My family is considering taking a long road trip, spending some of the time in Utah. I'd like to visit all five national parks, but we might not have a lot of time. So I'm wondering, what's the fastest that you can go through all the parks without feeling terribly rushed? We wouldn't be doing any super long hikes or anything (probably <2 mi. round trip in most instances). And with whatever amount of days that you suggest, which parks would you visit each day and where would you stay?
Also, I know there are several national monuments, Glen Canyon NRA, and Monument Valley as well, so if any of those are can't miss, let me know. Or if one of the national parks could be skipped to give more time to other stuff, let me know as well.
We went to SW USA ten years ago and spent about two weeks going around the NPs of California and Utah. From the Grand Canyon we went to Page and Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Moab for Arches and Canyonlands (Mesa Verde was closed due to forest fires) through Capitol Reef to Zion, then Bryce Canyon and then on to Death Valley, Mammoth Mountains, Yosemite and San Francisco. Arches was superb as was Bryce and Canyonlands. I wasn't so keen on Zion but I'm sure there are still plenty of walks there. Don't miss out Monument Valley (I think we also visited Four Corners and Navarjo National Monument) and the Moki Dugway was worthwhile too.
At Page we stayed at a hotel next to the lake (can't remember the name - 1 night). At Monument Valley it was Golding's Lodge (1 night), in Moab we had two nights in a motel for both Arches and Canyonlands, one night inside Bryce Canyon in one of the lodges and one night in a lodge inside Zion. We did it pretty quick and in retrospect we could have taken more time and explored a little further - done longer and more walking treks etc. But you'll certainly get a good taste of them with this schedule.
Although Moab to Bryce was a long drive (six hours) through Capitol Reef, most of the other journeys are two hours or so, leaving one place at 11am and doing a bit of sight-seeing on the way, you can do an early morning walk before leaving and a late afternoon walk once you arrive at the next place.
We loved the whole experience!
Thanks everyone for your responses.
Say if I had 7-9 days to spend in southern Utah including driving there from Provo and driving to Estes Park when I'm done, how would you split up the time for each place?
Also, if anyone knows anything about whitewater rafting, where would be the best place to go/best company to choose? I could go rafting either in southern Utah or somewhere around Estes Park.
Actually, make that 8 or 9 days, which depends upon whether I spend one or two nights in Estes Park.
The lodge next to the lake is called the Lake Powell Resort. Its website is at:
It is officially across the bridge in Wahweap, Utah (the city of Page is in Arizona).
Besides the Grand Canyon, one other not-to-be-missed place worth visiting in this area (if you have the time) are one of the "slot" canyons. The best known of these is Antelope Canyon and can only be visited by arranging ahead of time to be taken there by Navaho Indian Guides. Also, on your way from Mab to Estes Park, take the time to see Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and a side trip to Santa Fe. 8-9 days is plenty of time to see all of this.
--The other not to miss places are Monument Valley and Lake Powell (Glen Canyon NR), both of which you have already mentioned.
I'd follow a typical route such as the following:
Day 1:Before heading south from Provo, visit Bridal Veil Falls (10 miles from town).
Leave Provo and head south down I-15 until you reach US 50 east. Take this south for about one hour and then get on Utah state highway 24. Head east on state highway 24 until you have passed through most of Capital Reef National Park, then reverse direction and head back to Utah state highway 62 and head south to US 89 and go south on this down to Bryce Canyon (you have to head slightly east to get to the park), then continue south on US 89 and then go back west on Utah state highway 14 to Cedar City to spend the night.
Day 2: Go south for about 1 hour to where you get on Utah state highway 9 and take this east through Zion National Park. Then get back on US 89 and head south to Kanab. At Kanab, get on US 89A and take this south to Arizona state highway 67 to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. If you have booked ahead, spend the night here, otherwise continue on to Page/Wahweap.
Day 3: Continue to Lake Powell/Wahweap if you are not already there. From the north rim of the Grand Canyon, take Arizona state highway 67 north, then get on US 89A east/south, then get on US 89 north to go to Page/Wahweap, which is where Lake Powell is. Spend the day taking a tour to the Rainbow Bridge, visiting the Antelope "slot" canyon, and then drive on to Monument Valley to spend the night. (do this by taking Arizona state highway 98 out of Page to US highway 160 east to US highway 163 north. Be sure to get there before sunset and take the tour of the valley (via jeeps) and get some fantastic pictures.
I'll continue the rest of the drive in my next post.
Day 4: Continue north on US 163 to Mexican Hat, then if you are adventureous, take Utah state highway 261 north to Utah state highway 95 east to US 191 north. I say this because this road at one point (just 15 miles north of Mexican Hat) goes straight up the side of a gigantic Mesa. This is what is known as the Moki Dugway. You can see videos of this drive on youtube.
If you are not so brave, just stay on US 163 north to US 191 north.
This will take you to Canyonlands, Arches, Dead Horse Point and the city of Moab (where you should spend the night).
Day 5: Spend the morning here, then continue back down US 191 south to Monticello where you get on US 491 east to the city of Cortez, Colorado, where you get on US 160 east which takes you to Mesa Verde National Park, and then on to Durango. After visiting the park and its "Cliff House", take US Highway 550 south all the way to I-25 and then go north on I-25 about 1/2 hour until you arrive at Santa Fe.
Day 6: Tour the downtown area of Santa Fe both on the night you arrive and then the next morning, then take I-25 north to Denver (it's an autobahn-type road all the way) and so only takes about 6 to 6.5 hours driving.
Day 7: Drive to Estes Park--this is only a 1 1/2 hours drive from Denver.
Obviously, this means that if you have 8-9 days, you can spend some extra time at the places of your choosing. One option (if you go in the summertime) is to go to a show at Cedar City's Shakespeare Festival. Another is to spend a day in Las Vegas (between Cedar City and driving through Zion). You could actually drive through Zion east to west the night before, then head straight to Las Vegas. This would allow you to drive to the Grand Canyon's south rim if you prefer. Another option is to take a break along the way--or to spend more time in Moab or in Santa Fe.
One last thing. Distances in this area are enormous between cities--so fill up with gas (petrol) often. Also, be sure to book hotels ahead. You don't want to arrive at someplace like Page/Wahweap and have no hotel, since the next closest one would be at least 80 miles way--and you couldn't be sure that this one isn't also booked up.
Enjoy your trip.