This post is the continuation of the route Southwest Canyons. The story is divided in two parts. Part 2 covered in this post crosses the southern part of Utah taking in Canyonlands and its immediate south, Page, Bryce and Zion.
- Region: North America
- Country: United States
- States: Nevada (NV), Arizona (AZ), Utah (UT)
Highlights – Part 1
Highlights – Part 2
Photos & Maps
All photos used in this post can be browsed in large size in the post Southwest Canyons – Gallery in the section Galleries.
To explore the places of this route in an interactive map, follow the post Southwest Canyons – Maps in the section Maps.
Southwest Canyons – Part 2
The second stretch of this route covers the southern parth of Utah, through Canyonlands, Around Page, Bryce Canyons and Zion.
Needles Overlook point, Newspaper Rock.
Natural Bridges, Bears Ears, Moki Dugway
Around Page, Arizona
Antelope Canyon, Powell Lake, Horseshoe Bend.
Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome Basin.
Springdale, Zion Park.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Monticello is a mid-size town with a few good motels and cafes that is perfectly placed to use as a base to explore the east and south sides of Canyonlands National Park.
The park is an immense area of a flat bed with interesting rock formations surrounded by a range of high cliffs. The most famous overlook area is the area of Island in the Sky which is accessed from the north from closer to the city of Moab. A much quieter area which is equally impressive is the access from the east closer to Monticello, The Needles with its spikes rock formations. A truly unbeatable wide view over the whole area is the Needles Overlook, this is a small park area very well taken care and perfect for pick-nick when the weather is mild but too exposed when the sun is at its strongest.
On the road from Monticello into The Needles district, an interesting stop point is the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument. This site consists of a rock with hundreds of petroglyphs covering a few centuries of human life starting about 2000 years ago.
South of Canyonlands
To the South of Canyonlands, two areas worth of visit are the Natural Bridges National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. Natural Bridges is a small park that can be easily reached by a well paved road which ends in a round drive of 5 miles with stops at several hiking paths to the rock bridges. Not far from the Natural Bridges, a detour of a rough dirt road (road 092) takes us to the Bears Ears National Monument. These are twin peaks surrounded by a forest area.
Heading south via the road 261, we cross a really scenic drive at Moki Dugway where we are presented
with excellent views of cliffs when the landscape has a sudden drop of altitude. From here, the road continues to Mexican Hat and Kayenta where we continue all the way to Page.
Suggestions – Canyonlands and around
Page is a popular town as base for activities at the lake Powell. Wahweap and its large marina is the center to explore the lake with boat trips. Note that this is part of the National Park Service so it requires the same permit as national parks.
The most interesting natural sites near Page are the Antelope Canyons. These are narrow underground canyons that amaze visitors with its yellow and orange colors. There are two Canyons, Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. You will have to book with one of the tribal operators to get access to the Canyons. Ken’s tours was really good to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon. An even more impressive site is The Wave on the road to Kanab, though permits are notoriously difficult to obtain.
Just a short hop from Page there is a famous viewpoint of the Horseshoe Bend. The edge of the cliff is reached through a 10min walk from the car park. Be extremely careful with pictures and selfies as accidents happen here with people falling through the cliff just for a selfie. For both Wahweap and Horseshoe bend, avoid the hottest part of the day for the visit as these are very exposed areas without shadows.
Suggestions – Around Page
From Page to Bryce Village is a half day drive with a few occasions to stop. A break of the drive at Kanab and Red Canyon are highly recommended. At Kanab, a town that was used extensively by the movie industry for Wild West cowboys movies, there are great places for lunch or coffee. The other mandatory stop is at Red Canyon on road 12 for short hike with extremely photogenic views.
Bryce Canyon National Park is an impressive area excellent for refreshing hikes. Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, it is instead a number of large open natural amphitheaters along a plateau. Due to its higher altitude, at around 2400m (8000 f), the air is very fresh with pleasant temperatures for longer walks even in the peak of the summer hottest months. Once passing the gates of entrance in the park, there is a single road that heads south all the way to the Rainbow point. The best views and hikes are however in the areas of the Sunrise and Sunset Points. An easy and short hike through the main area is the Queens garden trail.
Regarding accommodation, Bryce Village has a nice historic themed Best Western, Ruby’s Inn. Inside the park, the Bryce Canyon Lodge is simple but great value for the location. These options are rather expensive and the places fill out fast ahead of busy periods. Great alternatives exist in the villages after Bryce along the scenic road 12, Tropic and Cannonville, which are also more intimate and quieter than Bryce. If you do stay along road 12, it is an excellent opportunity to visit Kodachrome Basin State Park, a few miles to the east, with its rocky high structures offering a different natural landscape.
Suggestions – Bryce Canyon
To the west of Bryce Canyon there is another Utah park even more popular with nature hikers, Zion National Park. The easiest access to Zion is through a town to the south, Springdale which has plenty of nice accommodation and restaurants to enjoy after the hikes. To get to Springdale, a drive through route 9 takes us through the park with great views.
Since during most of the year it is forbidden to drive with private cars through the main road heading north into the national park, there are several well-organized bus routes both in and outside the park. To get to the park, take the bus that runs along Springdale taking visitors to the park visitor entrance. Once in the park, there are many bus departures taking visitors north up to the most visited part of the park, The Narrows. There are stops along the way with plenty of trek opportunities for all difficulty levels.
The last bus stop inside the park is the start of the River walk that takes the visitors to the most famous hike of Zion, The Narrows. You will be walking the first part on a cement path along the river and later on the river with water up to the knees or waist in certain places. Care need to be taken with the weather as it is common to have floods after rains. This is a very refreshing trek which is pleasant in the summer months to escape the very hot and dry temperatures elsewhere in the region. Come prepared with wet boots and a stick which you can rent at the park entrance or Springdale but not in the park itself.
For more strenuous tracks, head to the Angels Landing trail which will take you up for the most scenic views. Otherwise, a very easy and accessible trail with few visitors is the Emerald Pools trails.
Suggestions – Zion
Zion was the last stop in this fabulous Southwestern Canyons route, from there we drove back to Las Vegas to take our flight back home.
We hope you enjoyed and keep following our website for more trips.