US National Park Adventures

No airports. No check in. No seat map. No security. There is something quite liberating about throwing too much gear in the back of the car and hitting the road.  John Spence, Scott Dunn President, tells us more about his road trip through America’s top National Parks.

I have been to Utah a few times to ski, but I had never been during the summer months. After this past trip, I could honestly say I preferred a Utah summer over its winter. We were able to meet up with some old friends and literally had a summer camp retreat. There was so much to do and enjoy! Riding, biking, hiking, fishing, rafting, eating and laughing were all on the menu.

Our first stop was The Lodge At Blue Sky in Utah. This is new property about 25 minutes from Salt Lake City and close to Park City. It is on 3,500 acres of private, untamed ranch land surrounded by the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges. With only 46 stylish rooms and suites, each has stunning architectural designs that take advantage of inspiring Western views with picturesque windows and roomy, outdoor space. The Lodge at Blue Sky ticked all the boxes: the staff were personable and friendly, the restaurants sourced their ingredients from the estate and there were endless activities on offer, from horse-riding to heli-fishing. It was a bit like staying in a luxury boutique hotel instead of a dude ranch in Montana, but without the hassle of getting to a remote lodge—we loved it.

After a week, we headed south to Bryce Canyon National Park and then Zion National Park. The area between Bryce and Zion is a treasure and unexpectedly beautiful and lush. Accommodations are variable and not always overly memorable. The best way around this is to stay somewhere a little outside the area and drive in. Book somewhere nice and have a guide drive you to and from the parks with planned hikes in each. Or, get a private luxury mobile camp built for you and your party. More of that later.

As we headed towards Arizona, we had a pleasant surprise as we drove into the Kaibab Plateau. We made our way through the contrasting dark pine forests, interlaced with stark white, bark aspen trees. The forest then opened up to a beautiful meadow and we were fortunate to see breeding herds of bison, deer, elk, turkeys and coyotes. I did not realize we would be at a higher elevation and it felt refreshingly cool and lush after the heat at Zion.

We eventually made it to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and again, was blown away. These parks are incomparable and I am embarrassed it has taken me so long to finally visit, but it was well worth the wait. I would say the key to doing these vast parks justice is to know what you want to see and do, and where you want to stay. You can also double-up on your activities each day, like going straight from hiking to white water rafting, for a more productive itinerary.

For our next and last stop, we met our guide at a remote gas station and I am pleased we did. We followed him deep into the forest in our car, on unpaved roads where our private luxury camp was revealed. American Safari Camps hosted us and wow did they know what they were doing. From the moment we arrived right up until departure, the staff were incredible, the surroundings were unbeatable and having a private mobile camp all to yourself was just the perfect way to end the trip.

As we packed up the car once again, this time to head back to San Diego, we couldn’t help but notice how lucky we felt to have such a diverse country to call home. Although what has happened over the past few months has been trying, we left the Southwest with a greater appreciation for the adventures that are possible right here in our backyard.