**Disclaimer- I'm sorry this took 2 months for me to get out!!! If you follow me, you know I've had A LOT on my plate. Better late than never and I hope you enjoy xx
Honestly, where do I begin with this trip...
To say it was the best, most blissful, peaceful, serene week of my life thus far, would be a good place to start. Before I get into it, I just have to say how incredibly blessed I feel. I know life isn't always this sweet, I know it ebbs and flows but when things get tough, I'll pray for the peace I found in these moments. It's weeks like the one I had that make life worth it.
I had decided pretty early on into the week that it was the best week of my life, maybe by day 2 or so...then I was proposed to.
I had this idea to do a trip for my 24th birthday, because I've been dying to see big, beautiful, vast mountains. Last year, Tyler and I went to the Bahamas, which was lovely, but like most of my travels in the past few years, it was a tropical vacation. I felt a void in my travels. I wanted to feel small. I wanted to be humbled. I wanted vast space of land to fill my eyes instead of highways and high rises. I wanted to forget about where I put my phone and ignore everyone for a week. (no offense everyone)
Planning this trip definitely took some effort (logistics wise), and I think that's why I've gotten such a high demand for the itinerary. It's pretty overwhelming trying to research these sights. It helped that I already knew I wanted to see the Antelope Canyons & Horseshoe Bend. Those two destinations alone were really what incentivized the whole trip.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADa
Once I started diving into the research for the trip, I realized we had to fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix and drive to Page, AZ where the two sights are. It's about a 4-hour drive from both airports but after hearing that Vegas was the more scenic route, we ate the $100-$200 price difference and booked our flights to Sin City. Though I don't have a drive from Phoenix to compare it to, I think it was definitely worth the extra buck to enjoy the long drive. Especially being from Florida and only ever seeing flat ground on the highway, driving through the mountains was a treat in of itself.
We rented a Jeep Wrangler with FOX Rentals, which was the most affordable option considering they don't have a young driver fee. I had checked their reviews online after Tyler booked with them and was honestly really nervous when I saw how many bad reviews they had. We debated booking with another company but realized our purchase was non-refundable so after thinking about it for a few days, we decided to cross our fingers and hope for the best. We ended up having a great experience (thank god) and we also totally scored with the Jeep! Four-wheel drive is the way to go out there and we took the roof off everyday which was so so lovely.
Now for where we stayed- I say this every-time, but if you are still using hotels to travel, you are seriously missing out! We rented a clean & comfy room in Vegas for one night and crashed there for only $46, tax included. I'm sorry but you can't beat that.
The next morning, we headed out to our 3-hour UTV tour (like an ATV but bigger) with Southern Utah Adventure Center. It was a two-hour drive from Vegas so we grabbed some bfest to go and hit the road. **PRO-TIP there is an hour difference between Nevada and Utah. Take that hour into account if you are planning any activities.** We learned this the hard way! We hauled ass and made it by the skin of our teeth, and thank god we did because I literally can't remember the last time I had that much fun. Our tour guide was so friendly and knowledgeable on the land. We got lucky and only had one other couple in our group. They were retired and living their best lives. We all bonded and had so much fun together. Worth every single penny and this was a huge highlight of the trip. Definitely go out of your way to do this if you can and I'd highly recommend Southern Utah Adventure Center!
After the UTV tour, we grabbed a yummy lunch at River Rock Roasting Company (the Beet Salad was bomb.com) and then made our way to Under Canvas Zion. I knew I wanted to spend at least one night camping/glamping so I dug deep into researching all glamping hotels in the tristate area (there are a few different ones). I had my eyes set on Under Canvas because it looked like my type of camping. King size bed, hot showers, and a restaurant on site...shit, call me a happy camper.
We checked in right before sunset and got to enjoy some games and s'mores before the sky turned dark. So here's the deal with the tents- Under Canvas offers several different tent options based on the level of glamping you're looking to do. I ended up going with the Safari Tent, which includes a king size bed, and wood stove to keep the tent warm at night. I debated upgrading to the Deluxe tent which includes a private ensuite bathroom, but for one night I didn't think it was worth the extra $200. We used the communal bathrooms and showers which were totally fine and did not feel like a gross dorm hall bathroom at all. Each stall has its own shower, toilet, and sink. It was actually fun and made the experience feel more like camping.
