Advice on Western US Travel

Old Feb 27th, 2023, 12:33 PM
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Advice on Western US Travel

My husband and I are hoping to plan a trip out west late 2023 or early 2024, and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of awesome places to visit and know there's no possible way to visit every place we would like to in 10 days max. We both have decided we would like to go to Sequoia for a day, maybe a day and a half, and then spend the rest of our time in Utah. I know the Grand Canyon will always be full of tourists, and according to my research we should be able to see/have comparable experiences by visiting Canyonlands or something similar. So I can go without the Grand Canyon. Really looking for advice on how to get the most out of the 8 or so days we would be in the area (mainly Utah), and what would be the best way to travel. For example, through a tour company with guided itinerary and included accomodations, or renting our own van/car and booking our own campsites or hotels. We will probably fly into either Vegas or Salt Lake City, depending on if we start or end the trip with Sequoia. Any and all advice would be helpful!
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 12:46 PM
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I have tried to combine Sequoia NP with points east and it never really goes well and gets dropped. The western slope of the Sierras is a long, long drive from the Grand Canyon or Utah, and usually you are stuck going around the bottom through Bakersfield. There are ways over the mountains but they never seem to save time (so haven't tried it), and now seeing your winter time frame that is out of the question, anyway.

8 days is not a lot of time at all, perhaps spend less per day and extend the trip if it's a money issue? Noting that Canyonlands is not near a major airport so maybe not worth the time it would take out of your short vacation. Canyonlands is nice but not the same thing as the Grand Canyon.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 01:12 PM
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Welcome to Fodors.

Not really doable. 'Late 2023/early 2024' sounds like winter.

There are NO roads across the Sierra open in the winter except all the way up north via Reno or Carson City -- and if it is like today one or both highways (I-80 / Hwy 50) are either closed or have chain requirements. The only access to Sequoia is from the west (California side) you can't drive there from Utah or Las Vegas without going al the way around through Bakersfield. Also - some of the SW National parks in Utah/Arizona are at high elevations and will be very cold and possibly very snowy so camping probably is off the table.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 01:16 PM
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Maybe you can get some feeling for the area via this recent trip report written by a Colorado based Fodorite

Southwest Winter Wander

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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 02:55 PM
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Or...this more successful trip taken by the same Colorado based Fodorite at the same time of year earlier.

What a difference a year makes.

Got rocks? A winter visit to Utah’s Orogenous Zones

Last edited by Melnq8; Feb 27th, 2023 at 02:58 PM.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 03:52 PM
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- Just goes to show how different it can be from one year to the next (or one week to the next)

So - do you feel lucky??
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 04:27 PM
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My best advice on seeing some great Utah scenery would be to delay until at least April 15 2024 to let a lot of snow to melt. Fly to SLC and rent a car (no van). Go to Moab and see Arches NP and the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands if the roads are open. Maybe visit Goblin Valley State park while in the area. Return the car where you rented it in SLC.
Take the Amtrak California Zephyr from SLC (leaves 11:30PM sometimes later) and ride it to Sacramento California arriving mid afternoon. Rent a car in Sacramento to drive to Merced and on into Yosemite NP. At that time the waterfalls in Yosemite should be flowing well. In the south end of Yosemite there is a great grove of Sequoias (Mariposa Grove) You do not have to go to Kings Canyon/Sequoia to see big Sequoia trees.
Return the car in Sacramento and fly home from SMF.
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Old Feb 28th, 2023, 10:15 AM
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September would be a good time to go. The weather should be good and there are fewer turistas. Both Sequoia and Zion are premiere national parks but as mentioned it is difficult to work in Sequoia or Yosemite with Utah parks due to the distances involved. Maybe focus on Utah parks this year and California parks another time.
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Old Feb 28th, 2023, 12:04 PM
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Just adding to what was said before...I think coming to California just to see Sequoia trees is a poor use of your short time. Personally, as a lifetime resident of the golden state, I think there are better sights here, and that Redwoods (a similar but different tree) are in a more appealing habitat. Just my opinion. So I think I'd start with what TomFuller recommended and then I'd take highway 12 to Bryce and Zion. I think 8 days are barely enough to cover the highlights of Utah, and Zion is not just that, it's (IMO) one of our top national parks. From there you can drive through St. George to Las Vegas and fly home from there. Oh, and we liked two state parks in this area, Dead Horse Point not far from Canyonlands and Valley of Fire, in Nevada on the way towards Las Vegas off I-15. Missing the Grand Canyon is fine, especially trying to get to the South Rim, but there are other things in Southern Utah or Northern Arizona you might want to think about, including Canyon de Chelly, Antelope Canyon (out of Page) and Monument Valley. You don't have time to do it all, and some of these places that are farther south or not as high might work better if you are trying to travel in winter/early spring or late fall.
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