In our newest travel series, we show you how to take on the different (official and unofficial) wonders of the world. Explore the South-West through the eyes of View the VIBE’s Amanda Phuong in this Vibe Guide.
They say once you start travelling, you never want to stop… And they’re completely right. The only issue is, when you’re a 20-year-old-something who’s working an entry-level job, travelling the world with your friends and partner in tow isn’t always financially feasible. At least, so I thought.
Now when I say travelling, I don’t mean an all-inclusive trip to Cuba where I spend a week drinking watered down tequila. I mean an eye-opening experience that’ll change my life and set the bar for vacations to come. Think you can’t afford a life-changing vacation like this? Think again. I recently travelled America’s great South-West, experienced the most beautiful landscapes and hiked the most impressive trails (albeit exhausting) for less than $100 a day.
Simply put, cut down your costs by planning ahead. My partner and I road tripped from Las Vegas to Utah to Arizona and back to Sin City. We planned the trip four months in advance and were able to score super affordable flights from Toronto to Vegas. Instead of renting a car, we decided to rent a campervan from Escape Campervans – a car, hotel, and kitchen, all in one – and because we booked in advance, we were able to score a 10% discount. The total cost for 7 days was less than $800 USD.
Aside from the van, our largest cost was where we parked it. In a span of 7 days, we stayed at three different campsites, all of which ranged between $12-30 a night. If you’re looking to go an even cheaper route, you can find free campsites on websites like Campendium and while Wal-Mart parking lots aren’t always the most scenic (except for the people watching,) they allow overnight parking free of charge.
Food was another expense on the trip but all-in-all, it was relatively cheap. Since we stayed on campsites, we cooked every meal on a portable stove provided by Escape Campervans and did all of our shopping at local grocery stores or Wal-Mart.
I can’t say it enough. The landscapes of Utah and Arizona are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before – pictures just don’t do it justice. And while there are plenty of Instagram-worthy locales and National Parks to stop by, my partner and I chose 3 destinations that allowed us to explore and relax without feeling rushed.
Zion National Park
Located just 2.5 hours outside of Las Vegas, Zion National Park is a maze of wondrous canyons where the Virgin River weaves.
The actual campsite was spacious, with a firepit, picnic table, and outlets. The bathrooms were extremely clean, with washing stations for dishes outside. While there were no showers on site, pay-per-minute showers are accessible in town, just a few minutes drive from the campsite.
The real attraction, however, is Angels Landing; a series of steep switchbacks, knife edge trails and chainlink grips that lead to it’s highest peak, standing at 5,790 feet high. While Angels Landing is definitely one of the more challenging trails, there are multiple others that hikers can explore that range from easy to strenuous.
There is nothing quite like seeing the coral and crimson-colored hoodoos on the twisting trails of Bryce Canyon against a bright blue sky. The hiking trails are a plenty and the camping areas are large with several sections to stay in. My campsite was tucked away in the forest. Again, the bathrooms were really well taken care of and pay-per-minute showers were accessible through the general store.
Pit Stop: Horseshoe Bend
So I’m not going to lie. On our trip, we got lost and ended up at Horseshoe Bend, which ended up being the best mistake we’d ever made. The hike is quite short – less than 30 minutes, and you don’t need to spend more than a few hours there. The sight is absolutely incredible.
When planning the trip, my partner and I both agreed that the Grand Canyon could not be missed (for obvious reasons). We stayed and explored the South Rim (as the North Rim was closed for the season) and it was by far, the largest and busiest park on our trip. One thing I loved about the grounds was the restaurants on site, the free WiFi (bless), and (I can’t stress this enough) how clean the bathrooms were!
Though we had an amazing time hiking the South Kaibab trail (we hiked for 5 hours but the trail is essentially build-your-own-adventure – it goes for hours), the Grand Canyon is the one destination I wished we had more time at. There are so many other areas I plan to explore when I go back (and I certainly plan on it), including the Havasu Falls which is a 3-day backpacking trip and the Rim-to-Rim hike which takes about 8-hours. For those who prefer more leisurely walks, the Grand Canyon had a variety of bike and walking trails that ranged from Novice to Advanced.
Before embarking on my South-West adventure, I had no idea the amount of beauty in our own neighbour’s backyard and to my surprise, America wasn’t just a series of fast food joints and outlet malls (though there is an abundance).
So if you’re looking for a breathtaking vacation (or even just some really good Instagram photos), I’d suggest hopping in a van with a friend (or two) and making your way across Utah and Arizona.
Where else would you stop on a South-West road trip? Tweet us @ViewtheVibe.