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Itinerary Help! Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion etc. with kids


Itinerary Help! Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion etc. with kids

Old Feb 6th, 2013, 05:38 PM
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Itinerary Help! Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion etc. with kids

My husband and I are planning a trip out west (driving from Ohio) with our 9 and 11 yr old children in June this year. He was just finally able to confirm the dates he could get away from work, so now I'm in a huge time crunch to make reservations. I'm having a hard time deciding how long to spend at each location, as well as how much we will actually be able to do during our trip. We will have about 10-11 days there. This doesn't include our driving time there and back.

We plan to drive 2 different routes. I originally looked at starting out along the southern route through OK, TX, and NM to the Grand Canyon before heading north to Zion, Bryce and then into CO before heading home from there. However, there doesn't seem to be any rooms available for those dates at the Grand Canyon. There are rooms available if we reverse our route and do the Grand Canyon part last before returning home. This might be a better route anyways since it won't take us as long to hit CO as it would were we driving straight to the Grand Canyon. They won't be as tired of being in the car if we have some things to see/do earlier in our trip. We'll just torture them with the longer trip on our way home! I know that we can try to get rooms later due to cancellations, but I need to at least have something lined up. Looks like the only rooms available at the end of our trip are at Yavapai. I can try to get one of the other locations later if needed.

So, if I list some of the things we'd like to see, can you give me suggestions of how long we'll need in each place? These are just ideas. Seeing the Grand Canyon was our original goal, but we are open to suggestions. I was at Bryce and Zion 25 years ago, but didn't have much time at either, so would like to go there again. We will be looking for family-friendly hikes and other things geared towards our kids.

1. Grand Canyon - north vs. south rim. I've been there, but nobody else has. The north sounds nice due to where else we want to go and lower crowds. But, it seems like there might be more for the kids to do at the south rim. Two nights here? Or is one enough?

2. Zion - 2 days here? Will try for Zion Lodge

3. Bryce - 1 day? Will try to book Ruby's

4. Page, AZ - from what I've read here, it sounds like there are several things in Page that the kids would enjoy.

5. Mesa Verde - son (11) just studied this at school and wants to see if possible. Stay in Durango? He also wants to do some whitewater rafting. I read about float trips in Page, but he's determined to see whitewater! Sounds like they have some family trips there.

6. Four Corners - yes, a tourist trap. I've been there. But kids have it high on their list of things to see! And it doesn't seem too far out of the way if we're going to Mesa Verde.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me! I've bought the books, and have read tons of trip reports here, as well as questions that others have asked. So many are flying into Vegas and planning circle trips from there. It's hard for me to figure in the fact that we're arriving from the east, and hoping to see some sights in Colorado along the way.
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 01:34 AM
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one at the Grand Canyon is plenty

At Bryce go for Bryce Lodge, Ruby's second

Stay at Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde

If money is no object check out www.soaringcolorado.com
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 02:28 AM
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I would always opt for staying in the parks if possible, but with kids do plan some overnights at hotel/motel with pool too.

At your first NP get a pass - $80, good for a year at all parks.

If you head for Denver first, hit Mesa Verde at the beginning of your trip. There are some nice things to do in that area, like the train from Durango to Silverton, and maybe some rafting etc.

The half day raft trip from Page is very nice but very much a smooth water trip so if white water is a priority I would not spend my $ there.

If you can sign up for the ranger led tours in Mesa Verde, do that when time gets close. As I recall it will take you about an hour to get there if you stay outside of the park, so if you can stay in the park at Far View Lodge. If you are planning on doing the tours, probably 2 days (1 or 2 nights) would be good there.

If you do 1 night in MV, head down 160 to Kayenta for the night then jog up 163 to Monument Valley for a quick look before heading either north on 89 to Page or South on 89 to 64 for Grand Canyon.

Be sure to fill your gas tank before you set out, the distances are far and services are spotty. There are clusters of hotel/motels in towns like Springdale UT, Kanab UT, Durango CO, Cortez, CO, Page AZ, Farmington NM and of course near large cities and where major routes intersect interstates along the route..

If you do go down through New Mexico, look at Bandelier, Tent Rocks, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Taos as places that have interesting things to see.

If you decide to head back along 70, loop up through Rocky Mountain NP on the way back for a different look at the road home.

Do put your destinations into the search box at the top of the page for some suggestions from others.
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Old Feb 8th, 2013, 03:14 AM
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We also stayed at Lake Powell, to break up the trip. Our kids appreciated just having a swim and not trekking and looking at views! Whilst there we went to Antelope canyon which we had seen advertised by flyer, its an amazing slot canyon and was a highlight of our trip.

As mentioned above, monument valley was amazing, but felt a long slog off route (but then to us brits, 2 hours in a car is a lifetime!)

Make sure at Zion you leave enough time to hike through the river up the pass, our kids loved the adventure of this.
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Old Feb 8th, 2013, 01:02 PM
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Thanks for your replies! I've been able to book a few places, but need to work on fine-tuning our itinerary.

spirobulldog - I hadn't checked Bryce Lodge. See so many mention Ruby's. Thanks for the tip! Boy, that Soaring looks amazing, but don't think we can justify the expense with what we'll be spending just on gas and lodging!

emalloy - great advice. Was definitely planning on getting a NP pass. We'll use it here around home too. I hadn't looked at Monument Valley but will check it out. Not sure if the kids will go for extra driving just for the scenery though!

