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Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands in one week? In October?

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Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands in one week? In October?

Old Jul 6th, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands in one week? In October?

I apologize if this has been answered in previous posts, but I've been looking and can't seem to find what I need to know.

First, we are a couple in our mid-50s, fit enough, and we like to hike, but we're old enough now to want to limit it to relatively short (five miles or less) and relatively flat (like only a couple hundred feet in elevation). Not so much into rock climbing any more!

We have a week (as much as eight days) in mid-October, probably the third week. Is it possible to do Bryce/Zion and then also Arches/Canyonlands in that amount of time? And do them justice? I don't know how much time is needed to devote to each one, or to the multitude of things that lie in between. Besides the moderate hiking, we're big on sunrises, night skies, and like that.

If this is doable, which order should we do them in, given the time of year? I know that Bryce is higher, and thus colder, so should maybe come first? Or does that not matter as much as a logical route? Or is there something better to do than those four?

And, is it better to fly into/out of Salt Lake City or Las Vegas? Or, fly into one and out of the other? We've been to Vegas and don't need any time there, but haven't been to SLC, not that that is a huge tourist draw or us -- but might want to see something. We like to keep active and do a lot on vacation, but we don't want to kill ourselves...

Thanks very much!
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 04:32 AM
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You can visit all four of these national parks in a week. I know, because I've done that in LESS than a week!

Depends on what you mean by "doing justice." All of them have delights that "moderate" hiking would allow you to see, but whether you MUST take in these hikes is up to you. There's a lot of beauty that is visible from the car.

Fortunately, October is not the high point of tourism, so you have some flexibility. You can start with one couplet (ie, Bryce/Zion OR Arches/Canyonlands) and spend time as much time there as YOU feel is necessary. If that means two days, so be it; if that means the whole week, so be it. Then, when YOU decide the time is right to go to the next couplet, make a reservation for your time there (it could be five days, it could be one day) and then just drive there.

If you decide one couplet is a better place to start than the other, then just fly into the city that's closer to that couplet. For Zion/Bryce, go to Vegas; for Arches/Cany, go to SLC. Or maybe you can price both cities and take the one that's going to be the least expensive.


> is there something better to do than those four?
In Utah? Absolutely not.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 04:35 AM
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First, mid-fifties isn't old at all. I'm in my upper 60s and do these type of trips and more.

I would fly into and out of Salt Lake City. Not really much difference for the western part (Bryce & Zion) but much better for the eastern part (Arches & Canyonlands).

To avoid extra car rental fees come and go from SLC.

It's possible and probably you'll hit snow in Bryce and maybe even along Rte 12.

If you've done any research you know that you've selected two parks in western Utah and two in eastern.

The fastest way to travel between is Rt 89 and 70. That might be best if there's snow along Rt 12 which is the scenic route. It's a little longer taking Rt 12 but you'll probably want to make stops along the way for the scenery.

Also, there are several worthy stops that could be short or not so short along the way. (Willis Creek slot canyon, Devil's Garden Escalante, Lower Calf Creek Falls, Goblin Valley State Park) While not a favorite of mine, you'd be passing right thru Capitol Reef NP.

You mention that you've got as much as 8 days. How are you counting? Does that count arrival and departure days. I don't know where you're starting from but what time would you arrive in SLC?

The drives to and from any of Zion, Bryce, Moab to/from SLC is around 4.5 hours (give or take 30 minutes or so).

You mention sunrises and moderate hiking as being particular interests. Does photography fit into this.

I can help you more if we can narrow down the exact number of days you have. However, I'm a big believer in working with what you have. If you limit to 3 days for the Moab area, one day for driving, one day for Bryce and one to two days for Zion you should be able to do it (snow aside - let some of those who've been there in mid-Oct).
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 06:30 AM
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Paul -- if you can do it, then probably so can we!

Myer -- Thanks for your offer of help!

Yes, I realize that we're both east and west. I can see the distances on a map, but am not familiar with the elevations, etc., thus not familiar with the drive times, nor the chances of ice and snow at that time of year.

When I say eight days, I mean flying in on a Friday and flying out the following Saturrday. We're coming from Chicago and I have not yet researched flight times, but our usual habit is to fly in early, get the rental car and make our way to the first destination on the first day ... Unless (in this case) there were some reason to stay in SLC the first day and then depart early the second day. We usually return on a midday, flight, which means that whole day is just travel.

