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"Short" 9 day excursion to enjoy Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park, Monument Valley, Page (Antelope Canyon, Colorado River, Lake Powell), Grand Canyon North Rim, Zion for Angel's Landing hike, Bryce, Sundance and Park City!
http://www.utah.com/ This website is extraordinarily well done for planning a trip to Utah and Northern Arizona border sites!
We are in our mid-fifties, love to hike, learn about culture, geography and history, fine dine, picnic, peruse galleries, go wine tasting and stay in nice accommodations. This trip report would match up with a couple or 4 adults sharing similar likes!
The Western United States is blessed with a treasure trove of National Parks. Our approach over the years has been concentrated "loop" trips (Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Calgary and now Salt Lake) ranging from 9 to 17 days. Literally there are tens of thousands of square miles to explore. By doing "loops" one can save significantly on vehicle rentals and airfares.
For the expansive roads we rent a full size car for the added "power" and interior space, even just for the 2 of us. Our rental price strategy is to use Expedia to determine the "market" low rate. It costs nothing to reserve and lock-in a low rate. Then we check Expedia a few times before the trip for a lower cost. This trip for 9 full days was $227 with Enterprise using a new Toyota Camry. I will bid $12/day with Priceline the week before we depart. Our trips typically cost $20-22 per day, unlimited mileage with our Domestic insurance covered with credit card and our own auto insurance policies. International is a whole different ballgame!
Salt Lake is primarily used for a focus on Moab. We spent 9 days BUT a new traveler would need to add 2 nights in Zion (Springdale) and 1 night for Capitol Reef. We went to these locales (plus Bryce) on our Las Vegas "loop" so we eliminated nights. Zion is so beautiful, we did stop for an ascent to the top of Angel's Landing! 9 nights is an absolute minimum for the Salt Lake loop. We wanted to see Sundance & Park City which can be reallocated as an additional Park day!
Deciding on a loop? IF I had 12-13 days, then I highly recommend choosing the Las Vegas "Loop" over Salt Lake. This way Capitol Reef is comfortably along the way to Moab with a return via Monument Valley. Add 2 more days and also include Mesa Verde in Colorado.
Plus you get Sin City for a little contrast!
tinyurl.com/Vegas-Loop (paste in browser)
Add another 2-3 Days and visit Grand Canyon South Rim in lieu of the North Rim and Sedona with a southern return to Las Vegas.
For our trip, here are the nights spent in each location plus elevations:
3 Nights - Moab - 4025 FT (1227 M)
1 Nights - Monument Valley 5564 FT (1696 M)
2 Nights - Page, Arizona - 4118 FT (1255 M)
1 Nights - Grand Canyon North Rim - 8000 FT (2400 M)
0 Nights - Zion National Park - 3898 FT (1188 M)
1 Nights - Bryce Canyon National Park - 8500 FT (2550 M)
1 Nights - Park City - 6,900 FT (2103 M)
Use the Old Farmers Almanac for Sunrise/Sunset to plan your evening toasts and for next year's forecast to assess potential rainfall and probable temperatures! (paste into browser)
Our trip from May 23 to June 1, 2012 had sunrises near 6:10AM and sunsets near 8:40PM. One hour earlier for Arizona! Quite confusing when bouncing between the border (i.e. Monument Valley to Page) while trying to be "on time" for scheduled group tours!
Time Zones: During DST Utah is one hour ahead of Arizona! Monument Valley elects to follow MST or Utah time!
Accommodations & Dining:
Moab (Arches & Canyonlands) town lies between the 2 parks. For 3 nights we chose this fantastic VRBO property 3 miles south of town: http://www.vrbo.com/ 357663 adjacent to 2 "local" trailhead's (Hidden Valley and Pipe Dream) Dining was 2 breakfasts and 1 dinner at "home". Breakfast at Love Muffin (avoid) Lunch/Dinner at Moab Brewery (delivers) and Dinner at Desert Bistro (solid choice).
