Need Help with Summer Utah/AZ Itinerary

Old Feb 23rd, 2018, 02:41 PM
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Need Help with Summer Utah/AZ Itinerary

Hi. Traveling this summer from NY to UT/AZ to see some national parks with kiddos (ages 13, 11, 7). We have 7/8 days so are cramming it full, something along the lines of this:
Night flight into Las Vegas.
Day 1 Vegas
Day 2 Drive to Zion and spend day there, sleep near Zion
Day 3 Drive to Bryce, spend day there, sleep in same spot as previous night
Day 4 Drive to North Rim and sleep in Grand Canyon
Day 5 Drive to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Day 6, 7, 8 ???
We are unsure if we should head up and tackle Arches/Canyonlands or head for a couple of relaxing days on Lake Powell, OR??? We could throw in Sedona, Salt Lake City. Really not sure if we should fly in through Phoenix instead and head up and out through Las Vegas instead or in through vegas and out through salt lake city.
We are hearing we need to stop in Page, AZ or hit Coal Miners Canyon and there is SO much to do and see we have to makes choices. We are up for anything our only requirement is that we sleep in the same place for 2 nights each time we move or it will be chaos with our kids since I will end up doing most of the packing! Open to any advice, recommendations and MUST places to sleep/stay. Thanks in advance!

Rachel
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Old Feb 23rd, 2018, 05:07 PM
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I would guess that you are late to make reservations in/near Zion and Grand Canyon. Look in the park and in Springdale. If you want 2 nights in one place consider doing 2 days in Zion, there is enough to keep you busy there and maybe try for lodging in a motel that has a pool in case it is hot at mid day so you could hike in the park early and late afternoon and cool off then. You will be spending an extra 2-3 hours in the car by not moving to Bryce.

The reason people suggest planning a loop trip is because car rental companies often charge a lot to drop at a different city.

To cut chaos, have the kids take out and hang up what they want to wear the next day before they go to bed, fold anything that can be worn again and repack it and put dirty things in a laundry bag, even if you are staying 2 nights put wet bathing suits in plastic bag when you are ready to leave. Something for an incentive like no screen time until it is done worked for me.

In Page you might like the half day smooth water raft trip on the Colorado River from the dam to Lees ferry, it goes by horseshoe bend. Or perhaps a trip on Lake Powell, tour of the dam, Antelope Canyon etc.

I adore the Moab area, Arches and Canyonlands are among my favorite parks, but it will be too hot for me to hike except very early in the day or early evening. I would limit the seats in the car time and spend more time in Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon and Page/Lake Powell. Or, just head to Moab on the hwy and do spend the time there, boat ride on the Colorado, Arches Canyonlands, etc.

But see if you can get lodging asap.
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Old Feb 24th, 2018, 10:17 AM
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I think you'll find car rentals much cheaper if you both pick up and return to Vegas. If that's the case, and if you arrive in the morning then I'd pick up the car and head out, skipping Vegas itself, at least at the beginning. You can easily make it all the way to Zion that day but a stop at the Valley of Fire (state park) is really worth while. It's a state, not national park, so often gets skipped. I drove right by it the first time. Or you could do this on your way back to Vegas.

You don't need to stay in the park at Zion. Tons of motels in Springdale just outside the park and there is frequent shuttle bus service to several places within the park. Spend at least one full day (two nights) there. Then on to Bryce. You could do it on a day trip from Zion but why, you'll end up doing extra driving and if you stay at Bryce you can see sunrise if you want, it's amazing. Besides in park lodging (which might be sold out) there is a place called "Ruby's" right outside the gates. Giant motel/hotel complex with a couple restaurants. Not as much to see there, so if you got there mid day after driving from Zion and spent one night, spent a bit of time the following morning that would be enough. On the other hand, if you spent two nights you could do a day trip from there and there are several good possibilities.

Then on to Grand Canyon. The north rim is about an hour or more from the nearest town/motel so it's best to stay at in-park lodging but if that is sold out (does so about a year in advance) then I just going in for one day is better than nothing. Then on to Page for Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe doesn't take long to see - you just hike over a bit of desert and look at it - certainly worthwhile doing but it's not like it takes all that long. Antelope Canyon requires reservations - you can make the reservations for free on line. First trip to the area we didn't know that and it would have been a three hour wait in 100 degree sun. And that was a few years ago, not sure you could get in at all without reservations now but do make them cause it was one of the best experiences I've ever had.

I would probably add a night to a couple of these places (you don't have time to add a night to all of them), skip doing Vegas all together and just get back to fly out. But depending on your flight times doing the last night in Vegas would let you get a look at it but not really take a whole day from the rest of the stuff.

Here are two trip reports (first one includes Zion, Bryce, GC north rim, and Horseshoe. Second one includes Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire).
Water in the Desert - The Great Southwest National Parks Trip
Spring Break in the Desert - Arizona and Death Valley

Photos - Zenfolio | Isabel's_View | Southwest US National Parks

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Old Feb 24th, 2018, 12:48 PM
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I agree that you should do a loop so you can avoid the steep drop-off charge for your rental car. Here's what I would do: when you arrive in LV, pick up your rental car and drive to Zion, stopping to visit Valley of Fire State Park on the way, as Isabel suggests - it's really cool, with unusual rock formations and some petroglyphs, and some easy short hikes. Spend the night (and the next) in Springdale, right outside the park entrance. Stay at the Desert Pearl Inn, if you can get reservations, the rooms are very spacious and I think the two queen bed rooms sleep six, because they all have a sitting area with a fold-out couch. and they have a kitchenette. If you can't stay there, try Flanigan's, it's nice too and they have some family suites. There's lots to do and see in the park, and it's one of my favorites, with hikes of varying levels and lengths.

