USA Desert Lands

Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
Trip End Apr 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, September 22, 2008

USA's Southwest Desert Lands
Today we drove 300 miles across the desert from the Mojave to Hurricane, near to Zion National Park. The heat was relentless sitting at or around 100F. Generally the landscape is very barren; however with mountains and rocks formations of all shapes and colours, this land has its own rugged beauty. Every now and then we would come across an oasis of greenery surrounded by a sprawling township or a City in the case of Las Vegas. It is amazing how these places have sprung up in such arid areas. We crossed four state lines, leaving California; we drove through Nevada and Arizona, before finally entering the Mormon state of Utah. During the next week our journey will then take us in a grand circle of some 1500 miles, taking in five of the National Parks, finally returning to Las Vegas to win our fortunes! 
A thrifty tip! If you plan on visiting more then four national parks it is best to purchase an annual park pass at $80, otherwise the entrance fees are $25 per car load, excellent value either way.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The park is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers. The white, pink and red rocks of Zion are simply awesome! The park runs a shuttle bus service to all the main trail points. We parked our car at the visitors centre and then used this efficient and eco friendly service. A shuttle comes along every 6 minutes so you don't have to wait long. All of the trails give wonderful views of the surrounding cliffs. We must have walked a good 10 miles on steep tracks, but it was extremely rewarding and rates as one of our trip highlights. Just outside Zion is the very picturesque town of Springdale, here you will find some great craft shops as well as some good restaurants. 
We spent the next couple of nights at the Smith Hotel Bed & Breakfast. This historic establishment has been putting travellers up in its nine rooms since 1927. Mike and Rochelle are great hosts and the place has a real homely feel to it. We enjoyed our morning chats around the breakfast table sharing experiences with the other fellow travellers. 
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Yet another amazing place, the great thing about America's national parks is they are all so different and have unique features. This is very true about Bryce, here you will find wondrous pinnacles and points, steeples and spires and odd formations called hoodoos, all set in a huge amphitheatre eroded by rain and ice. The park sits at an altitude of over 8000ft which makes trekking pretty tough going. We trekked for about 5 miles down the canyon wall, along the canyon floor and made the tough climb back up again! Again we would really recommend a visit to this park too, it is superb. Again a shuttle bus system operates in this park which reduces the congestion and pollution. The shuttle stops at all the main points and trail heads. I think we'll let the photographs speak for themselves. But of course there is no substitute for the real thing!
Lake Powell, Arizona / Utah
Lake Powell has been made possible by the construction of the huge Glen Canyon Dam which was completed in 1963 and took 6 years to build. The lake is the second largest manmade lake in the USA. It is 180 miles long and has a shoreline of 1,960 miles and is 500ft deep in places. The sparkling blue waters lap against towering, sheer, red rock canyon walls. Speed boats and jet skis zip about while houseboats slowly wend their way deep into the side canyons. We witnessed a beautiful sunset over the lake, quite a sight as the rocks change colour in the fading light, it was a great experience sitting in the balmy evening heat as the sun sank behind the plateau.
Monument Valley Arizona / Utah
As we were unable to find lodging nearer to Monument Valley, we had a 5 hour round trip to travel from Page. If you are planning a trip to these parts at this time of the year (Sept) it is best to book way in advanced as all rooms get booked out early. Travellers Tip! A new hotel in Monument Valley is due to open soon, I think this will be very popular as it is the only hotel built within the park with spectacular views.
Monument Valley is not a valley at all, but rather a wide flat, landscape interrupted by colourful red buttes and spires rising hundreds of feet into the air. These are the last remnants of the sedimentary rock layers that once covered the entire region. Monument Valley is contained entirely within the Navajo reservation, occupying both Utah and Arizona. The fee to enter the Navajo Park is just $5 per person. This park is not covered by the annual park pass. This is one of the most remarkable, beautiful and famous landscapes in the world, early recognised by Hollywood as a stunning background for western films, like me you probably recognise it! Once in the park we took the PT Cruiser for a rally drive! The park has a 17 mile circular route which allows you to get up really close to the buttes. Be warned the road is not paved; it is mostly red sand and rock, with major pot holes so be careful and drive slowly. It is an brilliant experience though, mind you the car was completely covered in thick red sand by the end of the trip, I may have to pay a visit to the car wash!
This was one place we had always wanted to visit and despite the long drive we were in awe, this really is a magical place. 
The Grand Canyon - Arizona
This is our second trip to the Grand Canyon, but who could tire of marvelling at this unique place on our planet? At 1 mile deep, up to 10 miles wide this really is an awesome sight. Snaking along its bottom the Colorado River runs for 277 miles and has been carving rocks for over 6 million years and has exposed rocks older than 2 billion years - half the earth's life span. We visited the South Rim as this allows one to get closer to the rim and is more accessible by car. We resisted the lure of walking along the new glass platform which hangs out over the canyon! In fact this lies outside the national park in the Indian reservation and is difficult to access independently. This was the area we flew into by plane last time we were in these parts so it was good to get a different view of the canyon, and as we were not on an organised trip we were able to stop for longer at all the view points. The west of the canyon which we visited last time was very barren, so we were surprised to find forests of tall pine trees on this trip, making the south east of the rim much lusher, again giving us a very different experience.
Williams, Arizona - Route 66
Situated on the famous Route 66, Williams was founded in the late 1800's by ranchers, railroaders, and lumbermen. The name Williams' comes from the famous trapper Bill Williams. The historic district of this once bawdy frontier town, now offers glimpses into Williams' colourful past. Saloons, bordellos, and shops have been brought back to life. The town is located in the largest stand of Ponderosa pine trees in the world, at an elevation of 6700 feet above sea level, so the air up here is crisp and clear. 
Williams may only be a small town but it is packed with character, we enjoyed walking around the old streets and the turn of the century train station. It is from here the historic train takes tourists the 2 hour journey to the Grand Canyon each day at 10am. There is live music in several locations around town; we enjoyed a pint of home brewed beer at the Cruisers Café 66. Seven different beers are on offer which are all freshly brewed at the brewery next door, and its good stuff! Not a bad way to while away a couple of hours sitting in the sun listening to nostalgic 50's Americana music. 
Our hotel for the night was the historic Grand Canyon Hotel. This is actually the oldest hotel in Arizona dating back to January 1891. If coming through this way we would highly recommend a stay. Each of the 24 rooms is individually furnished with period antiques, ours even had a claw foot bath. The landing is huge, again with more antiques and all the floors are the original floor boards. It is more rustic than luxurious but it takes you back to those frontier days and is very comfortable. Top tip! if you turn up about 3pm the owners will let you look at all the rooms so you can choose the one you want!
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