About two weeks ago, Nate and I went on a vacation that we had been planning for far too long. The trip was suppose to be a 30th birthday present to ourselves and we had planned to go in the spring, but then spring turned to the summer and then summer turned to middle August. Yeah. We went to the dessert in the middle of August. But we lived to tell about it and it was truly unbelievable.
We made a detailed plan, outlining each stop after we landed in Phoenix:
Phoenix, Arizona –> Sedona –> Grand Canyon –> Zion National Park –> Hatch, Utah –> Bryce Canyon –> Horseshoe Bend –> Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument –> Flagstaff, Arizona –> Petrified Forest –> Santa Fe, New Mexico –> Taos
There was a lot to explore and we only had a week, but looking back I don’t think I would have done it any other way. Of course there were places we weren’t able to go (Antelope Canyon 😞 ) and places I would have liked to have stayed a bit longer (Flagstaff) but we have already promised to be back.
I took a ton of pictures. Below are some of my absolute favorites.
Almost as soon as we landed, our friend Erica, who lives in Phoenix, took us to a secluded swimming hole called Fossil Creek. It was about two hours away and 14 miles down this dirt and gravel road. It was beautiful and totally worth the journey.
We were so beat when we got back that we got food and immediately went to bed. We had to wake up early and head to Sedona, which was the best car ride I’ve ever taken. Check out the sights!
Sedona ended up being our wild card. We didn’t book a place to stay and had planned to either find a hotel or rent camping gear and find a spot to camp. We decided on the latter and I am so glad we did. We got our camping gear from a woman on Airbnb and with her and her cat’s blessing (yes, her cat “blessed” us), we made our way down a secluded path on the side of a highway to a deserted, rural camping area. We were entirely alone and it was both a little terrifying and unbelievably thrilling. As we finalized pitching the tent and got settled, I felt a calming come over me and I was so happy we were where we were.
We had some drinks and watched the sunset. At night, we saw every single star in the sky and felt small and amazing and so very happy.
In the morning, we packed up early and got on the road towards the Grand Canyon.
On the way to Zion, we stopped at this tiny canyon on the side of the road. Nate loved it.
When we got into Utah and before we made it to Zion, we went through this cute little town. I wanted to stay at every motel we passed.
Zion, man. Zion was pretty darn cool. Probably my favorite national park that we visited.
Saw a buddy along the way.
From Zion, we headed into Hatch which was where we were staying. We planned to grab some drinks to have at our Airbnb, but due to the weird liquor laws in Utah, that was not possible. I was not a happy camper! The upside, our Airbnb place in Hatch was totally rad. We stayed in a yurt!
I loved this yurt. Mental note: stay here again! The hosts were so nice and honestly, yurt life is pretty sweet. I think I could live in one…for a few months…maybe. With this view, definitely.
The next day we got breakfast and headed to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Everything was going great, until this lady started screaming at other tourists. I don’t even know what it was about, but it was NOT chill. We left soon after to head to Antelope Canyon. I was so excited about this, but when we got there, the tour time was not for another 2 hours, which would have made us get into Flagstaff super late. We had to decide not to do the tour, which was very upsetting because everyone I’ve talked to who has done it says it is unbelievable. We’re definitely going to go back to check it out.
Luckily, our Flagstaff Airbnb host had great backup options for us: Horseshoe Bend and Sunset Crater National Volcano.
We got into Flagstaff and were met by our Airbnb host who was a really nice guy. He told us of a nearby brewery to get dinner at and then we met up with him at a reggae show, which was pretty cool. I’m not a huge reggae fan, but Nate loves it so it was a cool way to spend our night in Flagstaff.
The next morning we did a bit of exploring on San Francisco Street before heading to Petrified Forest.
Before we got to Petrified Forest, we stopped at this cool old boarding house/museum.
We were running behind big time, so we tried our best to book it to Santa Fe. We were going so fast that I didn’t get a chance to actually capture a picture of the New Mexico state sign.
I still like the photo though so here it is.
Our Santa Fe Airbnb was beautiful. It was a geodesic dome and whoever designed it is a genius. It had little panels that opened up and served as vents, allowing the outside air in to cool the inside. Also, our hosts had great taste in art and decor. It was a dream.
On our last day of vacation, we traveled to Taos to the Manby Hot Springs. As we climbed down the rocks to reach the Rio Grande and where the hot springs were located, it started raining lightly which was actually kind of perfect. The rain made it cooler and sitting in the hot springs it felt great.
And it was about an hour after this photo was taken that Nate proposed! I was completely surprised and kept asking if he was kidding (because honestly, I could see Nate playing a joke like that). We were standing outside our rental car and there was a van nearby with what looked like a very rugged old man in it eating something with the door open. It was pretty perfect.
If you love traveling, don’t mind road trips and haven’t been to the southwest (or simply want to go back), I highly recommend doing something like what Nate and I did. It was the best trip I’ve ever been on and I’ll never forget it.