Page, AZ: Our drive from Springdale, UT to Page included a stop at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab, UT. I had never seen desert sand dunes before and was blown away by them. The state park has sandboards and sand sleds for rent, and we tried one of each. Sand boarding and sledding were incredible ways to experience the dunes up close, and both the board and sled actually worked. Despite having no sort of snowboarding or skateboarding experience, we were able to ride down whole dunes successfully. The sand dunes were a unique and stunning stop on our trip. My one piece of advice for the dunes is watch the weather and avoid going on a windy day. We went on a very windy day, and the sand was brutal whipping in our faces. Wear eye protection and expect to get sand everywhere. Lake Powell, our final stop of the day, was the most unique and stunning lake I’ve ever seen with its red rock backdrop. I’d love to go back in the summer when watersports are possible. We also did the short hike to Horseshoe Bend: on a windy day the sand was brutal, but the view was stunning and totally worth it.
Tusayan, AZ: We stayed in Tusayan while visiting the Grand Canyon. The weather wasn’t ideal this time of year: it snowed heavily on us while we were there, so we weren’t able to see the canyon as much as we had hoped. However, when we did get to see it, the Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning, especially with the coat of snow over the higher regions. We hiked the rim of the canyon and ventured a couple miles into the canyon. Both trails were covered in snow, and the hike into the canyon was particularly slippery at this time of year. The Grand Canyon was definitely the coldest place we visited on our road trip: it was around 18º F when we were in the park. I wouldn’t recommend going as late in the season as we did, but the canyon is a must-see for any traveler.
San Diego, CA: San Diego gave us the perfect change in weather. Temperatures were in the 60s and 70s, and the ocean water was just warm enough to enjoy. I took my first ever surf lesson in Pacific Beach, which I highly recommend doing. Getting up on the board was doable, which made the experience really enjoyable. We also spent lots of time in the beach town of Encinitas, just 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego. Every fish taco we ate in San Diego blew us away- from Oscar’s Mexican Seafood to Fish 101.
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Three Rivers, CA: Sequoia National Park was one of the most stunning places we visited. The size of all trees in the forest made me feel equally small and empowered. General Sherman- the largest tree by volume on Earth- absolutely blew us away, but the fact that this tree was not a freak-of-nature in this forest was the most unbelievable part. Other trees were wider or taller or older than Sherman, and to be surrounded by so many monumental works of nature humbled and shocked me. For a six foot tall person, looking up at General Sherman is the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a six foot tall person. That’s exactly what looking up at those trees felt like.
San Francisco, CA: We balanced city and nature time well on our road trip, and San Francisco was a nice escape to city. We went for a waterside trail run with views of the Golden Gate Bridge one morning. We recommend visiting Chinatown- we had a delicious dim sum dinner one night- and the Castro district for its history and symbolism of LGBTQ+ pride. For ice cream, Salt & Straw was a must, and it doesn’t get better than eating it in one of San Francisco’s many parks with gorgeous city views.
Carson City, NV: We didn’t end up having time to visit Lake Tahoe, but the drive from Carson City to our destination- Park City, UT- was unique and gorgeous. We passed salt flats and drove through Salt Lake City, UT at sunset: the purple sky framing the mountains that completely surround the city was unbelievable.
I never thought I would take or enjoy a road trip: I hate long drives, I don’t like living out of a bag, and there’s nothing I love more than a home cooked meal. The road trip pushed me way out of my comfort zone in many ways, but it was the best experience of my life. I saw what I now know to be some of the most gorgeous places on Earth. I had nothing outside of the trip to stress about and was able to fully immerse myself in and enjoy the trip. I spent every drive looking out the window, taking in the rolling hills of Kansas or the Rocky Mountains or California’s coast. I couldn’t be happier that I jumped on this chance at adventure, and I spent the entire trip in awe, surrounded by some of the most beautiful places on Earth.