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  • Writer's pictureShayna Gaman-Bean

AZ-UT Loop

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

"There are no seven wonders of the world to a child. There are seven million." ~Walt Streightiff

With the great quarantine of 2020, our travel goals completely changed. We went from booking trips to Japan and Europe to counting how many National Parks we could see in 9 days... and I'm pretty sure with this trip we broke a record (hint: number of months in a year)...

Before I start, I'll say that we were concerned about the possibility of crazy crowds. Fortunately, we had none. In part due to going early (before 10am) and late (after 5pm) to visit the more popular parks and also visiting mid-week rather than weekends.

See easy hike recommendations at the bottom..

Day 1:


Arrived in PHX at noon, got our rental car and lunch (In and Out and Chick fil A) and hit the road.

First stop was Sedona, Arizona. We tried to hike Cathedral Rock, but the parking lot was full and we didn’t have a lot of time so instead we explored Coconino National Forest (#1). The huge red rock formations are absolutely stunning.

Back on the road for the long haul to Bryce Canyon, Utah.

Day 2:

We arrived at our hotel in the dark at about 1am. Little did we know we drove through the beautiful Dixie National Forest (#2) with more stunning red rock formations and cliffs.

We checked into Ruby's Inn and hit the hay.

We woke at about 7am and headed to breakfast. This was the only really cold morning, only about 40 degrees, good thing I had some pants and sweaters. We got a delicious buffet breakfast and then headed out.

Bryce Canyon National Park (#3) was only a couple miles away. We tried to go to Sunset Point, but that lot was full so we headed to the next one Inspiration Point. It was absolutely stunning. We explored the views for a while and took lots of pics.

We decided to leave and go explore Zion and then come back to Bryce for sunset.

So we made the couple hour trek to Zion National Park (#4).

On the way there we made a pit stop to quickly explore and take some pics of Dixie National Forest.

Zion and it’s mountains and cliffs are stunning. We drove through most of the park and made many stops to take lots of pics along the way.

We headed back to Bryce Canyon for sunset. We went straight to Sunset Point and hiked down to the bottom of the canyon and back up. Then we hiked Wall Street down into the canyon and back up. It was a total of about 3 miles.

The lighting during sunrise and sunset is stunning.

Day 3:

Another yummy breakfast and then we hit the road for Moab.

It was a total fluke, but we happened in Capitol Reef National Park (#5). Absolutely stunning and we had to stop to explore.

We saw more beautiful rock formations, petroglyphs and beautiful orchards.

Back on the road and next stop was Goblin Valley State Park (#6).

Goblin Valley was amazing! Super hot and dry and it felt like you were on Mars, but the rock formations were insane. They really do look like Goblins! There are no marked trails there so we just walked around and explored and of course took lots of pics.

Then back on the road to Moab.

Before getting to our hotel we did a quick drive through of Arches National Park (#7). We wanted to scope out a photoshoot place for the next morning.

We arrived at Moab in the evening, checked into our hotel Red Stone Inn. We were right in the heart of downtown.

We headed to dinner at Zax. Another delicious meal after a long day on the road.

Day 4:

We woke up super early, got dressed up and headed to Arches for a sunrise photoshoot. We ended up at the Garden of Eden because it was beautiful, the sun was just right and there were no people. The photoshoot turned out great.

We changed clothes and headed out to explore. First we went to Double Arch and explored there for a while.

Then we headed to Delicate Arch and did the challenging hike 3 mile round trip hike. Recommendations for doing this hike: go early because it get hot and there is little shade, sunscreen, take LOTS of water, and some snacks. It was also nice to have bandaids and antibiotic ointment because one of our kiddos did have a fall.

Despite the challenges, it was all 100% worth it.

Next we headed to Canyonlands National Park (#8). There we explored Island in the Sky and Mesa Arch. Both super quick and easy hikes and worth it for the views.

It was starting to get late and we also wanted to see Dead Horse State Park (#9), so we headed there next and went straight to Dead Horse Point for that iconic view. We watched sunset for a while and then decided we were super hungry and headed back to Moab for dinner.

We had a filling dinner at the Moab Brewery. Get the pretzels, biggest I've ever seen and so deeeelish!

Day 5:

This was going to be our longest day as we were driving over 10 hours all the way to Tucson.

Since we needed a good breakfast we went to Jailhouse Cafe, it was sooo good! Something for everyone and it was all yummy. We left with full and happy tummies!

After a few hours on the road we made it to Monument. Valley (#10) where we stopped to take some pics, but otherwise we were ready to keep driving and get to our resort.

After spending hours in the 106 degree desert heat we made it to Flagstaff where it was super cool (65 degrees) and pouring rain. It wasn’t long before we were back in 109 degree desert weather.

We made it to our resort, El.Conquistador, at about 8pm and we were all instantly in heaven. It was a beautiful resort and we had an awesome room!

Day 6:

Finally a relax day. The plan today was to play at the pool all day and have fun with our friends who were visiting. Since it was a Saturday, it was pretty packed, but they had a DJ and all sorts of fun games for the kids.

It was an awesome day of playing, eating and drinking.

That evening we went out to dinner at the hotel restaurant (Epazote) with our friends while the kids watched an outdoor movie.

Day 7:

Another early morning for us to head out ATVing.

We headed to Box Canyon in Tonto National Forest (#11) for the 0800 start time for Arizona ATV Adventures. We got suited up (mask and goggles are an absolute necessity and they are provided) and got a quick tutorial and then we were off. We got up to 27mph and it’s 34 miles round trip. It was our first time ATVing and while we all did great and had a great time, I would not routinely suggest this for beginners. It felt pretty advanced for me, especially with a child on back.

