Arizona/Utah road trip loop with sandstone/badlands/canyon hikes

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Ross

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May 18, 2012
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281
Man, it’s hard to choose your favourite photos as there’s so much amazing stuff in the South West, so rather than break this up to small trip reports I’ve thrown in this circular road trip into one TR.

After a week of canyons on Lake Powell - a few shots here -


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I headed to Monument Valley for a couple of days relaxation, but the planned off-road overnight trip there couldn’t go ahead because a sandstorm had made the 4WD track impassable. Instead I just took in a sunrise and later did the touristy loop tour which, when I last did it about 20 years ago, wasn’t allowed in your own vehicle but now it is..


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A drive to the Vermillion Cliffs gave me about 4 hours to hike around the sandstone domes and slickrock until at sunset I found a patch of beautiful
Soft sand to lay down for the night,

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Giving the finger!!
Bac
k at
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ar



Excited about what sunrise would bring as there was an area in the distance that I knew nothing about but which looked an interesting place to explore.
Indeed when I awoke another 2-3 hours of hiking fairly aimlessly flew by.
My DSLR has been destroyed in a soaking on Lake Powell so these were all taken on an iPhone, and not a recent model. I wonder how much better they might have been with my DSLR.





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Back at the car by late lunchtime, I drove to another nearby area I’d visited a few years ago - this time wandering around with no particular target in mind for another very pleasant 3 hours. It looked promising for pictures and didn’t disappoint.


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Living in Europe, most of my trips have specific places in mind to see so it was fun to do rather more vague exploration in that area.

The loop then went way out of Arizona/Utah again to somewhere I’d left before feeling I had more to see. Years ago with a small rental not suited to sand I’d stood at the turn off for the 5 miles to Font Point at sunrise without seeing a car. It then got too hot & too late - we had to check out our motel - to hike the somewhat dull & sandy 10 miles. This time I was again disappointed to only get an AWD & not a 4WD but I risked it & I was fine. With increased visitor numbers to the parks there were also two other cars there this time, although it was sunset when more people would go.
I do love the barrenness of badlands ( as well as the Springsteen song)

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Inspired by that view the next morning I decided to take the longer, sandier & riskier drive to the other best rim point. Sunrise and August with temperatures hitting 110 I would be alone but I reckoned with enough water army 7am I could still hike 10 miles to paved road if the vehicle did get stuck.
I got 4/5 the way when I reached a steep hill. I could have continued all the way ok but my concern was getting back up it so I hiked the remainder. This view was supposedly not as good but I liked it as much.

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The hike back to the car was ok but I realised why people don’t hike in summer. But I had another slot to do nearby with another 2 miles uphill!
There’s a few nice slots in the park - not Utah quality - but enjoyable.

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Then after an evening under the Superstitions it was on to Petrified Forest NP.

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Cloudy most of the time, we had a nasty shock at one viewpoint when a sudden thunderclap and bolt of lightning came out of nowhere and sounded really close. We could see a Long way but had not heard or seen anything approaching prior to that & I don’t remember much after.


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A dawn drive to Grand Falls was followed by an eqully grey day until sunset produced a great rainbow.


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The loop was completed by another attempt at the trip in Monument valley but this time forest fire smoke made visibility so bad that it wasn’t worth getting up high for the view.

So instead another day was spent deeper in the Vermillion Cliffs Monument hiking off the sand tracks courtesy of my friend Jack. There were colourful looking areas of slickrock patterns I’d been frustrated to leave on a previous visit so we were able to check them out more fully. As we headed out Jack picked an inspired spot to camp which fortunately retained water from recent rains.

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Perry

Formerly Cuberant
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Stunning pictures! Thanks.


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SteveR

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Sep 22, 2016
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Very nice! Was needing some desert road trip pix to scratch the itch. Sorry to hear about the camera- until you mentioned it- I was wondering about the mushy or grainy quality to many of the images, but nonetheless you have some stunners in there.
 

Titans

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Thanks for sharing- I really enjoyed the photos. Vermillion Cliffs is beautiful!
There is never enough time on road trips in Utah/Arizona, right? You probably encountered a "dry thunderstorm" in Petrified Forest NP.
About the car rental: usually the Jeep Wrangler rentals are super expensive, but not always, did you look into that for this road trip? A few months ago I was checking rental prices in Arizona during school vacation and a Wrangler was priced cheaper than a regular car. Sometimes there is a very high demand for SUVs for families and it's cheaper to get a Wrangler. And @piper01 on her last trip to Utah went back to the counter, asked if she could switch to a Wrangler and got lucky.
 

