I recently returned from a week-long adventure in the desert during one of the hottest heat waves imaginable. It was a trip-of-a-lifetime! I’m going to share where our journey led us, along with some tips for each destination that you might find helpful if you should ever find yourself exploring in the same area(s). Or, join in on the fun in one of the 2022 group adventure trips!
Starting Point: Vegas
We landed in Las Vegas, Nevada and were welcomed with 115 degree sweltering heat. We took our uber through Sin City and picked up our home-on-wheels for the next week - an Escape Campervan named “Disco”. Even though we only actually ended up sleeping in Disco one night during our trip - we used many of her features (such as the mini fridge, sink, and propane stove) every single day. Having the “big sur” model also gave us plenty of space for our luggage and 3 additional ice chests to house our food and water. We loaded up with supplies at a grocery store and then hit the road to our first official road trip destination - Zion Write Family Ranch on the Smith Mesa right on the border of Zion National Park.
I found this gem of a spot on the Hipcamp app (it’s like airbnb for camping and out-of-the-box overnight experiences). It was only a 2.5 hour drive from Vegas and a 30 minute drive from our next destination, Zion National Park. It was true off-the-grid camping (but with a few clean port-a-potties) that had breathtaking views of Kolob, Smith Mesa, and Zion. We pulled up on the ranch just in time for our scheduled evening horseback ride, led by two 18 year old cowboys named Cash and Slade. For over two hours, we toured their private 1200 acre ranch on our horses - Champ and Lily. The scenery was breathtaking beyond words and the silence of the land was the perfect kick-off for our week in the wild. We wrapped up our evening cooking dinner from camper kitchen, listening to a recorded hypnosis by Mary Lou Rodriguez under the stars, and sharing our queen bed inside of disco with the doors open and a desert breeze on our skin.
Up with the sun, our first stop of Day 2 was at Zion National Park. Zion has several incredible hikes - the two most famous being Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. With the 110+ degree weather promised that day, we opted in for one that offered water...The Narrows. This hike is something I believe everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It truly is the mecca of canyon hikes, the “Grandfather” of desert slot canyons, The Zion Narrows has been rated one of the top ten hikes on Earth, and rightfully so. Leaving the pavement of the popular Riverside Walk, the Virgin River becomes the path, drawing you up into its towering walls and a sinuous path along river banks and knee-deep waters into the narrowest section of Wall Street where 18 million years of river erosion has cut 1500-foot walls into the earth. For many, hiking The Narrows is a life-changing experience. It’s an “in and out” hike - meaning that you hike in as long as you’d like (up to 10 miles) and turn around and hike out the same length. I definitely recommend bringing a hiking stick. The rocks are quite slippery in areas and we saw many people eat s**t who didn’t have one. You can pack a collapsible one before you go, or many stores in the town of Springdale nearby sell beautiful hand-carved wooden ones.
We wrapped up our time at Zion late afternoon and headed out on a 5 hour journey to our next destination, Moab.
Most of this hike was at least knee deep in the Virgin River.
I first visited Moab the summer of 2020 when I took my solo road trip. I had never even heard of this place before last year, and spontaneously decided to make it a detour stop when I saw a friend-of-a -friend post about it on Instagram. It’s now one of my favorite places on earth. Surrounded by some of the most stunning red rock landscapes on Earth, Moab’s unique combination of small resort town hospitality, beautiful scenery and the cool waters of the Colorado River has made it one of the most sought after destinations in the American Southwest. It’s also a fabulous place for adventure lovers, as there are countless activities for outdoor enthusiasts to revel in.
Our first adventure began the moment we landed into town at 9pm at night. I had reserved our accommodations months in advance and was excited to enjoy another out-of-the box experience - hostel living. However...this hostel was unlike any other that I have experienced before. Imagine a hole-in-the wall establishment that you might see in a horror movie where the leading lady most definitely is going to get murdered. That was the Lazy Lizard experience for us. Thankfully - we weren’t planning on spending much time there, as we had an agenda that kept us playing around outside.
We woke up on day 3 excited for another day of adventure. The first thing up - Canyoneering! With our guides Dan and Hunter at the helm, Sara and I set out with our group on a 5 hour extraordinary experience of propelling down canyon walls (up to 120 feet high!), discovering secret caves, playing in streams, and hiking through scenery that photos simply could not do justice. This might have been the hottest day of the trip (116 was the peak), but it also might have been one of the funnest. We crashed for an afternoon nap (we both needed a major recharge) and then set out for Arches National Park.
