Your quick guide to road tripping through the Southwest – misadventure, memories and all.
As we watched the sun set over the hills of southern Nevada, I was in a state of nonstop snaps.
Snapping up, to capture light reflecting off the Seven Magic Mountains. Snapping wide angle to gather the scenic sundown. And, after 30 minutes of dusk, snapping back to reality:
We still have a four-hour drive…
Along the most remote, pitch black roads out there…
Thus began my epic southwest road trip.
I’ll be honest, I can’t imagine an easy road trip, from point A to point B with no chaos, no close calls on gas, no stopping for photo opps that set you behind schedule.
My road trip through Nevada, Arizona and Utah was no different (as I’m sure you figured out by now). I dragged my mom along for the chaos, because she’s just as adventurous and error-prone as yours truly. We make a hilarious, absolutely terrible team.
We had limited days for this Southwest road trip, and packed a lot into our schedule, starting with perhaps my favorite Nevada attraction:
Seven Magic Mountains
Just 10 or so miles from McCarren International Airport, the Seven Magic Mountains are an unusual, hypnotically colored attraction.
Ugo Rondinone, a Swiss artist, created these seven 30-foot, colorful “totems” in May 2016. They’re a bit Willy Wonka-esque (but sadly, no candy flavors – where’s the suggestion box?).
We checked these bad boys out at sunset, which was great for photography (gotta love golden hour!) … but absolutely terrible for driving to our next destination:
The Grand Canyon
Whether it was the grimy trucker stop with shirtless gas pumpers, or the close calls with elks galloping across the dark street, I spent most of that 9 to 3 a.m. drive wondering if we’d actually make it.
I’m still wondering how we did.
But, nonetheless, we arrived at the Canyon around 3 a.m., woke up at 6, and hiked along the South Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon. Apparently sleep is overrated?
This trail has multiple scenic spots like Ooh Ahh point, but really, the entire trip – while strenuous – is just unreal. The warm marble canyon walls melt into the horizon, and up, down, left and right, you’re surrounded by some of the worlds most unique, ancient rock formations.
So, despite the sweat and steep climbs, South Kaibab was definitely a great, quick-ish way to experience the Canyon. (Note: you must be in shape for this – the route down is much easier than the uphill hike home.)
Sadly, we only had one day with the old GC, because next morning it was off to stop three:
Lower Antelope Canyon
Guys, Lower Antelope Canyon has, has, HAS to be on your “Live It” List! From step one into this underground canyon, you’re transported to another planet, decorated with curving, winding walls decorated in alternating warm red, gold and purple hues.
Lower Antelope Canyon is a little tougher to hike through than its “big brother” Upper Antelope Canyon, which means fewer people visit this one — and that’s why I like it. You take steep stairs down into the canyon, and have to wiggle through some pretty tight walkways.
If you’re visiting, wear old shoes (all the dust!) and aim for a 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. visit time, when the sun beams might just peek through. To enter the canyon, you must go on a guided tour, and if you’re like me, you’ll get prodded multiple times by the guide to keep it movin’. Fortunately, you do have enough time to take photos, so don’t get premature FOMO. As long as you’re constantly snapping, you’ll get a great shot.
A quick drive from Lower Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend may be one of the most popular sites among Instagrammers. I mean, this unusual rock formation is all over the Insta. So obviously we had to go.
The hike out is actually deceivingly long; they say one mile, but it feels much tougher with the sand and dust you’re hiking up. Speaking of, keep those old shoes on, because this is another white Chucks-ruiner (which almost happened to me!)
Visit all hours of the day, but as always, the closer to golden hour, the better. I got there around 2, so had to make do with my photos…
Silver Reef Ghost Town
Like pretty much every road trip I plan, we were racing the clock to fit in our last stop: Silver Reef Ghost Town.
I’d never been to a ghost town, and wanted to live out my favorite old west movies. Honestly, Silver Reef isn’t all that special. They have signs explaining what each site used to be, but very few original buildings remain.
But hey, I got to see the quintessential tumbleweed roll across the deserted street, so I was happy.
Until we got in the car and realized we had 90 minutes to make a 120-minute drive to the rental car drop off.
How does this always happen?!
I think we both know the answer (cough, me, cough). Nonetheless, we did make it – without a speeding ticket! – and planned yet another adventure to recreate the chaos up along California’s north coast. More to come soon!
Are you planning a trip out to the Southwest? Here’s a map of our itinerary to create this crazy beautiful journey. Follow at your own risk…