So, my best friend and I have just spent the last 10 days visiting some of the worlds most iconic national parks in America. It's safe to say, this has hands down been one of the best trips of my life! If you enjoy holidays which are jam-packed with challenging activities, incredible scenery, and fun filled road trips, I can't recommend this trip highly enough!
However be warned, these are no walks in the park. I would recommend having all the right equipment, getting some training in and being really organised when it comes to booking accommodation and excursions.
Get that notebook and pen at the ready.
I flew from London Gatwick to LAX for only £410 - pretty cheap! I flew with Norwegian airlines, which I must admit offers the very basic when it comes to flying long haul. The airline supplied no headphones, drink service, blanket or pillow and the food must be pre-booked and paid extra for. However, if you're looking to travel on a budget and don't care about all the extras, they are the airline to go for!
My friend lives in LA, so we stayed at her apartment for one evening before leaving for the Grand Canyon the next day. We packed the car of all the essentials:
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping mat (do not underestimate the important of a decent mat, mine was crap and I was freezing at night!)
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking poles
- Hiking clothes
- Charging power pack
- Cooking equipment
OFF WE GOOOO: May 11th - May 18th 2018
This adventure led us on a roadtrip from California across Arizona & Utah (including stops at the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park & more).
Six months planning went in to this trip (including waking up at 7am exactly six months before the big day to make sure we secured the best campsites). Now, it was finally time to begin our Trail Babes adventure!
Day 1: We left Los Angeles on Friday AM & began the 7 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. We detoured along Route 66 between Kingman & Seligman (Hackberry General Store was interesting to see but personally didn’t think it was worth adding time to the drive). We also made a pit stop in Williams (the last town before the Grand Canyon) which was a great place to stock up on groceries & do a little perusing.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon just in time for sunset so we drove straight to Yavapai Point & enjoyed the views. We then checked in at Bright Angel Lodge where we spent the first night (after walking up the rim to the El Tovar Hotel for dinner in the hotel lounge).
Day 2: The next morning we woke up with the anticipation of doing a day hike down Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (12 mile round trip) which is the first point that you can look down & see the river (it isn’t recommended to go down to the river & back in one day). We figured we’d play our odds & headed to the Phantom Ranch check in desk which was in our lodge lobby. Phantom Ranch has been a bucket list item for FOREVER, but you have to enter a lottery 15 months in advance & it’s extremely competitive to get (as it’s the only accommodation actually inside the Canyon). We hit the jackpot as there were two no shows for the women’s dorm (& no one had shown up from the waitlist), so we booked ourselves in & started packing for the adventure. We hadn’t planned to do any overnight treks so we fit what we could in our day bags & started heading down into the Canyon via the Bright Angel Trail.
There are two routes down to Phantom Ranch (Bright Angel Trail & South Kaibab Trail) but we were already at the trail head for Bright Angel & we heard it was the better route for your knees, as it’s less steep, so we took that route.
It was a 9.5 mile trek down to the river which encompassed so much beauty with every step. The first half of the trail was filled with day hikers but after the Indian Garden rest point, we had the place to ourselves. Once we hit the Colorado River, we were filled with gratitude & excitement as we looked back at where we had come from & were surrounded by a 360 degree view of the Canyons. We walked along the river, crossed a bridge, strolled past the campsite & then we were at our destination. Such an amazing feeling!
We checked into our dorm room for the night (#3) & met the eight other adventurers we would be sharing the night with. We grabbed ourselves a much needed beverage from the Ranch Kitchen & walked down to the river to bathe our very sore feet in the cold water. We met two Australian chefs who cooked up a feast while we used our Jet Boil to cook some grains with Salmon & all shared a bottle of wine. We watched the sunset & the stars come out in between the Canyons & then headed to bed.
