December 11, 2015
Duration: 4.5 days
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: CA, NV, AZ, UT
Budget for 2 people: $800 ($250 hotel, $200 gas, $250 food, $100 other)
- Day 0: drive from Irvine, CA to St. George, UT (400 mi, 7 h)
- Day 1: visit Antelope Canyon, AZ (160 mi, 3 h); Horseshoe Bend, AZ (10 mi, 20 min); then drive to Monument Valley, UT (130 mi, 2.5 h)
- Day 2: sunrise at Monument Valley, UT; Natural Bridges National Monument, UT (70 mi, 2 h, 3 mi gravel one lane steep road); sunset at Arches National Park, Moab, UT (120 mi, 2.5 h)
- Day 3: Arches National Park; drive to Cedar City (300 mi, 5 h)
- Day 4: drive back home (450 mi, 7 h if no traffic from Las Vegas)
We just drove from home after work to St. George, UT and stayed there overnight at Motel 6. Usually we pick simple motels during out travels.
Our stop #1 was Antelope Canyon. This is Navajo territory and you need to go there with a guide. You can choose whether you want to visit Upper Canyon or Lower, regular 1.5 h tour or special tour for photographers. We picked Upper Canyon 1.5 h and were absolutely satisfied. We booked our tour in advance, but you can find a guide once you arrive there. Note that there are many people and regular tours won’t give you much time for stops and photos. You will quickly go through the canyon, make ~10 stops for pictures and quickly go back.
The Wave, Upper Antelope Canyon:
Quick stop at the Lake Powell on the way to Antelope Canyon:
It is then worth to drive 20 min to see the Horseshoe Bend. If parking is full you can find a spot along the road. You will need to walk ~1 mi to see the Bend. The place is always crowded but it is easy to find a good spot for photos.
Monument Valley was our next stop, but we knew that there are no big towns close by so we had our food in Page, AZ and ensured we had enough gas. We drove to Monument Valley and stayed at Goulding's Lodge.
Our trip was during the Thanksgiving period, sunrise at that time is at 7 am. Entrance fee is collected from 8 am and it is $20 per car. We were at The View Hotel at 6:30 am. Our initial plan was to take some photos and then do the Wildcat’s hike, but it was extremely cold so we headed back to the hotel to pack and move forward. There is also 11 mi road around the valley if you have more time and up for some adventures (non paved road, need SUV).
View from The View Hotel:
We then drove all the way to the Natural Bridges National Monument. If you take the fast route you'll have to climb up the mountains on a 3 mi gravel narrow road. It is not too bad, we did it on our regular sedan, and it was empty. Natural Bridges is nice but not too nice to spend there a lot of time. It has very nice visitor center where you should buy your entry pass. We purchased annual national parks pass ($80) as we knew we were going to Arches National Park next. Daily pass is ~$25.
Natural Bridges National Monument is 9 mi circle one way road. It has detailed signs with all points of interest. You can either stop at overlooks and see all the bridges or hike down to them. We chose to not hike and never regretted that.
Sipapu Bridge - second largest bridge in the US:
We arrived to Moab around lunch time and decided to start exploring the Arches National Park. We hiked all the way up to the Delicate Arch while it was snowing. It is at least 30-40 min fast pace climb up but is totally worth doing it. We were hoping to see the sunset but instead we saw incredible views of the Arch under the snow.
Our original plan was to quickly explore Arches National Park and also visit Canyonlands, but we were so impressed with the first park so we spent a lot of time there.
Stop 1: Park Avenue Viewpoint
Stop 2: Balanced Rock
Stop 3: Sand Dune Arch (~5 min hike one way)
Stop 4: Skyline Arch (~ 5 min hike one way)
Stop 5: Landscape Arch (~ 30 min easy hike one way), but then you should go up to the Double Arch (~60 min difficult climb up, primitive trail) to see amazing views
Views on the way to Double Arch:
When it became dark we drove to Cedar City for the night.
Long boring drive back home with all that traffic coming back from Las Vegas and caused 4 h delay.