Will be arriving Las Vegas on a Friday, early in the morning, 9 AM, in early April, and plan to begin a 4 night visit of Bryce Canyon, Zion Nat'l Park, and maybe Capitol Reef. Traveling will be myself and my Mother, age 73. I am aware that there may be many great hikes, but Mom's not much of a day hiker. Scenic walks okay, but that's about it. Given this, what would be a suggested itinerary for visiting these areas? We will be departing four nights later on a Tuesday, and need to return the car by 2 PM. Figured we would spend the last night in Zion and make the 3 hr. drive back to LAS Tuesday morning. So, that gives us from Friday after our early morning flight arrives, all day Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday returning to LAS. What is recommended with where to stay each evening, and what to do each day? Though 1/2 day and full day hikes may be out, we do like to be kept busy, with the intention of spending long full days seeing/doing as much as possible. Looking for suggested itineraries that will keep us busy, an enable us to see as much as possible. Thanks for your help, advice and suggestions.
Bryce are Zion are both easy to in one day each as long as you don't want to do long hikes. In Bryce, all of the scenic overlooks are right next to parking lots. Zion has a shuttle bus that drives to through part of the park and then you self-drive through the rest. We went to both with an 18-month old, so our hiking was limited, but we still enjoyed the scenery. For your third day, you could drive south a few hours and see the north Rim of the Grand Canyon, go further east and see Capital Reef, or go southeast and see Lake Powell.
Las Vegas to the motel area of Springdale at Zion National Park is a 2 1/2 hour drive on I-15 N to the UT-9 E at Hurricane, continue of UT-9 18 miles to Springdale. Spend the night. That way you and your mother can be relaxed without much driving before the next day when you can spend the day exploring by tour bus or easy sightseeing Zion. See my VT Zion page for the checkerboard mountain a must stop to admire.
Spend the second night in Springdale so you don't have to pack and run each day. Drive E on UT-9 through Zion for a drive thru view and turn Turn left onto US-89/S State St. Continue to follow US-89 (SR-9) Turn slight right onto UT-12/E Highway 12 and you are only about 15 minutes away from Bryce Canyon City, UT, Turn right onto N Main St/UT-63. Continue to follow UT-63 to Ruby's Inn to spend the night after you can either continue on to see Bryce Canyon's Beauty and return for the night,or stop at Ruby's Inn and relax for a while, then visit the canyon before sunset. Only about 2 1/2 hours from Springdale to Ruby's Inn. See my review of Ruby's on my VT Bryce pages. See:
So, starting out on one afternoon from Las Vegas, arrive at Springdale in Zion and spend 2 nights in Springdale. Visit Zion on the first full day. Next day leave for Bryce Canyon City and Ruby's Inn. See Bryce Canyon first or after relaxing at Ruby's. I have shown you a route I took and enjoyed at a leisurely pace. That is 3 nights. It is up to you and the fourth day up to you to hear from another VTer as I feel that Capital Reef is a bit out of the way time wise to see all three in 4 days total. Enjoy, it is Mother Nature at her best. :-)
Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef are, IMHO, largely hikers parks with relatively few "light" trails and some activities only open during the summer months.
You are also planning this trip at the end of winter when the weather could be dicey, and spring runoff could flood or otherwise complicate some of the easy paths. And Bryce is high - 8,000 - 9,100 feet - so snow is a possibility.
That said, the very best thing you can do is to hit the ranger's desks at the visitor centers for all 3 parks to see what's open and have them suggest available activities for both the weather and your mother's restrictions. Do bring water-resistant clothing, some warmer layers, and stout shoes with a good tread.
And do take advantage of any free ranger talks/programs available: the park websites included will provide schedules - although sometimes those are only offered in the summer.
My itinerary would be:
Day 1 Friday: drive to Bryce. Check in with the visitor center, drive to the overlooks, and walk the rim. Bristlecone might be a possibility: that's an easy path but it's also one of the highest in the park so could have snow.
Bryce NPS site: http://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm
Easy hikes: nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/e...
Make-your-own Travel packet: nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/t...
