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hausfrau Jan 4th, 2013 07:48 PM

Help me plan a family trip to southern Utah / Grand Canyon in June '13
I am hoping to plan a trip to southern Utah and the Grand Canyon in early June '13. I am worried that I may be too late to get the best accommodations so I'm looking for some quick advice on planning our itinerary. Travelers: two grandparents (early 70s), me and my DH, and our 5-year-old and 17-month-old daughters.

This trip is inspired by my older daughter's obsession with the Grand Canyon. (She currently wants to be a geologist or an archaeologist.) Our current targets are the Grand Canyon (definitely North Rim, but preferably both rims), Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands/Capitol Reef. We will have approximately 10 days including travel, so 8 on the ground. We plan to rent a seven-passenger vehicle of some sort, either a minivan or large SUV. We would like to avoid long days in the car, but we do enjoy driving and don't mind a few hours of travel broken up by sightseeing or a short hike. Since we are traveling with my in-laws and young children (one walking and one carried in a backpack), we will be looking for short (<2 miles), relatively flat hikes that still let us take in the fabulous scenery. All of the adults have been to this area many times before, but this will be our first time with the little ones, so it will be a new adventure for us.

It looks like we could fly into Phoenix or Salt Lake City. Las Vegas seems too far away since we aren't planning to visit Zion on this trip. Which city makes the most sense? I'm struggling to develop a loop that allows us to return to the arrival city to avoid drop-off fees but also minimizes long driving days. Any suggestions on the order we should see the parks? We'd like to do two-night stays if possible, but will do one-nighters if it makes sense. Any suggestions for family-friendly lodgings that might be slightly less popular (and more likely to still have openings in June)? We are all experienced travelers and enjoy a little luxury (we understand that we won't get that from park lodging) but nothing ridiculously expensive (<$200 per night per room). Any ideas for short scenic hikes or sights that would interest our 5-year-old are also welcome. She enjoys the outdoors, wildlife, rocks, rivers, dinosaurs.


Tomsd Jan 5th, 2013 06:04 AM

First of all - check out the other posts in here under Arizona and Utah, which have a lot of info. Just scroll down and down until you find something you like. I did a trip report back in June? 2012, and Spirobulldog (sp) has some great trip reports - including pics. :)

And as for accommodations - think the Grand Canyon may be the most booked - but just keep trying as they have cancellations. If you could stay on the South Rim - say at Bright Angel Lodge - that would be great - and North Rim fills up faster?

If you could fly into Phoenix - that would be the closest to the Grand Canyon of the airports you mentioned (4 hours) but Vegas isn't that much further - 5 hours. Note - I think coming south from Salt Lake - you can also get to the Capitol Reef area in 4 or 5 areas - or start over at Arches - so it's really up to you.

From Phoenix - I would break it up - with a night or two in beautiful Sedona (2 hours from Phoenix) - where your daughter would love the Red Rock formations) and then perhaps on the way to the South Rim - check out the Meteor Crater a half hour or so east of Flagstaff. If you could fly into Phoenix - that would be the closest to the Grand Canyon of the airports you mentioned (4 hours) but Vegas isn't that much further - 5 hours. Note - I think coming south from Salt Lake - you can also get to the Capitol Reef area in 4 or 5 areas - or start over at Arches - so it's really up to you.

From Phoenix - I would break it up - with a night or two in beautiful Sedona (2 hours from Phoenix) - where your daughter would love the Red Rock formations) and then perhaps on the way to the South Rim - check out the Meteor Crater a half hour or so east of Flagstaff. If you could fly into Phoenix - that would be the closest to the Grand Canyon of the airports you mentioned (4 hours) but Vegas isn't that much further - 5 hours. Note - I think coming south from Salt Lake - you can also get to the Capitol Reef area in 4 or 5 areas - or start over at Arches - so it's really up to you.

From Phoenix - I would break it up - with a night or two in beautiful Sedona (2 hours from Phoenix) - where your daughter would love the Red Rock formations) and then perhaps on the way to the South Rim - check out the Meteor Crater a half hour or so east of Flagstaff.

From the South Rim (which offers the best view of the Canyon) you can get to the North Rim - if that is a must - and/or also get to the various other places you mention. And if you want to see some more amazing red rock formations/Cathedrals really - check out Monument Valley - about 2 and a half hours from the South Rim.

A bonus is to stop at the Navajo National Monument (half an hour before you get to Kayenta, AZ - the gateway to Monument Valley) - and see the Cliff Dwellings.

Coming from Vegas - you could also head to say Bryce - and from there - do the Capitol Reef route and Arches, whatever - and then down to the GC and then back to Vegas.

Tomsd Jan 5th, 2013 06:09 AM

Sorry - somehow the post got duplicated/partially triplicated in parts - so please just ignore that.

