Golden Circle & The Blue Lagoon

Our third day in Iceland was just as good as the first two! This may have been our longest day yet, but it was jam packed with adventure and exploration! On this day, we decided to complete the Golden Circle. This is one of the most popular driving courses for anyone visiting Iceland. Iceland is a pretty small Island, but it still takes a lot of time to drive around the entire perimeter. The Golden Circle is much smaller, but still offers incredible views, making it very desirable!

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If you don’t have a car while visiting the country, there are tons of tour groups that will drive you around the circle. If you do have a car, we’d recommend driving yourself because you’ll have more freedom and flexibility. Also, a guided tour will be more expensive.

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We started the Golden Circle at the Þingvellir National Park. This park is very popular because it’s where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.

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If you’re looking for something really fun and unique to do while in Iceland, they offer scuba diving and snorkeling here! While we were walking around, we noticed a tour group training to jump in. I can’t say that I’d jump into that water during the middle of December, but it sure would be cool to say that you did!

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The water was so calm and peaceful.

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We loaded back into the car and headed towards our next destination, Haukadalur.

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This is a very large geothermal area that houses some of the most popular geysers.

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Not all of them shoot off, but there are a couple that shoot off every ten to fifteen minutes. When visiting, just find the geyser that everyone is standing around, that’s the one most likely to shoot off. 🙂

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They have a fantastic gift shop and café, where you can warm up and shop!

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Our next stop on the Golden Circle was the Gullfoss Waterfall. Before we walked down to see the falls, we grabbed a snack at the visitor’s center.

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Honestly, they didn’t have the best food, but the hot chocolate was yummy!

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Once we were warmed up, we walked a short distance to the falls.

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The Gullfoss falls were massive!

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There are two lookouts that you can choose from. This way, you can see everything from a different angle. If you visit in the wintertime, walk carefully! The pathway and staircases are very icy.

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After spending some time at the Gullfoss falls, we started driving towards Kerio Crater Lake.

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It snowed pretty much the entire time that we were completing the Golden Circle. It seemed to pick up as soon as we got to Kerio Crater Lake. If you stop here, please note that you’ll have to pay a small fee of 400 ISK. This is about 4 dollars per person.

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What’s now a lake, used to be an active volcano! The volcano erupted years ago and then collapsed in on itself. We couldn’t walk down to the water with all the snow. However, if you visit during the summer, you should be fine walking down.

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It was slightly challenging trying to walk around this lake, due to the massive amounts of snow. There’s no pathway to guide you, and there’s also no guard rail. However, it was a very pretty view!

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This was the last stop for our Golden Circle adventure, but we had some time to kill before we headed to the Blue Lagoon.

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As we were driving around, we came across another adorable town. They had their very own ice-cream factory and a shop that sold some! Of course, we had to stop and try some!

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It was super yummy!!

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How adorable is this town?! All of the trees were lit up and they had this beautiful string of lights at the entrance to their park.

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Of course I made Taylor get out of the car and take a picture with me. 🙂

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When we were done roaming around, we drove an hour to the Blue Lagoon.

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The Blue Lagoon is a HUGE tourist destination in Iceland. Almost everyone who comes to Iceland makes a stop here. If you plan on visiting yourself, make sure you make a reservation well in advance. We made our reservation a few days beforehand and were only able to land a spot at 7:30pm.

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Some people will even come to the Blue Lagoon during their layovers for some rest and relaxation. Therefore, they have a luggage drop off area.

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The Blue Lagoon is essentially a giant geothermal spa. Currently, there are four packages that you can choose from. Standard, Comfort, Premium, and Luxury. The standard package allows you access to the lagoon and a silica mud mask. The Comfort package gives you entrance to the lagoon, silica mud mask, use of a towel, one drink of choice, and an algae mask. The Premium package includes everything from the comfort package, plus the use of a bathrobe, slippers, reservations at the restaurant, and sparkling wine at the restaurant. The Luxury package includes everything from the Premium package, but also includes entrance to the exclusive lounge (child free), and spa journey product change.

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There’s a small Café and a nice restaurant if you’re looking for some food. Since this is a tourist destination, the prices of food are outrageous. We’d recommend bringing your own food or eating beforehand.

