There’s just something about a road trip that makes me think of simpler times. Windows down, radio up, and fresh air running through my hair! No plans and nothing ahead but open road and adventure! Ahhh… 🙂
2017 was a busy year in our house! Between working 4 jobs (3 for me, 1 for Brandon) and going weeks without a day off, this was just what we needed! And what better time to drive through the mountains than the fall, right?! Hence our epic fall road trip was born!
The only plans we made for our trip were which general areas we wanted to visit and about how much time we thought we’d spend there, and the only reservation we made was for 2 nights at a ranch in Montana (one of my must do things)! Which, as it turns out, we ended up changing anyway! 🙂
So read on to see some of the amazing places we visited and things we did, including visiting 8 national parks, backpacking through Aspens, glamping in the desert, and a snowy proposal in the mountains!!
Our first visit to Zion National Park (wow!!). If you want to avoid the crowds and still get the views, there’s a great and easy trail that starts outside of the park to the east at the East Mesa Trailhead. Since we were short on time and will do almost anything to avoid crowds, we took this easy trail to the canyon overlook. It did not disappoint! We only saw 2 people on the trail, and that was at the very end!
Brandon got a little too close to the edge for my comfort level!
The colors here were sooo good! I think I made Brandon stop for photos for a good 15 minutes 🙂
For Brandon’s 30th birthday I surprised him with his first glamping experience at Under Canvas Zion! In case you haven’t heard the term before, glamping= glamorous camping; AKA expensive tents with unnecessary luxuries 😉
This was our tent!
Inside the tent we had a wood oven for heat, a huuuuge cozy bed, and a shower and bathroom! Amazing! Plus there are also other communal tents with lounge areas, games, and a restaurant (see below)!
Also, these swings were crazy! You kind of fall into them and it’s impossible to get out!
Another highlight was backpacking in Bryce Canyon National Park! It’s definitely one of the most beautiful (and unique) national parks and we wanted to experience it away from all the crowds (seriously there are busses and busses of people everywhere).
You might notice a theme for this trip: avoiding the crowds! 😉 Part of the reason we went in the fall was to avoid the summer hustle and bustle. But for Utah, the parks are still busy in the fall because the weather is much nicer. In this case, all it takes is going slightly off the beaten path (we’re talking just a half mile away from a parking lot or lookout point) to get away from all the people!
Above is the start of the Under the Rim Trail that we backpacked! The trail is about 23 miles and we finished in 2 nights & 3 days. It took us through some of the most varied terrain and there were so many fall colors that I wasn’t expecting! Definitely a fun short backpacking trip if you’re in the area!
The mud pit below was our water source on the first day (see photo above for the look on our faces when we saw it). Sketchy to say the least! Water is a bit of an issue on this trail, so be prepared to stock up when you have it! Oh, and of course we had a pump/filter so we didn’t get sick (thank goodness)!
The view at the end! Unlike any other place I’ve seen!
Onward to more national parks!
Every once in a while we had to pull over to take some photos on the side of the road 😛
We drove through Capitol Reef and Arches, but quickly discovered that we weren’t impressed by rock arches. 🙂 We did, however, stop for some freshly picked fruit in the only orchard in a national park (Capitol Reef). It was snack time anyway! Wait…it’s always snack time…
A few more from Capitol Reef. Honestly we just drove in and out! So many other fun things to see!
Not pictured from Utah was our time in Moab (which is a really fun city) and the time we went mountain biking at Dead Horse Point State Park and I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. MY WORST FEAR! But I got over it and Brandon says I actually handled it pretty well! Read: didn’t have a panic attack or cry. Yes, this has happened before! But at least I don’t let it stop me from getting outside, right?!
The highlight of our time in Wyoming was definitely when Brandon proposed to me at the top of a snowy hike to Amphitheater Lake (below) in Grand Teton National Park! We started in beautiful hiking weather and ended up in the freezing wind and a few feet of snow! We also stayed 3 nights in Jackson, which was definitely our favorite town on the trip!
Enjoy some highlights from the Grand Tetons!
By the time we headed to Yellowstone National Park, a snowstorm had hit and most of the roads were closed (though we were able to snap a few photos on the west side seen below). And thus began the “winter” part of our fall trip…
Bring on the snow!
One of the best places we stayed on the entire trip was Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana! For some reason I’ve had this desire to stay on a ranch in Montana, and it was soo worth it! We came at the absolute perfect time: shoulder season. Basically it was the last week that they had reservations before closing until the winter ski season. Perfect for us, because that meant there were very few other people around! They even upgraded our room at no charge! The rooms were incredibly cozy and the perfect contrast to the snow falling outside! Brandon also had his first experience horseback riding and we had an epic nightly Backgammon battle. Quality time well spent! 🙂
On the way up to Glacier National Park we found this insanely colorful pullout on the side of the road!
We spent a good half hour or more here just wandering around the dry creek bed and taking photos! Quite possibly the most colorful fall scene ever! This is just one of the reasons why I prefer to not have plans when I travel. Then you allow yourself to be open to opportunities like this one, which we could have never predicted, but ended up being one of the most beautiful and memorable sights!
By the time we made it up to Glacier National Park most of the main roads were closed because of snow. But that didn’t stop us from wandering around where we could! And the crazy weather made for some eerily beautiful photos!
It was cold. You might not be able to tell, but I had 3 coats and 3 shirts on in the photo below!
I always have to get in a few jumping photos! 🙂
Brandon found some outdoor weights…
So there you have it! Some of my favorite places from our biggest trip of 2017!
Thanks for following along!
If you made it this far, then you must love travel and adventure as much as we do! 🙂 I hope you’re headed for some great adventures in 2018!
If you’re planning your own trip, or are just curious, I’m happy to chat with you about any of the places we stayed or things we did! Send me an email at Sarah@SarahEichstedtPhotography.com or contact me here!
And if you’re curious about how to travel with celiac disease (that’s me!) or on a gluten free diet, check out my post “5 Tips for the Gluten Free Adventurer” here!