Itinerary Advice for SLC - Moab - Zion

Old Jul 30th, 2015, 02:24 PM
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Itinerary Advice for SLC - Moab - Zion

My husband and I are in our late 20's, and while we are relatively fit, this will be our first adventure vacation, so we're a bit nervous with what to expect! We're going the week before Labor Day weekend. Would someone be able to review my itinerary to see if it makes sense? This will be an 8 night, 9 day vacation. We're flying into SLC, spending 3 full days in Moab, 2 full days in Zion.

Sat: Flying into SLC around lunchtime and drive to Moab.
Sun: Go to Arches to see if we get tickets for Fiery Furnace (it's been sold out). I'm not banking on getting it, so the major highlights will be Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Balance Rock, and Windows.
Mon: Either do a full day at Canyonlands/Dead Horse Point, or spend another 1/2 day at Arches and 1/2 day Canyonlands. At Canonlands, I would like to see the Grand View Point.
Tues: Do a 1-day whitewater rafting trip in Westwater Canyon.
Wed: This is a day spent going from Moab to Zion. We'll drive the scenic route 12 and make a few short stops along the way. Maybe Grand Staircase and/or Calf Creek Falls...?
Thurs: Narrows at Zion, and perhaps other hikes in the afternoon.
Fri: Visit Zion and do the Emerald Pools.
Sat: Leave Zion early in the morning and head to Bryce for a 2 hour horseback riding tour that starts at 9am. After the ride, we'll drive back to SLC and spend the night at SLC.
Sun: Early morning flight.

What do you think? I know I don't have all the hikes down yet. I figured I would do more reading in the next couple weeks to firm up the itinerary, but wanted to see if this makes sense. Are we over-exerting ourselves?! Thanks a bunch!
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 03:05 PM
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That looks doable to me--the only issue is that it is going to be HOT during the day. You might have to get up early and do hikes and then go back to the hotel, or see things at the visitors center, etc during the heat of the day. Carry lots of extra water in your car--even if its hot, its water.

Calf Creek Falls is a nice hike. I think you are going past Goblin Valley/Little Wildhorse Canyon--that's a great hike too. You could do both in one day if you really want to stretch your legs. One hike would be fine--I like them both, don't know that I could pick one!

Check out the nps.gov sites for the parks--they have great info on the hikes!

After the horse ride, I would drive the whole Bryce drive and stop at various view points--its very pretty. I really like the Bristlecone Loop trail at the end of the drive.

Are you staying downtown in SLC? What kind of food do you want for dinner?
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 03:37 PM
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Balanced Rock and the Windows section are pretty easy and quick, even Landscape Arch is fairly quick because it's less than a mile from the parking lot. Delicate Arch is the only 'big' hike that you have planned if you don't get Fiery Furnace tickets. You're definitely not over-exerting yourself.

If you can get tickets for a Fiery Furnace hike on either Sunday or Monday then arrange your schedule around that. Otherwise I think one full day at Arches and then split the other day between Canyonlands and Dead Horse is good. 1.5 days at Arches is a bit overkill if you aren't doing a longer hike like Devil's Garden.

Why not stay overnight at Bryce on your way to Zion? You're going right past it on Hwy 12. Do some sightseeing like StantonHyde recommended, and then get up early to watch sunrise before your horseback ride. Afterwards drive to Zion - you'll still have about 2 full days there (1 afternoon, a full day and 1 morning before going back to SLC.

I just seems to make more sense to skip the backtracking and give yourself the chance to see the sunrise at Bryce.
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 03:52 PM
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Stanton, I think we will stay in downtown SLC although we haven't booked a hotel there yet. We're not picky eaters but if you had some favorites, I'd love to hear them.

WhereAreWe, thanks for suggestion about Bryce! I've read how the sunrise at Bryce is unbelievable so we'll think about maybe spending a night there. We just don't want to short change Zion by giving it two half days on either ends instead of two consecutive full days.

I guess I'm not sure how tiring it is to be on our feet out and in the sun being that we've never done anything like this before! Maybe I'm a bit concerned between hiking the Delicate Arch, the 1 day Westwater rafting, Narrows (?), horseback riding, on top of the the 4+ hour drives in between. I'm sure we'll head back to the motel midday to get re energized if we need it though!
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 04:18 PM
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Some of my suggestions have already been given but I'll write them anyway.

