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  1. Default Utah National Parks Trip

    My friend and I are planning to spend about 5 days in southern Utah visiting the national parks. We definitely want to see Bryce and Arches. However, we are not sure whether to also include Zion, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands (we'll almost certainly do at least one of these, but we're not sure which/how many). In the parks, we'd probably spend our time driving the scenic routes, looking around the viewpoints, doing easy/moderate hikes of up to about 3 hrs on some of the days, and maybe going to ranger-led programs if there are any interesting ones going on while we're there.

    I've been scouring guidebooks and websites, and I haven't found the answer to one important question I have - do these parks start to look the same if you visit all of them? If they do, which ones have the most unique scenery? Alternatively, we're concerned that if we went to just two or three parks, we might run out of things to see there, so maybe spending a day at each of the five would be fine. Can anyone whose been to these parks before give us some tips?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Same Trip?

    Is this going to be a part of your "longer road trip"? And if so, what is the total extent of your trip?

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    No, this is something different. I'll be flying to San Francisco, meeting my friend there, and then we have about 10 days for our trip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default I would never tire of them.

    I've been scouring guidebooks and websites, and I haven't found the answer to one important question I have - do these parks start to look the same if you visit all of them? If they do, which ones have the most unique scenery? Alternatively, we're concerned that if we went to just two or three parks, we might run out of things to see there, so maybe spending a day at each of the five would be fine. Can anyone whose been to these parks before give us some tips?
    I have visited all of those mentioned and they all have there own unique identity, even though comparisions can be drawn. Not only that, each park offers new and unique perspectives at every turn through the park and you could spend 3 or 4 days at most hiking and sight seeing and still not see it all. As you definitely want to see Arches and Bryce I would try and visit their neighbouring parks, Canyonlands and Zion respectively. Canyonlands has 4 'districts' and you could spend 5 days exploring those. However from Arches NP, I would drive to the 'Island in the Sky' section and head for 'Grandview point' and take the scenic walk to the very end of the Mesa. A short stop at Mesa Arch is worth it for the views through the arch out to the 'Washer woman' rock.

    There are some trails in Bryce, but most of the awe inspiring views come from the edge of the rim looking down into the canyon and with short walks along the rim. A wonderful place, but it can be visited in a day and get a great overview. Zion is a marvel for the riverside walk through the canyon with many other trails to choose from, such as the Emerald pools.

    If you travel via Utah scenic 12 between Arches and Bryce then stopping at Capitol Reef is worth it, even if it's just for the scenic drive in the park. Between Bryce and Zion is Red rock canyon and the Checkerboard Mesa and both are worth a short stop even if it's just to stretch the legs and take some photos.

    You have time to visit all of them or just spend time in three [I would choose Zion in addition to your other 2] but I'm quite sure you will be amazed at every turn.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default Initial reaction

    Arches and Canyonlands can both be handled from a base in Moab.

    Zion and Bryce are also relatively close together.

    Capitol Reef is further afield, and would be the one I would rank #5 (and the first one I would drop).

    Personal (current) ranking:
    • Zion
    • Arches
    • Bryce
    • Canyonlands
    • Capitol Reef



    That said, CR is probably the one I'll try to hit next time, as I missed it the last SW road trip.

    I would suggest getting in some hiking in Arches (Devils Garden), Zion (Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and if you have the time and inclination... wade up the Narrows of the Virgin) and Bryce (Queens Garden/Navajo loop). Canyonlands can be a 'drive thru' experience.

    1- 1 1/2 days in Arches (half day in Canyonlands)
    1 - 1 1/2 days in Zion
    1/2 - 1 day in Bryce

    The above is only a personal suggestion; do some research and look for what looks good for you. What looks good for me is a martini on the deck of the lodge at Zion.

    Hikes End: Zion National Park

    Photo: Don Casey

    Narrows of The Virgin River: Zion National Park

    Photo: Don Casey

    Shafer Trail: Canyonlands National Park

    Photo: Don Casey

    North Window: Arches National Park

    Photo: Don Casey

  6. Default

    Thanks for the advice (and the beautiful pictures). We'd been thinking about two days at Bryce, but we'll probably just do one. We were planning to take the scenic route between Bryce and Arches when we noticed that Capitol Reef was right on the way and the NPS website said the driving tour of it would take about 90 min. Nice to hear that that's worth it.

    Here is our current plan:
    1 day at Zion
    1 day at Bryce
    1 day driving from Bryce to Moab, doing Capitol Reef tour along the way. Visit Canyonlands (Island in the Sky) for a bit if we get there in time.
    1 day at Arches
    Possibly one morning at Canyonlands (if we don't go there on the 3rd day).

    How far in advance would you recommend making hotel reservations for this area for an early-summer trip? We're fine with fairly basic motels, but we do want something clean and hopefully for ~$100/night or less. Are there any towns (especially between Zion and Bryce and then on the east side of Bryce) that are especially good for finding nice but inexpensive lodging in? Based on what we saw on Trip Advisor, we were thinking maybe Mt. Carmel and Escalante, but if there are better options, please let us know.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    You will need all of that 1 day at Zion to enjoy it and I would recommend the wonderful little town of Springdale for an overnight stay. It's on the western side of the park very close to the entrance. You can also catch the free shuttle bus into the canyon area where cars are prohibited, from the town.

    Tropic would be the closest to Bryce with reasonable rates, but I would check for any deals at 'Rubys Inn' near the park entrance.

    Moab is the obvious choice for Arches and Canyonlands.

    These are popular places and once you become comfortable with your itinerary I would personally book asap to avoid the possibility of having to travel further than you might like and losing valuable time in the parks.

    You could do some price comparing using the RTA reservations to the top right of the page.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Near Bryce, Panguitch has some motels, but Ruby's is the most convenient.

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