Zion National Park, Antelope Park, Monument Valley

The American Southwest – what road trips were meant for, Natural wonders to marvel at and awe inspiring national parks with incredible hiking opportunities. After meeting my fellow hikers we hit the road, crossed Hoover Dam and drove a stretch of the famed Route 66, very kitschy. We came upon the Grand Canyon at the south rim just in time for a spectacular sunset! It just opened up in front of us and although I knew what to expect I was still awestruck by the size of the expanse. We spent the next couple of days doing various hikes at our own pace along the rim or down into the Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail. We eventually had to leave this amazing place and as we drove out the East Gate we managed to time the sunrise just right for more jaw dropping views.

From Grand Canyon we met the ‘wild west’ as we made our way through Navajo land to the classic site of Monument Valley. As we crested a small hill, there it was, right in front of us, the scene from every Western movie I had ever seen. Mesas and buttes in various shades of red, eroded over time, silhouetted against the blue blue skies. We enjoyed a fantastic jeep tour led by our Navajo guide who shared Navajo folklore and drummed us into a trancelike state in a beautiful natural rock amphitheatre as the sun slowly set.

I seemed to be in a constant state of exclamation during the trip as it was an endless collection of unbelievable sunrises, sunsets, vistas, colours and rock formations!

As we continued following the winding Colorado River we made our way to Page, Utah and the stunning slots of Antelope Canyon. Another amazing natural wonder formed over time by flash floods from the plains below. A few hours north of Page we came across our first glimpse of the beautiful clay hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, also known as the ‘Valley of the Standing Man’. We enjoyed some spectacular hikes here, on the rim and down into the canyon, climbing through narrow gaps between these standing men. Once again the varying colours of these wind eroded land forms was a camera buffs dream!

Zion National Park, a few hours south of Bryce, my last stop, did not disappoint. Zion is quite a contrast to the other two parks as you are actually driving into the park through desert terrain and looking up 3000 feet at towering sandstone walls, monoliths and sculpted rock. Once again the most wonderful shades of red against the deep blue skies. There are lots of hiking options of varying degrees and a few of us challenged ourselves to attempt Angels Landing, this is not for the faint of heart! This is one of the most thrilling hikes that takes you up the stunning switchbacks known as Walters Wiggles to a rock face with a narrow trail and chains to hang on to.

And then it was back to the glitz and glam known as Las Vegas all too soon.