Utah Trip: Monument Valley Sunrise, Arches National Park

We’ve finally arrived at the last day of the trip! I woke up for sunrise in Monument Valley, and ended the day outside of Arches National Park in Moab.

This was the easiest sunrise I’ve ever woken up for. Alarm was set to 7:30am, and all I had to do was get out of bed and walk over to the sliding glass doors.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

(Ok, I did also throw on some shoes and run down the hall to get to the hotel’s viewing deck for some of these. Still the chillest sunrise shoot ever.)

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Doesn’t get much better than that, eh?

I had a relaxed morning, since my next (and last stop) was Arches National Park in Moab — only a few hours away! I took advantage of the hotel’s breakfast buffet and face-timed my dad to show him the awesome view.

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

After packing up and checking out, I took my final few glances of Monument Valley from the public viewing deck. Don’t those off-roaders look like they’re having the best time? Definitely not something I could attempt in my little Nissan (actually, I had to sign something at the rental place explicitly stating I wouldn’t, lol.)

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

Utah Trip Monument Valley The View Hotel Sunrise

You know that scene in Forrest Gump where he decides to stop running? That’s the road out of Monument Valley, on the way to Moab! With the number of times people have quoted Forrest Gump to me in my life (oh the joys of sharing a name with a character) of course I had to stop and take a picture.

Utah Trip Monument Valley Forrest Gump Road

The drive to Moab went surprisingly fast. I arrived well before my hotel’s check-in time, so I decided to just head straight to Arches National Park.

I gotta be honest. By this day of the trip I was pretty exhausted, and didn’t get to take advantage of Arches as much as I would’ve liked. While I did make a whole bunch of stops at a whole bunch of arches, I didn’t do much hiking. One of the most popular hikes is to Delicate Arch, but I chose to take the shorter route up to the view point. If you’re going to be there though, I’d recommend skipping the view point and just doing the full hike. Delicate Arch was so far in the distance that it was almost comical.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Delicate Arch

See what I mean?

Still, Arches is awesome. Before heading out on this trip I had a lot of people tell me that their favorite place in Utah is Moab, and I can see why. There’s SO much to do!

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Park Avenue

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Balanced Rock

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch
Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

One of my favorite arches was Sand Dune Arch (above). It’s a little bit hidden, and it’s just a cool experience to walk through the sand to get to it. The picture below is the rock formations it’s hidden within.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Sand Dune Arch

I also stopped at Skyline arch. When I parked I could see some people standing right up in there, but when I followed the trail I couldn’t see how they’d done it. I decided it was definitely not best to try to find out!

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Skyline Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Delicate Arch

Hands down, my favorite arch was Double Arch. It was also the last stop I made in the park, and I am SO glad I did. The scale of it is just incredible.

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

It was also one of the most popular arches I stopped at (I edited a billion people out of that photo.)

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

Utah Trip Moab Arches National Park Double Arch

After that, I made my way back into Moab, checked into my hotel, and grabbed a very unglamorous dinner from Pizza Hut. The next day I drove back to Salt Lake City for my flight home! (Someone please remind me why I keep thinking red eye flights are a good idea?)

So that’s it for road trip number 3! I promise I don’t intentionally drag out these vacation recaps — juggling a full-time job, a part-time job, hobbies and a blog is not always the easiest task.

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
A Day in Zion National Park
Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend, AZ
Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley by Night

 
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Utah Trip: Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley by Night

After sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, I still had four hours to go before the first of my Antelope Canyon tours. I was taking two tours, a group tour of Upper Antelope Canyon through Navajo Tours, and a photographer’s tour of Lower Antelope Canyon with Ken’s Tours. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are pretty close to each other in Page, AZ, so luckily I would be able to relax for a while and not have to be on the move.

had been planning on hanging out at the Starbucks I had seen on highway signs, but it turned out to be a Starbucks inside a grocery store, with 2 tables, crap wifi, and no outlets. Not ideal. I ended up hanging out at River’s End Cafe, which was oddly enough inside an outfitter and rafting adventure shop. It was a good find though, I was able to edit photos for a few hours, use their wifi, and eat a delicious breakfast sandwich.