LizzyLew - definitely putting Antelope Canyon on the list. Our kids are going to demand some places with pools! Trying to plan enough down time for them to relax. My last 2-week driving trip was on your side of the pond - great trip!
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Old Feb 8th, 2013, 01:36 PM
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Again, thanks for your tips. I just need to decide how long to stay at each place, and if what we have on the list is doable. Trying to keep it as kid-friendly as possible.

If we have 10 days starting in Colorado Springs:
Day 1 - drive to Durango
Day 2 - Durango (stay here a 2nd night or go on to MV?
Day 3 - Mesa Verde (Far View Lodge)
Day 4 - Drive to Page with stop at 4 corners
Day 5 - Page
Day 6 - Drive to Bryce (Bryce Lodge)
Day 7 - part of day at Bryce, then on to Zion (Zion Lodge)
Day 8 - Zion
Day 9 - Drive to Grand Canyon
Day 10- Grand Canyon (2nd night there or head out somewhere
like Flagstaff or somewhere along the way to Albuquerque
before starting the drive home from there)

Sound reasonable? Thinking about moving the stay in Page to after our stay in Zion. Have a stepson in Phoenix that might drive up to join us for a few days. Page, then Grand Canyon would be convenient for him.
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Old Feb 8th, 2013, 05:06 PM
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Day 1--It is only a 5+ hour drive. What time do you arrive?
The Great Sand Dunes would be a short detour, if you haven't been there

Day 2--What do you plan on doing in Durango?

Day 3 Plan on spending the entire day here, its fantastic. See as many of the dwellings/house areas as you have time for. I doubt you would have time for Wetherill, but I hear it is very good section of the park(we had two days there and didn't make it to it).

Day 4 Are you not going to see any of Monument Valley? You are right there. Taking a 2 or 4 hour guided tour would be the way to go.

I think 1 day at the GC. Add any extra days to Zion.
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Old Feb 8th, 2013, 07:02 PM
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Will leave for Durango 1st thing in the morning. Had thought about the Sand Dunes, but wondered if it was too much for a day. We have been to the sand dunes along Lake Michigan many times so it might not be a big novelty for the kids, but the scenery sure would be different!

11yr old wants to take a whitewater rafting trip, so we hope to do that in Durango. Thought about the train, but will be taking the train to Pikes Peak while in Colorado Springs. Might not want another train ride, no matter how different they are. Maybe we should move on to Mesa Verde after a raft trip.

Day 3 Definitely planning to spend the entire day here. If we only do one night in Durango, we could stay 2 nights in Mesa Verde.

Day 4 Will look more at Monument Valley. Looks beautiful.

Think I will drop a day from GC. I know we would enjoy the hiking at Zion more anyways. Original plan has us driving there from Zion, so I added the extra day since we might not arrive until later on the 1st day. However, if I move the stop in Page around to after Zion, we would arrive at GC earlier in the day. Spend that 1st day there (arrive Day 10), then part of the next day before departing for home.
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Old Feb 9th, 2013, 05:58 AM
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Consider doing canyoneering in Zion with Zion Adventure Company.
It's very safe. This is also the company that you will want to rent your shoes and maybe a wetsuit for The Narrows hike(if you do that one).
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Old Feb 9th, 2013, 06:12 AM
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I' d recommend the South Rim over North. As you say, the N is quieter, but for kids this translates into boring. It also offers primarily one view of the canyon, where the S offers a variety of different views. If you are doing any hiking there at all, definitely two nights in the GC. Put cameras in the kids hands and have fun!
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Old Feb 9th, 2013, 11:47 AM
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I agree on the hike through the water at Zion. our kids enjoyed that a lot. Be sure and have water shoes. Don't shortchange Bryce. `Hiking down into the Hoodoos is amazing and your kids are probably at a good age to do it, too. i believe there is an indoor pool at Ruby's.
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Old Feb 9th, 2013, 09:03 PM
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The National Park Service has a junior ranger program online for kids. In addition, each park has free ranger led programs for families. You can look them up at each park in advance.

Its more fun if your kids are involved in the planning and know a bit about where they are going.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 02:33 PM
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If you don't have time for a Monument Valley tour, you can see quite a bit as you drive through on the highway, or you can go on up to the visitor's center and look around from there. There is a charge to park - around $15-20 from what I recall from last year.

Lee Ann
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Old Feb 20th, 2013, 10:19 AM
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The only single-day white water rafting trip available in the Grand Canyon area is Hualapai River Runners' trip out of Peach Springs Arizona. Technically it does not occur within Grand Canyon National Park, but on Native American Tribal Land. But it does go through 9 sets of moderately rated rapids and children as young as 8 can take part.

Peach Springs is out in the middle of nowhere and the trip leaves at 7 AM (check-in), so you should stay somewhere in that area the night prior and the night you get back since it's an "all-day-and-then-some" trip.

Another option is to catch the trip out of Williams or Flagstaff AZ with round-trip transportation included. Info re: Williams/Flagstaff departures ->: http://bit.ly/12kbteP For Peach Springs info ->: http://www.grandcanyonwest.com/rafting.php
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Old Feb 20th, 2013, 06:49 PM
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With kids--stay at Rubys, not the lodge in Bryce. Much more modern and easy to manage. At Zion, stay at the Desert Pearl Inn or Cable Mountain Lodge, not in the park. That way you have choices of restaurants or you can cook in your room or get take out and eat in your room.

Mesa Verde is awesome!
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