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  1. Default SLC to Grand Canyon in mid april itinerary help

    Hello everyone,

    My husband and I have booked airline tix in and out of SLC for a spring break trip to Zion, GCNP (south rim) and Bryce with our two teenage kids, getting into SLC very late on a Friday and leaving SLC the following Friday a.m. We chose SLC because I had read that it was a viable point for the "grand circle" tour, and tickets and car rental were significantly less expensive and more convenient than Las Vegas or Phoenix. Now that we're planning the details, we're seeing what we should have learned before booking-- SLC is very, very far from the South Rim. My husband wants to change the tix to Las Vegas and add two days to the trip at a HUGE cost-- basically the price of another family vacation. He's worried that the long drives will make for a rushed and ruined trip. I'm hoping the trip can stand as is, and I was interested in hearing the opinions of others who have toured this area. Here is the itinerary I've sketched out so far:

    Fri: arrive SLC very late.
    Sat: leave for Zion @noon after sleeping in. Stay over at Zion.
    Sun: Zion--horseback ride, hike. Stay over at Zion.
    Mon: Drive to GCNP-- south rim. Stay over.
    Tues: GCNP-- 1/2-day float trip, short hike. Stay over south rim.
    Weds: GCNP-- more hiking, touring, stay over GC; OR drive to Bryce canyon, stay over at Bryce.
    Thurs: Drive to SLC
    Fri: a.m. flight home.

    We're not used to major driving trips like this -- can anyone describe the nature of the drives: are they scenic, with open roads, or more like I-95 between NYC and New Haven?

    Thanks for your help.

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

    Default It'll work.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I'm really surprised to discover that SLC was a considerably cheaper option than Las Vegas ! Vegas certainly would of been the better choice for location given the time you have and what you want to see, but I don't think it would be worth changing things at great expense for what you will save, which is probably 300 miles and 5 or 6 hours on the road.

    If you want to do horseback rides in Zion that's fine, but the park is wonderful with lots of easy walking opportunities to fill your time. You won't find a float trip in the GC NP and travelling to find one outside of the park might become too time consuming and detract from your visit to the NP.

    Once you get off I15 the roads are open and scenic, slower going yes, but with so much to see and do along the way it's part of the fun and not a chore.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Making the Best of It

    It is true that you can make a loop trip from any gateway city that falls within reasonable distance of the loop. And if using Salt Lake City gave you a significant savings on the airfare/car rental, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Doing a loop trip that includes many of the great Utah national parks, from SLC makes absolute sense to me, especially since it's only a half day's drive from two of your major stops, Zion and Bryce.

    Now, here's the thing. If you have your heart set on a certain aspect of your trip (the round hole) and are going to force everything else (the square peg) to fit into that framework, then you are going to make less than satisfactory compromises. A better choice is to work on both the peg and the hole to make the best fit as you put the various parts of your trip's puzzle together. You already have a major bit of it in place, the flights and car. As you are now finding, it is far easier (and significantly cheaper!) to mold the other aspects of the trip to that framework, than to start over from scratch. And there really isn't that much molding to do.

    If you have your heart set on Las Vegas and the South Rim of the Canyon, then it would be relatively easy to set up a trip in a counter-clockwise fashion as follows: Head down I-15/US-89 to Bryce and Zion, continue to Las Vegas, cross over Hoover Dam via US-93 to I-40 east to Williams AZ. Take AZ-64 up through Grand Canyon National Park and along the South Rim to Cameron. Head northwest using US-89/US-160/US-163 through the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley to US-191 north and both Canyonlands and Arches National Park. If you're of a mind and have a little time at the end, you can head into Colorado, Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument, then northwest on CO-139/US-40 to Vernal UT and Dinosaur National Monument. Finish up on US-40 back into SLC. You can, of course, do it in the opposite (clockwise) direction instead if the timing works better for you.

    If neither Las Vegas nor the South Rim are critical aspects of the journey, then you can shorten your loop by going from Zion via UT-9/US-89/AltUS-9/AZ-67 through Jacob Lake AZ to the North Rim of the Canyon. This is a quieter side of the Canyon with fewer tourists and just as spectacular views. You could then come back out to Jacob lake and either head directly back up to SLC or continue on AltUS-89 to Page and AZ-98 to join up with the route through Navajo territory, etc. as described above.

    In either event, you should make the most of the fact that you found such a great deal using SLC as your gateway, and visit a few of the attractions of northern Utah such as the Great Slat Lake itself, the Mormon heritage including the SLC Temple, Bonneville Salt Flats, the venues from the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the numerous state parks and national forests.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The North Rim really would be ideal if this was a summer trip, but I suspect Buck missed the detail that this trip is planned for mid-April, when the North Rim is still closed for the season.

    Also, I believe most Grand Canyon rafting trips are based out of Page, so if you have your heart set on it, then you probably would not want to go directly from Zion to the Grand Canyon - since Page is on the way between the two, and it is several hours of driving from the south rim. You'd want to do the raft trip before you get to GC or as you start to head back to SLC/Bryce.

    As far as SLC vs. Vegas, I certainly wouldn't change your plans if it involves a huge cost. Yes, SLC to GC is a full day on the road, but you'd still need a half day to drive from Vegas to GC.

    One other idea you could consider if you are worried about doing too much driving is to save the Grand Canyon for another day and just focus your time on Zion and Bryce, perhaps also doing Arches/Canyonlands instead too.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    NOWHERE will you find the kind of congestion and slow going that you would on I-95, except possibly in SLC and LV itself during rush hour. Once out of the cities, you generally have 75 mph speed limits on the Interstates and 65 mph speed limits on the open roads. It's a whole different world from the Eastern seaboard.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Scenic Southern Utah.

    If changing your tickets would cost as much as another holiday, why not set that money aside, for another holiday, and follow the suggestions offered by AZBuck. There is a lot more than a week's worth of sightseeing in UT, even without the Grand Canyon. And whereas most of the roads and routes will allow high speed, you will not want to rush over them. Scenic southern UT demands taking pictures and frequent stops. UT12 alone is a spectacular drive.

    The Grand Canyon will still be there for your next holiday, whenever that may be.


  7. Default

    Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. Midwest Michael and Southwest Dave-- I feel much better realizing we've only added half a day onto our drive time by going in and out of SLC. We were also surprised by the lack of cheap fares to Vegas. I read somewhere that the casinos don't underwrite the cost of airfare for the masses anymore-- now they target the high rollers specifically. Also, we're traveling during spring break, so that may be driving up the Vegas fares. AZ Buck, you've mentioned a lot of beautiful sites we'd love to visit if we have the time. While the north rim would make the most sense, it will be closed during our trip. Very reassuring to hear from you all that the drives, if long, are pleasant and a trip in themselves.

  8. #8


    Just one more tip if time permitting. It's worth taking Utah Scenic Byway 12.

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