The Ultimate Southwest Roadtrip - CO, NM, AZ, UT
If you follow me on any form of social media you’ve seen the mass amount of photos I have posted from my most recent trip. I hope you’re not tired of them yet because I’m going to add a ton more in this post. SO many people have asked for our itinerary /route + I am beyond excited to share it with you. I’m sharing our exact route, experiences, favorite eats, must do’s + even the things I wish I would have had time for! Let’s hit the road!
COLORADO - FRIDAY AFTERNOON + SATURDAY
For being the most unplanned destination of our trip Denver sure showed us a great time. I changed into a cute dress in the airport parking garage, sprayed some dry shampoo in my curls and off we went. Since we arrived in Denver on the first Friday of the month we got to experience the Santa Fe Arts Distric “First Walk Friday”. The district streets are lined with art galleries that open up to the public one Friday a month. The vibe on Santa Fe becomes electric, there are cash bars EVERYWHERE , music, art + adorable outdoor patios. Oh, and did I mention there are multiple alleyways of food trucks. In a hip city like Denver you can bet some of your best food will come from the trucks. We spent the evening people watching, drinking wine + admiring beautiful galleries.
On Saturday, my partner in crime woke up with a migraine from the altitude change + drinking wine instead of water (PRO TIP: drink a lot of water !). We decided to explore the neighborhood we were staying in + we set out looking for a delicious brunch place. We found it too! Just a couple of blocks from our AirBnB on a quaint street was Gallop Café. We sat outside at an adorable mosaic table + I talked to every single dog that was walked by us. I ordered the Rancho Deluxe Huevos, best. breakfast. Ever.
From Gallop Café’s menu : A small tortilla bowl, filled with refritos, two *poached eggs and cheese, served on top of a bed of pork green chili with cheddar cheese, herb roasted potatoes and a splash of rich spicy ranchero sauce.
After Breakfast we wandered downtown Denver through it’s many shops. Be sure to check out Union Station ! The architecture is great , it reminded me of a mini Grand Central Station.
Our most epic Denver adventure was 110% the random Red Rocks concert we booked that afternoon. The Motet is a modern funk/soul group (think modern Earth Wind & Fire) from Denver so we joined a hometown crowd for an insane jam session. The light show bouncing off the red rocks of the amphitheater while music pulses through thousands of people will make you understand why people go crazy over this venue.
While in Denver we stayed at an awesome Airbnb, the space was great , the hosts were super kind, nice location + they had an amazing backyard complete with chickens. ( here’s the Link https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7804277 )
SANTA FE + JEMEZ SPRINGS + GALLUP NEW MEXICO – SUNDAY- MONDAY-TUESDAY MORNING
Sunday morning we hit the highway headed south for Santa Fe New Mexico + the rest of the land of enchantment. New Mexico lives up to it’s slogan and it’s food brags. We checked into our hotel ( The Eldorado Hotel + Spa) around 5 then spent the rest of our evening wandering the streets of santa fe. The adobe buildings are something to see for sure + the crazy culture mix of Native American + Latino influences can be felt everywhere. Down every street and alley bright pops of color lure you in and we began to feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole. The best plan I can give you for Santa Fe is just to wander. Pop in the shops or check out the native American turquoise market in front of the Palace of The Governors. Then wander on over to Canyon Road for more art + shops + stop in at Café Desartistes for some killer salted caramel gelato.
We got up super early Monday morning to visit the natural hot springs in Jemez Springs about an hour and a half west of Santa Fe through Bandelier National Forest. To our dismay the entire forest was closed for fire danger. Once you're up in the mountain there are some really cute shops and restaurants run by locals so check those out on your way! If you have time I suggest checking out the Bandelier National Monument or taking a day trip to the Taos ancient Pueblo. Taos is also known for outdoor adventures so be sure to put it on your list! Our dinner Monday evening was our very first taste of authentic New Mexican cuisine at Tomasita ‘s. If you do visit order the combination soapapilla and thank me later. Tuesday we slept in a bit before our 7 hour drive to Page, Arizona. We stopped at an awesome little Route 66 town, Gallup New Mexico. The main drag is full of awesome shops with native turquoise + pottery. We grabbed lunch at Genaros, another great place for New Mexican cuisine + more soapapillas. If you’re interested in travelling further south into New Mexico I highly recommend adding White Sands National Monument near Las Cruces to your itinerary.
