Road trippin’ Out West

I realize that spring break seems a lifetime ago as we head into fall, but I wanted to share a special itinerary with you in the hopes that maybe you’ll be inspired to start planning early for 2018….and as an added bonus, I can now book travel for you too!  Email me at jrichardson@smartflyer.com with any inquiries!  And now…..roll it back to spring break 2017 below!

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Spring break this year exceeded all expectations as we journeyed out into the great, wide open deserts, mountains, parks and highways of Southern Utah and Arizona.  For eight days, we experienced breathtaking panoramas and took advantage of nature’s perfect playground at every stop.   Southern Utah into northern Arizona may seem like a narrow focus, but in order to fully experience the ins and outs of this beautiful destination, you’d need repeat visits or way more than a week.  But alas, we packed in what we could and I’m excited to share our story.  Read on for details.

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Getting there – Fly into Las Vegas, NV and out of Phoenix, AZ, or do the reverse. It’s an easy 90 minute drive from Vegas to St. George and plus, it’s fun to spend an afternoon soaking up the action and oversized everything in Sin City.

Getting around – Renting a car from the Las Vegas airport is easiest. Be prepared for a long walk through the Vegas airport followed by a wait for the rental car shuttle to arrive and then another walk to get your car.

Where to Stay

The Inn at Entrada (http://www.innatentrada.com/) – In St. George, this country club-residence development is set on a golf course with suites that are actually individual homes with private driveways.  At the time of our stay, guests had access to the country club on site, including its pool, spa, tennis courts and restaurant.  I would return there in a heartbeat, stay a week and explore the St. George area.  Don’t expect cutting edge, but it’s perfectly comfortable and oh so spacious.

 

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Amangiri – Located in Canyon Point, Utah, this property is nestled in an absolutely exquisite desert canyon.  The quality of the service did not come close to the scenic eye candy but for a one-night splurge, it was worthwhile just to be surrounded by the beautiful shapes of 150+ million year old rock formations and far removed from civilization.  The property is beautifully designed in a way that simply and tastefully juxtaposes the boulders that hug in from all sides.

 

 

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Hogan Glamping on Navajoland – For a departure from upscale hotels, this property is unique and incredibly fun!  We reserved through airbnb and slept under the stars in a traditional Navajo home, called a hogan, for a night.  Think camping in a wooden (or clay) structure with nothing but the sand under your feet.  We bought ingredients, pots and pans and a few flashlights and cooked out under the stars.  There is no electricity and the bathroom is a Porta Potty.   They have the most beautiful and friendly working dogs that watched over us all night long –  we fell in love with them!  Say hi to Baya and her kids from us if you go!

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Enchantment Spa and Resort – Arguably the finest luxury property in Sedona.  Similar to the Amangiri in that the landscape is what really stands out.  The property is well laid out and the casitas are roomy and plush.  The spa is expansive, both in size and in treatment options.  The main part of the hotel boasts several tennis courts, a pool, two restaurants (plus lunch can be ordered pool side), a great open multi-use field and two boutiques.  The entire property is wedged between red mountains and blue skies almost every day of the year.  It is about a 10 minute drive from the town of Sedona and even closer to many hiking trails, including some right on property.

 

What to do
We spent two nights in St. George, which we used as a base for a day trip to Zion, a UTV experience in Sand Canyon Park and to explore St. George a bit.  We then drove to Canyon Point where we spent one night at the Amangiri. From there we drove just over the border to Page, Arizona where we “camped” out for a night before heading down to Sedona for four nights at the Enchantment.  Read on for more details.

Highlights in Utah – St. George is an amazing home base.  There are an infinite number of hiking trails to explore in the surrounding area.  If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia and are into history, venture out to do a Petroglyph slot canyon hike.  For a more open space, Snow Canyon and Sand Canyon State Parks are great options and both within 15 minutes of St. George.  We did not make it to Yant Flat (https://www.hikestgeorge.com/yant-flat-candy-cliffs-leeds-ut/, but I hear it’s pretty impressive as well.  Zion National Park (https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm) is less than an hour away (the Watchman Trail is perfect for families).

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There’s an impressive (for being in the middle of nowhere) organic market on the way in and/or out of Zion where you can grab snacks and a picnic lunch.

If you are the adventurous type, you can book at UTV adventure while in the area.  We booked a tour in Sand Canyon State Park (https://atvadventures.com/) and while it was incredibly beautiful and educational, our guide was conservative, so we were unable to let loose and take the “adventure” to the speeds we had hoped for. If you’re looking to go crazy on the UTV, I’d suggest finding another option in the area.

