After having covered the east coast of the most incredible places I have visited myself, it’s now time to start talking about the wonders the west has to offer. Without further ado, the best of the west.
MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT, CA – If you’re like me, and you aren’t capable to get to Sequoia and Kingsman NP to see their enormous Redwood trees, then Muir Woods National Monument is a wonderful choice to get a taste of Redwood forests anyways. During the summer season there’s a shuttle bus going to and from Sausalito, CA to Muir Woods. My friend and I rented two bikes and cycled our way (crossing the Golden Gate Bridge) to Sausalito, were we got on the bus. The bus costs $5.00.
Muir Woods is part over the National Park Services and Rangers are there to assist you. If you have an annual National Park pass, entrance to the park is free. The fee otherwise is $10.00 a person. You have lovely trails in the woods, varying from paved and wheelchair accessible paths to more rocky and longer trails taking you all the way to the Pacific. According to the time you have to spend there and your capability to hike, there is something for everyone.
It’s just a miraculous feeling to walk through this forest, between this enormous trees. Even when you’re tall, you feel as if you’re very tiny. During spring, life is returning to nature and it’s so beautiful to see those light green fresh leaves, the small streams flowing through small canyons. It’s a very soothing compared to the city life in San Francisco. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend going to Muir Woods, preferably by biking to Sausalito, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass to cross the Golden Gate Bridge (and cruising down the hill) by bike in my honest opinion. Make sure that you know how to cycle in traffic though!
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UT – I never imagined the National Parks to be so different from each other, but if I had to pick a park of all the parks I’ve visited before, to revisit, it would definitely be Bryce Canyon NP. Of course all the national parks are beautiful however Bryce Canyon NP made an impression on me.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to hike all the trails available but the ones that we did such as the Queen’s Garden Trail were amazingly beautiful. You go down into the canyon and are amazed by the red rocks and so-called hoodoos that are in the amphitheatre. It’s the enormity of this place that makes it so incredible. Even though Bryce Canyon Park has more to offer than just the amphiheatre, for me it’s one of the best parts of the park and I would love to walk one of the longer trails in the future.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UT – Zion was the last National Park we visited during my most recent journey in the US. We were tired and unfortunately the weather was iffy. Until this day I still find it a pity that we weren’t able to enjoy Zion as much as we did with the other national parks.
The day started off great. We did the Overlook Trail which brought us to the edge of the canyon that gave us these enormous view down to where we were going later during the day. We went all the way into the Virgin River Canyon. All we wanted to do the Narrows however due to spring flooding we weren’t allowed to go all the way in the canyon and in the river.
Because I still feel as if I couldn’t enjoy them as much as I wanted to due to the weather. I really want to go back there because I reckon it has so much more to offer than just the things that we did see in the rain and hail and snow. I want to do the Angel’s Landing Trail. I want to go into the Narrows. There’s so much that I still want to see see in Zion that I really have to go back.
MCWAY FALLS, CA – When travelling down the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you find all these beautiful little beaches, coves and cliffs with the most incredible views on the Pacific ocean. McWay Falls is one of these places. It’s part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it’s easily accessible from the CA 1 although there aren’t many parking spots available. McWay Falls derives from a small stream. It gains momentum and speed due to the rapid fall the stream makes. The result is this small surge of water falling down the cliffs making its way to the Pacific. You have to admit the ocean’s water in this bay almost looks exotic. Going further into the park eastwards you walk to the Canyon Falls.
MONUMENT VALLEY, AZ – Monument Valley is a surreal place to be, because it’s in most western movies and therefore it almost expect every western to look at least somehow like it. It’s ironic to its genre and a beautiful creature by Mother Nature. Monument Valley is in a Navajo National Park. The annual passes of the National Park Services aren’t valid here. So you have to pay the entrance fee of $20 for each vehicle having no more than 4 or 5 people. It’s worth it, especially around/during sunset. There is this trail you can drive with your car and it shows you more of the Navajo park. We did it, and I thought it was pretty amazing. It was worth driving all the way to Kayenta, AZ to visit Monument Valley to go basically back to where we came from the next day.
