West US Road Trip: Week 1 – Northern AZ, Southern Utah, & Vegas
Just over a week ago, I set out on a road trip of the Western US with my boyfriend, Connor. He's from London and it is his first time in the US, so I was ready to show him all about my home state - Arizona. Plus, it has always been a goal of mine to road trip up the West Coast. I convinced him to join me on this six week adventure.
We are both working throughout our travels, so we are planning work time throughout our trip. As coffee snobs, we are eager to explore a new coffee shop (or two) each day. It makes for an interesting work space.
I purchased a Ford Escape that we have loaded up with camp gear and our personal belongings. Throughout the trip, we are doing a combination of camping, crashing on friends' couches, Airbnb, and hotels. One of the best resources I have discovered so far is the website FreeCampsites.net because it has helped up to avoiding spending money on camp grounds (so we can put those savings towards more coffee).
We are attempting to stay fit on the road with some yoga mats, resistance bands, body weight workouts, and hiking. Connor just sold his fitness business, so I am grateful to have someone around who cares just as much about fitness as I do. The challenge will be finding the time and the creativity to keep up with our fitness plans (or lack thereof).
In week one, we have explored some of Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and into Nevada. Here is a taste of what we have been up to:
Day One: Payson & Jerome
We loaded up the car around 6:30 am, ran by a Starbucks, and hit the towards Payson. Payson is a small town that is a bit out of the way from the rest of our AZ stops, but I really enjoy the town and driving up along the rim. Plus, I was really excited to take Connor to one of my favorite wineries up near Strawberry (which ended up being closed on the weekdays).
We got into Payson and found a cute coffee shop to set up our workspace for the morning. Connor is working on building a new business and I am working my full-time sales job (in addition to creating content for the blog). Eventually we get hungry and head to another café for a quick bite before getting back on the road. I also kick some butt at a round of chess.
On the way to Jerome, I decided to stop and show Connor a historical site - Montezuma's Castle. It is probably 105 degrees or so outside, so we make it a quick stop before heading to Jerome, ready for wine.
Jerome is this tiny ghost town up in the mountains about an hour outside of Sedona. It is known for its haunted hotels, an old mining site, and is home to some adorable cafes, galleries, and wineries. We have some yummy wine and grab some groceries on our way to camp for the night.
We set up our camp site up on Mingus Mountain and spent our first night alone in the woods, very happy with our spot.
Day Two: Sedona
Ah, I was incredibly happy to be back among the red rocks of Sedona. It's definitely a happy place for me and one that is still a favorite, even after all my world travel. There is something magical about the energy of the town. I'm instantly full of joy upon entering the city limits.
Connor and I decide to do a quick hike before beginning work. We made it into town around 7:00 am and headed over to Cathedral Rock to do some exploring and light exercise. I enjoyed a quick moment of silence before we made our way back down the mountain and off to a coffee shop, Creekside Cafe, where we worked for the reminder of the morning and early afternoon.
Every time I go to Sedona, I make it a point to stop at my favorite vegan restaurant - ChocolaTree. It has an adorable outdoor garden to dine in, complete with hammocks, a giant Om shaped table, and the nicest staff. Plus, they have a wide assortment of vegan chocolates which are a must-have!
Too full to focus on more work, we explored some of the galleries in Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. I find it to be a lot less busy than the shops along the main strip and we could enjoy wandering with less people around.
For our last stop, we sat in one of the main bars/shops that has a great lookout over the Sedona mountains. We completed some work and headed off to find our next campsite. Finding an free site for the night proved to be a bit more difficult, as we kept losing signal, but we finally found a quiet spot to pitch our tent for an early night.
Day Three: West Fork & Flagstaff
We had another early morning wake up call to enjoy the hike at West Fork. I packed up the camp gear as Connor focused on making us coffee (bless him). We decided on a hand grinder and Staresso as necessary items for our trip, ensuring fresh coffee each morning, but it is a process!
West Fork was absolutely stunning and was not overly crowded, as we got there right when it opened for the day. One of my favorite things about Sedona is the soft, glittery dirt. It makes for the perfect place to hike barefooted, like the hobbit/hippie that I am.
Hiking done early, we hopped back in the car and headed about an hour north into Flagstaff. We worked from the cutest coffee shop that had 50 cent refills - Single Speed Cafe! We were very pleased with the location and remained here until closing at about 4 pm.
Not that I have anything against camping, of course, but one has to shower from time to time. We found the perfect room in an Airbnb in Flagstaff. The couple who owned the home were incredibly sweet and I would absolutely recommend the location to friends!
After checking in, we had a quick bite to eat at Lumberyard Brewing Company in downtown Flagstaff before calling it a night, rather early. We had big plans for Saturday.
Day Four: The Grand Canyon
Waking up at 4:00 am, we grumpily loaded our stuff back into the car, grabbed some snacks and coffee-to-go that our adorable AirBnb hosts left out for us, and we headed off to the Grand Canyon. It was still dark when we left, but we got to enjoy the sun rising as we drove and spotted some deer and Elk along the way.
