Parks, Polygamy, and Puppies! A Rambling Red-Rock Road Trip
What I drove: 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan
Destination: Las Vegas to the Red Rocks of Utah, with a stop at Hoover Dam on the way back.
The Route: From Las Vegas, take I-15 to St. George. UT 9 passes through Zion and eventually connects to US 89. Next up: Route 389, which will take you back to Vegas.
Time Required: 5-8 days
The colorful highway to the majestic Zion National Park. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Think John Ford Westerns. Think the ending of “Thelma and Louise” (well, not the very end). And think about polygamists. Really! This drive has all that—and puppies.
I’ve driven these roads many times, alone and with others—most notably with my ex-boyfriend and coauthor Steve Zusy as we wrote "Motorcycle Touring in the Southwest" (long story). The multicolor landscapes and remote, wide-open ribbons of pavement of America’s Southwest will never get old for me.
This trip reminds me that old is relative, anyway—especially compared to an ancient place like the Grand Canyon, where the Colorado River has slowly carved its way a mile down to rocks that have existed for a billion years. We are all younger than eye-blinks compared to that, aren’t we?
I bring sunscreen, snacks, and lots of water in refillable containers and plan to buy gas pretty much wherever I can.
I let I-15 escort me away from the neon of Las Vegas, that glitziest of cities, toward a different kind of color: unbelievably bright red-rock desert. The blacktop burns through 100 miles before it hits a twisty little canyon that opens up at St. George, Utah, an orderly town in a broad valley surrounded by red cliffs.
After St. George, UT 9 runs eastward past imaginatively named towns like Virgin and LaVerkin. First must-do stop: Springdale, an artsy alternative for the many who miss out on one of the scarce rooms inside Zion National Park. Thank god for Deep Creek Coffee Co., the best java for possibly hundreds of miles (people in Utah are lovely, but they make terrible coffee).
I play tourist here, stretching my legs on short jaunts among Zion’s world-famous cliff overhangs and slot canyons. A few brave souls attempt the steep Angels Landing hike, ending on a peninsula that drops off as 1,000-foot cliffs on three sides. Definitely not recommended for those afraid of heights or fighting with their traveling companions.