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Utah Parks Itinerary (and What to See Between Capitol Reef and SLC)


Jun 30th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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Utah Parks Itinerary (and What to See Between Capitol Reef and SLC)

Hi, there -- we're planning a trip to Utah in early September. We're flying into Las Vegas on a Sunday, and out of Salt Lake city 10 days later. Here's the itinerary so far:

Day 1 - NYC- LAS - Zion
Days 2-3: Zion
Day 4: Zion to Bryce Canyon
Days 5-7: Bryce Canyon
Day 8: Bryce Canyon to Escalante or Capitol Reef
Day 9: Escalante or Capitol Reef to SLC
Day 10: SLC - NYC

Whaddaya think? Is that a good amount of time in the respective parks? Thoughts on Escalante vs. Capitol Reef? A Utah transplant in NYC told me she loves Escalante, so I was leaning toward that.

Also -- how's that five or so hour drive from Escalante/Capitol Reef to SLC? Is it scenic? If we wanted to break it up, is there anywhere good to spend a night?

Thanks very much for any advice.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 03:15 PM
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You have anice amount of time for this trip. Good for you!

How much do you plan to hike? The reason I ask is I think you can easily shorten your stay at Bryce by 1 day and still see it all.

I would spend a night in Escalante and look into doing a canyon trip with a guide if you are fit and adventurous! There are some really great places to do if you go with experienced people.

If not, I would get an early start from Bryce and allow time for the hike to Calf Creek Falls. It's a real treat, although the falls might be small this year by Sept. It's a severe drought year. Check with the ranger station on the water flow before doing th hike. Otherwise, there are some other good hikes you can do along the way.

If you don't want to hike, you will have plenty of time for lots of photo ops, driving a section of the Burr Trail and continuing on to Torrey, the town nearest Capitol Reef.

I would stay a night each in Escalante or Boulder (Boulder Mtn Lodge with the excellent Hell's Backbone Grill) and in Torrey. You will have enough time to enjoy both areas before driving up to SLC.

When I drive between Torrey and SLC, I take about 4.5 hours. The good news is the major expansion road project on I-15 in the Provo area is nearly done!!! No more monster delays!

Hope this helps. Come back with more questions.

Boulder Mtn Lodge requires res in advance. Not very big and very popular - and it's the only lodging in the microscopic town of Boulder (just a wide spot).
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Jun 30th, 2012, 03:19 PM
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PS - if you do end up having an "extra" night to spend on the way to SLC, about my best suggestion would be RR's Sundance in Provo Canyon. Also, stop and see the Timpanogas Cave, it's really beautiful. You tour with the ranger, so advance tickets are required for this very popular State Monument site.

Or, you could spend the evening in Park City which is 30 min. to the airport, but that's almost a whole trip of its own.

I would take all your time for the parks, they are worth every minute you've got.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 03:49 PM
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Dayle, this is fantastic info. Thanks so much. I should have said up there that my husband and I are avid day hikers, so the more time we spend on the trail (or in the canyons!), the better.

Staying in Park City is a great idea.

We might do a little camping to save money (it IS a long trip, after all), so if you have any recommendations in that regard, I'm all ears. Thanks again.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 04:55 PM
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Capitol Reef in Sept. You can probably pick the fruit there. They don't charge you for what you eat while picking, but they do charge if you take some with you(a small fee).
While there stop at the Gifford House in the morning and buy one or several of their pies. Consume them right next door in the picnic area(almost guaranteed to be dining with the deer. I like sitting under the two huge trees(not sure what kind of trees these are).

I would see Devils Garden in Escalante. It's down an easy dirt road. Also stop at the Kiva Coffee house place. Hell's Backbone Grill is also a good place to stop and eat.

If you have never been to Goblin Valley. DO NOT MISS IT. It is an hour or so north of Cap Reef. Two other really good things to do while there are hike Little Wildhorse Canyon(don't confuse with wildhorse, you want Little Wildhorse). Also, not far from there, but you do have to travel on a dirt road for an hour-Is Horseshoe Canyon/The Great Gallery. This is considered the best indian Petroglyph/Pictographs in the world by most people. This is also about a mile from the canyon where Aaron Ralston amputated his own arm when he got stuck in a rock(if your familiar with that story or movie). Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse, and Great Gallery are all super isolated and you would need to take drinks and meals for the day. I don't think you could do all 3 in one day, unless you were very ambitious.

I would probably cut out one day between 2 and 7 and add them to the area I mentioned above. It won't take you long to drive from Bryce to Zion really. Oh, you could see Cedar National Monument though.

I've stayed at Austin's Chuckwagon in Torrey twice. It isn't anything great, but is probably about as good as you will get, unless you want a B&B. They also have a nice store and deli next door that they own too.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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Timpanogos is a National Monument isn't it Dayle???? It was super in the fall when we went. It is one heck of an effort to get to the top of it though. We didn't have reservations.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 08:44 PM
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You may be right. I don't pay much attention to what the "monuments" are, exactly!

