American National Park Trip

Summer 2017: This was my first ever solo trip (other than flights to meet people). My mom was a nervous wreck, but I was excited. I purchased a national park pass and went off. I flew from Tampa to Bozeman (BZN) which is the closest airport to Yellowstone. I had a layover in Denver and ended up getting delayed and missing my connection. Good thing the Denver airport is huge and can entertain you for a few hours. When it was off to Bozeman we got in our little proper plane and headed off. Cute airport, got my car, and headed off. Unfortunately I missed a lot of daylight and hiking because of the delay, so when I got to Yellowstone I had to get moving. I went to the Mammoth Hot Springs-drove the the upper terraces loop and hiked the lower terrace loop. Then it got dark and it was time to find my hotel so that I could get an early start. I was staying in Canyon Village-Canyon Lodge Western Cabin, on park grounds for convenience. Although the location was convenient, they were doing construction and I was driving and walking around in circles for more than an hour before I found the temporary check in desk. That was frustrating, but I would imagine that’s all fixed by now.

The next day I went to Inspiration Point for sunrise (instead of the sunset I had planned the night before) and it did not disappoint (see below).

Inspiration Point, Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

But I did end up running into rush hour traffic after that (see below)

“Rush Hour” in Yellowstone

Then I went to the Grand Prismatic Spring (although not as colorful as all the pictures I’ve seen online) which was beautiful and then made my way to Old Faithful, followed by West Thumb Geyser Basin, and then Yellowstone was unfortunately over. But I did seem to hit rush hour traffic (see below)

Before I got to my hotel in Jackson Hole I stopped at the Grand Tetons National Park for some hiking. I explored Flagg Ranch Village, Signal Mountain, Snake River Overlook, Antelope Flats, and Jenny Lake. I spent the night exploring Jackson Hole and stayed at the Ranch Inn Motel. I would not recommend that, but they all looked kinda dumpy in the town.

The Grand Tetons

The next morning I drove over to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. I wanted to do the ropes course, but I got there super early and it wasn’t open yet. So instead I took the aerial tram to the top (see below), hiked around, and then took the gondola down. There was a lot of driving today, so I got on the road. I was heading for Beaver (yes, that’s a real town-see below), Utah and made a few stops on the way: Big Cottonwood Canyon and Brighton Lakes Trail. Then it was relaxing at the hotel: Days Inn, Beaver.

Waiting in line for the tram to go up, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Beaver, Utah

From Beaver, I drove to Cannonville before I got to Bryce Canyon and that was a pretty trip. From there I went to Bryce Canyon and did some hiking. I went down and back up. And then mainly walked around the rim. Gorgeous views!! See below

Taking in Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon

It was beautiful! After a full day of that I went to my AirBnB in Orderville (aka middle of no where), Utah. I got up really early and headed to Zion to trip to avoid crazy crowds. The earlier the better in these places. On my drive into Zion (before the guards were even at the gate) there was almost no one on the road and it was extra beautiful with the sun rising. The hikes I wanted to do and accomplished were Riverside Walk, Temple Hike, Weeping Rock, and Watchman Trail. I had a late lunch and ice cream at the visitor center. On one of my hikes a chipmunk literally tried to go into my bag of potato chips. I enjoyed it, but was sure not to let it get any food (and also not get bit!!)

Zion National Park

When I left the park (around 3 pm) the line to get in was miles long. I went to look around near Mt. Carmel junction to break up the break and that was a great stop (see below)

Utah, near Mt. Carmel Junction

I stayed at the Hashknife Ranch in Kanab, Utah. Turned out to be more of a hostel than an AirBnB, dorm style. It wasn’t my type of place, but I had my own room, so whatever…it was just one night. I went for a sunset hike (see below) nearby and then had a lovely dinner and wine.

Hike over a neighborhood in Kanab

Then it was off to Lake Powell. I explored this area, but for this Florida girl the water was way too cold to get into. After that I headed over to Horseshoe Bend since it was so close to my hotel. It was gorgeous, but very very windy. So other than the sand pelting you in the face, standing too close to the edge was dangerous with all the wind. Hold on to your hats (see below)

I went exploring the area, even visited a Walmart for more supplies and then went back to Lake Powell for the Panoramic Lake Powell boat tour.

The next morning I went over to meet my tour to do the Antelope Canyon tour (a guide is required). It was very crowded, but they had groups take their turns taking photos and the next group moved in. But, still, something that is just breathtaking. See the photo below:

Antelope Canyon

So after this tour I decided to explore the town more and then go back to Horseshoe Bend for sunset. This time it was not windy. It was gorgeous, but packed…a lot of people had the same idea I did. These pictures just do not do this place justice:

It was up early again and off to the Grand Canyon, North Rim. I stopped briefly on the way to Marble Canyon, and then it was off to the Grand Canyon. I explored the area near my hotel, staying on site at the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim. I went on the Transept Trail, Bridle Path, and Bright Angel Point Trail for sunset. Amazing!! And the cabins were adorable, but two rooms were connected and separately by a very, VERY thin wall.

On my last full day I drove to the Grand Canyon, South Rim (going in through the east entrance) to get a different view. Since I was passing all of these on the way I stopped at the Desert View, Grandview, Yaki Point, and then I parked at the visitor center. From there I took the shuttle because only shuttles were allowed past there. I went to Hermit’s Rest and hiked the trailhead. There were different view points along that bus route and some I got out and walked and some I didn’t. But all beautiful. I stayed at an AirBnB outside of the South Entrance.

The last day I drove through Sedona before my flight out of Phoenix. I love Sedona, but was limited on time so I just had a quick trip on a few random trails. I had some hick ups (i.e. flat tire on my rental, used a lysol wipe instead of a baby wipe–ouch) but all in all it was a great first solo trip.