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Before getting into the lagoon, you’ll need to change and shower off inside the locker rooms. There are rows of lockers that you can place your stuff in, which opens with the wrist band you’re given when checking in. I can’t speak for the men’s locker room, but the women’s locker room was crazy. There wasn’t enough lockers and it was slightly confusing trying to locate an empty one. I wish I would’ve packed flip flops, because the floors were really wet and disgusting.

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When you come out of the locker room, you’ll see the entrance to the lagoon. The water was very turquoise and warm. There’s a small door that leads to the outside. We apologize for the blurriness of the photos, but it was dark and the GoPro didn’t hold up well.

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When you swim outside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the snow covered rocks. You’ll also see the steam rising from the water, and you’ll feel very warm and toasty. The water was the perfect temperature! It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t cold either. The first thing we did, was find the mud bar to receive our masks.

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The second thing we did, was find the bar. The wrist band that you receive when checking in, will also tally up your purchases. There is a mini bar that you can swim up to, which includes beer, wine, water, and soft drinks.

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Even though it was dark, it was still so beautiful. I wish our pictures would’ve turned out better!

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The Blue Lagoon is currently adding a hotel, where you will be able to stay for longer periods of time and include different packages. I’m sure it will book up quickly! We’d love to go back one day, but maybe in the daylight.

We didn’t leave the Blue Lagoon until nine thirty, but still had to drive an hour back to Reykjavik. By this point, we were all very hungry and tired. Most restaurants were closing, and quite frankly, we were exhausted. Taylor found a fantastic pizza place close to our apartment, so we picked up dinner.

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It was SO GOOD! They had every type of pizza you could think of, the service was great, and they were very fast. We’d definitely recommend eating pizza at Devitos when in Iceland.

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This was such a fun way to end our last full day in Iceland!

Charming Towns and Seafood

Our third day in Iceland was another long one! After grabbing our donuts and coffee from Dunkin’, we headed northwest for some more exploring.

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We started by driving north of Reykjavik, which took us through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel. This tunnel was completed in 1998, and ended up saving us close to an hour of driving while heading northwest. The tunnel is over 3.5 miles long and roughly 550 feet below the sea. There was one toll to enter, but only cost us a dollar. The time and milage we saved made it worth it.

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Since Iceland is one giant Island, there are tons of different lighthouses to see. As we came out of the tunnel, we drove through a small town where we stopped to look at one! We got there just in time to see the sun rising.

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The lighthouse had these adorably painted rocks all over the place.

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We wanted to go inside, but it was locked. In order to climb to the top, you had to call the number listed. We wanted to go inside, but we didn’t have the time to call nor a phone that would have worked. So, we just roamed around outside and enjoyed all the little rock paintings.

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Once we all loaded back into the car, we drove around the small town and stopped to take some incredible shots of the boats out on the water.

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We spent a ton of time in the car on this day. Most of the places we wanted to see, were farther away from our apartment in the city . However, the views were so stunning that the distance flew by quickly. I made Taylor pull over several times just to take some pictures. These pictures don’t even do it justice!

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About two hours away from Reykjavik, we stopped at another beautiful waterfall called Barnafossar! This one was wider than the one from the previous day, and it had an amazing turquoise color.

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Since this waterfall is a lot further away from the capital than most of the others, not as many tourists get the chance to visit it. However, it’s so different from all the others and it turned out to be one of our favorites!

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There’s a neat bridge that you can use to cross over the river and look down at the water. There used to be a natural bridge in this spot, but it caved long ago.

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All of the water is this pretty blue color because it emerges from a nearby lava field. Most of the surrounding rock is pillow lava from a past eruption.

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This was one of the most beautiful waterfalls we’ve ever seen before. It may take longer to get to, but we highly recommend seeing it if you find yourself in Iceland!

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When we were finished taking in the beauty of the waterfall, we drove to a nearby geothermal heating plant.

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The water bubbling out from under the earth’s surface is about 200 degrees and is collected and piped all around the country. It’s then used for geothermal energy.

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After we were done staring at the bubbling water, we drove an hour to Leif Erickson’s home.

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While we were driving, we saw a group of horses hanging out near the fence. They were eating, so of course we stopped to pet them!

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Horses can be spotted all over Iceland, and they’re super friendly. As soon as they saw us stand by the fence, they came up to say hello!

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We hated to say goodbye, but we were on a mission to see Lief Erickson’s home before the sun went down.

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It was such a nice day outside, which made the next part of our adventure possible.

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When driving to Lief Erickson’s home, you have to go through the mountains. They were covered in fresh white snow, so it was breathtaking!