The camp does have an onsite restaurant within the lobby which was convenient and yummy. We had dinner in the lobby with fellow campers and enjoyed our night playing board games and coloring. They don't have wifi on the campsite but instead provide guests with board games, which I thought was a sweet gesture and a nice change for once. It was so cool being in a big tent full of people watching them interact and laugh with each other instead of lost in the world of the internet. I could not have been more content spending my 24th birthday night under a big canvas tent with the love of my life, coloring with markers and playing board games next to a cozy warm fire. It was simple, sweet, and perfect.
The following day was left open on my itinerary because I just wasn't sure what we would want to do before driving to Page. I had looked up things about White Pockets and The Wave, but I read that you needed permits and TBH it overwhelmed me. So, we asked around the camp and got some great tips from locals. They recommended going into the actual park (Zion National Park) and exploring. Not sure if I'm the only one, but National Parks have always been a little intimidating to me. I imagined needing hiking gear and maybe a course or two on how to survive in the wild in case of emergency. To my surprise, the park was dummy proof and well organized for the average and uncoordinated folks like us. They have a shuttle system that makes your life as simple as sitting on a bus and picking which of the most popular spots in the park you want to get off at.
We spent the day going to a few different stops and hiking some easy trails. It was BEYOND beautiful and I was really excited that we got to catch the leaves starting to change color. Although the trails we took were pretty easy, you definitely want to go into the park prepared. Water, sunglasses, chapstick (necessity- my lips were not used to the dry cold), hats, jacket to throw on in the shade, and comfy sneakers are a must.
We hit the road for Page right before sun set and the drive out of the park was just as incredible as what was inside it. We jammed out with the roof off and enjoyed the cold breeze. The golden hour sunshine glowed over the vibrant rock formations and we chased the sunset looking for a good spot to catch it. We finally found a climbable rock formation and hopped out of the car while it was damn near still moving. We ran to the top and caught the last 60 seconds of the ball of fire sinking into the top of the mountainside crest.
We arrived at our Air Bnb in Page and got settled in. We quickly learned that the town of Page is pretty small, so there's not a ton of options for restaurants and stores. You can pretty much look down on the whole town from any high point. I actually really enjoyed the simplicity of a small town. I also learned the streets quickly which was a nice change for my directionally challenged self. We splurged a little on the Air Bnb because, well, we wanted to and I'm SO happy we did. Again, worth every penny. We had access to the backyard which included a hot tub, fire pit, & grill and we had a washer and dryer in the house. You just get so much bang for your buck! (p.s. ready for that collaboration whenever you are @Airbnb)
I should have known what was ahead of me when we got dinner that night and Tyler only got wings and salad for us to share. He usually has quite the appetite...
The next morning, we had our Antelope Canyon tour! For those who don't know, there are two options for the canyons- Upper and Lower. After a lot of research, I decided to go with Lower because apparently it was less crowded this time of the year. I booked the Deluxe Tour with Ken Tours which is a little more private with a smaller group (1-4 people) verses the normal tours which typically have a bigger group (I believe 7-10). To my surprise, Tyler and I were the only ones on the tour so we basically got a private tour, which was awesome. The canyons were so incredibly beautiful. The tour only lasted 30 minutes so I really tried to soak up every minute because it really did feel magical.
The tour guides are also photographers which comes in handy because they know how to get the best shots in the canyons! As soon as we got in, our guide started snapping pics for us, which was great, but to be completely honest I would have been fine without SO many photo ops- I want to ACTUALLY enjoy the canyons and not just look like I was enjoying them for pics. It was interesting to see how popular the destination has become due to the power of social media.
As we were snapping pics through-out the tour, we approached a photo op spot called "The Arch". Our guide slipped in front of us to set up for the shot and I turned around to pose with Tyler and next thing I knew, he was on one knee.
He said "I want to do this forever, will you marry me?" Immediate sobs and I cried "yes".
Everyone's question is "did you know?!". I'll be honest, yes and no. It was definitely not a complete shock, as we talked about it all the time. We had talked about rings here and there so it's not like I had NO idea. He was so nervous he was shaking like a leaf. I'll never forget that moment and how surreal it felt. I'm so excited to marry my best friend.
After the canyons, we went straight to the Horseshoe Bend, which I was so looking forward to. I've seen it in pictures for years and I couldn't wait to see the vastness with my own eyes! The two destinations are pretty close to each other, maybe a 15 minutes drive or less so you can easily knock both out in a day. There is a parking lot then a short walk down to the viewpoint. I've read online that it's a hike but it's really just a long path.