Having said that, it was an adventure of a lifetime and we had an amazing time. Our guide was super knowledgeable and not only did we have a fun ride through a very rocky canyon, we also learned all about the cacti, the people who used to trek through this land, and even saw some petroglyphs.

We finished around 11am and headed back to the resort for naps.

After naps we went swimming and then dropped our son at a friend’s house for a play date and then headed with our girls out to dinner at Bottega Michelangelo

Then we had a relaxing evening.

Day 8:

Finally a morning to sleep in…. Actually we were supposed to wake up early for a sunrise photoshoot at Saguaro, but there was just no way… we were super tired by now.

By the time we got to Saguaro National Park (#12) the sun was high and harsh. So instead we did some hiking and tried to find the biggest Saguaro we could. We found one at least 30 feet tall!!

The sounds of the desert are amazing. It literally sounds like rattlesnakes are flying all around you.

It got pretty hot pretty fast, so we didn’t last long.

We decided to check out the Colossal Cave. We did the tour and beat the heat for 45 minutes as it was only 71 degrees in the cave. We learned all about stalactite and stalagmite. Super interesting!

We finished the day with swimming and having dinner at a friend’s house.

Day 9:

Time to say goodbye.

We finished with breakfast at First Watch. Another filling and delicious breakfast!

Then we drove to Phoenix and had an uneventful flight home.

Felt good to be home.

Our clothes were so dirty that they left a film inside the washing machine. HaHa!!

Easy Hike Recommendations:

Bryce Canyon:

1. Trail Name: Sunset to Sunrise at Sunset Point. Roundtrip Distance: 1.0mi (1.6km). Time: 1 hour. Description: Paved portion of rim trail. Easiest hike with views of the scenic Bryce Amphitheater. Pets: yes.

2. Trail Name: Rim Trail (not a loop). Distance: 1.0-11mi (1.6-17.7km). Time: 1-7.5 hours. Description: Views the hoodoo from above. Trail paved between Sunrise and Sunset Points.

3. Trail Name: Bristlecone Loop at Rainbow Point or Yovimpa Point. Roundtrip Distance: 1.0mi (1.6km). Time: 1 hour. Description: Hike through spruce-fir trees with bristlecone pines and expansive vistas.

4. Trail Name: Mossy Cave at North of end of park, 4mi East on Hwy 12. Roundtrip Distance: 0.8mi (1.3km). Time: 1 hour. Description: Streamside walk up to mossy grotto that fills with spectacular icicles in winter and dripping mosses in summer. Note: Can be very crowded from 10am-6pm.


1. Trail Name: Pa'rus Trail at the Visitor Center or Canyon Junction shuttle stop. Roundtrip Distance: 3.5mi (5.6km). Time: 2 hours. Description: A paved trail that follows the Virgin River from the South Campground to Canyon Junction. Pets: yes. Handicap accessible: yes. Bikes: yes.

2. Trail Name: Archeology Trail at Visitor Center. Roundtrip Distance: 0.4mi (0.6km). Time: 30 minutes. Description: Short but steep. Climbs to the top of a small hill. Pets: no.

3. Trail Name: Lower Emerald Pool Trail at Zion Lodge. Roundtrip Distance: 1.2mi (1.9km). Time: 1 hour. Description: Minor drop-offs. Paved trail leads to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Swimming is prohibited in Emerald Pools. Pets: no.

4. Trail Name: Riverside Walk at Temple of Sinawava. Roundtrip Distance: 2.2mi (3.5km). Time: 1.5 hours. Pets: no.

5. Trail Name: Grotto Trail at Zion Lodge or Grotto. Roundtrip Distance: 1 mi (1.6km). Time: 30 minutes. Description: The trail connects the Zion Lodge to the Grotto and is near the road most of the way. Great place to see wildlife. Pets: no.


1. Trail Name: Balanced Rock. Distance: 0.3mi (0.5km). Time: 20 minutes.

2. Trail Name: The Windows. Distance: 1mi (1.6km). Time: 45 minutes.

3. Trail Name: Double Arch. Distance: 0.5mi (0.8km). Time: 20 minutes.

4. Trial Name: Delicate Arch. Distance: 3mi (4.8km). Time: 3-4 hours. THIS IS NOT AN EASY HIKE, IT IS VERY CHALLENGING, but it is a must - just take plenty of water, high protein snacks, sunscreen, and bandaids if you have kids especially. During summer months go in early morning or evening when it is cooler.

5. Trail Name: Skyline Arch. Distance: 0.4mi (0.6km). Time: 10-20 minutes.

6. Trail Name: Landscape Arch. Distance: 1.9mi (3.1km). Time: 50 minutes.


1. Trail Name: Mesa Arch. Distance: 0.5mi (0.8km). Time: 30 minutes. Description: Short hike that leads to an arch on a cliff. The views are spectacular.

2. Trail Name: White Rim Overlook. Distance: 1.8mi (2.8km). Time: 1.5 hours. Description: Walk here for views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin, and La Sal Mountains.

3. Trail Name: Grand View Point. Distance: 2mi (3.2km). Time: 1.5 hours. Description: Walk here to see spectacular panoramic views of the canyon edge.

4. Trail Name: Whale Rock. Distance: 1mi (1.6km). Time: 1 hour. Description: Trail leads to the side of a sandstone dome with views of Island in the Sky.


1. Trail Name: Freeman Homestead Trail. Distance: 1mi (1.6km). Description: Hike here to see the site of an old homestead foundation, a grove of large saguaros, and a desert wash. You can also see Great Horned Owls and interpretive signs telling the history of the region.

2. Trail Name: Loma Verde Loop. Distance: 3.8mi (6.1km). Description: On this trail you'll see a grove of mesquite trees, a wash, a bluff, and the Loma Verde Mine.



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