Day 3: We were woken up for the 5am sunrise followed by a family style breakfast with our fellow campers before beginning our trek back out of the Canyon. We decided to take on the challenge of the steeper 7.5 mile climb out of the canyon via the South Kaibab trail. We were warned that there were no water refill stations on this trail so we stocked up & headed out. Phantom Ranch can be accessed via foot or mules, & the mules departed the Ranch shortly after us. As we began to climb out of the Canyon, we made it a goal to stay ahead of the mules! We had been advised that the trek would take between 6-8 hours but we did it in 4.5 hours. We enjoyed every minute of the different perspective as we hiked back up to the Rim. Once we made it to the top, we couldn’t feel our legs but it was the most incredible feeling!
Next, we headed to Mather Campground where we were spending the night & set up our tent for the night (highly recommend Oak Loop, Site 232). We took a much needed shower (8 minutes for $2) & drove to the grocery store to get some ice so we could chill a well-deserved bottle of wine. We made chili (Patagonia Provisions) & salad for dinner followed by making s’mores over the fire before heading to bed.
Day 4: The next day of our adventure was another early start. We packed up & started the drive to Antelope Canyon. We booked a package tour that included both the Lower Antelope walking tour & kayaking on Lake Powell (you can’t visit Antelope Canyon without a tour). We highly recommend doing both as it gave you a completely different perspective of the canyons & the kayaking was much quieter & a nice change of pace. Lower Antelope Canyon was busy, but beautiful. It was a place that everyone needs to see once in their life! We got lucky that our guide normally led a photography tour so he was excited to take ample awesome photos of the Trail Babes! After the one hour stroll through the Canyon, we climbed out & headed to Lake Powell. The kayaking experience was calming & super stunning. We kayaked 3 miles into the Canyons & 3 miles out.
After our package tour, we took a quick detour to see Horse Shoe Bend which was definitely worth it. Its beauty was surreal! They are preparing to build a fence around the look out, so if you want to see it, head out their ASAP. We wouldn’t recommend it as a destination (because it only requires a quick visit) but if you’re in the area, don’t miss it!
We then continued on the road to Bryce National Park. We didn’t realize we were going to lose an hour, so when we arrived at the Bryce Canyon Sunset Campsite, it was already 10pm (highly recommend Loop B, site B262).We set up the tent & literally fell asleep in our day clothes.
Day 5: The next morning, we made quick oats at the campsite for breakfast & then headed out on a day hike. We combined the Navajo Loop & Queens Garden Trail starting & ending at Sunrise Point (via the Rim trail). It was approximately 4 miles round trip& was a great opportunity to see a lot of what the park had to offer. We ended our Bryce visit at Bryce Point to see a different perspective of the voodoos & then headed to Zion National Park. Bryce was on the bucket list & we are so happy we visited but it is a smaller park so you don’t need to spend more than a day visiting. It is super dog & kid friendly too!
We entered Zion from the East & drove for approximately 30 minutes through the beautiful Zion Canyons & checked in at the Zion Lodge. We were so relived to climb into a bed but the relaxation was short lived before we headed to the Lodge gift shop to rent bikes ($25 per bike for half day). We biked through the Canyons & down to The Narrows trail head. We locked up the bikes & took the short Riverside walk (2 miles roundtrip) so we could see the start of The Narrows experience. After an amazing bike ride back up to the Lodge, we headed to the Lodge restaurant for dinner. The brownie & ice-cream was a happily accepted treat!
Day 6: Today was our last day & we woke up feeling well rested & ready to take on a new challenge. The Angels Landing trail was too tempting to turn down! We took the 8am shuttle from the Lodge to the trail head stop & began the climb. The first 1.9 miles was a steep, winding climb that flew by. The last 0.5 miles were exhilarating as we made our way across the top of the Canyon holding onto the metal chains provided. DON’T do this last 0.5 miles if you are afraid of heights!! We were at the top of the Canyon before we knew it admiring the 360 degree view of the national park (4.8 miles round trip). It was such a surreal moment knowing how much we had accomplished over the past 6 days. The hike back was a lot busier, so we would highly recommend getting up early to do this trail without the crowds, it’s worth it! After getting back to the Lodge, we packed up the car & were on our way.
We made a pit stop for two nights in Las Vegas on the way back & then made the final drive back to Los Angeles.
It was the most amazing experience & we made countless memories. Definitely a successful Trail Babes adventure!
Head to https://www.thetrailbabes.com/