Monument Valley - The View for its unparalleled location. Sitting on our balcony and enjoying the serene vista of MV and the mittens with some wine (taboo, oh my) and appetizers is priceless. There is NO other place to stay. We really enjoyed our dinner in the dining room!
Page, Big Water, UT - We stayed at DreamKatchers B&B (excellent) 15 miles north of Page. We chose this B&B for its hospitality and excellent breakfasts. Plus we wanted to tour the Grand Staircase/Escalante (Big Water) Visitor Center and briefly explore the Paria Rimrocks Toadstool Hoodoos! Our hosts Eric & Jarod were top notch. Stay here!
Grand Canyon North Rim - Only game in town. We stayed one night in a Western Cabin with a very good dinner and breakfast in the dining room with a magical view of the canyon!
Bryce Canyon NP - The ONLY place to stay is the lodge. The location by the rim is spectacular plus there are several ranger programs at night. The dining room is very good for both dinner and breakfast and our Western Cabin was very nice.
Zion (Springdale) - We did not stay in Springdale this trip. But we highly recommend the Best Western Zion Park Inn. Ask for 2nd floor facing river (cannot see river)
Park City - Off season, we stayed at Newpark Resort (terrific value) 12 minutes out of town. We had an terrible dining experience (cannot win them all) at Chez Betty to conclude our wonderful trip!
Budget = Excluding airfare, our entire trip cost was $4,400!
Driving to Moab from SLC Airport, we followed a direct but scenic route down Highway 191. Our first stop was in Green River to have lunch at Ray's Tavern (fair with featured high-priced burgers) and tour the also fair River Museum. Our immersion began with a short film documentary about John Powell's 16 man exploration of the Colorado River starting in Utah. Then a tour of the displays. With a redo, we would pass on the museum.
With 2.5 full days we allocated a 1/2 day to visit either by foot or car several vista overlooks inside Dead Horse State & Canyonlands National Parks, 1 full day to explore in-depth natures "architecture" found in Arches and 1 full day to explore further out via highway 128 along the banks of the Colorado River for a scenic drive, hikes and a winery!. A nice dilemma to have was fitting in time for hikes around our VRBO property with its Colorado River overlooks and hot tubing at sunset. Plus perusing the shops like the Moab Rock Shop and enjoying some exemplary cuisine in Moab! Somebodies got to do it!
We used the very well stocked and reasonably priced City Market for at "home" meal ingredients, picnic foods, snacks and refreshments to include beer. Wine must purchased at the State controlled liquor store adjacent to the Ramada & Gonzo Inns in Moab! It is like you are visiting from Sodom and Gomorrah!
This Utah.com website is EXCELLENT for planning and gaining an overview:
Paste the above Google Map tinyurl into a browser. In terrain mode you can see the vehicle route this intro tour covers.
Rolling in from the museum town of Green River, we stopped first at Dead Horse State Park for its grand vistas of the expansive Canyonlands and the winding Green River.
The visit lasted just over an hour to see the visitor center, take a short stroll of the overlooks, then drive to panorama point (2 miles) for more overlooks along the rim trail. Informative, extremely scenic and well worth the visit!
Then it was back into the buggy and off to the Islands in the Sky (6 miles away) within Canyonlands National Park!
We entered the park at mid-afternoon on this first day. Our "goal" was to get an expansive overview of the Canyonlands and we succeeded!
Note: Our first National Park for 2012 so we purchased the $80 Interagency Annual Pass. Great value with 5 National Parks on this trip plus access to Glen Canyon Recreational Area
The Island in the Sky mesa offers 3 separate viewing points, all easily accessible by vehicle and a short stroll. The overlook's are Grand View, Green River and Upheaval Dome.
We briefly stopped in the Visitor Center at the Park's entrance, then headed to the "overlook intersection" at Mesa Arch. We strolled the easy .6 mile round trip to see the famed Arch (could use a warning sign about imminent death should you fall from the interior. Watch the kiddies!) Then we drove to each of the overlooks (30 miles round trip) What a great way to visually anchor your new location on the planet over the next few days!
