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1 hour ago, E-Z Glider said:

Yeah, we missed the boat on the in-park lodge, but I doubt we would've done that anyway. We're staying in a yurt in Page, glamping in Zion, an airstream in Escalante, and a hippie-commune / yoga retreat in Moab. Should be an interesting trip.

You have any specific plans for Arches or Zion?

1st day: Arches   

Morning    Delicate Arch Viewpoint Hike at sunrise

Morning   Landscape Arch Hike

Noon VisitorCenter for Lunch

Afternoon    Rest at Hotel
Dinner    Dinner in town
Evening    Fiery Furnace Overlook for sunset

2nd Day Arches:

Morning    Windows Trail + Primitive Trail Hike for sunrise
Balanced Rock Hike
Scenic Loop Drive
Noon    Lunch in town
Afternoon    Rest/Nap at hotel
Dinner    Eat at hotel
Evening    Sand Dune Arch+Broken Arch Hike

Day 1 Zion:

Morning    The Narrows
Noon    Lunch
Afternoon    Rest
Evening    Dinner
    Return Equipment

Day 2 Zion:

Morning    Emerald Pools Trail
Noon    Lunch
Afternoon    Northgate Peaks Trail OR Timber Creek Trail
Evening    Dinner

 

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Just returned from our trip out west and figured Id leave a review for anyone considering this trip in the future. Keep in mind that we did this early June, so conditions will be different depending o

Just finished the trip to Bryce, Page, and Moab via Vegas.  I did my proposed itinerary to a tee. A lot has already been covered on these locations, so I'll just cover what was a surprise vs. expectat

Just got back from our trip, I ran out of adjectives on day 3. Breathtaking stuff. I'll post pictures once I go through the 2,000+ the wife and I took. Day 1 - Flew into Phoenix, took the scenic

3 hours ago, Mookie said:

Not sure if you have booked places to stay yet, but we rented a small cabin outside of Torrey Utah, which is between Escalante and Moab and near the entrance of Capital Reef.  Cowboy Homestead is run by a retired police officer and his wife - very nice people and clean, quiet cabins. 

Cabins

Drive through Capital reef in the am as it's really pretty and there are pictograph stops right off the road.  I really like the hiking and lack of crowds in Capital Reef, but your itinerary is already pretty jammed up.

Staying there in late March.

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For all you mighty five Utah types, I'd appreciate a critique of the plan below. We're saving Zion for a different trip (to be combined with Arizona, New Mexico probably). We're driving in from Minnesota:

Day 1

  • Red Canyon   - Arches Trail and Pink Ledges Trail
  • Bryce Canyon - Navajo Loop - Queen’s Garden Combo

Day 2

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante - Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike
  • Capitol Reef National Park - Star Gazing

Day 3

  • Capitol Reef National Park  - Hike Grand Wash and/or Hickman Bridge

Day 4

  • Arches National Park - Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch

Day 5

  • Canyonlands - Mesa Arch - 0.6 - sunrise hike and Elephant Hill Trailhead to Chesler Park Viewpoint
Edited by BeTheMatch
ETA: We're going the last week of March.
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On 2/17/2018 at 4:10 PM, BeTheMatch said:

For all you mighty five Utah types, I'd appreciate a critique of the plan below. We're saving Zion for a different trip (to be combined with Arizona, New Mexico probably). We're driving in from Minnesota:

Day 1

  • Red Canyon   - Arches Trail and Pink Ledges Trail
  • Bryce Canyon - Navajo Loop - Queen’s Garden Combo

Day 2

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante - Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike
  • Capitol Reef National Park - Star Gazing

Day 3

  • Capitol Reef National Park  - Hike Grand Wash and/or Hickman Bridge

Day 4

  • Arches National Park - Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch

Day 5

  • Canyonlands - Mesa Arch - 0.6 - sunrise hike and Elephant Hill Trailhead to Chesler Park Viewpoint

Looks great.  I'll re-state spending a day with Excursions of Escalante to go canyoneering. 

On your agenda, I would advise doing Arches at sunrise/park opening - drive to the far side of the park and work your way back - You will have it all to yourself for a few hours.  Most Arches hikes are short, flat hikes you so can cover more territory/arches doing it this way.  There's also a shorter hike to a viewpoint to see Delicate arch that is pretty neat - Hiking up there takes some time, and with arches, I'm more of a quantity guy.  Things tend to spread out a lot more at Canyonlands in my experience.

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On 10/9/2017 at 7:29 PM, Dan Lambskin said:

Yeah smoky mountains would be good option 

Overrated and over commercialized.  I may be biased because I've seen it many times but it's really went downhill.

 

Mammoth Cave is pretty awesome. 

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2 hours ago, Mookie said:

Looks great.  I'll re-state spending a day with Excursions of Escalante to go canyoneering. 

On your agenda, I would advise doing Arches at sunrise/park opening - drive to the far side of the park and work your way back - You will have it all to yourself for a few hours.  Most Arches hikes are short, flat hikes you so can cover more territory/arches doing it this way.  There's also a shorter hike to a viewpoint to see Delicate arch that is pretty neat - Hiking up there takes some time, and with arches, I'm more of a quantity guy.  Things tend to spread out a lot more at Canyonlands in my experience.

Should've mentioned, bringing the wife and 13-year-old son. Wife probably more active than me, son probably too. But still. I don't know if canyoneering is biting off more than we can chew.

Also trying to decide whether to make time to do the Fiery Furnace. The guides don't start until April, so we'd have to go on our own. Is that something we could handle, or can you get into any trouble on that one?

Your above advice was how we were planning to attack Arches on one day.

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On 2/18/2018 at 8:28 PM, BeTheMatch said:

Should've mentioned, bringing the wife and 13-year-old son. Wife probably more active than me, son probably too. But still. I don't know if canyoneering is biting off more than we can chew.

Also trying to decide whether to make time to do the Fiery Furnace. The guides don't start until April, so we'd have to go on our own. Is that something we could handle, or can you get into any trouble on that one?

Your above advice was how we were planning to attack Arches on one day.

Never done fiery furnace.  Sorry

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On 02/16/2018 at 6:54 PM, dgreen said:

Joshua Tree in June: too hot?

You still doing the AZ wedding?

If Phoenix, go to Sedona, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, maybe throw in a Utah park.

If Yuma, go to Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Whitney, Kings, Yosemite. Or just go to San Diego!

 

Or, if Tucson, do something different. Go to Chiricahua Nat. Monument , Gila Wilderness and White Sands in NM.

Chiricahua and the Gila are both under the radar gems

 

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8 hours ago, NFL2DF said:

You still doing the AZ wedding?

