Southern Utah Roadtrip (2019)

My girlfriend foolishly agreed to to a road trip across southern Utah to hit up some parks. I think I enticed her with some exciting AirBNB locations. With the itinerary set, away we went! Since all the stops were pretty close, instead of measure distance, I picked out the song that was playing nonstop in my head for each day.

Day 1: SLC to Goblin Valley

STOPS: Red Iguana, Three Pines Coffee, Hollow Mountain, Goblin Valley State Park

We woke up slightly after dawn cracked, headed to the airport, and flew to Salt Lake City. After picking up a rental car we went to the infamous Red Iguana to sample the many moles (mol-ey!). Picking up some supplies at ye ol' Trader Joe's and coffee from Three Pines Coffee, we headed southeast on our adventure. Slowly we noticed signs of civilization dwindle away. We overshot our stop, heading to Hanksville for firewood (and Smores supplies) from Hollow Mountain. We backtracked to our first stop: Goblin Valley State Park! I've read about this place for months, but it defied expectations. We stayed in one of the yurts, secluded right next to the sandstone cliffs. It quickly cooled off and darkened, but only momentarily before the full moon rose and illuminated the entire area. It's unbelievable when you can hike without a light because the moon is so bright. This meant the stargazing conditions were poor, but you can't have it all. My girlfriend let me start the fire (yessssss) then we cooked a delightful meal of (cooked) chicken and zucchini (and smores for dessert).

Song of the Day: Hall of the Mountain King

Park Tally: 1 state park

Day 2: Goblin Valley Adventures

STOPS: Goblin Valley State Park, Little Wild Horse Canyon

Accidentally woke up before sunrise, but with the moon setting the stars were out. We climbed up the rocks to watch the sunrise over the valley, then made some breakfast before starting our adventures. It's a short drive to Little Wild Horse Canyon, a slot canyon that can be an out/back or loop trail. We did the full loop and weren't disappointed. The slot canyons forced us to squeeze through a variety of crevasses (I managed to fit) before emerging into wider canyons with the occasional climb over boulders. On the way back the views onto the plateaus were immense, like giant cliffs emerging from the ground. After our hike, we stopped for a snack and nap break at the yurt, then headed to the highlight: the goblins! The technical term is hoodoos, and they hang out in a valley (duh) We wandered in and out, finding our favorites (all of them). According to my girlfriend it looks like a desolate Martian metropolis (she is more verbose than I). We cut our visit short to obtain snacks, then headed back for the night hike organized by the ranger. The walk amongst the goblins by moonlight was an incomparable experience.

Song of the Day: Don't Kill the Whale (AKA Don't Bust the Crust) by Yes

Park Tally: 2 state parks

Day 3: Capitol Reef

STOPS: Capitol Reef National Park, Sweetwater Kitchen

Sadly we had to say goodbye to the goblins and the yurt, though it was fun. We drove west on Highway 24 to Capitol Reef National Park. You're greeted on the drive by immense reddish cliff walls, welcoming you to the park. We drove down the scenic drive to catch all the views then backtracked to hike up to Cassidy Arch, a massive arch set on the cliff edge that you can walk across. My girlfriend, being much braver than I, traversed the arch while I stayed back to document the moment with photographs. We quickly scoped out the petroglyphs along the main trail then jumped back on the road. Finally we headed south on the quite famous byway 12, starting our drive through Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument (more on that tomorrow). We ended up at Sweetwater Kitchen for an excellent dinner (try the goat cheese cheesecake) and a night's rest in a Tipi.

Song of the Day: Close to the Edge by Yes

Park Tally: 2 state parks, 1 national park

Day 4: Byway 12

STOPS: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Lower Calf Creek Falls, Escalante Outfitters, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Powell Point Overlook, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Outlaw Saloon

After a night in a Tipi, we went back to byway 12 and continued south for some of the most amazing overlook views I've ever seen. It was a struggle to not pull over every 2 minutes for more pictures. The first stop of the day was a hike at Lower Calf Creek Falls, watching the scenery change with a cute waterfall at the end of the hike as a reward. Next was a delightful pizza lunch at Escalante Outfitters (and a stop for the official stamp at the visitor center). To finish the day, we crammed in a stop at Escalante State Park to examine the beautiful petrified logs, a visit to Powell Point vista, and a quick check at Kodochrome Basin State Park to see rock formations that exist nowhere else. Sick of nature at this point, we found our way to Outlaw Saloon where you buy a steak then cook it on their indoor grill (an interesting concept) and thoroughly enjoyed our meal while sitting on saddles at the bar. We ended the night in a log cabin overlooking a ranch.

