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  1. #1

    Default Utah's 5 Southern National Parks (& Utah in general)

    I am new(er) to the forum & am planning a trip in mid to late August 2013 to Utah. (My wife & I on New Year's Eve pick a new unvisited state out of a hat & plan a 14-15 day trip) We chose Utah & basically the question is this: My wife & I aren't huge outdoorsy people (we'll like but not off the beaten path so to speak), but we respect the beauty & wonder of the country & we'd like to see the wonderful sights Utah has to offer. We'd like to do the 5 southern National Parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands & Arches) within our trip, but we don't want it to be overkill in terms of a wild-goose chase to get from 1 park to another nor do we want it to be "Look Hun, Zion" & move on to the next park. We also however have aspirations of driving up to Salt Lake City & doing sights in northern Utah if that is feasible within the 2 week period. I've done quite a bit of research online already in terms of driving times, distances, etc., but i guess the initial questions are:

    1. Do we fly into Salt Lake City (flight & car prices aren't a huge factor as much as convenience is), spend some time there, then head south to the National Parks & then loop back to SLC, OR

    2. Do we fly to Vegas (which we've been to so we know the lay of the land there) & drive to southwestern Utah, do the National Parks & then loop up to SLC (& a few Utah points north), then loop all the way back down to LV & leave from there.

    3. do we fly into LV, then do the National Parks & then backtrack back to LV skipping the 'rest of Utah'?

    We absolutely try to limit our driving in 1 day to approximately 120-150 miles so we can "do stuff" whether it be a museum or sights so we don't feel like all we've done is drive & I always find something to do no matter where we go. We also have no problem simply cutting a long drive in half, spending the night somewhere just for R&R (laundry, mail souvenirs, etc.,) & then picking up the drive the next morning...

    Figuring things out like hotels is a secondary issue; I am aware that prices are high & locations limited, but that's for another post :)

    If this helps, we are experienced roadtrippers so we travel w/plenty of supplies (food, drinks, etc.,).

    Sorry if the post is long-winded, I guess I have quite a few ideas & questions which I'd be glad to further explain.
    Again, I am not leaving until August 17, so I have plenty of time to 'figure' things out.

    Thank you,

    Edit] Removed email address as per forum policy.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 01-02-2013 at 02:11 PM. Reason: Removed email address

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Very relaxed !

    Hello and welcome back !

    In all honesty all of your options will work within the time frame you have so it's just a case of weighing up the Pros and cons on each choice to suit your travel style. If SLC is a place that appeals to you then starting and finishing there makes a lot of sense. A round trip out of SLC could take you to Flaming Gorge Res, Dinosaur NM and possibly the Colorado National Monument on route to Arches and Canyonlands. From there you could go through Hanksville to Torrey [via Capitol Reef NP] and take Utah scenic 12 to Bryce canyon before heading to Zion.

    This would be in the region of 1150 miles, or 7.5 days of driving just 150 miles which is only half your days on the move, totally relaxed ! Of course there is much more you could include without being rushed, such as Mesa Verde NP, Four Corners, Monument Valley, Page AZ [for Antelope canyon and Lake Powell etc], the Grand canyon, Cathedral Gorge State park and Great Basin NP.

    Moab makes a good base for Arches and Canyonlands, perhaps Torrey after visiting Capitol Reef, Rubys Inn is located near the entrance to Bryce and is very nice and Springdale UT is a wonderful little town on the doorstep of Zion NP. Vegas is certainly an option and again you will have lots of time to explore. Southern Utah is wonderful with it's scenic Highways and By-ways and the National parks are simply amazing !

  3. #3


    Thank you Southwest Dave for your quick reply.

    Initially on notebook paper I had scratched out a sample itinerary already & it was this:

    SLC to
    Provo/Orem to
    Helper/Price to
    Arches to
    Canyonlands to
    Capitol Reef to
    Bryce Canyon to
    Zion to
    Fillmore (rest day) to
    Provo/Orem to
    SLC area (Park City, Golden Spike etc.,)
    Over the course of 14-15 days.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    As I mentioned previously, your trip is set at very relaxed pace. I'm not sure if there are things in Fillmore you want to do, but I think you are going to have had plenty of rest and relaxation along the way. As well as those places mentioned above you will find other places to relax like Red canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument in the Dixie National Forest where you can stroll, or the Coral Pink Sand dunes State park south east of Zion.

    Keep looking around the forums and study a good map of the area and see what appeals to your tastes.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    As mentioned above, Fillmore may not be a place just to see around. From Bryce, come up US89 to I-70 and light in Richfield for the night. It's a little larger, and if you feel like seeing something, there's the Fremont Indian State Park, Cove Fort, and Big Rock Candy Mountain nearby to explore.

    Golden Spike, AKA Promontory Point, is interesting - a nice visitor center/museum, a look at some sample trains, a demonstration, and you're done. Morton-Thiokol has a display out along the road out to the Point -- can't miss the display of rockets. Check out this link:
    Morton-Thiokol rockets

    Also in August, keep an eye out for mom-and-pop fruit stands around Brigham City and other places north of SLC on the way out to the point. Yum!

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 01-03-2013 at 09:08 AM. Reason: fixed spelling, added link

  6. #6


    Would it be easier to do the National Parks in reverse? Say starting @ Zion, then Bryce Canyon, then Capitol Reef, then Canyonlands, then Arches? Head down I-15 South. There are some of the initial off-the-cuff thoughts I have while looking @ maps. I prefer to cut the trip from the SLC area (if we choose to leave from there rather than LV) in half, so that we don't have a 300+ mile trip 1 way to Zion or 230+ miles to Arches & waste most of a day traveling there.
    Is there a "perfect" or "best" way to see the 5 parks to save time/driving?

    I also prefer not to backtrack on my road trips, we normally do loops or squares so we get to see different things going & coming if at all possible. So I'd likely go 1 way I-15 & US-6 the other way.

    So I was thinking 7 days in the National Parks area (including coming & going) & 7 days doing other stuff from the SLC metro area (Provo, Ogden, Park City) & points north. Does that sound feasible?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A roadtrip is as much about the journey.

    With doing a loop I don't think there is a 'best' way other than the one you feel most comfortable with. The same goes for the 'perfect' way to see the parks, as 'perfect and best' are unique to each individual. That's the beauty of creating your own roadtrip to fit your own personal taste and style of travel.

    The one thing that stands out to me is that you think you will be wasting most of the day getting there when in actual fact there is so much to see and do along the way. The journey should be thought of as part of the adventure and half of the fun, that would be my definition of a roadtrip, otherwise you may as well do a coach trip. If you go into the trip thinking the travelling is a waste of time, that's exactly what it will be.

    You can travel 300 miles quite comfortably in a day if nothing catches your interest in between, but the reason I have mentioned so many possible stops is that you don't wish to drive more than 150 miles per day. For me stopping somewhere because it's a certain distance, regardless of what it offers, would in my mind be a waste of time. As I mentioned earlier, there might be something in Filmore that will grab your attention for a day and if so, fare enough. If not isn't that a waste of your time when you could be resting in Zion or at Cedar Breaks. There is no right or wrong answer and that's why there is no one "perfect" trip for everyone. Once you have figured out what you want to do we can help you to 'fine tune' your trip.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The most efficient way to do the 5 parks listed is with a loop trip out of LV and skipping SLC. This also gives you the option of visiting Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon on the way back.

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