I also got talking to two college-age guys from California who were roadtripping the southwest on their spring break. This is when I discovered how important it was that I had booked both my tours weeks in advance — they were calling around trying to get on one, and they were all full up. We also found out that I had been able to get on one of the last photography tours of the season for Lower Antelope Canyon, so that was super lucky!

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

I went with an early afternoon tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, because I had read it was the best time of day to possibly catch the light rays streaming in. Still wasn’t a guarantee though, as the rays are mostly seen in the summer when the sun is high in the sky. After hopping aboard a truck with my group, we drove through sand about 10 minutes to the entrance to the canyon. Upper Antelope canyon is named such because you’re able to walk right into the slot canyon. And I could not have timed my tour better — when we arrived at the entrance there was a bit of a back log of groups trying to get in because, as we soon discovered, a light ray was shining into one of the first sections. By the time we looped back, the beam was gone. I feel so lucky to have witnessed it!

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

I’ll admit, it was really hard to narrow down these photos. Everywhere you look, it’s stunning. The canyon is orange sandstone, but the way the light hits make the shadows appear purple. It’s otherworldly. Our guide told us that the canyon had been discovered by a young Navajo girl in the 1930s, while she was shepherding sheep.

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is an out-and-back tour, so groups walk through the canyon, exit into the desert again, then loop back through the canyon again to get back to the vehicles.

After this tour, all I had to do was drive across the street to my tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. As I mentioned earlier, I was doing a special photography tour of this canyon. This means I was in a much smaller group (just me, two other women, and our guide Justin) and we were required to bring tripods. It was well worth it, as it allowed me to get much sharper images than I was able to in the upper canyon.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

There was so much to photograph! Things felt a little hectic — as much as we wanted to stay in one spot and take it all in, we had to keep moving from chamber to chamber if we wanted to hit all of them within the time allotted for the tour.

Lower Antelope Canyon has an entrance and exit, unlike the upper canyon, and our tour started from the exit so we’d be able to shoot without clogging up the other tours too much.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Did you see the woman’s face, blowing out wind?

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Our guide, Justin, helped us set up a few of the more famous shots. (The above picture is one of them — do you see the fiery waves?)

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Do you see the guy on the stairs in the distance? Really gives a sense of the scale of this place, both canyons were much taller than I’d been anticipating!

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

There’s the ladder that took us back up top. The picture below is what the area looks like from above — so unassuming! You’d never guess that magical labyrinth was just a few steps away.

Utah Trip Lower Antelope Canyon

Because of the unexpected Utah-to-Arizona time difference, I didn’t time this last tour correctly to be back to my hotel in Monument Valley for sunset. However I did manage to do some shopping for gifts and souvenirs at the hotel’s trading post! I also tried my hand at astrophotography for the first time, from the comfort of my hotel room. I think it could’ve turned out better (there was some light pollution from the rooms and the moon was out) but it’s still pretty neat! I’d love to try again sometime, although I think I’d have to get pretty far from home in NJ to find a place without too much light pollution!

Utah Trip Monument Valley Astrophotography

Utah Trip Monument Valley Astrophotography

Next Up:
Arches National Park

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
A Day in Zion National Park
Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend, AZ

 

Utah Trip: A Day in Zion National Park

I had to go back to my calendar and check how many days I spent in Zion National Park, because I can’t believe I managed to pack so much into only one day there.

During the low season visitors are able to drive their cars through the main part of Zion, however I was visiting in the very early weeks of their regular season which meant park shuttles were the only means of transportation through the main road. Because of this, I decided to start my morning out with the one hike on my list that I’d be able to drive to, the Canyon Overlook trail.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

It’s indisputable that the best views in Zion National Park are on the world-famous Angel’s Landing trail. However at 3+ hours and with a few somewhat treacherous sections, I wasn’t comfortable doing that one on my own. A great backup option is the Canyon Overlook trail. It’s just one mile roundtrip and still provides a breathtaking view at the end.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

That little bridge was the scariest part! I never trust that those things will hold me. Hiking for me is a constant battle between my fear of heights, and my strong desire to see things from higher vantage points. The struggle is real.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

After the Canyon Overlook hike, I drove back into town for a bit of lunch, making a couple photo stops along the way. I wanted to avoid the hottest time of day before hopping onto the shuttle for a bit more exploration (unfortunately the light for photographs ended up being harsh well into the afternoon, whatcha gonna do.) It might have been blizzarding at home, but it was in the 80s in Zion, which I welcomed greatly.

