Q & A: Utah National Parks

Q & A time!

Meet Riah and Zoe: two girls from different parts of the country/ world who I’ve been so lucky to get some answers from about their travels to Utah’s National Parks. Riah (R) is based in Austin, Texas. She believes everyone should experience the world whenever possible and has her own online shop (you’ll find her info below) featuring handmade bohemian jewelry, accessories apparel and more. Zoe (Z) is based in Santa Monica, originally from Auckland, New Zealand and works for an awesome travel transportation company called JUCY (she’ll be discussing it later), you’ll want the details on it!

Let’s get to it…

Which national parks did you visit in Utah and When?

R: Arches in 2012 & Zion in 2013

Z: Zion in November 2015 

How long did it take for you to plan this trip?

R: Honestly, it doesn’t take me very long to plan trips. I think about 2 weeks to plan. I just save money until I think I have enough for a little trip, then I see where my budget will take me.

Z: Planning was around 5 months as it was a work trip for an Instameet.

How did you arrive?

R: Drove from Austin, Texas. 

Z: I traveled in a JUCY mini RV – sleeps four and even has a kitchen so it’s awesome for road trips.

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JUCY Van

How many days was your trip?

R: Both trips were 2-3 week long road trips on the way to California. We only drove through Arches as a spontaneous detour for about an hour, on our way to the four corners monument. We stayed and camped in Zion for 2 days. 

Z: A weekend getaway so Friday to Sunday. It’s only three hours from Vegas so I flew there and picked up my van from there.

What was your reason for visiting (destination/s)?

R: Arches was a place I’ve wanted to see and we didn’t realize we were going to be driving next to it so we made a quick stop. I didn’t get to see the main arch attractions so I’ll definitely have to make another visit back!–Zion, on the other hand, was our main destination (besides California on our second trip.) I knew I wanted to hike the Narrows, and we were going for that reason. 

Z: I work for JUCY and I organized an ‘Instameet’ there with Zion National Park. SO much fun – I had 7 vans with 10 Instagrammers and we wanted to show off how great Zion is, as well as how much fun you can have in a JUCY in the cooler months.  

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Arches National Park

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Tell me about how & what you packed?

R: Since we were on the road, I packed a giant suitcase of clothes. I now realize I over packed with like 7 pairs of shoes and basically an outfit for each day! We also brought our camping gear and safety kits for the road.

Z: As I was in a JUCY, I didn’t need to bring a tent or any big equipment so I just packed hiking boots, thermals and layers for the day and hat and gloves for the night walks and activities. Oh and most importantly, skewers so we could make ‘Smores over an open fire at the Watchman Campground.  

How many people went with you?

 R: It was just my boyfriend Riley & I. 

Z: There were 14 of us in total, 3 from New Zealand (including me), 2 from Australia, 2 from Sweden and the rest Americans and we all got on so well

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Zoe’s Instameet group photo

Where did you stay? tell me about your experience.

R: After Arches, we made it down to Flagstaff that night as we were visiting the Grand Canyon the next day. —We camped out within the park in Zion and even though we couldn’t make a fire & it was super hot, we had a blast! There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars. We originally had planned to camp one night and stay in a hotel the next so we could rest before heading to Santa Barbara, but we had such a beautiful time that we canceled the reservation and camped out an extra night!

Z: We stayed in the Watchman Campground at the edge of the park – staggering to open up the Penthouse (pop top tent) and just have the mountains… THERE!! It had been 32ºf at night and I was snuggled in a duvet and subzero sleeping bag and I got to just lie there and take it all in. Amazing!!

Describe weather conditions during your trip? Hot, Cold, ranging temperatures…

R: We went in the summer both times, I believe both in June. It was EXTREMELY hot! My thoughts were that it would be cooler in the desert at night, but I guess not in Utah! We were burning up at night, we had to sleep with our cold jugs of water between us! Haha 

Z: Gorgeous sunny days with cold nights! I have been telling people ever since that this is the best time to go to Zion (or most national parks) – out of the busy summer months you get empty parks, cheaper campsites and better photos and you still get pleasant days to explore in.

Did you experience any delays, traffic, park closures, etc. for any reason?

R: Nothing like that. We did however have a slight chance of a flash flooding during our hike through the narrows. It was a little nerve-racking, but we still decided to do it. 

Z: No, everything went smoothly and we were lucky to get a pass that allowed us to drive right into the park to Zion Lodge which meant we could have a coffee or one of their delicious hot chocolates very quickly after rising.

What did you eat on this trip?

R: There was a huge drought while we were camping in Zion so there was a strict no campfire regulation at the time. We were bummed that we were unable to cook up some camp food, so we just grabbed some pizza both nights in the town before going to bed. 

Z: We had a fun campground cooking competition where everyone had to make their signature dish (mine is a breakfast burrito) so that was fun but we also ate at Zion Lodge (amazing park views) and I highly recommend the candy store in town – amazing hand crafted chocolates!

Is there something that you recommend doing/seeing?–maybe something NOT to do

R: We never got to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion which I really regret. It’s supposed to be really spectacular. But, we were short on time, and to be very truthful I was pretty scared of doing a hike where you only have a chain to grab onto on the side of the cliffs edge. But now, I’ve realized you can’t let fear stop you from experiencing something amazing –so I will do it, one day!–I would of course also recommend doing the Narrows. The hike is a total of 16 miles, but you can of course do just what you can handle, it’s unforgettable!

Z: We were lucky to have Zion National Park tourism team put together the itinerary so I would say we saw the best – Angel’s Landing and the Narrows and neither disappointed so I would say both. I would also recommend taking some time to get an early morning hot chocolate at Zion Lodge before going in as it is divine and made with melted chocolate. You need that energy for a climb, right?–Don’t disregard warnings about the weather there and pack and wear layers as it can shift between cold and hot very quickly, as well as the risks with waters rising in the Narrows.  

