When I told friends that I was heading to Utah for March break with my kids, they all asked which mountain I was skiing—which made me realize that my well laid plans for a week of hiking and other outdoor adventures may have been a little misguided.

Happily, it turned out to be a stroke of genius, since the most popular national parks in America, from Bryce and Zion to Arches and Canyonlands, were almost completely devoid of crowds, and the desert temperature was perfect for almost every outdoor physical activity, from hiking to mountain biking. You have to pass up on rafting and river swimming, but it’s worth the trade-off.

Jaw-Droppingly Gorgeous

We started our trip in Vegas (of which the less said, the better…) and then set off for Zion National Park. We pretty much had it to ourselves, and although some of the more treacherous cliff-hugging paths were a bit too slippery to take on, we hiked to magnificent waterfalls, followed a herd of mule deer, and had a lovely lunch at Zion Lodge.

Family Trip to UtahOur ultimate destination was Amangiri, and if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve probably seen the photos (everywhere from Architectural Digest to Travel & Leisure); it’s a stunning property of modern minimalism set amidst the magnificent hoodoos and canyons of southern Utah. Like all Aman properties, the service was impeccable and discrete, the food was contemporary and creative, and the suites and public spaces were jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Every morning, we set off on excursions ranging from off-road hummer tours and private slot canyon explorations to guided hikes through the hoodoos and rock climbing adventures. And each afternoon, we ended up relaxing around what is surely one of the most magnificent pools in America.

We spent five days at the Aman, and could have kept going for another five, but we finally had to tear ourselves away to head to Moab, the epicentre of outdoor adventure in the Southwest. The most convenient solution is to charter a small plane to Moab, but we wanted a taste of the all-American road trip, and so spent a leisurely day meandering through the vast empty spaces of Monument Valley and other iconic American landscapes.

Every Parent’s Dream

We passed through Moab on our way to the Sorrel River Ranch, a rustic-luxe lodge that sits at a bend in the Colorado River, at the end of one of the most scenic drives in Utah, where the road snakes along the banks beneath towering 1,000-feet red rock cliffs. The ranch offers everything from fly fishing to horseback riding (and we tried our hand at everything), but the real adventure in Moab lies in the hikes through the extraordinary moonscapes of Canyonlands Park and along the slick rock mountain bike trails that follow the rim of the river canyons.

The mountain biking proved to be a little much for our youngest (who’s six), but other than that, he and his older sibling embraced every activity with surprising gusto. While we had initially fretted that they might whinge their way across Utah (“Daddy, I hate hiking!”), in the end we had to drag them back indoors at the end of every day for a cleansing bath and hot meal before an early bedtime—every parent’s dream problem.

Click the image below to see a slideshow from our trip:




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