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Thread: Utah's big 5

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Commercial Point, Oh
    Posts
    15

    Default Utah's big 5

    I plan on taking my daughter on a trip to visit Utah after college graduation. She graduates in early May and then she will start Grad School late August.

    Is early to mid May a good time to visit Utah? I don't want to go in the hottest times but also don't want it to be freezing cold either.

    We went on a trip to CA after her high school graduation and we were completely caught off guard by the cooler temps in the San Francisco Bay area in July. So we will definitely do our research on temps and be better prepared this time. Starting now - by asking the experts on this forum.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,733

    Default

    I think May would be a pretty ideal time to visit Utah. There are going to be some significant temperature ranges, because you'll be dealing with a variety of altitudes, but overall, it should be a pretty pleasant.

    The average daytime temps generally are in the 60s and 70s. The biggest issue you're likely to face would be cool overnight temperatures, especially at higher elevation places like Bryce Canyon, where it still often dips down below freezing in May.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,681

    Default Unpredictable.

    Hello and welcome to RTA!

    You can get a good idea about climate by searching on-line but the weather at the time you travel is totally unpredictable until a few days before you leave. May can be a lovely month to travel but it can also see cold nights, especially at high elevation in places such as Bryce canyon where you could still experience night time temperatures below freezing. On the other side of the coin you could have daytime temps in the mid 80's at Arches NP. I'd say mid May could offer a good balance between too hot and too cold but you would have to pack layered clothing and as I said at the start, there are no guarantees when it comes to weather.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,123

    Default Could Be Perfect

    If I had to pick a single month of the year to visit Utah, May would be very high on the list, even given my personal partiality to Autumn. While climate is not weather and it's always possible that you could run into unexpected conditions, in general May is the time when the desert southwest, including Utah, is transitioning from 'winter' to summer. Daytime highs are usually in the mid-70s or so, overnight lows in the mid-50s, and what passes for a rainy season is coming to an end with less than 2" total in a typical month. Of course, all of that is dependent not just on weather patterns but on local elevation as well which will change considerably as you make the circuit of the Big 5. So... expect the best, but be prepared for the occasional spot of rain and perhaps a bit of (dry) heat here and there. And be content in the knowledge that you've picked perhaps one of the best times for weather, let alone that most schools won't have let out yet and the parks shouldn't be too crowded.

    AZBuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Commercial Point, Oh
    Posts
    15

    Default

    We leave soon for our trip

    We land in Las Vegas, and are leaving for Kanab as soon as we rent a car.

    We will visit Bryce & Zion for sure and if we can fit in Cedar Breaks and or Willis Creek Slot Canyon we will.
    I am wondering what the best route to Torrey for Capital Reef would be? Would it be ideal to go 89 to 12? Or is there a better route to 12 from Kanab?

    Then we are going to Moab to visit Canyonlands and Arches. We are doing a dinner cruise in Canyonlands.

    We are staying only one night at a cabin in the Monument Valley area. Can anyone recommend a tour of the area?

    Then going to Grand Canyon S Rim, doing helicopter tour, and some hiking trails.

    Then going to Sedona, doing a Pink Jeep tour. Then back to Vegas to fly home.

    Are we missing any major things? I know there is so much to see and do in the area.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,681

    Default

    US 89 to UT scenic 12 is the best route to Capitol reef NP and then continue on UT12/24 through Hanksville to Canyonlands via 1-70.

    From the Moab area to Monument valley you could detour and take UT95 after Blanding and then UT261 which will take you down the Moki dugway and perhaps a short detour to Goosenecks SP that has a wonderful view of the San Juan river snaking back and forth. Monument valley offers Jeep tours but just standing there and taking in the views is something to savour.

    When you enter the Grand canyon, make sure you enter via the east entrance to take in the views along Desert view drive, on route a stop at the Cameron trading post is interesting.

    As for other places of interest, yes there are many but you don't mention how much time you have overall and in each place you are visiting.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Commercial Point, Oh
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Thank you for your response. We have already paid for most of the lodging so we can't really change anything at this point. We booked Kanab when we thought we were going to the N Rim of the Grand Canyon.
    Day 1- Vegas to Kanab
    Day 2- Bryce & possibly Cedar Breaks in the evening - Kanab
    Day 3- Zion - Kanab
    Day 4- Zion - Kanab
    Day 5- Zion - Kanab
    Day 6- Torrey - Capital Reef
    Day 7- Moab - Arches
    Day 8- Moab - Canyonlands - dinner cruise
    Day 9- Moab - Canyonlands
    Day 10- Moab - Canyonlands?
    Day 11- Monument Valley - staying at an Airbnb
    Day 12 - Grand Canyon - south rim
    Day 13- Grand Canyon - helicopter tour
    Day 14 - Sedona - Pink Jeep tour
    Day 15 - fly back from Las Vegas.

