Southern Utah National Parks

Old Jun 5th, 2022, 04:22 AM
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Southern Utah National Parks

Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase Escalante and Capital Reef. Giving a little back for all the help I've received from Fodorites on different trips! Trip dates: May 10 -17, 2022. Two women friends reconnecting who enjoy hiking and sightseeing. This is basically going to be a 'brain dump.' with some conclusions at the end.
From the east coast we flew into SLC rather than Vegas. Beautiful airport, likely less busy.
Tues: Arrive late morning, drive to Springdale/Zion. 3 nights at Bumbleberry Inn. Nice room, terrific breakfast included at Oscars across the street. They get you in and out efficiently but you don't feel rushed. The staff is so helpful and happy! Zion is crowded and we were glad we weren't there on a weekend. Parking in the park fills up by 7:30 am but was OK in the afternoon. No cars beyond a certain point in the park so you have to take park shuttles, which run very regularly. Town Shuttles run to the park entrance starting at 8:00 but depending on where you are on the route it may be full when it gets to you. Once they get going, they go by about every 30 min but first thing in the am is tough. We walked into the park the first morning, then took a slightly later shuttle the next day. We went to the visitors center the first day and got oriented, then checked in. Dinner at Mimi's. Good and inexpensive.
Wed: Tried to get on the shuttle early but ended up walking into the park. Took the shuttle and did the hike to Scout's Lookout. Challenging but not terribly hard. Angel's Landing was closed that day but we likely wouldn't do it anyway due to fear of heights! Then we shuttled back toward town, stopped at the Zion Lodge for a beer, then attended a ranger talk at the visitor’s center and went to the gift shop, etc. Dinner at the Whiptail Grill, basic southwestern/Mexican.
Thurs: Took shuttle to the far end at the Narrows. Need to get outfitted in waders, etc. to walk into the Narrows, but we did the Riverside walk to the point where you need to be in the water. Pretty. Took shuttle back to The Grotto stop and did the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools hike. Nice, not as strenuous as Scout’s Lookout. Maybe 3 mi. Dinner at Oscars.
Fri: Drove from Springdale to Bryce. Did the Canyon Overlook Trail heading out of Zion, just after the tunnel. Got to Bryce early afternoon. Went to visitor's center to get oriented and then drove out to Yovimpa Point (9000’ ASL!). The shuttle doesn’t go this far. Walked the Bristlecone Loop trail, snacks for lunch. Stopped at a couple of lookouts on the way back.
We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Resort for 2 nights, in one of the cabins. They looked very shabby from the outside but were fine, except for the mouse that woke us up the second night rummaging around in our food. I would recommend just staying in one of the Ruby's properties, but it was fine. That evening we decided to splurge and have dinner at the Bryce Lodge. Because it was still somewhat pre-season they did a buffet ($36) and it was OK but not great. The advantage was that we could just walk out to the rim for sunset that night. Nice.
Sat: Our only full day in Bryce; we drove to the first shuttle stop in town (outside of the park) and rode it to Sunrise Point. Hiked down the Queen’s Garden Trail and up Wall Street. Highly recommended. Try to start early and bring water. Just take your time on the way up. ~3 mi, 3 hours with lots of stops. Some people recommend coming up Two Bridges instead of Wall Street, but I don't think its any easier and Wall Street is spectacular. Then we took the shuttle back to our car and drove to the Mossy Cave trail. Nothing too special. After dinner at the Ruby's Inn Cowboy's Buffet and Steak Room (a real throwback but not bad food, few choices in Bryce) we drove back into the park and parked at Inspiration Point and too the shuttle to Bryce Point. We walked the Rim Trail back to our car, 1.5 mi. Not hard but very high elevation and spectacular views. Came close to sunset so nice shadows on the hoodoos.
Sun: We got up at 5:30 to drive into the park for sunrise. Beautiful and worth it but it was 36 degrees that morning. All mornings in Bryce and Zion were chilly (40's) but this was the coldest. Glad we had our packable/light LLBean pully jackets and light hats and gloves! Then we drove through Grand Staircase Escalante to Boulder. Stopped at the Escalante Visitor's center and it was excellent and we learned quite a bit about the area. Ranger recommended a couple of hikes and we chose the Escalante Natural Bridge hike. Only 4 miles RT and flat, but 5 stream crossings each way and most of the trail was loose sand. Also very hot, no shade, and not enough water. This hike really sucked the life out of me and I'm not sure if it was the culmination of many days of hiking or the heat or the sand. Another option is Lower Calf Creek Falls.
We continued to the Boulder Mountain Lodge, where we stayed for one night. Fabulous place, nice hot tub. EXCELLENT dinner at their Hell's Backbone Grill. If you're in that area, don't miss it!
Mon: No breakfast available at the lodge but we stopped at the Magnolia Food Truck for an excellent breakfast burrito and coffee. Then we drove partially up the Burr Trail Road, which has spectacular views. Stopped at Long Canyon Slot, just a short way in. Apparently that road continues to be spectacular but turns to dirt and our rental wasn't equipped. Continued driving Route 12, spectacular views of the aspen groves. Got to Capital Reef around noon. Again, I think we were tapped out so we just did the "scenic overlook" kinds of activities to see the park. There are short hikes, but we were done I guess. Sad that we didn't really see either of these last two parks more and I would love to go back.
Spent that night, our last, at the Lodge at Red River Ranch. Really cool place, tons of western artifacts, beautiful great room with fireplace. Bring a bottle of wine to enjoy there in the evening! They even have their own buffalo heard. Breakfast wasn't included but was good. They didn't serve dinner and not much was open on Monday night. We ate at the Chak Balam Mexican restaurant. It was good, very casual.
Tues: Drove back to SLC.
Conclusions: We only had a week and felt that we split the time up well. Ideally it would have been great to have 2 more days at the end. Would have stayed at either the Boulder Mountain Lodge or the Lodge at Red River Ranch for another night or two. For us, 3 nights at Zion and 2 at Bryce were perfect. If we had another day at Zion we would have explored the less crowded Kolob Canyons part of the park. Mid-May was good for us, weather-wise as we don't care for too much heat. In addition to the traditional full-color NP maps, these parks also have more detailed trail maps available. Highly recommend going to the visitor's center, asking for recommendations, checking trail closures, and picking up one of these maps.

cindyj is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2022, 12:56 PM
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Sounds like a great trip.. Thanks for the report. I hope you get back for more time in the parks and hit Arches and Canyonlands too!
oldemalloy is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2022, 05:03 AM
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Thanks, it was. I have been to those parks on earlier trips in 1983 and 2011. But likely will get back!
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