A long day! Stop off at City Market for provisions, check-in to our rental "home" and enjoy the hot tub at sunset with some wine and Pu Pu's. What a day in the life!
Sunrise 6AM Sunset 8:30PM
We spent the entire day up to sunset enjoying many venues and trails with a gastronomic interlude back in Moab.
Our day started at 8:00 in the visitor center. We perused the exhibits and picked up our reserved online (3 months in advance) 9AM Fiery Furnace tour tickets ($10 each). In route (30 minute drive) we stopped and strolled around (.6 mile) Balanced Rock.
The almost 3 hour Fiery Furnace tour led by ranger Kait Arnold was fantastic! Start your Arches exploration with this tour. The geologic and other scientific (chemistry & biology) presentations give you tremendous insight about the magnificent environment you are visiting. The hike is fun with some challenging stretches among the tightly grouped sandstone formations. DO NOT MISS!
After the tour we headed back to Moab for lunch at Moab Brewery. We ate lunch/dinner with its large portions. A 3.5 out of 5. The brews were very good, service excellent and food a 3. This fortified us for the next 5.5 hours of hiking!
After lunch we headed out Potash Rd, 4 miles north of town (after crossing the Colorado River bridge) and then 10 miles out Potash Rd to the Corona & Bow Tie Arches (200 yards apart) well marked trailhead gravel parking area. This activity is a 5 of 5. The scenic drives run alongside the Colorado River with spell-binding red sandstone formations on both sides of the highway. The hike starts up a 400 ft rise, across the railroad track and following the cairns via a very easy series of cables and 8 foot high ladder one finds Corona arch. DO NOT MISS!
Then back to Arches about 5PM! We stopped at the Windows trailhead parking area for a short stroll of Turret, North & South Windows Arches. Interesting and well worth the stop.
Then off to Wolfe Ranch parking area for the late afternoon hike to Delicate Arch (solid 50 minutes uphill there and 35 minutes back) This arch is featured on Utah's car license plates!
Sunset at 8:30PM, we left at 7:50 before the crowds descended and we passed several hikers, some with little kids, heading up for the sunset (missing logic?). We had flashlights (not necessary for us) BUT we would never descend this trail in the post sunset light. Obviously we recommend our sunset timing to prevent injury and still properly see the Delicate Arch. To each his own!
Quite the action packed day!
There is so much to experience and see, our final full day "we planned" to be back in Arches for a 7:30 hike at Devils Garden to include Dark Angel Arch and Primitive Loop with a picnic at Devil's Garden campground. A first, we got winded out (30-40 MPH)! The day before was Convention Bureau beautiful.
Plan W(ind)- We slept in! Enjoyed a brunch at Love Muffin Cafe which we rated 3 of 5. No table service, omelet could be better, limit 1 refill on coffee and order taker at the counter was a little hard nosed. The Jailhouse Cafe, next door, seemed more to our liking (later confirmed by a local restaurateur)?
We explored the galleries and trading posts along Main & Center Streets. Kokopelli Gallery is a very nice store. I almost bought a Navajo Spirit flute but the Mrs covered her ears! We enjoyed a couple of interesting photography stores and the Moab Rock Shop just before the 128 junction.
After the shop perusing we went just 3 miles down 128 from North Moab to Negro Bill Canyon's trailhead (easy to find). We attempted a scenic hike to Morning Glory Bridge (4.5 mile round trip) but turned back after 25 minutes. Too hot, too much of a slog on the sand trail (sandstone canyon walls produce a lot of sand!) and the wind, although somewhat sheltered, just put the experience below expectation.
We then set out on our scenic drive segment of our Moab stay. Highway 128 along the Colorado River with its sandstone canyon-like walls is very impressive. We stopped for wine tasting at sizable Castle Creek winery/resort where we sampled their selections and purchased the Outlaw Red. The "manager" of tasting could/should be a lot more polished. Expand the outside deck with service panache and sales would increase 15-20%!
