Contents
  1. 1. Day 1 Driving
  2. 2. Day 2 Angels Landing Hike
  3. 3. Day 3 The Narrows Hike
  4. 4. Day 4 Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend
  5. 5. Day 5 Bryce Canyon National Park
  6. 6. Day 6 Driving Home
  7. 7. Trip Summary
    1. 7.1. Expenses
    2. 7.2. Trip Map
  8. 8. Travels over the Past 3 Years

This content was automatically generated by gpt-4-turbo-preview (No human review). The original post is in Chinese.

During the 2022 Christmas holiday, we drove to Utah and Arizona for a road trip, our second self-driving trip and our third Christmas/New Year trip to the national parks of the American Southwest. Having visited several times before, I didn’t spend much time planning this trip; mainly, cuihao did the planning. Additionally, we invited some close friends to join us this time, significantly increasing the number of photos taken. The trip lasted 6 days, with the first and last days dedicated to driving and the middle four days for exploring—two days in Zion, one day in Page, and one day in Bryce.

Uploading photos to the blog is not very convenient, so friends who want to see photos from the trip, please follow my Facebook account.

Day 1 Driving

We set off quite late on the first morning because I was sick the day before and hadn’t packed, so I spent several hours packing that morning, and we didn’t hit the road until 12 pm. Before leaving, we submitted entries for the Angels Landing lottery to increase our chances of winning; all four of us submitted applications, and all of us won in the afternoon. We departed from Irvine and drove to St. George, a journey of about 7 hours. In addition to stopping for meals and fuel, we also passed by Liberty Sculpture Park.

Below is a WeChat Moment I posted when we set off, feeling “Every festive season makes me miss my family even more”:

The Christmas holiday has begun [Fireworks], starting a new journey unwillingly. Yesterday, I was still sick in bed with a runny nose; today, we set off. I really wanted to stay home and relax, but doing nothing and going nowhere during an 11-day holiday would have made me feel stressed, so I stuck with the original plan. I barely spent any time planning this trip (because I was too busy the weeks before), leaving it all to cuihao. I spent about 4 hours packing [Facepalm], always packing things I probably won’t need just for a sense of security. Before zipping up my suitcase, I’d always cram in a few more pieces of clothing… cuihao says I’m the safety officer of the house, bringing things like Tylenol, a thermometer, antigen test kits, and even a sleeping bag (even though we’re staying in hotels)! Ah, I’m just that kind of person, anxious, and it might even affect the people around me. I wish I could be more relaxed.

Another reason I didn’t want to stay home is because I’d have to cook [Facepalm], which is also a hassle. I’m so envious of those who can go home or abroad for the Christmas holiday to reunite with their families. I really want to go home too. Every family reunion holiday, we travel because we have “no home to return to.”

Day 2 Angels Landing Hike

On our second day, we were in Zion National Park, where we completed the Angel’s Landing Trail. This is the most dangerous Trail we have ever hiked, not so much in length or elevation but truly hazardous. Many parts of the Trail have cliffs on both sides, requiring utmost caution. For most of the hike, you must hold tightly onto the chains to avoid missteps. Looking back at the photos, the scenery of the Trail is quite amazing.

Regarding gear, hiking Angels Landing can be quite hot as the sun beats down continuously in good weather, and the climbing does make you sweat, so it’s important to carry enough drinking water (recommended 1.5~2L per person in winter) and not overdress. Ice traction cleats (microspikes) are a must to prevent slipping on icy or snowy paths, and wearing gloves is comfortable when gripping the chains.

Below is the trip plan cuihao made, which closely matched our actual activities.

Day 3 The Narrows Hike

On day three, we were still at Zion National Park, where we embarked on The Narrows (Bottom Up) hike. It took us 5 hours, walking to the Floating Rock and back, covering a distance of about 6.5 miles. It was my first time hiking through water, wading through sections where water reached below my buttocks. We rented dry pants, water shoes/socks, and a walking stick from Zion Outfitter, which allowed us to hike in the approximately 5°C creek water. The advantages of going in winter include fewer people, but the water is colder, necessitating rented gear. If you fall and soak your clothes, there’s a risk of hypothermia. With the gear, only our feet were wet, and everything above the ankles remained dry. I wore two pairs of pants under the dry pants, including thermal leggings and fleece pants. My feet were a bit cold at first, but it was fine once I started walking. The canyon walls are so high that the sun doesn’t directly hit the creek, so it’s important to wear warmer clothes (warmer than for Angels Landing) and bring less water (about 1~1.5L in winter).

The flow rate of The Narrows was about 65 cubic feet per second on the day we went (for information on Narrows flow rates, see Zion Guru). Some areas had strong currents, requiring careful navigation. Only one of our four companions slipped while crossing the river, managing not to fall completely. Since she was wearing a dry bib and dry bag, only the sleeves of her clothes got a bit wet. This shows the value of the dry bib, and each of us had a dry bag (I have many from sea kayaking).