If Phoenix, go to Sedona, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, maybe throw in a Utah park.

If Yuma, go to Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Whitney, Kings, Yosemite. Or just go to San Diego!

 

Or, if Tucson, do something different. Go to Chiricahua Nat. Monument , Gila Wilderness and White Sands in NM.

Chiricahua and the Gila are both under the radar gems

 

So much to do! Maybe I should just move out west.

Yes, wedding in Arizona. Tucson. Wedding isn't until 6 PM on a Saturday. So, my current thought is fly to LA on Thursday morning, do LA stuff that day and then do Joshua Tree Friday. Leaning towards a hotel all the way out in Twentynine Palms to get an early start, but something in Riverside wouldn't be too far either. (This is based on the assumption that we don't need to be in Tucson Friday night for a rehearsal dinner. Nobody in our family is in the wedding, but it is a relative's wedding so my wife may feel the need to be there.) Assuming we don't need to be in Tucson Friday evening, then we get up early Saturday wherever we are work our way toward Tucson and hopefully hit Saguaro before going to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The only plans locked in right now, other than the wedding, is that Sunday night and Monday night my parents got everyone hotel rooms in Flagstaff so we can do the Grand Canyon Monday. So, Sunday we'll work our way up to Flagstaff, hitting Sedona and other stuff on the way. Monday is Grand Canyon and then Tuesday morning we will leave Flagstaff. Now I'm thinking from there we'll head north toward Moab and do some Canyon Lands and Arches Tue/Wed and then drive over to Denver to fly home probably later on Thursday. We have friends in Denver to see.

I'm sort of cheap and maybe I'm spending way too much time trying to save every dollar I can on flights. But, one reason I like Denver is I can get cheap flights back to DC for the 5 of us. Flights to LA aren't too bad. So far I'm not seeing great deals on rental cars from LA to Denver. I know someone who works for Enterprise so maybe I'll reach out to him about it.

So, not a long trip. Maybe something like Thursday to Thursday. We could probably go to Friday, but don't want to go beyond that.

This can all change. This is just my current thought. I'd prefer to do a Denver round trip loop, but most of family would like to spend some time in California. We may end up just doing a round trip loop from LA. IDK. Too many options.

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2 minutes ago, dgreen said:

So much to do! Maybe I should just move out west.

Yes, wedding in Arizona. Tucson. Wedding isn't until 6 PM on a Saturday. So, my current thought is fly to LA on Thursday morning, do LA stuff that day and then do Joshua Tree Friday. Leaning towards a hotel all the way out in Twentynine Palms to get an early start, but something in Riverside wouldn't be too far either. (This is based on the assumption that we don't need to be in Tucson Friday night for a rehearsal dinner. Nobody in our family is in the wedding, but it is a relative's wedding so my wife may feel the need to be there.) Assuming we don't need to be in Tucson Friday evening, then we get up early Saturday wherever we are work our way toward Tucson and hopefully hit Saguaro before going to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The only plans locked in right now, other than the wedding, is that Sunday night and Monday night my parents got everyone hotel rooms in Flagstaff so we can do the Grand Canyon Monday. So, Sunday we'll work our way up to Flagstaff, hitting Sedona and other stuff on the way. Monday is Grand Canyon and then Tuesday morning we will leave Flagstaff. Now I'm thinking from there we'll head north toward Moab and do some Canyon Lands and Arches Tue/Wed and then drive over to Denver to fly home probably later on Thursday. We have friends in Denver to see.

I'm sort of cheap and maybe I'm spending way too much time trying to save every dollar I can on flights. But, one reason I like Denver is I can get cheap flights back to DC for the 5 of us. Flights to LA aren't too bad. So far I'm not seeing great deals on rental cars from LA to Denver. I know someone who works for Enterprise so maybe I'll reach out to him about it.

So, not a long trip. Maybe something like Thursday to Thursday. We could probably go to Friday, but don't want to go beyond that.

This can all change. This is just my current thought. I'd prefer to do a Denver round trip loop, but most of family would like to spend some time in California. We may end up just doing a round trip loop from LA. IDK. Too many options.

Flying to Denver for a Tucson wedding?!?  And I thought I was cheap. 

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2 minutes ago, Brony said:

Flying to Denver for a Tucson wedding?!?  And I thought I was cheap. 

:lmao: 

Well, the road trip is obviously part of it. If I did a Denver loop, I'd probably do Denver down to Santa Fe then White Sands and over to Tucson. Then up to the Grand Canyon, through Utah, and back to Denver for the return trip.

Round trip, I can probably save about $500-600 for the 5 of us by going through Denver. That would then allow me to put some of those fat savings into hotel stays near cool places to give us some experiences. So it is someone cheapness on my part, but it's also just that I'd rather use money in a different way on the trip. I got a $2400 state tax refund and I'm hoping to make that cover as much of flights and hotels as I can.

 

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And I should add I'm trying to avoid Frontier and Spirit. I think I can get good prices on them to Vegas, but I hate the idea of seeing one price and having a bunch of add-ons. My wife went to Denver once on Frontier and the final price ended up being equal to what United would have been. Still a good price overall, but annoying.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Flying into Vegas on a Wednesday night.

Thursday morning, we'll head out to the Valley of Fire for a few hours. Then we'll start heading south, making a brief stop at Hoover Dam. I'm thinking we'll stay in Prescott Thursday night.

Friday we'll work our way from Prescott to Tucson. Not sure if we'll try to hit Saguaro Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Attending a wedding Saturday evening.

Sunday drive to Flagstaff and we'll see a couple things around Sedona (Montezuma? Palatki?).

Monday is the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday morning, leave Flagstaff to Moab. I think we'll swing by Four Corners and maybe another brief stop or two, but want to get to Moab with enough time to do some of the Arches Tuesday afternoon/evening. I assume we should go into the Arches at night for the stars?

Wednesday morning, more Arches and then back in the car for Denver. As of now, we're planning on being to Denver by Wednesday night to stay with friends.

Fly out of Denver at 6 PM Thursday.

I wish we had a few more days to take more time at some of these spots, but this is about as long as we can do right now. My wife tells me the trip is really about the wedding and family, but I think she's kind of crazy.

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On 10/9/2017 at 5:21 PM, GroveDiesel said:

SeeOne of my favorite memories as a kid was when my family drove across the US for 3 weeks and visited a bunch of national parks including Mt Rushmore, Badlands, Yellowstone, Pike's Peak, Grand Canyon and a few other landmarks like the St. Louis Arch, the Mississippi, 4 Corners, and a few others.