Our scenic drive continued to Fisher Towers with its dirt road access. We passed because the scenery is so expansive it does not change as you get closer! We went back to the Sal Mountain Loop road (50 mile return to South Moab) The beginning has a view of Castle Rock/Castleton Tower. The Sal Mountain Loop is on a narrow road reaching an elevation of 9000 feet. Vista's are limited and vegetation is somewhat sparse. Overall we enjoyed the drive to recommend. But no wow factor!
After stopping off at "home" for appetizer's we dined late 8:30, at the Desert Bistro (solid 4 of 5 rating)! On Friday's and the weekends the galleries are open until 10PM, so we visited one more photography gallery before dining!
Overall our Moab experience was fabulous!
After 2 1/2 days of exploring the riches of Moab, we headed off to Monument Valley via a scenic route with a museum, House on Fire, National Monument, vistas and "famous" photo op! Leaving at 8AM would insure doing the following:
Per the above Google Map the direct drive is approaching 5 hours without stops. Our priority goal for the day was to check into The VIEW and be on time for our sunset tour with Monument Valley Safari! Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is split by the UT and AZ border. But its address is Utah and it follows MST. If it is 6AM in Page, AZ, then it is 7AM at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park! Time is still on our side. Yes it is!.
Our scenic drive began with a short visit in Blanding at the Edge of Cedars State Park Museum. Great presentation about the Pueblo People (Anasazi) with relics and a restored living quarter called a kiva in the back. Worth the visit!
25 miles down Highway 95, we stopped at the dirt road trailhead (Point C) 300 yards before Mule Canyon Ruins...House of Fire! Our timing was terrific for the proper sun angle (10AM-12PM) to illuminate the ruin. A short 1.25 mile hike from the trailhead.
18 miles later, we arrived at the Natural Bridges National Monument visitors center where we watched the informative 10 minute video. The 9-mile, one way, overlook road has a picnic area and overlook trailhead stops for each of the 3 natural bridges (Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo). We enjoyed a light picnic at the picnic area (okay, 2 tables up steps from road). We recommend the Owachomo trail hike to its base for a short hike without ladders and underneath perspective.
Motoring right along, we headed to Mexican Hat via the Moki Dugway descent (highway turns into a switchback dirt road). We passed on the 17-mile Valley of the Gods off road excursion because it was forbidden by our vehicle rental agreement. We stopped at both Muley Point (short dirt road cutoff before Moki descent) and Goosenecks State Park overlooks for the vistas. At the 263/193 junction we photographed "The Hat (distant rock formation)" Heading down highway 163 we again stopped at mileage marker 13 for the "movie and artistic famous" scenic shot of the highway disappearing into the distant Sandstone formations! Before turning off the highway to The View we went "right" for a quick stop at Goulding's Lodge to go through the historic Goulding's living quarters with movie memorabilia at its "free, donation expected (we gave $2)" museum!
The winds intensified and the Monuments disappeared into a sand storm! We had pre-booked a private, 3.5 hour, 36-mile complete Lower Valley sunset tour starting at 4PM with Monument Valley Safari. We canceled (they would of had to pay us to go out) and rescheduled for a 5:30AM sunrise tour with our guide Myron!
Dinner at The View (4 of 5) is first come, first served in its windowed dining room looking out at the 2 Mitten's and Merrick Butte Monuments. We arrived near 7 and waited a short 20 minutes for a window seat to open up. We split an order of the Navajo Sampler which we highly recommend. 2 slightly spicy stews (chile verde & red chile posole), tasty mutton stew, Navajo taco and blue corn mush, blue corn fry bread (with powdered sugar & honey) & blue corn tortilla! Blue Corn a little like Bubba Shrimp! The "view" plus the "sampler" is a "monumental" evening to remember!
