We just got back from being on the road for two weeks exploring the Southwest with Kokoro and Chibi! It was our first time visiting this part of the country and we made sure to add pup-friendly items to our itinerary, so we thought we’d share our tips and tricks for those who are interested planning your own road trip through Utah and Arizona in the coming months.
Because of COVID, a lot more people are visiting national parks and hitting the road, so it’s really important to plan ahead when possible. We ended up having to change our plans last minute quite a few times, so hopefully with the proper planning your trip goes off without a hitch!
PROTIP: Get the America the Beautiful annual pass for access to national parks all over the country! We used ours four times during our two week road trip so it made the price well worth it already. It doesn’t work for all of the locations listed in this itinerary (some are state recreation areas), but it does for all of the national parks.
We left from Los Angeles and drove to St. George, UT for the first leg of our trip. Definitely stop in Vegas on the way for some good eats and to stretch your legs.
Sand Hollows State Park
Just a short 15 minute drive from where we were staying in St. George, Sand Hollows State Park is a gorgeous little spot with a dog-friendly lake nestled between Mars-like red rock formations.
Bring your swimsuit because you can join your dogs for a dip in the refreshing lake! As with all water activities, make sure to check for warnings or signs of cyanobacteria, which typically can be found in lakes with algae blooms and that appear quite green in color.
We spent the last hour before sunset climbing the rock formations with the pups, who enjoyed a nice off-leash exploration in this relatively low foot-traffic area. There were just a couple other dogs in the park when we were, so it was nice to be at a less populated area with lots of room to explore.
Snow Canyon State Park
Also quite close to St. George, Snow Canyon State Park was another easy trip for either a weekday or weekend adventure. The coolest thing about this area are the lava formations from millions of years ago that provide some otherworldly views. You can choose to hike from a few different trailheads, and we chose to explore the Petrified Dunes Hiking Trail.
You can see in the photos (which truly don’t do the location justice) some of the formations of sediment that look like lava frozen in time. There were lava flows from as far as 1.6 million years ago!
We met a few locals along the way who claimed that Snow Canyon is definitely the area’s best kept secret, and some even claimed they enjoy this park more than neighboring Bryce Canyon (which we unfortunately didn’t have time to stop at).
You can also book a 2 hour trail ride and explore the area on horseback! I’m a big sucker for horseback riding so came back a second day to see the sights a different way.
We ended up hiking “The Narrows” at Zion National Park on a separate day trip from St. George, but because that hike (and most of the national park aside from paved trails and campgrounds) was not dog-friendly, we’re not going to touch upon that too much in this post.
After spending a few days with St. George as our base camp, we ventured even further east to Page, AZ. We entered the lottery for The Wave, but unfortunately were not selected, so we pivoted to visiting Antelope Canyon instead. If you have a chance, try to enter the lottery to get a permit to see The Wave! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we’re definitely going to continue trying for in the coming months.
Antelope Point Marina
Located on Navajo land, Antelope Point Marina is a great spot for renting boats, paddleboards, and kayaks to explore Lake Powell. On our first trip, all of the kayak rentals were sold out so we decided to take a dip in Lake Powell with the dogs instead.
If you park at the furthest parking lot from the entrance, you can walk a short distance from the top of the rocks down to the lake where you can take a dip and the dogs can go for a swim as well!
Just be careful that the rocks at the bottom are very slippery! We didn’t come prepared, but bring a swimsuit and some water/non-slip shoes to make your stay more enjoyable.
We rented an all-day kayak the next day so we could enjoy the lake and get into part of Antelope Canyon for a hike with the dogs! Antelope Canyon’s hiking tours are currently closed due to COVID, so the only way to explore this area is to get in via Lake Powell. The hiking tours are also not dog-friendly, so this is the only way you can explore the area with your dogs. If you are not coming with dogs, you could also rent a jet ski instead of a kayak for a much less strenuous journey.
I’d highly recommend calling ahead and making a reservation as these types of activities are getting quite popular with road trippers visiting from all over. You can only rent a kayak for a full day, but it’s totally worth it to have peace of mind that you’ll have a kayak to use, rather than walking up and crossing your fingers there is one available for a half day rental.
From the same spot, Antelope Point Marina, you can kayak about 3 miles in towards a point in Antelope Canyon where you can dock your kayak and take a walk through the canyon. This activity is not for the faint of heart! It will take you about 45 minutes of heavy paddling from the marina to get to the entrance point of the canyons, then another 30 minutes or so to reach the docking point.
Once you dock your kayaks, you are golden! We were able to explore the canyons with the dogs off leash and I have to say, they had an absolute BLAST.
We hiked inland for about an hour before deciding to turn back around. The canyons become more and more narrow the deeper you get, and about an hour in you can get amazing shots just like what you’d see from the hiking tours of Antelope Canyon!
Just remember that you have another 1.5-2 hour kayaking trip to get back to the marina after your hike, so don’t overexert yourself. The kayaking trip back is much harder than coming in.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to leave no trace. Pick up your dog’s poop, don’t leave trash behind, and leave the beautiful canyon just as you found it so we can continue having the privilege of seeing this beautiful corner of nature for years to come.
Our final stop in the Page area was Horseshoe Bend. This is a short, easy, 10 minute trail walk from the parking lot to get to the viewpoint and is dog-friendly as well!
There were quite a few people gathered around the main viewpoint area (where there is a safety railing) taking photos. We decided to venture further off to the sides to get a better view and wait for sunset.
There are quite a few spots where you can enjoy the view without a railing in front of you, but be sure to be SUPER careful if you choose to venture close to the edge. We allowed the pups to be off leash for a few quick shots, but it definitely got my heart pounding.
We spent a short two days in Page before heading south to see the Grand Canyon. There were some road closures that happened the day before our departure, so we had to go through Flagstaff to get to the southern entrance of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park
Thankfully the Grand Canyon is one of the more dog-friendly national parks, and this is actually the spot where we saw the most on-leash dogs. We parked at the South Rim visitor center and walked the dogs along the paved trails that took us to a few different viewpoints.
It’s pretty much impossible to capture just how grand the canyon is, and even standing there in real life it was hard to believe what I saw with my own two eyes. I think Kokoro felt the same way!
We ended the trip after the short walks and gorgeous views from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim viewpoints! After two weeks of hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and just being out in the sun day after day, we were ready to begin our trip back home and head towards couch time with the dogs for the remainder of the weekend.
Thanks for checking out our Utah + Arizona recap! Let us know if you have any questions about traveling through the gorgeous Southwest with your four-legged friends in tow. Stay safe throughout your travels!