Arizona and Utah: Two of our favorite states for travel, full of national parks, national monuments, and natural wonders…

 

Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ

My wife and I are no strangers to either the states of Arizona or Utah.  We’ve visited several places like Scottsdale, Phoenix, Grand Canyons National Park in Arizona, and we’ve visited one of our favorite national parks, Zion N.P. in Utah.

When we were planning our 2+ months long cross country road trip going from North Carolina to Southern California, we knew we wanted to revisit both states, but really see them in much more detail.  There are just so many wonderful, world famous attractions in both states, and we wanted to explore many of them during our trip.

We knew we wanted to visit national parks/monuments/landmarks along our travels, including Petrified Forest N.P, Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon in Arizona and all 5 Utah national parks including Arches N.P., Canyonlands N.P., Capitol Reef N.P., Bryce Canyon N.P., and Zion N.P.

These are iconic places that all Americans revere.  I grew up watching them in Discovery Channel and/or National Geographic Channel documentaries about these places, and I knew I wanted to visit them all.  I was having such a great time planning our itinerary that it literally made me giggle with delight!

As our cross country trip got underway, we realized how beautiful many of these places actually were in person.  There is just no substitute for seeing the sculptured grandeur of works by nature at Capitol Reef N.P., feeling the empty vastness of places like Canyonlands N.P., smelling the air after a freshly fallen snow at Bryce Canyon and hearing the river run early in the morning at Zion N.P.

Certain hikes were absolutely surreal and almost bordering on the transcendence:  doing an early evening hike with the setting sun providing a dramatic backdrop at Petrified Forest N.P., or witnessing for the first time the dramatic and spectacularly colored narrow slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.  We will never forget these places in our lifetimes…

Petrified Forest N.P.

Antelope Canyon, AZ

Antelope Canyon, AZ

Monument Valley, AZ/UT

These are our reasons why Arizona and Utah are two of our favorite states for travel!  Here’s Arizona first:

  • So many national parks/national monuments/natural landmarks!
We embarked on this epic trip knowing we would be visiting these natural wonders but we had no idea how many there were in Arizona alone!  Most people think about the Grand Canyons when they think of Arizona, but there are just so many more.

We knew of Petrified Forest N.P., Meteor Crater, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon, but we also added new attractions along the way such as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Wahweep Overlook, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument.  

We spent close to a week in Arizona, but frankly, we could’ve used more days to explore the vast number of natural attractions in the state!

Petrified Forest N.P.

Meteor Crater Natural Landmark 

Meteor Crater Natural Landmark 

Glen Canyon Dam

View from Glen Canyon Dam Overlook at sunset

Glen Canyon Dam and Colorado River 

  • So many fascinating cities to explore
We loved cities like PageFlagstaff, Lake Havasu City, and Bullhead City.  Page’s location right within the heart of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area provides a great base to use to visit multiple world class attractions within a 30 mile radius like Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Lake Powell.  Page is also the closest big city to Grand Canyon N.P.

We could’ve walked from our hotel to Glen Canyon Dam.  That’s how close the city was to popular attractions.

Page also has variety of lodging, dining, and shopping options.  It was indeed a big city.  We had plenty of places to fill up on fuel (both our bodies and our car) and do grocery shopping at nearby Walmart.  New York Teriyaki was a welcome surprise for some tasty Asian food in downtown Page.

In Flagstaff, we also loved the close proximity of major attractions within a 30 mile radius such as Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument.  The awesome pizzas and appetizers at Grimaldi’s in downtown Flagstaff capped off a great day of exploring these attractions.

Lake Havasu City’s London Bridge, nestled within the heart of downtown and with views of the Colorado River is a sight to behold.  We loved watching the bridge from the patio of a pizza place, Papa Leone’s Pizza, enjoying delicious pizza, then walking around the lively streets below afterwards to walk it off.

Bullhead City meanwhile, was a great place for finding dining options while we spent 5 nights in Laughlin, Nevada, just across the Colorado River.  D’Angelo’s Italian Restaurant was so good we ate there twice, and SaBai Bistro had delicious Thai foods we enjoyed.

What make all these cities great are the unique natural beauty surrounding each of them, as well as many lodging and dining options.   It was really the best of both worlds…We got the convenience of a city but with the incredible scenery right within the city!

Fry bread, Indian City

  • Inexpensive lodging options especially during the off season 
We spent a total of 6 nights in Arizona, and we spent a total of $437.  Page was by far the cheapest option at around $65 per night for a newer hotel with newer furnishings with hot buffet breakfast!  Even the most expensive option was $78 per night.  We spent an average of $73 per night which we consider a bargain!

For those of you planning a cross country trip in the United States, especially if you’re thinking South/Southwest/Southeast, we recommend doing it in the winter, as many areas give you the best bang for the buck during that season.  With less traffic, less expensive hotel/fuel costs, and less people at many national parks, winter gets our vote for the best season to see the American South/Southwest.

