America: South West Road Trip

Hello and welcome to the blog on the South West USA road trip that I recently embarked on with my boyfriend, Will and his Mum. Needless to say it was an amazing trip with the main event being the North rim to south rim trek of the Grand Canyon. That however deserves its very own post so you will have to follow the link for that particular one explanation – its coming right behind this one so hang on for one moment. If you can’t wait then take a look at my instagram highlights *Rim2Rim GCanyon* for a little commentary and scenery as we went.

Below is a basic map including all the national parks that we explored. For more details on the national parks I have set up individual blog posts to follow this one so that you can dive in more depth on those.

I’ve also highlighted Denver and Vegas, as we flew into Denver and out from Vegas. I shall be heading into more depth as we go along so hold onto your hats. Grab yourself a cuppa. Here comes the details…

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We rented a hire car from thrifty car rentals who was really good. That have a collection and drop off point outside most airports. Very handy if you ask me, although their pick up/drop off locations are slightly off sight from the airports it was very straight forward to get to them with their shuttle services that run regularly. From here we drove to a place called Glenwood springs (180 miles or 3 hours) along interstate 70. Glenwood springs was really just a point of stopping on the way to Canyonlands and Moab rather than a destination, it is a strange little town in the middle of all the ski resorts in Colorado. On our way we drove past Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge to name a few famous ones. Hard to believe that these are ski resorts when it is around 80 degrees outside (27 degrees Celsius).

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Waving goodbye to Glenwood springs we set of early, thanks to jet lag which is very handy from time to time, hitting the road again towards Moab (200 miles or three hours). Driving around those mountain roads was amazing. The scenery was spectacular, especially from the passengers seat I have to say. Just before we reached Moab we stoped for gas and found that we were in fact just by the entrance to The Island in the sky, Canyonlands. What a happy accident that was! So we filed up and heading straight in. We however, forgot our lunch so if this is a guide for your very own trip, please take note. There is no food at the visitors centre at Canyonlands. None.

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Day two in Moab, so off to Arches national park first thing. We managed to time it so that it was labour day weekend. The busiest travel weekend in the American calendar. Thank god for the nice man who reminded us of this fact and told us to get into Arches before 8am otherwise we would have been stuck in a big old line to get in to then see everything over a sea of heads. We took the advice of the rangers and were ahead of the crowds. Totally worth it by the way!

Stopped for a lunch break in Moab before driving the 45 minutes to the other end of Canyonlands, The needles. This side is much quieter as you will read in my Canyonlands blog and if you had to pick between them this would be my preference.

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Drive to the Grand Canyon, south rim via Monument Valley (313 miles or 5 hours). Monument valley was everything that you think it is going to be. It is breathtaking. Driving up to it is like in all the movies you have ever seen with cowboys and Indians. Its still owned by the Navajo tribe to this day which makes it all that more special, although the lady in the entrance booth wasn’t very happy to see us when we arrived I must say. Apart from that Monument Valley is beautiful. They have jeep tours that you can take part on either in your own vehicle or in a jeep that they provide, we didn’t take part as we were driving a lot but we did see the areas that they were going anyway. The Navajo tribe park is also the boarder between Utah and Arizona which make it a clear cut off point for those keen map readers.

After we had our fill of the tribe lands we pushed on for the south rim to make it in time for supper at Big E’s stake house in Tusayan. Tusayan is a small town just outside of the Grand Canyon National Park and if you are staying there take my advice and go to Big E’s. Its nothing fancy but it is just what you want after a long hike in the Grand Canyon – We had our victory meal here too, think it was the only meal I actually finished whist we were in America.

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Today was a logistics day. It was a make sure we have everything for a rim to rim trek that was the main event of this trip and can be read all about on the Grand Canyon blog as well as a vlog on the instagram highlights @wherenextclaudia

So we caught the shuttle that runs twice a day from South rim to North rim. With snacks in hand for the days ahead as there is not much on the other rim. Along the 4 hour trip to the north rim the temperature started to drop and drop did it. It went from hot sunny day to raining with snow visible on the ground still from winter (this is in September). We stayed at the only hotel on the rim on the North side, the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. Very basic and much less popular with the tourist but was everything that we needed. No wifi though so you feel well and truly cut off from the world when you are staying there which is no bad thing.

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Here is the part where we joined the rim to rim club. So I’m just going to leave this bit now and you can have a look via the link below is hiking is your thing at the post on that.

  • Grand Canyon Rim to Rim trek

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Once you make it back to south rim, you will understand the confusion with all of the tourists that jump off their coaches take a photo of the canyon and jump back into the bus. What the heck! I just don’t get it. We stayed on South rim for a few nights at the Bright Angel lodge so our rooms had views of the canyon. It was amazing.

While you are at south rim you can book things like mule rides and smaller walks around the rim that don’t go down. Or even if you have the time you can book with companies that take you into the canyon kayaking. So you are kayaking from East to west along the Colorado river. Sounds pretty sweet to me.

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Our last day of driving was getting ourselves from South rim to Las Vegas for the night before we flew out of America back to the UK. We stayed on the strip at Treasure Island hotel. It was fun, we came, we saw, we lost our money at a casino. Basically we did all the highlights. It was my first time in Vegas since I have turned 21. Allowing me to really try things. I still hate gambling it has been confirmed – spending money I can do but losing it is not for me. We did go to the Balaggio last water fountain show featuring Lucky by Frank Sinatra. It was incredible as you would expect. I also splashed out on our last night and got tickets to a show. The shows in Vegas are like nothing you have ever seen! They are amazing and would 100% say you have to go to one while you are in town. Even if it isn’t the one we went to. I have been to Vegas twice now and both times I have been to see a circus du solius show and if any of the other circus shows even touch the surface of these ones then you must go. They are incredible, aure inspiring shows that will make you feel nervous excitement throughout the entire performance. If you haven’t been to one ever, then google where the closest one is to you and go. No joke. They are amazing. Even if you are not into theatre. You cannot help but be impressed with the sure strength and flexibility of everyone involved. Just don’t sit on the front row if you’re not a joiner if you get what I mean.

So that is the road trip in a nut shell but please do take a look at the blogs on the different  national parks and our rim to rim trek. I have linked them below.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim trek, Arizona

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