Day 4 Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

On the fourth day, we had a more relaxed itinerary, visiting the Lower Antelope Canyon Hiking Tour and Horseshoe Bend. Both sites were incredibly crowded (reminded me of tourist spots in China), purely for photo opportunities. The queue for Lower Antelope Canyon did not move much in the first 30 minutes, and we were told by the guide that it’s even more crowded during summer. In the end, a one-kilometer walk took us one and a half hours. That is, a one-hour tour ended up taking one and a half hours to complete, so keep in mind to allow extra time if you have a plane to catch. As for Horseshoe Bend, the view from the lookout was amazing, and the $10 parking fee was well worth it.

Day 5 Bryce Canyon National Park

On the fifth day, we revisited Bryce Canyon National Park, where we had been on January 5, 2020. That time, we only stopped at a few scenic points for parking/viewing/photos and didn’t hike. This time, we brought ice cleats, which made hiking on icy and snowy paths easy (microspikes were the heroes of this trip). We walked Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail. We also watched a film, learned at the Visitor Center, bought souvenirs, and even went back to a spot where we took photos three years ago for comparison.

Day 6 Driving Home

The weather was exceptionally good during this trip, with sunny/cloudy skies on the earlier days. It only started to snow/rain on our way back to the hotel on the fifth day; the first half of our journey home the next morning was through storms/hail/fog until we cleared the cloud cover near Las Vegas, and even witnessed a spectacular 30-minute sunrise on our way back to Irvine. The return trip took 7 hours of driving, with the two of us taking turns driving twice each—I drove for a total of 3 hours, cuihao for 4 hours.

Trip Summary

What gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment was completing Angels Landing and The Narrows hikes, and the views while hiking in Bryce were also fantastic.

Regarding the lotteries, we entered 7 applications over 3 days for The Wave lottery and didn’t win any of them, losing $63 to the park in vain, thereby missing out on The Wave. For the Angels Landing lottery, we entered 4 applications in one day and won all of them, unnecessarily taking up 12 spots and wasting $54. It’s a case of “dry seasons dry to death, wet seasons flood to death.”

Regarding accommodations, we stayed at Days Inn by Wyndham St. George on the first day and at Travelodge by Wyndham Kanab for the next four days (highly recommended). Staying in Kanab is advantageous as it is situated between Zion, Bryce, and Page. Given the need for lottery entries for Angels Landing and The Wave, our itinerary needed to be flexible, adjustable based on lottery outcomes and weather.

Expenses

This trip cost nearly $900 in total, roughly broken down as follows: fuel $150, accommodation for 5 nights $250, food $150, tickets/Tour/lottery/rentals $300, and others (like souvenirs) $50. Compared to our previous trips, we saved on flight and car rental costs, and accommodations were inexpensive, though we previously spent more on tickets and tours.

Trip Map

Summary of hiking routes

Driving itinerary on Google Maps

Travels over the Past 3 Years

Over the past three years, cuihao and I have visited 22 national parks, embarking on 10 trips (8 of them longer than 4 days). The image below shows a record of each trip, including dates and expenses. It’s clear from this that our travels in 2020/2021 were on a tight budget, with camping saving us a significant amount of money. For the last three trips in 2022, we didn’t camp at all, especially in Hawaii and Yellowstone where we spent a lot. However, our three Christmas/New Year trips to the national parks of the Southwest were very economical. Interestingly, the amount of joy and the quality of experiences we had weren’t directly correlated with how much money we spent.

People often ask me how we manage to spend so little on our trips. Here are a few strategies we’ve used to save money:

  1. Sleeping in cars (Grand Canyon 2020, Alaska 2021)
  2. Camping (Grand Canyon 2020, Yosemite 2021, Alaska 2021, Hawaii 2021)
  3. Using school/company websites to book cars/hotels at discounted rates (almost every trip)
  4. Using airline credits for tickets, like calling for vouchers when a flight is delayed by 4 hours for future ticket purchases
  5. Traveling with friends to share the costs of rental cars, flights, and hotel rooms (New Year 2020, Alaska 2021, Yellowstone 2022)
  6. Cooking our own meals/eating instant noodles/carrying dry food/eating at fast-food restaurants instead of dining out (almost every trip)

Wishing everyone a happy new year! Welcome 2023!

Contents
  1. 1. Day 1 Driving
  2. 2. Day 2 Angels Landing Hike
  3. 3. Day 3 The Narrows Hike
  4. 4. Day 4 Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend
  5. 5. Day 5 Bryce Canyon National Park
  6. 6. Day 6 Driving Home
  7. 7. Trip Summary
    1. 7.1. Expenses
    2. 7.2. Trip Map
  8. 8. Travels over the Past 3 Years