Plan W(ind) continues! Mom Nature gave us a stunning blue sky morning sunrise! Our guide Myron was right on time in the lobby and off we went in our enclosed Ford Excursion. While driving to watch the sunrise adjacent to Totem Monument, Myron gave us an oratory about the Navajo Spiritual evolution through the current 4 Worlds (Black, Blue, Yellow & White) The 5th World still awaits! We toured for 3.5 hours, seeing wild horses, a multitude of Monument's, a petroglyph panel and arches where Myron sang, in Navajo language, Monument Valley The Beautiful. His pleasant singing voice sitting in the cavernous Hidden Arch was a serene experience. We highly recommend the tour. But it is pricey at $180 before tip. We gave a generous tip to Myron for his demeanor and the due any day new bambina in his family! HUGE negative is Cash Only. The Navajo Nation needs to get its credit card act together! The ATM at The View was empty forcing us to drive to the Gouldings Lodge gift shop.
Off to more adventure in Page! Although a little behind schedule with the sunrise tour!
Leaving Monument Valley for more adventure in Page, we drove 2 hours and stopped for a tour of Lower Antelope Slot Canyon. The tour is $26 cash (each). "We like the green." was the response to "Do you take credit cards?" Once again the Navajo Nation needs to get its credit card act together!
Lower Antelope (there are no antelope's) Slot Canyon's entrance is directly below the "smelters" or Navajo Generation Station in a dirt/gravel parking lot at the beginning of the road to Antelope Marina (there are no antelope's). First come, first serve. Our guide was a chaperon with zero knowledge about the canyon formation. The tour via a series of metal ladder descents and one staircase ascent at the end is VERY much worth the time. One reason is there are no other formations like it elsewhere on the planet!
Notes: We believe Upper Antelope Canyon tour is a waste of time due to the crowds and a requirement to start in an open air hybrid pickup leaving from the town of Page with further dirt road transport to the canyon entrance.. Put this tour money towards a Hummer Secret Canyon tour (more later)
Our original itinerary got compressed due to the Monument Valley sunrise tour. We moved our Lower Antelope tour to the next day before our power boating on Lake Powell (just vicious)
The town of Page is small, meaning everything is within 3 blocks of everything else. The streets are wide and well spaced out. If you feel real pious, there are 13 Churches in a row on an entrance street into Page (4 others dispersed around town). Although technically "in the row" there can only be one "First" Baptist!
Before our Colorado River Discovery float trip (terrific), we had time for an ale at the Dam Bar & Grill. Do NOT order a Flagstaff, Lumberyard 23ozer unless you think $10 is fair? (outrageous)
Colorado River Discovery is a well oiled machine which we highly recommend. $80 is very fair value for the 2 mile bus ride through a tunnel to the base of Glen Dam, an exceptional raft tour guide (ours was Rob), a 16 mile float through Category .4 rapids and a bus ride back from difficult to get to Lee's Ferry! DO NOT MISS!
After the float and before heading to our B&B, we enjoyed a powerful margarita with chips, salsa & guacamole at Fiesta Mexicana. We rate this "properly tacky" restaurant 5 of 5! Salmon colored walls, dark green cacti just below the ceiling, garish family scenes under the table glass top, ample portions and an extensive menu. It is what it is and we really liked it!
DreamKatcher B&B is where we stayed for 2 nights in Big Water (15 miles North of Page). Eric & Jarod are the most hospitable hosts you will find anywhere on the planet! The entire home is immaculate and tastefully decorated. The morning breakfasts, prepared by Eric, are a work of art and worthy of any Four Seasons dining room! Never stayed at a B&B? Make this your first. You will not be disappointed!
The next morning, after a terrific breakfast (Swedish pancakes), we headed back to Page for more Slot Canyons (hiking & on the water)! We took the 2.5 hour Hummer Adventures - Secret Canyon (sshh) Tour paired with a fun couple. This was a really fun excursion ($100 each) with off-roading and a semi-private Slot Canyon to take dramatic photos within. Our guide Josh was very educational about the formations and he did not rollover the Hummer on the half pipes!
