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Utah's NP's trip: Starting from Salt Lake City or Vegas?

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Mar 4th, 2013, 04:17 AM
  #1
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Utah's NP's trip: Starting from Salt Lake City or Vegas?

Hello all- I am excitedly! planning an early August trip to Utah National Parks with my 9 yr. old son. I have a couple of logistical questions:

1. I am using frequent flyer miles and the best use of these miles has me arriving and departing from SLC. And I really want to do a loop of the parks vs. retrace my steps. Any downside to starting the trip in SLC?

2. Also, I am thinking of starting off in the Moab area because other travelers have said Arches gets hotter and hotter as the summer wears on...is this true?

3. Lastly, my schedule is pretty flexible but I cannot decide how many nights to spend in each area. I am hoping to go to Moab (to see Arches, Canyonlands, maybe Dead Horse State Park), and Capitol Reef Park, possibly Escalante Monument, and then Bryce and Zion.

I would prefer to spend two nights in a hotel (i.e. not change every day.) Is this route feasible?

Any special tips for travel with a pretty adventurous 9 yr. old, let me know! It is he and I so I will definitely be looking into the Jr. Ranger Programs so he can be with some other kids for a little while!

Thanks in advance!
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Mar 4th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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Sounds good to me.
Be sure and see Goblin Valley State Park and Little Wildhorse Canyon too. You drive thru Escalante between Capitol Reef and Bryce, so you can stop at a few places along the way.

I really like www.deserthighlights.com in Moab. A great safe adventure. Also a flight with slickrock air is pretty cool. Your daughter would likely be allowed to sit up front. Ask for Larry a retired Chief Park Ranger for Canyonlands. I think that was his name anyway.
You'll want to spend a full day in Arches NP. Deadhorse Point is a prety spectacular view.

So 2-3 nights in Moab
Spend better part of day in Goblin Valley/Lil Wildhorse
Overnight 2 nights in Capitol Reef (Torrey-I like Austin's Chuckwagon for a place to sleep)
Spend a full day in route to Bryce
You could do 1 or 2 nights at Bryce
I like Navajo Loop/Queens Garden hike. Drive the entire road. I also enjoyed the horseback riding here.
Finally on to Zion. 2 nights here
If you are adventurous the 2 "must hikes" are The Narrows and Angels Landing. But there is plenty of others, if that isn't you cup of tea. For The Narrows, rent shoes and possibly wetpants. If the water is to high, you will not be doing this hike. Don't even consider it if if is raining(the same should be said about Little Wildhorse, that I mentioned too)

My daughter and I made our first trip(what I thought would be my only) to Utah when she was 11. She turns 19 next month and I believe I have been 6 times now. We really enjoy it.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 05:06 AM
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Do your hiking in the early morning. I just read you are going in August. It will be pretty darn hot. Make certain you have water in the car and plenty of water for every hike. I would say carry 16 ounces for each hour you plan on hiking. So, for along hike you will need plenty. Little Wildhorse and The Narrows will be cooler as they are slot canyon with lots of shade and very little direct sun.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 05:09 AM
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If there is any way you can go any other month than July or August? Where are you coming from? The heat is going to be really really hot. Even September and June can be very hot.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 05:44 AM
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How many days in total do you have? For a week to 10 days, its not going to matter whether you start or end in Arches, the average temp is going to be the same either way.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 05:51 AM
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I would definitely use SLC if you're swinging across the parks.

I also like the drive better. More level roads.

In addition to the parks you have Goblin Valley, Lil Wildhorse (I haven't been there but spiro recommends it, Devils Garden Escalante, Lower Calf Creek Falls (a little over two miles each way so might be a little long for your son - a level hike and beautiful waterfalls), Willis Creek slot canyon (just a half hour southeast of Bryce Canyon. don't go if it's raining. Stop in the Cannonville visitors center for recommendation about weather. it's an adventurous drive getting there but an easy walk in the park going thru the slots)

Moab is worth a few days as there are a few things to do there. In addition to a few days in Arches and Canyonlands NP, a few mile east on Rte 128 just above Moab is Fisher Towers.

If you seen the Citibank Commercial of a girl going on vacation with her boyfriend and then she climbs to the top of a road, this is the spot. You'll be hiking at the bottom.

