Get your motor running in Phoenix and drive towards your first checkpoint, Sedona, a mystical city known for its indigenous cultural art and good vibrations from its hallowed energy-giving vortexes. It’s the scenery that will make your heart soar most, a heavenly mix of the scarlet desert and rocky spires you’ve left behind in Phoenix and the jade-hued forest of Flagstaff to the north. A hike with a naturalist guide will take you off the vermillion-painted path to sacred spots not even locals visit and Cathedral Rock – Sedona’s sandstone symbol.
Speaking of icons, you’ll then make a beeline for the Grand Canyon, a landmark cemented in road trip folklore thanks to hit movies like Thelma & Louise and National Lampoon’s Vacation – although your trip won’t be quite as haphazard. You’ll stay in a glamping site on the canyon’s least-visited rim, so you can hike, stargaze and soak up its natural splendour without seeing another soul.
If you thought the eye-widening beauty of the Grand Canyon was as good as it gets, then think again as nature’s paintbrush really channeled its inner van Gogh when creating your next stop, Zion National Park. The three-hour drive between the two will feel like loose change when your eyes meet Zion’s wealth of peach-tinged canyons, soaring white cliffs and lush vegetation. It’s a gorgeous scene you’ll treat as your personal playground, canyoning and hiking your way round this rocky wilderness.
Next, you’ll hop, skip and jump through three national parks showcasing the best of Utah’s Badlands. Enjoy treading among waterfalls and cliffs on a Zion National Park hike before cruising along scenic byways past the rocky spires and pinnacles of Bryce Canyon National Park and rolling along the rugged beauty surrounding Scenic Byway 12 to the rock art-etched canyons of Capitol Reef National Park.
The adrenaline-fed adventures keep coming in Moab, where you’ll trade the road for the Colorado River, bumping and bouncing your way through the rapids which cut through Canyonlands National Park on an epic white-water rafting excursion. After you’ve dried off, you’ll be spoiled with a private guided hike of Arches National Park – and what a treat it is. Its sandstone arches speak for themselves, but this is a backstage tour many don’t get to see, with your guide taking you on rarely treaded trails through its rocky wilds to the best picnic spot and even highlighting dinosaur fossils.
That burst of expert knowledge will have given you confidence to pitstop independently as you motor on to discover more prehistoric ruins, fossils and scenic lookouts before turning off the engine at sleek desert hideaway Amangiri. Your last hurrah in the Utah wilderness is a day of exclusive slot canyon hikes led by a Navajo guide and a private boat trip across Lake Powell for a gasp-worthy view of Rainbow Bridge, a huge sandstone arch that serves as a glorious crowning moment to your epic self-drive adventure.
Sitting plumb in arguably the most astounding of Sedona’s terracotta canyons, Enchantment Resort’s sensitive design melds flawlessly with its rocky surrounds. Its location was once a sacred place of restoration for ancient tribes and the resort’s tipis, Native American patterns and traditional restorative techniques in its spa are an ode to the land’s ancestors. There’s nothing the staff here don’t know about the surrounding seventy acres of wilderness, leaving you with the feeling this patch of Sedona really does possess a kind of magic.
Pitched close to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, this glampsite puts you in a prime spot to enjoy the natural splendour with few others around. Your tent is simple but comfortable, yet your wild setting is so good you won’t miss the luxuries. This is peak Americana: roasting s’mores over a campfire, hiking trails peeling off in every direction, world-class stargazing and dining al fresco right on the canyon’s edge for an immense rugged vista. Here, that’s all the five-star luxury you’ll ever need.
Just a few dusty boot imprints away from the entrance to Zion National Park, Cliffrose Lodge is ominously overlooked by one of the park’s trademark towering outcrops. Sitting beside the Virgin River, the rooms, suites and villas speckled throughout the lodge’s lush gardens make it feel like a boutique resort and mini oasis rolled into one. You will quickly cherish the peaceful ambience the lodge emits, especially if you have weary legs following a busy day traversing Zion’s rust-coloured landscapes.
Right on the mighty Colorado River’s and with unblemished views of russet-coloured cliffs and rock formations, the scenery all around Sorrel River Ranch is of cinematic quality. They had to get in early to nab a 240-acre swathe of this wilderness – it was established in the early twentieth century – and its rustic-chic cabins make for an archetypal ranching experience. Within easy reach of nearby Canyonlands and Arches national parks, its indulgent spa treatments and sundowners are particularly welcome after a day of high-octane activities.
A sleek sanctuary is the last thing you’d expect to find in Utah’s pristine red-rock country but you’ll be awfully glad it’s here. Amangiri is a relaxing oasis in the heat of the desert and its sand-hued canvas-topped pavilions and Navajo-influenced spa treatments take inspiration from their surrounds to deliver unparalleled comfort. Even the swimming pool looks like it’s being fed by the cliff face it’s built into. Perhaps it’s apt Amangiri is in the eye of a Martian landscape, because it feels out of this world.
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