You may have seen pictures or social media posts of it, you may have heard it on the grapevine, or maybe you already enjoyed some of the artwork that came from it, but we decided to launch a four-part blog series on Joel and Patty Anderson's exciting trip to the Grand Circle!
Seeking new adventure and inspiration for poster art, exploring the region for reference photos and historical data as well as valuable travel info for the upcoming coffee table book, Creative Director Joel Anderson, ADG's bookkeeping wiz Patty Anderson, and historian and writer Dan Pierce (co-author of the upcoming book) all traveled to the National Parks, Monuments, and natural wonders of Utah and Arizona. (Below: The Illustrated Guide To Exploring The Grand Circle, coming out in October 2021.)
This blog series is the written story of their adventure, complete with on-site pictures and reference photographs. Enjoy!
Kanab, Utah and Zion National Park
Joel and Patty flew into Las Vegas, Nevada and took a shuttle to Saint George, Utah. Dan met them there, and the adventure began! The group went straight to Zion National Park, hiked the Overlook Trail, and then took a scenic drive through the backcountry of Zion's Kolob Terrace.
The group used Kanab, Utah as their home base for the first leg of the journey.
Kanab is a great staging site for visiting the following Grand Circle attractions (by the way, you can click on any of the attractions below to see awe-inspiring vintage poster art of each!):
(After they stayed in Kanab for a few nights and explored several of the above attractions, Joel, Patty, and Dan strongly recommend visitors stay 4-5 days/nights in Kanab to see all or most of the above).
Joel, Patty, and Dan used their first two days to explore Zion National Park thoroughly, as well as Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Though Zion is totally beautiful and worth every minute spent there, it can get very crowded. The team got to the park early, though, and they were able to see much of the major attractions before the crowds arrived.
Zion National Park is the third most visited park on the roster, with 3.8 million visitors per year! In the takeaway interview below, Joel will give us some advice on how best to enjoy Zion.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes is near the town of Kanab and is absolutely worth a stop on the way back from Zion. Or, if you'd like to take a "rest day" in Kanab after a long day in Zion or other nearby parks, Coral Pink Sand Dunes can be enjoyed in just a few hours and is worth an early morning or late afternoon jaunt.
The name speaks for itself; Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a stunningly pink, 3,000-acre field of dunes, the only large sand dune on the Colorado Plateau. The dunes were formed by prevailing winds in the region that dump sand on the dunes every year. In fact, the dunes are still growing, and they grow by about 10 to 15 feet each year! If you left a backpack or even a small automobile on the dunes, it might not be there a year or two later!
Joel's Takeaways from the First Leg of the Journey
To learn more about Joel, Patty, and Dan's adventure to the Grand Circle, I (ADG staff writer Ren Brabenec) interviewed Joel. Here are his takeaways from the first leg of the journey:
Ren: Joel, why did you, Patty, and Dan pick the Grand Circle? Other than the obvious natural beauty of the region?
Joel: There is simply so much you can see and do in the Grand Circle. There are five National Parks, all relatively close to each other, plus National Monuments, natural wonders, State Parks, recreation areas, and State & Federal Forests. Plus, the region is totally unique. It's unlike anything those of us east of the Mississippi are used to.
Ren: How much time do you suggest people set aside for getting the full Grand Circle experience?
Joel: Lots of our friends and family have asked that, and we've been telling folks that you can get a taste of what the Grand Circle has to offer in about two weeks. You could catch the highlights and major attractions in one week, but to really immerse yourself in the region and get the full experience, you'll need at least two weeks. After that, you'll probably want to plan multiple trips to thoroughly explore your favorite places!
Ren: What stood out to you most on your first couple days in the Grand Circle?
Joel: Views. Colors. Wide open spaces. So many beautiful hues, patterns, and textures in the rock formations—so many jaw-dropping scenic vistas! Some are more well known, like Angels Landing and the Narrows in Zion. But all throughout the area, there are amazing scenic spots you can see from your car as you travel between the parks.
Ren: What advice do you have for folks who want to visit Zion National Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes?
Joel: Zion and the Dunes are themselves studies in contrasts. While several areas within these parks get absolutely packed with tourists (think Angels Landing, the Narrows, Emerald Pools, Observation Point, etc.), there are areas within the park that are not well-traveled by tourists. This allows you to see the natural beauty without fighting the crowds. Be sure to take a map, our upcoming Grand Circle book, and check out some off-the-beaten-path attractions like Kolob Terrace or the Overlook Trail and Point.
Ren: How much time should visitors spend in Zion National Park and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes to get the full experience? Any other tips?
Joel: I recommend three days for these beauties, one day to do all the major attractions in Zion, one day to explore some of the less-frequented attractions within the park, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes can be explored in a half-day on your way back from Zion (if you're staying in Kanab, Utah). Try to get an early start each day, or be prepared to stay in the parks until the evening with a midday break. The crowds (and the desert heat!) peak in the late morning, midday, and early afternoon.
Joel, Patty, and Dan spent Day #1 in Zion National Park and Day #2 in Zion and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Since they've been back, Joel and his team have already been hard at work putting the finishing touches on the upcoming Grand Circle coffee table book and original poster designs of the Grand Circle.
And as always, you can see plenty of National Park poster art of countless Grand Circle attractions in the Anderson Design Group 63 National Parks Collection.
Next week, we'll follow the adventurers as they head into Coyote Buttes, the Wave, Paria Canyon, and Willis Creek Canyon!
Anderson Design Group Writing Staff