I'd like to take my family on a similar trip and am planning a couple of years out. My time frame is a little more compressed. Probably 2 to 2.5 weeks total. We'll be starting from NJ.

So what I want to know, is what are your top recommendations for parks, national and state, and landmark type places? With the timeframe, I can't imagine making it all the way to California. That may be a future trip to itself. Areas with easy accessibility and/or easy hikes to things are preferable due to my wife's MS.

Black canyon of the Gunnison and million dollar highway are good.

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  • 1 month later...
On 3/14/2018 at 1:30 PM, dgreen said:

Flying into Vegas on a Wednesday night.

Thursday morning, we'll head out to the Valley of Fire for a few hours. Then we'll start heading south, making a brief stop at Hoover Dam. I'm thinking we'll stay in Prescott Thursday night.

Friday we'll work our way from Prescott to Tucson. Not sure if we'll try to hit Saguaro Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Attending a wedding Saturday evening.

Sunday drive to Flagstaff and we'll see a couple things around Sedona (Montezuma? Palatki?).

Monday is the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday morning, leave Flagstaff to Moab. I think we'll swing by Four Corners and maybe another brief stop or two, but want to get to Moab with enough time to do some of the Arches Tuesday afternoon/evening. I assume we should go into the Arches at night for the stars?

Wednesday morning, more Arches and then back in the car for Denver. As of now, we're planning on being to Denver by Wednesday night to stay with friends.

Fly out of Denver at 6 PM Thursday.

I wish we had a few more days to take more time at some of these spots, but this is about as long as we can do right now. My wife tells me the trip is really about the wedding and family, but I think she's kind of crazy.

Great itinerary. 

Make sure to hit the Valley of Fire Wave that someone posted earlier in the thread, looks awesome.

Depending on timing and direction, The Coffee Cup in Boulder City a little west of Hoover Dam is a cool spot for a meal. 

It adds 70 miles and 2 hours to the drive from Prescott to Tucson but taking the Prescott>Pine>Payson>Globe>Oro Valley>Tucson route is 100x more scenic (forests and canyons) than through metro PHX (suburbia and "the" 101 and "the" 202, etc) And depending on Friday traffic may even be as quick. Pine has a really cool place for lunch and beer, That Brewery. If your family is into hot spots you may want to just take the PHX route and stop in Old Town Scottsdale for lunch and walk around.

You may consider doing Saguaro NP Sat morning, depending on temperatures, either way it is an awesome sight to see. Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon is a cool hike for Sat morning if you do Saguaro Fri night.

 

Sounds like a pair of jam packed scenic bookends a family gathering. Nice work on your part. 

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On 2/21/2018 at 11:02 AM, dgreen said:

And I should add I'm trying to avoid Frontier and Spirit. I think I can get good prices on them to Vegas, but I hate the idea of seeing one price and having a bunch of add-ons. My wife went to Denver once on Frontier and the final price ended up being equal to what United would have been. Still a good price overall, but annoying.

I fly Frontier to ski CO a few times a year. Have done it probably 6-8 times. DCA to Denver is generally under $180 or so including a checked bag unless you're booking a few days out. What is she spending money on that is making it as expensive as other airlines? Whenever I've booked they've been at least $100 cheaper than anybody else, usually more. 

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  • 1 month later...

Just returned from our trip out west and figured Id leave a review for anyone considering this trip in the future. Keep in mind that we did this early June, so conditions will be different depending on the season.

Itinerary: We flew into Vegas, rented a car and drove our way to Salt Lake City. Along the way, we hit Grand Canyon, Page AZ, Zion, Bryce, Escalante, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, Arches, Canyonland (in that order). Here is a map of our itinerary. The first drive from Vegas to GC and the last drive from Moab to SLC were about 4 hours. All of the other drives were about 1.5-2.5 hours.

General Recommendations: Buy a National Park Pass ($80) and it will get you into all the NPs. Bring refillable water bottles, its HOT and DRY and there are free refill stations in all the NPs. If you have kids, get a NP Passport book which you can get stamped in any NP in the country. Bring a wide-angle camera/lens (I used my GoPro). The pictures and scenery out here are so expansive, a phone pic just doesn't do it justice.

There are basically 4 ways you can do this trip.

  1. You can camp/RV. We like to camp, but I know what it takes to camp comfortably with a wife and 2 teenage daughters and I wasnt willing to drag all that stuff on the plane with us. Saw lots of people doing it though and it looked nice (although very HOT during the day).
  2. You can stay in chain hotels. I am not a chain-hotel guy, but if you like comfortable/familiar accommodations, there were Best Westerns everywhere we went.
  3. You can stay in expensive accommodations. If money is no object, there are great places to stay in every town. There are lodges right on the rim of the canyon and there are lodges inside of Zion. I would imagine you need to book these years in advance and be prepared to open the check-book.
  4. You can book the weirdest, most funky looking local places along the way. This is what we did.

Day 1 - Grand Canyon - I recommend staying inside the park here. The place is mobbed with tourists and its nice not having to drive/park. We booked the cheapest room we could find (Maswik Lodge). Sure, it wasnt on the rim and we didnt have a view of the canyon, but it was a just a short walk away. We only did one day here and did not attempt any major hikes down into the canoyn. We hiked the rim trail during the day and took the scenic bus ride out to the viewpoints in the evening at sunset. Everything inside the park is terribly overpriced ($7 for a can of beer). Skip the restaurants and pick up a sixer and sandwiches at the market inside the park.

Day 2 - We drove to Page AZ where we stayed in a traditional Navajo dirt-floor hogan. This was mainly a half-way point to Zion to break up the drive, but the attraction for me was seeing Horseshoe Bend. In order to get this picture, you need to actually lean out over the edge. Its not affiliated with any park system, so there is no rail to protect you and there are no rangers to keep you under control. The result is hundreds of people taking selfies and getting WAY to close to the edge. Four people have died here already this year alone. I was literally sick to my stomach watching people take pictures.

Day 3/4 - Zion NP. We stayed at Zion Ponderosa in a Glamping Tent. The tent was cozy and it was the only pool we got in the whole trip, so the kids liked it, but it wasnt very conveniently located. You had to drive 40-60 minutes through the park to get to Springdale (the closest town where we should have stayed). We spent the first day just driving and stopping through the park on our way to Springdale where we rented "the footwear package" ($25pp includes shoes, neoprene socks and a walking stick) to hike The Narrows the next day. This hike was the highlight of the whole trip for me and the footwear package is a must if you intend to make it to "Wall Street" (the narrowest part of the Narrows). It's about a 6-hour round trip. The crowds and the parking in Zion are atrocious. You need to do this hike early to get a parking spot, make it before it gets too hot, and avoid some of the crowds. Resist the urge to start snapping pics as soon as you enter and just start walking. After an hour you will no longer see people without rented shoes. After 2 hours, you will start to have sections of the canyon to yourself. After 3 hours you will enter Wall Street and be able to get pictures like this. If I had it to do again, I would've stayed another day here to do the Angels Landing Hike.