PAGE ARIZONA + LAKE POWELL – Tuesday Evening + Wednesday
The drive from New Mexico to Page Arizona transported us into another world entirely. We kept repeating that nobody ever told us how amazing this landscape was! Take Indian Route 59 + Arizona 98 for some of the best canyon views, we even saw some wild horses. Our awesome AirBnB host in Page informed us that hitting horseshoe bend at sunset was the perfect time. He was indeed right. We arrived at Horseshoe bend around 7:30, which was the perfect time to snag a decent seat before the show started. You’ll want to get there a little before sunset starts + you’ll want to stay until the sun has completely gone down. Sit on the warm red rocks and feel the air around you cool as the sun dips behind the canyon walls; there is nothing like it. After the sun was completely gone we checked into our AirBnB in the small town of Page. It was an awesome space! Big bedroom, big bed + an ensuite bathroom with a great shower (here’s the link! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/25015298?location=Page%2C%20Arizona%2C%20United%20States&s=Ost10frj ). Our host was friendly + provided great recommendations. On Wednesday morning we woke up bright and early (actually an hour too early bc time change) to kayak the lower antelope canyon. I know most people walk through the upper antelope canyon (which you can only do with a tour group because the ground is Navajo land) BUT kayaking across the insanely clear waters in the lower antelope canyon was a one of a kind experience. We went with a tour guide for our first trip, check out Kayak Lake Powell (https://www.kayakpowell.com) our guides were knowledgeable and fun! We kayaked for almost 6 miles and I was not ready to be done; we also cliff jumped and swam a bit too! After all that paddling we worked up an appetite and stopped at the local drive in dive RD’s. The food and service was great ; get a chili dog ! It is hot as hades in Arizona so we decided on our way to Utah to stop at Lone Rock Beach for a swim (the park pass you buy for antelope canyon will also get you in here). The beach is sandy with zero yucky sea weed + the water is a gorgeous blue + the perfect temperature. We stayed much longer than we anticipated at Lone Rock Beach chatting with fellow travellers and cooling off in the water. Sedona and the grand canyon are around 2.5 to 3 hours from Page so those would be easy stops to add in!
UTAH – Wednesday evening + THURSDAY + FRIDAY
Around 4 we hit the road for Joseph, Utah where my friend Angella works on a horse ranch. It’s an awesome scenic drive through all kinds of adorable mountain towns near Zion National Park + Bryce Canyon. These are two of the areas most popular hot spots however there is an amazing state park every couple miles along the highway in Utah; it is by far one of the coolest places I have visited. If you get an extra second check out Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park outside of Kanab Utah for something a little different. You can rent a RZR and go off-roading in a lot of the parks also; the whole state is basically an outdoor lovers dream. At the crack of dawn on Thursday we left for Zion National Park. We actually doubled back to pick up our third amigo; I would suggest heading to Springdale or Kanab to stay near Zion after leaving the Page, Arizona area. Parking was completely at max in the park so we had to drive all the way through (through the longest, darkest tunnel ever) to park in Springdale. Completely unprepared for what lie ahead our threesome decided we would hike the Narrows. We hopped on a shuttle bus and rode it all the way through Zion to stop number 9 ; the trailhead. The beginning of the trail is a nice concrete path in the shade along the river this goes on for about a mile until it abrubtly stops and you descend some stairs into the river. Yes, when you hike the narrows you are in water the entire time, sometimes above waist deep. My hiking sandals caused me to fall down in some mini rapids and get washed down stream until someone grabbed onto me. So PRO TIP : Wear shoes you can get wet with ankle support, bring a walking stick + water. Other than being extremely under prepared this was the best hike I have ever done. It goes 14 miles and we probably did 1/3 of it. This hike is not to be missed if you are at Zion National Park. Other trails I recommend are the Emerald Pools hikes + Angels Landing (if you aren’t afraid of heights).
Friday was our last day in Utah and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. We jumped out of bed that morning in search of some hot springs. The first springs we hit were in Meadow Utah. It’s a natural springs and it’s free but it is on private property so be mindful of your manners. I will warn you that almost every natural hot springs is clothing optional and you will most likely see some naked body parts. If you’re weird about naked people, get over it. You’re going to want to see these crystal clear hot water holes. Many springs are known for their healing properties + health benefits. The Meadow springs are literally three different hot water holes all at different temperatures. They are rumored to be so deep the people scuba dive in them! I recommend the first spring closet to the parking lot because it’s the warmest and there are zero fish in it. After soaking awhile we set off for our second natural hot springs of the day about 75 miles from Salt Lake City Utah. The Fifth Water Hot Springs are located in the Uinta National Forest near Spanish Fork, Utah. The hike to get up to the springs is NOT easy, at least for moderately out of shape people like me. However, it was so so so worth it. You can also dip into the river if you need a break on your way up! After hiking nearly two hours up into the forest we made it! There are a ton of natural pools at different temperatures and a gorgeous waterfall. Beware the hottest part of the spring is right next to the waterfall. I set my foot into the spring to head for the waterfall and immediately jumped back out. My foot was beet red. Amazingly; if you hop over that pool the water from the waterfall and the other pools mix to the perfect temperature. If you happen to be in the area during wintertime I would highly recommend visiting these hot springs, some of the pools turn gorgeous colors from the minerals in them. This was another free activity and I would suggest visiting at any time of the year!
If you have extra time on your trip consider adding a day trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Northern Utah!
If you are interested in planning a trip out west feel free to message me for more ideas + inspiration! Every stop on our trip should be added to your bucketlist! I am so thankful that I got to experience it all!
XOXO + Safe Travels