Although, you will be sure to note, I have not altered the word ‘young’. Sometimes one just has to be a purist (particularly when it’s more flattering…).
I’m often back with my family in New York and, while in the US, my husband and I like to take our kids to see different parts of the country. Last summer, we took a ten-day trip out to the Southwest – across Arizona, Utah, and Colorado – and had a fabulous time in this unique corner of America.
Sedona, Arizona – This beautiful town is a popular stop on the voyage from Pheonix (and its international airport) and the Grand Canyon. It’s definitely worth the very short detour.
The Red Rock Area just outside of town offers many hiking trails among stunning rock formations that have served as the backdrop for numerous westerns. Take along plenty of water and do most of your hiking in early morning or later afternoon to best enjoy the beauty of the area.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona- No matter how many times you’ve been here, it always manages to take your breath away.
We had a great time hiking here, setting off early in the morning and returning later in the afternoon with sore muscles, ready for an evening swim. In the summer months, climbing down into the canyon can be extremely hot and you need to take plenty of water with you.
Luckily, like all National Parks, the Grand Canyon has knowledgeable rangers on hand to assist with your questions and provide updated information on trail conditions. Speak to them first about your hiking plans and learn about ranger-guided hikes that can be quite interesting, too.
Monument Valley, Utah – Fans of westerns will know these landscapes well. John Ford shot seven of his most famous westerns here, with John Wayne riding around these sandstone rock formations.
The land belongs to the Navajo Nation and they manage the park. They’ve also opened a new hotel, with views over Monument Valley. You can join a guided tour or drive the desert roads on your own through a well-marked circuit, and you can stop along the way to enjoy the stunning views.
Telluride, Colorado – Okay, after days and days in the desert, I was up for something completely different, and this picturesque perch in the Rocky Mountains was the ideal change-of-scene. At 8, 725 feet (2659 meters) from sea level, this was much cooler than our other holiday destinations.
Telluride is a very well-known skiing destination, but it’s also a great place for summer hiking and outdoor sports. The area is well-linked with free public transport (via gondola!) to encourage you to park your car and leave it parked. The gondolas can take you to various places to hike and mountain bike.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado – We (foolishly) thought to make a quick stop here while driving from Telluride to Bryce Canyon, but we wound up spending several hours and would have liked to have stayed even more. This is a fascinating national park, with the remnants of the cave dwellings of the Pueblo Indians, who lived in this area from 600-1300 A.D.
Explore these ruins, climb their steep ladders and squeeze through their tiny tunnels (you can imagine this was a real hit with the kids!) A great place to visit if you’re in the “Four Corners” region (where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet) of America.
Bryce Canyon, Utah – This was the last stop on our wonderful trip and it was my first visit to this beautiful national park. I think my jaw dropped for about ninety percent of our time there. The colors and rock formations formed by wind erosion (called hoodoos) are stunning and changed dramatically around every corner…. and I can assure you we did enough hiking to explore almost each and every corner.
The Indians from this region would not walk too close to the rim. They thought the hoodoos were petrified evil spirits. My kids loved that story and my youngest kept asking if they come back to life at night.
Although there are lots of tourists, most of them stay concentrated on the rim, so if you enjoy hiking, you can enjoy many of the trails in relative solitude. We took one 14 kilometer trail early in the morning, and we must have bumped into a half-dozen people along the entire route. Bryce Canyon is truly amazing place. Don’t miss this on your trip out west!
So, fellow travelers … I’ll post more practical information on each location in future posts. But I hope this whet your appetite for a trip to the American west.
Enjoy this beautiful part of the country and come armed with lots of energy and excellent walking shoes. We did so much hiking, that by the time we boarded the flight from Pheonix back to New York, I could hardly feel my legs anymore. Sure beats being behind a computer any day!