Utah: Mighty 5 Roadtrip

Starting Point: Phoenix, AZ

You can, of course, adjust this itinerary to fit other starting points.

Day 1: Driving to Utah and Seeing Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges NM (c) ABR 2017

    It is about a 6-7 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ; if you are leaving from there and want to explore Natural Bridges in one day, please be sure to leave early in the morning. Be well rested, and have a driving partner to help you make it up. Some of the roads on the way to Natural Bridges can be a little difficult (winding dirt roads along cliffs).

Natural Bridges NM has a very nice visitor center and a loop drive for those of you looking for a relaxing view into the canyon. For the hikers among you, my travel partner and I hiked down to each of the major bridges and then back out, but there is a trail that runs the whole length of the canyon if you have the time and energy for that.

Bear Ears National Monument is fairly close to Natural Bridges, so if you want to explore there as well, you may consider camping nearby and adding a day onto your itinerary. We were unable to visit Bear Ears on our own trip.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Canyonlands Motor Inn in Monticello, Utah)

Humble accommodations, but with friendly staff and comfortable rooms.

 

Day 2: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands NP (c) ABR 2017

There are several entrances to Canyonlands NP, but due to bad weather, we skipped the southern one. Again, for those of you looking to get some more hiking in, you may consider spending an extra night in Monticello to explore the area near the southern entrance.

Following our schedule, however, day two involves a drive up to Moab (about 1.5 hours) and then to the northern entrance. Again, there is a great visitor center and a very nice drive in this part of Canyonlands. Some of the shorter hikes that we stacked here were Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock, Aztec Butte, Grand View Point Overlook, and Mesa Arch. All of these were short, although Upheaval Dome has a longer trail that requires more expertise. See park materials for details on the trails and what fits your needs best.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Lazy Lizard Hostel, Moab, Utah

Private rooms available, great atmosphere for mountain bikers.

 

Day 3: Arches National Park

A double arch at Arches NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is a short 15-minute drive from the southern end of Moab to the entrance of Arches National Park, but depending on the time of year, you may want to plan on getting there early as Arches is quite popular and gets very busy.

There are tons of amazing views and formations that you can see from the car in this National Park, so be sure to plan time for all the sights even if you don’t think you will hike. If you are up to hiking, I would highly suggest that you do the Delicate Arch hike, as this will take you to some great views of the arch that is on all of the Utah license plates. Of course, there are plenty of other trails throughout the park that also are worth visiting. Devil’s Garden and the Windows Section are a couple others that we did and enjoyed, but I would have liked to have planned ahead and gotten a permit for the Fiery Furnace as well.

It is about a 2.5 hour drive to Bricknell, Utah and the road gains some altitude so check the weather for sure in the winter, and be sure that you have the energy to drive safely to your next destination.

Budget Stay Suggestions:

Aquarius Inn, Bicknell, Utah

Not my favorite in terms of atmosphere, but the room was comfortable enough.

 

Day 4: Capitol Reef National Park

Awesome mountains in Capitol Reef NP (c) ABR 2017

It is only about 30 minutes from Bricknell to Capitol Reef, and this is one of the quieter parks, so you don’t need to be in quite as much of a rush to get out as I would suggest for Arches, Bryce, and Zion. There are no major attractions in this park, and the drive is mostly on a highway or a very small road and dirt road extensions. Be sure to check out the petroglyphs here and definitely do stop to see all the huge rock formations along the highway.

In terms of hiking here, I really enjoyed the walk to Hickman Bridge; the trail up to here has some good views of Capitol Dome as well as the other surrounding mountains. My favorite hike, however, was the walk through Capitol Gorge. I would have also liked to have walked through Grand Wash, but we ran out of time.

It is about a 2.5-3 hour drive into Panguitch near Bryce Canyon, so again, be safe and give yourself time to make it over there.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Quality Inn Bryce Canyon, Panguitch, Utah

Pretty unique for a Quality Inn, with an old west character.

 

Day 5: Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon (c) ABR 2017

It is a nice 25 minute drive from Panguitch to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. Again, this is a busier park, so be sure to plan to get there early, and take a look at park andbus schedules if it is the high season.

