Day 3: From the Grand Canyon East Entrance to Page via Horseshoe Bend (2:30 hrs)
The Desert View Drive scenic route proves that “the journey is the destination.” This 40 km stretch leads to the park’s East Entrance, but passing by six unforgettable viewpoints makes it increasingly hard to leave the majestic Grand Canyon. The slowly but steadily flowing Colorado River down below reminds us that our time is limited: At the end of the day, we want to catch the sunset at Horseshoe Bend in Page.
From Cameron, heading north on US-89 to Page feels like driving through the rough and wild history of Planet Earth.
No offence to the tiny pass-through town of Page, Arizona, but finding a decent hotel seems difficult. We check in the newly opened, “no frills” Sleep Inn & Suites. The hotel is located just minutes from an amazing overlook over the Colorado River where it leaves the Glen Canyon Dam.
Day 4: Antelope Canyon and Drive to Zion National Park (1:46 hrs)
Page has a much photographed attraction: Antelope Canyon, the orange sandstone narrows where the forces of water and wind have left their marks over thousands of years. Weeks in advance, we have booked Ken’s Tours to dive into the Lower Antelope Canyon.
Compared to the more touristy Upper Antelope Canyon, it is narrower and therefore more exclusive. We select a tour after 12:30 PM for the chance to see the purple hues when the sunrays reach the canyon walls. Our tip: Wear hiking gear, bring a bottle of water and use the bathroom after checking in. There is no way of leaving the canyon before the 75 minute tour ends.
With hundreds of pictures in our cameras, we hit US-89 N and our attention is caught by sparkling Lake Powell, a white canyon filled with deep blue water. The annual National Park Pass is our key to a short, scenic drive through the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.
We approach Zion National Park through the east entrance. Instinct is telling us to stop at every single viewpoint along the winding road. We do not mind a brief traffic jam on the steep switchbacks - it is an opportunity to take even more pictures and be mesmerized by this geological wonder.
Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens at the south entrance of the park is family run and deserves its name in every respect. Our patio looks out over a carefully landscaped garden which is a favorite among hummingbirds. But before sunset, we hit the nearby Watchman Trail for a bird’s-eye view of the Zion valley.
Day 5: Zion is a Hiker’s Paradise
Today’s mission is to check one of the world’s most popular hikes off of our bucket list – Angel’s Landing. We get up early in order to scale the 450 meters to the top before 10 AM - and while the steep switchback path remains in the shade. When we get off the park’s free shuttlebus at the Grotto, we are slightly turned off by the paved trail all the way up to Scout Lookout. There, a very narrow ridge leading to the summit intimidates other hikers and makes them slow down amid an adrenalin rush. The key is to keep calm and be patient. We eventually make it to the top, and we shout: “Bucket list: Check!”
Protected by a guardian angel, we descend from this cliff safe and sound despite the heavy foot traffic coming our way. We even continue onto the Grotto Trail and follow the snaking Virgin River all the way to Court of the Patriarchs. Alternatively, the Kayenta Trail and the Emerald Pool Trail would make for a nice loop back to the Grotto. Two days are too short for this treasure of a valley. We will be back for the East Rim Trail and the Kolob Arch, for sure.