I just know it's an amazing, gorgeous cave, and it's really cold inside! But that feels great after the hike up.

SZ, the drive between Zion Canyon and Bryce is only about 1.5 hours. You can do some nice hikes in Bryce and still have a day or two to see at bit of the Escalante and Capitol Reef areas.

If you do decide to visit Goblin Valley and hike Little Wildhorse, you will be going a bit out of the way on the route back to SLC, but not too much. Last time I was in Capitol Reef, I drove out to GV and it took almost 2 hours one way.

Just that there is no lodging anywhere near GV so plan time to get there and on to your next destination. There is a campground there, but you should have res.

The road out to the Great Gallery is a long drive on a dirt road. You cannot do this road at all (even in a 4x4)if it's raining or recently rained.

Lots of wonderful options. You need to start planning trip #2 now
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Jul 1st, 2012, 03:46 AM
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Haha, Dayle, I know! There was a temptation to try to cram Arches and Canyonlands into the trip, too, but that would just be too much. Next time. Thanks again to you and spirobulldog -- this is all so very helpful.
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Jul 5th, 2012, 07:29 PM
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OK, another question for you Utah experts. My husband is now leery of going to Zion in early September. He's spooked by the average 91-degree high temperatures. Since we're planning to hike, is this a reasonable fear? Is it cooler in the canyons? Traveling in early September is much easier for me, work-wise and frequent flyer mile-wise. I'm also concerned that if it's cooler in Zion in late September, Bryce etc. are gonna be freezing. Thoughts? Thanks again for all the great advice.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 10:22 AM
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The range can be great throughout the day though. Like it could start out at 55 or 60 and then be 90 by the end of the day. I am from Oklahoma and our humidity is much higher here, so Utah heat doesn't bother me nearly as much, as it is usually drier. If you buy some wicking underwear (Ex Officio or Patagonia), shorts, shirts(the good kind-like Mountain Hardware Wicked Lite, Patagoina, Montbell, Icebreaker, etc). then you will be much more comfortable too. Synthetic is lighter and wicks slightly better. Merino Wool is a tiny bit heavier, wicks a tiny bit less effective, but doesn't have the odor after a day. You can wear Merino Wool for several days. Buy the good super merino wool and it won't be scratchy. Some of the Columbia brand stuff is good, but a lot of it at places like Academy or Dicks Sporting is the lower end of their products. I like REI stores for gear. For Utah, I always pack convertible pants/shorts. Layering and have a bit of clothing to layer is nice to have. I love Montbell and Patagonia Down and Synthetic coats. Some of them weigh only 10oz and are amazingly warm. So, they are super easy to pack.

It depends on which hikes your are doing.
If you are hiking River Walk or The Narrows, then you are going to be in lots of shade and in water, so no big deal.

If I were hiking Angels Landing, I would start at dawn/first light in the morning.

Emerald Pools trail isn't as hot, but still could be, if you do it in the middle of the day.

As for Bryce, it could be cold in the mornings, and then perfect in the afternoon. We actually got a little sleet there at the end of May a year ago.
I would for sure hike Navajo loop/Queens Garden combination trail. Taking a horse on Peek A Boo loop is also a great way to see Bryce.

Devils Garden in Escalante region isn't really a hike, but you just wander around a few acres of the odd shaped rocks. Same goes for Goblin Valley.

You can expect 25-50 degree difference in highs and lows during the day at most places across the Colorado Plateau/high desert area. The has been my experience on my several visits there.

Don't miss Bryce or Zion, cold or hot. Both are spectacular!!!

What hikes do you plan on doing?
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Jul 6th, 2012, 11:08 AM
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Thanks, Spirobulldog! It will be layers, for sure. We're gonna be on East Coast for a day or two, I imagine, so hiking at dawn is definitely do-able. We would like to do the Narrows (part of it, anyway) and Angels Landing -- is it dangerous, heights-wise, or just scary if that kind of thing scares you? Haven't yet sorted out the Bryce Canyon hikes.

All things considered -- would it be more enjoyable to visit Zion and/or Bryce in early September or mid-October?
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Jul 6th, 2012, 11:08 AM
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(East Coast time, I meant.)
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Jul 6th, 2012, 11:39 AM
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Mid-October would get my vote. You'll see some fall colors, and I always prefer hiking in cooler weather. If it's cold you can always put more clothes on, but when it's hot there's only so much you can take off to stay cool.....but if early September works better than you'll be ok, just do the tough/exposed hikes in the morning and easier/shady hikes in the afternoon.

