36 Hours in Utah

It was Memorial Day weekend and I was waiting to board my flight to Denver, Colorado. As always, to kill time I began searching for flight deals. To my surprise, I saw that flights to Salt Lake City from Dulles were only $202.00 roundtrip. At that same time I was sending texts back and forth to my college roommate, Alida, discussing hiking adventures. I took this as the perfect opportunity to plan a trip to Utah. I immediately booked my flight, so I wouldn’t overthink the situation and back out. I then asked Alida if she was down for a weekend trip to Utah, which she 100% was.

Fast forward five months and we are heading to the airport ready for a weekend full of activities. We got together a few weeks prior to our departure date to plan out this short trip. Utah has so much to offer, so it was quite difficult to narrow it down to just a few sightings. We both agreed that we’d spend most of our time at Zion National Park. We looked up different hikes and knew we wanted to take on Angels Landing. Orderville Canyon was also on our list, which is made up of 8 different landmarks. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that it’d be impossible to do both hikes in the same day. That just gives us more of a reason to come back, right?

Here is how we spent our 36 hours in the beautiful state of Utah.

Hours 1-9: Arrival in Salt Lake City

Alida arrived at the Salt Lake City International Airport about 40 minutes before me. So, upon my arrival at 11:50PM she had already picked up the rental car and we were good to go. Initially we had considered staying our first night in SLC, but soon realized that it would be best to sleep closer to Zion. After some searching, an Airbnb in Brian Head was discovered and booked. Brian Head is located around 3.5 hours away from SLC, so we were in for a long night.

We stopped by Walmart on the way to get our grocery shopping done. It’s true what they say…do not go shopping while hungry. We proceeded to fill up our cart although we were basically only there for one night. Our grocery adventure was completed around 1:30AM and then Alida booked it to Brian Head.

It’s 4:40AM and we finally pull up to the condo. Alida’s boyfriend, Kasper, and his friend, Dany, arrived from Las Vegas (California residents) about an hour before us. Thank goodness or else we may have never figured out which garage to enter. It was my first time meeting the pair, but I could immediately feel their genuine energy and positive vibes. We settled in and then got ready for bed shortly after. I looked at the time and noticed we would get an estimated 4 hours of sleep.

Hours 10-30: Zion National Park

Here’s where my bunny nickname kicks in because I was up by 9:30AM full of energy and ready to get the day started. We all contributed in preparing breakfast – I was in charge of the eggs and turkey bacon. Once our stomachs were filled, we got on the road heading to Zion National Park. The drive was around an hour and a half to the entrance of Zion ($30.00 fee) and then about another half hour to arrive at the visitor’s center. Parking is available at the visitor’s center where you can then take a shuttle to different parts of the park. We hopped off at (6) The Grotto stop in order to begin our escapade to Angels Landing (you can check out the full details to our hike here).

The weather was perfect for hiking, which was a surprise to all of us. We predicted chilly temperatures and dressed accordingly. Thank goodness for wearing layers because we all basically ended up in sleeveless tanks the entire time. I even went as far as wearing two pairs of socks, which I removed one shortly after our hike began. About 20 minutes and multiple switchbacks later, I was feeling the burn in my calves. I knew it’d only get more difficult, but fought through.

Angels Landing was a fun, challenging, and thrilling hike. I also couldn’t have asked for a better group to experience this with. Dany was enthusiastic the entire time, which kept us all engaged. There was a point where I walked ahead so I could quickly take photos before the others caught up. I turn around and see Dany atop a huge rock formation. I thought to myself, how the hell did he get up there so fast?! I was able to snap a few shots, which continues to give me chills when I look at it.

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I’ll admit that when I saw the final trek of Angels Landing, I got a bit nervous. As seen below, the path is narrow and steep. We had gotten that far, so it wasn’t even a question if we would proceed or not. I took a deep breath and went on my way.

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We made it! The feeling that overcame me for accomplishing this hike was unreal. I think the nerves that were built up prior to the trip made it that much better to complete. There were points that honestly were scary, but overall I thought it appeared much worse than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong…the hike itself is strenuous and takes a lot of effort, but I never truly felt unsafe. We all agreed that it was a fun hike to take on and the views were incredible.