Day 5/6 - We stopped at Bryce Canyon NP on the way to Escalante where we stayed in an Airstream Trailer. They also had a drive-in movie here and we rented one of the antique convertible cars to sit in to watch it. It was hilarious and awesome. The was the most remote/desolate place we stayed. We did two hikes in Escalante. Both were about 6 miles round trip and both were REALLY HOT (who knew it was so hot in the desert?). The first was a hike to the Zebra Slot canyon and the second was a hike to Calf Creek Falls, a 126ft waterfall in the middle of the desert with surprisingly bone-chilling water. 

Day 7/8 - Moab, UT. On the way to Moab, we made a very quick stop at Capitol Reef NP and popped into Goblin Valley State Park to snap a quick pic for @El Floppo. It's literally right on your way, and worth the time to run around among the hoodoos. Moab is a very cool town with lots to do. We stayed in a yurt at a yoga retreat here. We did Arches NP the first day and did a guided SUP trip on the Colorado River the next day. Plenty of cool places to shop/eat, but make sure to hit the Quesadilla Mobilla food truck at some point during your stay, it was THE BOMB!

:tumbleweed:

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Trip completed.

Landed in Las Vegas after 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night. By the time we worked our way out of the airport to the rental car shuttle, it was pushing 10:00 PM. And it was still about 100 degrees. Grabbed the rental car and drove down the strip and then parked at Paris. Walked through Paris and then went over the Bellagio fountains. Our fountain show was set to Billy Jean. By this time, we were all tired so we hit the CVS to load up on toiletries, sunscreen, and water and then went back to the car to go to the hotel. At this point, our youngest was already complaining about the heat and saying he didn't want to go hiking the next day because it was too hot.

Being on east coast time, we were all up a little after 6:00 the next morning. We took our time eating breakfast and packing up and we made it to Valley of Fire by about 8:30. I wanted to get all the hiking in before noon. We were able to do the Fire Wave and White Domes Loop trails and then swing by Elephant rock (because my daughter likes elephants). What an awesome park. I want to go back to do more, probably not in June though. My son who cried about the having to hike in the heat loved it there and is by far the most adventurous hiker/climber.

We left the park before noon and drove back towards Vegas, at lunch at In N Out and then drove over the Hoover Dam. A little south of Hoover Dam, the temperature gauge in the car said it was 112 outside. That was the highest I saw. Other than that first day, we had amazing temps the rest of the trip. The drive down to Prescott was a few hours, but when you're looking at such a different landscape than you're used to, time goes by much faster. Got to Prescott Thursday evening around dinner time, had dinner in town, and then the kids went to the hotel pool.

Friday, we met my wife's friend in the Phoenix area for lunch and then drove down to Tucson. By the time we got to our hotel, we had to get showered and dressed for the rehearsal dinner. The dinner was at the bride's parent's house who had a really cool backyard. Probably a somewhat typical Tucson backyard, but it was cool to us. Fortunately/unfortunately, it rained most of the evening so we didn't get to be out in that yard much. But, the fortunate part was that it kept temps low all weekend.

Saturday morning was Saguaro NP. Really cool to see so many tall cacti. On the way there, we had a tire with low air. When I was adding air, I noticed a screw in the tire. Enterprise quickly found us another vehicle close by. We got the park later than we would have liked, but it went well considering the circumstances. We got one decent hike in and then another storm started rolling in and it was nearing time to grab lunch and head back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. Weather briefly cleared up for the kids to hit the pool. Saturday evening was the wedding, outdoors. It rained some during the ceremony but then cleared up nicely for the pictures and reception. Sunday was a day of driving up to Flagstaff. I was surprised at how green Tucson was.

On the way to Flagstaff, drove through Sedona and stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. I was wanting to try the Palatki Heritage Site, but didn't realize until that afternoon that it closes at 3:00. So, on to the Flagstaff hotel with a plan to quickly go to Walnut Canyon that evening...except Walnut Canyon closed at 5:00! Really need to check the hours on some of these places ahead of time. Had a really good burger at Diablo Burger in downtown Flagstaff for dinner.

Monday was Grand Canyon time. Some of us headed there in the morning to do some hiking. The rest of the group joined us at lunch time. We did about 2 miles down of the Bright Angel Trail. I'm glad I did it for the experience, but I honestly wouldn't have much interest in doing more of a hike even if I had the time. No interest in walking back up any more than I did. It was a little easier than I was expecting, but still a pain. The rest of the afternoon was grabbing a crappy lunch and then driving east with a couple stops at viewpoints (Grandview and Watchtower). It was getting late, so back towards the hotel.

I knew I was lowish on gas (because my wife drove our van up to the Grand Canyon leaving it with less than a 1/4 tank). But, the car indicated I had plenty of miles until empty to get back to the hotel. With about 25 miles to go, it said I still have 45 miles of gas left. Then I started going uphill. It quickly dropped to say 31 miles left in the tank with 17 miles to the hotel. Then a mile later, the mileage indicator disappeared and a "Low Gas" indicator came on. About a mile after that, I was out of gas. I was still going uphill when I ran out of gas. But, weirdly, the vehicle kept going on its own. I got on the shoulder and it continued at about 20-25 MPH on its own up the hill. The accelerator didn't do anything and I lost power steering, so the car was basically off. It got to the top of the hill and GPS said there was a gas station 4 miles away as we started downhill. I cruised down hitting nearly 80 MPH and then it completely gave out about 1/4 mile from the gas station. We had called ahead to by sister and BIL and they were waiting at the gas station and had bought a container. Adding some gas to get us to the gas station and filled there. No family road trip is complete without some excitement like that.