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but then…

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it started to blizzard while we were halfway up the mountain. This is when I thought we were going to die. We slipped and slid up this mountain road, all while it was snowing heavily. Thank goodness it only lasted for about 20 minutes, because I was not thinking that we were going to make it off that mountain in one piece!

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As Taylor was driving, Grandma and I were in the back begging him to turn around. However, Taylor is a very stubborn person. Thankfully, we made it safely down the mountain. We ended up getting fantastic pictures and a good laugh out of it, so I’ll count that as a win.

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We finally made it to Leif Erickson’s home where he was supposedly born and lived while he was younger, before moving to Greenland and discovering North America.

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I’m so glad we decided to venture all the way to his home, because it was so neat to see it in person!

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Once we were done touring his home, we drove to the town of Stykkishólmur for dinner.

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This was a fishing town, and it was so unique. There was a peaceful harbor area that we enjoyed walking around.

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We hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so we were starving! We chose to eat at the most amazing restaurant right on the harbor. It was called Sjávarpakkhúsiö, and they served fresh seafood that the fisherman had caught that day. We selected a table right beside the window so we could watch the boats.

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The restaurant is open all year round, so there is plenty of seating inside and outside.

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The restaurant was so cozy and welcoming. It was the perfect place to end our long and adventurous day.

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I got the fresh seafood soup, which was a creamy soup with white fish and scallops!

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Taylor and Grandma ordered the fish sandwich, which they say tasted incredible.

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Our friend Waite ordered the lamb! He practically licked the plate clean, so you know that was yummy as well!

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The food and service was impeccable. We dream about coming back to this restaurant one day! We didn’t want to leave this charming town, so we walked around after dinner before heading back to Reykjavik.

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It took us about two hours to get back to the city. As soon as we got back to the apartment, we each showered and fell asleep. We were exhausted from the long day!

A Night In Vegas

Once we were done hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, we started our journey back to Las Vegas, Nevada. We had a super early flight the next morning, and had to return our rental car back to Hertz before 5pm.

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The drive took about 2.5 hours and was just as beautiful as the first day. Since we were out west, we had to stop for lunch at In N’ Out Burger. When we passed it on our first day, we knew that we wanted to stop on our way back. Taylor had been looking forward to it all week!

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For our last night in Vegas, we stayed at another Airbnb, just because it was easy and simple. We know it isn’t expensive to stay in the hotels on the strip, but since we were only there for one night, we didn’t feel the need for a hotel room. Before we checked in, we explored the old strip for a few hours!

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We had no luck at gambling, so we stopped at Starbucks before heading to the airbnb. It was only a short 15 minute drive from the strip.

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When we arrived at the house (click HERE to see it), it was very clean and the host was very welcoming. They showed us our room, gave us water, and stayed out of our way. Since we had to return our rental car, we quickly showered and changed, then set out for Hertz.

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Once we dropped off the car, we ubered to the strip!

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We walked for miles, weaving in and out of the different hotels. Everything really is bigger and better in Vegas! Since we had a very early flight the following morning, we didn’t want to stay out extremely late.

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We ended the night by watching the famous Fountains of Bellagio in front of the Bellagio hotel.

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Headed back to the east coast!!

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Not only did we have an incredible time in Utah and Vegas together, but it has been so much fun writing about the adventures and experiences we had. This will be a trip we’ll never forget! Thank you for following along! 🙂

The Narrows of Zion

Our last night camping went well, and we were woken up around 8am to the blazing sun. At this point in the trip, we were pros at taking down the tent and packing everything into the rental car. Once everything was packed up, we stopped at the bath house on the way out to change and get ready for our final hike.

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We couldn’t come to Zion without seeing the Narrows!

There are 3 ways to hike the Narrows.

  1. A day hike from the bottom and back: you will start by hiking the Riverside Walk and make your way to the river. In less than a mile, you will be hiking in some of the narrowest parts of the canyon. There is no end destination, so you will have to hike up and return the way you came. You don’t need any permits for this option.
  2. Day hike from top to bottom: This get’s even more difficult. Round trip, this is an all day, 16 mile hike that absolutely requires a permit.
  3. Overnight hike from top to bottom: A strenuous hike requires 2 days, along with a permit to complete. You can only stay a maximum of one night, and need to be cautious of flash flooding. Also, it’s important to pack accordingly.

