Head out on a ten-day road trip through some of the best – and most challenging – natural terrain America has to offer, to reconnect with nature in breathtaking style. Words and pictures by Samm Medina.
Ditch the beach resort in favour of a real adventure next time you decide to jet off – America’s wild and wonderful west is just aching to be explored. During a 2,000 mile road trip through national parks in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, some of the country’s best hiking, kayaking and vistas are waiting to be discovered.
Begin in California, hitting the highway to head south towards Sequoia National Park, named after the famous rust-coloured Sequoia trees that make it up – some of the largest trees in the world. Hiking here is a series of ‘wow’ moments strung neatly together. Waterfalls, deer, meandering grizzly bears and sweeping panoramas are just the beginning.
As you continue descending down the hills, expect to be transported into every road trip movie you’ve ever seen as you cross the basin deserts of Nevada – one of the hottest places on Earth in summer, though temperatures plummet to -40°C during some winter nights. Stick to more southern routes however, and the cooler seasons are generally much more mild.
Over state lines in Arizona, the landscape looks almost untouched, with nothing but a ribbon of highway yawning lazily over the horizon and into the distance. On your approach to the North Rim of its famous Grand Canyon (recommended for its lower tourist numbers than the south) expect to be welcomed by deer and buffalo grazing with their young in tree-lined meadows. It’s every bit as picturesque and quaintly American as you might imagine, right down to the friendly folks in the corner store selling firewood.
A trip to the Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, would not be complete without a hike below the rim to explore some of its colourful beauty, carved out over thousands of years by the Colorado River. Years of erosion melt through more shades of red than you knew existed. This ancient site’s history is as vast and complex as the area itself, so make sure you set aside enough time to get a proper understanding of its importance.
Pressing ahead into Utah, set up camp on the edge of Lake Powell, side by side with RVs and tents full of families and holiday makers, where campers while away the evenings cooking steak and potatoes on the open fire. Take a night off prodding the coals and drive into Page – a friendly town of 7,000 – for some good old fashion Southern-style barbecue and local hospitality. A hearty feeding will give you the energy you need to explore Antelope Canyon via kayak the next day – holder of the dubious title of ‘most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest’, which means you won’t be the only visitors, but also that you can’t pass up the chance to see this stunning narrow chasm for yourself.
Though a day on the lake is enough to wear you out, no trip is complete without staying up all night by the fire to watch the stars.
When it’s time to return to the open road and head back to San Francisco, the plains disappearing in your rearview mirror, you’ll rest assured you left no boulder unturned on a truly great escape to the outdoors.
For guidance on locations, fees and activities for all US National Parks when planning your trip, visit www.nps.gov