Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mighty 5 Southwest Road Trip

Wanderlust Wednesday-Week 13
I cannot believe the amazing week we just had adventuring in Utah. It definitely earned it's title as the best travel destination in the world this year. We climbed mountains, rode horses, and submerged in waterfalls. We trekked over 40 miles on foot through the desert, hiking our way through all 5 of Utah's national parks! 
The mighty 5 was an epic adventure, and somehow we managed to do it in a week. I have so many great stories to share, but first I want to start with a quick overview of our trip. 
A little forewarning because this is a jam-packed itinerary. In 7 days, we visited 5 national parks, 2 state parks, and quite a few other noteworthy locations. Our itinerary could easily be adapted to fit any schedule and budget, but this is what worked best for us. 
DAY 0 travel day
Travel time is of course relative to your starting point. For us, this was a true travel day with 15 hours spent on the road. We left the East Coast with sunrise, flying from Boston to Phoenix to Vegas baby! To save money on our rental car, we took a shuttle from Vegas, Nevada into St. George, Utah where we picked up our rental for the week. Then we had an hour drive to Zion National Park. Whew! After a full day of traveling, we deserved to have something good to show for our day. Cue this amazing scene at sunset…  

DAY 1 zion national park 
  hiked: 10miles/16km
If I had to pick a favorite in the Mighty 5, this would be it. We loved our Adventures in Zion National Park. And with being Utah's first national park, this is a good place to start your journey. If you're brave enough, spend the morning trying not to die at Angel's Landing, a strenuous uphill hike with 1000ft cliff drop-offs on either side. No big deal! 
If you survive, take the afternoon for chasing waterfalls in the desert with the most astounding hike at Kanarra Creek Falls. Seriously breathtaking. 
Finally, head back to camp to finish out the day with a of night camping beneath the stars. Great start to Day 1. Am I right? 

DAY 2 brcye canyon national park  
 hiked: 1mile/1.6km

Day 2 is reserved for Bryce Canyon National Park. But first, it's worth it to squeeze in just one more hike in Zion National Park. Take the scenic Zion Mount Carmel Highway to the short 1 mile Zion Overlook Trail. You won't be disappointed. 
Then it's back on the road. Arrive in Bryce Canyon National Park around mid-morning, just in time for a trail ride through the canyon. Opt for the half day mule ride in Bryce Canyon that passes right through the iconic Fairyland Loop and Queen's Garden. Riding 9 miles is much better than hiking it. 
By the end of the day, you will have your fill of the hoodoo rock formations (giant rock drip castles) that make Bryce Canyon one of the most unique places on Earth.

Now settle in for another night of camping, only this time let's change things up a bit. 
Between the horses, the canyon, and the teepee...this day was pulled right out of an old western movie. 

DAY 3 scenic drive + grand staircase escalante national monument 
  hiked: 5miles/8km 
After leaving Bryce Canyon, it's only a 2 hour drive to the next national park…Capitol Reef. Only, we decided to take the scenic route...the really scenic route via famous US Byway 12. This route doubles the driving time, but it is well worth it to spend a day trekking across one of America's most scenic drives. This is a road trip after all. Added bonus, the scenic drive gives you an oppotunity to pass through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. You will definitely want to get out of the car and do a hike here.
Byway 12 ends when you hit Capitol Reef National Park. If you're not too tired of driving yet, it's the perfect time to do the Capitol Reef Scenic drive through the park, stopping at all the best viewpoints along the way. 

DAY 4 capitol reef national park
 hiked: 6miles/10km 
Many people choose not to visit this park, but our time here helped us to realize all the reasons why you shouldn't skip Capitol Reef National Park. This is probably the most unique of the Mighty 5 because of its history. We did hikes to Cassidy Arch and Hickman's Bridge, before cooling off at Sulfur Creek

DAY 5 goblin valley state park + little wild horse slot canyon 
  hiked: 5 miles/8km
Today, it's time to start making your way towards the town of Moab, home of Arches & Canyonlands National Parks. On the way, stop at Goblin Valley State Park and pay homage to canyon country with a hike through Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon.  
After days of hiking and driving, you will be exhausted by the time you reach Moab. We certainly were. Refuel with a good night's sleep thanks to a night of glamping.