For those non-hikers among you, you will fall in love with Bryce Canyon from all the lookouts. While I think that anyone who is able should hike into the canyon a bit, there are some great views from the road. For those of you looking to hike but with limited time, be SURE to hike the Queen Garden, because you will be right among the hoodoos and it is unforgettable. Tower Bridge is another option for a shorter hike and has some very unique vistas. For those faster hikers or people with more time, there is a long rim trail, as well as a variety of backpacking trails in the canyon that can make for a long day hike.

It is about 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon to Cedar City.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Motel 6 Cedar City, Cedar City, Utah

Pretty nice, but no microwaves in the rooms!

 

Day 6: Zion National Park

Zion NP (c) ABR 2017

    It is about an hour from Cedar City to Zion on a good day, but you should know that Zion is EXTREMELY busy, so much so, that in the high season you have to take a bus into the park. Please plan ahead for congestion depending on when you go, and if you want to hike, get an early start.

There is a good reason for this park being popular, it is beautiful, and I think that anyone could spend a several days there, let alone one, with or without hiking. Of course, the hike that every knows is Angel’s Landing, and I really loved hiking this trail, but it is absolutely not for everyone. First off, it is a very steep climb to the saddle, and then the hike out to the landing as cliffs on both sides and is very narrow. This is dangerous for anyone with a fear of heights or unsteady feet. Furthermore, do not hike this when there is snow and/or ice on the trail. Emerald Pools is a shorter, much easier alternative, and there are tons of other trails for anyone that Angel’s Landing isn’t a good fit for.

When you drive out of Zion, towards Page (2.5 hours), the park extends down the highway for a time, offering some more great views, but this stretch of the freeway will have lots of slow drivers that see fit to take pictures while they drive. Please don’t be one of these; if you want to take pictures on the way out, be sure to pull over. There is also a long, cool tunnel on the way out, but again, follow signs and do not stop in the tunnel for pictures.

Budget Stay Suggestion:

Knights Inn, Page, AZ

 

Day 7: Back to Phoenix

5-6 hours!

 

Disclaimer:

Nightborn Travel covers some off-the-beaten path locations, sometimes focuses on solo travel, and often includes outdoor exploration such as hiking. So, please be aware of the following (adapted from HikeArizona.com): Hiking, traveling and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends. It is your responsibility to travel and explore responsibly and take care of your own safety.

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Backyard Discoveries: The Shrine on Chihuahua Hill

If you’re up for a little bit of hike in Bisbee, AZ, the jaunt up Youngblood and Chihuahua Hill is an excellent way to get the heart pumping and to see life in this former mining town in a different way.

Like we mentioned in our handy itinerary, you can take OK Street up to the base of Youngblood Hill and take time to check out all the local homes (trust me, you’ll want to – they have a lot of character). If you start your journey earlier in the morning (maybe around 7 a.m.), you’ll benefit from pleasant temperatures and having the town (and trail)practically all to yourself before the sleepy town becomes a bustling tourist stop.

Blue Jesus (I’ve called him this because he is both literally painted blue and because of his sorrowful expression) is the marker of your trail up Youngblood, but also a good wake-up call for groggy hikers because from a distance you can’t tell if it’s a statue or a person waiting at the trail.

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A couple important notes before you ascend:

  • Beyond Blue Jesus is private property, so be polite and don’t go exploring a local’s front yard.
  • The path up to the hills is steep, narrow and slippery. If you’re not a strong hiker or don’t have appropriate shoes, it’s best to come back another time. There is also a bit of incline when getting to the top of both hills, so stay hydrated and listen to your body to stop when needed.

If you do make it up Chihuahua Hill, you are rewarded with a great view of the town below and are privy to a shrine that’s maintained by its residents. You can see some of our photos from the site below, but it’s really worth a visit in person. There’s a sense of peace, joy and love you get when you look at these colorful tributes.

Pay your respects and please move around with care.

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Five Reasons to Love National Monuments

A MONUMENTAL STORY
Reasons to Love National Monuments

Many national monuments across the west are currently under fire from the federal government, but I think there are plenty of good reasons to support the continued protection of these areas, no matter what side you’re on. Here are some of mine:

  1. Monuments keep the American culture alive. National monuments (and the US’s many other protective parks) are a great way to maintain a beautiful country for ourselves and future Americans. Ours was a country built on the frontier and exploration, and national monuments play a key role in keeping that culture alive through the ages.

