Written by Krysta.
Leg 9 – Williams, Arizona to Salt Lake City
553 miles / 8.5 hours
We excitedly pulled the car into a parking space – we made it to the Grand Canyon! We were anxious to jump out and finally have our first look at this amazing landscape. We turned the car off, took off our seatbelts, and happened to glance over to the car parked next to us.
Two adolescent kids were sitting inside the car, playing on their handheld video games.
We had to do a double-take.
These kids were lucky enough to be in such a beautiful, majestic place at their age, and they decided to stay in the car and play games instead. No, we didn’t know the full situation, but at a glance it looked like they were too involved in the digital world to notice the real one right in front of their noses.
What a shame.
Nevertheless, off we went to explore on our own.
Words cannot describe the Grand Canyon. It stretches further than you can see, with large valleys that are carved deep into the earth with a river snaking along through them, and the bright orangey brown colors reflect in the burning hot sun.
It actually looks like you’re on a different planet.
It’s one of the natural seven wonders of the world for a reason. It stretches over 277 miles long, is up to 18 miles wide, and can be up to over a mile deep. Impressive.
We took our time and admired the landscape from a couple different viewpoints and snapped a few photos. Then we decided to walk down into the canyon, as there were paths winding down into it.
Remember it was about 45°C while we were there. We were dripping with sweat and our mouths were as dry as could be. No, we didn’t bring water with us because we weren’t expecting to hike down when we left the car!
Lesson learned: bring water out of the car with you, just in case.
We didn’t go too far, but it was still amazing to walk down into the Grand Canyon and get a view looking back up and out of it. We only walked for about 30 minutes, but would love to return in the future and explore further.
Next time maybe we’ll go in a month that’s not July, and bring a supply of water!
We headed back to the car, guzzled some water, turned the A/C on high, and hit the road once again. Now the car was aiming directly north – we were on our way back home.
We reached Salt Lake City with good time, found our accommodation and started to look around. This city is most well-known for one thing: being the home of the Mormon religion.
None of us are religious people, but me and my brother were Mormon for a few years during childhood, so this was an area of interest to us. Even with not being religious, we are always interested in learning and seeing as much as we can about different cultures, and this includes different religions found around the world.
So we found a map and planned our way to the huge Mormon temple to spend our afternoon exploring. The area can only be described as impressive. The main temple towers high over everything else around it, but unfortunately you’re not allowed in. It’s a very sacred building to the Mormon religion, and only members can enter.
There are many other surrounding buildings that do allow entry. The Tabernacle is another fascinating piece of architecture; if a pin is dropped at the front of the building, a person would be able to hear it fall if they were standing at the back, 170 feet away.
We spent a few hours walking around and reading as much as we could, and even having a conversation with some Mormon missionaries who were on their mission in Salt Lake City at the time.
We spent two nights here, which we thought was enough time. It’s a beautiful city where mountains are the backdrop in the distance, and it’s one of the greenest and cleanest cities we’ve ever set foot in.
Leg 10 – Salt Lake City to Great Falls
571 miles / 8 hours
Now this stop is something that we still laugh about to this day. A few years ago, James and I were planning to take a different road trip. We decided to randomly visit Great Falls, Montana just because it was an unheard of, off-the-beaten track, over the border from Canada, kind of place. In the end we went to Seattle instead, but a small part of us always wondered if we missed out on something.
So this time around, Great Falls was ideal. It fell right onto our route, and it was perfect timing for needing a place to rest.
It was time to see what we missed out on after passing it up on our last opportunity to visit.
And what did we miss?
Nothing. Turns out we missed out on absolutely nothing.
We pulled into the city with high hopes of discovering hidden gems, maybe some cool hikes, and hopefully some scenic views. We’re not sure why we maybe expected this, but we were still hopeful.
We’d also heard that Great Falls is a great place to go shopping.
We didn’t find any of these things. We didn’t find any hikes, we didn’t find any hidden gems, and we didn’t even find any shopping.
Maybe we were looking in the wrong places? We did have two nights here because we wanted to check it out, and in that time we still didn’t manage to find anything worthwhile.
Apologies if you’re from Great Falls and don’t agree with us – we would love any recommendations that we might have missed!
Looking back, we should have used that time to visit Yellowstone National Park. But we didn’t, and we have a laugh about Great Falls to this day, so it wasn’t all bad!
Leg 11 – Great Falls to Edmonton
500 miles / 7.5 hours
The last leg of the journey! We’re almost home!
The most noticeable change in probably all of our driving occurred here, while we crossed the border from the US back into Canada. All of our driving in the US involved roads that, once in a while, twisted and turned. The scenery was constantly changing with mountains, hills, and forests. It was beautiful and we admired all of it on our long journey.
As soon as we got into Alberta, the scenery changed. It was completely flat and it was farmers field after farmers field after farmers field. There was nothing to look at it and it made for some pretty boring driving.
The highway was pretty much a straight line so your concentration drifted away sometimes. Being from Alberta, we know that the highways are like this. We know that they’re not very exciting and consist of straight roads to get from A to B as quick as you can.
But when you spend three weeks driving over 4000 miles from place to place, it becomes really obvious at how flat Alberta actually is!
We finally made it home.
We made loads of memories that we will have forever. Some a little scary, but mostly great ones. We would highly recommend this road-trip to anyone who wanted to have an exploration of the western coast of Canada and the US.
We could have cut a few places out (Great Falls) and added some in (Yellowstone National Park, Los Angeles) but looking back on it, we’re happy with what we chose. Not every place you travel to is going to be a top-spot destination, so it’s fun to check out others. Maybe you’ll find a hidden gem or maybe you’ll be let down but have a few laughs while you do it.
Just learn a few lessons from us and know if your car does or doesn’t have air conditioning, and maybe don’t try to sleep in your car in a hotel parking lot.
What’s the best road-trip that you’ve done? Have you done one similar to ours? What’s the worst thing to happen to you while on a lengthy driving trip?