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Wednesday, 01 March 2017

Experience Southwest USA’s Five Wonders of the World in Ten Days

Written by Maureen C. Bruschi
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You don’t have to be a hiking enthusiast or a professional photographer to enjoy Sedona, Arizona’s red rocks, the Grand Canyon’s rich hues, Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, Zion Canyon’s erosion-sculptured sandstone or Hoover Dam’s curved wall of concrete.  Simply slip into your favorite walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and you’re ready to move from one mesmerizing view to the next.  After my husband and I landed in Las Vegas to begin our 10 day southwest road trip, we rented a car and headed south for the Hoover Dam.

Concrete Rules at the Hoover Dam – Day 1

To say that large amounts of concrete were poured during the construction of the Hoover Dam is an understatement.  According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, which has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs including the Hoover Dam, there is enough concrete in the Hoover Dam (4 ½ million cubic yards) to build a 2 lane road from Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida or a 4 ft. wide sidewalk around the Earth at the Equator.  

Hoover Dam

When I looked at the enormous cascade of concrete sweeping down into the dark blue Colorado River, it was easy to understand how the Hoover Dam could be described as a marvel of engineering and an astonishing feat of construction.  For 80 years, the massive Hoover Dam has been holding back the Colorado River and generating hydroelectric power and water for customers in California, Arizona, and Nevada.  During the first summer of construction, workers endured daily highs of 119 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a wave of heatstroke among laborers. 

Sedona’s Red Rock Country via Route 66 – Day 2

After a night in Kingman, Arizona, we took a scenic side trip to Sedona, Arizona where I experienced my first exposure to Red Rock Country.   As we approached the town from the south, along the Red Rock Scenic Byway (Rt. 179N), every turn was an eye-opener.  We wound our way around red sandstone formations that jutted upwards from the desert floor.  

Bell Rock Formation In Sedona

The Bell Rock formation looks like a church bell.  If you look closely you can see the profile of a face staring up at the sky.  The Courthouse Butte, slightly east of Bell Rock was supposed to be called Church Rock because of its close proximity to Bell Rock.  But mapmakers mislabeled the formations and the names were never changed.   

Courthouse Butte In Sedona

Before leaving Sedona, we stopped off at the Sedona Airport, located on top of a high mesa, where we were treated to panoramic views of Sedona and its multi-hued stone formations. 


Grand Canyon’s Stunning Depth, Color and Dimension – Day 2-4  

A two hour trip north of Sedona, through Flagstaff, brought us to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. On day one, we walked to Mather Point from the Visitor Center for our first taste of the Grand Canyon’s rust, salmon and tan-colored layers of rock.  My husband and I stood in silence and awe on a platform jutting out over the canyon.  Viewing close-up sheer drop-offs into an abyss filled with cobbled and cliff-edged rock stairs are not for the faint of heart.   

Grand Canyon Multi Colored Rock

We caught a free shuttle bus at the Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Road, a road that parallels the western leg of the rim trail.  The shuttle tour along Hermits Road was by far the best way to enjoy the nine overlooks along the route to Hermits Rest.  You can hop on and off the shuttle whenever you like, or walk from overlook to overlook along trails hovering over the edge of the canyon.  Grand Canyon drop-offs and steep canyon walls are best seen at the Abyss overlook.  

Overlooking Grand Canyon

Day two in the Grand Canyon was equally busy as we drove 26 miles along Desert View Drive to the Desert View Watchtower.  The Watchtower, one of seven buildings along the South Rim designed by Mary Coulter to blend with the Grand Canyon’s landscape, is a 70-foot-high observation tower built of stone and mortar.  The tower has a spiral five story staircase that leads to a roof top view of the canyon, the highest point in the South Rim. 

Desert View Watchtower Grand Canyon

We spent our final afternoon in the Grand Canyon, hiking a small portion of the 7.8 mile somewhat narrow Bright Angel Trail, clinging to the canyon wall, as we descended down the rim toward the Colorado River.  I had trouble picturing a mule caravan riding down or up this rocky, sloping trail, but apparently riding a mule into the canyon is an experience an adventure enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss.  Although we hiked only a small section of the trail, the view lower in the canyon looking up and around at the rim was stunning and well worth the trek.  