    Natural Arches NM, Utah (c) ABR 2017
  2. Monuments provide a long-term source of economic growth. Many of the alternative uses of monument land only provide short-term gains. Let’s take uranium mining as an example. This is a finite resource, and once it is removed, there is no way to renew its value to the communities involved. Furthermore, the land left behind is permanently (in the scope of a human lifespan) degraded (an example from Navajo lands). Alternatively, an industry like tourism does not consume a finite resource, and while it can degrade the environment in a variety of ways, these effects can be mitigated by policy and repairs are possible.

    Agua Fria NM, AZ (c) ABR 2017
  3. Monuments are a source of American pride. Did you know that the concept of national parks were developed in the United States? The system of land protection that we have has been one of our most successful legacies around the world. National monuments are a part of that, and it is something to be proud of. People travel from ALL OVER THE WORLD to see our beautiful country.

    Sunset Crater NM, AZ (c) ABR 2017
  4. Monuments protect American history. The Antiquities Act was designed to protect relics of the past, and landscapes are a part of that. Some of the best stories from our history, especially in the West, comes from the harrowing tales of women and men trying to make their way in an unforgiving and wild environment. Having the opportunity to see those landscapes as our ancestors did keeps our history alive and helps us appreciate what it took to build our country.

    Cabrillo NM, CA (c) ABR 2017
  5. Monuments provide many different services and resources to local people and visitors alike. I’m going to go back to the uranium example here (just because it is relevant to several of the western monuments). Mining provides jobs to miners, can support a community while the resource holds out, and it provides taxes as well. It is unlikely that many other services (e.g. clean water, recreation, etc.) will come from land used for this activity, and the companies selling this resource will take the lion’s share of benefits from uranium’s extraction. Monuments, on the other hand, provide jobs through tourism and management, revenue from fees, recreational opportunities, and a variety of services that support human health and happiness.
    Wupatki NM, AZ (c) ABR 2017

    If you’d like to let the government know what you think about national monuments, public comments are open until July 10th, 2017. You can comment here or through Monuments For All.

A Weekend in Bisbee: A Three-Day Itinerary for Nature and Culture in Southern AZ

Bisbee is a former mining town (current artist colony) south of Tucson near the AZ/Mexico border. It is the perfect place to experience historic, small town America.

Starting Point: Phoenix, AZ

Day One: Travel to Bisbee

The drive from Phoenix to Bisbee is about 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic.

Take your time driving down to scenic, little Bisbee.

If you leave in the morning or early afternoon; Tucson is a great place to stop by on the way.

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If you have time, the Mission San Xavier Del Bac or “White Dove of the Desert” is peaceful and great cultural stop in Tucson.

Day Two: Exploring Bisbee

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Can we tell you a little secret? 7 a.m. is prime strolling time around downtown Bisbee – not much is open, but the weather is wonderful and you get to walk around before the crowds.

 

If you are up for a morning stroll, walk up OK Street which will lead to the base of Youngblood Hill and will take you by some adorable Bisbee homes.

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You can a nice view of the town from either hill.

For strong hikers, there is also a trail at the end of the street that climbs up Chihuahua and Youngblood Hill. This path is steep, narrow and slippery, however, so hike at your own discretion. Be safe.

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There’s a shrine up on Chihuahua Hill that is definitely worth seeing. However, these are tributes to people’s loved ones so we cannot stress enough that the site needs to be treated with the utmost respect.

After going for a walk in the cool morning, head over to Lowell’s Bisbee Breakfast Club (http://bisbeebreakfastclub.com/locations/bisbee) for a diner experience, complete with massive portions.

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These pancakes are delicious and as big as your head – we’re not joking.

Head back to downtown Bisbee for a tour of the Copper Queen Mine (http://www.queenminetour.com/), where you will get to ride a little train into the heart of the mountain and learn about old copper mines from former miners. There are several tours throughout the day.

