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Rocky Mtn-Arches-Bryce-Zion-Vegas-Yosemite whirlwind trip report

Rocky Mtn-Arches-Bryce-Zion-Vegas-Yosemite whirlwind trip report

Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:11 AM
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lisa
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Rocky Mtn-Arches-Bryce-Zion-Vegas-Yosemite whirlwind trip report

6/28-7/7/2002.

To attend a family wedding in Estes Park, Colorado: flew DCA-STL-DEN on American Airlines, arriving around 10 pm Friday evening. Picked up the rental car & drove to Estes Park. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Estes Park which was in a good location for getting around the area. Hotel was around $135/night and was fine.

Got up early the next morning and went hiking with family in Rocky Mountain National Park. Bought the $50 National Park pass, good for admission to all National Parks for one year (this paid for itself quickly, as I visited many other national parks later in the trip). We hiked to Nymph Lake, Bear Lake, and Emerald Lake – lovely scenery. Even though this was not a tough hike, I could really feel the altitude and am glad we didn’t choose a more challenging one since we all needed to acclimate to the elevation. A great website for Rocky Mountain National Park info, especially on hikes in the area, is www.explore-rocky.com.

We saw lots of deer and elk feeding at all hours, even in town. Apparently many of them are being driven out of their normal habitats due to the wildfires. I saw no evidence of the wildfires except at night, when some haze on the horizon around sunset was evident, and the wind blew the smell of the smoke into the area.

The wedding that evening was at the Black Canyon Inn’s Twin Owls Restaurant. They have a garden room that nicely accommodated our small group. The ambience was warm and rustic, with a cozy stone fireplace. We had excellent service and the food was wonderful. They have a website at http://www.blackcanyoninn.com/rest.html, where you can see the menu and facilities.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:11 AM
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lisa
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Departed Estes Park the next morning for Moab, Utah. Drove the Trail Ridge Road heading west, which was one of the most spectacular I have ever driven. It goes over the Continental Divide and at points the elevation is around 14,000 feet. This is slow driving with lots of dramatic scenery, steep grades and hairpin turns. Not for the faint of heart but well worth it. It took about 3 hours to get from Estes Park to where I met up with 70 West, and then another 4-5 hours to Moab. Once you turn off of 70 and start heading south toward Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab, the scenery starts to get really interesting again. It is about as different from Rocky Mountain National Park as it can possibly be, and going from one to the other in one day was an amazing contrast.

Stayed at the Days Inn Moab which was very basic at $63/night. Had an excellent chicken burrito smothered in green chile sauce at the Moab diner for dinner and crashed early. Got up early the next morning to take advantage of the cooler temps and toured Arches National Park, which was stunning. In contrast to Rocky Mountain National Park, some of the formations in Arches look eerily unnatural. I loved the way the reddish-orange color of the rock and soil contrasted against the blue sky. Arches is a fairly easy park to see in a small amount of time. By 1pm it was around 100 degrees and hiking was uncomfortable. Bring lots of water! My favorite site at Arches was the double arch, although most people seem to favor Delicate Arch.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:12 AM
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lisa
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That afternoon, headed to Bryce Canyon, which took me through more spectacular scenery, including Dixie National Forest and Capitol Reef National Park. I had wanted to see Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park as well, but those will have to wait for another trip. In planning this trip I had wondered if all of the scenery in southern Utah would look the same, and was surprised at how different each area was. Unfortunately I did not have time to stop at Capitol Reef except for a few photos at scenic turnoffs, but I will make a point to on another trip. The drive to Bryce Canyon from Arches took about 7 hours, with lots of stops for photos on the way.

That evening, checked into Bryce View Lodge, directly across from Ruby’s, and a bargain at $54/night. The room was basic but comfortable. The weather at Bryce Canyon was significantly cooler than it had been at Arches. Got up early the next morning and drove to Bryce Canyon Lodge where I checked in for my half-day trail ride. There are other trail rides offered in the area, but only the one that leaves from Bryce Canyon Lodge actually goes into Bryce Canyon – the others go to nearby canyons or just ride along the rim of Bryce Canyon. The ride went from around 8am to noon. My horse was “Anaconda” – a tough name for a very nice horse. The ride was terrific but incredibly dusty due to the lack of rain. In some places the dust on the trail was several inches deep, and with all the animals walking through it, by the end of the ride we were all coated in a light brown powder. I was very glad I had worn long pants, long sleeves, a hat, and especially my sunglasses, but if I had known how dusty it was going to be I would have brought a bandana to put over my mouth. Still, it was worth it. The highlight of the ride for me was Peekaboo Canyon.

