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My Favorite Road Trip: The Canyonlands

Exploring Utah, Colorado and Arizona

Late in 2020, AAA Washington’s Megan Conner left Bremerton in a rented car with her friend. They were headed for the canyonlands.

In October 2020, AAA member travel counselor Megan Connor hopped into a sedan with her friend and headed east to the Mountain West to discover what might be out there.

“We took a road trip to the five national parks of Utah,” Connor says. “She’s the friend I travel with pretty much anytime I take a vacation.”

The pair left Bremerton in the rented car and drove some 12 hours to northern Utah to spend the night at her grandfather’s house.

“My friend had a national park pass that she was gifted,” Connor explains. “So, with COVID-19, we decided to do a trip closer to home. Neither of us had been to national parks there, so we hit as many as we could. It was somewhere we had never been, and it was an adventure that was really cool. There’s lots of beautiful stuff to see.”

They visited the picturesque Capitol Reef National Park first. From there, via a loop that circled the state, they took the scenic state Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Megan Conner at the Arches National Park
Megan Conner at the Arches National Park. Courtesy of Megan Conner.

On to Arizona

Next, the two women drove from Zion National Park to Arizona where they stopped at Lake Powell to check out Horseshoe Bend, which is a part of the Colorado River that’s twisted into the shape of — you guessed it — a horseshoe. Speaking of Colorado, the duo headed next to Mesa Verde National Park and then back to Utah’s Moab region to visit Arches National Park (another of Connor’s favorites). Then it was off to Canyonlands National Park.

“From there we went back up to northern Utah and back home,” Connor says.  In total, the duo’s trip took about two weeks door-to-door.

In Bryce Canyon, the women hiked and took in the large rock pillars nicknamed “hoodoos.” The site offered as much stimulation for the imagination as it did for the eyes.

“We kept wondering how they all formed,” Connor says. “The power of water.”

In Mesa Verde National Park, Connor saw famed cliffside dwellings that once housed numerous people. They’re built into the side of the rocks many feet above ground. At the time of their trip, tours had been largely cancelled due to COVID-19, but the two women were able to spot the dwellings from a distance.

“Even looking at everything from afar was really cool,” Connor says. “Imagine the history of it. People used to live there — it’s very interesting.”

In Arches National Park, the two saw countless reddish arches carved out of the sandstone, which were likely formed by water erosion and polished by wind.

“We drove,” she says, “and we camped for almost every night. We filled the car with tents and sleeping bags and sleeping mats.”

Prior to COVID-19, the women had planned to go on trips together abroad to make the most of their vacation time. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, they may never have discovered what could be discovered close to home.

“It forced us to take a different route,” Connor says. “I was surprised how much there was to see so close to home. And we had the freedom of stopping whenever we wanted to stop.”

–Written by Jake Uitti
–Top photo of Capitol Reef National Park by Paulista/AdobeStock

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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