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These are our excited faces. But seriously, the mine tour is a must-see (especially if you’re a REALLY big fan of mining, or a history buff or just want to cool off.)

Spend the day strolling through Bisbee, checking out galleries, visiting historic hotels, and enjoying this small, colorful town.

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ALIENS.

After dinner, if it suits your fancy, wander the streets at night and learn about the many ghosts of this small town with Old Bisbee Ghost Tours (http://www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com/). These take place at 7 p.m. each day of the week.

Day Two: Kartchner Caverns and Getting Home

Catch breakfast in Old Bisbee or Sierra Vista.

Stop by Kartchner Caverns (https://azstateparks.com/kartchner/) to see one of the United States’ most colorful, living caves. You will not be disappointed in this special, natural attraction. It is about an hour from Bisbee to Kartchner.

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In the Visitor’s Center, you can take silly photos in the replicas of cave openings that the Kartchner explorers had to squeeze through and be thankful they did all the work for you.

 

 

Stop for lunch in Benson or Tucson, and then head back to Phoenix. It is about 2.5 hours from Kartchner to Phoenix depending on traffic.

Ending Point: Phoenix, AZ

Prep:

  1. Reserve a place to stay.
  2. Reserve a tour with the Old Bisbee Ghost Tours and Kartchner Caverns.
  3. Learn about some of the historic landmarks in the town to visit.
  4. Know the weather! Stay safe.

Solid Gas/Food Stops Along the Way:

  1. Tucson
  2. Benson
  3. Tombstone

Note: There are numerous small towns that also dot the way to Bisbee, but if you want guaranteed gas stations, fuel up in Tucson or Benson.

Parking

  1. Mostly free parking in Bisbee (there’s like one paid lot in the entire city), but be prepared for the lots (which are small) to basically be full after 10 a.m., at least on weekends.
  2. There’s plenty of street parking available, it just depends on how far you’re willing to haul your butt up and down a hill.
  3. Before you park, check if it’s residential. Don’t be a jerk and park in someone’s spot.

Places to Stay:

  1. Copper Queen Hotel (http://www.copperqueen.com/): This is a historic hotel in the middle of town. Perfectly central to all Bisbee’s attractions, and a great place for ghostly activity (for anyone interested).
  2. Hotel Lamore/Bisbee Inn (http://bisbeeinn.com/): A smaller alternative to the Copper Queen, this place is just as historic and ghostly. But it has traditional shared bathrooms, it will really bring you back.
  3. Plenty of alternatives throughout the town, and some good AirBnbs as well.

Backyard Discoveries: Unexpected Beauty at Arcosanti

Part of the fun of traveling is doing something unplanned.

I was driving back down from Northern Arizona where I had just gone snowboarding (aka, falling on my behind allllll the way down a small hill) for the first time, and I saw the sign for Arcosanti.

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From what I knew about Arcosanti, which was admittedly very little, it was small artistic community. Already late in the afternoon, I wasn’t sure if they’d be open. WERE they even open to the public? If so, would they be open now – did art even HAVE hours?

I shrugged and took the exit anyway. I had time and nothing to lose.

The exit made way to a dirt road which eventually wound its way to the entrance (I took a little longer than usual to make some excited noises at a few cows on the side of the road who continued to not care about my existence).

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I was greeted by a sign that gave me pause. An urban laboratory? What kind of diabolical experiments could be taking place here? Completely unsure what that meant, I continued on (bravely, stupidly or both) to meet my fate.

And I was pleasantly surprised by a light breeze, blowing through the open plateau of space that the Arcosanti visitor center sits on, the bronze and ceramic bells hanging around the property awake with noise.

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The bells are everywhere across Arcosanti, created by artists-in-residence (and sold on-site and online if you want to get your paws on ‘em). No bell is quite the same – different shapes, sizes and designs – but all of them bear the mark of Paolo Soleri.

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Soleri was the founder, the dreamer, the architect of Arcosanti. You learn more about Paolo and how they’ve kept his hope of a self-sustaining and eco-friendly community alive if you take the tour. Tours run about an hour starting at 10 a.m. and are donations-based, so BE NICE. Check their website or call to be sure, because they do charge for specialty tours (non-English, etc.). I also 100% recommend the tour because if you don’t join a tour, you’re not allowed to wander. Which means you’re stuck at the visitor’s center and miss all the history, learning about how the Arcosanti runs now and seriously cool architecture.

