Utah NP's 4/2009

Old Dec 17th, 2008, 11:09 AM
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Utah NP's 4/2009

I am a single mom thinking of going to the NP’s of Utah for my 12yo son’s Easter Break. I would like to travel with him between April 11-19, 2009. Our interests are light hiking, biking, and natural museums. He’s into paleontology and geology. I have no idea where to start (and finish) our trip, even after viewing the posts.

Can anyone give me a somewhat generic itinerary so I have some place to start?
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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I fogot to add we are from San Francisco and would not be driving from home, rather we would fly.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 11:27 AM
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Fly into Salt Lake City, pick up a car and visit Dinosaur National Monument---with his interest in paleontology, you might want to spend 2 or 3 nights there. Then drive to Moab and spend the rest of your time there, visiting Arches and Canyonlands.

You "could" include Zion, but that adds a considerable amount of driving time. I think you'll have plenty to do with the above 3 parks.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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If you go to Moab, include Dead Horse State Park in your adventures.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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Lucky you, just4me. Back when I was a single mom, I loved thoose spring break trips with my boys.

WE never made it to Dinosaur, but eit sounds like a good fit for your son. And you will have a great time at Moab---there is so much to do.

One thing you might consider is a guided bike tour. Something like these:


Or ask the people at Poison Spider bike shop for advice on tours and guides:


For hikes in the two national parks, you can probably find NPS-guided hikes.

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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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Hi just4m3,

Just a caveat--be sure to check with Dinosaur Nat'l Monument before making a plan to stay too long. Last I knew, the really cool quarry where you could see bones, etc. was closed due to unsafe conditions.
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 06:09 PM
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At that time of year, Zion is your best bet. As GLLinda says, the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument is currently closed. Also, the weather can be cold there in April. Going in summer is better.

Even Moab can be cold then. Fly into Vegas instead and go to Zion. Or go to Tucson and visit the desert parks.

If your son does like dinosaurs, don't miss the show in San Jose next weekend.

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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 07:39 PM
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If he likes geology I think Grand Canyon would be at the top of the list. Maybe fly to Vegas and see Zion and Grand Canyon.

I also liked Capitol Reef and Moab/Arches but I'm not sure what it is like in April.
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 09:09 PM
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I'm going to throw my vote in for Dinosaur NM and the Moab area. There is a temporary visitor center open at Dinosaur and a hiking trail that goes past many fossils. Not as good as the old visitor center/quarry but still probably worthwhile.

Moab has several dinosaur tracks in the area. You can go to this website: http://climb-utah.com/index.htm and pick either the Moab area or Family Fun for some info on the dino tracks and easy hikes. It goes without saying Moab has a lot of biking.

As far as temps, these are the average temps at Dinosaur, Arches/Canyonlands, and Zion for April (taken from the park websites at nps.gov )
Dinosaur: High 63 Low 31
Arches/Canyonlands: High 71 Low 42
Zion: High 73 Low 43

There's basically no difference in temps between Moab and Zion so that shouldn't be a factor. Dinosaur will be colder but the highs are similar to what you would have in San Francisco at that time.

I'd fly into Salt Lake City, spend about 1.5 days at Dinosaur and the rest of your time in Moab. Your itinerary would look something like this:
Day 1: fly into SLC, drive to Dino NM if an early flight, otherwise spend the night in SLC
Day 2: Dino
Day 3: Drive to Moab either morning or afternoon, depending on how long you've already spent at Dino
Day 4-8: Arches, Canyonlands, etc.
Day 9: head back to SLC
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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 04:44 AM
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If wind up going with Moab, consider www.deserthighlights.com

I did this with my daughter when she was 12 and it is great, but adventurous. There is a ton to do in Moab.
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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 10:09 AM
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I forgot to add that the drive from Dinosaur NM to Moab will take you very close to Fruita, CO. Not only is the entrance to Colorado National Monument right outside town, but there's a dinosaur museum, Dinosaur Hill (short hike where 2/3 of a dinosaur skeleton was excavated) and other dinosaur themed stuff in town. Well worth stopping for half a day or even an overnight if that works better with your itinerary.
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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 10:19 AM
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Wow, thanks for all the great input. I've been sick for a few days and was unable to view everything. I'm sure I'll have additional questions once I start booking.
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Old Dec 21st, 2008, 11:13 AM
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I started working on my reservations and quickly I found a glitch.

