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Posted December 1, 2021 in Adventure Journals by Jim Markel
Runner up winner for our Summer Adventure Journals, Anthony A. scored a nifty Bushbaby Neon Green Medium Packing Cube for his highly informative adventures in the National Parks in Utah and Colorado while exploring with his handsome family. His vast collection of Red Oxx Gear consists of a dozen bags of all kinds in a rainbow of colors. Anthony relates the joy he and his family experienced hiking The Narrows and Arches. He offers a splendid guide to some of the best places to visit during their trip to these lovely National Treasures.
We went on a road trip to Southern Utah from June 12-20. It was my wife, our three sons, and myself. Between us, we took:
Our gear on the deck at Red Cliffs Lodge, Colorado River in the background.
We hiked The Narrows in Zion National Park; several trails in Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks, enjoyed horseback riding at Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River just outside Moab, and talked to nearly every employee of every bike shop in Moab.
That’s what you do when your son has aspirations of becoming a professional mountain bike rider!
None of us had been to any of those parks before, and their beauty is truly jaw-dropping. I say that as someone who’s got Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks in my own back yard, and have been to them countless times over the past 40 years, hiking many trails, many times.
In Zion, you have to hike The Narrows. It’s a slot canyon out of which flows the north fork of the Virgin River. We’re already planning a return trip to hike the entire canyon, since we only hiked in a few miles this time. You’re literally hiking up the river in the water for most of the way through the canyon. It is really amazing.
The businesses there in Springdale have things dialed in pretty well. They offer items for sale or rent that are considered necessities for hiking The Narrows, as well as other parts of the park.
We went in to Happy Camper Market and Sol Foods for some groceries. Happy Camper was fine, but Sol Foods was awesome – great selection of groceries, plus a deli, soup and salad bar, and open late since many restaurants in Springdale close early.
Me and the boys hiking The Narrows.
Zion Outfitter has gear for sale or rent, and you’ll need some of it, depending on what you take with you on the hike.
Trailhead Gifts and Gear has good, relevant, gear for sale too. Food choices abound here, but most restaurants close early, so eat early or plan on hitting Sol Foods for grub.
Bryce Canyon has some spectacular hoodoos (if I tell you what they are, it will spoil your adventure) that you’ll want to hike through. Bryce is located at over 8,000 feet elevation, so be prepared for that. The hikes are on the short side, but steep with a lot of switchbacks. Combined with the altitude, it’s a cardio workout no matter which hikes you do.
Couple of other cool things about Bryce Canyon: the park is open 24/7, and it’s a designated dark sky preserve, so if you want to see more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the beach, go into the park at night, specifically to Piracy Point or Paria View.
Ruby’s Inn and another Best Western are the hotels, with a Bryce Canyon Resort a mile or two outside of town. The Ruby’s Inn group seems to own everything in the tiny town, so food choices are very limited, as well as things to do that aren’t park-related. No real outfitter stores for the hikes. Entertainment in town is a country music show at Ebenezer’s Bar & Grill, or a rodeo at certain times of the year.
The star of the area is the park, so come prepared to see it and be amazed, then move on to your next adventure.
Arches National Park is also spectacular. We saw all of the arches of note in one morning, except for the Delicate Arch. It’s a strenuous hike, and it’s really popular, so it’s crowded from 6 A.M. on. Since we went on our trip in the middle of a heat wave, we skipped that arch this time.
Me and our two younger boys at the Double Arch.
We did see plenty of others, and they were easy enough hikes with great payoffs at the end. I can recommend all of them.
If you go to the Landscape Arch, be sure to hike all the way to it to get an idea of the scale. We stopped short about 1/3 of a mile, and my family didn’t get a true sense of just how big that arch is. I did because I saw a bird flying above it that put the size of that arch into perspective. It is huge, but you really have to hike all the way to it to see that. If you go to the Delicate Arch early, you can see all the arches in the park in a day.
Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River was wonderful. It’s 14 miles off the highway, and there’s no cell service, so you REALLY get to disconnect if you want to. Serene, quiet, friendly, and relaxing best describe the place. Makes the trip into Moab longer than staying at a hotel in town, but it’s worth it, in my opinion. Restaurant food is expensive, but you can grab groceries in town if you want. They also have a winery on site if you enjoy a little wine tasting.
Pastured Horses at Red Cliffs Lodge.
Moab itself is a really cool town, with a cool vibe. Laid back, friendly, open people working in the restaurants, bike shops, and gift shops. The restaurants we visited were great: Antica Forma, The Spoke on Center, and Moab Diner provided great food and great service. Moab Diner is the perfect spot to have a late breakfast/early lunch after you’ve been to Arches in the morning.
Poison Spider, Rim Cyclery, and Moab Cyclery get special mention for being friendly, helpful, and legit bike fanatics. We did not do any mountain bike off-roading or river rafting, but that is available from several outfitters in town.
Everywhere we went, the people were outstanding. If you’re into mountain biking, off-roading, river rafting, or all of the above, Moab is the place for you.
It was really an amazing trip, and our family had an absolutely wonderful time, and we made memories to last a lifetime.
Our teen wants to return to Moab to take one cycle shop owner up on his offer of employment, and to ride all the trails.
ALL of our boys want to return to Zion to do more hikes, and to hike the entirety of The Narrows. It can best be summed up by our youngest’s remark while hiking up the Virgin River in The Narrows:
"Dad, we HAVE to go hiking more. This is awesome!"
That, we will, and our Red Oxx bags will carry all of our gear when we do.
Make it a great day!
The wife and boys at Two Bridges in Bryce Canyon.
This is a great guide to all the sites, smells, and sounds of these unique National Parks. I’ve been to Moab and loved it. Your Adventure Journal Contest prize makes a great sandwich packer as you can slip it onto your belt or drop it in your backpack. Hope you get a chance to try it out on your next hike.
~ Cheers, Jim Markel CEO