The Best Place to Visit in America

Zion in the Narrows

My favorite vacation in America is a place I have been trying to escape from my entire life, yet found a whole new appreciation for upon my return back to the United States.

It’s a state with not one, but five national parks.  It hosted the winter Olympics and is known to have “the best snow on Earth.”  It’s home to what some would call an over-zealous and somewhat strange religion.

Yes, my favorite U.S. vacation so far is not San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or even Boston:

Utah Mighty Five

It’s freakin’ Utah.

I spent most of my life trying to escape from the clutches of small town, desert Utah.  I grew up in a tiny community of coal miners where I was heckled and teased for being half-Asian.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled to return back to Utah when my boyfriend mentioned a road trip that not only made pit stops at the Grand Canyon, but also winded back to my home state: Utah.

Despite living in Utah for over 20 years, I never went to Zion, Bryce or even Moab (all national parks, by the way).  It was truly embarrassing, and I knew I couldn’t properly call myself a true Utahn without a visit to these national landmarks.  Despite the sour taste Utah left in my mouth from my younger years, I decided to treat the journey like a trip overseas: A true adventure.

The results?  Well, I thought the grand canyon would eternally top my charts for U.S. travel, but then I went to…

Zion Angels Landing View

Uhh, heaven anyone?

Zion, Utah: A Truly Holy Place

You know how some places just feel… holy?  I’m not a very religious person, but there are moments in life when I see something so magnificent, so much greater than anything my whole life will ever amount to, something so epic it will stand the test of time and leave its mark on humanity–that I lose myself in what I could best call a ‘spiritual experience.’

Looking up to the grand ceiling of Notre Dame.  Watching an orange sunset melt into the ocean on a sandy beach.  The great Buddha Daibutsu statue in Nara, Japan towering over me.

And then, there’s Zion:

I gotta say, this was a pretty good feeling

I gotta say, this was a pretty good feeling

If you pinpoint Zion from Google Maps alone, it looks like a wasteland.  More desert than the eye can see and it’s in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Yet when you drive through the gates of Zion, it’s almost like you’re transported into Narnia.  Suddenly rocks on the side of the road rise into cliffs, the drab beige of the desert melts into crimson red paint on the cliff side, and trees–no, forests–sprout out from nowhere.

The Red Walls of Zion

The Red Walls of Zion

Zion in the Narrows

Am I in Rivendell or Utah?

Zion is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert.

Weeping rock at Zion

Weeping rock at Zion

Due to the shape and form of the cliffs and rocks in Zion, what little rainfall that is trapped here turns into flowing streams, growing trees and budding flowers that lead to an entire ecosystem of wildlife.

Entrancetonarrows

It’s like heaven.

The Hike Where People Fall to Their Death: Angel’s Landing

Zion Angels Landing

Goin up that chain!

Yeah, you can see why I wasn’t thrilled when my boyfriend cited Angel’s Landing for our hike of the day.  It’s not only famous for having a loose hanging chain as your sole mechanism of safety up the mountain–but more than five helpless hikers have fallen to their death here.

I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, but the photos were enough to have my heart racing.

chains angel landing

chains angel landing

Yes, those are chains that you hang onto as you hang from the sheer face of a cliff.

One wrong step?  Oh, it’s just a straight drop 10,000 feet or so down.

Come on Mary, I gave myself a pep talk.  You’re a true traveler now.  Prove yourself.  Get up there, grab that chain and hoist yourself up to the top.  Giving up is for losers.

Angels Landing Giving Up

I can do this!

Yet I made a gave mistake: I looked over the ledge.  I saw where one wrong step could lead, and I froze.

AHHHH!!!

AHHHH!!!

I crouched to the ground, hugged the chain for life and looked up to my boyfriend, terror in my eyes.

I can’t.

Hell no

Hell no

My boyfriend nodded and understood.  I told him to move ahead and I would wait for him below at “losers corner” (and yes, my boyfriend is a manly man and went all the way to the top.  He said he had to jump over a ravine to do so, so I’m REALLY glad I wimped out!).

Although I didn’t scale to the very top of Angel’s Landing, I still made it up to the 10,000 foot mark.  Loser’s corner wasn’t the best view of the entire canyon–but I gotta say, it wasn’t bad.

View from the top--imagine falling from here!

View from loser’s corner–imagine falling from here!

I was only in Zion for three days and I barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer.  It’s a treasure trove of mystery, adventure, exploration and beauty.

As one Zion expert remarked to us:

Narrows Trail

The Trail at the Narrows in Zion

“I could spend my entire life here and still never see it all.”

The HooDoos of Bryce Canyon

Another great reason to see Utah is the insane geological formations, like these HooDoos:

Have you ever seen anything like this?!

Have you ever seen anything like this?!

Bryce Canyon is a small national park that can easily be done in a day trip.  It’s a zig zag maze of trails full of these strange HooDoo formations that glow red, orange and yellow in the changing light of the sun.

