So I'm not too big on describing things in flowing romantic prose. In fact, most of my thought process seems to happen in bullets. So here we go.
Hitting up four national parks, in this order
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Arches National Park
- Glen Canyon NP (specifically Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon)
- Grand Canyon (I know, it's not in Utah, but we'd have been fools to skip it)
I used this travel book to figure out which trails to hike: Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country by Kathy and Craig Copeland
The authors are knowledgeable, but a little condescending. I recommend it nonetheless. My husband and I didn't have any experience hiking. We're young (30 years old) but of average weight, just out of shape, cardio-wise. So the hikes we did were rated "easy" to "moderate" by the book's standards, but the hikes definitely kicked our asses. Let's just say you should pay attention to the elevation grade changes to properly assess how hard a trail is.
HOWEVER, in spite of how difficult it was, the hiking through Bryce and Arches was WELL WORTH IT. Yeah, you'll be sore, but do it anyways. And bring a camera.
Hmm, what else should you know?
I bought these shoes for hiking: Brooks PureGrit Trail Running shoes Why these? I'm used to walking around in Vibram FiveFingers, so my feet are strong and I'm used to being able to feel the ground beneath me. I tried on conventional hiking boots and I felt like I was walking with cement blocks on my feet. If you have weak ankles, previously injured ankles, or you're just ridiculously clumsy or inobservant, then get traditional hiking boots. Otherwise just move carefully and watch where you step. Your ankles can take it. FYI The grip on these sneakers handled the Utah slickrock and sandstone just fine. Might not be as suitable for wetter or muddier hikes.
I'm a bit of a shutterbug; it's the main reason I went on this trip. Here's some photography tips:
- I used this DSLR: the Nikon D7000.
- I rented a wide angle lens from BorrowLenses.com, specifically a Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX ED
- If you have a DSLR, I highly recommend renting a wide angle lens for a trip like this, one where there's a lot of panoramas and occasions where you're close to large structures. An 18mm will work too, but having a 10mm was what really clinched the awesome shots.
- Ditch the tripod. You won't need it. The light in most of these parks is bright enough, unless you're shooting at sunrise or sunset. In Antelope Canyon, the tour is so crowded and moves so quickly that you won't be able to setup your tripod for an extended exposure. A monopod could work if you have one, but I wouldn't recommend buying one just for this trip. I bit the bullet and just upped the ISO to damn near 4000, and just decided I wouldn't be able to blow up my shots to 8x10. By the way, you won't need a wide angle lens in Antelope Canyon; you'll do fine with a regular ol' 18-105mm.
- I bought a circular polarizing filter just for this trip and then never used it. Why? Because the sunlight is so damn bright, rendering your LCD screen useless. And a circular polarizing filter requires you to rotate the filter, snap a test shot, confirm, and then adjust. You will go nuts trying to do this. I tried shielding the LCD with my hat. Still doesn't work well enough to justify it. I left it off, and I'm hoping to regenerate the shots using Lightroom. We'll see how that goes.
- By the way, if you live in the Dallas area, I took a photography refresher course at Spot Studio. I recommend their crash courses in using a DSLR .
Not sure what else to pack? The great folks at REI have great articles on what to take hiking .
Alright! *claps hands, rubs 'em together* Here we go!