Here’s my rental car for scale — no pictures could have prepared me for how astounding Zion truly is in person. Also, I love that my rental car had Pennsylvania plates. I come all the way out west, but had a part of the east coast with me the whole time.

Utah Trip Zion National Park

The shuttle system in Zion is really quite convenient, although I imagine it gets crowded in the summer season. Not only is there a park shuttle that makes stops at every hiking opportunity, but there’s a town shuttle in Springdale that makes several stops in town before dropping you off at the park entrance.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Cactus

My first order of business was to take the shuttle all the way to the last stop. This way I could enjoy the scenery along the way, and make some decisions about where I wanted to stop on the trip back. This didn’t work out completely as planned…I’m embarrassed to admit that the combination of the earlier hike, lunch, and the warm sun lulled me to sleep. I woke up at the last stop having missed much of the 45 minute trip there! No matter though, a little nap was just what I needed to rejuvenate myself for the rest of the afternoon.

The last shuttle stop is at the Temple of Sinwava, which includes a flat riverside trail that eventually leads to the famous Narrows trail. The Narrows was closed when I was there due to snow melt, not that I had planned on doing it this trip!

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

Utah Trip Zion National Park Temple of Sinawava

After this little hike, I hopped back on the shuttle and decided to hike the Emerald Pools trails at The Grotto stop. If memory serves, the lower trail was closed (they were rebuilding the path after a ) but that was fine by me, as I wanted to get a bit higher up. Just like the last trail, this one was quite heavily trafficked. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating running into so many people, but honestly I don’t mind it when I’m alone. It makes me feel a bit safer knowing there’s lots of people around, although it does put a damper on enjoying nature when a group of college students walk by blasting rap out of a portable speaker…

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools
Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Still, I really enjoyed this one! Not hard at all (I saw many children along the way) and great views from the top! Well, from the middle. I had only planned on hiking to the middle falls, which is exactly what I did. I know I didn’t do any particularly crazy hikes this day, but between those and driving 6+ hours the day before, I was feeling pretty beat.

I really hope I can make it back to Zion National Park again someday. It is absolutely stunning, and I know I only scratched the surface! Next time, Angel’s Landing for sure.

Utah Trip Zion National Park Emerald Pools

Next Up:
Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon

Previously:
Park City, and the Most Beautiful Wedding
The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

Maine Road Trip: Camden and Maiden’s Cliff

I’m back from Utah and I promise those posts are coming soon, but I have one more Maine post to share! On the way back from Acadia I stopped in Camden for a little hike and some lunch.

Maine Road Trip Camden Maiden's Cliff

The view from the Maiden’s Cliff hike is pretty spectacular. The hike itself is 2 miles round trip, and at the time I went it wasn’t heavily trafficked. After hiking uphill through the forest, I arrived at the cliff and took in the view. Definitely recommend this one!

Maine Road Trip Camden Maiden's Cliff

Maine Road Trip Camden Maiden's Cliff

How fun would it be to live on one of those little islands?

After the hike it was time for lunch (and my last lobster roll of the trip, sadly not the best). I took some time to explore the picturesque town of Camden as well, where fall was in full swing.

Maine Road Trip Camden

Maine Road Trip Camden
Maine Road Trip Camden

Maine Road Trip Camden

I ended the night with friends in New Hampshire, before heading back to New Jersey the next day. Thus ends my Maine blogs! Better late than never!

Previously:
Day 1 and 2: Portland, Rockland, and Cadillac Mountain
Day 3: Acadia National Park
Day 4: Acadia National Park (Day 2)

Maine Road Trip: Acadia National Park (Day 2)

If you read the last Maine recap, you’ll recall my first day in Acadia National Park was cool and overcast. My second day was a complete 180 — an unseasonably warm 65 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. Lucky that I had planned my first ever solo summit hike for this day, and not the day before!