The lighting effect through these caves is fascinating!

The lighting effect through these caves is fascinating!

inutahbryce

I loved this hike because it was deathly silent and peaceful.  As we hiked around these hoodoos and the forests that they encircle, we heard nothing but the flap of birds spreading their wings overhead.  Every now and then a horse tour passed us by, but the tour group was so entranced by their surroundings only the neigh of the horses could be heard as they echoed across the canyon.

Peace and quiet

Peace and quiet

There is nowhere else in the world where you can see colors or rock formations like this.

Brycecaves

These parks are uniquely Utah–and strangely enough, they make me proud to be a part of this great State.

maryzion

Have you been to Utah?  Do you have a favorite America vacation!?

14 thoughts on “The Best Place to Visit in America

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Yay! I’m glad I was able to convince someone about Utah 😛

      Actually Zion is in southern Utah so it would be faster to go from Las Vegas. I know there are a lot of bus and tours that depart from Las Vegas to tour the southern Utah areas, but I think these are mainly tour buses (so you’d have to book a tour essentially). You can always rent a car and drive from there (about 4 hours). My boyfriend and I weren’t super hardcore so we stayed at a nearby Best Western (super clean and nice) at Zion, and it was only 60 bucks a night I think. There are also shuttles within Zion so you can actually get around there without a car, but yeah… just geting there is a hassle. America really needs to work on publci transit!

  1. Marta says:

    Woah that looks amazing! Your picture with the rock formations looks a lot like Petra in Jordan (or at least the pics I’ve seen of it) 😀

    It happens that we always look down on the place we grew up and fail to visit some gorgeous places… there are a lot of beautiful natural sceneries in the Spanish province where I’m from but to some of them I’ve only been once and to others I’ve never been! And they’re only a 2 hours drive or so! I will have to remedy this next time I bring my boyfriend to Spain 🙂

      • Marta says:

        Yes! We went for last year’s CNY. We visited my hometown (of course!) and some towns around, then Madrid and Seville. Next time (maybe in October) I want to take him around Barcelona, I have family there 🙂 I also want to go to those places in my province I mentioned before (google image Jerte and you will see!).

        • rubymary says:
          Profile photo of rubymary

          Oh fun, that sounds like a good trip! I bet he loved Spain!

          I guess you’re going to Spain for National Holiday? Is it expensive? And wow, jerte is beautiful!!! Are those cherry blossoms!?

          • Marta says:

            Yes! Cherries from Jerte are oh so delicious x) Big and almost black!

            Yes, I want to go for the National holidays and then join together the lousy 10 days I have for annual vacations… I didn’t check plane tickets yet, but being Chinese holidays I guess they will be more expensive than usual… around 8.000 RMB roundtrip, maybe? It is kind of annoying because if you buy a return ticket Spain-China-Spain it is cheaper than if you buy China-Spain-China…

  2. R Zhao says:

    I don’t know much about Utah, but now I’m intrigued. I’d really like to take a trip out there or maybe Montana or Wyoming. I went to the Badlands in South Dakota as a kid but didn’t appreciate their beauty. I don’t really have a favorite place that I’ve been to in the US. I would like to further explore my own home state (Wisconsin).

    I don’t think I would have been able to do that chain climb. I have certain fears. Water is probably even worse for me. I “chickened out” on going diving in Indonesia and had to sit in the boat while my friend went. I honestly have no regrets. If you really aren’t comfortable doing something, especially something dangerous, I think it is sometimes smart to just admit that you don’t want to do it.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I would love to go to Montana or Wyoming (and before I went to China, I could never imagine myself saying something like that! ha!). I didn’t realize just how beautiful the American National Parks are, they’re magnificent and underappreciated! I hope to g to the one in Montana and Yellowstone this year. Wisconsin sounds lovely, but I heard the winters there are pretty harsh (my friends tell me it gives Utah a run for it’s money, but the ppl there are super friendly!).

      Yeah the chain climb was pretty scary. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who chickened out like that, haha. I think it’s better to play it safe than sorry, sometimes. Who knows what could have happend if you went diving and you were so nervous and anxious you ended up hurting yourself etc.. I knew that I probably would have been fine climbing the chain, but if I were anxious to the point where I freaked myself out so bad I wobbled over the cliff–well, that wouldn’t be worth it in the slightest.

  3. Eileen黃愛玲 says:

    I can relate. I tried to leave Maine as soon as possible only to realize that where I come from was actually a pretty fabulous place.

    Those are beautiful photos. It does inspire me to take pictures of where I grew up when I go back. 🙂

  4. Origami Kiwi says:

    Amazing photos!!! What a beautiful place. I would’ve never gone near the Angel’s Landing myself, and I know for sure my boyfriend wouldn’t either, haha!

    I’ve only been to Hawaii in the U.S, but of course there were many beautiful places there. I hope to visit the mainland one day, there is such a huge range of scenery there.

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