A land between the desert and the Canyon, with hot climate, deep abysses, Indian reservations (the Navajo Nation is the largest Native American Tribe in US), beautiful parks: that’s Arizona, the last of the contiguous States to join the Federation. Here our trip keeps on going, with another visit to Utah and Nevada…
Postcard 5: Grand Canyon
PICS. According to an ancient Navajo legend, everything started with a great flood: a terrible flood that almost killed all the Navajo ancestors, who saved themselves turning into fishes, who continued to swim and live in the area. Then, the water flowed off, and finally a wonderful territory was revealed: this was the Grand Canyon. This legend, reminding of Noah’s biblical flood (also the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes have a similar story), tells the origin of the most spectacular canyon in the world, 446 km long and 29 km wide, carved millions of years ago by the Colorado river in Arizona. Can you imagine? it’s not the biggest on Earth! see here for more.
It has its own weather system (you can have rain on one side and sun on the other!) and can bee seen from Space. Even staring at it, on the edge of the gorge, makes you feel like flying over an alien planet.
Just a few miles from Grand Canyon you have Horseshoe Bend: as the name suggests, is a bend carved by Colorado River with the shape of an horseshoe (amazing colours!)
TIPS. There’s a wide choice of things you can do in the Grand Canyon: rafting on the Colorado River, hiking, riding a mule on the trails, take a plane or helycopter tour over the Canyon, camping, and even – I didn’t know it at that time! – ride a train inside it.
We took the helycopter tour and it was an exciting thrilling adventure (yet expensive: I spent almost 200 dollars for half an hour, see more prices here and a beautiful video by National Geographic), went hiking in the South Rim, the most accessible part of the territory, and then slept in Page, at Motel 6. The following morning we went to Horseshoe bend. From Monument Valley to Grand Canyon it’s about 2 hours of drive. It’s not advisable to drive in the dark because of the animals you can find along the road.
Postcard 6: Antelope Canyon
PICS. My favourite. A fairy cave in Arizona with sandstone walls and fascinating light, the Antelope Canyon has been made by the erosion of the sandstone due to flash flooding: the Upper Antelope is called by Navajo “the place where water runs through rocks”. The sand has created amazing shapes, like the famous Heart (2nd pic): it’s like walking inside a magic tunnel.
TIPS. In Arizona you have actually 2 canyons: the Upper and the Lower Antelope. We visited the Upper, which is more accessible and at ground level: the best hour for the visit is noon, because of the better light, and you have to book the exact hour in advance. The park is managed by Navajo Nation (so you have to pay a separate ticket, the US Parks Pass is not valid here), I have to say I didn’t like the way the guides pushed us out while coming back to the entrance.
Antelope is close to lake Powell: you can go and have a swim!
Postcard 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
PICS. Another unearthly landscape, filled with spires of red rocks and spotted by green pines: this is Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, a series of natural amphiteaters featured by geological structures called hoodoos, made by frost weathering, stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks.
In the first pic you can see the “the Bryce Amphitheater“: it’s the most iconic landscape in the park.
TIPS. You can enjoy the Bryce in one day (actually we have seen also Zion the same day! but better not to be in a hurry), you have many trails to choose and Navajo Trail and Queens Garden Loop have been called the “Worlds Best Three Mile Hike”. Amazing sunrise in the park.
Postcard 8: Zion National Park
PICS. The highlight of Zion National Park is an expansive gorge, and natural rock arches. Its name comes from an ancient Hebrew word, meaning “sanctuary”: the first settlers were Mormons in late 1800. It’s in in southwestern Utah.
TIPS. We only had a short hike in Zion, that we visited the same day of Bryce along the road to Las Vegas. Another way to see the park is to take a narrated tram tour along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, closed to private vehicles during the park’s busy season. It lasts about 1 hour.
… to be continued …