Incredible Beauty: The Grand Circle
The Circle is generally understood to include the 5 National Parks of Southern Utah and the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. But there is so much phenomenally beautiful country nearby that I am going to expand it just a bit to include parts of Colorado and more of Northern Arizona. I am also going to include more lessor known places that are every bit as beautiful. Here are the places I am including:
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Grand Canyon, NP, AZ
- Antelope Canyon, (Navajo Nation) AZ
- The Wave, AZ
- Zion, NP, UT
- Bryce Canyon NP, UT
- Capital Reef, NP, UT
- Arches, NP, UT
- Canyonland, NP, UT
- Ouray and Siverton, CO
- Mesa Verde NP, CO
- Monument Valley National Monument, (Navajo Nation), AZ
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument, (Navajo Nation) AZ
- Petrified NP, AZ
- Flagstaff, AZ
I am not going to cover any of it in detail here, I’m just including a few photos to wet your appetite. In future posts will will look at the areas in more detail. Here is a map outlining the Grand Circle.
I am beginning and ending my circle in Flagstaff, AZ because it is on Interstate 40 and is an easy drive from both Phoenix, AZ or Las Vegas, NV in case you need to fly in and rent a car. But you can jump into the Circle from anywhere. Two other very good choices if you are flying in are either Salt Lake City, UT or Denver, CO. I hope you enjoy these few photos and are inspired to get out and see more of the spectacularly beautiful parts of this country.
When you go there are some books I highly recommend to you and they are “The Photographers Guide to the Southwest”. By Laurent Martres. They are a three volume set and I wouldn’t even think about taking a trip to the Southwest without them, they are totally invaluable. I also recommend you buy a Benchmark Atlas to each state you are going to be traveling in extensively. I wouldn’t be without one.
Thanks Bob. “The wave” is beautiful. I heard it ‘s very hard to get there. I don’t know how true is it.
Patrick, you are right on all counts, its is very beautiful and it is very hard to get to. It is a very fragile area so it is a highly protected site. You can only go in bypermit only and the BLM only issues 20 permits per day– 10 via the internet and 10 via a walk-in drawing. And they enforce the laws; the day I went in there were Rangers waiting at the trail-head to check our permits to be sure we had them. But, if you are determined you can get a permit. I was there in November and it took me 4 days to get my permit. Once you get the permit it is a difficult hike requiring good back-country navigation skills. It used to be about 1/3 of the people never found it, but the BLM started issuing a navigation packet that really helped to find it and most people can find it now. When I do a post of photos of the area I will cover all that in detail.
The wave is spectacular as are all of these. What a dream of a trip. Haven’t made it yet but will very soon.
Martin, it has a totally different beauty than anywhere else. It really is unique and well worth the hassle to see it. I look back at the day I went in as one of the best of my life!
Thanks Bob. This is exactly the route I want to do beginning late summer. I didn’t realize there was an unofficial name for it. You just planned my trip for me! See you then.
You are very welcome Kim! I won’t do the whole Circle this year, just parts. I like it best in the fall when the crowds have thinned out and it isn’t hot. But some of it is so high (like Bryce Canyon) that the risk of snow is very high starting in late October. And a lot of the drive between areas is through high mountain passes that can easily see snow in November. So you have to plan the high country early. Even Arches had snow in it when I was there in December. September is probably the best time, less crowds, cooler, but not likely to get snow anywhere. Will you be teaching by then? I had good luck getting internet everywhere I went.
See you this summer!
I’ll probably join you all in August and make forays up to the National Parks depending on the weather. I’ll be ready to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of the Deep South for sure!
I was in Yosemite in early October one year and a blizzard closed down the highest mountain pass out. That was the year a couple of hikers died due to the unexpected winter storm.
Yes, I’ll be working by then. Looks like my first class will be scheduled for April.