Not so much photography, but I included what I did to indicate a desire to be near the parks -- don't know if that would mean staying in the parks, or if some centrally located alternative would work. I'm thinking the latter (Moab?) for Arches/Canyonlands, but not so much for Zion/Bryce.

Thanks!
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 07:03 AM
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In 8 days you have plenty of time to do justice to all 3 parks. If you can expand your elevation gain a little, say up to 1000' gain, you can experience a lot more of Zion. Scout's Lookout, which is on the approach to Angel's Landing, is 1000' above the valley floor. It's only a 2mi hike, and the views from high up above the canyon are worth it even if you go slowly.

If you can do 2000' gain then the hike up to Observation Point is spectacular. Guidebooks say 4-6 hrs round trip.

As for where to stay, here's my 2c. Bryce - stay in the park at Bryce Lodge, at whatever rooms you can get even if they are in the newer basic hotel Sunset or Sunrise units.

Zion - I'm in the minority here on fodors, but I actually prefer to stay just outside the park in the town of Springdale. You're still in the canyon facing the huge red rock walls, and you're closer to many restaurant options.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 10:31 AM
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I also prefer Springdale.

Kanab is a cute town and not too far from Bryce.

Torrey is a convenient stop between Bryce/Zion and Capitol Reef (I happen to like Capitol Reef).

Moab is the obvious choice for Arches.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 10:56 AM
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We are about your age and did a similar trip in a week in early October a couple of years ago. We had a great time. Arches is awesome early in the morning, so your early-bird ways will work beautifully. Lodging availability in Moab might ease up later in October, but earlier in the month we really had a hard time finding something. It wouldn't hurt to book early just in case. We stayed at the Bowen Motel, which was very conveniently located for walking to lots of nearby restaurants and shops. The front desk had a nice list of close dining options, which was helpful.

At Bryce, we stayed at Ruby's right outside the park because we couldn't get in at the park lodge. Touristy, but a nice big room with a fridge and microwave. That microwave sure came in handy for warming up the pie we bought at Giffords Store in Capital Reef on the way from Arches to Bryce! Really great with some ice cream we bought right across the street from Ruby's.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 12:34 PM
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Thanks, everyone!

Two questions -- how many days to devote to each, or is that personal preference? And, would it make better sense to do Zion/Bryce first (don't know how much a few days matter as far as weather is concerned) or go to Arches first. I'm now envisioning a loop from SLC, heading to Arches, over to Zion/Bryce, and then looping back up to SLC for return to Chicago -- or the reverse, SLC to Bryce/Zion and then looping over east and back up.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 01:45 PM
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2-Days Zion
1-Day Bryce
1-2 Days for everything in between(Escalante, Calf Creek Falls, Cap Reef, Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse, San Rafael Swell, etc)
3-4 Days Moab
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 04:36 PM
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We like flying into Las Vegas for convenience (nonstop flight from Albany) and the short drive to Zion (2.5 hr). Springdale is a good town to start your trip in - whether you stay in the park or in Springdale (I like both), the town has a great variety of dining options and places for provisions (good coffee, snacks, beverages, etc.)

If flying on Southwest Air, you can easily book a flight into LV and departing SLC - that would work well, although you may get charged a premium for dropping the rental car at a different airport.

If you can stretch to 8 days, do it. As Spiro outlined, your first 2 nights in Zion, next night in Bryce, next night in Boulder or Torrey (driving scenic route 12), next 2-3 in Moab and to SLC for flight back to Chicago. Moab to SLC on route 6 is only a 4 hr drive - if you can get a late afternoon flight, you can easily make the drive.

We're planning an October trip too, and driving from LV to Escalante on our first day. Spending most of our time in Moab and Utah's southeast corner on this trip but we'll still end up in Springdale on our last day. Enjoy the planning and don't hesitate to ask questions of Fodor's well informed Utah lovers!
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 04:40 AM
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Thanks everyone. Lots of good advice. Once I figure something out, I will ask if it seems logical.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 04:40 AM
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You have 7 days.

Everything is in some elevation but only Bryce is around 8,000.

Snow may be an issue around Bryce. You'll have to see when you get there about any issues.

I will always recommend inpark lodging. Partly for the experience and partly for sunrise / sunsets.

