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  1. #1

    Default Round trip San Jose, Death Valley, Bryce Without LV or Grand Canyon

    Hi there. I'm New to this great forum. My friend and I have 6 or 7 days to go to Death Valley, Bryce, possibly Zion and back starting April 25th. We are bypassing Las Vegas and Grand Canyon having been to both many times. It's a photo expedition of a sort. I'm a beginner and Cris is a talented amateur. We have some Frequent Flyer miles to use on the first night, thought about springing for more $$ to stay at Furnace Creek Resort (worth it?) the second...then onto Bryce. We don't have to do a Park a day but would like suggestions from the photographers out there where we might linger. Roadside attractions that you recommend that we not miss? Favorite motels? Thanks a bunch!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    It's just around 1650 miles to go from San Jose over to Death Valley, on to Bryce, down to Zion, and back to San Jose, but that's sometimes retracing your steps. You could do something like:

    Day 1 - Drive San Jose to Death Valley. Someone else will have to chime in on Furnace Creek Resort, but most folks stay in the park if they can afford it, just to be near everything. Just under 500 miles, so it will be a driveable day, still a bit long.

    Day 2 - See Death Valley.

    Day 3 - Drive Death Valley to Zion, just under 300 miles. Spend rest of day seeing Zion, and the next day too.

    Day 4 - See Zion.

    Day 5 - Drive Zion to Bryce, about 85 miles, and spend the rest of the day seeing Bryce.

    Day 6 and 7 - Spend 2 days driving home. You're just under 900 miles from San Jose, so that's a day and a half or two days.

    Photographers love these three national parks. Flora, fauna, nature's landscapes, a sunrise or a sunset, a short hike to get things not-often-photographed, etc.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Possible Additions (and Subtractions)

    I would agree that you have sufficient, but not abundant, time for your trip so a little forethought is in order as to how you want to allocate your available time. However, I'm going to make things 'harder' for you and point out a couple of places you may want to add to your itinerary. It will be worth a call to Carrizo Plain National Monument to ask if the wildflowers are in bloom. If so, a stop there will definitely be in order. Similarly, Mojave National Preserve and Cedar Breaks National Monument are both right along your routes either to or from southern Utah. Now you couldn't include all three of those extra venues, but one or even two would make suitable additions to your plans. Once you've decided on all the parks you want to visit, I would encourage you to look them all up and determine entry fees if any. If the total is more than $80, plan on buying an annual parks pass at the first one you come to and save yourself a few dollars.


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

    Default A few more.

    Furnace creek is popular and close to Badwater Basin and Artisits drive, but you could also look at Stovepipe Wells located close to the Mesquite flat Sand dunes. All good for photography. The Alabama hills just west of Lone Pine off the Whitney Portal road is pretty cool as well, some great shots to be had through Mobius arch looking to Mt Whitney. Just off I-15 you could take a relatively simple detour through Valley of Fire SP and between Zion and Bryce is Checkaboard Mesa and Red canyon, both on the highway so make good, quick stops. I would try for a couple of nights around Zion for at least a full day there, lots of great trails and contrasting scenery.

    Just to add to Buck's comment about the National parks pass, it is an annual pass so will be good for any future trips you may consider over the next 12 months, great value !

  5. #5


    Thanks Donna...very useful. Piper

  6. #6


    Putting your great suggestions into the hopper...thanks. I do have a parks pass. Piper

  7. #7


    Donna, AZBuck and Southwest Dave...I can see now that when I reply it just adds to the bottom of this thread...not to your individual post...learning curve. With your thoughtful responses we are able to make some knowledgeable choices for this road trip. I checked out the photography people took on their trips...quality that I can aspire to. Your suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona



    One suggestion specific to photography: since you're going to Bryce anyway, I would highly recommend that you time your visit to take advantage of the sunrise. That's true in most locations, really--the best light is either early or late in the day, but the sunrise at Bryce is in a class by itself. The hoodoos--the amazing pillars of sandstone--are spread along the jagged eastern flanks of an eroded escarpment. At dawn, and for the first hour or so thereafter, the golden light of the rising sun sets that whole display on fire. There's a series of overlooks off the main park road, some with hiking trails. Save the hiking for later. Get your pictures first, and the best place to take pictures is not down on the trail--it's up on the top, looking down, and out across the extraordinary landscape. Each overlook has a unique angle of view and a whole new set of photographic opportunities, so stop at each of them, take a lot of exposures (consider bracketing your shots, over and under, if your camera supports that). Don't linger too long at any one overlook. Keep moving--you can stop back again later. The quality of light changes very quickly, so you need to work quickly for that first hour. The rest of the day, you can relax and set whatever pace you like. Be sure to bring warm clothing--the park is close to 9,000 feet in elevation, and it's still cold in April (lows near freezing).

    The park officially opens at 8:00 AM. When I was there last August, I showed up at about 6:30. The entrance booth was empty and shuttered, but the gate was open, so I drove on through, and I had the whole place almost to myself until the buses started arriving just after 8:00. I wasn't sneaking in without paying--I have a lifetime Senior Pass to all of our National Parks, so I didn't need to pay an entrance fee in any event, and that would likewise be true for anyone with an Annual Pass. For everyone else, it's the honor system. If you arrive too early to pay on your way in, you can pay on your way out, or at any point later in the day.

    Not every National Park is this trusting--but that's how it worked at Bryce, as recently as last summer.

    Bryce Sunrise.jpg

    If you'd like to see more like that, I have a Bryce Canyon sunrise photo gallery on my personal website:

    Note that the gallery is a slideshow. Give it a minute to load, and it will start automatically.



  9. #9


    RCQuinn....Rick.I defer to Confucius "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." Your Bryce photos are beautiful..hope anyone who reads this takes the time to see your slide show.

  10. #10


    Back from our road trip. Added in Las Vegas at two points to rest and recreate between long drives. Trip ended up SJ to Death Valley to Las Vegas to Zion to Bryce (2 days) to Vegas to SJ. Many will need to book into Ruby's Inn (Best Western) when they get to Bryce National Park. They are having growing pains in several significant ways; change over to automated booking confirmations and TV service upgrades. Their new automated booking system is not communicating too well with Expedia or TripAdvisor bookings. So when you show up they may say that they see no reservation. Ways around this is to ALWAYS print out and keep a copy of any reservation confirmation and present it to the front desk. Having it on your smart phone works well too. At first Ruby's Inn insisted they had no reservation and they were totally booked up. Stand your ground, ask for the manager, present your paperwork or confirmation on the smart phone and paper. There will be a lot of grousing by the management how they just changed over from manual entries to systems (not) communicating with each other. Although they will insist You call your booking site, ask to use their phone and do it all at the front desk where they see other travelers looking concerned. They've added on new wings to this big resort. Second growing pain. You may order a movie and not be able to access it. Or, the movie you requested is not the movie you get. Their front office is short staffed so requests to fix problems may take many minutes if not an hour or more for them to get back to you. In the end, everything got fixed and resolved but this was the most challenging night of our trip. Bottom line. Keep your booking confirmations!

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