Tuesday morning, going to Moab. I knew it was a long drive and we'd want to make some stops and we lose an hour with the time change, so we were in the car by 6:30. Drove north then through Tuba City and turned towards Monument Valley. Made a few stops for pictures at the Utah state sign and around Monument Valley and then stopped for lunch at Twin Rocks in Bluff, UT. Wife and I had Navajo Tacos, which were interesting and good. Continued north to Moab with a quick stop at Wilson arch just a little South of Moab on the side of the road. Got to the hotel around 3:30. We stayed in the new SpringHill Suites. It shares an awesome pool area with the neighboring Fairfield Inn and Suites. Based on the pictures I showed the kids when I booked the hotel, this was the part of the trip they were most excited about. So, we did the pool first. I went to The Arches Visitors Center just before they closed to get some maps and ask for some advice for that evening and the next morning. After the pool, we had dinner in Moab then went into the park. We did the Windows, Turret Arch, and Double Arch and sat in Turret Arch for the sunset. Back to the hotel for more pool time. Around 11:00 PM, my daughter and I went back into the park for the stars. We had a half moon so that hurt the viewing a little but still a pretty awesome thing to see. We could barely make out the milky way, but unfortunately it wasn't as clear as I was hoping. The moon was scheduled to set at like 1:30 but we left a little after midnight. My advice to anyone planning star viewing is to check the moon schedule to get maximum darkness.

Wednesday morning back into The Arches. I was originally thinking of doing Landscape Arch since it's the biggest but my brief research showed that you can't get up close to that one (pieces have fallen off over the years, so they block it off?) and climbing is the real fun for the kids. So, we planned to do Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch and the others in that area. We never made it past Sand Dune Arch because we spent so much time climbing and exploring that small area. The arch itself isn't anything amazing compared to other arches, but it's just in a really cool area with some fun areas to climb around and cracks/slots to squeeze through. By the time we finished with Sand Dune Arch, we were ready to start towards Denver.

Stopped in Grand Junction for a quick lunch and Glenwood Springs for coffee and the wife looked in a few shops (she wants to move there now). We were both about to fall asleep, so coffee was needed. The drive from Glenwood Springs to Denver is amazing. Driving along side the river, the highway almost being stacked on top of each other at times, the tunnels, the canyons, the climbs and roller coaster drops down the mountain. As it neared 6 PM, I knew I needed to check in to Southwest to give us the best chance to sit together on our flight home the next day. At 5:55 we approached a rest area over 10,000 feet elevation and I had LTE (which obviously was spotty all trip). So, we pulled over there, I checked in to our flight, and we continued down the mountain. Our friends introduced us to Casa Bonita in Denver. If you aren't familiar with it, you should go...or, actually, don't go. I don't know. I'm not sure what do say about it.

Thursday we had plans to hit downtown (do some city stuff in the midst of all this outdoorsy stuff) before going to the airport, but we all slept in and by the time we had lunch and packed we had to head to the airport. Landed back at Dulles around 11:30 PM and I've been sleeping every since. Now I'm back at work and planning my next trip.

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2 hours ago, dgreen said:

I knew I was lowish on gas (because my wife drove our van up to the Grand Canyon leaving it with less than a 1/4 tank). But, the car indicated I had plenty of miles until empty to get back to the hotel. With about 25 miles to go, it said I still have 45 miles of gas left. Then I started going uphill. It quickly dropped to say 31 miles left in the tank with 17 miles to the hotel. Then a mile later, the mileage indicator disappeared and a "Low Gas" indicator came on. About a mile after that, I was out of gas. I was still going uphill when I ran out of gas. But, weirdly, the vehicle kept going on its own. I got on the shoulder and it continued at about 20-25 MPH on its own up the hill. The accelerator didn't do anything and I lost power steering, so the car was basically off. It got to the top of the hill and GPS said there was a gas station 4 miles away as we started downhill. I cruised down hitting nearly 80 MPH and then it completely gave out about 1/4 mile from the gas station. We had called ahead to by sister and BIL and they were waiting at the gas station and had bought a container. Adding some gas to get us to the gas station and filled there. No family road trip is complete without some excitement like that.

Yeah, this was always a concern for us. I pretty much filled up anytime I was below a half-tank and saw a gas station. We would sometimes drive an hour or two without passing one.

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On 6/19/2018 at 10:37 AM, E-Z Glider said:

Day 3/4 - Zion NP. We stayed at Zion Ponderosa in a Glamping Tent. The tent was cozy and it was the only pool we got in the whole trip, so the kids liked it, but it wasnt very conveniently located. You had to drive 40-60 minutes through the park to get to Springdale (the closest town where we should have stayed). We spent the first day just driving and stopping through the park on our way to Springdale where we rented "the footwear package" ($25pp includes shoes, neoprene socks and a walking stick) to hike The Narrows the next day. This hike was the highlight of the whole trip for me and the footwear package is a must if you intend to make it to "Wall Street" (the narrowest part of the Narrows). It's about a 6-hour round trip. The crowds and the parking in Zion are atrocious. You need to do this hike early to get a parking spot, make it before it gets too hot, and avoid some of the crowds. Resist the urge to start snapping pics as soon as you enter and just start walking. After an hour you will no longer see people without rented shoes. After 2 hours, you will start to have sections of the canyon to yourself. After 3 hours you will enter Wall Street and be able to get pictures like this. If I had it to do again, I would've stayed another day here to do the Angels Landing Hike.

 

Yeah, I only had time to do a little bit of the Narrows last week and my feet felt turrible without those special shoes.

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1 hour ago, dgreen said:

I'll be in Seattle for a few days next week. If I only have time to spend a couple hours at either Olympic NP or North Cascades NP, which one should I do?

I was in Seattle this past weekend for 2 days.  We picked Mt Rainier NP - it was about 1.5 hours from my hotel at SeaTac, and well worth the trip.  When I was mapping it, Olympic and Mt. Rainier NPs were both about the same distance.  Not sure about North Cascades.  The day we spent at Rainier was the best day of our 9 day trip.  Simply amazing scenery, easy hiking for a family of 5 (with 3 kids under 7).

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29 minutes ago, ThreeThousand said:

I was in Seattle this past weekend for 2 days.  We picked Mt Rainier NP - it was about 1.5 hours from my hotel at SeaTac, and well worth the trip.  When I was mapping it, Olympic and Mt. Rainier NPs were both about the same distance.  Not sure about North Cascades.  The day we spent at Rainier was the best day of our 9 day trip.  Simply amazing scenery, easy hiking for a family of 5 (with 3 kids under 7).

Oh, ha. Didn't even notice that park. For some reason I only saw Olympic and North Cascades on the map. Ranier is definitely a little closer and can give me a little more time in the park. Thanks.

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44 minutes ago, dgreen said:

Oh, ha. Didn't even notice that park. For some reason I only saw Olympic and North Cascades on the map. Ranier is definitely a little closer and can give me a little more time in the park. Thanks.

If you chose Olympic you will want to do the ferry which is cool I think especially for kids. If you choose that route I’d suggest Hurricane Ridge. 

 

Rainier as mentioned is closer. I’d suggest Sunrise Lodge (double check road is open) from there you have some really cool hikes with great views of Rainier. There’s one that is about 8 miles round trip that is one of my favorite hikes to take people from out of town - Burroughs Mountan. Can easily do this and back to Seattle for beers in a day.