Song of the Day: I Will Survive (AKA I was petrified) by Gloria Gaynor and Kodachrome by Paul Simon

Park Tally: 4 state parks, 1 national park, 1 national monument

Day 5: Bryce Canyon

STOPS: Galaxy Diner, Bryce Canyon, IDK BBQ, Tandoori Tacqueria

Time for more hoodoos! We fortunately chose to eat at the Galaxy Diner on their last day of the season (try the elk n' eggs). We then entered Bryce Canyon, nothing could have prepared us for the sight of looking over the rim down into the hundreds of uniquely shaped hoodoos of the Silent City. We walked downwards on the Queen trail, which then connected to the Navajo trail. I highly recommend walking upwards through Wall Street, which needs to be advertised more as a park highlight. It felt like walking through the ruins of an ancient walled city, surrounded by guardian hoodoos on every side. We left the park briefly for some IDK BBQ (nacho cheese pulled pork, anyone?). Going back to the park, we drove down to the end of the scenic drive, then I methodically stopped at EVERY. SINGLE. VIEWPOINT. (my girlfriend's words). I'll admit, we were both pretty hoodoo'd out by the end. We agree our favorites were Inspiration Point and Yovimpa Point. The natural bridge was interesting, unless you've seen any other bridge on your trip. How can you finish a day like this? With some Indian/Mexican fusion at Tandoori Taqueria. We hit the hay back at the log cabin for another night.

Song of the Day: Who Do You Love (AKA Hoodoo you love) by Bo Diddley

Park Tally: 4 state parks, 2 national parks, 1 national monument

Day 6: Zion pt 1

STOPS: Meme's Cafe, Zion National Park, Angels Landing, Whiptail Grill

I was most skeptical about heading to Zion, but I'm glad I was wrong. There's a lot of traffic heading into the park but plenty of viewpoints to see rock formations like nothing else we'd seen previously (kind of like melted ice cream). After heading through the tunnel into Zion Canyon, we parked in Springdale then took the bus to the base of Angels Landing. I'm not a big fan of heights (see day 3), but I was up for a challenge. It's a long hike uphill but it's not impossible (take your time, bring water, and wear hiking boots). It was a lot of fun climbing up the cliffs while hanging onto chains (I'm not yanking your chain) someone graciously placed into the rocks for my use. We were greeted at the top with views both up and down the valley, along with a visit from overly friendly chipmunks and squirrels. We also saw at least 2 California Condors, who were disappointed that I would not be their next meal. Finally making it back down (safe n' sound), we dined at the delicious Whiptail Grill before heading back to Glendale to stay in a tiny house.

Song of the Day: Digital Man (AKA spend the day in Zion) by Rush

Park Tally: 4 state parks, 3 national parks, 1 national monument

Day 7: Zion pt 2

STOPS: Cafe de Soleil, Watchman Trail, Zion Perks, Zion Pizza and Noodles

Today we took our time, drove to Springdale, and ate breakfast at Cafe de Soleil. We then checked out Watchman Trail which was surprisingly secluded and devoid of other hikers, despite it being Friday and the closest trail to the Visitors Center. Afterwards, got coffee at Zion Perks, then ate at Zion Pizza and Noodles (gluten free crust!) before picking up smores supplies and heading back to pack. On the way back, we saw bighorn sheep crossing the road at dusk!

Song of the Day: Any song related to Cirque de Soleil

Park Tally: 4 state parks, 3 national parks, 1 national monument

Day 8: Cedar Breaks and SLC

STOPS: Cedar Breaks National Monument, Cubee's

I'm a horrible boyfriend and I forced my girlfriend to wake up via alarm so we could get on the road to drop off the car and make our flight. We headed up into the highlands to take the scenic drive through Cedar Breaks National Monument. Watched the temperature drop to the 20s and even saw some snow. It's a hidden national monument but it was neat to check out, with a bunch of cool viewpoints down into the bowl. We stopped outside SLC at Cubee's for some breakfast before dropping off the car, heading to the airport, and flying back to Dallas!

Song of the Day: Jet Airliner by Steve Miller Band

Park Tally: 4 state parks, 3 national parks, 2 national monuments