And I had a page cite for the Meteor Crater - where they also have a good IMAX type film theater - and various other exhibits that future geogolists would love.

hausfrau Jan 5th, 2013 06:15 AM

Thanks Tomsd! I'm actually a little overwhelmed with the amount of info available so that's why I'm asking for some help. It sounds like I could really go either way, flying into SLC or Phoenix. Thanks for the suggestion of Sedona and the Navajo monument. I'm sure our daughter would love both. I've heard to keep trying for cancellations at the GC, so I will do that if I can't get our desired dates.

spirobulldog Jan 5th, 2013 06:22 AM

See Arches first and Bryce last, because Arches is Hot and Bryce is cooler. The longer into the summer you get the hotter Arches will be.

DO NOT miss Goblin Valley State Park. Likely will be your daughters favorite spot. Also right near is a super easy slot very amazing slot canyon called Little Wildhorse Canyon(don't confuse with Wildhorse, you want Little WH). Ask the visitor center in Goblin Valley for directions to Little WH. It is about a 5 minute drive from the Goblins.

I know that skipping the Grand Canyon would be huge, but you are going to see things similar to it. Deadhorse Point, near Moab looks down on the Colorado River cutting thru Canyonlands. It isn't the Grand Canyon, but it certainly is a Grand View and looks very similar. I would pick the parks in Utah over the GC any day(and i've even rafted the GC). However, there is nothing like that first look over the GC-it does offer a huge shock and awe. Maybe consider doing it when she is a bit older. See if from both sides, go on a raft trip, hike or ride horse to the bottom. I think you get a lot more out of it, if you go the extra mile.

Consider Flying into Moab or Grand Junction. Moab has 2 or 3 flights a day served by a tiny airplane(it is an adventure in itself). Airport code for Moab is CNY.

Day 1 Fly to SLC or ? and drive to Moab (4hr drive from SLC)
Day 2,3 Moab, Canyonland, Arches
Day 4 Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse, Drive to Torrey
Day 5 Capitol Reef in the morning,Calf Creek falls, Hwy12,
Day 6 Bryce
Day 7 North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Day 8 Page Arizona - Best Dam View,Antelope Canyon
Day 9 Monument Valley, Goosenecks of the San Juan, Moki Dugway
Natural Bridges National Monument,
Day 10 Back to SLC, CNY, or GJT.

On day 2 and 3. See Deadhorse Point, hike to Delicate Arch, See Balanced Rock, See The Windows, See Turret Arch, See Double Arch(not to be confused with Double O). Hike at least to Landscape Arch, but consider hiking the entire Devils Garden Trail. My daughter did it when she was about 9 without any problems. It is a fairly easy trail but will take you 4 hours or so. Do realize that there are lots of dropoffs in all the places you are going. The 70 year old GP might have to watch the 17 month old a bit. You could do a Hummer Tour with Moab Adventure Center. You could do a fantastic airplane ride with Slick Rock Air. They have a 4 and 6 passenger plane. Ask for Larry, he is retired former Chief Park Ranger at Canyonlands. I would do the one hour flight over Canyonlands. It's great from the air. He will likely let your daughter sit in front and help him a bit even.

Day 4 Goblin Valley and Little WH. Have food and water here. There is absolutely nothing here for miles. Truly the middle of nowhere. Star-gazing is especially good in Utah and this place and Naturaly Bridges is two of the darkest places in the USA, so the best. It is worth staying up and letting your eyes adjust for an hour or so. In Bryce, they do a Night Ranger guided thing that is decent. Drive into Torrey and overnight @ Austin's Chuckwagon

Day 5 Have homemade piebreakfast @ Gifford House. This is in Capitol Reef in the picnic area/orchard. Eat your pie right under the huge tree. You are almost guaranteed to be dining with deer here. Capitol Reef has several nice hikes and drive. There are very little people here, so most of the hikes you will not see many folks. Continue on HWY 12 towards Bryce. You could stop at Calf Creek Falls, but it is a hike that would take you 3 or 4 hours. Also good is Devils Garden(not to be confused with the other Devils Garden in Arches). This is like bigger statues somewhat like Goblin Valley, but just different. Certainly worth a stop. Its about a 10 minute drive down an easy dirt road. Overnight in Bryce at the Lodge or Ruby's would be my second choice

Day 6 See Sunrise. Hike Navajo Loop/Queens Garden. Drive and look at all the overlooks. Maybe do a horseback ride(not sure of age limit). See Sunset. Overnight in Bryce

Day 7 Drive to North Rim. Perhaps hike a mile down into the canyon or do one of the rim hikes. Hopefully you can get a room at the lodge.

