Canyonlands or Zion

Old Jul 31st, 2003, 05:39 PM
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Canyonlands or Zion

We are planning a trip to Southern Utah in September and since we are traveling by car from Alabama we wont have but about 5 days in Utah. My question is if we only have time to go to one area which would you recommend, the area around Zion and Bryce or the area around Moab? Also how far is it between the two areas
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Old Jul 31st, 2003, 08:05 PM
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Moab to Torrey (Capitol Reef) is about 150 miles. It can be driven in just a little over 2 hours with minimal stopping. There actually is not much to stop for, so you can roll right along.
The route is not much less flat than Tuscaloosa - Montgomery, but vastly, incredibly different.

Then it is about another 2 and a half hours from Torrey to Bryce Canyon.
It will take you 3 hours if you stop at the Anasazi State Park.

It took me 4 because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Canyonlands is so spread out that it is difficult to see. I recommend seeing the northern section, the entrance to which is north of Moab. Arches is worth some time, too.

Capitol Reef is my second favorite of the group. The drive from Torrey to Bryce along Utah route 12 is extremely scenic. Most of the route traverses the Navajo Sandstone and then enteres some of the rock that overlies it as you approach Bryce.

Bryce, because of its delicate shapes and colors, is my favorite. Zion impresses me also, but I think it would come in 4th in the competition. (That is going to touch off a debate as everybody has his or her own opinion.)
The ranking would be
1. Bryce 4. Zion
2. Capitol Reef 5. Canyonlands
3. Arches

Most people don't give Capitol Reef its due, which is just as well, because Zion has been so crowded lately that some of the fun has gone out of visiting there.

If I had 5 full days and nights, here is how I would divide my time, recognizing of course that this is my personal perference after several visits to each place.

Figuring you would arrive in Moab for the night, here is a suggested schedule.
Night 1 Moab Day 1 Arches
Night 2 Moab Day 2 Northern part of Canyon lands; part in Capitol Reef

Night 3 Torrey Day 3 Drive to Bryce, half a day for Bryce
Night 4 Bryce (near there) Day 4 Bryce
drive to near Zion.
Night 5 near Zion, Day 5 Zion.

Capitol Reef reveals the same sandstone that makes up most of Zion, and also some spectacular lower formations outcrop as well, particularly the Chinle Formation and its deep colors.
There are jillions of narrow twisting canyons and washes you will not have time to explore.

I think this approach would give you a good sampling of the best that is in the area, and you can formulate ideas for the next visit.

How much you do at Bryce is a function of how well you can handle the elevation. The rim of the plateau ranges from about 7,500 feet to 9,000+.
People in good shape go below the rim.
Others stay along the rim and get an eyeful from there.
The Queens Garden trail is a good below the rim trail that is relatively short.
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Old Jul 31st, 2003, 08:21 PM
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bob_brown just about said it all.

It would be very hard for me to choose which is best between Moab Area (Canyonlands & Arches) or Bryce & Zion area. Both have so much to offer. It would be like asking me which son I liked best and I couldn't answer that either. If you don't want to do as much driving as Bob suggests then just pick one area and you will love it.

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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 06:16 AM
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That small state park near Boulder on the scenic route from Torrey to Bryce Canyon is well organized and does not take long to tour. It makes a nice rest stop. When I was there, we could see some of the pottery in the storage vault.

At Capitol Reef, at least walk through Grand Wash and drive to the end of the scenic road from the visitor center.

It is a long haul out there from Alabama; I know, I have done it more than once.

I recommend turning northwest from Albuquerque and going by Mesa Verde in Colorado. The park is south of the road between Durango and Cortez.
From there, it is a short drive time wise over to Moab prepatory to visiting Arches the next day.

At Arches, Delicate Arch is the one I like best. Walk out there and get up close and personal with it.

At the northern section or Canyonlands, visit Upheaval Dome. If the park info can be believed, geologists are still trying to figure out if it is a sald dome that collapsed or something else equally unusual.

There is a state park adjacent to Canyonlands; it can be accessed from the same road. As I recall the name is Dead Horse Point.

As a suggestion, treat a gas tank one quarter full as completely empty. Towns and operative gas pumps are at times few and far between out there.
At one time there was a stretch of I 70 that had no gas station for about 70 miles.

I would not include the section of Canyonlands that is accessed via Utah Route 211 because of your time constraints. It is an interesting part of the park, but given your plans, I think it rates below the other parks I have listed.

