Road Trip to Utah and Colorado

I can distinctly remember sitting in an infectious disease conference at Mayo Clinic in January. I remember one of the speakers started talking about a new virus that was circulating in China at the time. This new virus was called COVID-19, which we are all very familiar with now. Little did I know, as I was taking notes about a new respiratory illness, how much this virus would change all of our lives. Whether you yourself have gotten sick, have had a family member who has gotten sick, or have simply just been living through the pandemic, we have all been significantly impacted. Our daily lives have drastically changed. Some have lost jobs, a loved one, had to work from home, had to work from home WHILE parenting/teaching children at home, had to cancel a wedding or graduation, the list goes on and on. Another aspect of our lives that has significantly changed is travel and the way we travel. We had trips booked this year and had to cancel many of them. As someone who has been working the emergency response, COVID-19 has taken a toll on my mental health. It’s been long, exhausting days.While working 12-14 hour days, sometimes seven days a week from March-July, I knew I had to get away for a little bit and take some time to recharge and reset my mind.

My dad and I decided to take a dad/daughter road trip to Utah and Colorado and it was the BEST week in the mountains. If you are able, I highly recommend driving through Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, it was some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. The drive was approximately ten hours with stops and it flew by because the drive was so beautiful. I wanted to share an overview of our road trip with you all in case you ever decide to make the drive!

We hit the road bright and early Saturday morning at 7 am from Sedona. We stopped in Flagstaff for breakfast and coffee at Starbucks then continued on the road. We stopped a few miles outside of Kayenta to enjoy the beautiful scenary and take some pictures.

We continued on and didn’t stop again until we got to Moab, Utah. At this point, we were starving so we stopped at Sweet Cravings Bakery and Bistro. It was the cutest bakery and all of the employees were SO kind. They were implementing safety precautions, including social distancing, mask wearing, and had plastic barriers to protect you and the employees. We ordered wraps to go – I got a turkey wrap and I highly recommend it. Their homemade cookies are also delicious! After we got our wraps, we stopped at a nearby park to eat and site see – Moab is beautiful!

After our quick stop for lunch in Moab, we continued our drive to Vail, Colorado. We didn’t want to make too many stops or stop for too long on the way there because we were so excited to just get to Vail. We did drive through the most beautiful canyon once we got in Colorado and loved how scenic the drive was!

After 10 hours, we finally made it to my aunt and uncle’s house in Edwards, CO (about 20 minutes away from Vail, CO) and had a celebratory Truly! They have the most incredible cabin and I always LOVE visiting their home. Prior to this trip, I had only visited during the winter months so it was fun to go back and visit during the summer.

On Sunday, we woke up and did the most beautiful hike in the White River National Forest. The trailhead is located in Edwards and we were able to walk to it from my aunt and uncle’s house. We brought the dogs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It was SO green and it was definitely NOT an easy stroll, it was all uphill. Definitely worth it though and I highly recommend the hike! As you can see below, Ella was one tired and happy pup.

After our long hike, we went to Vail Brewing Company. We went to the Eagle Vail Brewery location because they have a large outdoor area and it was easier to social distance at that location. It is our all time favorite brewery in the area and tried to make as many stops as we could during our visit. They are also very dog friendly so we brought Ella with us – I don’t know if she was excited as we were!

We then went to Vail Village to go to our favorite ice cream shop, I clearly ate VERY healthy on this vacation – beer and ice cream! We went to Joe’s Deli, which is always one of our favorite stops when we visit Vail Village. Everyone is so friendly there and they rotate so many delicious ice cream flavors! I haven’t ever tried their food, but the ice cream is delicious!

For the next two days of the trip, Monday and Tuesday, I had to work from home. I made the best of it and sat outside for most of the day and enjoyed the cooler temperatures. My aunt also made my favorite waffles for me while I was there, which made working from home even better!

After work, we hiked in the White River National Forest again and it was SO relaxing to get outdoors after the long work days. Definitely can’t do that in Phoenix right now since its been over 110 degrees the past month.

After my two days of working in beautiful Colorado, I was ready to get out and explore. It was my dad’s birthday so we went to Vail Village to celebrate his special day. We stopped at Avon Bakery & Deli for bagels and coffee before venturing out for the day. It is the cutest local spot and was delicious! We went to most of the local shops to support their businesses and buy souvenirs. The State of Colorado implemented a mask mandate, which I greatly appreciated and made me feel safer while I was there. There is so much beautiful scenery to view while walking around Vail Village. Even if you aren’t shopping, eating, or drinking, I still highly recommend visiting to site see!