Bryce.
This is a fairly small park. Sleep over here. Get up very early in the morning and go to Bryce Point for a spectacular sunrise. Bryce is a top to bottom park. That is, most hikes will go down first and then you have to climb back out. At 8,000 feet elevation you will most likely feel tired. Stop often as the trail is not steep and is smooth. The most popular trail is Navajo Loop going down and Queens Garden coming back up. The reason for that order is because Navajo Loop is somewhat steeper.

Once you've seen the sunrise, maybe then napped for an hour or so, had something to eat and then did NL / QG hike you can drive to a couple of the viewpoint (Natural Bridge is the only one that's really different). You will definitely have a good feel for the park.

If you'll be interested in the sunrise, definitely stay inpark to avoid driving in the dark as there may be animals on the road.

Zion.
While Bryce is one of a kind, Zion is beautiful. Even though Bryce and Zion are close together, Zion is 4,000 ft lower so you'll feel it much less. I won't suggest Angel's Landing. However, you should do the first part up to Scouts Lookout. You also have Canyon Overlook at the East entrance, the very easy but spectacularly beautiful Riverside Walk to the start of the Narrows and Lower / Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. While it's always nice to stay inpark, Springdale is a viable option as it's right outside the park and sunrise / sunset isn't an issue here.

I've been to Zion twice. Each time I spent just under a day there and saw a lot. It might make more sense to spend most of two days there if you intend to do most of what I suggested. The exact amount will depend on how you group it with Bryce. For instance, if going from Bryce to Zion you could leave Bryce at noon after the NJ / QG hike and stop at the east entrance for the Canyon Overlook hike and after check in do either Emerald Pools or Riverside Walk. The next day you could do the other two hikes and leave for SLC mid / late afternoon.

Moab. Several sights in the parks and near.
Arches.
Beautiful sunset at Delicate Arch. Wander around the Windows section. Balance Rock (not a hike). And select a couple of others. If Fiery Furnace ranger-led hike is still being given in Oct, definitely sign up for it.

Canyonlands isn't one of my favorites but right outside is Dead Horse Point that I think is worth an hour or two. Maybe once there a quick hour or two in Canyonlands.

About 10 miles east of Moab along Rt 128 is Fisher Towers. On Youtube do a search for Citi Accessories. You've seen the commercial. Part was filmed at Dead Horse Point and the last part (on top of the Corkscrew) was filmed at Fisher Towers. Quite lever, nothing difficult and not too long.

So, as spiro wrote Moab for 3-4 days. You may have to make is 3 days since you only have 7 in total.

No inpark lodging so it's in Moab.

The drive between Moab and Bryce is spectacular. You've got to budget your time. Some very worthy sights.

Goblin Valley (1-2 hours including the drive off the main road),

Lower Calf Creek Falls (3-4 hours hike - level - beautiful waterfalls),

Devil's Garden Escalante (not the same as Devil's Garden in Zion) (1-2 hours including the drive off the main road)

Either Little Wildhorse (I haven't been) or Willis Creek (very easy walk but an adventure driving there) to give you a slot canyon. (2 - 3 hours).

You should now have enough info to pick out what's of interest to you and come back with more questions.

Other than Little Wildhorse I've been to all of these places at least once. You can see my photos at:
www.travelwalks.com

They're mixed in as part of 3 trips.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 09:14 AM
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I don't think anyone had mentioned this about Canyonlands, but do you need a four-wheel drive to see the best parts?
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 10:01 AM
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My all time favorite thing is www.deserthighlights.com in Moab.

If you like solitude, then you for sure might want to do some hiking in Capitol Reef. Not that many people, if any, are on the trails. Having been there 3 times and hiked over 25 miles over 3 days on one occasion, it is easily my least favorite. I would stop at Gifford House for pies though. And in October Apples might be in season, so pick a few of those. The orchards are interesting history and a huge area. I will say I think something about the rocks at Capitol Reef has the prettiest color in all of Utah, IMOP.

Another place that I wasn't that crazy about(I know most will disagree with me) is Calf Creek Falls. It is neat to see the waterfall in a place where there is very little water.

One place that is a gem of a hike that noone has mentioned is Horseshoe Canyon/Great Gallery. This is a huge petroglyph area and is considered by most people to be the single best in the world. This is the canyon where Aaron Ralston(guy who amputated his own arm in Blue John Canyon) was actually found on people going to see the Great Gallery. The road is right across the hwy from the entrance road to Goblin Valley. It is a 30 minute+ ride on a dirt road(do not attempt if a recent rain has occured or about to occur).
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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spiro,
I've been to Lower Calf Creek Falls twice.