Also, bear in mind that ALL of those parks are hot and dry, very dry.
Humidity is often so low that some people from the Southeast feel their skin shrivel. I am not joking, my wife says the climate affects her that way.
Irish skin types like moisture I guess.

Question for Utah Tea:
Is the road Grosvernor Arch to Cottonwood Canyon the one and the same?
I got to the Arch with a regular car.
How about the rest of the road?
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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 07:11 AM
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I'll jump in here, Bob, since I drove this road in June. Cottonwood Canyon Road is the one to Grovesnor Arch. Assuming it's dry, the whole road can be done in a regular car (we took an old minivan). The washboarding is so bad that it will rattle your teeth. It seemed like it took forever to get to the highway.
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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 07:22 AM
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You guys make me miss Utah. I need to get back out there.
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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 07:59 AM
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Two years ago we flew into Vegas, drove to Lake Powell for 2 nights, then to Bryce and then to Zion and back to Vegas (total of 9 nights). We like to hike and so far I would say this was my favorite hiking trip. Being from the midwest, we didn't experience any problems with elevations. We hiked just about every trail (excluding back country and some of the rim trails) at Bryce. There was such a difference between Bryce and Zion in terms of colors, scenery. They were both spectacular. Some of the trails at Zion were a bit challenging but plenty to choose from to meet anyone's ability. I felt the trails at Bryece were very managable. We didn't have a chance to get up Capitol Reef, Canyonlands or Arches and sure would have liked to. We will definately need to make a return trip to see these. Based on our trip, I don't think you can go wrong with whatever you choose.
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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 09:55 AM
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We just returned from this area. What a spectacular trip it was! Went Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, rafting trip in Moab and then south thru Monument Valley (which was our least favorite by far!!!), Lake Powell, North Rim of the Grand Canyon and back to Las Vegas. Were able to squeeze all that into 10 days!

Hiking was great though we had to stick to one or 2 hikes per park. Carrying lots of water was the key! If you're moderate hikers I can give you suggestions if you want.

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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 10:03 AM
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janell, if you are planning to travel during the first part of September you should know that it will still be pretty warm in the Moab/Canyonlands area (although it cools down in the evening.) If you want to spend more time in cool weather, then time spent in Bryce and Zions might be more enjoyable. Although you can see everything in five days you will not see anything in depth. I would recommend staying put in one or the other areas. Let me know if you have any other questions.
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Old Aug 1st, 2003, 10:34 AM
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Haven't been to Arches or Canyonlands, but would certainly put Bryce at the top of the list. I much prefer Zion to Capitol Reef, although Zion is much more congested. Capitol Reef can be a real ghost town depending on when you visit.
Old Aug 2nd, 2003, 04:57 AM
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To travlbug -
In Sept we are doing a similar trip to the one you just returned from. Fly into Las Vegas, spend our first night in Springdale, just driving thru Zion (we've both been there), stop briefly at Bryce (been there too), onto Grand Staircase Escalante, spend 2nd night in Boulder, 3rd and 4th night in Moab to check out Arches and surrounding area, then 5th & 6th night in Valley of Gods, last two nights are open but need to end up in LVegas to fly out. We're planning to take Route 261 and Moki Dugway up to Natural Bridges, then over to Lake Powell and ferry to Bullfrog and probably stay in Boulder again. Then back to LVegas. All in 8 days. Any advice on must sees, great hikes, or dining is greatly appreciated.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2003, 11:44 PM
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Travelbug, just like Sharondi I'm interested in the hikes. Also wonder why Monument Valley didn't appeal as much as the rest. We're going second half Oct. Touring for 10 days along the following route: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Torrey, Hanksville, Blanding, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and back to Las Vegas. At least, that's the plan at the moment, based on all the advice here and a Lonely Planet guide. Any advice on lodging welcome as well.
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Old Aug 4th, 2003, 04:21 PM
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Thanks so much for your response to my question.We are still trying to decide where we want to go. We dont know if we are up to traveling that far and may just go as far as Southern Colorado and New Mexico. There is so much to see and such a short time to see it.
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Old Aug 5th, 2003, 05:44 AM
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Looks like there will be lots of Fodorites in that Area in Sept/Oct!

I'll be in Zion/Bryce and Page Oct. 8 to 11.

Being moderate hikers, I'm also interested by the hikes recommendations from Travlbug!
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