North Cascades are least accessible IMO. They are kind of spread out. Some cool spots though. 

No bad options. 

 

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35 minutes ago, The General said:

If you chose Olympic you will want to do the ferry which is cool I think especially for kids. If you choose that route I’d suggest Hurricane Ridge. 

 

Rainier as mentioned is closer. I’d suggest Sunrise Lodge (double check road is open) from there you have some really cool hikes with great views of Rainier. There’s one that is about 8 miles round trip that is one of my favorite hikes to take people from out of town - Burroughs Mountan. Can easily do this and back to Seattle for beers in a day.

North Cascades are least accessible IMO. They are kind of spread out. Some cool spots though. 

No bad options. 

 

I'll be alone, or possibly with a coworker or two (depending on when they arrive in Seattle). I'm in town for a meeting Monday afternoon downtown. I land Sunday at 11AM so right now I plan on hitting a park (leaning Ranier right now) and then being back downtown in the evening. So probably not looking to do an 8 mile hike. If one particular coworker is with me, we'll just want overlooks or very short walks/hikes since he has some mobility issues.

Looks like I could enter on the north end and loop around to exit on the west side (Paradise) - or vice versa - and make a few stops along the way. Sunrise adds about an hour round trip of driving off the main road? Good views of Rainier from other spots or is it worth the extra hour drive (I don't mind driving at all) to go to Sunrise?

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3 minutes ago, dgreen said:

I'll be alone, or possibly with a coworker or two (depending on when they arrive in Seattle). I'm in town for a meeting Monday afternoon downtown. I land Sunday at 11AM so right now I plan on hitting a park (leaning Ranier right now) and then being back downtown in the evening. So probably not looking to do an 8 mile hike. If one particular coworker is with me, we'll just want overlooks or very short walks/hikes since he has some mobility issues.

Looks like I could enter on the north end and loop around to exit on the west side (Paradise) - or vice versa - and make a few stops along the way. Sunrise adds about an hour round trip of driving off the main road? Good views of Rainier from other spots or is it worth the extra hour drive (I don't mind driving at all) to go to Sunrise?

We went to Sunrise - there are 6-8 trails leaving from the Visitor's Center there, of varying length, and the road was open as of Saturday.  If you are trying to be back downtown that night, I would enter/leave from White River (north side) and go to Sunrise.  It's about 1.5 hrs from SeaTac and 2 hrs back downtown, and spend your time on the trails there instead of driving.  I'd guess the road to Sunrise from White River is 20 minutes at worst. 

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30 minutes ago, ThreeThousand said:

We went to Sunrise - there are 6-8 trails leaving from the Visitor's Center there, of varying length, and the road was open as of Saturday.  If you are trying to be back downtown that night, I would enter/leave from White River (north side) and go to Sunrise.  It's about 1.5 hrs from SeaTac and 2 hrs back downtown, and spend your time on the trails there instead of driving.  I'd guess the road to Sunrise from White River is 20 minutes at worst. 

Sounds like good advice. I have a tendency of wanting to cover as much ground as possible, but maybe just spending more time in one spot is a better idea.

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58 minutes ago, ThreeThousand said:

We went to Sunrise - there are 6-8 trails leaving from the Visitor's Center there, of varying length, and the road was open as of Saturday.  If you are trying to be back downtown that night, I would enter/leave from White River (north side) and go to Sunrise.  It's about 1.5 hrs from SeaTac and 2 hrs back downtown, and spend your time on the trails there instead of driving.  I'd guess the road to Sunrise from White River is 20 minutes at worst. 

@dgreen This is good advice I think. You will get all the views you need from Sunrise. Paradise on the south side also has amazing views. Just depends how you and your friends want to spend the time. 

If you land at 11 and still have to check in that makes for a pretty long day depending on where you are staying. 

You could also just hop on passenger ferry and head over to West Seattle. Less ambitious but you will see Rainier while having tacos :lol:

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On 6/25/2018 at 11:33 AM, dgreen said:

Wednesday morning back into The Arches. I was originally thinking of doing Landscape Arch since it's the biggest but my brief research showed that you can't get up close to that one (pieces have fallen off over the years, so they block it off?) and climbing is the real fun for the kids. So, we planned to do Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch and the others in that area. We never made it past Sand Dune Arch because we spent so much time climbing and exploring that small area. The arch itself isn't anything amazing compared to other arches, but it's just in a really cool area with some fun areas to climb around and cracks/slots to squeeze through. By the time we finished with Sand Dune Arch, we were ready to start towards Denver.

One of my favorites as well.  As you walk up to the arch, my memory is you turn right to see the arch, and to the left is a huge upwards crevase climbing area.  That's a great one.  I've been almost all the way up (again, as far as I can remember).

Also, when I was there in my 20s, my brother jumped off the sand dune arch because he thought the sand looked so soft it would cusion his fall.  I remember that not really being the case.

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Just now, The General said:

@dgreen This is good advice I think. You will get all the views you need from Sunrise. Paradise on the south side also has amazing views. Just depends how you and your friends want to spend the time. 

If you land at 11 and still have to check in that makes for a pretty long day depending on where you are staying. 

You could also just hop on passenger ferry and head over to West Seattle. Less ambitious but you can will see Rainier while having tacos :lol:

Staying downtown. I'm not a morning person but with the time change I'm sure I'll be up nice and early and have several hours Monday before a 1PM meeting downtown, so I can probably fit a ferry ride in then. I'll also then have Monday evening, too.

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19 minutes ago, dgreen said:

Staying downtown. I'm not a morning person but with the time change I'm sure I'll be up nice and early and have several hours Monday before a 1PM meeting downtown, so I can probably fit a ferry ride in then. I'll also then have Monday evening, too.

The drive out to mountains is definitely doable, just will be a long day. Personally I would not want to drive to Olympics and def not North Cascades on same day. 

There’s no shortage of stuff to checkout, places with good happy hour downtown so you’ll get tons of good advice from hotel.

But, a cool, easy trip from downtown is the West Seattle passenger ferry (runs every 30 minutes) drops you off right at a place called Marination Ma Kia. Nothing fancy at all but you can get good grub there on the water and the ride over/back gets you out on the water.

Uber or drive to Gasworks Park is also a great view of city and there’s really great food / Brewery in Fremont on Stone Way that is 5 minutes from there. As I write about it, it may even be cooler than the ferry described above now that I think about it :lol:

Weather is great right now, super hot for Seattle, so everyone is hanging outside. Evenings at sunset at any place with a view facing west where you can see the Olympics is going to be spectacular. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, Bull Dozier said:

One of my favorites as well.  As you walk up to the arch, my memory is you turn right to see the arch, and to the left is a huge upwards crevase climbing area.  That's a great one.  I've been almost all the way up (again, as far as I can remember).