Day 8
Antelope Canyon. This is another slot canyon. You will need to get an indian guide to do this one. Overnight in The View @ Monument Valley

Day 9
Drive Through Monuent Valley. Do Not Miss Goosenecks of the San Juan. This will take you about 15 minutes and it is worth the stop. Drive to Natural Bridges National Monument via Moki Dugway. Definately hike to Sipapu Bridge. It is as good as any arch in Arches. You do not get the full appreciation unles you hike down to it. The hike takes about an hour. Very good! Drive back to Moab

Day 10 Return Home

I always mention This is my all time very favorite thing in any National Park that I have ever done. They do take young kids and it is very safe. Totally amazing experience. You do need to be adventurous.

emalloy Jan 5th, 2013 07:16 AM

We've done the loop from Las Vegas a couple of times and found that when we booked airfare and car rental were both significantly less expensive from there. If you get into Vegas before noon, you could be at Bryce before dark and many people here use Ruby's for lodging there.

It is a haul to Arches/Canyonlands from Bryce, but if you head north to I - 70 from there, you could spend a night in Green River before going to Moab. We stayed at the River Terrace Inn there which was pretty nice for a motel, had a pool and a very nice, made to order breakfast included in the room cost. It is about an hour from Arches and we used it as a base for exploring Arches and Canyonlands once. The VC at Arches will give you information on dinosaur tracks in the area.

From there you could head south through Monument Valley and then head east to Page before heading for Grand Canyon. There is a variety of lodging choices in Page and a couple in Monument Valley, but look in Kayenta or Mexican Hat if you can't find a place in MV.

You can go to the south rim from there and if you don't get lodging in the park, the Cameron Trading Post on rt. 89 just before rt. 64 into the park is fine, not fancy but reasonable rates, clean.

Hoover Dam makes a nice stop on the way back to Vegas from GC.

Of course the loop could be done in the other direction too, if lodging choices make that a better direction.

Do call for park lodging frequently as cancellations come up all the time.

There are lots of TRs that people have posted here, If you put any of your destinations into the search box you will get tons of threads. You also can click my name for some TRs in the area.

Have a wonderful trip.

tomfuller Jan 5th, 2013 07:49 AM

When I spent a week at my most recent PIT project I stayed at the Spring Valley cabin in the Kaibab NF about 40 miles south of the South Rim.
$100/night for the cabin and bunkhouse if you need it is a bargain. You do have to bring your own bedding but you can use the kitchen.
For the trip to Arches, Canyonlands, Goblin Valley and Capitol Reef, we stayed at the Robbers Roost motel in Green River. To get to Green River, we took the train to SLC and rented a car. The amateur archeologist should see the prehistoric museum in Price UT.

Myer Jan 5th, 2013 09:05 AM

Since spiro has responded I will only add to it.

As you can see GC is not one of his favorites. Me neither. The other Utah sights make GC look ordinary. Having said that, I would never tell somebody not to see GC once in their lives.

Sprio mentioned Antelope Canyon as a slot canyon. I would not group it in that category as it's more of an attraction. Even so, not to be missed if you're in the vicinity. It's really just an easy walk in the park. One of a kind. Amazing!!!!

If you plan on driving Rte 24 & 12 between Arches and Bryce, definitely consider Goblin Valley, Devil's Garden Escalente (as opposed to Devil's Garden in Arches) and either one or both of Little Wild Horse (I haven't been but spiro has) and/or Willis Creek slot canyon (a very easy walk but an adventure driving to short road there).

In the Moab area there's more than Arches: Canyonlans, Dead Horse Point, Fisher Towers, etc. For Dead Horse Point and Fisher Towers go to Youtube and search "Citi Accessories". It was a commercial Citibank ran a year ago and starts in Dead Horse Point and ends at the top of Fisher Towers).

hausfrau Jan 5th, 2013 09:36 AM

Spiro you are awesome. Thanks so much! This is just what I needed as a busy mom trying to figure out this trip quickly. I know the Grand Canyon is a little out of the way, but this trip hinges on it. It's going to be many years before our younger daughter is old enough to make the hike down into the canyon, so we will obviously be back someday. But for my 5-year-old to see the GC with her Granny - well, that's just gotta happen someway somehow, if you get what I mean.

We will definitely do something like Desert Highlights when the kids are a little older and we aren't traveling with the grandparents. Thanks for the link.

emalloy I will compare prices flying into Las Vegas. I've stayed at Ruby's and Cameron Trading Post, so I'm familiar with those. Obviously I'd prefer to stay at the rim so we could watch the sunset and not have to worry about getting back to our hotel, but we'll adjust if necessary!

tomfuller thanks for the suggestions! Cabins would be great for our family.

Myer, thank you for the additional suggestions. I have always wanted to see Antelope Canyon and I'm glad to hear it's an easy walk.