We then rented a ski boat at Antelope Marina for 2 hours. Note: Get there by 1:30-1:45 because 2:00 is the latest time to rent. Boats back by 4PM. Cost is not inexpensive at $75 per hour and $40 per hour burn rate for the fuel. But damn the torpedoes and spare no expense. We bombed around the adjacent Antelope and Navajo Canyons within smoother sheltered waterways for a more pleasurable ride. We are not seasoned powerboaters! While flying over the choppier waves our craft went airborne with a thud and the throttle flipping to neutral. Captain Strand said we have hit a reef and we are going to sink as he reached for the mayday walkie-talkie. The Mrs politely informed the misinformed Mr that we are in the middle of the lake and in 500 feet of water. The boat was fine! The memories are more "fun" than the actual noisy, pounding experience, but still highly recommended as an "expensive" thrill!
Before buying our picnic dinner at DC's "Backyard" BBQ (4 of 5 rating), we took an enjoyable short stroll (1mi round trip) on the Hanging Gardens trail located just before reaching the Glen Dam bridge. We took advantage of our B&B's picnic supplies and sat at its rooftop table with the sun steadily setting, overlooking distant Lake Powell, Lone Rock and the coal basin mountains with our wine and full rack of ribs with 2 sides. The next late afternoon we enjoyed leftovers at Cape Royal picnic area perched on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Truth be known: we had planned a drive to Paria Rimrocks Toadstool Hoodoos between mile markers 19/20 (12 miles north of Big Water) for a short hike near sunset prior to our B&B picnic. But we were too tired (alas)!
Next morning after another fabulous breakfast (Eggs Benedict) it was off to Grand Canyon North Rim via highway Alternate 89 (primarily for Horseshoe Bend), seeking some tranquility after the onslaught of Hummers and speedboats! Thank you Eric & Jarod!
After our final scrumptious, gourmet breakfast at DreamKatchers in Big Water outside of Page, we set our scenic course for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!
This day was simply about vistas, a beautiful scenic drive and relaxation!
First stop, just 4 miles South of Page was the clearly marked with plenty of vehicles in the parking lot, "Horseshoe Bend Overlook" (see above tinyurl..Google map in terrain mode to see location). We hiked up the sandy trail hill and then down to the canyon rim for the view. It was terrific seeing the Bend and Colorado River from above after rafting through this part of the canyon just 2 days before!
We next drove South on Rte 89 to 89A and across to the Navajo Bridge. Great views of the Colorado river and canyon from the original bridge. Just before Cliffdwellers lodge we found the "rockhouses" and between Navajo Bridge and Lees Ferry we stopped at Balanced Rock and Mushroom Rock. Also excellent views of the Vermillion Cliffs along the route!
We stopped at Jacob Lake Inn to pickup our picnic Cookies!
The drive from Jacob Lake Inn to the North Rim is truly an oasis between Red Rock formations to the West and to the East. Elevation gains to around 8,800 feet present forests of pines and aspens. The approach to the park entrance offers vast alpine meadows with an opportunity to spot some wildlife like bison (not native, failed attempt at "meat" production), elk and swooping birds. Just Magical!
Before reaching the Grand Canyon Lodge we took the road out to Point Imperial for its stark views of lush green vegetation on crimson red rock. Plus the expansive views of the plateau lands beyond the hole in the ground. Then a series of overlook stops (Walhalla, Vista Encantada & Roosevelt Point) before the end of the road at Cape Royal. We enjoyed a terrific picnic at the Cape Royal picnic and wedding site area. The wedding "bench seats" offer a nice Grand perch view to dine upon!
We checked into our Western cabin at the lodge. Our room offered a filtered view of the canyon with chairs on the porch, a gas fireplace and ample space. We enjoyed sunset while sitting on the veranda at the Lodge with an ale from the Roughrider Saloon (dive, needs a facelift). We gave up our 7PM dinner reservation (should have sold it) because we were not hungry (good reason). We came back at 9:15 when the Mrs had a salad and Mr Strand passed on dinner (a probable first). The dining room is very spacious with huge windows looking out over the canyon. North Rim really overshadows the South Rim for Rim views while cocktailing and dining!
