Road tripping is the quintessential American summer vacation. We joined the masses this year with a 10 day road trip through Arizona and Utah. Every year, (OK, this is only year 2, but we hope it continues for many years to come!), we set off with a friend and her family for a summer adventure at a US national park.
Our epic journey took us to 4 national parks as well as some classic American gems –Route 66, the wonders of the Grand Canyon, rafting down the Colorado River and hiking through a river at Zion. It truly was the ultimate family vacation with out of this world landscapes and off the beaten path fun for everyone.
My family’s adventure began in Los Angeles where we decided to take the slow road to the Grand Canyon via Route 66. Driving the Mother Road was such an adventure, even for my 4.5 yr old. Exploring a different kind of forest at Bottletree Ranch, petting wild burros in Oatman and having an ice cream at a historic drive-in in Seligman were some of the highlights. Given more time, we would have been happy to stop every few minutes to savor the delights of “old America”.
Heading towards the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, we were sidelined by Bearizona, a drive through animal park, on the turn-off between Willams, Arizona and the Grand Canyon. My son thought it was the coolest thing ever to see bears, bison and other animals walk right in front of our car. And..actually, it was pretty cool. Pulled between hanging with the animals or moving on, we finally hit the road looking forward to meeting our friends at the Grand Canyon.
Arriving to Grand Canyon Village feels a bit more like reaching a small town than a national park. But all is forgiven as soon as you set eyes on the massive canyons before you. Feasting our eyes on the Grand Canyon for the first time, we were presented with beauty that photos can never fully capture. It was awe-inspiring. However, I’m not sure my 4.5 yr old (or even myself for that matter) could really grasp how grand this canyon really is. Exploring by bus, foot and interactive displays located throughout the park, we took in everything we could muster in our few short days.
The next stop on our road trip was to our luxury rental house in Page, Arizona. Most people pop into Page for a quick visit, but there is so much to see here that it deserves a bit more time. A sunrise visit to Horseshoe Bend, a mid-day visit to the surreal and unreal Antelope Canyon and a gorgeous rafting trip down the always 47 degree Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam made this one our favorite stops on the trip.
Bookending our days with hikes and adventures during the cooler morning and evenings, we enjoyed swimming away the hottest part of the day in our glorious pool (a must in the summer in Arizona!).
Sad to move on from our luxurious home, but also ready to see what was next, we crossed the border of Utah heading straight to Grand Staircase-Escalante to learn about dinosaur fossils and let our littles earn their Junior Scientist badges. Never scared off by detours, we headed down a desolate dirt road to check out the beautiful ‘rainbow’ mountains in Paria which my son had spotted on my Pinterest feed and ‘had’ to see. This ghost town and former movie set town was a fun off the beaten path adventure, even in 110° temperatures!
Not finished yet, we packed in one more sight at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park where we played in red (not pink?) sand dunes in a freak rain shower. This is how we do driving days on a road trip – stop often!
As evening set in, we arrived to our classic 1970’s style motel at Zion National Park (Read more about where to stay and what to do at Zion). Our new home was equipped with a playground and pool surrounded by majestic Navajo Sandstone mountains on all sides. It is here that we truly felt ourselves become one with nature. Hiking through the Narrows, catching tadpoles in the Virgin River, shopping for rocks and relaxing in the adorable town of Springdale was the ideal place to end our multi-family adventure.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. It was time to head home. But, no road trip is complete without a stop at a random tourist trap. Ours was a quick visit to the Calico Ghost Town between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. An old silver mining town refurbished with an old timey feel by Knotts Berry Farm was a quirky end to a perfect family road trip holiday.
- Hiking the Narrows was by far the favorite activity of our trip. It was a unique, energizing and exhilarating way to explore Zion National Park.
- Climbing down steep ladders to explore crevices deep below the surface at Lower Antelope Canyon was an experience not to be missed (even in extreme heat and with massive crowds!)
- Rafting down the Colorado River, exploring ancient petroglyphs and dipping our feet (legs and bodies!) in ice cold 47 degree water is a must for adventure seeking families.
Road tripping through Arizona and Utah should be on every family’s bucket list. There are an abundance of things to do and see to keep even the most discerning of children (or adults) entertained.
See below for more detailed posts sharing the in’s and out’s of our epic journey through the amazing West!
- 7 Things to Do in Page Arizona (with Kids)
- Ultimate Guide to Exploring Zion National Park with Kids
- Hiking the Narrows with Kids
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