Balanced Rock is a roadside pull off. You could spend 30-40 minutes there circling and going up close. I'm convinced somebody goes out at night and fixes it. Ha!!!

Windows is also quite short as the parking lot is in the middle.

Definitely try for Fiery Furnace.

There are various thoughts on Delicate Arch. I'm definitely in favor of going there late in the afternoon and hang around for sunset. The sun will set behind you and the Arch turns golden. For sunrise you have to somehow get there in the dark and the sun will face you when it comes up.

For sure Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point on the same day. If you remember that Citibank commercial (Youtube - Citi Accessories commercial) the first part of the commercial was shot in Dead Horse Point. Also, in Dead Horse Point do the very short and easy hike to Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch is the only arch I've seen that you are at the top. When you look thru look along the left side and you can see the Washerwoman doing her laundry.

The remainder of the commercial was shot about 20 miles east of Moab at Fisher Towers. You can easily hike along the bottom and looking up you can see The Corkscrew or also known as Ancient Art.

We did a morning whitewater rafting and it was enough for us. But you may want a full day.

The drive from Moab to Zion takes a long time if you make the worthy stops. Start very early or better stop part way for the night.

The rock sculptures at Goblin Valley State Park are worth at least an hour.

Lower Calf Creek Falls is a beautiful water fall but the hike is about 3 miles each way. It's level but very little shade.

Devils Garden Escalente 10 miles down Hole in the Rock Road is in my opinion a grown up Goblin Valley. Also worth an hour of walking around.

Just below Cannonville (about 20 miles before you reach Bryce Canyon) stop at the visitors center in the town and get instruction to get to Willis Creek. It's a real slot canyon. The hardest part is the adventure of driving there on a dirt road. But it's a very nice slot canyon. If you go make sure you go thru about 5 slots as they get taller and more impressive the further you go.

Bryce and Zion are only 90 minutes apart but they are totally different. Bryce is at 8,500 ft elevation and Zion is about 4,000 ft lower.

I would definitely sleep over in Bryce so you can get up in the dark and get to Bryce Point for a spectacular sunrise.

The big difference between the two parks in addition to the difference in elevation is that in Bryce you are at the top and go down while in Zion you are at the bottom and go up.

I would also try to get in the Navajo Loop down and Queens Garden up hike. Less than two hours but worth it. Remember, you're in elevation and you feel it coming up.

I've been to some of these places several times. If you want to see my photos go to:
www.travelwalks.com
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 06:37 PM
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Myer, those are some awesome pictures! I'll have to look through them more carefully when I'm on my desk top. Thanks for all those details. Helps a bunch gauge how much time each stop along highway 12 may take. Anyone know how much time a "quick" visit to the grand Staircase will take?

Also, what do you think if we timed visiting Bryce on our way from Moab to Zion for a sunset? Would that be a similar experience? This would allow us 2 full days at Zion. I would still probably want to go back to Bryce (on the way from Zion to SLC) for the horseback riding though...
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 07:42 PM
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Sunset at Bryce is a non-event. The canyon is in shadows long before the actual sunset, so it's really not dramatic or impressive.

I'm not getting the idea that you need two consecutive full days in Zion or you think you are shortchanging it somehow. You'll have the same amount of hiking time if you do an afternoon, full day and a morning - plus you will be in the car driving and resting on the half days so you won't need to take a break while you are in the park. Narrows is a half day, Emerald Pools is really just a 2-3 hour hike, and unless you do Angel's Landing you're probably going to just be doing fairly short/easy hikes for the rest of the two days. If there's no rush to get back to SLC, spend as much time at Zion as you want the last morning you are there - you could even stop at the Kolob Canyons section on the way back to SLC.
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 07:50 PM
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Mesa Arch is in Canyonlands, Island in the Sky district and it's a easy hike and should not be missed. Also make sure you go to Green River Overlook in Canyonlands...it's a WOW!

Park Avenue is a great overlook and a nice evening hike if you have the time.