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Canyon Point, Utah is nearly two hours east of St. George and the drive there is breathtaking.  The red rocks slowly fade into gray as you approach  Canyon Point, near the Glen Canyon National Park.  There are gorgeous hikes of all levels throughout this region, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (https://utah.com/hiking/escalante).  Since we were at the Amangiri, we  could not pull ourselves away and took advantage of the hikes on property.  From Canyon Point, it was less than a 30 minute drive to our next destination, Page, Arizona.

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Highlights in Arizona – Page, Arizona is a great starting point for visiting Northern Arizona.  The slot canyons here are so cool.  Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are the most iconic but you can only tour through them with a guide as they are on Navajo land (http://lowerantelope.com/).  Unfortunately, along with the guided tour (only two companies in Lower Antelope – Ken’s and Dixie’s – and I heard somewhere that they are siblings) comes crowds and an insane number of pauses for iphone selfies and landscape pix (yep, I am guilty of it too-see below).  Still totally worthwhile though.  Canyon X is another slot canyon in the area that I hear is a bit less populated. You can also boat to the canyons from Lake Powell (link below).

 

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Horseshoe Bend is another gorgeous yet crowded sight.  Go early before the throngs arrive and you’re more likely to have the dramatic landscape to yourself.  Once you park, it’s about a 15 minute walk on a dirt path to the viewing point.  Although we arrived with the rest of the fast-clicking iphone pack, I imagine that a sunrise arrival with a picnic breakfast would be the way to go next time around.

We did not visit Lake Powell (http://www.lakepowell.com) because of time restraints but I wish we had.  If you plan in advance, you can rent kayaks or even paddle boards.  Motorboat rentals are another option, as well as guided boat rides.

About an hour from Page you can visit the Eastern Rim of the Grand Canyon:  the least talked about entry to the most talked about site in the region.  There are very few ways to enter the Grand Canyon through the Eastern Rim because it borders private Navajo land.  We used a company called Sacred Edge Tours (http://www.sacrededgetours.com/) and for an entire day, we drove to on dirt roads to different scenic overlooks of the Canyon and did not see a single individual all day.  We spotted wild horses taking advantage of the vacant acreage and a few abandoned hogans (traditional Navajo dwellings), but that was about it.   Despite the bumpy, sometimes lengthy drives along dirt roads to get to each scenic overlook, the quiet and secluded routes were quite awesome and talking to our Navajo guide gave us meaningful insight into the Navajo’s history, way of life and current struggles of the Navajo.  We were coming from Page and grabbed lunch beforehand at a cute, casual restaurant called River’s End Cafe (http://www.raftthecanyon.com/rivers-end-cafe/).

 

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From Page, we drove to Sedona by way of Flagstaff for a quick dinner pitstop  (http://brixflagstaff.com/).  We then continued on to Sedona, which was about another hour south.  In Sedona we stayed at the Enchantment Resort and Spa (http://www.enchantmentresort.com/).   Enchantment is a very pretty property in yet another gorgeous setting amidst the red rocks.  We stayed in a casita, conveniently located just across the way from the hotel’s pool and its two main restaurants, boutique, concierge and reception area.  Our room was a one-bedroom with two queen size beds, a generous living room with a queen size murphy bed, and a dining area with a small kitchenette.  It had two full bathrooms and was well-appointed.  The hotel has a huge, full-service spa where I was treated to a wonderful massage.  There is a meditation room, fitness center, sauna and steam rooms, adults-only indoor and outdoor pools and relaxation area, a juice and smoothie bar and a restaurant called Mii Amo.  Enchantment was a great place to end our vacation with some downtime at the pool and plenty of space for the kids to explore and engage in all the activities on site.

Early one morning we did the obligatory Pink Jeep Tour, which was overpriced but fun (https://www.pinkjeeptourssedona.com/sedona-guided-tour/?gclid=CIas0-aWo9YCFduNswod3EIPyw).  I’ve heard the Broken Arrow tour is the best one but the timing didn’t work out for our crew so we opted for the Diamondback Gulch tour.

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We also rented UTVs here as they’re widely available along the main strip in Sedona. We had a great time and had plenty of laughs tearing through dirt paths, except we had to share many of those paths with hikers, which put a damper on any hopes of a Mario Andretti experience.  We incorporated a few hikes during our stay at the recommendation of the hotel’s concierge, all of which were terrific and approachable for our kids.

 

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We ate dinner at the Enchantment one evening, in their highly acclaimed Mii Amo.  We must have hit it on an off night because our meal was mediocre at best.  Another night we went out to Mariposa Latin Grill (http://mariposasedona.com/), where we enjoyed a great meal with even better service.  I have also heard that Picazzo’s (http://www.picazzos.com/) and Javelina Cantina (http://www.javelinacantinasedona.com/ are good, casual meal options in Sedona.

During the 120 mile drive to the Phoenix airport on our way out, we all agreed that this part of the country more than merits a second visit, hopefully before too long.

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