After cleaning up, I had lunch at Bryce Canyon Lodge, which turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. I had the red trout which looked and tasted kind of like a cross between rainbow trout and salmon. It was delicious and a bargain at $7.95.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:13 AM
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lisa
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After lunch I drove to Zion National Park. I had been warned that the drive into the park from the east was a pain, but it was GORGEOUS and I would not have missed it for anything. It was one of my favorites of the trip and I made lots of stops for photos as the late afternoon/early evening light was casting that beautiful glow. The drive took less than 3 hours. Zion was much hotter than Bryce, and not as dry. The temperature was around 100 degrees. That evening I checked into the Best Western Zion Park Inn in Springdale, which was excellent at $75/night – my favorite hotel of the trip. The room was nicely decorated and had a terrific view, a nice pool, helpful staff, and was well-located with a restaurant and shops adjacent. I had a pretty good filet mignon at their restaurant that night and then went to see the IMAX movie which had great footage of the park, especially of the rock climbing. On my way back to the hotel after the film I stopped at the Worthington Gallery which has gorgeous ceramics by about 20 different artists, and bought a piece. They have a very good website at www.worthingtongallery.com.

The next morning I got up early to see the park before it got too hot. Zion has a mandatory shuttle system in the summertime, which, while I appreciate the need for it, did reduce my enjoyment of the experience somewhat. I actually preferred my previous day’s drive into the area because it afforded me the freedom of pulling over for photos whenever the spirit moved me.

By around 1pm it was about 106 degrees and time to hit the road for Las Vegas. The drive only took around 3 hours. I will be honest: I have never really had any desire to go to Las Vegas, and chose to include it for a night on this trip only because I needed someplace inexpensive to stop for the night between Zion and Yosemite, and because I had heard great things about Cirque de Soleil’s “Mystere” and “O.” I got a great deal at Harrah’s for $35/night. The room was comfortable and fine but nothing special. I missed having a coffeemaker in the room, and the TV got very few channels (e.g., no HBO). But for the price, it was very good, and the service was excellent. I must say, for whatever reason, the employees in Las Vegas are the most cheerful I have ever seen anyplace – from the parking attendants to the desk staff to housekeeping and room service – either they get lots of good tips or they just all happened to be in a terrific mood the day I was there. I’m not sure what it was, but it was refreshing to see.

That evening I went to see “Mystere,” which was as amazing as I had heard it would be. Bizarre, dreamlike, silly, mysterious, funny, awe-inspiring, and jaw-dropping. After being moved by the wonders of the natural world for several days, it was interesting to focus for a couple of hours on human ability and be moved and inspired by what it is capable of doing. I’m glad I went, and Vegas was worth it just for that experience.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:15 AM
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lisa
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The next morning I got up very early for the long drive to Yosemite. I chose a route that took me through Death Valley National Park, just to see what it was like. I had expected it to be barren and desolate – and it was – but in a beautiful way. After the glitz and lights of Vegas, it was the visual equivalent of a palate-cleansing sorbet, preparing me for the wonders of Yosemite.

I left Vegas around 7am and entered Yosemite National Park through the Lee Vining/Tioga Pass entrance by 3:30 pm. From there it was another hour and a half to the Valley. The drive over the Tioga Pass was very pretty but not nearly as difficult as I had heard. In fact, compared to the drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, it was a breeze. Of course I had to pull over for lots of photos on the way. I can’t even describe the feeling I had when I first saw Yosemite Falls, and I realized it was July 4th, and I felt so lucky to be there. After checking into my room in Cedar Cottage at Yosemite Lodge that would be my home for the next three nights ($109/night), I took a quick drive around the valley floor to take advantage of the last couple of hours of daylight. It was just before dusk, and there were quite a few deer in the meadows, just lovely. The valley does cool off quite a bit as it gets darker – in the daytime it was in the 90s, but in the evening it was in the 60s-70s. The room fan was welcome as there is no air conditioning, but it was very comfortable with the fan. I had an excellent trout dinner that night in the Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge and promptly crashed after the long day of driving.