No one has mentioned stopping at Capitol Reef and you will be driving right by there. It would be my first choice of places to stop on the drive between Moab and Bryce.

Utahtea
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 08:29 PM
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At your young age, hiking should be easy - ignoring heat.

Bryce - sunrise is an absolute and only at Sunrise Point (a parking lot available - no hike required)

Zion - allow 1/2 day for a strenuous hike to Angel's Landing - start before sunrise as the entire trail is facing the hot sun. A must do for a stunning view of Zion looking downward. Google: youtube angels landing hike video

The other hike is walking UP the river. Need a walking stick you can rent from a sports store in Springdale. I think the price is criminal, but unless you find a tree branch, no choice. Use this stick for balance and probing ahead to discover a deep hole.

Arches - Yes- sunset only. Only 3 miles round trip with a slight incline. easy. If you fail to receive a permit, for Fiery, definitely do the entire hike at Devil's Garden that is the soul of this park where a series of arches are displayed including Landscape - if it has not crumbled.. About 4 miles - I think that is one-way. Minor elevation change.

Canyonlands loop (Island In The Sky)

Mesa Arch as recommended above - 1/2 mile easy walk. This is a famous arch found in calendars and other tour documents. Google: mesa arch sunrise Problem: Be there BEFORE sunrise; otherwise, it is just a boring short and low arch.

I'm not a fan of Dead Horse, if time is critical. See about the same scenery as from Grand View which is the best view. Use at least 20 X binoculars.
Instead, use that time to hike Upheavel dome - short hike and recommended. Google: Upheavel dome hike.

Vaga
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 11:18 PM
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Vega, I beg to differ on Mesa Arch being boring if not there before sunrise!

Utahtea
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 03:07 AM
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Great, thanks Utahtea and Vaga! So does it sound like a better idea to do one full day at Arches and then another full day at Canyonlands rather than 1.5 day at Arches and 0.5 days at Canyonlands? I guess it's not a big deal and we can play it by ear and see how we feel after our day at Arches.

I'm still waffling back and forth on staying overnight at Bryce by taking a night away at Zion, WhereWeAre! You probably are right given all that everyone has said here about the sunrise at Bryce and what I've read so far. One of the reasons I've left the 2 full days is because Zion is one of the largest, most popular parks. So I wanted to give it more of a priority in case we get there and have a WOW! LETS DO THAT! moment. In exchange, Bryce becomes more of an "oversight" even though we have horseback riding. Wish I can stay there longer!

Talking about one of those WOW moments would potentially be Angel's Landing. We were leaving that up in the air to see how we are feeling after all this hiking and make a decision then. I've read it's a strenuous hike and not to be underestimated. I've youtubed it and again, just unsure. Like I mentioned earlier, my husband and I are young and healthy. We exercise daily, done a few 5K races, but have never hiked anywhere! So naturally, we are not confident with our ability. To add, I wouldn't say that either of us are scared of heights but I'm generally a worrywart by nature. I don't want to fall off the cliff haha! Anybody want to weigh in on Angel's? If we do end up hiking Angel's, thanks Vaga for the tip about we doing it earlier in the day to avoid some of that sun!
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 12:53 PM
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I'd say play it by ear with Arches and Canyonlands. Because Arches is only 4 miles from Moab, we like to go back in the evening and do an easy hike.

Utahtea
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 04:46 PM
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utahtea,

You are correct and I miswrote. Mesa Arch is definitely in Canyonlands and not Dead Horse Point as I wrote.

Mesa Arch is NOT boring unless you are there for sunrise.

If you go there for sunrise you have to be quite careful as you'll be walking in the dark.

As most people do, I disagree with almost everything Vaga write (always).

I think Dead Horse Point has more and better views than Canyonlands.

If I remember correctly, Canyonlands is about 25 miles from Arches. Why do it twice. I would go to Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands on the same day.

Zion is not one of the larger parks. In fact, it's really not large at all (the main part). Yellowstone is way bigger.

I don't think you should treat Bryce Canyon as an afterthought. Zion is beautiful. But there are many beautiful places. Bryce is different from just about any park you'll ever visit.