    I know its silly to go somewhere for one night but my daughter wanted to cram as much in as we could. She keeps finding more places and I only have so much time off work. I will check into your suggestions about the San Juan River and entering the GC from the east entrance. We are staying in Grand Canyon Village and have a dining reservation at El Tovar.

    Do you think a slot canyon guided tour east of Zion would be worth the time? Its $100 per person. Do you have an opinion on the Kolob Canyon part of Zion. We plan on doing the Narrows, rented gear (not sure if we needed it but, we have it reserved), hiking to the Angles Landing but not doing the rope section - my daughter is afraid of heights, Canyon Overlook trail, and maybe Riverside walk and Emerald Pools. There is so much to see there I just am not sure if it makes sense to do the slot canyon tour, but I feel like if we don't we will regret it. We did get lucky to reserve two early shuttle tickets and a couple later shuttle tickets for Zion. I thought we could visit the other part of the park that morning we have a later ticket for the shuttle.

    As I continue to fine tune our plan I may have more questions. Your expertise is super helpful and very much appreciated.

    If you have any guidance on how top things to do in Capital Reef and Canyonlands we'd appreciate that as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,681

    Default

    As you are staying in MV and Grand canyon village the east entrance into the Grand canyon would be on the natural route anyway. There is plenty to see and do in Zion so whether or not to do a tour is a personal thing. I like to find my own way around rather than be led and I don't really enjoy tours, especially expensive sounding ones. That doesn't mean it's not right for you and others to enjoy. I think you might want to spend a bit more time in Arches NP during your time in Moab but thats a judgement call you can make when you are there. The Island in the sky section of Canyonlands is the easiest to access and the walk out to Grandview point at the end of the Mesa is well worth it. On the way you can stop at the Shafer canyon overlook, Shafer trail viewpoint and Mesa arch, you could also detour to Dead horse point SP. Capitol reef. Just off UT24 heading towards the visitor centre there is a right hand turn to Panorama point. When you have taken in the view continue on the gravel road to Goosenecks overlook and take an easy walk to Sunset point, it's often overlooked but has great views. After this you will come to the visitor centre, turn off there and head to the Gifford Homestead and take the scenic drive.

    When visiting Bryce canyon, drive to the far end of the canyon and stop at all the viewpoints on the way back, this will put them all on your side of the road and you won't have to keep crossing traffic. It's a shame you can't swap a night in Kanab for one at Bryce canyon as it's right on route to Torrey.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    812

    Default

    Monument Valley can be done in a few ways:

    1) Just viewing it from the visitor center.
    2) Driving on a self-drive dirt road (constrained, and will almost certainly violate your rental contract)
    3) Via group tour (try Gouldings to see what they offer)
    4) Via private tour (may be able to book at the visitor center on arrival)

    I've done 2 and 3 at MV, and 4 at Canyon De Chelley. I think having a local guide is a great way to get a better feel for the place and culture, but that may just be me.

    Tours can be an hour or two, or half-day, or full day. With your timing full day is out.

    You will need to decide if you want to squeeze a visit to the valley into the afternoon you arrive, or the morning before you leave.

    I know you may not be able to change your plans at this stage, but I'm planning to visit in October and am staying two nights at the hotel associated with the visitor center (have done the same thing at Gouldings in previous trips), just so I can have a full day in the valley.

    Picture is from a 2006 vacation where I got up WAY too early (5:25 am, per the metadata on the file) to shoot sunrise over a butte.
    _DSC4978.jpg

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    812

    Default Are you a hiker?

    I suspect you may want to spend more time in Arches than Canyonlands. Some really good hikes there. Canyonlands will tend to be more of a 'drive to outlook, ooh and ah, shoot photos, and move on' kind of place.

    From the same 2006 vacation; Delicate Arch. An hour or two both ways on an out-and-back trail (BRING WATER!).

    _DSC4761.jpg

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