Thanks all, you've given me lots to work with. Keep 'em coming. I can always count on Fodorites to come through!

WhereAreWe Jan 5th, 2013 09:38 AM

You said the North Rim is a definite, the South Rim is just an option. Las Vegas is 1.5 hours closer to the North Rim than Phoenix and typically has cheaper flights and car rentals. You might as well just eliminate Phoenix from the equation and narrow it down to either Vegas or SLC for your flight.

Personally, I would eliminate Moab from your itinerary. There's plenty of interesting things in south Utah/north Arizona without adding in the drive to Moab.

hausfrau Jan 5th, 2013 09:38 AM

I meant to add - what is involved in getting a guide for Antelope Canyon? I assume it's on a reservation and that is why a guide is needed.

spirobulldog Jan 5th, 2013 10:20 AM

Just for kicks I checked flight prices from my base-Tulsa OK
from June 6 and return June 17--prices based on round trip. Not for sure where you are flying in from.
I've been to all of the places I mentioned multiple times. But--Haven't been to Page at all.

Salt Lake--$462
Las Vegas--$410
Grand Junc--$476

St. George might be worth checking flights there too. I've flown there twice. It would save you a little driving time. Grand Junction and Moab would save you a lot of driving time.

bigtyke Jan 5th, 2013 11:05 AM

From Flagstaff visit Walnut Canyon (short but somewhat steep hike), Meteor Crater, Petrified forest/Painted Desert. Sunset Crater - short hike at the crater, Wupatki - at the main ruins go all the way down to the blow hole and ball court. Visit some of the other ruins along the road also.

Near Bryce is Kodacrome Canyon with different geologic features.

emalloy Jan 5th, 2013 11:24 AM

To get a guide for Antelope canyon, just go to the parking lot, pay the lady, Then wait for them to take you in. I have some photos of it at in the 2008 set I think.

Myer Jan 5th, 2013 11:54 AM

You don't need a guide for Antelope Canyon.

A "guide" in many cases is just the person driving the truck/van or whatever you go in.

Some people book a van in Page. I drove into the parking lot and bought a ticket.

Our "guide" was a Navajo student who told us stories about his grandmother. We drove in an open backed truck (I took a plastic bag with to keep the dust off my camera). The drive was 10-15 minutes.

He actually knew many of the good spots for photos.

It takes about 15 minutes (non-stop) to walk from one end to the other and it's almost perfectly level.

Of course, stopping for photos will bring you up to the hour you spend there.

If you are into photography you can bring a tripod as I did.

Plan on going when the sun is high in the sky to maximize the effect of the canyon.

Once you're in the area you may want to consider Horseshoe Bend. It's about 10-15 minutes from Antelope Canyon. It's free to park in the lot and a 3/4 mile hike/walk of sand. At the end the water is 1000 feet down and no fence or barrier. So watch your daughter. But an amazing view of the Colorado River bending in the shape of a horseshoe.

You can see my photos of the areas you are planning on at:

Select the trips of interest.

hausfrau Jan 5th, 2013 06:34 PM

Spiro, we're flying from Detroit. We'll want to make it one non-stop flight since we'll have the two little ones, car seats, etc. and we want to keep the air travel as simple as possible. So that eliminates the smaller airports. I think it's going to be Las Vegas.

bigtyke thanks for the hike suggestions!

emalloy and Myer, thanks for the Antelope Canyon info. I will definitely put this high on the priority list. It's unusual for midday sun to be ideal for photography conditions, so that's a big plus, especially when I know this group is going to have trouble getting going early!

spirobulldog Jan 5th, 2013 06:41 PM

You will want to do your hikes in the morning or evenings in Moab. Mid-day can be hot. Now, if you are in a slot canyon, like those mentioned, then you have plenty of shade.

Tomsd Jan 5th, 2013 06:47 PM

On a laptop so all thumbs and pleez 'cuse.

There is nothing - repeat - NOTHING
ordinary about the Grand Canyon, especially your FIRST time.

There is a reason it is called Grand. It may not have the great slot canyon hiking opportunities, etc but it is still KING.

And even after one's first visit - on return trips - you realize it has everything all the other places have - except perhaps the Hoodoos at Bryce. Do not miss it!!

hausfrau Jan 5th, 2013 09:07 PM

Don't worry Tomsd, we won't miss the Grand Canyon. We've all been there (both rims, and some of us have hiked down) and we would all go back in a heartbeat. I've just reserved one night at the North Rim lodge, even though our dates aren't set in stone yet. Now to see if I can plan a trip around that one night!

TanuSilvester Jan 6th, 2013 04:05 AM

If you want to visit National Parks and monuments in Southern Utah then visit Capitol Reef National Park and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. If you go for a drive westward then you can go to Monument Valley near Mexican Hat

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