Home » Posts tagged 'road trip'

Tag Archives: road trip

My Road Trip Itinerary Pt. 2

By Christina


Horseshoe Bend

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.


The Grand Canyon


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.


[IMAGE 3] with caption:

Surfing in San Diego


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.


General Sherman


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.


The Golden Gate Bridge


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.

My Road Trip Itinerary Part 1

By Christina

Like the entirety of my year thus far, the past few weeks of my gap year never would have been a part of my pre-pandemic plan.  When I thought about traveling on a gap year, I thought international travel in order to learn about other cultures and experience once-in-a-lifetime places on the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a gap year.  However, I have had to adjust and re-evaluate.  I made the most of the circumstances and decided to embark on something I never imagined I’d do: a cross-country road trip.


I am currently still on the road, and it’s overwhelming and incredible to try to process a trip of experiences that few people get to in a lifetime.  I think the most valuable thing for anyone reading this post is my itinerary with the insights I have looking back on these places, which will hopefully give some useful information to anyone planning a similar trip.  This post will cover the first half of the trip and my next post will cover the second half.


First, here is the full list of stops.  We started in Atlanta, GA and will spend nights in all the following places: Nashville, TN à Kansas City, MO à Boulder, CO à Grand Junction, CO (Colorado National Monument) à Moab, UT (Arches National Park) à Springdale, UT (Zion National Park) à Page, AZ (Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend) à Tusayan, AZ (Grand Canyon) à San Diego, CA à Three Rivers, CA (Sequoia National Park) à San Francisco, CA à Carson City, NV (Lake Tahoe) à Park City, UT (our final destination/where we are working there this winter).



Nashville, TN: Nashville is a uniquely charming Southern City.  We only spent one night there but were still able to experience the fried chicken- we chose Prince’s Hot Chicken- and country music.  We walked Broadway Street but didn’t stay long, as honky tonks were only open to people ages 21+ and didn’t look safe with coronavirus.  We didn’t visit the classic Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum but would next time if we go back.

Kansas City, MO: We arrived in Kansas City late in the evening and only spent the night there.  We ate dinner in the Power and Light district.  The city felt a little empty, but we went back to our hotel immediately after dinner to rest up for our long drive the next day.


Flatirons Trail.

Boulder, CO: Boulder surprised me by being much more than a college town.  We drove in at sunset, and the mountains surrounding the city created a stunning landscape.  Boulder was the first place we stayed with mountains and any snow and therefore was particularly exciting.  We hiked around the flatirons, but the First/Second Flatiron Trail that locals recommended to us was closed for repair work.  Boulder’s main street- called Pearl Street- was worth walking around and fit the hip mountain vibe of the city.


Grand Junction, CO: We had initially planned to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison but switched to the Colorado National Monument because the monument seemed like it had more to do.  The views of the red-rock canyons from the 23-mile scenic drive were unbelievable, but there was also lots of hiking in and around the canyons.  We chose a 5-mile hike down in the canyons to give us the experience of looking up at monument from inside, while the scenic drive gave us the view of looking down from the top of the canyons.  Seeing red-rock formations for the first time was unbelievable, and seeing them at the national monument first meant that we were still stunned by later, more famous red-rock stops like Arches.


Colorado National Monument.

Moab, UT: Everything about Arches National Park was mind-blowing.  The town of Moab was lively and lined with small-town mountain dining, such as the Moab Brewery, where we ate one night, or the Moab Diner.  We ate at the Jailhouse Café one morning for breakfast and absolutely recommend it.  In Arches, we drove the scenic drive through the park, stopping along the way for lookout points and hikes, and spent sunset at the Delicate Arch, which glowed at that hour.  One hike we didn’t have time for that I’d like to do in the future is the long and strenuous Devil’s Garden Loop Trail, as it takes hikers to some unique and hidden lookout points and arches.  If the weather is nice, the town of Moab has a beautiful paved walking trail outside of the park that is framed by red rock and the Colorado River.  If you are a runner or walker, you have to do this trail in the morning before heading into the park.


Delicate Arch at Sunset.

Springdale, UT:  Zion National Park is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and my favorite stop so far.  Seeing it in the fall with the bright yellow leaves of the trees made it even prettier.  Zion had both breathtaking views and plenty of difficult hikes, which made it a great fit for my group.  Angel’s Landing was absolutely worth it for the check on my bucket list, experience of clinging onto the guardrail with cliffs beneath me, and the view from the top.  We didn’t hike The Narrows because we were worried about the water being too cold and didn’t really have time for it.  We hiked in short sleeves despite it being early November, but we were still worried about wading through water this late in the season.  We spent two nights in Zion but easily could’ve spent a third there.  I definitely want to go back to Zion in the future, and the Narrows is definitely a hike I will hit next time.


View from the Top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.


Now for some logistics: driving and weather.  The drives between locations were integral to the trip and gave us some of the prettiest scenery.  Each drive was incredibly unique and added context to the places we visited and sights we saw.  We avoided drives over 9-ish hours, which meant that- with three people- no one person had to drive more than a 3-ish hour shift in one day.  The weather was absolutely perfect for us, but we got incredibly lucky.  One risk of taking the road trip when we did, in October-November, is the weather is very hit or miss.  The cooler weather in the more desert-y climates was perfect, but November weather is risky in places that get heavier snow, like Boulder or Sequoia.  We came up with several backup places to visit in warmer climates, particularly southern California, in case any of our stops had poor weather conditions that we didn’t want to spend time in.  I will include some of those backup places in the next post, but, for now, I hope this covers my itinerary with helpful hindsight!

By Leah


After a couple of weeks of strict quarantine, I’m all packed up and ready to go for the next part of my gap year! 

 I’ll set off early tomorrow morning for the first leg of my four-day drive–I’m going from my hometown of Alexandria, VA, to Knoxville, to Little Rock, to Abilene, and finally ending up in El Paso. From there I’ll meet up with my Outward Bound group, and we’ll drive together to Big Bend Ranch State Park. Then, from October 19 until December 7, I’ll be backpacking through the desert and canoeing up the Rio Grande.  



I can’t wait–I’ve never spent 50 days away from home, let alone 50 days in the wilderness with only nine other people. My goals are to learn about surviving in the great outdoors, get stronger, and get close to the other students on this trip, all while experiencing one of the most beautiful corners of the United States. 

 It’s all seemed very abstract to me up until now–I’ve spent months looking for the right gear and breaking in boots, but it’s taken me a while to understand exactly what this trip will be. I think I’ve finally truly realized that all these layers of long underwear and extra rain jackets and nylon pants will actually be worn, by me, in a far away but very real place. I just can’t wait to be there! 

 It took a while to pull all the things that I’ll need together, but I’ve actually managed to pack pretty light–basically just a couple of pairs of pants, some t-shirts, a warm jacket, and plenty of socks and long underwear. Other than clothes, a toothbrush, journal, and camera are all I need. Hopefully I’ll come back with some great photos and stories to share!  

 We won’t have phones out there, or internet or TV or newspapers, so the never-ending stream of information that I’ve enjoyed for the past several years of my life will finally be interrupted. After three months interning with a firm that produces political campaign ads, it feels crazy to imagine being so separated from the world of politics and constant breaking news. I hope there will be a way for me to find out if the candidates who I helped make ads for won their races, and to hear about any other important things that happen. 50 days is a long time–I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to get away, but also a bit worried to see what kind of a world I will come home to. 

 But for now, my most pressing concerns are simply making sure that I have all of the things I need and enough snacks for the long drive there. Best of luck to everyone else at Duke Gap Year Program in whatever you do for the next couple of months–I’ll talk to you guys again in December!