Also, along the way on this hike you'll get excellent views of Castle Rock. It may look familiar if you've seen some of the old Western movies. Over 100 were made in the Moab area and this rock makes cameo appearances as a background in over 50 of them.

Bryce Canyon is quite small and probably doesn't merit more than a night. Get there in late afternoon, see the sunset at sunset point, get up very early for a spectacular sunrise at Bryce Point and then hike down Navajo Loop and up Queens Garden.

I'm not sure about Angel's Landing with a 9 year old. Differing opinions.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 06:42 AM
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Thanks for all the help! To answer some questions: my schedule is flexible in the number of days I have but I was thinking 9-10 days not incluiding our travel days (so 11-12 days total.)
We are coming from Washington, DC.
I can only travel in mid July or August. I know it is going to be hot and plan to become my own resovoir! (i.e. I will bring tons of water.) And we will only hike on hot days in the early morning or afternoon. We are fine hanging out at a hotel pool or some other shady activity when we need a break.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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You can get somewhat of an idea about Angels Landing by watching youtube. It is a fairly strenuous hike. If you don't like it after you get to the top, you can always stop at Scouts Lookout and it will still have been a very nice hike. The last 1/2 mile after the lookout has huge drops. Meaning the path is just 3 foot wide with 2000 foot drops on both sides. I think it would be very hard to fall, but mistake would mean certain death. Thousands do it each day and there have been 10 deaths or so over the past 20 years. Most people rank this hike as one of the Top Ten day hikes in America. The Narrows also is usually in that list. Of course that is argueable, but they both are very good hikes.
My daughter scooted on her bottom and held on to the chain provided over the very steepest/narrow portion. I didn't think it was that bad at all. My wife turned around and didn't go all the way. So, it just all depends on the person and what you think of it. I would guess there is a fairly high percentage that turn around and don't attempt the last 1/4 mile or so.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 10:10 AM
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Thanks for the info about Angel's Landing but I definitely don't feel comfortable doing that hike with my 9 yr. old.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 10:12 AM
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I would compare prices for both flying and rental cars for both SLC and Vegas. Also look at times of arrival and departure. Sometimes arriving before noon means you can be at a park in time to do a little hiking etc. We've done the Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands loop from Vegas in your time frame.
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Mar 4th, 2013, 12:22 PM
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Thanks, emalloy, but I am doing the whole trip (flights and rental car) with frequent flyer miles so my choices are limited. Flying into SLC is less miles than Vegas.
And good point about arrival time...I will keep that in mind.

What a helpful forum!!
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Mar 5th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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>>> If you seen the Citibank Commercial of a girl going on vacation with her boyfriend and then she climbs to the top of a road, this is the spot. You'll be hiking at the bottom. >>>

I'm glad you mentioned that b/c I've wondered about something and have a really dumb question. So here goes.

Is it really possible to climb up that spire and stand on it the way she did? Or is it just the wonders of modern photography?
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Mar 5th, 2013, 05:14 PM
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panecott,
First let me correct "road" should be "rock"

Yes, people climb that. Her name is Katie Brown and she's a rock climber. His name is Alex Honnold who was featured on 60 minutes a year or two back. He climbed from the valley floor at Yosemite to Glacier Road. About 1,500 feet up. Oh, and he did it "free". No ropes.

I was there in 2008 (see my photos at www.travelwalks.com select Utah 2008). The area is called Fisher Towers. That spire has two names: Ancient Art or The Corkscrew.

We were hiking around the bottom and came around a bend and saw somebody just climbing to the top (see #68). He had his arms up and I yelled for him to turn around. He turned and yelled his email address. I sent him a copy of the photo.

In that 2008 trip look at photos 64-70. #65 & 70 are Castle Rock. Over 125 of the old westerns were filmed in the area. Castle Rock made cameo appearances as a background in about 50 of those westerns.

Yes, people do climb that spire.
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Mar 5th, 2013, 09:51 PM
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I can't think of any reason not to start and end in SLC. And the loop works perfectly well from either direction. No reason not to start in Arches over Zion.

It will be about a 4 hr drive either way so if you do get an early flight you can be in the park the same day.

