Nearly a year ago I made the move from New York to Chicago. My car was back in California (where I’m originally from). It was a rare opportunity, but I decided to drive back from California to Chicago, passing through Death Valley, Zion National Park for the Zion Half Marathon, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, and so much more. I mean, Utah did win the Top Destination in the World to Visit in 2016. And oh boy, it didn't disappoint.
The trip truly started in Zion with the Zion Half Marathon. Vacation Races has a National Parks half marathon series. It’s an amazing, rare experience to run through some of the most breathtaking areas in the US. Zion already sold out for this next year, Yosemite, Glacier, the Grand Tetons and more are still open. I ran the half marathon which winded the two lane road up to the gates of Zion National Park. The following two days were spent hiking and exploring.
If you have time, hike The Narrows and Angels Landing. Two unreal experiences totally worth the time and effort. Angels Landing is no joke. A steep 5 miles with drop-offs, 1,488 of elevation gain, and chains to hold on to for your life. It's not a trail for the elderly, the young, or the faint-hearted. For those who can stomach it, the view is one in the world, and TOTALLY worth it.
Following Zion we took the long drive to Monument Valley. There is a very innate spiritual and sacred sense that comes from Monument Valley. After driving through desolation and desert for hours it is as if the rock formations appeared from thin-air and stand tall, majestic and strong - clearly proclaim Navajo Nation. At night the sky opens to display more stars than you’ll likely ever see elsewhere. Monument Valley has very little light pollution, so it truly is a breathtaking experience. Be prepared, the winds can pick up at night. By morning, we were covered with red dirt that made it's way in our tent.
After a night in Monument Valley we traveled on to Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe is a true natural wonder, as the Colorado river nearly wraps completely around the rock formations. I had seen many, many photos of Horseshoe and decided it was one of my must-see places in life. Truth be told, getting the Horse Shoe sucks, and Page, AZ is less than desirable. Horseshoe, however, it worth it.
From Horseshoe we went to Moab, and wandered through Arches National Park. If only we had more time, Moab is a heaven for any dirt bike rider. A fantastic, crunchy granola, little hippy town that is really and truly just cool. But time was short, so spent a short 24 hours here and then drove on through Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, straight on to Chicago.
Utah should be on any outdoor must-see list. The landscape, scenery, and unique geological features make it absolutely stunning to see. Plus, with the Mighty 5 National Parks, it’s the trip of a lifetime and it’s right here in the US.