By: Brendan McManus

In the summer of 2016, my family and I ventured out to the Southwestern United States to explore that part of the country for the first time. In no particular order, here are some great locations we visited.

Grand Canyon National Park

This national park is one of the crown jewels of the United States and it certainly did not disappoint. We spent the majority of our time hiking around the South Rim of the canyon and looking into the deep abyss. We visited the Desert View Watchtower, which made for an excellent viewpoint. After reading so many articles about this park, I was in awe to see it and it took my breath away.

Zion National Park

This was our first national park we visited, and I could not wait to see it. We hiked along The Narrows inside the Virgin River, approximately one or two feet deep, and explored the cool water and the sandstone cliffs that shot straight up hundreds of feet. We also took a bus ride to Weeping Rock, which is a beautiful place that has water, from above, coming out of the many pores in the rock and settling on the rich natural gardens below.

Bryce Canyon National Park

This national park was my favorite, it is famous for its beautiful views and air quality, not to mention the incredible hoodoos (“tall, skinny spires of rock”) which were too many to count (pictured above). Although Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, we could see why one would think so at first, hiking to the bottom we looked back and saw many red and tan rocks creating an incredible sight-to-see. A lush evergreen forest rested below, which made for an amazing contrast of colors. If you ever get the chance to go, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best national parks to visit!

Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend

Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon Dam, is a reservoir situated on the Arizona/Utah border and part of the Colorado River. In our time there, we were able to see more stars than I have ever seen before and we did a great kayaking trip around some interesting spots, as well. We went on a four-hour kayaking trip, which I loved; we were able to jump off cliffs and swim in the warm water, too. Another day, we went on a rafting ride around Horseshoe Bend, it was incredible to see the cliffs from a different vantage point which I enjoyed. My family and I also got to see Native American etchings, from hundreds of years ago, during our lunch break. This day was amazing, but my sunburn the next day from our day on the water was anything but good!

Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ

Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ were two fun places we went to on our trip. Sedona was a great opportunity to go on a Pink Jeep Tour and see some of the interesting rock formations and do a bit of hiking around the area. The town also has a great downtown and many shops and restaurants. Flagstaff was a different feel, but it was almost 7,000 feet in elevation, pines circled the area, there were mountains to ski at in the vicinity, there was a great downtown as well, and the drive leaving there was unbelievable because there were so many cliffs right next to the road.

All in all, I thought this trip was the trip of a lifetime and I enjoyed seeing so many different parts of this country that I had never seen before. Be prepared for a lot of driving, but the sights while driving were well worth it.