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Utah Parks in One Week: Arches,Canyonlands,Capitol Reef,Bryce,Zion

Utah Parks in One Week: Arches,Canyonlands,Capitol Reef,Bryce,Zion

Old Sep 5th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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Utah Parks in One Week: Arches,Canyonlands,Capitol Reef,Bryce,Zion

I recently traveled with wife and two teenagers and was able to cover five national parks in one week. The strategy was to drive quickly to end of route and drive in spurts back during tirp. Lots of traveling at the beginning, but wow what scenary along the way. Here is itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive and visit Las Vega Strip. Overnight Vdara in City Center (Priceline)
Day 2: Take interstates to Moab, UT. Side trip to Welcome to Las Vegas sign, Zion Kolab Canyons, I70 Viewpoints. Overnight 3 nights in Red Cliffs Lodge
Day 3: Arches National Park, highlights: hike to delicate arch
Day 4: Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands NP, Grand View hike / picnic
Day 5: Capitol Reef NP: highlight: Hickman bridge hike Overnight at Boulder Mountain Lodge
Day 6: Bryce Canyon NP; highlight: I12 dive thru Grand Escalante. Overnight: Best Western Grand
Day 7: ZIon NP: Highlight: Zion Narrows early morning hike. Overnight Zion Lodge
Day 8: Hoover Dam/Tillman Bridge: Overnight at airport hotel
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 01:55 PM
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Let me begin by saying this was one of the least researched and planned trips I have every done. Most of my reservations and plans were done within 6 weeks or less remaining before departure, even Zion Lodge. Route planning and itinenary was mostly day-2-day. I think my expectations were fairly low and I was concerned about the amount of travel, but, not to worry, everything turned out perfect. I am not sure I would recommend this trip plan for families with small children who don't travel well for long drives, but it worked out fine for 2 teenagers.

Took late afternoon direct flight to Las Vegas. Packed Garmin and plugged in addresses on the way. Picked up SUV at airport and headed to north strip brand new hotel Vdara booked on Priceline 2 days prior for about 1/3rd price of rack rate. Walked next door to Bellagio to watch fountains, gamble briefly at Paris hotel, and just walk the strip to observe the freak show and hoards of people.

Woke up mid morning and retrieved car from Valet, headed a few minutes up the stip and took pictures at the Fabulous Las Vegas sign and then off to the Moab, UT. Stopped a couple of hours later at Zion Kolab Canyons, which is a about a mile off the interstate. Defintely worth the stop just to ride the red paved road through the red canyons for a few miles. There was hardly anyone in this area of the park. Back to interstate, we stopped later for lunch and to fill a portable cooler with necessities (i.e. Wine). Transferred to interstate I70. Wow, the scenary is fantastic. There are at least a half dozen viewpoints with explanatory stuff to read along the way. We ran into some severe weather along the way, but nevertheless made it well before night fall to the Red Cliffs Lodge. The last 14 miles driving through the high red cliffs along the Colorado river are breathtaking. If you can manage it, stay at Red Cliffs in River King suites. The views were amazing, especially at sunset. The outside dining at the Red Cliffs grill was special too. One tip, top off you gas tank frequently. Gas stations are few and far between, even on the interstates.

Day 3 we wake up and head to Arches entrance very near downtown Moab. Headed to middle of park to hike to the delicate arch before the heat of the day. This is a must hike to see the symbol of Utah and the beautiful views along the way. If you have any health problems or can't climb uphill, you shouldn't do this hike. There are a couple of dangerous spots dropoffs near the end of the hike, so keep an eye on the little kids too. Spent the rest of the day hiking to other smaller arches. Arches was my favorite park, so plan to spend some time here. Headed back Moab and had dinner at Moab Brewery. Very good if like micro breweries and pub food.
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 02:25 PM
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Sounds like you had a great trip. Was this your first time to the area?

The section of I-70 between Fremont Jct and Green River is known as the San Rafael Swell. I love that area! http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/san_rafael_swell/

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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 04:56 PM
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You might have done a lot of driving and did little planning but you sure got in the sights.

Waiting for the rest and hopefully photos.

Trying to get primed for another trip.
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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Glad you had a great trip. We are still out west, fly home tomorrow. When we drove into Zion (last Sunday), there was a sign saying there was occupancy at the Zion Lodge.

Funny, we went to Moab as well, toured Arches and the heat killed us. We had planned two days in Canyonlands, but, we were camping (although we did stay in a hotel in Moab), and we decided not to do Canyonlands. We were heading back to Flagstaff, trying to figure out what to do, when a friend called out of the blue and suggested we visit the Navajo nat'l monument near Kayenta, AZ. They had free camping there and a ranger led tour into their canyon to some impressive ruins. It was lovely, and I was so glad my friend called.

We saw incredible lightning storms all week. We were hiking into Calf Creek Falls and got caught in a hail storm. The boys wanted to press on, but the younger, wiser, lady of our group nixed that plan. We hurried back to our camp site (luckily we had a pavilion), and we were able to see a small flash flood. The creek rose, we were across the creek camping, the ranger came and checked on all campers across the creek. They closed our side of the campground. It cleared up, the creek subsided, and we hiked to the falls the next morning. It was great.

I regret not visiting Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands, but my step son lives in Flagstaff and we will be back.

We drove from Kolob area to Calf Creek and we thought that was a long day! We did stop at Bryce. How long was the drive from Kolob to Moab?
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 08:48 PM
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Love the San Rafael Swell!
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Old Sep 6th, 2011, 07:13 PM
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MrsSparky - I think the trip from Las Vegas to Moab was about 350 miles with lots of stops along the way. Taking the I15/I70 interstates we made it to Moab by early evening. The gushing rain on some stretches of I70 slowed us down. We knew this would probably be the tough part of the trip, but it was really no problem, since we took it fairly leisurely.

We were in Arches by early morning because we skipped sunday brunch. Getting to the park helped beat the heat and also beat the crowds. It also helped that some brief misty showers came through during the early afternoon to cool things a bit. Good tip when touring the NPs that don't have lodges/concessions is to bring a picnic lunch with you. We already knew this from past experiences, but momentarily forgot this day. But we did make it back to town to the Moab Brewery for a perfectly fine early dinner. We were really tired (and hungry) from the hiking that day and the food and beverages really hit the spot for all of us. We retired back to our lodge for some pool time, a gorgeous sunset on the red cliffs, and late night card game.

One of the casualties of a somewhat rushed itinerary is missing out on Sunday brunches, leisurely strolls, and general lack of downtime. This was definitely not the usual type of vacation for us, but my busy work schedule prevented us from taking a longer trip this time.

I know it goes without saying for many of the readers on this site, but arming yourself with a searchable GPS and using a site like Fodors or TripAdvisor to locate things to do or top eateries in the area make advance planning not as much needed as in the past and adds some spontaneity.
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