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The next time you find yourself driving (up or down) the I-17 in Arizona, pop over to Arcosanti for some artistic inspiration (and then stop at Rock Springs Cafe for some pieeeeeee). Or, wherever your travels may take you, think about doing something a little out of the ordinary – it might just end of being one of your favorite parts of the trip.

Stay weird!

xx,
Katie

Week 15: Lookout Circumference Trail

(c) ABR 2017

It’s Easter, and we have a brunch and a dinner to go to. So, I wanted to explore a new trail today that wouldn’t take more than an hour to finish. Lookout Circumference seemed like a good choice.

I have tried to hike this trail once before, but since Lookout is very popular, there are trails crisscrossing all over the mountain, and it can be pretty hard to figure out if you are on the main trail or not, especially in less trafficked spots.

(c) ABR 2017

Luckily, today I didn’t have too much of a problem, although I chose to take some of the smaller trails to avoid crowds here and there, and to make my hike a little longer. I really enjoyed some of these narrow trails; there’s just something extra wild and exciting about them, even in an urban setting.

(c) ABR 2017

I also found a neat little rock carving. I’m not convinced that this is a real petroglyph, but it’s nice to imagine.

Finding Comfort in History: The Southwestern Charms of The Cochise Hotel

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

In a quiet corner of Arizona, south of the bustling, growing cities of Phoenix and Tucson, sits the small, peaceful town of Cochise. Anyone that travels there today will find one main road, with low-lying buildings settled on either side. Many of them still have the boxed and wooden appearance of the old frontier settlements that we have all become so familiar with through Western movies. Dry grasslands wave golden and yellow in the breeze, and there are mountains in every direction. At the end of the street, on the edge of human habitation here, sits the Cochise Hotel, a stark white historic jewel.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

In 1882, the hotel was founded by John Rath, who built and ran the town’s train station, bank, and well. Connected to the man at the center of everything in Cochise, the hotel was said to have become the heart of the settlement. It is even believed that at one point, none other than Big-Nosed Kate (see more discussion of this historical female entrepreneur here ran the place. However, when the mining industry began to falter, Cochise shrunk, as did many of its compatriots in Arizona’s southern valleys. As the town’s population dwindled, the Cochise Hotel began falling into disrepair, and it is likely that the hotel would have continued on this path to oblivion, but for the interest of one, Phillip Gessert.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

Gessert’s family had moved to southern Arizona when he was younger, and he developed a passion for the area’s history. In fact, he previously ran an antique gambling museum in Tombstone, and his expertise was even sought after for HBO’s Westworld series. He found himself inspired by the Cochise Hotel, and it was this love for Arizona’s history that led him to purchase the hotel. For the past five years, he has been working on renovating the Cochise Hotel, hoping that he can bring life back to Arizona’s oldest, still-functioning hotel.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

The Cochise is still a work in progress, but visitors will now find this place to be a cozy inn. Each room has its own character, and Gessert has not only repaired the building itself, but has used his own collections to create authentic spaces for travelers to experience for themselves. While Tombstone has taken on the spirit of an attraction, Cochise and its hotel offer a more quiet, and contemplative look at the past. It is a place for inspiration as well. In fact, it’s hard not to be inspired by the views, the story and soul of this place.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

The Cochise Hotel is sure to be a wonderful experience for anyone interested in the history of the old west, but also for artists, and outdoor enthusiasts seeking to trek through Arizona’s southern wilderness. It is a gateway to an older way of life, to a night sky unmarred by city lights, and hopefully new stories of exploration and self-discovery.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016

To learn more about the Cochise, please visit its website here. I would highly suggest calling the hotel, rather than trying to email. If you plan on staying at the Cochise, also consider stopping at the Cochise Stronghold, the Chiricahua Mountains, and/or Kartchner Caverns. Cochise is also the first stop on Southern Arizona’s Ghost Town Trail, so you may want to check that out as well.

(c) K. Arrington 2016
(c) K. Arrington 2016