Main Road Trip Acadia National Park

I started the day very early with a drive over to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, which is technically a part of Acadia National Park, though not within the section with the loop road (it’s about a half hour away). It was fun to get out and explore more of the area, where I took the above picture of a cool dock (I’m assuming the tide comes in very high and this dock would then serve a purpose?)

Main Road Trip Acadia National Park Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Good thing it was low tide. As you can see, this angle of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is only accessible during low tide. The lighthouse is built right on the edge of a cliff, so you pretty much need to be in the ocean to see it properly. Navigating the rocks was not an easy task, but luckily there were a few other people there who pointed me towards the best route.

Main Road Trip Acadia National Park Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
 
Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

(I have no idea how that dog managed to get out there with it’s owner, but I’m proud of him.)

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Bass Harbor

After the lighthouse I explored the area a little bit, taking a different route back. I found this idyllic little scene near a lobster hut (sadly closed for the season) (also it was barely breakfast time so it’s not like they would’ve been open anyway).

Maine Road Trip Somesville

The light was starting to get pretty harsh at this point as it approached 10am, but I had to get a stop in at the picturesque little bridge in Somesville before finally getting some breakfast.

Maine Road Trip Somesville

Maine Road Trip Somesville

Maine Road Trip Somesville

I forgot to mention in my last post, but Jordan’s is a MUST for breakfast in Bar Habor. I’m pretty sure I went every morning I was there. Treat yourself to the blueberry pancakes (made with wild Maine blueberries, of course) and you won’t be disappointed.

A note on solo dining: I know this is a lot of people’s biggest fear when traveling by themselves, because eating alone has this weird cultural stigma. But it really comes in handy at a place like Jordan’s, where most people are arriving in parties of 4 or more, but YOU dear solo traveler will be sat instantly as a party of one. Bring a book, and stop worrying about what other people think.

Full of delicious pancakes, it was time to conquer MY biggest solo traveler fear: hiking alone. (127 Hours was traumatizing.)

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain

I had already decided to do the Gorham Mountain hike, because it was under 2 miles round trip with a great view from the summit. I was really lucky to get a parking spot in the small lot at the trailhead. The lot was packed, and yet I weirdly only saw a few groups on the hike itself.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain I had read that a lot of people make the mistake of stopping at the mountain’s false summit (this is actually where I ran into the most people), so I knew to keep following the cairns until I made it to the very top.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain
Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain

While this was a pretty easy hike (for my skill level, at least), I was really proud of myself for getting over my fear of hiking alone. (For the record, I would probably only do moderately short hikes like this on my own. Too many variables to contend with on longer ones–especially in areas with no cell reception.)

By the way, in case you’re thinking of doing Gorham, the trail itself continues on past the summit to connect with the Bee Hive trail, which is a much more difficult hike. Just be aware of this, so you don’t accidentally continue on.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Gorham Mountain

After Gorham I wanted to go back to Jordan Pond and walk the loop trail. Full disclosure: it took way longer than I was expecting, and with having done Gorham earlier my legs started protesting long before I got back to my car. It’s not a terribly interesting trail, but you do get some cool views of The Bubbles, and the foliage was gorgeous. The warm weather really made this one worthwhile despite the pain.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond
 
Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

Sunset was shaping up to be a lovely one, so I knew I wanted to end my last day in Acadia back at Blue Hill. Since I still had some time, I drove to the Cadillac Mountain summit first to take in the easterly view.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain

While I never managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to catch sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, I can imagine it’s beautiful. During the first half of the year, Cadillac Mountain is actually the first point in the US to see sunrise.

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain
Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain

With the sun setting and the wind picking up, it was getting pretty darn freezing up there. But I was determined to enjoy another sunset. I planted myself on Blue Hill with a book and 45 mins to go. By the time the sun started setting in earnest, I was an ice cube. But a happy ice cube, because look at that light!

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain

Maine Road Trip Acadia National Park Cadillac Mountain

I had only one more stop on my schedule this day. Can you guess what it was?

Maine Road Trip Bar Harbor Lobster Company

That’s right, a lobster roll from Bar Harbor Lobster Company. Perfect end to an excellent day.

Previously:
Day 1 and 2: Portland, Rockland, and Cadillac Mountain
Day 3: Acadia National Park