The next morning it was up very early. 5:30AM for coffee and a .5 mile walk down Bright Angel Point Trail (50 yards from our cabin) for the return of Mr Sun Ball! We then had an early getaway, 9:30AM, after a hearty buffet breakfast for trek fuel in Zion National Park.
Redo and recommended: Near sunset take a easy hike to the end of Transept Trail overlooking Bright Angel Canyon. We got caught up in the dining room dinner reservation time changes and missed this scenic trail (quite dumb)!
For this Salt Lake, 9-Night loop, we only stopped in "gorge"-ous Zion for the hike to the top of Angel's Landing! In the past, we have spent several days in the Park. But since we were in the neighborhood, why not?
Coming from the Grand Canyon North Rim, we stopped at LeFevre (well marked, easy to find) Rest Area 11 miles north of Jacob Lake for a view of the Grand Staircase!
Before the Mount Carmel tunnel, we stopped at the Canyon Overlook Trailhead for the short 1 mile, 100 foot elevation gain ascent to one of the most photogenic vistas in the entire park! The parking area is small and there is no "trailhead" sign. It just says Canyon Overlook. DO NOT MISS!
Our recommendation is to stay in Springdale and not the Park Lodge. Despite not having balconies in the room (shared end of hall), we really enjoyed the Best Western for value and location. Request a 2nd floor room facing the Virgin River which you really cannot see! Springdale has excellent dining options, galleries and is well serviced by a free shuttle.
We wasted time looking for parking in the Full visitor's center lots. From town it is easy to hop on a free shuttle to the visitor's center. From the East entrance you must go back into town if the lots are Full. BUT wait! There is a very convenient lot just before the South entrance gate (our direction, we exited the park). Take the shortcut path down the hill towards Sols Market and the shuttle bus entrance area. We boarded the bus and got off at The Grotto for our ascent!
Angel's Landing hike (5 miles round trip) is perilous. I am scared to death of heights and I have climbed Half Dome in Yosemite twice. Half Dome is arduous, big difference! The "trail" to reach Scout's Overlook is "paved" almost all the way. You could drive a golf cart to the top! You will get plenty of cardio as you ascend the beginning switchbacks carved into the rock face, gain some cool respite in Refrigerator Canyon then endure a trudge up the very steep, winding "Wiggles" (more difficult than Lombard Street in SF ha, ha). Then the moment of truth? To Climb Or Not To Climb? We opted to scale the Landing and we are very proud of our accomplishment. It will take 1.5 hours round trip from Scout's Overlook to the top (some young bucks and does only an hour. We were definitely in the outlier age group). The chain's offer plenty of assured support and the pitch will test your leg muscles. Keep your eyes facing down at the path and your feet well anchored. Just do it (I wore my Nike hiking shoes)!
After getting back to the car, we drove to the Ice Cream shop next door to Sol's Market for our reward. With our cones in hand, we took the early evening scenic drive through the Red Canyon to Bryce. It was simply beautiful!
We rolled into Bryce Lodge at 8PM for our 1 night stay in a Western cabin near the Rim between Sunset and Sunrise Points!
3 National Park's 1 Day. Jet setting without a jet!
Arriving late in Hoodooville, 8PM, from our day hike in Zion, we checked into our Western cabin to simply refresh and have dinner in the Lodge dining room. Our intended 7PM arrival would have afforded enough time for a stroll and watching the sunset at where else? Sunset Point!
We enjoyed our dinner starting at 9:15PM and left at 11PM with the vacuum cleaners starting as we were the last diners to depart! The dining experience is a solid 4 out of 5. There is an extensive menu and Mr Strand's Duck with blaukraut (blue cabbage) was outstanding! Our server, Angel (appropriate after our Angel's Landing hike) was a great server with quite the "typical" nomadic pedigree of many National Park staff. It is always fascinating to talk with National Park employees about their work history, where they are from and what their ambitions are.
