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  1. Default Help needed: Yosemite, boise, salt lake, bryce, zion, grand canyon...home


    We're planning our first ever road trip and we're a little overwhelmed with all the details. We're not sure of our route, timing, destinations, things to do, etc. Would love some feedback from the experts on the following:

    OCT 9th: Mission Viejo - CA, to (LEAVE AT NOON) 7 hrs.

    9-11th: Yosemite National Park - CA, to (LEAVE EARLY) 10 hrs.

    11-16th: Boise - ID, to (LEAVE MID-MORNING) 5 1/2 hrs.

    16-20th: Salt Lake City/Prove - UT, to (LEAVE MID-MORNING) 5 hrs.

    20-21st: Arches National Park - UT, to (LEAVE MID-MORNING) 5 1/2 hrs.

    21-23rd: Bryce Canyon/Zion National Park - UT, to (LEAVE EARLY) 6 hrs.

    23-24th: Grand Canyon - AZ, to (LEAVE EARLY) 8 hrs.

    24th: Mission Viejo - CA, home

    1) Does anyone have suggestions for what we can do in Arches, Bryce and Zion?
    2) Does anyone know what side of the Grand Canyon we should travel to (North or South rim)?
    3) Main destinations are Boise, Salt Lake, and Grand Canyon - can anyone suggest a better road trip/sites in between?
    4) Are we spending appropriate amounts of time in the non-destination locations?
    5) What "MUST-DO's" should we experience on this road trip?

    Looking forward to your feedback,

    Jon (and Kim)
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 10-01-2010 at 12:46 PM. Reason: added month of trip

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default time working against you

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The first big problem is that it appears you've used the very optimistic travel time estimates from an online mapping program. Those are always at least 20% low when you factor in real world traffic times, where you see traffic, construction, and have to fill your tank.

    Leaving at noon, you'll be lucky to get into Yosemite by 9pm, so I'd just consider that first day to be a travel day and plan to stay outside the park in Mariposa or Oakhurst.

    The real impossible travel day is Yosemite to Boise. That's 600 miles, which is a very full day on the road, and would take a little more than 10 hours on Interstate Highways. However, the big part of this trip is the drive over Tioga Pass through Yosemite. This is a very slow going, and scenic route - but its also one of the real highlights of the park. That alone is a trip that will likely take you half a day.

    If you want to make the drive to Boise in one day, then your last day at Yosemite should be driving through Tioga Pass and spending the night around Lee Vining.

    Out of curiosity, is there a reason you are spending so much of your time in Boise and Salt Lake City? Nothing wrong with either of these cities, but there are so many great natural features in this area (including Yellowstone/Tetons which could easily be included in this trip) that I wouldn't want to spend basically half of my trip in those two places. I think you'll be ok with the time you've got slated for the other stops, for the most part, but there is much more you could be doing.

  3. Default

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the reply (and adding the month to my post).

    The reason for the stays in Boise and Salt Lake are to see family (Boise) and friends (Salt Lake City). I haven't traveled to either of these cities before (family and friends are my wife's). She wants to show me around both cities and make sure I meet everyone. The other stops were added by me to spice up the trip.

    Our original plan was to shoot straight up to Boise in 15hrs (through Nevada) and then do a slow trip back through Utah and taking in the Grand Canyon. But Kim (my wife) has never been to Yosemite and I figured the detour would be worthwhile given our later departure on Sat Oct 9.

    As you can already, doubtless, tell, we haven't done a roadtrip before but wanted to make a friends and family vacation a little more special and memorable. It will be just the two of us on the road and I have printed the RTA article on "The Art of the Cheap Roadtrip" - but I KNOW we need more help and advice.

    Thanks again!

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

    Default Agreed

    The loop you have set out could be driven in 5 day's on the road, so you have plenty of time for sight seeing, but perhaps the balance isn't quite right.

    Perhaps you have business or friends/family in Boise and SLC [?] but you have plenty of time in these places and then look rather rushed through Arches, Bryce and Zion NP's, and Canyonlands and Capitol Reef NP are both viable options with the right amount of time as well.

    When you reach these amazing NP's your "what to do" question will answer itself, the views and short walks/Hikes will leave you amazed. If you still need a little hlp you will get all the info from the park Rangers, and on entry you will be given leaflets and guides to help you on your way. To get advanced ideas go to and select a park.