DAY 6 canyonlands national park + dead horse point state park 
  hiked: 8miles/13km
On to Canyonlands National Park! Spend the day in the Islands of the Sky District. It's filled with overlooks and short hikes that offer incredible views of a lifetime. Our favorite stops included: Mesa Arch, Aztec ButteGrand View Point, and Green River Overlook.
If you're feeling brave enough to go off the beaten path, make a trek to the False Kiva. You won't find this hike on any map, but what you will find is better than imaginable.
The day isn't quite over yet. Before leaving the area, stop at the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park…a Terrible name for an Outstanding Place. Arrive right at sunset and you will you have this majestic place all to yourself…we did. 

DAY 7 arches national park
  hiked: 9miles/14km 
This is the place that Utah is known for so make the most of your one day at Arches National Park. Not to be missed hikes are Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch. We sandwiched in quite a few other hikes too: Double Arch, the Windows, Turret ArchBalancing Rock, and Park Avenue. Let's just say this was one seriously epic day! 
Then it was off to Salt Lake City to catch a red-eye home. 

Told you this itinerary was jam-packed. We had long days, filled with crack of dawn wake-up calls, hiking all the miles, and nights ending under the stars. I like to think we would have slowed things down a bit if we had more time to spare. But knowing us, we simply would have packed more in. And really now is the best time to do crazy trips like this, while we're young and still not too tied down. On that note, I wouldn't change one single thing about our Mighty 5 in 7 days! How would you do this trip? 

Less Time? 
If you don't quite have a week to spare, focus your time on one of the clusters of Utah's national parks. If you're looking for unique hikes and a thrill, visit Zion and Bryce Canyon together. But if you want a trip filled with sweeping views and wow moments, stay in Moab and focus your time between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. 

More Time? 
Consider adding in stops to Utah's Monument Valley and Lake Powell. Have even more time? Add in a tour through Arizona. Not to be missed spots include Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and of course the Grand Canyon

I will be back soon with highlights from each day, hiking guides, and our travel budget. For now, we're just basking in everything we saw on this trip. And to be honest, we're a little bit in awe. It was refreshing to eat food cooked over an open fire, to sleep in teepees and ride horses, to drive and actually enjoy the ride, to be on a true adventure. For that, we have Utah to thank. 

linking up with thinkingoutloud//


  1. This looks and sounds like one incredible trip!! I can't wait to read more. Each place you stayed looks beautiful.

    1. Thanks Macy. It was beautiful. We don't get to do trips like this often, maybe once a year so we definitely packed in all the amazing sights that we could

  2. WOW. I've been to Zion, but none of the others & this trip sounds amazing. I can't wait to hear more about the budget since that's a lot of what dictates my travel.

    I seem to travel like you do, I squeeze as much in as I can & I love to be active. I have to agree. Zion is my favorite NP so far. Cooler than the Grand Canyon if you ask me.

    1. We had a choice between this trip and the Grand Canyon and we obviously picked this one. Zion and Canyonlands were my favorites. And with flying out to the west coast, this trip got us the most bang for our buck. I always share our budgets for big trips since that's a major factor for us with traveling and I know I'm always curious about how much things will cost and what people spend.

  3. I cannot believe you hiked through all 5!! That's an amazing feat, and I'm sure incredibly tiring. Thinking about the journey is tiring me out, but I bet it was amazing and thrilling.

    Girl, mad props to you on the first hike. I'm insanely terrified of heights and could not do it! Y'all are also taking some serious pictures hanging out on the rocks!! It's nice that these tents are already set up for you and everything! Definitely a much better way to refuel than to have to throw it up yourselves.

    liz @ j for joiner

    1. I'd be lying if I said that first hike wasn't scary, but yes totally thrilling. And it was a tiring trip, we definitely slept for a full day when we got home.

      It was nice to have things set up already. For our budgets sake we did camp a lot, but also spent some nights in luxury spots