I found the location of my room at Yosemite to be just perfect and I would definitely stay there again. Although the room was pretty spartan, it was very comfortable. In addition to the restaurant, there is a store, a cafeteria, a bar, a pool, post office, ice cream stand, tour desk, and bike rental – all very convenient. You can either drive around the park (fine in the mornings and evenings, but bumper-to-bumper between around noon and five pm, with not enough parking spaces for all the daytrippers), or use the free shuttle system which is very easy. Yosemite is HUGE and in three days I barely scratched the surface. The Valley tram tour was a good introduction my first morning there. That afternoon I drove to Glacier Point which had a wonderful view. On my second day I took a half-day trail ride to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, which was excellent, and on the way back stopped in the Village to see the “Spirit of Yosemite” movie at the Visitors’ Center (very good) and bought gifts at the Ansel Adams Gallery (which I loved).. I had another wonderful dinner at the Mountain Room restaurant at the Lodge – a pork rib roast which was juicy and flavorful and so generously portioned that I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. On my last day I drove to Wawona and Mariposa Grove and saw the big trees, and had a terrific salmon dinner at the Ahwahnee. Also, every evening there are various programs all over Yosemite – campfires, films, ranger talks, stargazing walks, etc. Since there are no TVs in the park except at the Ahwahnee, these give everybody something to do in the evening, and most of them are free. One night I saw a presentation on mountain climbing which was great, and another night one of the photographers gave a talk and slide show with pointers on photographing sights at Yosemite. These are definitely worth seeking out.

The last day, I drove to Fresno (around 2 hours or so from the Valley, depending on stops and traffic) where I returned the rental car and flew home. Eight rolls of film later, and with a renewed appreciation for our National Parks, here I am!

Any questions, feel free to post here.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 11:28 AM
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Sara
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Lisa, thanks so much for such an interesting and well-written trip report; I enjoyed reading it. I'm sorry that you didn't have more time to spend at Zion, it was one of our favorites, but you certainly did cover a lot of ground and saw many wonderful things in a short amount of time!
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 01:45 PM
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diane
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Thanks for an interesting report. I've been many of the places you describe and have happy memories of throwing snowballs in August in Rocky Mt. National Park. I have also seen the IMAX movie in Springdale with its exciting rockclimbing scene where I was sure the girl was going to die. I hope to see more of southern Utah's parks, but it'll have to wait until I am no longer teaching and can go in the fall or spring.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2002, 07:34 PM
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Utahtea
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Lisa,

Sounds like you had a fantastic time.

Only one question. You said you liked Double arch over Delicate arch. Did you hike to Delicate arch or did you just go to the Delicate arch view? Double arch is one of our favorites and so easy to get to, but the whole area around Delicate Arch when you hike there is so fantastic!

Utahtea
 
Old Jul 10th, 2002, 07:10 PM
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Tricia
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Lisa, I so enjoyed reading your report!
We just returned from Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, Glen Canyon Rec. Area, North Rim, Las Vegas, Zion & Bryce. My favorites were all of Moab & The North Rim.
I'd also like to know if you hiked to Delicate Arch. My family did, on our second day in Moab. Elevation was truly a factor for me. We're all in good shape, but I needed to sit and rest 1/2 way up this slick rock trail. This hike was a real highlight for us!
Again, great report. Thanks, Tricia
 
Old Jul 16th, 2002, 02:04 PM
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toppin
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Old Jul 19th, 2002, 08:55 AM
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Old Jul 19th, 2002, 09:18 AM
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Bill
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Thanks for the trip report Lisa. I especially liked the comment about being at Yosemite Falls on July 4. I also enjoyed the reference to Trail Ridge Road in RMNP. Having done that drive last year you can probably identify when I say YIKES! I also hiked to the lakes you mentioned at RMNP. Pictures cannot do justice to the scenery in person.
 
Old Jul 19th, 2002, 02:39 PM
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