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Thankfully, there is an easy route that can accommodate people who have less time, young children, or aren’t ready for such a strenuous hike. If you want to experience the beauty of the Narrows without all the fuss, you can complete the Riverside Walk. This is a paved trail that follows the Virgin River up to the start of the Narrows. To access the Riverside Walk, you’ll need to hop on the Zion shuttle bus and take it to the last stop.

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Zion National Park uses a fantastic system to help cut down on the traffic in the park. During their busy season, they close down the scenic drive that leads to a majority of their trail-heads. They restrict all parking to the main parking lots, or the small town outside of the park. Then, a shuttle system runs up and down the scenic drive taking people to their desired trails. This helps tremendously, and they run a multitude of buses at once so you’ll never wait more than 10 minutes.

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After hopping off the shuttle, we began the Riverside Walk. As a suggestion, we recommend wearing warmer clothing for this hike. Not only is the water freezing, but the breeze is cool and it’s hard for the sun to reach you when you’re walking alongside the river.

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As you’re walking, you’ll notice that the water is a gorgeous emerald blue. If you have time, you can take a break and enjoy it!

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Only a select few will actually hike the entire 9.4 mile trail. At least 60% of this hike is spent in the water. The further along you go, you can find yourself walking, wading, or even swimming! Once you make it to the end of the Riverside walk, you have the choice to enter the water, or turn around. What most people do, is they complete the riverside walk, which is very simple. When they get to the part where they need to start walking through water (which is the start of the Narrows), they either turn around or they just walk through the water for a little bit. We would highly recommend walking through the water, just so you can get the real effect and take in the amazing views.

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When you first enter the water, there will be a ton of people. We recommend going a little further than most of these people, just because you’ll have the opportunity to take everything in without all the screaming kids and other tourists.

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Be mindful of the weather, because flash flooding within the Narrows can be deadly!

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We spent about two hours wandering and taking pictures of everything. The views were absolutely breathtaking, and Taylor and I decided that we are going to do the full 9.4 miles the next time we we’re visiting.

Hiking the Narrows was a great way to top off our time in Zion. Next stop, Las Vegas!

 

Canyonlands & Capitol Reef

Our first night camping in the desert went well! While planning this trip, we really had no idea what to expect weather wise. We knew it would be scorching hot during the day (which it was), but we weren’t sure if it would be warm or cool during the night. On our first night camping in Arches, Taylor said he froze. On the other hand, I couldn’t have been more content. We will tell you this, the temperature can heat up or cool down within minutes. We never needed to set any alarms because the heat always woke us up as soon as the sun rose.

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While Taylor took apart our tent, I walked to the bath house to change and get ready for the day. The bath houses at the Moab RV Resort and Campground were clean and nice! They had a lot of stalls and showers, so you never had to wait. The one thing we forgot to pack on this trip, was a towel. We are those people who ALWAYS forget towels. Whether that be a beach towel or a shower towel, we WILL forget it. Over the years, we have purchased so many overpriced towels because we’re the ones who never remember to pack them. Instead of renting one from the desk for $3, we just used our old t-shirts to dry off…disgusting yes, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do!

Before we left,  I grabbed some complimentary coffee. The coffee was surprisingly delicious! Sometimes, you just can’t expect much when it’s free. We also needed to fill up on gas, and get some new ice for our cooler. There was a McDonald’s down the road that had bags of ice for only .99 cents!

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As soon as we were done, we started our drive towards Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. These are the two least visited parks within the Mighty 5 in Utah. When we arrived to Canyonlands, we immediately went to the visitor’s center to find a map and fill up on water. (Without an annual pass, it will cost you $25 per vehicle to enter the park.) Right across the street, there is a breathtaking view of the canyons, that you MUST stop and see.

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Canyonlands National Park consists of 337,598 acres of truly breathtaking canyons! The entire park is divided into four districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon.  The view in the pictures above is on Island in the Sky.

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The Green River

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After snapping some pictures, we decided to hike the Mesa Arch trail, which is only 0.5 miles round trip. They recommend 30 minutes to enjoy everything, and it’s a short hike that leads to a cliff-edge arch.

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We were in awe of the views that constantly surrounded us. We decided to drive around the park and stop at some overlooks for more pictures. This was such an interesting park because it had those coppery red-toned rocks with arches, and then it also had very white, sandy buttes in another area.

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Once we were finished exploring Canyonlands, we headed towards Capitol Reef National Park.

