Sandip Debnath shares his experience of travelling with family (including a kid and a toddler) to South west of America. They covered three national parks and one national conservation area . This story will definitely change your perception of what a family holiday looks like. It’s fun and inspiring! Don’t miss the sunrise video of Death Valley. See more of his work on his Instagram here. Hope you enjoy this real travel story.
His experience in his words:
As an avid traveller I always take the task of planning, be it hiking in the alpine mountains in Washington, be it a really long road trip to Montana or Wyoming or even a place I need to go flying first! Every situation demands different planning! When I go hiking alpine mountains I am with my hiker friends but when I go for a family trip to National parks far from my base, I need to plan accordingly.
American Southwest is always close to my heart mainly because that’s where I first landed in the US. It was my first impression of US and it was overwhelming to the least! I was stunned with the beauty of countless slot canyons and grandeur of the Grand Canyon! I was stunned by the monumental vastness and standing buttes of Monument Valley! To name a few!
I always knew that I needed go back to the southwest as I moved out the place 4 years back. So I started planning! Planning for a family trip with a 2 years old toddler and an 8 years old kid. It was not an alpine hike, neither a road trip! I thought I could make my base at Las Vegas (fly-in and fly-out) and visit 3 National Parks and one national conservation area managed by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). My cousin’s friend had flown in from sunshine state – Florida to join us too!
Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area! 4 nights and 4 days!
Death Valley :
The hottest, Driest and Lowest place of the Western Hemisphere is always a special place! It is a place where life is stretched to the extreme for survival and yet life finds its own way! It is an experience of a lifetime for all of us to be at the place and feel for ourselves.
Two critical things I needed to consider while planning! A) To stay the night inside the park and B) To plan for some hike where I could go close to the nature, see and feel for myself unlike a touristy trap of vehicle accessible viewpoint!
Death Valley is a badland full of Borax and other minerals and salts. There is no locality or town near by. Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Well are the two places (30 miles apart from each other) where you have only two hotels and some campgrounds. Having a 2 years old toddler, campground was off limit for me. The road connects these two places and makes a pass through within the National Park is one of the most lonely and remote roads in the US! I booked the hotel!
We started early in the morning from Las Vegas for Death Valley and made a stop over at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area! I have to say, it was good to be back! I was able to connect myself with my deep love for the red rocks that started 4 years back! It was like going through the memory lane.
Mosaic Canyon hike is easy, family friendly and less than 3 miles through the beautiful canyons and narrows. As I made my planning, this was one of the highlights of my first day at Death Valley. I wasn’t disappointed. The canyon was glowing golden with the setting sunlight.
At night Death Valley presents one of the darkest skies in the world. You can see International space station from here with your naked eye. On a full moon day the story becomes more dramatic. Death Valley converts itself a place out of the world bathed with moonlight! We decided to take a long drive after the dinner and stopped nowhere in the middle of the most lonely road in the US!
Definitely a surreal experience! This was the advantage staying inside the park at night! But we had to catch the sunrise at Zabriskie point too! An originally-badland-turned-into-dramatic-tourist-point, Zabriskie Point Sunrise is one of the best in the world! If you visit Death Valley, make sure it is on the list!
Having spent two days and a night at Death Valley, taking tons of pictures of the wonderland, we drove back to our base,i.e, Las Vegas! In the middle of the desert, Las Vegas bursts with celebration of life! And we joined too! We were tired after a long but very productive day! Another long day was ahead of us!
We headed directly to Bryce Canyon from Las Vegas early next morning! A beautiful sunset hike was waiting for us! I always wanted to take off beaten path while visiting any National Parks, sometime a place less obvious and less crowded, sometime accessible only to foot traffic so that we can truly appreciate the nature and national parks – America’s greatest jewel ever!
Navajo loop and queens garden trail hike is very popular among the park visitors. Couple of miles hike takes you to the base of the gigantic hoodoos of the park. Only then you realize how big are those and how water, rain, wind and snow had curved them so artistically that it almost feels unreal.
A sunrise in Bryce Amphitheater is another highlight of the park visit. A chilling morning with much below freezing temperature welcomed us for a cool and crisp sunrise. The hoodoos were glowing in golden yellow, orange and red.
Zion National Park:
It is a one and half-hour drive from Bryce and we had to rush. That day was kept for Zion. As soon as we crossed the national park’s east gate the dramatic scene started unveiling! Sheer cliffs, sleek red rocks with thousands of feet tall was guard railing our way! I was in love with Zion for sure! I wanted to stop at each and every turn of the road and soak in view. It is so big that even a wide-angle lens is not enough to take the entire photo!
Canyon Overlook is a small 1 mile round trip hike where at the end the entire Zion Canyon opens up in front of you while standing on a rock thousands of feet high from the bottom of the valley standing completely 90 degree vertically! The hike is not for the faint heart neither for them having fear of height! The trail goes with the edge of the canyon high above the valley floor. I was able to convince my wife, daughter and cousin to join me for that hike. I took my 2 years toddler on my back! Mission accomplished!
Valley floor was different perspective altogether! The Virgin River cuts through the valley flows along side by the valley park road. Valley is only accessible by the park shuttle bus for most of the time of year. We did too! A small and easy stroll called river walk near Temple of Sinawava is recommended for the family with small children. If you are an avid hiker, don’t stop there until you walk through the Virgin River bed and find the narrows. Hiker from all over the world come to experience the same!
Winter days are visibly short! As we were coming out of the valley sun was setting in the horizon! We had to call it a day! We started driving towards the sunset and promised ourselves, we have to come back! Next time!
Note : All the pictures here are taken with an iPhone 7Plus; it was the most convenient way of keeping the backpack lighter without compromising the quality of our memories. Smartphone photography is on rise and all for good reasons, especially when you are traveling with family and children.