Just because Bryce has a Sunrise and Sunset Points doesn't mean they are good places for sunrise and sunset. As written above, sunset in Bryce is a non-event as everything of interest will be in shadows at that time.

In my opinion (see my photos) the best sunrise is at Bryce Point. You have to get there in the dark (we saw tour buses arriving as we were leaving). It's a 30-40 yard walk from the large parking lot to a viewpoint that protrudes into the canyon. Take with a sweater or more as it gets pretty cool and windy there. BUT WHAT A SPECTACULAR SUNRISE!!!!

This is what I would do for Bryce. Essentially, I would allow for two things; Sunrise at Bryce Point and hike down Navajo Loop (starting at Sunset Point) and hike back up through Queens Garden (ending at Sunrise Point). Navajo Loop and Queens Garden meet at the bottom. Also, if you do the hikes the way I described, your car will be at Sunset Point where you started and you will be at Sunrise Point. That's an easy half mile walk along the canyon rim.

If you want to drive along the scenic road, the only thing that's different from what you've now seen is Natural Bridge (that's really and arch they say).

The Grand Staircase Escalante is not a thing but an area with various places within its boundaries.

I believe some of the sights I described in my previous post are in the Grand Staircase Escalante; Lower Calf Creek Falls, Devil's Garden Escalante & Willis Creek. It's a pretty large area that extends from the west edge of Capitol Reef National Park all the way to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Several years ago I took my daughter to southwestern Utah for 3 days. The day we arrived we slept in the town of Escalante. The next morning after breakfast we started with Devil's Garden (we're both photographers so we wanted to get there before the sun got too high) then we drove over to Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead and did that hike (this is about 3 miles one way). From there we started driving towards Bryce Canyon (where we slept that night) and drove south past Cannonville and hiked half a dozen slots of Willis Creek.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon just as it was getting dim out.

I think I answered just about all of your questions.

If you have more just ask.
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 07:47 PM
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Myer, Utahtea - thank you so much! This is really helpful!!

The more I read and research, the more things I want to do! Just talked it over with my husband and we think we want to work in Angel's Landing.

Myer, I saw your sunrise progression photos at Bryce and you guys are right. It is amazing. Now, here's a thought... Bryce is about 1.5 hours from Zion, right? What do you think about leaving Zion early enough and drive over to Bryce? I'd imagine we would probably have to hit the road before 4am to get there in time. We're morning people so I think it would be OK but is it safe to drive that stretch in the dark?

How long does that Bryce Point, Navajo Loop, and Queens Garden take? The horseback riding meets Bryce Canyon Lodge at 8 or 9am. Anyone done the horseback riding before? How is it?

What stops, if any, along Route 12 have sites with parking lot and little hike needed? (This got me thinking after talking about Bryce.) I'm thinking that the drive from Moab to Bryce/Zion (wherever we stop at this point!!) is pretty long and we're probably not going to want to really hike for hours. I'm picturing that we'd take stops to see things on the quicker side, stretch our legs, have a snack, and keep on moving.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 05:20 AM
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Unless you hit traffic entering Zion from the east (there's a tunnel and they stop traffic if large campers want to go thru) I think 1.5 hours is about right.

I would be very careful driving in the dark in that part of the country. You don't want to hit anything on the road.

Personally, I would sleep over at Bryce.

At Sunset Point, where the Navajo Loop hike starts there are two choices (it's a loop). You pick one and go down and at the bottom, instead of coming back up the other part of Navajo Loop you connect to Queen's Garden and go back up. Navajo Loop is steeper so you want to go down the steep one and up the other (Queens Garden).

I don't think that's more than 1.5 hours down and back up.

I don't thing you'll be able to do the hike between sunrise and the horseback riding.
Along Rte 12 there are some viewpoint stops. Some parts of that road are a bit of an issue for some drivers (me). "Curvy Road, Steep Grade" signs kind of make you slow down. Make sure you stop when viewing the scenery. You don't want to go off the road.

There's a lot to see between Moab and Bryce Canyon.