Stay at the lodge (make reservations - foreverlodging.com/brycecany... or at Ruby's Inn.
Day 2 Saturday: Drive scenic highway 12 to Torrey (109 miles) and Capitol Reef. This is one of the most scenic routes in the US and this link will give you lots of info about what's along the way:
Take your time on the drive, and stay at Austin's Chuckwagon in Torrey: http://www.austinschuckwagonmotel.com
Day 3 Sunday: explore Capitol Reef.
Do the scenic drive, the petroglyph panel, Fruita Settlement drive, Sunset Point and anything else the rangers recommend. Don't do the easy walks into Capitol Gorge or Grand Wash unless the rangers say it's OK: both are prone to flooding.
Dramatic and very pretty rock formations in this park!
Stay at Austin's for another night
Day 4 Monday: drive to Zion back the way you came on 12, to 89, to 9 and into the park.
Take the shuttle around the canyon floor, walk Riverside Trail, Weeping Rock Trail and any others recommended at the Visitor Center. Take pictures of the Watchman at sunset.
Stay at the lodge or in Springdale
Day 5: Tuesday: Drive to LV
Well, we each have our own opinion about what would be a great way to spend your time. I'll throw my two cents in and you can take your pick. But the main thing is there are many ways to enjoy these parks and I expect whatever you end up doing you will enjoy the trip. Just an FYI, since North Rim was mentioned. It will not be open until May 15, so no chance to add that as an option.
I'd agree since you'll be arriving early to get the long drive out of the way first and head to Bryce. You could certainly make a scenic drive out of it and stop at the Kolob section of Zion just south of Cedar City for an hour. There is a short hike at the end of the road section you might enjoy. Cedar Breaks road may or may not be open so you could take Cedar Canyon (hwy 14) and if Cedar Breaks is open take the drive through and then continue on hwy 143 to Panguitch. If CB is still snowed in then just continue on 14 to 89. You could also stop at Red Canyon for a short hike there (Pink Ledges might be good).
I expect even with all that you will still have time to enjoy the views from the main viewpoints Sunrise, Sunset and Inspiration point. Stay Bryce
Saturday take a look at the main viewpoints again and then head up hwy 12 to Boulder. Don't go all the way to Capitol Reef on your short time frame, but do enjoy the drive. Stop at the visitor centers, there is a nice Anasazi Museum at the north end of Boulder, and if you aren't tired of driving yet you could drive the Burr trail the first 15 or so miles through Long Canyon. There is a small alcove that people have started calling a slot canyon that you can meander through. Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder comes recommended, though I do not believe they are open for lunch. Kiva Koffehouse is also a great stop with the best view. Then return to Bryce and stay the night.
Sunday enjoy Bryce again, take the scenic drive and hike the Bristlecone pine trail. Fairly level and just a nice place to enjoy the park. While you could certainly still encounter snow it is also very possible that most of it will have left the trails by early April. So you do have to plan on both possibilities. Then in the early afternoon drive to Zion. Be sure to enjoy a stop at one of the rock shops in Orderville, and enjoy that great scenic drive into Zion from the east entrance (where you will find the Checkerboard Mesa). Check out the visitor center as well as the history museum. Maybe even take a shuttle ride to get your feet wet on how it works. You don't need to take it to the end, just get off at the lodge and take the next one heading back (well, I guess it depends on whether you are staying in the lodge or in Springdale how you handle that).
Monday spend the day enjoying the main canyon. Take all the shuttle stops, hike the Riverside walk to the beginning of the Narrows, stop at Big Bend for the neck craning look up at Angel's Landing, take the Kayenta trail from the Grotto to Emerald Pools. Wander Springville and enjoy some of the little shops. If you want another trail Pa'rus is level or Watchman has some nice views.
Tuesday you could take the drive up the Kolob Terrace road out of Virgin. There may still be snow, but I doubt the road will be closed. It is a different world on top of the mesas.
Then enjoy the drive back to LV.
Another plug for the Kiva Coffeehouse: great stop. I wasn't sure it would be open for the season yet but just checked and it will be.
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