American Southwest National Parks Tour-How Three Days Can Transform Your Life

South Rim, Grand Canyon
For my son’s High School Graduation, I told him I would take him on a trip anywhere in the world.  Being a nature lover, he decided on a trip to the American Southwest.  I was thrilled since it has been a life-long dream to see the Grand Canyon, so the planning began.

Bryce National Park
I spent many hours figuring out which airport to fly into, where to rent a car, how to get to each national park, where to stay along the way, etc.  It was exhausting.  Beyond the rigor of trying to plan a trip like this, I realized we really wouldn’t be learning anything about the geology or history of the Southwest, so to expend all this energy for the sole purpose of aesthetic views wasn’t going to cut it. That’s when I began searching for tours of the Southwest.  I struck gold!

Our Campground at Monument Valley-yes we pitched our own tents!

Doing a google search brought me to Bindlestiff Tours.  I was excited to see this tour offered more than just the Grand Canyon and we actually got the opportunity to camp!  How can you visit the Southwest and not go camping? This was by all means a trip for an 18-year-old American boy, so I booked it.  We flew into Las Vegas and were picked up the next morning by our guide.

Horseshoe Bend
I’m not going to lie when I say I was a bit apprehensive about the trip.  What kind of people would be on our tour?  Would we be dropped off and left to explore the wild on our own?  Would we be trapped in a tour bus for endless hours each day? I was quite worried.

The Narrows at Zion National Park
I’m not sure how to put this into words, but I’m going to try my best.  My son, daughter and I are not the same people we were prior to this trip.  Our souls have been transformed.  At each National Park, something within us changed.  Seeing the absolute grandeur of Zion, Bryce, Antelope, and the Grand Canyon puts one life in perspective.  We were rendered speechless at each destination. I will write about these specific inner transformations in a future post. 

Sunrise at Monument Valley
Besides the obvious beauty of the Southwest, the richness of this tour was in the knowledge, insight, humor, kindness and compassion of our guide, Jon Mater.  We have honestly never met a person like Jon.  How one person can hold such a wealth of information  and convey it in such a fascinating, compelling, story like manner is  a ture gift! Jon had us at the edge of our seats with stories of adventure, geology, Mormon history and the heartbreaking history of the Navajo and Paiute Tribes. We learned more than I could have ever imagined about this remarkable region of the US.

Antelope Canyon
Each day we were only in the comfortable, air conditioned van for a few hours at a time, stopping at sites with ample time to explore.  We met awesome people from all over the world. There were thirteen people on our tour from Australia, Norway, France and the US, ranging in ages from 14 (Brooke) to me (yes, I believe I was the eldest).  Jon would offer hiking options for all ability levels. While we were off hiking, Jon would prepare our meals and organize events for the coming evening.  Everything ran like clockwork.

Bryce Canyon-Navajo Loop Trail

On the first evening staying in Bryce Canyon, Brooke fell ill due to altitude sickness or a flu–whatever it was, she woke up at 1am in our tent violently ill.  Without hestitation, Jon, being a first responder, decided we needed to get her to the emergency room. He drove us to the nearest hospital which was an hour away, then returned to our group with a full day of driving ahead of him. Not once did he complain. Brooke’s health was all that mattered to him.

Brooke Fully Recovered–ready to Soar!
I was quite worried about leaving Adam behind, but Jon reassured me that he would take Adam under his wing while we were gone.  I think Adam actually enjoyed having the independence from his mom and little sis.  He had to pack up our tent and all of our belongings on his own.  And there is something awakening about hiking solo. I think the time alone was something Adam will always treasure. Since he will be heading off to college in a few months, this was actually a great opportunity for him.


After a day of Brooke recovering in the ER,  she and I decided we needed to rejoin our group as soon as possible. We could not miss out on any more of the tour. Furthermore, we deserted Adam in the middle of the night! We took a shuttle, Bryce Canyon Shuttle and Tours to meet up with our group. Oscar picked us up within a few hours notice and off we went to catch up with our group at Monument Valley.  Thank you again, Oscar!


Being home now and having the time to reflect on this trip, I can certainly say, we are not the same people we were a week ago. What is it about nature that changes us?




Jon, we can’t thank you enough for all you did for us!  I am so grateful that Adam and Brooke had the opportunity to meet you, as am I. Even though it was only three short days, you’ve impacted us for a lifetime.


Thank you so much Bindlestiff Tours. We will be back!


Stay Tuned for upcoming blogs:

*Life Lessons Learned at Each National Park

*Our Specific Itinerary and Hikes on our Tour

*A Teen’s Perspective Las Vegas 
Antelope Canyon photo credit: Helene Fjågesund 


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