We were really surprised at how good Sleep Inn & Suites was, especially at Page, as it was right within Glen Canyon, easily walkable to the dam overlook, with gas stations and shops/restaurants within 2 miles of the hotel. 
  • Native American culture
We found both Walnut Canyon National Monument and Wupatki National Monument fascinating.  It’s always great learning about ancient cultures like the Pueblos, who inhabited the area that is now the present day Arizona.  

We also found Indian City (Houck, AZ) very cool, as we found neat souvenirs and we tried local foods like fry bread and Indian tacos.  We also met a local (a nice Native American lady) who gave us one of her handmade pottery as a gift while we were chatting about fry bread and our travels.  She was so sweet!

Located right along the I-40 corridor in Arizona, you can’t miss this place as billboards are everywhere for this place.  It’s touristy but so what?  We enjoyed it anyway.
  • The awesome Colorado River!
We couldn’t get away from the mighty Colorado River in Arizona.  We saw it in Page, Havasu Lake City, and Bullhead City.  It was like seeing a familiar, old friend welcoming us everywhere we went (well, except Flagstaff).

We had no idea Colorado River is so clear and beautiful in Arizona.  The river had vibrant colors of turquoise, green, and blue.  We thought we were looking at a river in the tropics!  Just awesome…

Here’s Utah:
  • The great Utah Big 5 National Parks!
We were so glad we got to hike each and every one of the Utah Big 5 including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion!  It was definitely near the very top of our bucket list items and they didn’t disappoint!

Each has unique geography, landmarks, and beauty that we recommend everyone to visit them at least once in their lifetime.  Seeing them, feeling them, and hiking them brought us much closer to these national treasures, and it was an experience we’ll never forget…

We would love to see them again, hopefully not too distant in our futures…

Bryce Canyon N.P.

Bryce Canyon N.P.

Zion N.P.

Zion N.P.

Zion N.P.

Canyonlands N.P,

Arches N.P,

Bryce Canyon N.P.

  • Beautiful towns of Springdale, Moab, and Bryce Canyon City
Springdale is one of those cute, beautiful towns in America that just happen to sit right at the entrance of an awesome national park, Zion N.P.  The town is surrounded by massive, tall, colorful cliffs on either side making it one of the most scenic towns we’ve ever visited in America.

The town itself has plenty of lodging/dining/shopping options making it the most convenient place to explore Zion.  Our hotel, Holiday Inn Express, was a stone throw’s distance from Zion’s entrance station, and it sits right along the main thoroughfare where everything is located.  We even had a nice view of those rock cliffs from our room.  

Moab was equally beautiful, thanks to the abundance of tall, red rocks that surround the town.  Even from our hotel room, the views of those beautiful rocks were spectacular!  With Arches N.P. only 5 miles away, and Canyonlands N.P. about 30 miles away, Moab is a great location to use as a home base.  

One of the best things about Moab was its inexpensive food options.  There was a supermarket (City Market), and a taco place right near our hotel, Sleep Inn.  The fish tacos and shrimp tacos at Giliberto’s Mexican Taco Shop were absolutely amazing at under $4 per taco.  

Portions were huge, had all the right mix of taco ingredients like fish/shrimp, cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and was possibly the best tasting tacos we’ve had during our cross country trip.  We loved their salsas that come with each order.  Awesome…We loved it so much we ate there twice!

We arrived at Bryce Canyon City during heavy winter storm with the skies dumping white snow all over the place.  It was indeed a beautiful introduction to the city and we loved it.  With everything covered in white snow, it made the whole town look like something out of a Christmas movie.  

We ate from Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room twice as it was so good especially with all you can eat salad bar, which is a rarity these days.  Service was good and friendly, and it really felt like something out of a cowboy/western movie I used to watch years ago.  Very cool!
  • Inexpensive lodging options off-season 
Like Arizona, we were glad we visited these national parks in the winter, as prices were very reasonable.  We paid a total of $1045 for 13 nights, about $80 per night on average.  The cheapest we paid was in Moab (Sleep Inn again!) at $69 per night, and the most expensive was in Torrey (Red Sands Hotel) at $110 per night.  

In conclusion:

We spent a total of 19 nights between these two states during our cross country trip but frankly we could’ve used more days as there were just so many places to explore between these two states!  We think we did more than just barely scratch the surface during this trip, but we still long to see more of both…

We will never forget all the great places we got to visit during our trip.  We will never forget each interaction we had with locals, and we will never forget all those great memories of each towns we encountered.

Thank you Arizona and Utah!  We hope to see you again, hopefully soon!

Thank you for reading and keep up with us on our continuing journey of FIRE (a financial independence retire early) and our travels!


Jake

Wandering Money Pig 




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