Your travel plans just got way better.
Do you have any of America’s National Parks on your bucket list?
You should, because these legendary parks will truly punch the breath right out of you - in the most magical, dreamiest way.
It’s a personal goal of mine to photograph couples in every National Park in America and to see every state by the time I’m thirty. Only a few more years to go… eeek!
But anyways, US National Park adventures are worth e-v-e-r-y- s-i-n-g-l-e penny and it turns out you don’t need that many pennies to justify this type of trip. All the evidence you need is below in this blog post...
Thanks to my traveling guide style AKA:
I visited Zion National Park, Utah State Parks, Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ Slot Canyons and Grand Canyon National Park successfully and will forever be raving about these ventures because of it.
For me, it’s hard to take in nature or popular landmarks in big crowds & a lighter wallet always makes me the happiest when I travel.
Did I hear a “DITTO” echoing (loudly) from your end?
Well then, keep your eyes parked here because...
I’m living proof that YOU CAN travel to these paradise pieces on a budget while beating the crowds.
This travel guide starts with fabulous behind the scene tips & tricks at each location and then ends with sexy money saving suggestions that will keep all parties involved happy.
Grab your planner & enjoy!
National Park Travel Pointers:
1. The Grand Canyon
Talk about living the dream...The Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list forever! When I found out I was going to be in southern Utah, I knew I needed to seize the canyon opportunity - even if it was a bit of a drive. But I’m SO glad we did, because we got to experience both the sunrise and sunset. I never knew my heart could swoon so much over majestic lighting… jk, I totally did but HOLY WOW - if magic carpet rides were totally a thing, I would do it during a Grand Canyon sunrise & sunset.
While among this radiating rocky terrain, I realized that my favorite Disney World Resort, The Wilderness Lodge, is actually designed to look like the Grand Canyon and it made my inner Disney fangirl super excited! I actually wouldn’t stop gushing about it.
Don’t AirBnB in this area & here’s why: We stayed at a hotel along the South Rim and walked from Yavapai Point to the east. Our hotel was in Grand Canyon Village, and I found an amazing deal through a third-party that I couldn’t pass up. I highly encourage people to book a hotel and not an AirBnB here because they are much cheaper! I will say though, if you want to splurge and stay in a cool trailer home or camper, AirBnB is the way to go!
The earlier you book the better - I’m talking to you my fellow procrastinators. ;) I waited just a hair too long before booking lodging and had to take a risk to find a deal!
Pro-Tip: The colors of the actual canyon were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Photos really don’t do it justice. Really be in the moment and experience the views. As a photographer, I know how hard it is to put the camera down, but it’s truly an unreal view!
2. Utah State Parks
Can you believe this? Utah is home to five national parks and 43 state parks! DAMN that’s one beautiful state.
I highly encourage everyone to check out some of the lesser known state parks because each one gives it own character. There are plenty around the more well-known National Parks like Zion and Arches!
Some of the non-famous parks I suggest visiting that are close to Zion include Kodachrome, Coral Pink Sand Dunes and the Escalante Petrified Forest - all with completely different terrain and views!
3. Horseshoe Bend
This breathtaking landscape used to be a lesser known vantage point of the Colorado River, but because of Instagram Horseshoe Bend absolutely blew up. As wonderful as it is that traffic has increased in such a small town in Arizona and the economy has benefited from it, it is now becoming commercialized and harder to see.
I still encourage people to go see it because the views are stunning. However, I do caution people to not geo-tag hidden gems because it can really affect the area. Instead, I choose to geo-tag the small towns or states associated with the hidden gems so if people want to dig and check it out for themselves, they still can!
Pro-Tip: Go on the off season! We went in March and it was warm during the day and chilly at night, but the crowds were much more manageable!
4. Slot Canyons in Page, AZ
Slot canyons are super popular and common around Arizona.
We had the privilege to stumble upon one that opened within the last year and wasn’t heavily populated or commercialized, like Antelope Canyon.
We got a private tour, and were really able to enjoy the canyon and not be pushed through. I was 100% practicing what I preach everyday to people: “Indulge in experiences that are off the beaten path. You never know what opportunities are awaiting you.”
5. Zion National Park
There are many hikes and views throughout the park, but the most well known and easiest hike is Observation Point. It’s friendly for people who are scared of heights, like me. An adventure photographer that’s scared of heights? Oh, the irony!!
Heads up: The park requires a pass and lasts a full week!
Budget-Friendly Park Hacks:
1. Flights to National Parks
Travel to Vegas and get cheap flights! Southwest is by far my favorite airline, and I actually paid for my flights from Atlanta with points! If I didn’t have points, it would have only costed about $250 roundtrip!
2. Rental Cars for National Park Adventures
Ahead of time, research deals on rental cars. Double check your insurance coverage and make sure it covers rental cars so you don’t book their insurance policy - which would up the cost.
Don’t buy their gas, find the cheapest option close to the airport to fill up!
3. Seasonal Travel is Best for Budgets
Travel on the off season and bundle up, because that temp drops at night. As a ginger, I will always prefer to be more covered than too hot!
Driving over 1,000 miles…
“Rose Bowman Style” gifted my traveling group and I the freedom to see so many amazing new places with such ease & fun.
I felt like I traveled to 5 different countries without the hassle of keeping up with my passport which, personally to me, makes America’s National Park adventures so worth it.
If you have the “Grand Canyon” or “Zion” boldly underlined on your bucket list...I’m giving you FULL permission to go ahead and check them off next month. Everyone should experience the Grand Canyon and Zion at least once in their life!
If you need a friendly, third-wheel photographer to join you to any of these extraordinary US landmarks above, I would do it in a heartbeat (again and again).
All the best,
In case you skimmed up above, here’s your national park adventure cliff notes:
Visiting US National Parks (like Zion National Park, Utah State Parks, Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ Slot Canyons and Grand Canyon National Park) with my budget-friendly and location tips is equivalent to finding unicorns in your backyard. Magical.
Go seize those unicorns!