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Trip through Utah National Parks

by Anjulis Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 1:38 PM

We have 8 days, tickets to Vegas and back from Vegas for the first week of April, desire to see beautiful places/hike a bit

Please, help me choose the best route. I realize that my first draft might be too much but don't see how to adjust it without sacrificing much.

1. What whould you suggest to change? One thought is to remove Moab parks and add nights to Bryce and Zion.
2. What specific points/trails are must see in every place? Any, especially scenic roads?
3. We would like to stay in tents. Will it be warm enough at night?
4. Are there enough road motels that we do not have to tie ourseve up with reservations?
5. Anything else I am missing?

Here is my fist draft.

Day 1. (Sat, March 30). Arriving to Las Vegas at 12:40PM, getting a car, leaving Vegas around 2, driving to Page (4 hrs).
Day 2. In Page: Horseshoe Bend-Antelope Canyon-Rimrock Hoodoos-Alstrom Point
Day 3. Morning drive to Monument Valley (2 hrs). Spend a few hours there. Drive to Moab (2.5 hrs).
Day 4. Canyonlands National Park
Day 5. Arches National Park
Day 6. Driving through Capital Reef (1 hr), Goblin Valley (1 hr), arriving at Bryce in the evening
Day 7. Whole day in Bryce.
Day 8. Morning drive to Zion (2 hr), stay in Zion till about 4, drive to Vegas (2 hr), arriving at ~6, eat and walk on the Strip till 10 pm, going to the airport, departing at midnight.

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17 Answers
  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Hi...You're going to be a lot of driving and not much enjoying outside the car....If that's the goal to be on the road (and that's OK) then you're OK. If not, then I'd trim it down a bit and plan on spending some quality time at Bryce.

    I'll just mention that the road between Bryce and Zion is incredible...I keep wanting to get back to that road - which I think was 89! At one point you're on a two lane road on a ridge that isn't much wider than the two lanes!

    Keep in mind that if you drive on 9 to get towards St. George, whether you want to or not, you'll have to pay to get into Zion.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Hi Vadim -
    What a great trip! But...

    ...and this is KILLING me...

    ...you might have to give up Moab. Yep, as G said, it's a ton of driving. Moab is one of my favorite places on earth, and the drive on Scenic Highway 12 between Torrey (Capitol Reef) Bryce - over Boulder Mountain and across the Hogback - is terrific. The Calf Creek Falls hike on that route is a good one, as are some of the trails at Kodachrome St. Park.

    But you really do have too much. Even through a lot of it is going to be amazing country to drive through, you'll be spending too much time seeing it from behind the windshield. Some of the parks on the list really require some shoe leather to properly enjoy. IMHO.

    I'd have to look at average temps in all those places as elevations are going to change from place to place (Bryce is high - Moab is not). We probably have some other folks who can fill in those blanks from firsthand experience as we've only been during in the late summer/fall months.

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  • cgf's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by cgf Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    why not do the tour starting from Zion?
    drive easy till Springdale, following [early] morning Zion NP and [much better] bryce in the afternoon till sunset and it would be at its best and you'll have seen almost the park... there's so much to see along where you want to go.
    imho I would stop for the night in the area, following morning you'll decide to go back to Bryce some other hours or start the nice driving along UT12 which could be long as much you stop on the way and it's worth to do it. You may arrive to Moab late afternoon, before Moab you find Arches National Park and, if not too late, you may stop here. Following day (3) beside Arches National Park there's quite a few to see near Moab. on the way to MonumenValley, beforer Mexican Hat, there's Valley of Gods which is a nice tour, also Monunment Valley is at its best during sunset, ok, not everything at sunset, Horseshoe Bend at sunrise (beatiful colors and just few people), both Antelope Canyons at noon time...
    as somebody else wrote it's quite a lot to do in a week... you are very optimistic
    btw also if day 8 is not a weekend day, it would be strict to be still walking after nine on Strip if you had to go to airport departing midnigt and having also to drop the car before.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    I have done this type of trip in this area at least 12 times and I am running another trip here the second week in March from Vegas. I wouldn't cut out Moab, especially that time of year. Might I suggest staying in Vegas the day you arrive and drive out early the next morning, driving straight through from Vegas to Moab. It is about 7 hours but then you can work you way back to Vegas with shorter trips in that direction. For example, here is my itinerary this March;