Arches is a MUST when visiting Moab. There are some 2,000+ documented arches in the park itself, and even more in its vicinity! In fact, as per the National Park Service, Arches has the highest number of natural arches concentrated in one place anywhere in the world. It seems like everywhere you look is another arch! The most famous of these is Delicate Arch, an arch which requires a 3-mile round trip hike. It’s not a particularly difficult hike, but if you’re visiting in summer, you’ll want to go either at sunrise or sunset to avoid the worst of the heat (and the crowds). In 2019 Arches National Park became certified as an official International Dark Sky Park and is one of the best places in the world to see the estimated 2500+ stars that are available to the naked eye. As it happens, Sara and I were visiting on the evening of the New Moon - the best opportunity for stargazing. After hiking for a few hours, we drove through the park and found a private area to set up not far from the main road. With our red light headlamps in place, we set up our camp chairs and watched as the night sky lit up with more stars than I have ever seen in my nearly 40 years of existence. I know I’ve used this word a lot (and I’ll be using it again), but it was utterly breathtaking. And because the new moon is the best time to release things, using sage for energy clearing and a special crystal for self-reflection, I took Sara through a New Moon ceremony so she could intentionally let go of thoughts and cut the cord to beliefs that she didn’t want to take with her into this next phase of her life. It was truly so very special.
The 120 foot wall we descended from
The next morning, we decided to cancel our planned hike due to smoky conditions from the Nevada wildfires. With spontaneity on our side, we hit the road. Our only goal was to be in Page, Arizona before sunset. We weren’t too far out of Moab when a giant painted rock caught our eye and we made our first stop. “The hole in the rock” might be one of the most interesting roadside attractions that I’ve ever seen in my life. We took the 12 minute walking tour of a 5000 square foot home that was built with only dynamite and pickaxes in the early 1900’s. From here, we realized we were only a couple of hours from the four corners monument, located in Navajo Nation. Cutting through Colorado and making a detour or two ( + )
….we found ourselves standing in the only spot in the US where you can be in 4 states at one time. Four corners had a new tribal market, and the hand-crafted jewelry was too irresistible not to buy. One of the locals recommended we visit Monument Valley next on our journey, so of course - we did! Unfortunately, only one area of this park was open due to COVID restrictions, but the views still did not disappoint. I can see why this is one of the most photographed places on earth.
We made it to Page, Arizona just in time to check in to our hotel and zoom over to view another famous landmark - Horseshoe Bend. This is a very easy hike for one of the most sought after views. I’m sure you recognize this image. We treated ourselves to a steak dinner and then collapsed in bed after another beautifully exhausting day and another early morning ahead.
Sara standing in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.
This was actually pretty interesting
In addition to Horseshoe Bend, Page is famously known for Antelope Canyon. In fact, the world’s most expensive photograph ever sold ($6.5 million to be exact) was taken here.
Unfortunately, the tours of the canyon were still closed due to COVID restrictions. However, being the detective that I am - I had researched ahead of time and found a somewhat secret back entrance that was only accessible through starting our day off with a bit of a water adventure. We rented a couple of Kayaks and set out on Lake Powell. The downside to this… the majority of the kayaking route is through a wake zone. Meaning, there are boats and jet skis flying past you. The waves are intense (think kayaking in the ocean) and will make you feel like your kayak is about to tip over at times (We saw it happen!). It is also a very strenuous journey. Let’s just say I consider myself in relatively decent shape and the trip back had me cursing all sorts of obscenities under my breath. That being said, once you get off the lake and into the ravine...it is undeniably incredible. The waters get still and are so clear you can see in some areas a hundred feet down. The red rock walls surrounding you block out the wind and the silence is stunning. There were others paddling/rowing, but it is a much more private experience than any paid walking tour would have provided. Once you get to the end of the water’s edge, a slot canyon awaits for the land version of the adventure and the hike begins. This is where you get to see the beauty of Antelope Canyon.
Horseshoe Bend - Page, Arizona
After leaving Page, we set out on the 3 hour drive to the spiritual mecca of the US - Sedona, Arizona. If you haven’t been - put it on your bucket list. Most famous for it’s spiritual vortexes, we did the touristy thing first and booked a jeep tour to learn more about these spiritual wonders of the world. Our guide, Rob, proved to be a wealth of knowledge and someone I imagine I’d be friends with if I were his neighbor. One of the stops brought us to see the Amitabha Stupa. This striking 36-foot enlightenment stupa gets its name from Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, whose bronze image is nestled in the faceplate of the stupa. Filled with hundreds of millions of prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual offerings, the Amitabha Stupa is an enlightened presence and a beacon of blessings for all beings. I hadn’t anticipated it, but I definitely felt a very special energy in its presence. It was here we also walked around the sacred medicine wheel and gave blessings to the spirit guides of the North, East, South, and West and asked for guidance. This isn’t one of the famous Sedona vortex hikes that give you stunning views of the red rock landscape, but it is a very special place and I highly recommend stopping here the next time you’re in Sedona.
A view from Cathedral Rock Energy Vortex in Sedona, Arizona.
