If you like your scenery grand and gorgeous and larger than life – no tranquil green fields for you! – you need to check out the hottest destination on the southwestern US trail: Grand Circle. Encompassing portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, Grand Circle boasts the largest concentration of national parks and monuments in the US, and they’re all beautifully woven together by some astounding designated Scenic Byways. Here are 10 of the region’s not-to-be-missed sights and experiences. Just prepare to have your breath taken away…
1. Spirituality in Sedona
At the very heart of the New Age movement, the Sedona area is renowned for its red rock formations and its powerful energy vortexes. It is believed that these vortexes unleash energy fields that resonate spiritually with visitors. And Arizona’s hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails are good for the soul too!
2. Bygone Grandeur in Grand Canyon Village
Arizona’s Grand Canyon Railway has been transporting passengers to the Grand Canyon since 1901. The Santa Fe Railway and the Fred Harvey Company built the luxurious El Tovar Hotel right on the rim of the canyon in 1905 to accommodate the increase in well-healed visitors from the east coast. Today the El Tovar has managed to retain its elegant charm and it is widely considered to be the crown jewel of the Historic National Park Lodges.
3. Speechless on the South Rim
Simply put, it the Grand Canyon is beyond comparison—beyond narrative. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. To be in the presence of such grandeur and splendour stirs a sense of self-awareness, humbleness and awe.
4. The Staggering Spectacle of Horseshoe Bend
This horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River is located near the town of Page, Arizona. With just a short hike, you can experience this mind-blowingly beautiful caressing turn in the Colorado River. You can’t fail but experience a sense of liberation and wonder at the overlook edge. After all, the overlook is 1,300 metres above sea level and the Colorado River is 980 metres above sea level—which provides a heart-stopping sheer drop of 300 metres.
5. Timeless Curves of Antelope Canyon
Also near Page, nature’s artistic carvings of Antelope Canyon are a sight to behold. Located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, the smooth curves of this dramatic rock canyon have been caressed by the pain-staking erosion of flash flooding.
6. The Lure of Lake Powell
Utah’s Lake Powell not only boasts stunningly beautiful canyon tapestries that lure visitors from across the globe—it is also a vast playground for the adventurous traveller. The 300-kilometre-long lake offers sandy beaches, cool blue water, and exceptional red rock scenery. It’s an excellent spot for boating, skiing, kayaking and fishing.
7. Go Wild in Kanab
The town of Kanab, Utah, was the location for many of the early Western films, primarily due to the majesty of its landscape. Known as ‘Little Hollywood’, this is the land of Stagecoach and The Lone Ranger. It is enriched with western themes and remains wonderfully wild to this day.
8. Bedazzled at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Also at Kanab, these dunes encompass close to 1,600 hectares with their eye-catching, coral-colored hues bordered by red cliffs, blue skies and deep-green forests. Constantly changed by winds, these mountains of sand can move as much as 15 metres each year.
9. The Pastels of Bryce Canyon
Located in Utah, this amazing natural amphitheatre boasts pastel opulence by the bucket-load. Head there in the morning to be awe inspired by its unspeakable tranquility. Hiking, horseback riding, biking and ATV tours are popular year round, while cross-country skiing and sleigh rides are a big hit during the winter months.
10. Awe-Inspiring Zion National Park
Also in Utah, Zion Canyon is simply mesmerizing. The park is known for its spectacular views and world-famous hikes, including The Narrows, Subway and Angels Landing. Pack your hiking boots and prepare to have your breath taken away…