Goblin Valley - No hiking but definitely worth the hour.
Lower Calf Creek Falls - A beautiful desert waterfall. This is about 3 hours.
Devil's Garden Escalente - 10 miles on the dirt road Hole in the Rock Road. No hiking but definitely worth an hour there.
Willis Creek - a real slot canyon. It's a flat, easy walk for about 30-45 minutes each way. The real adventure is driving there on a hilly, curvy, dirt road with ruts. But if you haven't seen a real slot canyon I'd highly recommend it. We've seen other people there but never a crowd.

As I get older many things skip my mind. But not any of the above. These are places you remember for the rest of your lives.

Unless you're planning to be back there, and many people have no plan to return until they've been there, try to see as much as you can. Not everything is in a national park.

I've been to the above at least twice and some three times.

Be careful with Angels Landing. We went as far as Scouts Lookout (all except the last part).
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 07:31 AM
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Great advice. Thanks Myer.

For Devil's Garden Escalante and Willis Creek: You talk about dirt roads. Will a standard car be OK for this? We are planning to rent a car at SLC's airport.

About Angel's Landing: That was my plan to just go as far as we can. I read that the last 0.5 mile was the most dangerous part, and if we take a look and see that it's not for us, we'll just turn around.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 12:41 PM
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I've been to Devil's Garden and Willis Creek twice each and used a regular rental.

The road to Devil's Garden is flat. Just don't go fast to kick up little rocks.

The road to Willis Creek is not super hilly but still it's a bit hilly. There are ruts on the hills so you get up a bit of speed to make it up these little hill.

There's a visitors center in the town of Cannonville. Stop there and get instructions on which road to take. There's now a sign at the parking lot. My first time there it didn't have one so we passed it and then backed up.

You shouldn't have trouble with other cars on the road because there are very few.

See these links:
http://www.backroadswest.com/trips/2...willis-canyon/

http://www.americansouthwest.net/slo...ek/canyon.html

http://www.zionnational-park.com/gra...ase-hiking.htm

http://www.takemytrip.com/00guide/ut..._escalante.htm

The last link has pictures though none of then really who the Willis Creek slots.

One shows the road and I also remember that little waterfall pictured.

I think anybody going there is in for a treat. Well worth the time.

About Angels Landing. You don't decide when to turn around.

You'll go up to Scouts Lookout and 90% of the people will be there. You have great views down from there.

Then a few people will continue up from there. Not me. My daughter wanted to go but I convinced her that her husband, daughter and mother might want her to return.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 03:29 PM
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I would inquire with the outfitter as to the route of your horseback ride before you decide which (if any) hikes you want to do in Bryce. There's not much point in hiking something you will also see on horseback.

As for getting up super early to drive to Bryce....I think you are making it unnecessarily complicated because you are hung up on spending 2 calendar days in Zion. I would not get up at 4 am on vacation to drive 1.5 hours when I could just sleep there overnight and drive 15 minutes (especially given that an overnight at Bryce would fit your itinerary perfectly). Not to mention Bryce has some of the darkest skies in the country so staying there overnight would allow you to experience a night sky that you probably have never seen.

And with that, I'll give it a rest and say no more about the overnight at Bryce.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 05:52 PM
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I would NOT recommend driving to Bryce in the hours before dawn. Central and southern Utah is loaded with deer and if you hit one (or several) it's a bad day for everyone.

Some things to think about that no one has mentioned. Zion is lower in elevation and will be hotter than hell. Refrigerator Canyon (part of the trail up to Angel's Landing) will feel really good! The views from Scout's Outlook, the place on the Angel's Landing trail where many stop before starting the chains section, as just about as good as the top.

Bryce is much higher and will be more pleasant temps, although the bottom of the amphitheater will be warmer due to the elevation difference. I would highly recommend staying at Bryce!

It would take years to visit all of Escalante Grand Staircase. It's huge and amazing, but driving through is wonderful scenery also. I agree the Calf Creek Falls hike will take you 3 of more hours. Also, unless you are there very early in the morning, there may not be any parking available. It's very popular and people start early, take lunch and spend the heat of the day in the shade swimming in the waterfall's pool.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:37 PM
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I think it's about 4 or 5 to 0 for sleeping at Bryce and not driving on those roads in the dark.
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