To avoid the hordes of people that it often attracts, we decided to hike to devil’s bridge at sunset. We were about halfway there when I realized we forgot our headlamps inside of the van, something it was becoming more apparent with every step that we were going to need for the trek back. Thankful for a full battery charge and a cell phone flashlight, we continued our climb and soon came along a family of wild pigs. Remembering that pigs can be quite ill tempered, we kept our distance, but managed to snag a shot before they moved up the hillside. If you're looking for a spectacular view and aren’t afraid of heights, this is a perfect hike for you. If you’re looking for some extra adventure in your life...forget your headlamps in the car. I’m not going to lie, the trek back to the car was a bit unnerving. It was DARK and I couldn’t stop thinking about those pigs...and what type of animals were even further up the food chain that could be lurking in the shadows. I have never been so happy to see Disco than I was that night! We decided a celebratory hot tub soak under the stars back at the house was in order (more in the house in just a bit!).
The next morning after breakfast, we made a spontaneous detour to visit a psychic to see what was in store for our future(s) and because it just seemed like a “Sedona” thing to do. Another “must” when visiting is to check out one of the many crystal shops that the town provides. There are A LOT. In fact, I’d say block out a few hours to just walk around the storefronts and visit the local shops because it is an experience in itself.
Devil's Bridge. - Sedona, Arizona
We saved the best Sedona hike for last (IMO) - Cathedral Rock. It’s not a long hike, but it’s fairly vertical for those who have a little fear of heights. It’s about 1.2 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 650 feet. Don’t let the short distance fool you, you’ll want to wear sturdy hiking shoes and opt for a backpack to keep your hands free for climbing. There is no shade on the trail. One reason Cathedral Rock in Sedona is so popular is because of its energy vortex, a spot where the earth’s energy spirals above its surface. Those who believe in vortexes claim it has a feminine energy and that visitors should expect to leave feeling creative and rested. Sara and I did NOT leave feeling calm and rested, as a distant thunderstorm blew in not long after we reached the peak. Not only did it begin dumping rain, but the loud thunder cracks that followed the lightning had us unsure if it was safer to try and get down and away from a lightning strike or stay up high and away from potential flash floods. The rocks that began to fall off the cliffs above us made up our mind that DOWN was the best option. I swear, I nearly kissed the red dirt below my feet when we made it to the bottom. Yet, another unexpected adventure that we can laugh on in hindsight.
Cathedral Rock - Sedona, Arizona
Our home in Sedona, the "Dome House".
Our next step and final night on our weeklong adventure was Grand Canyon West. We pulled in just after 10 pm and were greeted with yet another lightning storm. It was unbelievably incredible! We were staying at the Grand Canyon West Cabins, which meant our lighting show view was literally over the canyon itself. Here are a few of my fav photos I capture that night!
The Grand Canyon is HUGE and there are many incredible adventures to be experienced. Since we had to return Disco in the afternoon, I chose the west side because it’s a quick 2.5 hour drive back to Vegas...and because it has the famous skywalk experience that is great for a first-time like Sara to see.
"I loved being in nature in the quiet with these beautiful red rocks. Being in between these canyons was amazingly beautiful. I really loved connecting and getting to know Rachel. The great conversations while driving to our destinations was fun. Being surprised on the morning of a new adventure. Doing things I didn’t think I could do. Doing the uncomfortable and the feeling after is the best feeling! I felt accomplished, brave, and strong - like I could do anything, like I could BE anything. Being out in the desert truly is something else. The high energy, peace, stillness, and the quiet being on top of those mountains after working my ass off climbing up was absolutely breath taking. The feeling of knowing I can do this, I can climb this mountain is just SO amazing. It felt so fulfilling being in this world and feeling so free. Connecting on such a personal level with someone for a week going on all these adventures there is nothing like it. Propelling down 90 and 120 ft cliffs on a big rock was exhilarating. Hiking The Narrows in Zion another great adventure.
If you're feeling pulled to go on one of Rachel's Adventure Trips, know that you will have the time of your life! You will get out of your head and be in the moment. You will feel so free, at peace, strong, and accomplished. The connection with nature, spirit, and your highest self is so worth it. You will love yourself and feel so grateful for this beautiful planet earth we live on."
The 2022 group dates are set! Join Rachel and 5 other women for a week-long desert adventure experience. Want to go on a solo trip instead? Inquire for more information.
An extra shot of adventure on this hike!
One of the epic views from our horse ride at Write Family Ranch in Smith Mesa, just outside of Zion.
Somewhere between Zion and Moab
Truly feels like you're walking on another planet.
An hour of ROUGH kayaking on lake Powell and you can reach this much more peaceful ravine.
While scaling down a 120 foot cliff, Sara finds herself in an interesting predicament (side note - she's ok!)
A view from "The Windows" at Arches
Location: Moab, Utah
A must to see in person.
A view from the deck!
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