    Day 1-3 Vegas (we arrive 9am so doable) to Arches, camping three nights in Arches. Highlights/must do trails, Primitive trail from Devils Garden campground area, Delicate Arch and I am partial to Klondike bluff because there are fewer people. If you cannot get a campsite in Arches (must pre-book at www.recreation.gov) there is ample camping along the Colorado River. I take the time to drive to Onion Creek when I am alone. It is 24 miles form Moab but the solitude and then drive along the Colorado is worth it. Outside Arches check out petraglyphs along Potash road and then at the Poison Spider trail head. Drive up to Island in the sky in Canyonlands for a nice afternoon.

    Day four, break down camp early and drive to San Rafael Swell and Goblin Valley State Park, nice for a few hours then drive onto to Escalante National Monument. Amazing drive! Check out Calf Creek falls late afternoon or early next morning. If you are adventuous, check some slot canyons in Escalante. Check with the Ranger station in Escalante for camping location.

    Day 5-7 drive to Bryce for a day hike then onto to Zion. In Zion, must do is Angels Landing, Observation Point and some of the easier canyon floor hikes.

    I left out Page instead because that time of year you have to be a little careful with Antelope Canyon. If rain is forecaster DO NOT go in that slot. A few years back 15 people died there during one flash flood. The only one that survived was the guide.

    Monument Valley is a nice drive but there are alot of nice drives and the one to/through Escalante is amazing and more interesting IMO.

    It's always warm enough to camp...if you have the right equipment. Should be fine with a 30 degree sleeping back and pad. There are not alot of hotels outside Moab or Page. But if you have a tent you can camp just about anywhere.

    It is alot of driving but the drives are beautiful.

    Have a great trip whatever you decide!

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    One other note, that itinerary I laid out I do with no hotel stays. There are plenty of places to shower/shave, etc. in Moab ranging from3-$6. I've found a few in Escalante and definitely in Page and Zion. If you can go without the comfort of a bed, your golden and an amazing experience.

    Bryce and Zion are only about 1 hour or less apart. No need to sleep in Bryce where it is at 8000 feet above sea level. Enjoy the comfort of 4000 feet on the canyon floor in Zion. Again, pre-book a campsite in the park at www.recreation.gov.

    Also, the drive from St George Utah to Vegas is 3 hours. Add on time from Springdale (just outside Zion), plan on 3.5-4 hours, not 2.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Great plan, John. April will be such a good time of the year for Moab as the temps will be very comfortable. I might suggest more than an afternoon at Island in the Sky but I'm very fond of that one. :O)

    If they had a little more time, they could stop for a look at Dead Horse Point on the way back into Moab.

    There are some fabulous slots near Goblin but yeah, spring (better chance of rain) is maybe not the best time for those.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    Yeah, April the showers can start up and all the slots are dangerous. So underestimated but a brief rain shower can be devastating if you are is a narrow slot.

    Yes Kate, Island in the Sky, Dead Horse Point and others. So much to see as you know. Even what I mentioned can't be done comfortably in two days but those are some highlights to choose from.

    March is fairly dry, but in April, with a few showers, many cacti and wildflowers will start to bloom. Beautiful time of year in the desert!

    All, check out Kate's and others Moab pages for more great ideas when in that area.

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  • johngayton's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by johngayton Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Loads of good advice already. I'll just add that you will be best buying an Annual Pass for the NP's as it'll pay for itself by the time you've visited three of them. The pass allows the car and its occupants unlimted visits for the year.

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  • Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by JimP99 Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    We have been wanting to do a trip to Bryce as well. This route has some great stopping spots.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    Just curious here as it's an interesting omission for an itinerary for this part of the country: have you already been to the Grand Canyon (South Rim)?