The Goblins (aka Hoodoos) of Bryce Canyon - Day 5-6

A five hour drive north took us to Utah’s Bryce Canyon, best known for its unusual, eerie rock formations or hoodoos shaped by weathering and erosion in desert climates. A visit to the Black Birch Canyon overlook provided us with our first glimpse of orange, pink and white streaked hoodoos.  I thought they looked like totem poles, figures or faces.  One hoodoo looked like a tiger while another large hoodoo reminded me of Marge and Homer Simpson.  The unique hoodoos found at Bryce Canyon were formed over thousands of years by water, ice and gravity, ranging in size from about 5 feet to heights surpassing a ten story building. 


We spent our second day visiting a number of overlooks, vistas and trails that bordered Bryce Amphitheater which contained the largest concentration of hoodoos.  Here we found a treasure-trove of hoodoos in all shapes and sizes as we hiked a three mile loop which included trails and gardens. 

Bryce Point and Inspiration Point offer mind-boggling views of hoodoos.  At Bryce Point, we walked to a cliff that jutted out over the canyon, overlooking Silent City, an overwhelming spectacle of hoodoos resembling figures in the rock. 

Bryce Point Bryce Canyon

Zion Canyon’s Weeping Waters and Sandstone Cliffs– Day 7-8

An hour and twenty minute drive southwest took us to Zion Canyon, known for petrified sand dunes, erosion-sculpted sandstone, hanging gardens and waterfalls.  The afternoon we arrived, we took the free shuttle to the Emerald Pools Trail (referred to as an “oasis in the middle of the desert”) for a two and a half mile hike to three pools, trickling waterfalls, grottos and hanging gardens. If you take this trail and have sturdy walking shoes and water, don’t miss the sign for the Upper Emerald Trail.  It’s a little bit of a steep, rocky half-mile climb but well worth the effort. When you reach the grotto and pool you will be at the base of three hundred foot high cliffs, surrounding you on three sides.  And there’s plenty of room for you to sit and recover before you begin your trek back.

On our second day we hopped on the shuttle bus and headed to the furthest stop out, Temple of Sinawava, where we followed the Riverside Walk to the Narrows.  The Riverside Walk is a paved easy path to follow, about 2 miles roundtrip, paralleling the Virgin River. The Riverside Walk ends at a small circular beach with benches where the Narrows, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, begins. If you’re adventurous, and prepare properly (shoes will definitely get wet), your journey can continue with the Virgin River as the trail, through a gorge with walls a thousand feet tall and the river only twenty to thirty feet wide. Make sure you plan ahead, checking out current river flows and flash flood warnings.    

The Narrows Zion Canyon

As the day came to a close, we drove through the 1.1 mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, an engineering masterpiece dug through deep stone mountains.  On our way out of the canyon, we spotted multicolor stone formations, including the Checkerboard Mesa, a unique sandstone mountain.   

Checkerboard Mesa Zion Canyon

Back to Vegas and Home to New Jersey – Day 9-10

After a three hour drive to Las Vegas and before catching a flight out to New Jersey the next morning, we relaxed and walked the Vegas Strip. But it was impossible to pay much attention to the famous facades of the Paris Opera House or the Bellagio fountains after experiencing Southwest’s five wonders of the world.  

(c) Maureen C. Bruschi



If You Go: 


Las Vegas McCarron Airport to Hoover Dam:  40 minute drive. Cross over the dam; park on the Arizona side for free; Nevada lots are $10.  


Kingman, AZ: 

Hotel: Best Western Plus King’s Inn and Suites, 2930 E Andy Devine Ave., Kingman, AZ  86401-4205; phone:  (928) 753-6101


Grand Canyon, AZ:  

Hotel: Red Feather Lodge, Grand Canyon;


Bryce Canyon, Utah

Hotel: Bryce Canyon Pines;


Zion Canyon, Hurricane, Utah

Hotel: Quality Inn Zion;


Las Vegan, Nevada

Hotel: Best Western Plus St. Rose Pkwy/LV;


For More Information:


Check government sites for park entrance fees & special discounts for senior citizens:

Grand Canyon National Park:

Bryce Canyon National Park:

Zion National Park:



Hoover Dam:



Flag Grand Canyon






Last modified on Wednesday, 01 March 2017