We do want to go the Dinosaur National Monument, and we would like to go to some of the National Parks. Direct flights from San Francisco to Las Vegas are easier to find than direct flights to Salt Lake City (and cheaper too) but price is not the issue. Arrival time is more important as is a non-stop flight.

For travel between April 11-19th, which would be a better place to fly in? Would we be pushing it too much to fly in/out of Vegas and include Dinosaur? Or would it be too much to fly into Salt Lake City and try and get to Bryce?
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Old Dec 21st, 2008, 11:49 AM
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If you can depart from Oakland, Southwest has direct, non-stop flights to Salt Lake City---at least 2 a day. And lots of flights to and from LV.

It might work well to fly into Salt Lake and out of Las Vega, but check the drop fee on the car rental before you book the flights.
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Old Dec 21st, 2008, 02:36 PM
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Weather should not be a problem in Moab during spring break but Moab is crowded over Easter weekend for a jeep rendezvous. Many rooms are reserved a year ahead of time. Most of the schools in Utah have spring break on only the Easter weekend so St. George, Zions and areas around there can also be very crowded Easter weekend. The next week should be a lot less crowded.
If you decide to go to Moab and bypass the Dinosaur Monument area, stop in Price on the way to Moab from SLC. There's a great dinosaur museum at the college there.
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Old Dec 21st, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Vegas is a long way from Dinosaur Monument. Salt Lake or even Denver would be closer.

I think a large portion, and the best portion of Dinosaur is currently closed. I am not totally for sure on this.

Moab is a great place. You could do Arches and Canyonlands easily. You could then head over to Cap Reef, San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley. Or head south and see Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley, maybe even Mesa Verde.

Canyonlands and Arches each will need 2 or 3 days to even begin to experience them. I want to go back and hike to the Huge Petroglyph Panel in Canyonlands. To experience these places you really need to be prepared to hike for several miles and perhaps be somewhat adventurous. I took my daughter there at age 12 and she loved it.

here are our photos. click on "view all" and then you will find several places in Utah and the 4 corners region
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Old Dec 21st, 2008, 07:47 PM
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"Would we be pushing it too much to fly in/out of Vegas and include Dinosaur? Or would it be too much to fly into Salt Lake City and try and get to Bryce? "

The general recommendation is to visit the parks in SW Utah (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, etc) in one trip and save Moab for another trip because of the distance between them and number of things to see. If you flew into SLC and (presumably) went to Dinosaur and Moab, Bryce would be out of the way. If you go visit Bryce, you might as well at least drive through Capitol Reef, and you also might as well allot some time for Zion too because you're so close. And there are other worthwhile things to do around there, so you can see the problem - there isn't really enough time for it all if you're driving to Moab and Dinosaur.

Like spirobulldog said, SLC and even Denver are closer to Dinosaur and Moab than Las Vegas. If you decide to fly into Denver for some reason, you could also swing by Florrisant Fossil Beds. Then again, there is so much to do between Denver and Utah that you could spend the whole week in Colorado and never get to Utah.

Dates for the Jeep rally in Moab are April 4th - 12th, so you should not run into anything more than a few stragglers.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2008, 08:34 AM
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Sorry I am so lost with booking this trip. You all have such good ideas.

There is far too much I want to do in Utah and do not have enough time this trip. I think we’ll also skip Dinosaur as that really is out of the way and there are plenty of other places for fossils. The temporary Visitor’s Center also is influencing me.

I think we’re leaning towards Moab area. Should we stay entirely in Moab this 8 day trip? Or book a night or two elsewhere? I heard Canyonlands/Zion is a good combo, yet a lot of driving. If not Zion, where? Torrey? Lake Powell? Escalante? Arg! This has been the most difficult vacation to figure out. Too many choices.