The view is absolutely breathtaking and honestly a lot to take in at first. The space is so vast that it's hard for your brain to make sense of it. I actually turned my back to it to get my bearings before looking at it again. It leaves you speechless.
We walked and climbed all around the Horseshoe Bend area. Surprisingly, it's completely open for visitors to explore on their own time and at their own risk. We walked all along the side of the canyon and found some good photo spots. We walked far enough from the crowd to find silence and just take it all in. I got to take bad-ass photos of the ring with the Horseshoe Bend as an epic backdrop which I was pretty giddy about. We headed back to the Air BnB and celebrated with wine (for Ty) and some time spent by the fire pit and in the hot tub. God is good!
The next morning we rented paddle-boards for Lake Powell which is what the town is really known for since it covers so much of the land and is a big tourist attraction as well. We rented through Lake Powell Paddle-boards, and got them for a full day ($45 per board) which includes 6 hours (plenty of time). They help you strap the boards to your car and give you directions on how to get to the lake and where to go once in it. We made a rookie mistake of renting paddle boards during Fall instead of kayaks which is definitely a better option when the water is that cold! We chatted with a few locals while on the water and found out that paddle-boarding the lake is more of a summer activity. I had a good thing going with my board and switched between standing and sitting. Tyler on the other hand had trouble keeping water off of his board, so if you ask him, he wouldn't recommend it. He was bitching the whole time. I enjoyed having the option to stand up or sit down on the board since we were on the water for 2-3 hours.
The canyons were so so beautiful and getting such a close look at them was an amazing experience. I played some music and really enjoyed the stillness of the lake and surrounding rock structures. Paddling gets a little tedious but I think that's the point. I found a good flow and rhythm with my stokes and stayed present and mindful throughout the trail. I felt the power of my paddle pushing me through the lake and the resistance of the water with each stroke. I watched the water glisten and dance under the stunning red rock structures while gazing through the water at the world happening under me. It was so tranquil and the perfect ending to the trip.
On our last day, we decided to take the long route back to Vegas so we could drive through the Grand Canyon. It was a little out of the way but we wanted to cross it off our list and we had nothing better to do than drive! We left early AM and headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It took a while actually getting into the park but once you do there are signs every mile or so that direct you to different viewpoints. We stopped here and there and jumped out of the car to take a look. Once we felt like we got our fix we hit the road again towards Vegas. We watched our last sunset of the trip on the road and it was one of the most beautiful I've seen. Not sure if it was because of how I felt or if it was really that beautiful or maybe a mixture of both. We managed to make a pit stop at the Hoover Dam too, just so we could say we did and check it off the list too.
I've traveled a lot these past few years, but this was a trip of a lifetime-for obvious reasons. I've never been so at peace with myself, my life, and my love. Arizona and Utah will always have a special place in my heart. It reminded me that life can be, contrary to belief, simple. I truly found my peace in those mountains.
After a few days of being home and getting back to the chaos of life, I found myself stepping outside, looking at the sky, taking a deep breath, and visualizing myself back in those special moments that grounded me. I'm so thankful for the life I live, the opportunities I have, the love in my life, and my faith in the universe.
I hope you enjoyed getting an "inside my head" take on this trip beyond just the IG photos. If you have the opportunity to take this trip I would 110% recommend it. Go off grid, get off your phone and be present! If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to DM me.
I attached my actual itinerary that will be easier to follow. Pick and choose as you please.
-Land in Las Vegas
-Shuttle to Fox Rent a Car
9:00am: Drive to Zion (2hr 16min/146mi) (account for 3 hours due to time difference)
12:00pm: Sand Mesa UTV Tour
3:00pm: Drive to Under Canvas Zion (28 min/16 mi)
3:30pm: Check into Safari Tent
-Check out of Under Canvas
-Zion National Park
-Drive to Page (2hr 40min/152 mi)
-Check into Air Bnb
9:00am: Leave for tour (Kens Tours in GPS)
9:30am: Kens Tours Antelope Canyon check in
1:30pm/2:00pm: Horseshoe bend
hot tub/fire pit
9:00am: Lake Powell Paddleboards
4:50pm: Return Paddle Boards
Drive back to Las Vegas
8:00pm- Drop off rental car