utah or northern Arizona? I’d love to hear what you did, and what your favorite parts of the trip were! BTW.. We’ve been getting more into hiking these past couple years, so if you have any suggestions about where we should go next, let me know 🙂