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The wind rattles through my clothes, lifting the hat off my head and spitting dust at my legs. My empty water bottle clinks against my backpack, lungs gasping in the thin air.
The vista below is a fairyland of multi-coloured stone spires stretching as far as the eye can see, shimmering in hues of orange, pink and red in the changing sunlight.
Standing on the edge of Bryce Canyon’s Sunset Point, Utah was living up to its advertising slogan: ‘Life Elevated’. The striking landscapes of America’s West have fascinated me from a young age growing up watching classic films like Indiana Jones and Back to the Future.
Utah National Parks
Vast sprawling deserts, deep-red canyons and giant open spaces abound in this geological wonderland. With Utah’s National Parks brought to life in the latest blockbuster, 127 Hours, I was keen to get out there and explore.
The limestone towers making Bryce Canyon, etched by millions of years of erosion and geological mayhem, are called hoodoos for their spellbinding nature. Just hours before, having followed a snaking path, I had been walking amongst towering peaks, transfixed by the twisted formations and enchanted by the contrast of sky and stone.
Our guide pointed out several life-like hoodoos, one of which suggests that everyone’s favourite Extra-Terrestrial existed in stone long before he stirred the imagination of Steven Spielberg.
Sitting down to discuss the day’s events over a steak dinner – another highlight of travelling through cowboy country – we were joined by Bruce, a local tourist board representative. Regaling us with local tales, he told us how the Mormon settler, Ebenezer Bryce, had discovered the canyon in the 19th century and in his finest deep-west drawl, repeated Ebenezer’s famous quote that Bryce Canyon is: ‘A hell of a place to lose a cow’!
Bryce Canyon National Park
The phrase inevitably stuck, with each of us perfecting our imitations (between bouts of laughter) throughout the rest of the trip. It is a wonder none of us has been snapped up for the next Hollywood film! Leaving Bryce shrinking in the distance, it was onto Moab, Utah’s undisputed adventure capital.
En route, our guide pulled into Stan’s Burger Shack giving us explicit instructions to try the infamous milkshakes. We each emerged clutching a litre and a half of ice cream loaded with crushed Hershey bars. Here the portions are as grand as the views!
Blood sugar levels soared as did our journey along the stunning Scenic Byway 12, bestowed with the US transport department’s highest accolade – ‘All-American Road’ – awarded for its historic, natural and scenic interest. Cutting through two national parks, three state parks and a national forest, the changing landscapes were a feast for the eyes.
Gazing through the window, the absence of any other traffic gave a real sense of the vast scale of the American West, a scene completed by the token tumbleweed rolling outside. In Moab, our days were filled with exhilarating experiences; a 4WD hummer tour across the Slickrock Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area; a jet boat ride along the Colorado River and hiking in Arches National Park.
The American West certainly excels, grand on all fronts with big landscapes, big skies and even bigger adventures. I certainly left Utah feeling ‘elevated’. By Exodus’ Vicky Boughton, Product Executive
If you want to enjoy your own Utah adventures, see our trips below.