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It only costs $15 per vehicle to enter this park because it’s not as popular as the others and there isn’t as much to do. There are a few trails, but it’s mostly a very long scenic drive.

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The famous Capitol Dome in the picture above looks so similar to the US Capitol building, that it inspired the name of the Capitol Reef National Park.

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Carvings and paintings that date back to 300 to 1300 CE, can be found on the rock walls. This shows that people used to call this place home a very long time ago. We got to see some of them, but forgot to take a picture…oops!

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Nobody knows why there is a giant crater in the rocks, from the picture above. They think either something hit it years ago, or there used to be a body of water that has dried up.

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As it was getting later in the afternoon, we headed out of the park to go find a place to camp and eat dinner. After comparing campgrounds within the area, we chose Wonderland RV Park, in Torrey UT.

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Of all the places we camped during our trip, this was our absolute favorite. The staff was incredibly sweet and everything was extremely clean and well kept.

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The grass was so lush and green and they even had divider walls between each tent site. Their bath houses were the cleanest we’ve ever seen and they had entire shower rooms, which made you feel like you were in your own home. The best part? We only paid $26.50 to stay here. This was the cheapest AND nicest place! We cannot say enough good things about this campground!

After setting up camp, we ate at Slackers’s Burger Joint. The service was great and they had so many different options to choose from. We even got some ice cream for our scenic drive around Capitol Reef as the sun went down.

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We had a great day enjoying both Canyonlands and Capitol Reef together.

 

Airbnb

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Whenever we’re planning out an upcoming trip, one of the main websites we use to book our lodging arrangements is, Airbnb. Not only is it always super affordable and way cheaper than a hotel, but it also allows you to meet people and explore your favorite cities on a budget. On airbnb, you can discover some of the most phenomenal places to stay…places you would never get to experience if you simply booked a room in a chain hotel.

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Airbnb allows you to book a place to stay, typically in someone else’s home or rental apartment/condo. These are just ordinary people from all over the world who enjoy meeting and hosting people who are exploring a new area. When searching for a place, you can enter in your location, and refine your search based on living preferences. You can choose between an entire home/apartment, a private room within someone’s home, or a shared room. You can also select a specific area, number of guests, your price range, and specific amenities.

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After you enter in your requirements, it will filter all the search results and give you your options. It will show you the area, the renter, prices, photos, and reviews.

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Airbnb does really well at making sure all of the hosts are trustworthy, reliable, and responsible people. They offer a secure messaging system to communicate between guest and host, display honest reviews from previous guests, and they must provide a verified ID with identity checks. If at any point, a host demonstrates suspicious behavior, there will be a flag at the top of their profile.

Disclaimer: With any website, safety comes first! It’s important to pay close attention and recognize suspicious behavior or inappropriate activity. As a guest, read all the reviews carefully before you confirm a booking. Also, keep your communication and payments with your host on the airbnb website. A host should not be asking you to provide money in any other form. As a host, pay attention to the guest’s ratings and make your rules known. Let them know what they have access to and what they don’t.

Within the past year, we’ve booked several Airbnb’s and have been satisfied with all of them!! They work so well for us because we don’t like paying for a hotel room that we’re barely in. We also don’t want to get stuck in a creepy hostel sharing a bathroom with 15 other people. Another reason we prefer Airbnb is because the hosts are usually nearby if you have any questions or concerns. Sometimes, they’re even willing to give you a tour and will give you the best recommendations. This is great for us because we don’t like doing “touristy” things. We would much rather explore the off-the-beaten-path destinations.

If you read any of our Thailand blogposts, than you’ll remember that Taylor and Kendall stayed in a really nice Airbnb (click HERE for listing) that was an entire apartment, with a massive pool and also came with a moped for transportation! Their 5 night stay was ONLY $141!

About a year ago, we rented an entire house off Airbnb in Clearwater, Florida (click HERE for listing)! Not only was it right on the beach, but our host left us a yummy welcome cake, AND a bag of travel necessities incase we forgot anything. The entire house was very well stocked with everything we needed, plus some! Our host was so thoughtful and went above and beyond to make us comfortable! We stayed 7 nights and split the cost between everyone staying. It only ended up being around $200 a person.

We highly recommend using Airbnb if you’re looking for something more affordable than your standard hotel. They are great if you’re looking to travel solo OR as a large family. No matter where you’re going, there are thousands of great places to choose from.