For the week of Thanksgiving this year, we cashed in some of my promised vacation time to go to Utah and Arizona for ten action-packed days of hiking, biking, and exploring the canyon country. Here’s a day by day abridged recap and some pictures.

 Day 1 – Drove to Denver. Ate pho with Lizzy and Jeff. After leaving Denver, the weather got nasty and traffic stopped. We were stuck in a snowstorm and not moving much for many hours. A traction law was put in place, making it officially illegal for us to be on the road. We got off I-70 at Frisco and slept in a grocery store parking lot.

Day 2 – Woke up at 2:30 am and continued driving. The road was now clear of cars, though still had plenty of snow. We drove the whole way to Utah, and then right into the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. We talked to the rangers at the visitor center and identified a reasonable 11 mile loop to hike. Murphy’s trail involved descending a wall of switchbacks into a river valley, then climbing back out. Afterwards we drove to Moab and slept outside the city.

Day 3 – Drove into Arches National Park. Hiked out to Delicate Arch in the early morning. Then did an 8 mile loop that showcased a bunch of cool arches. We started to drive towards the Needles district of Canyonlands, only to discover we were missing a critical nut on Kerry’s bike. We drove back to Moab, but couldn’t find the nut where we thought we left it and everything was closed. We slept again outside Moab.

Day 4 – The bike shops weren’t open in the morning and it seemed absurd to wait until 9 to get the day started, so we went on a hike in Hunter’s Canyon. Later we got the bolt for one dollar, then drove back down to Needles. We did a short hike to see the needle formations. Then we took the bikes out on a 14 mile round trip trail that brought us to an overlook of the Colorado River canyon. The sun went down mid-ride, leaving us freezing and in the dark for most of the ride back. Upon reaching the car, we started to head down to Page, Arizona.

Day 5 – When we got to Page we booked a tour of Antelope Canyon with a Navajo guide, the only way to see this wondrous spectacle. The canyon was neat, despite the droves of tourists with ridiculously elaborate cameras. We hiked to horseshoe bend, saw the Glen Canyon dam, and hung out at Lone Rock on Lake Powell for a while. Satisfied with the Glen Canyon area, we headed back to Canyonlands.

Day 6 – We got a back-country permit to camp in Needles and headed out on our 13.5 mile hike. Most of the sites aren’t too far off the road, but we added some unnecessary mileage to make it more difficult. We didn’t make it to our camp site until after dark. With the sun going down so early, the temperatures being pretty low, and a rule restricting campfires, there wasn’t much to do at camp besides crawl into our bivy sacks and sleep. It was a cold night.

Day 7 – We quickly hiked back to the car, then took on the 10.5 mile round-trip hike to the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, finishing it pretty early in the day. We made a half-hearted attempt to find a supposed Thanksgiving potluck at a campground, but failed and just ate at McStiff’s in Moab. Slept at the Klondike Bluffs bike trailhead.

Day 8 – Woke up, warmed up, and eventually biked out to Klodike Bluffs in Arches. Did some grocery shopping, then some scenic driving into a canyon outside of Moab and went back to Island in the Sky.

Day 9 – Woke up really early and got some epic sunrise photos at Grand View. Drove to Upheaval dome, considered the hardest hike in the park, hiking the 8-mile loop. Got back to the car and started driving home. We got past Vail and hit another snowstorm. We stopped at Georgetown to eat and sleep at a gas station.

Day 10 – Woke up around midnight and drove past Denver with practically no cars on the road. Made it to Limon and slept at a travel center for a few hours. Woke up in the morning and drove into Kansas. To extend our trip as much as possible, we drove to Monument Rocks and Castle Rocks on the way home. The sky was cloudy and an eerie color which made for some cool pictures. We finally got home around 6:30 pm.

In total, we hiked over 60 miles and biked over 20 miles between Canyonlands and Arches. We saw a bunch of crazy rocks and famous picturesque vistas. We slept most nights in the back of our car and cooked most of our own meals, cutting trip costs greatly. If you’re looking for a spectacular outdoors area that’s much less crowded than Colorado, Utah is your place.


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