You'll want a full day for Arches, one day for Canyonlands/Dead Horse Point (easy to combine), one day for something fun like a raft trip (great in the summer) or a hummer tour, or the canyoneering, or to take the drive up hwy 128 to Fisher Towers. So I'd say 3 days in Moab (which would probably be 4 nights).

Then the drive to Torrey with stops as mentioned in Goblin Valley (though not so fun on a hot summer day) and Little Wild Horse. You could stop in Capitol Reef, and maybe take the scenic drive to Capitol Gorge and hike that. I would only stay one night in Torrey.

Then drive to Bryce enjoying the drive, but not stopping other than for a few viewpoints along the way. Stay 2 nights in Bryce so you have one full day there. Besides the one best hike (Navajo to Queen's Garden) and the sunrise, you'll want to enjoy the stars (maybe there will be someone with a telescope out - best park for dark skies). Or if the moon is out go take a short walk in the full moon. Also look for prairie dogs and explore the little western village.

Then you'll have 3 nights for Zion (for 10 nights total). Enjoy Red Canyon on the way out of Bryce, stop in Orderville at one of the rock shops. Maybe take the Canyon Overlook trail in Zion before heading through the tunnel.

The Narrows would be on my list for sure. That would be one day. But August is prime flashflood season so be sure to check at the visitor center for possible thunderstorm activity and expected closures.
Do take the West Rim trail to Scout's Lookout. I personally would never take a child up Angel's Landing. But to climb to Scout's lookout is quite an accomplishment and gives rewards of great views. Maybe combine it with a hike along Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools. That would be one day.

You could also spend some time doing a ranger program, exploring the History museum, rent bikes and ride the canyon (you can put the bikes on the shuttle and take them to the end of the canyon and then ride back, fairly level road and mostly downslope) . And that would be a third day.

4 hr drive back to SLC, not much to stop for, but if you want a break Cove Fort just south of Fillmore is a historical spot from the Indian war era.
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Mar 5th, 2013, 09:57 PM
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Stay at the Desert Pearl Inn or Cable Mountain Lodge just outside of Zion--both are great places for kids. You will NEED a pool in the afternoon!! Moab has lots of lodging options. At Bryce--stay at Ruby's Inn, again--the pool. (Its really awesome when your child finds other kids to play with at the pool or on the lawn etc at these places. Kid friendly has lots of bonuses )

You can certainly do a loop--Go south on Route 6 through Price. Stop at the awesome dinosaur museum there! (actually, the even better museum is in Lehi, just south of Salt Lake--it really is worth the time if your son is a dinophile) Then go to Moab, Cap Reef, Bryce, Zion. Then go back up to Salt Lake on I-15. It's a straight shot. It's 4 hours from SLC to Moab and 5 from Zion to SLC.

Good kid hikes in Zion-Emerald Pools is great. You can hike some in the Narrows--its out and back so you can go as much as you son wants and then turn around. Plus its cool in the water--you are hiking in the river. The Kolob canyon section of Zion is very pretty. In Bryce, you could do a loop below the rim, its not very hard. Even if you stay on the rim and do short hikes, there is plenty to see. In Capitol Reef, I really like the Hickman Bridge trail for kids. It's steep at first but then levels out and you get to see some cool sites. The wash hikes are flat but hot and dusty and boring for kids. Little Wild horse just outside of Capitol Reef is awesome--in fact, some would argue it is better than Capitol Reef for kids! I wouldn't stay 2 nights in Torrey unless you did Little Wildhorse during the day, then stay the night in Torrey and do Cap Reef the next day, and then stay the night to get an early start on to the next stop.

In addition to Jr Ranger badges, some parks have "adventure backpacks" you can check out from the Visitors Center. They are first come, first served. We had a great time with all the activities in it when we went to Capitol Reef. Your son is also old enough to do horse trail rides at Zion (and at Bryce too, I suppose) so that could be something fun if it was in the evening or some other, cooler time.

