If you have 10 days for a trip, and you love photography (or just love beauty) then this is a trip you must take!
In this post I plan to lay out the itinerary that Romi and I took and little tips we learned either by mistake or from advice of others in mid-late October 2018, starting out with Salt Lake City, Utah.
Salt Lake City
We basically planned this trip to visit one location… Antelope Canyon, which can be a bit difficult to get to. In order to get there we decided to fly into the SLC airport since it was a bigger city making the flights cheaper, and we were able to rent a car for dirt cheap! For the entire trip we booked AirBnB’s in each location ahead of time. Salt Lake City impressed us both with its old school charm, but a new age twist and feel, backed up to giant snow capped mountains and especially beautiful this time of year with the fall colors still remaining on the trees. We didn’t pull out our cameras in the city yet, so there’s no photos from SLC, sorry.
We stayed two nights right in downtown close to many of the best restaurants and attractions like The Gateway, and the Planetarium where Romi and I geeked out and watched a movie in the Dome Theater called Incoming about the stars and planets. For breakfast we loved The Rose Establishment and for dinner we really enjoyed Valters.
On our third day we were on the road to Colorado for a very quick visit with some friends I made while on tour with Gustaff.
Grand Junction, CO
We got in late, taking our time to stop and soak up the rapidly changing landscape along the way, and met up with my friend Rebecca for dinner at Taco Party downtown Grand Junction. Highly recommend this place! Once again we only had one full day, and instead of staying in Grand Junction we decided to head a little further southeast to Aspen. On our way we stopped in at Glenwood Springs to visit the Hotel where Abdu’l-Baha stayed during his visit to the United States. Originally there was a plaque in the rose garden commemorating his visit, but with the new management that has been very sadly ripped out.
Once in Aspen we had lunch at Spring Cafe and then decided on visiting Maroon Bells for the sunset. The drive was absolutely gorgeous and we ended up stopping one time too many, because we got to Maroon Bells just after the sun went behind the mountains, and it ended up being a bit too cold for Romi’s comfort level. It was still gorgeous, but we just missed out on all the fall colors in this spot. I would recommend coming maybe end of September to really catch them. While we soaked in the surroundings we spotted about 3 or 4 marmots swimming and observing us from a small rock out in the water. It was nice to see snow, but we were ready to get back to some warmer weather.
On our way back to Grand Junction we planned to stop in at the new hot springs in Glenwood Springs for a dip, but when we got there we ended up getting a refund because they were completely packed full. Not sure when a good time to go would be, but definitely not after sunset. We checked the old hot springs too and they were also full, so we just decided to head back to Grand Junction and get some rest. To our delight, Aaron and Rebecca let us use their hot tub before bed for our own private “hot spring”.
The following morning after another incredible quiche courtesy of our wonderful hosts, Romi and I set off for Moab, Utah.
Not expecting much, we were seriously surprised with Moab. The town has plenty of great food and cafe options, which always excites the two of us! A couple of our favorites were Garage, and Love Muffin. I also grabbed some fresh roasted coffee from Moab Coffee Roasters. Here we AirBnB’d in a camper, which was our way of compromising and letting me get a bit of a camping experience in. Unfortunately the camper was right next to a junk yard which didn’t make Romi too excited. She stayed positive though and we actually made that junk yard work for a few photos one morning! The camper was also great, and nice and cozy at night under the stars, although I am really just trying to make some lemonade here.
Our first night we got into Arches National Park for sunset and stayed a bit longer for some night photos. We met some photographers from Calgary, Alberta and they gave us a couple tips for the area, like going to Mesa Arch for sunrise.
The next morning we both planned to get up before sunrise and head to Canyonlands National Park to photograph the famous Mesa Arch, but Romi was really not feeling well and she encouraged me to go do it on my own. I left concerned for her, but confident that she would be okay and super excited to watch the sunrise through the Arch. The drive there was about 1 hour from just south of Moab, and parking was right at the trail head. After you hike a ways in the trail gets a bit harder to navigate, and the Mesa Arch can be a bit difficult to find. Thankfully I spotted some headlamps of other photographers who had the same idea as I, and so I climbed my way down to them. Sunrise was incredible and the experience was interesting to have around 30 other photographers all cramming in to get “the shot” of this arch with a 90-foot (2- meter) span perched at the edge of a 500-foot (152-meter) cliff with the most spectacular views. It was here that I met a group of photographers who were doing a similar itinerary as Romi and I (we ended up running into them randomly 3 other times in the trip).
That afternoon Romi and I hiked Delicate Arch which actually ended up being more challenging than we thought it would be. It’s not extreme at all, but we did end up hiking longer than we had originally planned. Plus by this point neither of us were feeling too great, but we toughed it out, and we were definitely happy with the view!