Also, when I was there in my 20s, my brother jumped off the sand dune arch because he thought the sand looked so soft it would cusion his fall.  I remember that not really being the case.

Yes, as you enter, a little ways up the arch is on your right. Then straight ahead has some crevices and some fairly easy rock climbing. My kids went all the way to the top. I stopped just short after helping them up the last part.

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Assateague Island - Pretty meh. Drove through with the family, spent maybe an hour and a half and saw a dozen or so ponies. If you're in the AO, probably worth the quick trip through, but not an adventure to seek out.

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On 10/10/2017 at 8:58 AM, Sammy3469 said:

Just to expand

  • Zion is spectacular and is an easy 3-4 days if you hike.  If you aren't staying at the hotel/cabins in the park, you park at the entrance and then you get bussed to various points within the park.  There are a couple of easier hikes, but a lot of what it is known for is hard hikes.  It should be seen, but probably isn't ideal for your wife
  • Bryce - stunning from the lodge with a lot of easy hikes.  This is a place where she'll be happy to just sit at the lodge and admire the view, but there's also a longish drive along the rim with various views.
  • Grand Canyon - it's about 4 hours from Zion, but the drive in from 67 is a pretty cool Alpine plateau.  There's a nice drive around the rim once you are there and then obviously the view from the lodge is pretty spectacular.  You need to stay in the park, you probably only need a night here since you won't be hiking into the canyon.
  • Drive from Bryce to Moab on 12 and the 24 is pretty awesome.  On 24 you can drive into Capital Reef National Park even in a crappy car which is pretty cool for the kids.
  • Arches and Canyonlands (Isle in the Sky part) would both be good for her.  Both have drives that with easily accessible sights, etc.  (Both can also be more challenging if you want).  Moab is nice town with cheap lodging to spend 2-4 days in the area.  On the way to Canyonlands, you can also drive to Dead Horse State Park which has a pretty cool view of the Colorado River.

You're on your own everywhere else

:blackdot:

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On 2/16/2018 at 10:30 AM, E-Z Glider said:

Family Griswold trip out West is booked for early June. We're going to fly into Vegas and drive to SLC (itinerary below). Looking for any additional advise on things to see/do along the way.

  • Day 1 - South Rim Grand Canyon - We're not hiking here, so what's the best way to see GC by vehicle? Bus tour or drive yourself?
  • Day 2 - Page AZ - Want to get the Horsehoe bend photo for sure. Entered the Wave lottery just for S&G's.
  • Day 3/4 - Zion NP - Hiking the Narrows for sure, guided or DIY? What else?
  • Day 4/5 - Escalante - Hiking to Calf Creek Falls.
  • Day 6/7 - Moab - Stopping at Goblin Valley SP (pimped hard by @El Floppo in this thread). Doing a desert Jeep tour in Arches. What hikes or other activities in the area?
  • Day 8 - SLC - Anything to see here?

I would also love to do some fishing and will be bringing a travel rod if anyone has any recommendations on areas to fish along the way.

TIA 

Great salt lake is cool as well as the island in the middle of it.  Park city going east is a nice drive.

Oops, early june.

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3 hours ago, rascal said:

God obviously did.

He was busy inventing college basketball here in Kansas. 

And in case I missed any other attractions - go #### yourself  

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17 hours ago, Nugget said:

He was busy inventing college basketball here in Kansas. 

And in case I missed any other attractions - go #### yourself  

Lived there so im very familiar with its attractions.

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On 6/19/2018 at 10:37 AM, E-Z Glider said:

Just returned from our trip out west and figured Id leave a review for anyone considering this trip in the future. Keep in mind that we did this early June, so conditions will be different depending on the season.

Itinerary: We flew into Vegas, rented a car and drove our way to Salt Lake City. Along the way, we hit Grand Canyon, Page AZ, Zion, Bryce, Escalante, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, Arches, Canyonland (in that order). Here is a map of our itinerary. The first drive from Vegas to GC and the last drive from Moab to SLC were about 4 hours. All of the other drives were about 1.5-2.5 hours.

General Recommendations: Buy a National Park Pass ($80) and it will get you into all the NPs. Bring refillable water bottles, its HOT and DRY and there are free refill stations in all the NPs. If you have kids, get a NP Passport book which you can get stamped in any NP in the country. Bring a wide-angle camera/lens (I used my GoPro). The pictures and scenery out here are so expansive, a phone pic just doesn't do it justice.

There are basically 4 ways you can do this trip.

  1. You can camp/RV. We like to camp, but I know what it takes to camp comfortably with a wife and 2 teenage daughters and I wasnt willing to drag all that stuff on the plane with us. Saw lots of people doing it though and it looked nice (although very HOT during the day).
  2. You can stay in chain hotels. I am not a chain-hotel guy, but if you like comfortable/familiar accommodations, there were Best Westerns everywhere we went.
  3. You can stay in expensive accommodations. If money is no object, there are great places to stay in every town. There are lodges right on the rim of the canyon and there are lodges inside of Zion. I would imagine you need to book these years in advance and be prepared to open the check-book.
  4. You can book the weirdest, most funky looking local places along the way. This is what we did.

Day 1 - Grand Canyon - I recommend staying inside the park here. The place is mobbed with tourists and its nice not having to drive/park. We booked the cheapest room we could find (Maswik Lodge). Sure, it wasnt on the rim and we didnt have a view of the canyon, but it was a just a short walk away. We only did one day here and did not attempt any major hikes down into the canoyn. We hiked the rim trail during the day and took the scenic bus ride out to the viewpoints in the evening at sunset. Everything inside the park is terribly overpriced ($7 for a can of beer). Skip the restaurants and pick up a sixer and sandwiches at the market inside the park.

Day 2 - We drove to Page AZ where we stayed in a traditional Navajo dirt-floor hogan. This was mainly a half-way point to Zion to break up the drive, but the attraction for me was seeing Horseshoe Bend. In order to get this picture, you need to actually lean out over the edge. Its not affiliated with any park system, so there is no rail to protect you and there are no rangers to keep you under control. The result is hundreds of people taking selfies and getting WAY to close to the edge. Four people have died here already this year alone. I was literally sick to my stomach watching people take pictures.

