I‘ve been itching to get out of the city for the last few weeks. With all of this hysteria surrounding COVID-19, I’ve been feeling rather suffocated. Grocery stores can barely keep up with the demand for toilet paper (see photo below), bleach, sanitizer and all things related to cold and flu. The whole city feels a bit on edge.

And while the CDC slams our newsfeed with reminders on how to WASH OUR HANDS and health officials basically beg citizens to stop traveling, the state of Utah seems to have a different idea. Signs along the highway told drivers “don’t let the Coronavirus slow you down” (see photo below). I don’t know about you, but I’m getting some mixed emotions from our local government.

Needless to say, my partner and I decided it was time to get away for the weekend. With our National Parks pass proudly hung on the rearview mirror and Jerry Garcia’s voice serenading us (I recommend the Grateful Dead’s song “Morning Dew” for any roadtrip), we headed south. First stop, Bryce Canyon National Park, which is give or take 4 hours from Salt Lake City. I was flabbergasted by the sights of Bryce Canyon. Vivid snow-covered red rocks, towering hoodoos and neverending vistas painted this ethereal landscape.

We started our day with the 3 mile Queen’s Garden/Navajo Combination Loop hike- apparently the most popular hike to do at Bryce Canyon, and it makes complete sense as to why. A moderately easy hike for experienced hikers, just slightly strenuous (going back uphill) for those of us who haven’t hiked since the summer. Nonetheless, this hike is a must-do. The trail descends down into the canyon, through pink cliffs and tiny tunnels (see my partner standing in a tunnel below), providing views that continue to leave you breathless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick peanut butter and jelly break (FYI: PB&J pairs exceptionally well with desert views), we moved on to our next hike. A moderate 3 mile hike to Tower Bridge. Because we decided to make the trip during the colder season, there was a ton of snow on this trail. I recommend bringing snowshoes if you plan on going on this hike this month. After romping around in the snow for what felt like hours, we made it to Tower Bridge (see below). Well worth the soaking wet socks I had to walk in the rest of the day.

After finishing up our second hike, we sat down on a tree stump and took in the remarkable views one last time (see photo below).

Being from Pennsylvania, southern Utah is unworldly to me. I feel so lucky to live in a state with such an incredibly diverse environment. This is why I believe it’s vital to make sure everyone stays educated on issues facing southern Utah’s precious monuments and landscapes, such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument.

 

We left Bryce Canyon with a feeling of tranquility and ease, and headed to the yurt we rented for the night. This yurt was only 25 minutes from the park and had the coziest energy and the most welcoming host. After a huge bowl of tortellini and an even bigger glass of red wine, we fell asleep and woke up to stunning views of red rock cliffs in the distance (see photo below). You really feel a wonderful sense of seclusion here. (To check out and possibly rent this yurt, click here.)

Our next stop was Capitol Reef National Park. Just two hours from Bryce Canyon, and a scenic drive through Kingston Canyon. (FYI/TMI: If you have to pee, I recommend stopping by the gurgling stream that runs through Kingston Canyon—unsophisticated? Maybe! But WAY more peaceful than the smelly gas station bathroom- you choose what’s more important. Just make sure to bring toilet paper—oh wait…)

When first entering the park we came across the historic Fruita Schoolhouse, which was originally built in 1896. (See photo below)

Capitol Reef National Park Petroglyphs

We also got a chance to check out the Fremont Culture Petroglyphs before heading to our first hike.

The Hickman Bridge hike is a moderate 2-mile hike.

Starting out steep, the trail goes under and around the natural bridge and provides canyon views. The Hickman bridge was formed by running water a very long time ago. (See photo below)

One thing I couldn’t get over was the absolute stillness that surrounded you as you walked under the Hickman Bridge. In the photo above you can see how colossal this structure really is. Circled in yellow in the photo above is my partner, looking like a tiny insect in comparison to the bridge.

We concluded our cloudy day at Capitol Reef by doing a light 1-mile hike up to sunset point (see photo below), to watch the sunset—of course. An easy hike up to a lookout point, giving you a panoramic view of the entire park. No better way to end our trip.

This was such an easy and quick weekend getaway- and the great thing about southern Utah is that it really makes you feel like you are “getting away” without really having to “get away”. Plus, we could all use a little R & R. So pick one or two of our Mighty 5 National Parks, pack up your car and hit the road!

All jokes aside, the Coronavirus is serious and caution should be used to prevent the spread. Be kind to one another in this time of universal stress and be sure to stay clean and avoid touching your face, to learn more click this link.