This summer I spent three weeks in the United States of America with my family. We made a roadtrip to discover the West-Coast. It was amazing and we kept being overwhelmed daily by the beauty of nature. This was week one.
The best way to travel in America, is by car – or at the West-Coast, that is. In three weeks we drove about 4000 kilometres. We crossed different states and mostly visited the impressive national parks.
The states we went to: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana en California.
The (national) parks: Grand Canyon National Park (NP), Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Yellowstone NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, Death Valley NP, Sequoia NP en Yosemite NP.
Big Cities: Las Vegas, Salt Lake City en San Francisco.
The heat of the desert city
Late in the evening we arrived in Las Vegas, after hours of flying with a break of some hours at the the airport in New York to catch our next flight to Las Vegas. It was about 10 o'clock in the evening and even at that time, the heat was immense. It was 41 degrees Celsius. If you haven't been there, you can't understand how hot it is in the famous desert city in Nevada. It made me want to stop moving and the search for our shuttle bus was simply exhausting with the heat and the jetlag. But we managed to get to the hotel and we just decided to go to bed to cure the jetlag as fast as possible. And none of us would have been able to stay awake for even one more minute.
The next day we ate breakfast at the hotel, which meant having breakfast in the casino. Each hotel in Las Vegas has its very own casino and it seems to be the only thing you can find in Las Vegas: hotels and casinos. Oh and of course a lot of shops and glitter, fountains and airco. The casinos are opened 24/7 and there are no clocks to be found so the gambler doesn't realize how late it really is. That creates the bizarre atmosphere that we see people drinking cocktails in the early morning and that the casinos are crowded every moment of the day. Time stands still in there. It's a unique atmosphere and I don't know if I like it.
We decided to walk through the city and visit the most famous hotels and sights (which is basically the same in Las Vegas). The summarize: kitsch. The heat stayed overwhelming and every time we enter a hotel, we're glad because it's cool inside with the air conditioning. I think you can compare the heat best with a blow dryer. The air is very dry and it's quite windy in the city, however that doesn't cool you down at all. More the opposite. The wind is very warm and that makes it almost unpleasant. One benefit though: you don't sweat. And believe me, if I'm not sweating, no one will.
On day three we left the city of casinos, kitsch and bling and we went to Tuba City, off to the Grand Canyon! We had quite some kilometres to drive and decided to make a few stops in between. We drove past (and stopped at) The Grand View Point and visited the Desert View Watchtower. Our first impression was breathtaking, we were overwhelmed and it would be the first time of many such moments on this trip. The hugeness of it all is impossible to describe, because we just don't know such expanse in Belgium. Believe me, you're stunned. In the evening we enjoyed the swimming pool of the hotel to cool down and enjoy the weather.
First walk in Grand Canyon National Park
Our first day at Grand Canyon National Park was amazing. With our backpacks filled with water to survive the heat we drove into the park and dropped our car to take the park bus to further discover the nature reserve. We started off with a hike because its not as hot in the morning. We chose the South Kaibab Trail and decided to descend until Cedar Ridge, a small hike of 5km.
We chose a light hike because we weren't used to the heat and we read that the difference in height (2213m to 1926m) made for a firm descent but mostly a steep climb. The hike however went very well and it was way too short. With enough water it's very doable and the biggest challenge is the heat, not the climb. But we enjoyed it and the view was wonderful.
We saw many deer in the Grand Canyon NP and we got to see them from nearby. It's simply awesome to see a wild animal so close to you. Less fun where the fires in the park because of the heat this summer. Sometimes you could see the smoke in the Canyon.
The rest of the day we took different park busses from one beautiful viewpoint to the next. You can't get bored of this beauty and after a day filled with wonderful views we returned to our hotel tired but fulfilled. We ended the day with a dive in the swimming pool and went to bed early because we planned to watch the sunrise the next morning.
We started our last day at the Grand Canyon with the sunrise at Yaki Point, a beautiful viewpoint. The sunrise was empowering and we had a great spot to sit because we were early. The waking up was painful but it was worth it. With a blanket on our laps and our legs dangling over the edge we waited for the sun. It made for a beautiful memory. And then back in the car on to our next stop!
I definitely want to go back to the Grand Canyon outside of the summer season because I really want to hike to the Colorado River. They discourage non-professional hikers to do this in summer because it's an intense hike and quite dangerous with the heat.
On the 7th of july we left the Grand Canyon in the morning to go to Kayenta where we'd visit Monument Valley. I can be very brief about this day. We visited the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park that was very beautiful, but not that impressive after the Grand Canyon. And because it isn't a National Park, we had to pay entrance and it was quite pricey, definitely considering the park was a bit of a letdown. To anyone asking, I'd advise to go to Lake Powell instead. We missed a bit of water after all the drought.
Moab is a really cosy town and it's the perfect place to stay if you want to visit Arches NP and Canyonlands N P, two amazing parks. I would've loved to stay here longer. We stayed at the Best Western hotel and the swimming pool was beautiful (one of the best on our trip) and the Chinese restaurant next to the hotel was beyond delicious (and also a welcome change after all the American food, which is often not too healthy).
We made sure to arrive early at Arches NP so we could do a good hike before it would get too hot. It was really nice, also because avoided the mass of tourists we saw arriving in the afternoon when we left. As the name of the park makes clear already, it's a nature reserve full of, well, arches. If you visit the park, you can't choose wrong. Every arch is worth your time. We had an amazing hike and wanted to continue hiking to see more arches, but a visit to the Canyonlands was planned.
Canyonlands National Park
The Canyonlands aren't as famous as Arches, but the park is definitely worth a visit. It's one of my favourite parks of our journey. The irony is that we saw the most beautiful arch here, the Mesa Arch. It was a very short, easy walk towards it and yes, if you're there, go see it.
We visited more view points throughout the park and did another short hike to Upheavel Dome. However, what stays with me the most is the Grand View Point. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in those three weeks and I recommend you to stay for the sunset. It is breathtaking.
The Grand View Point - and grand it was.
After Moab we left for Salt Lake City, but that's for week 2!
And I'll also post some tips and tricks if you want to make a similar roadtrip in the States.