The first time in mid-may and the Falls were beautiful with the sun at a nice angle.

A couple of years later I went there with my daughter in mid-September. While it was still worthwhile, the angle of the sun on the falls was not nearly as nice.

= = = = =
About Canyonlands.
The park is divided into (I think) three very distinct areas with entrances that are very far apart. Most people visit the Island in the Sky area since it's close to Arches NP.

That area definitely doesn't require four-wheel drive. I don't know about the other more remote areas.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 04:42 PM
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Hey Spiro - I didn't know that you'd been into Horseshoe Canyon. What did you think of the Great Gallery? The canyon is filled with rock art and ruins but so remote. 30 miles on dirt roads just to get there! But well worth the effort.

I think Horseshoe Canyon is farther off the beaten path than purduegrad is interested in for this trip. There is so much to see and do between the 4 national parks and route 12.

You do not need 4WD to see much of Canyonlands Islands in the Sky. The short walk to Mesa Arch is spectacular. Check out all of the overlooks and walk the White Rim Overlook trail for some incredible views.

Arches NP is amazing - some of my favorite hikes. There are lots of very short walks to different arches/windows as well as longer hikes. Park Avenue is a wonderful short hike - mostly very flat. Be sure to check out visitor centers when you get to each park so you can gather info on the major features/hikes so you can decide what to do.

Definitely check out the scenic drive out route 128 along the Colorado River to Fisher Towers - really gorgeous! Moab has a rock art tour that you can do on your own - you can print the brochure online. Some very accessible and extensive rock art panels all around town.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 05:13 PM
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http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...0IatW7FqybsWnf

Here is a link to my photos of Capitol Reef(Hiked to Hickman Bridge, Hiked the highway for about 2 miles, hiked Grand Wash/Frying Pan/Narrows, Cassidy Arch, and Cohab Canyon. Plus a couple of other smaller hikes to petroglyphs, etc.

Then Great Gallery/Horseshoe Canyon

Most of Little Wildhorse Canyon

Spend the evening at Goblin Valley until well after sundown. Wish I would have camped there.

Finally, we did Timpanogoes Cave near Salt Lake. Just the hike to the top of the thing will kill a person. Some of the very best fall colors I've ever seen anywhere though. Cave was just so so.

My wife was unable to go on this trip with me and I did this with my next door neighbor at the last minute. He had never really hiked before, nor had he ever flown before. He works for me and we had a great time. We did all of this in 4 days.

This was Mid October 2009. Perfect weather
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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Sharondi,

About the only things I feel like I'm missing(the major stuff) in Utah is Page, Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge. And I really really really want to hike The Wave.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 05:38 PM
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Wow. What a wealth of information!

Tentatively, this is what I have:
Friday, October 11: Fly into SLC, head toward Moab. Night in Moab.
Saturday, October 12: Night in Moab
Sunday, October 13: Night in Moab
Monday, October 14: Night "in between"
Tuesday, October 15: Night "in between"
Wednesday, October 16: Night in/near Zion (Springdale?)
Thursday, October 17: Night in Bryce (in park)
Friday, October 18: Night in Bryce (in park)
Saturday, October 19: Night in SLC
Sunday, October 20: Fly home

Since we've never been to SLC I thought we could spend the last afternoon there, and there's an orchestral concert the night of the 19th at the Tabernacle that I thought would be fun to attend. And, best non-stop flight back to Chicago is like 9 AM Sunday morning on Southwest, so need to be in SLC Saturday night.

Not sure if the two "in-between" nights should be in the same place (Torrey, Escalante, Boulder?) or moving westward between two places the two nights. Or, if we should do four nights in Moab, and then just one night "in between." I chose to do two nights in Bryce so that I could try for the full moon walk -- you need to be at the visitors center like at 7 AM to get one of the tickets, and then it goes until about 8:30 PM, so needed to bridge with the two nights in the park. But really only need to spend one full day, the 18th, there.

Would appreciate comments on the itinerary!

Thanks to all.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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Oct 14 and 15. Consider Ausin's Chuckwagon in Torrey for your lodging. Nothing special, but about the best there is in that area unless you want maybe a B&B
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