We started in San Francisco and ended up in LA. In between: a lot of National Parks – here we go:
Yosemite was our first National Park of this holiday, which we crossed coming from Modesto and going to Bishop. Driving through it alone already offers amazing views, so we took regular stops to check out the waterfalls, the famous El Capitan and the incredible rock formations.
Then we parked the car and went for a short hike. We chose the Vernal Fall trail. It’s only about 1,3 km to the footbridge – where most of the people go to. The bridge already offers an excellent sight of Vernal fall, so a lot of people taking pictures here. Ok, so did we. Then we went up a little. Purpose was to get to the top of the fall, but as my husband got a little faint, we turned back about 500 metres before reaching the top. We still got amazing views though and met a very bad ass chipmunk on our track.
We have made great use of our convertible during our vacation, that’s for sure. But we didn’t pull down the roof when being in Death Valley! We started at the lovely Furnace Creek Visitor centre. When checking the thermometer it said 45°C or 110°F. Hot, hotter, hottest. We pulled ourselves back in the car and went up to Badwater Basin, the lowest point on Earth: 85,5m below sea level. Along the way we stopped at the Golden Canyon trail, but we only covered a few tens of metres, before turning back. Is was way too hot.
At Badwater Basin, we decided to go for it: we each took a bottle of energy drink and wanted to make it to the end of the walkway right in the middle of the salt flats. Our bottles were already empty before getting at the end of the walkway, so we just turned and got back to the car. We barely made it 😉
As a lot of walking wasn’t an option, we discovered the park further by driving… We took the Artist’s drive, which is a one-way road of 9 miles and offers great views for some pictures.
Afterwards we drove to Zabriskie Point. Great scenery. Daredevils as we are, we risked it to get out of the car for a few minutes and gaze upon that natural beauty.
Continuing our route to the East, Zion was our next National Park, located in the state of Utah. It’s characterized by scenic canyons, high plateaus, sandstone cliffs, the Virgin River as well as springs and waterfalls.
We first took the 3,2 km Kayenta trail, which climbs to the Emerald Pool trails, where we continued on the Lower Emerald Pool trail for 1,9 km. This ends up at the Emerald pool and waterfalls.
If I would have to choose, Bryce would be my favourite National Park. It’s so colourful. Actually, it appears to not be an actual canyon, but rather a series of amphitheatres of rock formations with conifers.
We started again rather early in the morning, to avoid the crowds. We took the Rim trail, which is 17,7 km round trip from Fairyland to Bryce Point. It offers amazing views on Bryce from on top and takes you along several lookout points, like Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. We ended up at Bryce Point, famous for its extraordinary sunrises and scenic vista of the full amphitheatre.
Up to the next state, to visit Mesa Verde National Park. It’s a totally different one, compared to the other National Parks. If you know some Spanish, it’s translated as Green Table. It learns us how the Ancestral Pueblo people lived, from 600 to 1.300 AD. The park actually protects 5.000 known and well preserved archaeological sites.
A very knowledgeable park ranger told us everything about the place and gave us some insight in how life would have been so long ago.
After our tour in Mesa Verde, somewhat further south, we entered Monument Valley. Passing the various sandstone masterpieces on our way in, we were in awe. It’s overwhelming, not only because of its beauty, but also because of its size.
Natural forces of wind and water eroded the land for the past 50 million years, with altering layers of rock slowly revealing the natural wonders of the plateau. The actual landmarks can only be accessed via guided tours. We unfortunately didn’t have the time to take one, but we were able to admire the famous panorama of the Mittens and Merrick Butte from our hotel balcony. Nothing wrong with that view…
The next morning, we were already awake before 5am, in order to be ready to witness the sunrise in all its glory. Best morning ever…
Still the most famous of all parks, I guess, is the Grand Canyon. Together with Zion and Bryce Canyon, it’s actually part of a geologic wonder known as the Grand Staircase, an immense area of rock with layered sedimentary formations, of which the oldest are about 2.000 million years old… pretty impressive, isn’t it?
First, we investigated a very tiny part of the park by foot. A few days later, we would fully understand the size of it by exploring it by helicopter, starting from Las Vegas.
Again, a lot of possibilities in view of trails – both in view of multiple day as well as one day hikes. We opted for the South Kaibab Trail, which is accessed by shuttle bus. Although it’s rather steep and has little or no shade, it’s said to offer the best views for a relatively short hike. It’s also used by mules, so you have to watch out and make sure to step away in time, as far as possible from the edge, as they pass. We didn’t finish the entire trail, but only made it up until Cedar Ridge, which is only about 4,5 km round. However, we put it on our bucket list to take a multiple day hike in the Canyon, hopefully in the near future…
The helicopter tour was great, although it rained a bit that day and therefore the colours didn’t really come out as much. We didn’t only see the Grand Canyon but also the Hoover Dam as well as Las Vegas itself.