Bring Camelbaks-you drink more water from a Camelbak than from a water bottle. Be sure to push water on your child. Kids just don't get the whole "drink before you are thirsty" idea. I drink at least a gallon a day in the summer (I live in SLC) and even more on days I run etc. In addition to all the water, you also need to bring salty snacks or you get "hyponutremic"--I don't think I spelled that correctly. Basically, too much water and not enough electrolytes. So peanuts, potato chips, Triscuits, etc. When I am hiking, I always make sure I drink one quart of Gatorade a day. Coming from DC, you will be amazed at how dry it is. (When I was in DC, I was amazed that my hair could turn into such a giant frizz ball! And my kids thought somebody had washed all the cars in the hotel parking lot because there was water on them. umm, kids, there's this thing called "dew". They were amazed that water could just come out of the air )

Have fun!
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Mar 6th, 2013, 02:47 PM
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Thanks for the reply, myer. It's amazing that people can really climb that spire. They must be fearless!

I'd also wondered if perhaps she was lowered by helicopter.

Cool story about the climber, and gorgeous pictures. They make me even more anxious to go.

BTW, is Escalante easily reachable from Bryce? I know it's a large area but they look almost adjacent on the map.

I've decided to spend 3 nts. in Zion and two in Bryce so I'd have time for a drive over there if it's not too far.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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panecott,
About the commercial. To save very expensive time they might have lowered her onto the base by helicopter. Regardless, she's easily capable of doing that climb.

Escalante is an area and a town. It depends what you want to do.

a) From Bryce Canyon (park entrance) Willis Creek is a little under an hour. Maybe 30 miles.

From Bryce Canyon the town of Escalent is a little over an hour. About 50 miles.

b) From BC Devil's Garden is about 1 1/2 hours.

c) From BC Lower Calf Creek Falls trail head is around 1 1/2 hours as well. Maybe 65 miles.

You can do all of the above three sights in a day.

a) It's an easy walk in the park. A nice set of slot canyons. The drive there below Cannonville is an adventure. The road is sandy, has ruts and some minore hills. I've been there twice and only saw one car on the road. I use both sides of the road to avoid the ruts. Probably not as bad as I'm describing. There's a visitors center in Cannonville as soon as you turn off Rte 12 to the south.

b) This is very easy to get to. Turn south at Hole-in-the-Rock-Road. It's a little over 9 miles on a dirt road. This road is quite smooth and level. Just don't drive too fast on it to avoid kicking up pebbles. Your son will have fun wandering around. I describe this as a grown up Goblin Valley. If you stop in Goblin Valley you could pass on this if you want to save time. Still a very nice visit.

c) This is a beautiful waterfall and maybe the only one you'll see on this trip. However, it's a 2 1/2 mile hike. Level and not difficult but sand on the trail means you have to lift your feet. There's shade at the falls and your son could go for a swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls.

Also, don't just scoot to sights. The drive is one of the attractions. You may want to drive as far as Boulder to see the road.

I took my grown daughter to Utah two years ago and we slept in Escalante our first night. We went to Devil's Garden and spent more time there than I expected as we're both into photography. Then we went to Lower Calf Creek Falls. After that we went to Willis Creek and ended in Bryce Canyon where we slept over. Three excellent sights.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Thanks for all the info, Myer.

I don't have a map in front of me but Escalante looked likea large area of geological interest -- I thought it was the Grand Staircase? Or am I very confused?

I'll check the map for the other areas you mentioned, and I do love scenic drives so it sounds like a great itinerary. I'm glad I decided to stay an extra day at BC.

Oh, and just to clarify, it is Asia, the OP, who is traveling with her son. I'll be going solo.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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Yes, Escalante the area is called Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Also, there's no end to what you can do. It's only a 2 hour drive from Zion NP to Page, AZ.

If you do that you have the amazing Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Thanks, I did Page on my last trip 2 years ago. Took the Horseshoe Bend hike and did the float trip. I missed Antelope Canyon, tho', so maybe that's an idea.

And while we're on the subject, I'm spending my last 5 days at Red Mt. Resort near St. George. Is there anything in the immediate area worth seeing?

My car rental is one week - very cheap! - and since I only have 5 days in the parks, I'll have 2 more days to use it.

I was going to turn it in at the airport on my way back from BC before going to Red Mt., but if there's more to see in the area I might just as well keep it for the full week.
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