    As Michael suggested, you really need to make your way across Tioga and stay in Lee Vining to have any chance of getting to Boise. If you can spend more time Yosemite and less in Boise, [i.e stop overnight on route to Boise] I would take it.

    Note; I was still typing while you posted and now see that you are visiting family. If you could spen half a day less in each City it could help the rest of your trip become more comfortable and rewarding.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 10-01-2010 at 02:22 PM. Reason: update

  5. Default

    Thanks Dave (and Mike).

    Your suggestions are very helpful and I will certainly review the time we spend with friends and family to make sure we get the most out of this trip - people and places.

    The "balance" is definitely our biggest issue. And we do want time to appreciate these amazing national parks (I plan on purchasing the National Park annual pass per the RTA suggestion).

    Staying in Mariposa or Oakland on the way in is a great suggestion. And stopping at Lee Vining on the way out is something I will investigate.

    When it comes to the south Utah part of the trip are there certain cities you would recommend staying? And is Flagstaff our best bet for the final part when we hit the Grand Canyon?

    Thanks guys!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some options.

    Good call on the annual pass, I was going to mention it in my previous post but it obviously slipped my mind.

    At Bryce canyon "Ruby's Inn" is the closest accommodation and a nice place but you will find more "budget friendly" alternatives in Tropic. Zion has the lovely little town of Springdale right on it's doorstep and offers various lodgings. If you are heading for the South rim then Flagstaff has good value lodgings, although Tusayan [nearest and dearest] and Williams are alternatives on route. If you arrive later in the day you could, much like Yosemite, stay one night near the East entrance and night 2 out of the South entrance. The nearest lodgings to the East entrance is the "Cameron trading post" but unless they have special deals it will be quite a bit more expensive than Flagstaff.

    If you stay in the Oakhurst area for your visit to Yosemite you will enter by the South entrance, before heading to the Valley floor, take a detour and drive up to Glacier point, the views are amazing !

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default remembering ben franklin

    Even though you are visiting family and friends you haven't seen in a while, I'm wondering if you aren't planning to spend too much time there. If these are really close relatives and friend, its one thing, but if the relationship isn't very close, 4-5 days in each city is a lot of time.

    I'd remember the words of Ben Franklin: Guests, like fish, begin to smell after 3 days!

    One thing when planning your Grand Canyon stay, its a long drive back to Orange County (a couple more than the 8 you've got planned) so the night before you leave, I'd look at staying in Williams rather than Flagstaff, just to save yourself about an hour of driving on the trip home.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    At Bryce canyon "Ruby's Inn" is the closest accommodation and a nice place but you will find more "budget friendly" alternatives in Tropic.
    The 2 most "budget friendly" hotels in the area are the America's Best Value Inn in Tropic and the New Western Motel in Panguitch.

  9. Default Lots to explore and enjoy

    I stongly suggest you save enough time for Zion. It may be the absolute highlight of your trip, especially if you take the hike up the Narrows of the Virgin River. After a beautiful mile walk along the river, the trail ends and you step into the river! You continue as far as you like, which can be 12 miles or more. But even one more mile in the river is a lifelong memory. The canyon walls narrow in on you as they tower hundreds of feet overhead. It is surreal and gorgeous! No picture can do it justice, but here is a website.

    The river is low this time of the year, except during rains when flash floods are a threat. You can check with the park or local outfitters for current conditions. Local outfitters can also supply sturdy water hiking shoes and even wet suits if it gets too cold. If you're adventurous, you can even sign up for an overnight hike!

    Besides the Narrows, there are several scenic hikes worth taking. The Emerald Pools trail is one, and Angels Landing is for the truly adventurous. (Careful at Angels Landing; people DO fall to their deaths every year here). This has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  10. Default

    Thanks for the extra help and advice.

    We have been reviewing our plans to make sure we get the most out of this trip. I started with the Yosemite stuff and then made sure we would have some quality time in Zion. We are really excited about The Narrows. We even took the decision to axe the Arches so that we could gain time for Zion. Hoping this adds to the reward of the trip.

    The one thing I haven't followed up on yet is the Annual Pass for the national parks. Most people say it is $40, but when I looked online it came up at $80 - am I looking at the wrong thing or has the price changed? And is it worth getting online or can we just pick up a national annual pass at the first park?

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