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After we hung out at the top of Angels Landing and took as many pictures as possible, we began our journey back down. We decided to stop to eat lunch once we arrived at Scout Lookout. Kas and Dany brought freeze dried food (lasagna and beef stroganoff) for all of us to devour. It was mines and Alida’s first time trying this camper’s treat and to our surprise, it was delicious! As Alida suggested, it definitely could use a bit of sriracha though. We’ll be sure to bring a mini bottle of our favorite hot sauce for next time.

When we were done grubbing, we proceeded to head back to the shuttle stop. As I was walking down, I saw a familiar face. I immediately questioned where I was because I thought it was impossible to run into someone I knew from back home. Such a small world that we live in because it was exactly who I thought it was! My brother’s best friend, Canh, was there with his girlfriend, Hoang-Anh. He’s currently staying in Arizona for rotations and decided to make a trip up to Utah for the day. My mind was absolutely blown! Such a nice surprise.

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We caught the 7:00PM shuttle back to our vehicle and then drove back to our condo in Brian Head. It’s safe to say that everyone was exhausted, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our final night in Utah. We walked through the door and immediately took celebratory shots in honor of our hiking victory. Music on blast and enjoying each other’s company. A steak dinner was prepared by Alida with potatoes and asparagus on the side. She also brought out her bartending skills and prepared whiskey sours and old fashioneds for us.

Then the clock turned 2:00AM and we all realized it was time to call it a night. We had to be up at 6:00AM in order to squeeze in Bryce Canyon to our schedule.

Hours 31-36: Bryce Canyon

My alarm went off at 6:00AM, but of course I hit the snooze button to allow myself at least another 10 minutes of crucial sleep. I swear, those extra minutes do make a difference. We all lethargically cleaned the place and got ready for the day. Popped some hot pockets in the microwave for breakfast then said farewell to our cozy, secluded weekend home in Brian Head, UT.

The drive to Bryce Canyon took around an hour and fifteen minutes. It was still dark when we left, so we were able to witness the beautiful sunrise during our drive. A gorgeous scenery always makes a road trip so much easier.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon around 9:00AM and intended to leave at 9:30AM. Alida and I had to make a 4 hour drive back to Salt Lake City in order to catch our flight, so our time was extremely limited. The entrance fee of $30 was paid and then we were on our way to the main observation point.

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We followed signs to Bryce Point, which wasn’t too far from the entrance. From this viewpoint, you are able to get an amazing view of the full amphitheater. There are hiking trails nearby, but due to time constraints we were not able to partake in those.

Bryce Canyon is made up of hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock that are weathered down by frost wedging. As you can see, they have a totem pole-shaped body due to their variable thickness. It is a breathtaking sight to see.

We spent about 15 minutes at Bryce Point to snap photos and take in the beauty. Pictures honestly don’t do this place justice. Nature truly amazes me sometimes. We decided that we needed to squeeze in another viewpoint together before going our separate ways to head back home.

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We drove about a mile down to Sunset Point. From this point you can take the Navajo Trail down to get a closer look at the amazing hoodoos. We only had about 15 minutes to explore this location, so we were unable to truly explore the trail. It definitely would have been an amazing experience and great photo opportunity if we completed the trail. But, I’m glad we at least had the chance to walk down a little bit.

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Next thing we knew, it was almost 10:00AM. Alida and I could not delay our departure any longer. We had a 4 hour drive back to Salt Lake City to catch our 3:35PM flight to Virginia. Goodbyes are never easy especially after having such an amazing weekend together. It’s a reminder that the trip is officially coming to an end and soon we would be heading back to reality. We gave our farewell hugs and agreed that another trip would be in the works soon.

So there you have it. A fun filled, adventurous, challenging, and memorable 36 hours in Utah with some great people.

If you’re considering visiting Zion National Park, your best bet would actually be to fly into Las Vegas McCarran Airport. Check out flight prices here (set at the cheapest month to fly). If you have more time then fly into Salt Lake City International Airport to explore the amazing sights nearby, such as the salt flats.

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