We got onto South Kaibab Trail around 6 am and were very pleased to see how few hikers had joined us that early in the morning. Knowing it was going to be a warm day and that we had a lot more driving and exploring to do over the weekend, we only went about halfway down the trail. Instead of continuing the hike, we allowed all the other hikers to continue on and enjoyed the quiet of the canyon for a while.
One of the highlights for me was seeing all the female and baby elk that hang out within the national park grounds. The spotted babies were absolutely adorable.
I began our drive to Page while Connor took a nice nap. Long drives are usually pretty enjoyable for me, especially when my passengers can sleep through me singing all of my show tunes and girly rock music. The views of the canyon were stunning through the rest of the park and onward.
Once in Page, we enjoyed some more work before watching a movie in our hotel room.
Day Five: Glen Canyon & Antelope Canyon
Another early morning for us as we packed our items back into the car and headed towards our first adventure of the day. We had signed up for a rafting excursion with Wilderness River Adventures that would float us down the Colorado River. We may not have gotten the iconic Horseshoe Bend Instagram photo, but lucked out by enjoying the view from the water (and the tiny humans above us getting their pictures).
It was a great way to learn more about the Colorado River, the canyons surrounding it, and the efforts being made to keep the environmentalists, energy companies, and other entities happy about the river's flow. Plus, it was a gorgeous, easy morning.
Between adventures, I introduced Connor to Sonic. He continues to laugh at how outrageous our drink sizes are here… I can't really blame him.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a fun social experiment. I mean, we enjoyed a guided tour of Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon has been made infamous after a few famous photographers captured stunning images of the swirling red walls and the light beams within the canyon. It is now one of the top tourist destinations in Northern Arizona and it is packed with people! The tour guides quickly walk you through a photography tour, showing the patrons all the best photo spots as we shuffled through the crowds.
Connor and I were very amused, and a bit saddened, by the number of people who viewed the entirety of the canyon through their phone screens or camera lens. He witnessed very few people stop and actually enjoy the views, the experience, etc. It sparked an interesting conversation between us about the rise of "Instagram tourism" and how crazy the industry is becoming. Whether good or bad, it is hard to say.
Still early in the day when we completed our tour, we headed up to Utah to find a campsite just outside of Zion to park for the night. Let me just say, WOW! If you ever get a chance to camp where we did, do it! No one was around and the stars were magnificent. We just laid underneath the stars for an hour or so, enjoying the views of the milky way and shooting stars.
Day Six: Zion
It's Monday morning and work is commencing, so before exploring Zion, we head into the cute little town of Riverdale. We park it at a cute coffee shop and restaurant Cafe Soleil for most of the day, enjoying some strong coffee and some healthy lunch. This place Is crazy busy though and we eventually become too annoyed of the crowds and noise. I finish my day's work at the local library while Connor naps on a giant bean bag.
Work took a lot longer than I had anticipated. We don't end up into the park until closer to 4 pm and opt for a quicker hike. Emerald Pools is a really cute trail and is less crowded the further onto the trail we got. As we reached the last fall, I was absolutely exhausted.
I'm incredibly grateful for Connor. He looked over at me and suggested we skip the morning Zion hike that we had been planning on. Constant travel is no joke and it is tough work on the body. As much as we want to do everything, we just can't. We accept defeat and decide that Zion will wait for us on a later date.
We even skip another night of camping and head straight to St. George to find an inn for the evening. Sometimes, you just want an easy way to get to rest.
Day Seven: St. George & Vegas
I have to admit, this is the first morning I practice yoga on the trip. I had bought an extra mat so Connor could try yoga with me, but they had sat unused this whole time. The decision to skip our Zion hike and night of camping gave me the opportunity to really enjoy my quiet mornings that mean so much to me. I got to do some journaling, meditation, and yoga before starting work for the day. It was a good reminder to continue to make that a priority, no matter where I wake up each morning.
We worked from another cute café (that had unlimited coffee refills) and probably ate one or two cupcakes more than we should have… but it was worth it! I ended up getting work done early and ditched Connor for an hour or so to get a much needed pedicure. I preach self-care all of the time, so I have to make sure I am following through with my word!
Late afternoon, we hop back in the car and head off to Vegas. We had a fun first night in the city. It was the first time I wore heels in over a year, but it was fun to get dolled up and enjoy a date-night of sorts. We were joined by a friend from Phoenix, named Tyler, and met a bunch of new friends throughout the night.
Quick note: The Mac & Cheese at Hell's Kitchen is AMAZING!
Plus, I made it back to our hotel with my heels still on, so I would say that was a success!
Week One of our trips is done! We have about five more to go as we make our way through California, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Canada. Make sure to stay tuned to the rest of our crazy adventures.
Do you have any questions about our trip so far? We would love to answer them! Comment below and let's chat
We would also love any suggestions you may have about our future adventures and where we are headed. I'm always asking for recommendations on social media; your help is greatly appreciated!
Are you making plans to visit or travel around Arizona? My friends over at AlltheRooms have great resources for you. This is a great list for where to go camping and this article will help you find all the best hiking in Arizona. Check out their blog!