Antelope Canyon slot canyon walls in Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Bryce Canyon in a Day

On Saturday we woke up in Zion National Park and packed up our campsite to head to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Bryce Canyon National Park. We had a tight schedule to keep and lots of driving to do. Antelope Canyon is back in Arizona and there is a time change so we planned accordingly and get to leave a little later.

Antelope Canyon

To visit Antelope Canyon you have to schedule a tour ahead of time, especially if you want one of the prime times. Antelope Canyon is made up of two parts upper Antelope Canyon and lower. Upper is where you may get to see the famous light beams. Most website will forewarn you it is a very popular tourist destination, crowded, and you will be moved through fairly quickly by your guides. We used Adventurous Antelope Canyon tours, getting a good guide has less to do with the company per say than it does with luck and we got lucky. Our guide was not there to rush us, even when pushed to by others, they all help set camera settings but he also showed us his favorite angles for photos and took our pictures for us. Lower Antelope Canyon is said to be less crowded, as are many of the other slot canyons in the area, if that is the experience you are look for go to a different canyon. That said Antelope Canyon is as beautiful as the famous photos we’ve all seen.

A side note, I did NOT do one of the photography tours. They do not allow guests who do not have professional cameras and I was visiting with my fiance. Those on the photography tour were given more time and the area was cleared to help them get the shots but once they set up the guides counted down from 30 I believe or lower and they only had those seconds to shoot before moving on.

We did briefly catch a light beam on the way out. The guides take you through slowly on the way through and let you take photos, on the way out you are supposed to experience the canyon without taking photos, which also helps move you out of the way of others. These are the only photos I got where you can kid of see the light beam, the photographers were stopped in this area and shooting.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell are very close to Antelope Canyon so we did the short hike to Horseshoe Bend afterwards before deciding to drive to Bryce Canyon (back in Utah and with a time change again).

Horseshoe Bend is a very crowded location and out in the hot sun, they warn you to bring water and you should! It is such a strange formation and way for the water to have moved we took some time exploring here but not too long since we had more driving and a time change ahead of us.

Along the way we saw a small dinosaur museum off the highway and decided to stop. It was full of an assortment of dinosaur foot prints from Utah, some fossils, native artifacts, and a rock collection.

Fossilized animal
Dinosaur food prints

We made it to Bryce Canyon around 4:30 pm and checked out Sunrise point and then Sunset point. We tried the short hike Navajo loop there only to find half of it was closed from rock fall and have to turn around.

These strange sandstone formations are called the hoodoos, they were created by and are changed each year from the spires freezing and then thawing. Melting snow gets into the cracks in the spires and freezes at night, when water freezes it expands which enlarges then cracks making them wider.

After this we headed back towards California with San Diego as our next destination. In California we did much more relaxing and visiting friends but I will have a few more photos!

The Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Just to note, I would never recommend spending so little time at all these locations and so much time traveling in one day but sometimes a road trip calls for it! I can’t wait to get back and get to spend more time in this part of the country.

My boyfriend proposing to me at the top of Angels Fall Landing trail in Zion National Park

A Day in Zion National Park hiking Angels Fall Landing

For our second day in Zion National Park we tried to wake up early and start Angels Fall Landing in the morning, but it was a cold morning and we slept in a bit. Heading out we followed a path with beautiful views to the second bus stop on the shuttle. We picked up the shuttle and headed back to the fourth stop from the previous day. We had turned left to go toward Emerald Pools and today we were turning right to head towards Angels Fall landing. Angels Fall Landing is about a 5 mile hike round trip, it is not a loop, you hike up and back down the same trail.

We got stopped early in our hike by a ranger who was mapping out the area and waited a few minutes to continue up.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Angel’s Fall Landing its a scary hike, you need to have good balance and not be too afraid of heights (you’ll see why below). At least hundreds of people a day if not more hike the trail. The beginning is just switch backs up the mountain and fairly easy. It is paved though so it’s harder on your calves!

Eventually you hit this area closer to the end of the “easy” part with shorter switchbacks that are a bit steeper and the sandstone has been made to look like bricks. Once you reach the top of this area you are at the beginning of the real nerve wracking and challenging part of this hike.

There are signs along the way warning you not to do this trail if your balance is off, you are scared of heights, have the right shoes, and so on. They also let you know that 7 people have died in the last 9 years on this trail, 15 since the trail opened. Until this year (2017) it had been 5 years since a death. The trail has had a reputation as one of the deadliest in the world but each year people flock to the trail. They do really try warn you off with the signs and warnings on the bus rides. The trail is on sandstone with cliffs on one or both sides of you the rest of the way up. There are people passing you in both directions and you often have to pause to let others pass, even while holding on to chains or in the way of others. Over the years they’ve added more chains and carved the stone more to help with footing.

The “hump” looking edge of that mountain is part of the trail (after we’d already done some of the trail). From what I had seen before taking this trail I was pleasantly surprised that there was often only a cliff on one side of you, I had expect cliffs on both sides of you the entire way. I’ll admit I have a mild fear of heights so when planning out this hike I knew I might turn around at some point.

Towards the peak of the trail where you would turn around and head back there are cliffs on both sides of you. Right before this point I stopped to rest under a random tree here and psych myself up for doing the end of the trail. Being so close and seeing the trail was a bit wider than I’d expected I pushed myself through to the end.

It’s at this point that my boyfriend proposed. He had clearly been trying to decide where to propose all day, so thinking this was a big accomplishment and a beautiful location he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

This hike is both not as hard as you imagine and just as hard. If you plan on doing it have the right gear, a healthy dose of fear but not too much, and good balance. The hardest part is often just the sheer number of people on the trail, be courteous and I suggest start the trail early before it gets too hot!

Bridge over the Virgin River in Zion National Park Utah on the trail to Emerald Pools

A Late Afternoon in Zion National Park

When heading to Zion National Park we didn’t have camping reservations but we were lucky enough to have friends also going. They left Vegas before us and waited in line forever to get a campsite which we were lucky to join. The National Park campgrounds fill up fast!

We left Vegas a bit later in the day and got to Zion in time to visit the Visitor’s Center, set up camp, and do one of the shorter trails.

We took the shuttle down to the fourth stop where the trail to Emerald Pools began, you can also get off at the 3rd stop but that trail to lower Emerald Pools was closed due to rock fall. This version of the trail is about 3 miles if you do lower, middle, and upper Emerald Pools.

On our way up the trail we had beautiful views of the Virgin River and the canyon. The Virgin river is very small but it has carved it’s way through the entire canyon and still removes tons of debris each year. We ran into our friends Rachel and Chad who we were camping with on their way down from the trail and said hello but continued on.

A bit further along we ran into a woman who quickly shushed us and directed us to look up off the trail a bit. There we could see a mule deer. Mule deer are very common at Zion and not too afraid of humans. On the bus we had seen them next to the edge of the road as well. Continuing on the trail we visited lowers pools, then middle, then upper and hiked back down the same trail.

Zion has a highway running through it and it’s gates are open all night because of this. After our hike we decided to check out the small town we had passed on the way in. Outside the park you will find a bunch of cute stores for souvenirs, a grocery store for food to cook over the fire, restaurants, and hotels. It’s a really cute area and made it even more fun to stay here since there was a variety of things to do at night.