Can anyone recommend a good Slot Canyon Tour? And are these tours difficult? Any other tours I should consider and book way in advance?

Best Western Canyonlands has been brought up. Zion Lodge for Zion? Maybe Little America in Salt Lake City depending when our flights are.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2008, 10:18 AM
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Let me just throw a couple of things at you.

www.deserthighlights.com is a great great way to see some slot canyons. we did the hardest one they offer and really enjoyed it. cost was about $90pp for a pretty full day.

what about rafting the cateract canyon? you can do this in 2, 3 or 4 days. This is an awesome experience and something you would never forget. This is expensive. probably around $400-$600pp, depending on how many nights you went.

at Arches:
Hike to Delicate Arch
Hike entire length of Devils Garden
Do the Fiery Furnace hike if you don't go with deserthighlights(that is where some of their tours take place) of course, see Double Arch and Balanced Rock. those are pretty much right on the road. much of arches highlights are right on the road. Arches is very very easy to get around in. super easy park to navigate.

In Canyonlands:
drive out to Deadhorse Point(this is probably my single most memorable view of anything I have ever seen)
Drive to Goblin Valley
hike to the Petroglyph Panel near Goblin Valley. the panel is in Canyonlands
maybe take a jeep tour or rent your own jeep and drive in canyonlands
raft the Cateract
Take a scenic flight from Moab airport aboard a 4 seater plane.
Canyonlands has 3 huge sections, each offers tons upon tons of hiking.

I am not sure about rafting cateract canyon, in april. I don't know when they start doing the trips. If the cateract canyon sound too wild, you might consider the calmer Green River or just a float trip.

I think 8 days in Moab might be a bit much(maybe not though, certainly not if you went rafting). You could go over to Cap Reef, Escalante, Lake Powell. Probably the most famous, or at least most touristy slot canyons are near Page.

You can do a lot of hiking and spend very little money and have a fantastic time, if you are on a budget. plenty to do without much cost.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2008, 01:16 PM
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"There is far too much I want to do in Utah and do not have enough time this trip. I think we’ll also skip Dinosaur as that really is out of the way and there are plenty of other places for fossils."

You are correct about Utah having plenty of things to do.

I would question the decision to skip Dinosaur though. Yes, it's out of the way and the temporary visitor center is not as good as the old visitor center. But here's the thing(s):

Dinosaur is always going to be out of the way. It's only 3 hours from Salt Lake City and is best combined with Moab because there's really not enough there to make a vacation out of just Dinosaur. Would you want to go to Moab this trip and then make a separate trip back just for Dinosaur?

Moab doesn't require 8 days - certainly you could spend 8 days there and find stuff to do. But most people who spend that much time there would be more into hiking than it seems you are.

The 3 hikes spirobulldog listed for Arches are great, but wouldn't really be classed as light hikes. I'm guessing he's talking about the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon when he mentions the Petroglyph Panel in Canyonlands. That is not a light hike either - very sandy on the canyon floor and a bit of a climb on the way out. Great ideas, but for light hiking in Arches you're going to run out after a day or so. Canyonlands would give you a couple days of light hiking. Then you've got 5 more days for everything else, and that's where I think it would be good to add in a trip to Dinosaur with a stop in Fruita on the way. Not to mention, if you go straight to Moab you will hit the last weekend of the Jeep Rally and it's probably best to avoid town at that time. Overall, given what you and your son are interested in and the time frame, a trip to Dinosaur and Moab sets up pretty nicely.

If you still don't want to do Dinosaur, I'd say you're best off with staying in SW Utah and skipping Moab. That is a lot of driving and Moab/Zion is not really a great combo. There is so much to do closer to Zion - if you wanted you could just do the standard loop around the Grand Canyon, starting from Las Vegas and going to Zion, then Bryce, then Page and the South Rim, possibly Sedona and back to Las Vegas. You can easily fill 8 days right there.
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