Most of Utah’s national parks consist of hiking- do you feel that a person needs to be in good shape to hike here? –What level hiking would you say that you’re at and which trails were you able to complete?

R: There are trails of all levels in all of the parks so I don’t think you necessarily need to be in good shape. As long as you go at your own pace and take your time, you’ll be fine. Just be sure to bring LOTS of water. –I do not consider myself a high level hiker, probably on the lower end of intermediate. But I was a beginner when hiking the Narrows, so anything is definitely doable as long as you pace yourself and listen to your body. 

Z: No – you could do the Narrows easily as it’s flat – it’s just through water! Angel’s Landing is a tougher hike but I saw people struggling with their fear of heights more than reaching the top due to fitness and not everyone in our group was fit!!–I’m a rusty intermediate hiker (or tramper as we say in New Zealand) – I’m not out often and I’m only reasonably fit. I wouldn’t have tackled anything with ropes but steep hikes I can handle.

Describe a “wow” moment you had on this trip.–How did it make you feel?

R: When we were hiking to get to the Narrows, it was incredibly hot and the trail felt like it lasted a lifetime in the blazing sun. But, when we got there, the trail just stopped and it was a long shallow stream of water through the canyons. I was surprised to figure out that the stream was the hike and it was so incredible! It was really amazing to feel like an actual hiker walking such a unique “trail.” The water was very shallow at times, and at others the water got as deep as my waist! It was really awesome and we ended up hiking for about 6 hours that day. The longest we’ve ever done. 

Z: Aside from waking up at the foot of the mountains, two others stand out. We hiked up Angel’s Landing and it was breathtaking at the top. It’s a precarious climb and not for the faint-hearted but worth every steep step. Highly recommended! The other one was the next day when we rented some waterproof gear and hiked The Narrows. It was much cooler in the canyon and such a staggering contrast to the previous hike as you hike up to waist-deep in water into the canyon. The Instagrammers got some amazing photos and I got to be an Instagram model – finally my time had come – ha ha.–At the top of Angel’s Landing you feel insignificant due to the sheer size of the range in front of you, yet also a little invincible as you’re there, at the top with a handful of others. It’s one of those moments that further instill the travel bug and make you grateful to have the freedom to reach these places.

What should I expect when visiting (destination/s)?

R:  Expect some beautiful sights of those amazing Utah red rocks!

 Z: I think fall and spring are better times to go and even winter if the park is open – I have heard reports of intense bus lines into the park in the summer months and crowded trails. That was not my experience and I am grateful for that.

How would your rate this trip? Is it a Top 10 for you?

R: The Narrows is definitely my favorite hike I’ve done so far, so I think i would place it in my top 10 trips. I would rate it maybe a 7. Mainly because we were unable to build a campfire. 

Z: Yes, definitely my favorite US national park so far – 10/10 – wouldn’t change a thing!

What will be your next destination?

R: For our next big trip we are hoping to visit Ireland with friends! We’ve never gone on a long trip with friends before so it should be really fun. And I’ve always wanted to visit the Emerald Isle. 

 Z: I’m planning a trip to Joshua Tree next weekend and I’m keen on the Redwoods soon too.

Both Riah and Zoe are members of GLT, which is how I was able to meet them and inquire about their travels. I also wanted to know more about their thoughts on the group as well give you some insight to it and possible get more of you traveling girls to participate in the conversation!

Let me ask a few Questions about GLT:

How long have you been a member of GLT?

R: Probably less than a month. 

Z: About 9 months now I think. There were 35,000 members when I joined so it’s crazy to see the growth it has had.

What is your favorite thing about this group?

R: I love seeing everyone’s recent travel experiences! Everyone really inspires me to see wondrous places I wouldn’t have thought of, like Antartica!

Z:  The travel photos are one thing of course but it’s the camaraderie and support that is great. Knowing you could reach out if you were in trouble and there would be people there to support no matter what, pretty powerful!

Have you participated in any of your city meet ups yet or met with any other members outside of your city? —if so, where? Tell me about your experience.

R: I have not, but I would love to!

Z:  Not yet!

For ladies not part of our GLT community, why would you recommend joining?

R: I would recommend joining because it’s such a beautifully positive environment where my fellow ladies can come together and share their passion for travel. Traveling really is the best thing you could ever spend your time doing! That’s what I think at least. 🙂

Z: If you have any level of wanderlust, it is going to fuel that further and inspire you to assess where you are at, where you want to go and how you want to get there. You can read stories of people who have come from nothing, or given up their lives and made sh*t happen and it’s up to you whether you are a voyeur to this, or whether you become one of the ones who everyone applauds for the leap of faith – and no judgement on which path you take either!

I’ve learned so much from both of you ladies, Thank you for taking some time to answers some questions. I hope I’ll get to use some of your tips and experience some of the views and hikes you girls did! On a side note– I think I can speak for the 3 of us, that we’d ask you to join us on Facebook’s  “Girls Love Travel” group if you are a traveling girl yourself!

If you’d like to know more about Riah and her bohemian lifestyle visit her webpage at: blog.thewanderfulsoul.com or check her out on social media: Instagram, Facebook & twitter.

If you’d like to learn more about Zoe and the JUCY transportation, you can contact Zoe  directly at: zoe.macfarlane@jucyworld.com or check her out on social media as well: Instagram or Linkedin.

I hope you’re next adventures are a blast!

Safe Travels!

*all photos belong to both Riah and Zoe

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