I would definitely cut one day from Bryce, possibly even two days. Your original itinerary has you spending more time at Bryce than Zion which is the reverse of what you should be doing. I would say on day 4 at least hike in Zion in the morning, then drive to Bryce and hike/sightsee. Day 5 hike all day, then leave on day 6. That gives you enough time to see a lot of Bryce but also 2 more days elsewhere, and there is so much to see/do in that area that you could really use those 2 extra days for something else.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:27 PM
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Are you sure that you are not paying a big drop off fee in SLC?
If you have any interest in dinosaurs, check out this museum in Price. http://www.castlecountry.com/what_to...ic_museum.html
If your air tickets are already purchased, there is not much you can do about the drop off fee.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:37 PM
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I wanted to see that museum in Price. Nearby, in Helper, there is a small historical type museum that looked small, but interesting. ( I was with my family and they were more interested in getting to SLC than going to any museums).
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:41 PM
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Mid October, but probably more the third week of October would get my vote too.

Day 1
Get to Zion. I hope you can stay at Zion Lodge
Have dinner at the lodge.

Day 2
Up early and hike Angels Landing
A strenuous hike up. I don't consider it dangerous, but people have died there. The last 20 minutes will get your attention and the trail is very narrow in a couple of spots. They provide a chain and you will want to hold on to it.
Lunch in Springdale.
Get your shoes and you will probably won't pants from Zion Adventure Co for your hike tomorrow in The Narrows.
Perhaps a drive thru the tunnel to Checkerboard Mesa in the afternoon. You could also hike Canyon Overlook Trail here, if you have energy left.
Dinner @ Whiptail Grill in Springdale. Specifically, get the spaghetti squash enchiladas. This is in an old gas station, but the food is really good.

Day 3
Hike The Narrows . Go as far as you can on a dayhike and this will take 1/2 day or so.
Lunch under the Big Tree in front of the Lodge. Everyone does this or at least has a snack/ice cream there.
You could also hike Emerald Pools trail on this day. A short easy option would be to see Weeping Rock.

Day 4
Sleep in a bit
Breakfast at Zion Lodge
Drive to Bryce
Lunch and see Ruby's just before you enter the park
Drive the entire length of the park drive and stop at as many overlooks as possible
Dinner @ Bryce Lodge and overnight there
perhaps take in a ranger-led "night sky" event/walk
Catch Sunset

Day 5
Up early for Sunrise-it's worth it!!
Take a horseback ride in the morning
Hike Navajo Loop/Queens Garden
Perhaps take in a ranger-led Night Sky
Dinner @ Bryce Lodge

Day 6
Again up early for sunrise from a different viewpoint.
Drive to Torrey, UT
Option along the way are
Devils Garden
Hike Calf Creek Falls
Hell's Backbone Grill for dinner
Kiva Koffee House for coffee and snack
Overnight in Torrey

Day 7
Capitol Reef
Get pie for breakfast @ The Gifford House
Hike Hickman Bridge
Hike The Grand Wash
Have a burger @ Slackers for lunch
Hike Frying Pan to Cassidy Arch
Dinner @ Cafe Diablo

Day 8
Goblin Valley
Little Wildhorse Canyon
perhaps Great Gallery/Horseshoe Canyon
overnight in Green River

Day 9
Drive to Salt Lake
could tour tabernacle there

Day 10 Home
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Links to our photos

Zion Oct 17-21, 2008

Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse, Great Gallery
Oct 15-18, 2009 with my neighbor

Arches, Goblin Valley, Little Wildhorse, Capitol Reef, Escalante, Calf Creek Falls, Bryce, Zion Kolob Canyon
Memorial Day Weekend 2011
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:57 PM
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So, I was wrong on the dates. Fall Colors were good on the dates listed above.

Also, on the trip with my Neighbor is Timpanogoes Cave, you could do this on your day at Salt Lake too.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 01:58 PM
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We traveled in Utah and Arizona during the month of August. We did our strenuous hiking in the early am. But, being from the humid Northest, we were able to be active most of the day. It was hot, but we were not too bothered by it. We carried large quantities of water - several bladders filled each morning before we left our lodgings, refilled at lunch breaks, and regarded as our most precious possessions on the trip!

Our favorites at Zion were hiking the Narrows and climbing Angels Landing. (I don't recall other trails/hikes.) I didn't care for the very last stretch of Angels Landing, but the rest of our group, which included three children under the age of 12, eagerly pulled themselves up by the chains to the very top.

At Bryce we walked the Fairyland Loop. Beautiful. We would have liked to walk additional trails, but had just one day at Bryce.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 03:53 PM
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I am continually amazed at how helpful this forum is. Thank you, WhereAreWe, tomfuller, karens, spirobulldog, and portiaperu.

tomfuller, thanks for the heads up on one-way car rentals. I called Fox and they said the fee would be $19.95 (not per day -- overall). So we can handle that.

spirobulldog, thanks for planning the whole darn trip for us! And thank you also for sharing your photos -- just gorgeous.

Ultimately, we would have more time for our trip if we went the first week in September (two extra days). I'm just wondering if it's worth trading cooler temps for more time. I'm also a little worried about flash flooding in Zion in September -- seems less likely to happen in October.
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