The next morning it was up for the 6AM sunrise. We hiked the easy to moderate loop trails starting from Sunset Point: DOWN Navajo and back up Queen's Garden (sunrise point)!
By combining the Navajo Loop with the Queens Garden Trail, you can hike for 2.9 miles, looping from Sunset to Sunrise points. The combined trail has an ascent/descent of 580 feet. It is imperative to start at Navajo Loop to avoid the ascent coming from Sunrise Point. It will be self-explanatory once you see the trail. Most people take 2-3 hours to do the combined trails.
Before heading out on our long drive to Park City, we had a hearty breakfast back in the dining room. Our hostess from Central Oregon had 8 years with the National Parks with over 2 years working on cruise ships around the Hawaiian Islands. She took huge advantage of 70-80% employee discounts off International rates with her employer Norwegian cruise lines. Fascinating!
Bryce is a very special place!
Notes: We recommend the 8-mile Fairyland Trail loop as a great hike. We enjoyed it plus explored the entire Park on a previous trip. The ONLY place to properly stay for Bryce is at the Lodge where the "sun" action is and many evening ranger led programs!
Next stop for us with another hike was Sundance with a drive through the BYU campus setting in Provo along the way!
With a 5.5 hour drive ahead of us to reach Park City, we rolled out from Bryce at 9:30AM.Taking the more scenic 89 (almost equal in time to boring I-15) with a 75 MPH stretch on I-70! The highway parallels the Sevier River for much of the way. It is really an enjoyable drive!
We stopped in Provo to stretch our legs with a short walk around the BYU campus. We parked at the free visitor's center parking and strolled over to the Student Union for a refreshment. Lot's of activity everywhere with EFY (Everything For Youth) week in full swing! 100's of kids (14-18) being entertained and recruited for their future LDS experience. The campus was smaller than expected but in a very nice setting.
We then followed Provo Canyon Scenic Byway to the mountain valley city of Heber before reaching Park City / Newpark Resort for the evening. Along the route we stopped briefly at Bridal Veil Falls (okay). Then took the short 2 mile road up to walk around Sundance Resort. The Resort is in a nice setting with a Director's conference in session. The young Bucks and Does were hauling camera and set equipment from one building to the other. Is this how you break into show business?
No time for the chairlift (very pretty) to Ray's Summit and the 2 hour hike to Stewart Falls. Although the Angel's Landing residuals were saying NO not today as well!
"You can't always get what you want."- Mick Jagger
Our final night! We rolled into the relatively new Newpark Resort around 3PM!
Accommodation rates plummet in the non-ski season. Our $120 room at the Newpark Resort was originally in a dungeon (no balcony or window to the outside). After explaining how we forgot to pack our torture rack, the Manager (Jana), upgraded us at no additional cost to a top floor corner suite with hot tub overlooking the resort (actually a shopping mall), the adjacent preserve and distant Canyon ski mountain area. We read and just relaxed before heading out to a fancy dinner!
We unfortunately chose Chez Betty in Park City for our send off dining experience. Too bad Talisker On Main (first choice) was not open. Extremely overpriced for the value received. Ambiance, service and most importantly food were are all substandard. We should have eaten at $5 Thursday's recommended by the Newpark staff for some Italian restaurant in the mall! Win a few, lose a few!
We passed on a morning tour of Olympic Park and a stroll through older Park City.
Just a short 30 minute drive to SLC International and our Silver Bird back to Danville!
http://www.utah.com/ This website is extraordinarily well done for planning a trip to Utah and Northern Arizona border sites!
Red Rocks Rock!
Utah is an exceptionally beautiful State with a bounty of geological wonders. We cannot highly recommend enough to anyone considering a National Park oriented excursion to this part of the planet. You will not be disappointed, only enriched!
Go and Enjoy!