Good news that we will see you again! We should be able to get high enough in Arizona that it will be nice and cool. The very best time to be out west is the last week of July and first week of August because that’s when the wildflowers bloom in Colorado. It is a sight not to miss!! I am planning on leaving the trailer in camp with others and taking the van for a few days at a time to shoot the wildflower bloom. That’s the beauty of being in Northern Arizona, you are pretty close to lots of gorgeous country.
Thanks Bob, you’ve swayed my plans for things this summer. If van is ready or not we’ll be headed west again. I know Layla will be excited.
Dan, the West owns my heart. There are great thing back East, but I have to be out West!! Let’s be sure to get together when you get out here!
We got crushed out on Kanab. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was enough to make Annie consider working for a living again.
You are brave to go out there GLD, I can’t handle seeing all the abandoned animals. I love knowing they are cared for but that much sadness is hard for me. As a get older I become more and more of a softee!!
I hear you. Annie took some convincing even to tour the place. Once she did, though, she wanted to volunteer, and we did for three weeks. Animals have beautiful, big, clean enclosures. They have people around them all day giving them attention – really devoted, caring professionals.
I can’t bring myself to volunteer at a kill shelter, but to know these guys will have a good home all their natural lives no matter what…it’s just a great, great place.
When you can get right into the workings of the place, it’s hard to hide bad stuff, and the deeper we got, the more convinced we were.
GLD, you both have my admiration for your work for animals. It has always puzzled me why my heart is so broken by abuse of animals and yet much less affected by the inhumane way we so often treat each other. How wonderful that they (and you) are doing so much for them. Thank you!
I’m so excited Bob about your future travel plans. Once again, the photography is excellent. If I wasn’t already thinking of traveling with the group this summer, this blog post would definitely make me change my plans and do so. Terry;)
Terry, I am so glad you will be traveling with us! You and everyone else are always welcome to join our merry little band of vandwellers!
Great pictures. I have driven through that area and it *is* stunning.
Thanks Izaak! Something about the desert, and especially the Red Rock country, gets deep into your soul and captivates you. It compels you to come back to it over and over again like a lost lover. I am endlessly drawn to it. Can’t wait to see it again later this year.
Thanks so much, Bob. This is the one area I want to explore more than any other. It’ll be great to have an itinerary so I don’t miss anything important.
You are welcome Lavonne. In future posts I will talk about the area in more detail, this was just an overview. So stay tuned for more info!
Another nice stop on the loop next to Mesa Verde NP is the Natural bridges national park. I went out on a Sunday morning in the summer of 2011 and had the whole park to myself. Some of the more well known parks can get pretty crowded. Thanks for all the work publishing this site
My bad. Actually its the Natural Bridges National Monument not National park
Hi Bob, Natural Bridges is a beautiful spot, I liked it a lot. These is a place right beside it I liked better though called “House on Fire.” It is an old Anasazi ruin about a miles hike back down an actual creek. To the naked eye it looks like every other cave ruins but when you take a picture with either film or digital it comes out looking like the whole cave is on fire. It is very, very cool. I couldn’t find any of my shots of it but here is one I found on the web:
Really enjoy reading your blog,and seeing all your photo’s.I don’t write here much as a matter of fact I think this is the first time,Very much enjoyed the photo’s of other people’s rides.
Thanks Biker. I have several more posts coming up of other peoples conversions. I like to mix things up so it’s different all the time. My next post will probably be of my van conversion and several other coming up soon after.
Beautiful photos! I can’t wait to get there so I can shoot my own! Thanks for the itinerary. I was trying to figure out the best way to see all the amazing sights in that area and you did it for me!
Glad to help Gennifer! I am working on the post with pics of my van right now. Should be up tomorrow.
Beautiful! I might try to get out there for a week or few days at some point (have a little time in beginning of July, and end of August). I’ll keep checking out your page!
Dawn, a week or few days would just be frustrating to me. I could spend the rest of my life exploring the area and not see it all. But, we do what we have to do and a few days is better than nothing at all!! If I am in the area be sure to look me up!