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Trip Report Road trip beginners back from Grand Circle, Yellowstone and California

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First of all I would like to thank you all for helping me plan this trip. We had a wonderful time!

OK, so here it is:

Day 1: Paris – LV with XL Airways. Our flight was two hours late at departure because someone checked in their luggage but never showed-up at the gate. Why would anyone do that? They kept calling and calling this passenger before deciding to take his checked luggage from the plane = two hour delay... Add to that getting through customs and picking up our rental car. We checked in to our hotel at midnight local time.

Day 2: Las Vegas. Despite jet lag and general fatigue from the day before, we went to LV Premium Outlet North for a couple of hours (not a good idea for the reasons mentioned, plus the Nevada heat), and then spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.

Day 3: Got a cooler, ice, water and some other supplies from Walmart before driving to Springdale (Zion NP). Once we got to Zion we bought our annual park pass and took the park shuttle tour of Zion NP, to get an overlook of the park and the different hikes. That day they had had a helicopter rescue for someone on the Angels Landing hike and we decided not to do Angels Landing. Afterwards I regretted that decision. It was the ONE hike I had actually put in our planning.

Day 4: Zion NP: Got up early in the morning to do the Emerald Pools Trail combined with the Kayenta Trail, which was a great first hike on our vacation. The park didn’t feel crowded and the scenery was amazing. After lunch at Blondie’s in Springdale, we spent a few hours relaxing by the pool (stayed at the Desert Pearl Inn). Later in the afternoon we returned to Zion to do the Riverside Walk and the Weeping Rock Trail. In the evening we had enchiladas and wine-margaritas at Oscar’s in Springdale – very nice ending to an excellent but very full day!

Day 5: Had a slow morning getting packed and checking out before going on to the Canyon Overlooks hike which is one of our favorite hikes from this trip. We then took the very scenic Mount Carmel Highway going west from Zion. After lunch in Kanab, we continued on to Page where we checked in to our hotel, got some supplies before driving to the Horseshoe bend hike (which is more like a walk). We walked as close to the rim as we dared, and stayed there to admire the sunset. Highly appreciated by all members of the family.

Day 6: Had our first “breakfast included” and we especially enjoyed the waffles. Overall we liked getting up in the mornings and discover the breakfast of the day. After breakfast and check out, we drove to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Got tickets at the ticket booth and hiked down the canyon with 10 other visitors and our guide, Val. Absolutely loved this visit! Also loved getting into our air conditioned car afterwards! We then drove to Cameron where we had late lunch – Navajo tacos. After lunch we entered the Grand Canyon NP (east entrance) and stopped at all the viewpoints along this road. Lots of WOWs! I have to say my husband and I enjoyed GC more than the kids did. For sunset we returned to Lipan point, close to the east entrance.

Day 7: My husband and I got up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise; I think it was at Yavapai point, or maybe Yaki point. Personally I think sunrise was more spectacular than sunset. Afterwards we went back to our room to sleep some more, and then spent the morning driving from the different viewpoints in GC before exiting the east entrance. We had lunch in Cameron – once again Navajo tacos - before driving on to Monument Valley where we arrived in time for a beautiful sunset.

Day 8: We started the day with a horseback ride in Monument Valley, only the five of us together with a guide. Everyone loved horseback riding in the desert! The fact that it was only our family gave us a certain liberty, and it didn’t feel like a trail ride. We could even let the horses gallop. We then did the scenic drive through the valley, had lunch in Mexican Hat, before we continued on to Cortez in the evening.

Day 9: Drove up to Mesa Verde NP in the morning, booked two ranger tours at the VC, and visited Spruce Tree House (self guided), Cliff Palace and Balcony House. This park is beautiful, and the ranger tours are very informative. We found out however that archeologists don’t know very much about the history of these dwellings, and there are several different theories on how people lived on these cliffs.
We then did the scenic drive and stopped at all the viewpoints before returning to Cortez through a thunderstorm. The park had been ravaged by several fires, all started by thunderstorms. As we drove out of the park we saw lightning followed by fire, but it looked like it was put out pretty fast.

Day 10: Drove from Cortez towards Moab in the morning, stopped by Newspaper Rock on the way to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP. Stopped at the Visitor Center for some guidance and they told us that they were expecting thunderstorms that day, and that we should be careful. We hiked the “cowboy camp” trail and drove around to the different viewpoints before it started raining and we continued to Moab.

Day 11: Had a late start in the morning, and it was already hot when we entered Arches NP. Got some advice at the Visitor Center on how to organize our two days in Arches, and decided to start with the Windows section. We stopped at all the viewpoints on our way to the Windows section of the park, and then hiked the Windows trail. Went back to Moab to have lunch in town, and returned to the hotel to cool off and rest.

Day 12: Got up early to hike Devils Garden. We all loved this hike. At one point we followed footprints instead of the rock cairns, got lost and had to back track. This made the hike even more exciting for the kids (we were never really “lost”, just a bit off track). I think we spent 4 hours on this hike. We then had pizzas in Moab and a siesta at the hotel before we went back to Arches in the evening to for a sunset hike to the Delicate Arch. Very beautiful indeed.

Day 13: Drove from Moab to Goblin Valley. It didn’t look like much from the parking lot (we just came from Arches after all…), but once we went down and walked around the goblins we loved it! You can climb them and jump around on them and we took lots of photos. One of our kids’ favorites. We then went to the Little Wild Horse Canyon, found the parking area, but couldn’t figure out where the trail started, or how to get to the slot canyon. At this point it was really hot and we were all tired, so we decided to continue on to Capitol Reef, found our hotel in Caineville, and spent the afternoon by the pool. Went to Torrey for dinner, and the drive Caineville – Torrey in the evening sun was absolutely amazing.

Day 14: Woke up to find the car covered by giant green bugs! Went to the Visitors Center in Capitol Reef NP in the morning for some advice, and decided to do the scenic drive followed by the Capitol Gorge hike. They advised us to take insect spray. The drive was nice, but when we arrived at the trail head and experienced the swarms of small, but insistent, insects we decided to skip this hike and drive on towards Bryce Canyon. Had lunch at the very cool Burr Trail Grill in Boulder run by a very hippie-stylish crew that looked like they came straight from Amsterdam! We stopped to hike the Mossy Cave Trail before checking in at our hotel in Bryce Canyon City. Went to the Bryce Canyon Lodge to book the horseback trail for the next morning, but it was already fully booked.

Day 15: We hiked the combined Navajo Loop Trail/Queens Garden Trail in the morning. It was slightly cloudy and the colors in the photos came out great. Bryce Canyon truly is spectacular, the most beautiful of all the canyons we visited. It was very crowded though, and not as fun to hike as the other canyons or parks in our opinion. This was the last canyon on our trip, and in the afternoon we drove north to Salt Lake City to start part Two of our vacation - Yellowstone.

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