On our way out of the park we stopped at the Windows during sunset. It was beautiful, but by this point we were both in much need of rest and warmth, so we headed back to the camper. The next morning we were back on the road towards Page, AZ with a planned stop at Monument Valley.
This was one of those quick add-ons to the trip that we were so glad we did! And on our way to Monument Valley we added some more. Once we were well out of Moab we were driving through a town called Bluff and spotted this old time village. Romi asked if we could go check it out, and thank god she did. We ended up getting to dress up in the old settlers clothes and use the village for our own little photoshoot. That little roadside stop lasted over an hour! Everyone was so kind and friendly while Romi and I played dress-up around them.
As we were about to leave one of the ladies told us to be sure to stop at Mile Marker 13 where Forrest Gump ended his run. Once again this was another surprise we did not expect. I love that movie, and it was so cool to actually be in the spot where he was “kinda tired”, and decided to “head home now”.
Monument Valley was just around the corner from Mile Marker 13 and we made it just in time for sunset. After dinner at the lodge right there at Monument Valley we finished the rest of the drive to Page.
Finally we made it to Page, where we planned to visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Our AirBnB was just northwest of Page right near the Arizona/Utah State line. Page didn’t have too many incredible food options, but we did have some nice sushi at the Blue Buddha Sushi Bar. If you like sweets make sure you get the Yum Yum Bombs (I think thats what they were called) for dessert.
After a slow start to the day we decided just to do Horseshoe Bend for sunset and that was all. It was breathtaking, and despite the great numbers of tourists it was pretty easy to find our own spot to sit and enjoy the sunset alone.
The next day we had our Antelope Canyon tour booked through Antelope Canyon Adventures. *Make sure you book well in advance as the tours book up quick (Romi and I booked about 3 weeks before our trip and even then our options were limited). We chose the 5 hour Photographer tour of Owl, Rattlesnake, and Upper Antelope Canyon. Although Owl and Rattlesnake were beautiful, Upper Antelope really is the one to see! It was so full of tourists, but because we were on the Photographer tour we were able to get sections of the slot canyon blocked off for us to photograph without people in the shots for 2 minutes at a time. It was too rushed for Romi and I, but we really enjoyed it none-the-less. Our awesome tour guide Tony took us after to a newly discovered and unnamed slot canyon as a nice little bonus, but still Upper Antelope was the most beautiful. We would like to truly thank and honor the Navajo Nation for allowing us the opportunity to visit this sacred land and experience the powerful beauty of this gift of the Creator.
That afternoon our AirBnB host arranged for us to tour Amangiri, a resort hidden in the rocks of southern Utah with an average night costing you around $2,800! Romi loves architecture and design, so this place really impressed her. Everyone at Amangiri was so welcoming and overly kind, we felt like we were famous. I can see us returning to photograph a wedding there in the future.
The following morning we packed up our things and got back on the road towards SLC once again, with a final stop at Bryce Canyon.
On our way to Bryce Canyon we stopped in Kanab for lunch at the Kanab Bakery. If you love fresh baked pastries and croissants then you have to stop here! The town looked really great too, and we were both bummed that we didn’t have enough time to explore.
Following advice from our last hosts we stopped in to check out Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park just 15 minutes off the highway after Kanab. This place would be so awesome to visit during sunrise or sunset when the light is perfect. We spent 20-30 minutes here walking through the sand and once again had to get moving.
Once at Bryce Canyon we linked up with our photographer friends for the 4th time for sunset at Bryce Point over-looking all the incredible rock formations as the sky lit up in different colors.
Before leaving we stopped in at the lodge to fuel up with some elk chili before driving the last 4 hours to SLC.
Back to Salt Lake City
We got in late and this time we were staying in the historic district just on the edge of downtown. Once again we had just one full day to explore and we both really wanted to try out the electric scooters we had been seeing people zip around on when we were first here. After meeting up with a friend of ours for breakfast at Publik Coffee Roasters (highly recommend) we downloaded the Bird App, scanned two scooters, and had a blast ripping around downtown on these things!
For dinner Romi and I went to the Himalayan Kitchen for some delicious curry, and then made our way to The Gateway where we planned to go to a movie. While we were waiting for our movie we walked around and checked out the shops. On our way out of a shop Jeremy Pivin stopped us and asked if we were coming to his show. Pretty sure I acted like a goofball, but we got a picture with him and decided to change our movie tickets and go see his stand up act. Unfortunately we were super bummed out when they did not let me in to the comedy club with my Canadian ID. Instead of letting it ruin the night we headed back to the theater just in time to catch our movie.
The following morning we dropped off the rental car, and had breakfast at the airport before catching our flight out.
It was a busy trip with a fair amount of driving, but so worth it. Most of the time we spent being pleasantly surprised, and both of us would love to do it again… but there’s just too many other places to see. 😉
I hope this may help you if you are planning a trip here to this region. Please feel free to ask any questions and I can give more details!