Then plan to spend two nights near Bryce Canyon, since you don't want to do any one-night stays, there's a lot to do and see in that area. Here's what I wrote recently in another thread (with some edits): After you go through the tunnel in Zion (on the way to Bryce) the landscape changes dramatically, it's worth taking time to appreciate the drive. There's a great hike called the Canyon Overlook Trail that takes about an hour, and you're rewarded with a fabulous view into part of the canyon. The parking area for the trailhead is on the right just after you exit the tunnel. Bryce is really spectacular, and very different from Zion, but you can see most of the park in a day, driving along the road in the park to the various viewpoints. There are some good hiking trails there, too. If you spend two nights here you could drive on Scenic Byway 12 to do any (or all, if you get an early start and are ambitious) of these things: Go visit Kodachrome Basin State Park, where you can do a nice hike, visit the Devil's Garden, south of Escalante, and wander among the weird rock formations, drive on towards Boulder (or all the way there), stopping at the Head of the Rocks Overlook for the view, and driving over the very scenic stretch of road called the Hogback. If you have time, there's a really beautiful drive that starts in Boulder called the Burr Trail - it's paved for a long way, though does turn to gravel farther than you'd want to go - you can turn around when you think you've seen enough. That would fill up a long day (and there are other things to see and do along that drive I haven't mentioned because you probably wouldn't'y have time, such as the hike to Calf Creek Falls).

Then on to Page, stopping on route to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Spend the rest of the time before heading back to LV based in Page. Take the Antelope Canyon tour, but sign up as soon as you can, and try to go around noontime, when the sun will shine down into the very narrow canyon making the colors much more beautiful (assuming it's a sunny day). You can only go with a Navajo guide, and they will cancel the tour if there's any danger of flash floods. We did the Upper Antelope Canyon tour, which was really cool - there's a Lower Antelope Canyon tour, too, but you have to climb down and up ladders to get into and out of the canyon, and I've read that there can be lengthy lines of folks waiting for the ladders sometimes. I highly recommend the half-day flat water raft trip down the Colorado that leaves from just below Glen Canyon Dam, it's very scenic, relaxing, and fun. It ends at the beach where the raft trips that go through the Grand Canyon depart from. You go around Horeseshoe Bend, and it's fun to hike out later and see it from the top. That hike doesn't take very long, you just park on the road and walk out, I think it takes maybe about 15 minutes, if I recall correctly. The best time to see Horseshoe bend is either right after sunrise or shortly before sunset. However, with kids, please be careful, and be aware that there are no guardrails there - and it's a straight drop down into the canyon! You can take a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam, and there are boat rides that go out onto the lake. You can either take a public boat cruise, or do what we did the first time we went there and had our kids along, rent a power boat for a day on the lake. With five people (I'm assuming there are two adults?), that may even be less expensive than buying that many cruise tickets, or possibly comparable in price. If you want and decide you have time, you could make a day trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it's about a two and a half hour drive from Page. If you do, I'd suggest that instead of detouring to visit the North Rim, because it's at least an hour's drive from Jacob Lake to the North Rim - and I understand the views are better from the South Rim (I've never been to the North Rim, so I really can't compare).

If you had an extra night or two I'd suggest staying at the South Rim of the GC for a couple of nights after visiting Page, and heading back to LV via the southern route that take you past Hoover Dam, but I don't think you do. As for LV, there's not a whole lot for kids there. Depending on when your flight home is, you can either drive straight back from Page for a later flight, or spend one final night in Las Vegas before an early flight. Here are a few things your kids might enjoy, if there's time - see the fountains at Bellagio (my favorite thing in LV), walk around the various themed hotels on the Strip and gawk at how over-the-top many are (but you usually have to walk through casinos to get into any hotel, I'm not sure about the rules for kids being in the casinos). I think the Venetian may be an exception, I think you can access the Grand Canal shopping and restaurant area directly. The Flamingo Hotel has a nice tropical garden area with various birds (including flamingos) you can wander around, which is very pleasant. The Ethel M Chocolate Factory has an interesting tour, and they have a large and interesting cactus garden on the grounds, really interesting. If you're there overnight, The Fremont Street Experience might be fun for the kids.

I hope these suggestions help - have a great trip!
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Old Feb 24th, 2018, 01:30 PM
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Rachel, I think you are short changing the parks and spending too much time driving and not enough time visiting. Your kids are not going to enjoy this rush. Skip day 1 in LV. Go straight to Zion and spend 2 nts. there. There are amazing hikes there, but it will be hot so you need to start very early and then maybe go back to the lodging for some afternoon pool time. You might also opt to go tubing in the Virgin River. Go back in the late afternoon and see more once the canyon is in shade.

On to Bryce for at least 1 night. If you want to stay two nights, you could also visit Kodachrome Basin State Park or drive the awe inspiring Hwy 12 as far as Boulder and then back to Bryce.

Another option for what you think are your extra nights would be to include Capital Reef. A lot of good hiking to be done there also and a completely different landscape to enjoy.
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Old Feb 24th, 2018, 06:22 PM
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Thank you all for the great tips. Will look into flights in and out of Las vegas and lodging asap. Probably wont make Moab (arches/canyonlands) this time around (sadly) as Im realizing we would be cramming too much.
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