piper01

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Oct 27, 2013
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Thanks for sharing- I really enjoyed the photos. Vermillion Cliffs is beautiful!
About the car rental: usually the Jeep Wrangler rentals are super expensive, but not always, did you look into that for this road trip? A few months ago I was checking rental prices in Arizona during school vacation and a Wrangler was priced cheaper than a regular car. Sometimes there is a very high demand for SUVs for families and it's cheaper to get a Wrangler. And @piper01 on her last trip to Utah went back to the counter, asked if she could switch to a Wrangler and got lucky.
I flew into SLC a few weeks ago and remembered to ask about Jeeps before they assigned my vehicle this time. They were running a deal where I could upgrade from the standard SUV I had reserved to a Wrangler for only $7 more per day. With all the taxes and airport fees tacked on, I ended up paying about $60/day total for it. I didn't actually need it for this trip since I just left it parked at the trailhead all week while I went backpacking, but it was still fun to have!
 

Ross

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May 18, 2012
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281
Thanks for sharing- I really enjoyed the photos. Vermillion Cliffs is beautiful!
There is never enough time on road trips in Utah/Arizona, right? You probably encountered a "dry thunderstorm" in Petrified Forest NP.
About the car rental: usually the Jeep Wrangler rentals are super expensive, but not always, did you look into that for this road trip? A few months ago I was checking rental prices in Arizona during school vacation and a Wrangler was priced cheaper than a regular car. Sometimes there is a very high demand for SUVs for families and it's cheaper to get a Wrangler. And @piper01 on her last trip to Utah went back to the counter, asked if she could switch to a Wrangler and got lucky.
Thanks. Interesting. Which rental company did you use for the Wrangler? I’ve heard you can get them at Vegas airport - but you have to reserve them about a year ahead because there are so few. Also at SLC, but flights to there are much more expensive


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Titans

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Thanks. Interesting. Which rental company did you use for the Wrangler? I’ve heard you can get them at Vegas airport - but you have to reserve them about a year ahead because there are so few. Also at SLC, but flights to there are much more expensive

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@Ross - Hertz. We always book very last minute or maybe a week or two ahead with Hertz and we also choose the "pay now" option, which knocks at least $100 off a weekly rental as compared to the "pay later". Rick is signed up for Hertz Gold - which means there is no waiting in line at the regular counter. We walk straight to the car and they just check the driver license at the gate. No fees for an extra driver and supposedly they have extra savings for Gold members.

At some airports, like Las Vegas and Phoenix ( and SLC coming in Oct-Nov) Hertz Gold has the "Ultimate Choice" - which means you can pick out the car that you want in a certain area of the lot (that's NOT going to be a Wrangler). But they some times add much nicer cars than you pay for and we lucked out several times with that.

Wrangler- in March I was looking for affordable Vegas, Phoenix or Tucson flights and rentals. Usually Las Vegas has the most affordable flights/car rentals, but all Vegas car rentals were very expensive. Phoenix (or Tucson) in contrast showed a Wrangler for much less than a mid size SUV. It didn't show up on the list initially, but I chose "show all cars" and there it was. Tempting, but all accommodations were expensive and very booked up in Tucson, so we ended up going to the redwoods in Northern California. Again in SFO it was the same story with car rentals in March: a regular mid size, full size or any SUV were all priced several hundred dollars higher than a Wrangler or a sports model car ( in Northern California we prefer a trunk, because it hides the luggage better from the many individuals "eager to break into your car", an issue at trailheads and towns along the coast). And @piper01 has the ultimate story in her TR from Burr trail rd about how you get a Wrangler!!! You just ask.

@piper01 - you are hooked now! Two times a Wrangler rental, I can't believe it stood still for a week at the trailhead :rolleyes:, but hopefully the backpacking was great!
 

piper01

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Oct 27, 2013
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@Ross I rented from Budget. For trips to Utah, check prices through the BudgetUtah website, they often have lower prices or better coupons than the corporate Budget site. I tried booking the Wrangler directly, but I got error messages that that vehicle wasn't available at that location. Obviously it was! It does make trip planning difficult when you don't know what vehicle you're getting or what types of roads it can handle.

@Titans I made sure to do some extra driving with it on my last day on roads that I usually wouldn't have taken. I was hoping to get to use the 4WD, but no such luck. The high clearance did come in handy though!
 

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Glasterpiece

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Nice pics.

I enjoyed our stay in the Sand Hills. After we separated I spent one night near the top of the grade to Jacob Lake. I could see the lights of Kanab in the distance. The next day I shot across N Arizona to Telluride. That's where they store a lot of the really beautiful mountains. Finished my season with a week in the Mojave Desert and then 3 weeks at Organ Pipe Cactus NM. Got home the third week of November.
 

Miya

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Wow such beautiful colors and textures in the rocks! Thanks for sharing!
 

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