HORSE SHOE BEND, AZ – If you were to ask me what I loved most during my travels (besides meeting new people) I reckon that the Horse Shoe Bend wins for several reasons. Of course it’s an incredible view, but it’s not inside a National Park. If you’re travelling to Page coming from south Arizona, you just drive past it. The only thing you need to do, is getting out of the car, climb a ridge and there it is. It’s just right there! Of course, because it’s relatively easy accessible, there are other people visiting this sight as well. But the climb over the ridge is not for the faint-hearted, especially on warmer days. Make sure you bring enough water to keep yourself hydrated. Because it’s just there, you cannot buy drinks on the edge either.
VALLEY OF FIRE SP, NV – Don’t go there in summer! That’s my foremost tip. We were there in April and the weather was nice, a tad warm for hiking to be honest. Since it can get over 40 degrees centigrade (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) during the summer, it’s not the most ideal situation then to go hiking. This state park has many beautiful trails to offer, such as the overlook trail (including Elephant Rock), the Mouse Tank trail (it still had water in it in April) and the Rainbow trail. In spring you have these beautifully coloured flowers that contrasts in colours enormously to those red rocks. If you’re staying in the Las Vegas area and you want to see some more of Nevada, Valley of Fire is worth the time and money, especially when you cannot go to Zion and Bryce.
GRAND CANYON NP; WEST RIM, AZ – My trip to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon was a day trip from Las Vegas. We got to pick between the West and South rim and looking back (considering I’ve seen both now I’m writing this) we made a terrific choice when going to the West rim. Don’t get me wrong, the South rim is beautiful as well, however, since we had to leave from Las Vegas to either rim, we would be spending much more time in the bus when going to the South rim than when going to the West rim.
When arriving at the West Rim, you first have this major gift shop. I love gift shops, but that’s not why you’re going to the Grand Canyon. Buses are taking you to the various stops. The first stop is a ranch like town. You have this little stores, horses and you can get your photo taken with some big ass guns (unloaded of course, but you’ll get some awesome wild west photos). The second stop is the one where you can also find the SkyRim. The SkyRim is basically this enormous balcony that’s build over the edge of the canyon. The floor is transparent. You can look all the way down into the canyon. It wasn’t included in our ticket, so we didn’t do it. But if you’re not afraid of heights, it could be a highlight of your travels.
The last stop is Guano Point. The photo above is taken there. You almost have a 360 degrees view on the Grand Canyon if it were to go in a circle. How close you want to be to the edge is up to you. From some points you can even see the Colorado River.
GRAND CANYON NP; SOUTH RIM, AZ – The artsy photo above was taken near the Desert Tower in Grand Canyon National Park on the South rim. Over the edge of the view point there are these reflective surfaces. Somehow I manege to take this shot and I love it. The South rim is a large park and much more inhabited that I originally anticipated. Of course it’s just tourists. But you’re not in the middle of nowhere without any way of contacting the outside world. The South rim is beautiful. You can take your own vehicle to drive along most parts of the canyon. However to go to Hermit’s Nest you have to take the shuttle bus.
On the grounds there are possibilities for you to stay in lodges or in a tent/camper on the campground. There’s a restaurant and a supermarket. If you feel like you can hike down into the canyon, however it’s advised to not do that in one day. Please do your homework if you’re going down. I personally prefer the West rim, because it was less crowded (when I was there) and the view on the South rim is sort of the same on every angle and location you’re looking at it. The West rim has much more diversity. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful place to visit. The South rim is also included in the annual NPS pass. The West rim, however, isn’t.
JOSHUA TREE NP, CA – Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful park which I visited without any expectation because I simply didn’t know what to expect. Even though the weather wasn’t the best, it was at least dry. This national park consists of two major deserts: the Colorado desert and the Mojave desert. The former is mostly recognizable due to the Cholla cacti that are growing in its ecosystem. In the Mojave desert you can find the Joshua Trees (which aren’t actually trees) and major rocks as can be seen in the photo below. There are many lovely trails in Joshua Tree such as the Barker Dam Trail and the Hidden Valley trail (also rock climbers paradise!). If you’re near Palm Springs, CA or travelling between Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ I highly advise you to visit this wonderful park!