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    Shoot, just thought of something else:

    >Check with the Ranger station in Escalante for camping location

    Yes, good plan there too but if wanting to go a little further, the campground at Kodachrome Basin State Park looked really nice. They have a general store, and I think there's another one (and a food court) at Grand Staircase Inn at Cannonville (very near the park). They also have cabins for rent.

    stateparks.utah.gov/parks/ko...

    You'd be 20 miles from Bryce. N.P. here.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    The other good thing about Kodachrome Basin State Park, they have showers! They were relatively cheap but you also have to pay the park entrance fee. Still a worth while addition if only to take a hot shower. Kodachrome Basin State Park is off of Cottonwood Canyo Road. The cool thing about this dirt road is that it will take you all the way to Page! Actually, right near the Paria Canyon Ranger Station. Page is about 20 minutes east. An amazing back country drive. I've done it with mini vans, just check with the Ranger station in Escalante on road conditions if you want to do a little exploring.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    The other good thing about Kodachrome Basin State Park, they have showers! They were relatively cheap but you also have to pay the park entrance fee. Still a worth while addition if only to take a hot shower. Kodachrome Basin State Park is off of Cottonwood Canyon Road. The cool thing about this dirt road is that it will take you all the way to Page! Actually, right near the Paria Canyon Ranger Station. Page is about 20 minutes east. An amazing back country drive. I've done it with mini vans, just check with the Ranger station in Escalante on road conditions if you want to do a little exploring.

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by blueskyjohn Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    One thing to note with the Annual National Park Pass, now called "America The Beautiful Pass". You do not have to decide on your first park visit to purchase the annual pass. Hold onto your receipt and if you decide within one week at another park you want the annual pass, you can provide that receipt and receive credit off the annual pass. As long as it is within one week. For example, if you go to Arches and Canyonlands, then decide at Bryce you want the annual pass, present the two receipts and it will be deducted from the80 annual pass. This is a great option, just in case your not sure you will make all the parks or able to return within one year to use the annual pass again (looks like your schedule only allows for 1 week). But if you plan on visiting the parks throughout the year,80 its a great deal.

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  • painterdave's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by painterdave Online Now Feb 7, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Do you know that you can reach the Grand Canyon from Zion Park. You drive through a tunnel and then onward until you come to the side that has far fewer tourists.
    Maybe you can tweak your schedule for this...
    Tenting at that time is great. I have camped in all those areas during March through October and all was good.
    You are going to have fun. Dave

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 7, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    I thought of that too, dave, but the North Rim is still closed in April.

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  • Segolily's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip through Utah National Parks

    by Segolily Online Now Feb 9, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    So you have 8 parks listed (including the two tribal parks in Page and MV) and 8 days and 1000 miles. Just as long as you know this is fast, and you won't have much time to spend at some of the places you'll be fine.

    Day 2-- probably want to leave Alstrom Point out of the picture. You need 4x4 to get there.
    day 3 --Maybe stop in Bluff at the Historic Fort, and Twin Rocks trading post- some really nice stuff there. Also Edge of the Cedars in Blanding for a little ancient culture.
    Day 4- Add in Dead Horse Point for sure, and maybe a drive up hwy 128 to Fisher Towers.
    Day 5- Windows section, Devil's Garden, and Delicate Arch
    Day 6- okay, Already a full day, but if you want to add in a slot canyon Little Wild Horse right by Goblin Valley would be a good one. Just don't drive between Boulder and escalante at night this is the very scenic part of the road... you'll want to see it.
    day 7- Plenty of time for a drive down the scenic drive and back then a hike if you are up to if the full figure 8 loop from Navajo trail to Peekaboo to Queen's Garden. If you want a shorter one just leave out Peekaboo loop.
    Day 8- Oh, only two hours for Zion?? Okay, forget what I said about Bryce, on day 7 do the short hike, then head down to Zion so you have one night there.

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