For my dad’s birthday, we had an outdoor lunch at Pazzo’s Pizzeria and it was my first time eating out since the beginning of March! Everyone was socially distanced, but it was still a weird feeling actually eating at a restaurant. The food was decent, but I’m not sure I would return again. Later in the week, we went to another pizzeria (mentioned later in the post) in Vail Village, which I highly recommend.

Can you guess where we went afterwards?! Vail Brewing Company! We again went to the Eagle Vail Brewery as there is a bigger outdoor patio to practice social distancing. We have been to the Vail Village location on a previous trip and it is also a great location!

On Thursday we woke up early and went to Lionshead Village to do MORE shopping! It is such a cute and clean area to shop around and do more site seeing.

We then bought our tickets and rode the gondolas to the top of Vail Mountain to ride the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster! It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip and was SO fun. The coaster is scenic and thrilling and I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t worry, it does have breaks so you can control how fast you go. You best believe I went full throttle all of the way!

After riding the coaster, we walked around the top of the Mountain for a bit, the views were absolutely breathtaking! I recommend bringing a light jacket or wearing a long sleeved shirt as it was a bit chilly at the top. There are beautiful hiking trails and you can rent bikes too.

After our day of adventuring, we went back to my aunt and uncle’s house and had a delicious steak dinner and ice cream cake to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

On Friday, our last day in Colorado, we went for a long hike along the West Lake Creek. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done! This hike is also located in Edwards, CO and I highly recommend it. It’s much less uphill than the White River National Forest hikes we did.

After our long hike, we went back to the house and got ready for dinner. We went to dinner at Southside Benderz and sat outside. We split the nachos as an appetizer then we all got burgers. The food was delicious and our waitress was so nice! The have the cutest outdoor dining area and were implementing social distancing.

On Saturday, our last day of the trip, I drove to Vail and hike with one of my best friends from college! She lives in Denver and we hadn’t seen each other for awhile (thanks, COVID) so it was nice to hike and catch up. We hiked Booth Lake Trail and let me tell you, it was no joke! We could hardly talk and walk at the same time because there was a steady incline the whole way. The views were absolutely stunning from the top and we of course had a beer once we made it to the top. The hike was definitely much more crowded than the other hikes I did, but most people wore masks when passing each other. Something to also keep in mind – the parking lot was also completely full so we had to park at a school down the road and walk to the trailhead.

After our hike, we drove over to Vail Village to have lunch – we were SO hungry after our long hike! We went to Vendetta’s and split calamari, each got Caesar salads, and also split a slice of pizza. Everything was delicious and I highly recommend eating there if you ever visit Vail Village!

Afterwards, I went back to the house and did my last barn workout. my aunt and uncle have the most amazing gym in their barn and it was so nice to workout in a real gym instead of my apartment home gym.

After my workout, we tried to go back to Vail Brewing Company, but it was SO busy so we decided to go to Rocky Mountain Tacos in Minturn, CO. Minturn is the cutest little town to visit and has delicious food.

We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning and hit the road back to Arizona. The drive from Edwards, CO to Moab, UT is so so beautiful and filled with canyons and greenery. There are also bridges that go through mountains, SO cool!

Our plan was to stop at Arches National Park on the way home and hike to Delicate Arch since I had never been, but I checked out their website and saw that dogs are not allowed on the trails within the park. Since Ella traveled with us, we didn’t stop. It was definitely too hot for her to stay in the car by herself and as I did research, I read that it wasn’t worth the $30 to just drive through. The websites I read said it’s hard to actually see any of the arches from the road without hiking so definitely keep that in mind when you visit. We instead stopped at Hole in the Rock and didn’t go inside, but walked around outside the trading post and the outdoor areas. On our way out, we ended up seeing an arch from the road and we didn’t even have to enter the park! We then drove back through Monument Valley and had to stop to take the iconic picture in the middle of the highway. Yes, my dad took this picture. Yes, he was freaking out. Yes, it was worth it!

PRO TIP:

The GPS naturally wants to take you on Highway 160, not Highway 163. You will not see the iconic view of Monument Valley if you take Highway 160. You will need to turn onto Highway 163 in Kayenta. This route added approximately 5-10 minutes to our overall trip and it was 100% worth it. I added screenshots of the GPS to better show the way the GPS takes and where you will need to turn. The circled highway is Highway 163, which is the route you will want to take.

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Xoxo,

Jonica

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