Day 3/4 - Zion NP. We stayed at Zion Ponderosa in a Glamping Tent. The tent was cozy and it was the only pool we got in the whole trip, so the kids liked it, but it wasnt very conveniently located. You had to drive 40-60 minutes through the park to get to Springdale (the closest town where we should have stayed). We spent the first day just driving and stopping through the park on our way to Springdale where we rented "the footwear package" ($25pp includes shoes, neoprene socks and a walking stick) to hike The Narrows the next day. This hike was the highlight of the whole trip for me and the footwear package is a must if you intend to make it to "Wall Street" (the narrowest part of the Narrows). It's about a 6-hour round trip. The crowds and the parking in Zion are atrocious. You need to do this hike early to get a parking spot, make it before it gets too hot, and avoid some of the crowds. Resist the urge to start snapping pics as soon as you enter and just start walking. After an hour you will no longer see people without rented shoes. After 2 hours, you will start to have sections of the canyon to yourself. After 3 hours you will enter Wall Street and be able to get pictures like this. If I had it to do again, I would've stayed another day here to do the Angels Landing Hike.

Day 5/6 - We stopped at Bryce Canyon NP on the way to Escalante where we stayed in an Airstream Trailer. They also had a drive-in movie here and we rented one of the antique convertible cars to sit in to watch it. It was hilarious and awesome. The was the most remote/desolate place we stayed. We did two hikes in Escalante. Both were about 6 miles round trip and both were REALLY HOT (who knew it was so hot in the desert?). The first was a hike to the Zebra Slot canyon and the second was a hike to Calf Creek Falls, a 126ft waterfall in the middle of the desert with surprisingly bone-chilling water. 

Day 7/8 - Moab, UT. On the way to Moab, we made a very quick stop at Capitol Reef NP and popped into Goblin Valley State Park to snap a quick pic for @El Floppo. It's literally right on your way, and worth the time to run around among the hoodoos. Moab is a very cool town with lots to do. We stayed in a yurt at a yoga retreat here. We did Arches NP the first day and did a guided SUP trip on the Colorado River the next day. Plenty of cool places to shop/eat, but make sure to hit the Quesadilla Mobilla food truck at some point during your stay, it was THE BOMB!

:tumbleweed:

Awesome stuff.

And yes, if you want to stay in the lodges/cabins in the national parks, you need to book up to a year in advance and they are not cheap.

All of my lodging for our trip next summer is already booked. While it wasn't cheap, I'm hoping that staying in the park in both Zion and Bryce Canyon helps us beat the crowd a bit in giving us earlier access to shuttles/trails in the mornings and making it easier to hike later in the evening when it is cooler as well.

Good to know about the refill stations. I have backpacks with bladders for each of us, but being able to toss some water in a bottle with some powdered electrolytes would be a good way to rehydrate without having to make a mess of the bladder.

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15 minutes ago, GroveDiesel said:

Awesome stuff.

And yes, if you want to stay in the lodges/cabins in the national parks, you need to book up to a year in advance and they are not cheap.

All of my lodging for our trip next summer is already booked. While it wasn't cheap, I'm hoping that staying in the park in both Zion and Bryce Canyon helps us beat the crowd a bit in giving us earlier access to shuttles/trails in the mornings and making it easier to hike later in the evening when it is cooler as well.

Good to know about the refill stations. I have backpacks with bladders for each of us, but being able to toss some water in a bottle with some powdered electrolytes would be a good way to rehydrate without having to make a mess of the bladder.

Zion and Bryce were like night and day.

Zion - Park access via vehicle is limited to only shuttle buses and authorized cars (people who are staying in the park). We got into the parking lot at 7:00am and it was filling up quick (once its full, you need to park even farther away and take a shuttle just to get to the place where you get the park shuttle). We grabbed coffee/breakfast, got dressed, filled our water bottles, and then waited in an hour line just to get on the shuttle to head into the park to the trailhead. The lodges in the park are along the shuttle route, so staying there eliminates the whole driving/parking fiasco and first shuttle wait in line. Definitely worth it, IMO.

Bryce - You can drive anywhere or take the shuttle. It was pretty much empty compared to Zion. Literally 1/10th of the crowd. Easy to park at any of the stops. No lines for the shuttle buses. We just stopped as we passed by, so not really sure what other lodging options there are, but staying in the park didn't seem necessary.

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We stayed in the lodges in both Zion and Bryce for one night each in Sept. '15.  My wife booked both 1 year in advance. It is great because you get to stay in the park after it closes and clears out. After dinner at the Zion lodge there were a ton of deer gathered on the huge lawn in front of the main building and we even watched bucks bashing each other as we walked back to our room. We wanted to hike the Narrows but 7 people drowned the day before we arrived due to a flash flood, it was closed at the water entrance.

Bryce was very cool too because the rangers put on celestial events at night with super telescopes. The stars were amazing.

Zion actually has a beer garden which was nice. When we arrived at Bryce the next day I asked where I could get a beer and the employee explained to me that you could not buy alcohol in Utah at a National park. I told her I just had beer yesterday at Zion's beer garden. She just said, "err, uh. No beer here."

We spent 3 nights in Moab at The Gonzo Inn which was great. We hiked all over Arches, mountain biked at Dead Horse state park and the highlight was a hot air balloon ride over Canyonlands of which we survived a hard crash landing! Going up was like an elevator, coming down was sideways bouncing over boulders and cactus leaving us a little bruised up but with a great story to tell!

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In the last 3 years we have made one big National Park trip each year.

Utah- mighty five, stayed in lodge at Zion and Bryce

Colorado- Mesa Verde stayed in the lodge and elk gathered right under our balcony, also we drove to 12,000ft elevation in Rocky Mountain Nat park which was pretty scary with the wind really blowing and no guard rails.

Maine- we just got back from a 10 day trip to Boston and Maine with the highlight being 3 nights in Bar Harbor and biking all over the Acadia National Park carriage trails as well as hiking the Schoodic peninsula. The Schoodic is about an hour drive from Cadillac mountain but well worth it as we had the place to ourselves hiking along the rocks with waves slamming in with huge towering splashes.

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15 hours ago, simsarge said:

Assateague Island - Pretty meh. Drove through with the family, spent maybe an hour and a half and saw a dozen or so ponies. If you're in the AO, probably worth the quick trip through, but not an adventure to seek out.

I've lived 4 hours away for 40+ years and never been. If I was into camping, I'm guessing a site on the beach would be fun. I think you can get a permit to drive along the beaches, which could be fun for those with the right kind of vehicle. All the camping is in the MD portion of Assateague and the beach driving may be, too. There are different rules based on whether you are in the MD or VA portion. Being there for a rocket launch at Wallops Island would be cool. Other than that, as far as I know, it's an undeveloped beach with wild ponies.

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