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Montana to Grand Canyon

Old Mar 23rd, 2012, 06:49 PM
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Montana to Grand Canyon

We are planning to travel from our home in Montana to the Grand Canyon around Thanksgiving. Not interested in Salt Lake City, but would like to hit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks during the trip. Perhaps one on the way down, and the other on the return.
So, some questions for those who have been there.
Is two days in the GC long enough to appreciate it, or do we need three or four?
How about time in Bryce and Zion? We won't be hiking long trails, just walking (age does have its down side) a bit.
Places to stay in Bryce and Zion? Would we need really advance reservations?
Is the El Tovar in GC worth the money? We will want to eat there, but I have seen mixed reviews of the rooms. How about a rim cabin instead?
All answers appreciated.
JohnOB
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Old Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:16 PM
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Definately need reservations.

1 Day at the Grand Canyon is long enough unless you are going to hike down or raft(rafting requires several days). El Tovar is good. A lot of people like Bright Angel Cabins on the rim, but you need to call a year in advance to get those. I think there are only 4 of them.

Zion, if you are not going to hike does have a bit of a downside, but perhaps you could at least do the Riverwalk.
Stay at Zion Lodge(a lot of people like Desert Pearl, just outside the park)

Bryce, you can see a ton from the top, but a horseride would be nice down into it. Stay at Bryce Lodge.

Certainly see the places you mention. However, Arches is a park that you can see a lot in with very little effort(not much hiking/walking in other words). Goblin Valley is a great little place to that could be seen withouth any effort. It is a bit more than an hour away. You could take an SUV tour here. Even an air tour on a small plane is great here.

Hwy 12 from Bryce-drive thru Capitol Reef. It is my least favorite park in Utah. However, I think the drive thru it might be the prettiest. All the Utah parks have great color, but Capitol Reef might be the best.

Probably one full day in each park and one night in park would be just fine. Stay up late or rise early to catch a sunset or a sunrise a time or two. The stars in Utah are worth a trip outside and let your eyes adjust for an hour or so.

If this is for summer 2012, then you are probably to late for reservations(you could most likely get some cancellations). If this is for 2013, then perfect you could probably get exactly what you want, including the rim cabins.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:19 PM
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I'm not sure what the difference is between walking and hiking. I look at elevation gain/loss to be as big of a factor as the distance. Many trail are easy, so consider a few of those. Just remember that a lot of the trails go down, and it is harder coming back up.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:21 PM
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One more thing. Buy a National Park Pass-$80 for a year. If you are a Senior, then that a lifetime pass in only $10.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2012, 10:37 PM
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Spirolbulldog: "If this is for summer 2012, . . ."

The OP says the trip will be around Thanksgiving. I haven't been to any of those parks at that time of year - would your recommendations be different for late Nov.? I'd think that would be a bit late for Bryce for example.
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 03:05 AM
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Usually not too bad in the Fall classic.mapquest.com directions distances try to come down via Yellowstone Tetons & Jackson VERY scenic have based in Moab for Arches and other Utah parks then St George for Zion. Have never reserved any place but El Tovar and Phantom Ranch IN the canyon both well worth it. Tovar is the very best for upscale hotel there.
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 04:28 AM
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I missed Thanksgiving. Reservations won't be nearly as hard to come by. I would be suprised if any rim cabins would be available though. Do make them your reservations now. Bryce Lodge will be closed by then. Weather could be a factor in Bryce, but then again might not. I was at Zion the 3rd week of October a couple of years ago and weather was perfect, but not sure how it would be in November. Ruby's would probably be your next best bet for lodging since Bryce Lodge is closed by then(I think it is anyway).

Do not stay at St. George for Zion. Thats several miles from Zion.

I still think probably one day at each spot. This means a full day and does not include any driving.

If you haven't been to Salt Lake City, it is worth a half a day to a day to visit a couple of the major sights there. I didn't think I was interested in it until my parents convinced me otherwise.
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 04:33 AM
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I just looked, Bryce Lodge closes on Nov 11, 2012 for the season.
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 05:16 AM
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Great info. I have the Senior Pass. Living so close to Yellowstone, that's a must for me.
I had not thought about the other parks in south Utah. Will look at them now. We have also decided to go to Four Corners, just because.
I can see this changing from a GC focused trip to a "see the high desert" exploration.
Any other input is welcome.
John OB
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 08:14 AM
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Really, it might be a good time to go at Thanksgiving. if the weather cooperates, you may have the place to yourself.
Goblin Valley is a state park-truly the most unique are in Utah. Deadhorse Point is another good place. Deadhorse is very similar views as the grand canyon, so I might skip that one.

Page area might be another good spot.

If you have 3 miles in you with a bit of an elevation gain, I would for sure try to make it to Delicate Arch. Landscape Arch is an easy easy walk. Both of these are in Arches National Park. You can see it from a view point, but it just isn't anywhere near the same. Double Arch(not to be consufed with Double O), Balanced Rock, and The Windows are all easy 5-10 minute walks to stand right under these.

Stop at the Gifford House in Cap Reef for homemade pies. I'm not sure they are open in November or not.

Hwy 12 is a really nice drive. You might want to take a little side road to Devils Garden in Escalante area(don't confuse this with Devils Garden in Arches).
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Old Mar 24th, 2012, 11:58 AM
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If you can't get el Tovar or a rim cabin, look at Thunderbird or Kachina. They are right between el Tovar and Bright Angel and are like typical motel type accommodations. You don't really get to see much of the canyon from any of the lodges unless you have a high room or are in one of the rim cabins, but all of them are just steps from the rim. The rooms, linens, bathrooms in el Tovar are much nicer than in the other places. I've stayed at Yavapai, Bright Angel, Thunderbird and el Tovar (room with no view) and it was nicer, but all of the others were fine: clean, comfortable beds, great location.
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Old Mar 31st, 2012, 09:25 AM
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If we were to go from Zion NP to the Moab area to see the Arches, how long would that take?
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Old Mar 31st, 2012, 02:24 PM
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The fastest way is to go up 15 to 70 and that would probably take 5 or 6 hours. The more interesting way, across southern Utah, would take a couple hours longer, if you did not stop to look at the beautiful scenery.
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