HOW TO SEE 4 NAT'L PARKS IN 4 DAYS
If you’re anything like me: you love a good road trip + a National Park. If you’re also like me, camping in the snow seems like a terrible idea (I blame backpacking in Yosemite during a blizzard in college - definitely cool, but too literally-cool if you know what I mean). Two weeks ago my friend Megan and I realized three things: 1. we both had a small gap in our schedules, 2. everyone’s talking about pumpkin-spice lattes + sweater-weater, and 3. we better start packing for this trip or else we’ll be waiting around another year. We spur-of-the-moment booked two campsites - and thus we planned our camping road trip 10 days prior for our “Four National Parks in Four Days” trip! RED ROCKS, ZION, BRYCE + THE GRAND CANYON. Here’s some ridiculous stories, mingled with semi-helpful tips on what to do (but probably more what not to do’s) of two girls packing up a toyota + driving out to the desert.
I was shooting a wedding in Beverly Hills the few days before we left for our journey (still have social whiplash, in the best way) - so I re-routed my return flight home through Vegas. & I will proudly announce we found the best way to do Vegas (cause Vegas can be kind of the worst). You hike Red Rocks all day (yelp-review for Bryan: 10/10 guide-skills, .5/10 for fun fact teller… you win some, you lose some), run through in-n-out + then hit up a 9:30PM Cirque Du Soleil show. Honestly, this day couldn’t have been more fun. Red Rocks is essentially Joshua Tree + the color red. I’ll explain: there’s no “hike” at Red Rocks. You just CLIMB. Bryan refused to tell us where to go (which is a 10/10 guide-move in my book) and told us to get to the top. We weaved through narrow canyons and started bouldering upwards (I was in converse, which they mocked me for - but hey, they’re grippy - RIGHT?). It was on the apex of this mountain we decided to bring back #JUMPSTAGRAM. When in doubt, jumpstagram. After climbing down in purple dusk-light, we raced over for dinner + then quick-changed for KA, an awesome Cirque show that left us both speechless + wishing Megan had followed her dreams of being a contortionist (still laughing typing this.. that was an actual dream of Megan’s. Like, she trained for it. SO GOOD. Beth, got any home videos of your daughter?). We went back to a friend’s house to spend the night + onto the next day/Park!
IF YOU’RE GOING: Once you enter the Park, you’ll drive to the base of the largest Red Rock mountain area. Then… climb! There’s no direct path. Also, Bryan is not a real guide. Unless you’re willing to pay large sums of $, then he might be a guide. We’ll see. Oh, and I always get a Number #3 with lettuce only a rootbeer (BOMB). KA is the show we saw at the Venetian - try to not follow our example & arrive 10 minutes before curtain. ;)
Here’s what not to do: don’t listen to a My Favorite Murder podcast about two people almost getting murdered camping when you are about to be two people going camping… needless to say, Megan + I made a pit-stop at Walmart to pick up some pepper spray. Walking to the cashier, a stranger in a mask JUMPED OUT AT US screaming and waving his arms. (Submitting our story to ‘I survived’ as we speak…). The man takes off the mask and goes “isn’t this mask so scary?!?” It was that point in which I told him the scary part was not the mask, but the stranger inside the mask jumping out at you in a Walmart. In Vegas. Right after you listened to a murder podcast. Moral of the story: I miss Target.
The day took a upwards swing when we arrived at our campsite! Again, we planned this thing 10 days prior to departure - so we were stunned when the only campsite left was the best one there. I mean… look at this place. Unreal. Know what’s also unreal? The Narrows! We waded through a couple miles of water (felt very Bible-pilgrimage-like) and tried not to trip + fall in with my camera. There had been recent storms + rockslides, so many trails were closed: but we ended up doing Weeping Rock and Court of the Patriarchs. We ended our day perfectly by eating exorbitant amounts of pizza & ice cream & hiking back to our campsite in the dark. I won’t mention the building-a-fire fiasco… all I’ll say is, read the directions on duraflame logs.. they help.
IF YOU’RE GOING: You’re on Mountain-Time, literally. One hour time difference! The pizza place is called Pizza & Noodle Co., and the ice cream was directly across the street (holla at ice cream shops that allow you as many flavors as you want in the small. ily 4ever).
This is hands-down one of my favorite little patches of earth. It was all Star Wars x Mars & I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Although maybe I would change the signage… we definitely got 100% lost wandering these canyons for a few hours. HOWEVER, still wouldn’t change a thing about it because we ended up seeing the most insane views of the whole Park from this little unintentional detour.. ya, I like unintentional detour - we sound a lot cooler. (In reality we probably looked real dumb - happy and delirious from lack of water, but kinda dumb).
IF YOU’RE GOING: First things first, hit up the viewpoint look-outs. You’ve gotta get the scope of the place before you can appreciate descending down into it. Bryce is similar to one large fishbowl, so there are various look outs around the rim of the bowl. If you’re going in the summer/spring, start up at the top where you can descend down into ‘Wall Street,’ essentially the raddest name for switch backs that drop you into a narrow canyon (not scary, just super cool). This trail will follow along and take signs to Queens Garden for a shorter hike, and if you want to INTENTIONALLY not get lost but still see the crazy sights - you can take Peek-A-Boo Trail for about 30 minutes into the Cathedrals to see some great expanses of Bryce + re-trace your steps back to Queens Garden where it will spill you out onto the top of the canyon (shuttle back to the initial start). Plenty of water, hiking shoes + snickers bars will help you along the steep trails! One last thing… if you’re driving from Bryce to the Grand Canyon, stop at Big Al’s Burgers in Kanab. You won’t regret it.
Our campsite was scary-close to the rim. Close like… if I had a sleep walking problem, we’d be in trouble. It was the coolest (sorry, keep saying ‘cool’ a lot like I’m still in the ninth grade. Whatever (ugh, back down to junior high) - ANYWAYS. We were also just a quick jaunt away from a Disney-like, Matterhorn-esque lodge which had the best breakfast burritos + cozy ledges overlooking the steep Grand Canyon. We set our alarms for 5:45AM to hike out to the most precarious rock-ledge to watch the sunrise. Met some great people and chatted for a few hours about their own travels and work back home, every few minutes adding in the appropriate “what the heck how is this even real?” It’s common lingo among the Parks, or at least for the easily-impressed (like me). The only mistake we made was not staying long enough - you probably need a good two days to fully see the place + hike.
IF YOU’RE GOING: The Matterhorn-esque lodge, minus the Abonmindal snowman (too bad), is called the Grand Canyon Lodge. It’s located on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon - the lesser populated side of the Park. The rocky ledge was appropriately called Bright Angel. And I had the bacon egg breakfast burrito with a chai. 10/10 in my book. Oh, and sit on the ledge while you’re enjoying your breakfast. We made the mistake of only have one morning at the Grand Canyon - need to visit the South side (Horseshoe Bend, etc. is all over there!). The hikes look brutal but I’m game for it next time.
Overall, man - I’m so thankful for this trip! God is so kind to us to give us vivid, awe-inspiring places that remind us of Him. It feels so good to feel so small in this big earth: and to hike and feel worn out from the day. S/O to Megan for being one of my best friends, a great travel buddy, a superb out-loud reader (books > music in cars) and great encourager. Already planning future Nat’l Park trips because when you have an annual pass…why not?
What’s your favorite National Park? Comment below!