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National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

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Wellington, Florida
posts: 18
reviews: 1
National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

My husband and I will be flying into Salt Lake City around 1p.m. on Sept. 17th and then fly out to Denver to visit Rocky Mountain NP on the 25th. We have gone around and around as to whether we should head to Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and the North Rim, or head north and visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We visited the South Rim last October and loved it. We live in Florida so this will be a great contrast in scenery, climate and altitude for us. We are thinking about bringing our tent so that we can affordably stay right in the parks. What do you all suggest? Should we head north or south? Would it be too uncomfortable to camp that late in September? How many parks could we do without rushing it too much? Also wondered about rafting at either place. Would really appreciate any input!

15 replies to this topic
Park City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah, Travel Gadgets and Gear
posts: 9,933
reviews: 194
1. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

If you have eight nights in the Utah part of your trip, you would have time to do Bryce/Zion plus Arches/Canyonlands with a stop en route in Torrey. But you're at really minimum time for that and no realistic possibility to add anything else. You could also do Bryce/Zion and add on North Rim and Page (Antelope Canyon), but not realistically Moab. You could do Arches/Canyonlands plus Yellowstone, but that would be a real stretch.

Is there any particular reason you're flying and not driving to RMNP? For example, you could do a loop with Arches/Canyonlands, RMNP, Yellowstone/GTNP. Actually, flying into Denver would be better for that plan.

Have fun. Some great places. You can't go too wrong, but don't add in too much.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
posts: 1,255
reviews: 18
2. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

I was wondering the same thing about flying from SLC to DIA... If you went to Moab and explored Arches/Canyonlands, the drive to Rocky Mountain NP would only be about 5 1/2 hours. Rather than driving four hours back to Salt Lake, checking into the airport, a 90-minute flight to Denver, renting another car, and then another 90-minute drive to RMNP. There are always rental drop fees to consider, I suppose.

I would say, if you are already going to Rocky Mountain NP then for a contrast, head down to the desert in Southern Utah. It's a different planet and sure to please. You could spend a couple of days in Salt Lake/Park City and the Wasatch Mountains, which will be starting to change autumn colors, and then head to Moab for the rest of your time before RMNP. If you really wanted to see bison, there is a herd at Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, one hour from downtown SLC. It's not the same as Yellowstone, but it could fulfill seeing some wildlife.

There is great whitewater rafting on the Colorado River. Westwater Canyon, the Onion Creek float trip, or the rugged Cataract Canyon can all be accessed from Moab. By September the water will be much lower, but I've been in November and there are still big rapids and there is always beautiful scenery. It's actually a fantastic way to view the towering cliffs, mesas, and canyon walls. I love being on the water.

It would be the perfect time of the year to camp in the desert. The days won't be unbearably hot, and it will still be warm enough at night to be comfortable and look at the stars. Bring layers. You could visit Arches and both, Island In The Sky and The Needles sections of Canyonlands. Capitol Reef is about 2 1/2 hours from Arches and cold be worked in there too, on the way back to SLC, if you decide to do that. I agree not to try to squeeze too much in. Either visit Zion/Bryce or Arches/Canyonlands and you could throw Capitol Reef in with either.

Ohio, USA
Destination Expert
for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
posts: 7,037
reviews: 318
3. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

This might be helpful for planning the UT portion of your trip:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28965-c177493/Utah:U…

Wellington, Florida
posts: 18
reviews: 1
4. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

Thanks so much for your quick response. The reason we are flying to DEN is because we were able to get our 2 flights for a total of $49. I checked the difference for rentals if we drove to RMNP and found that the rental would be $1200 more due to the drop off fee!

We love wildlife and after research we chose to visit RMNP during the end of September so that we would hit the rutting season for the elk and in hopes of catching some bugling. Would we experience this in Yellowstone? If we switched out flights to a round trip out of SLC, this would give us 11 nights. Would this give us adequate time to do Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and then down to Arches and Canyonlands? I figure that it would be easier to access Zion and Bryce on another trip by flying into Vegas.

It seems like the more I research the more confused I become....every place looks so beautiful! Please continue to give me guidance....I certainly need your wise input! Thanks so much!

5. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

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Ohio, USA
Destination Expert
for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
posts: 7,037
reviews: 318
6. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

Wow, that is certainly an instance were money talks...shoot, that is almost yelling! ;-)

You should probably post on the Yellowstone forum to get the specifics on timing for critter sightings in the park. We visited in early September 2011 and saw tons of critters (but not that many elk; maybe we were too early for the height of rut).

Sounds like you have time for 2 of the 3 areas (UT, Yellowstone/Grand Teton, RMNP). The good news is that there is NO wrong answer as all three are wonderful area and each are quite different from one another. I think the timing is good for each location as well, although some of the things will start to close in Yellowstone by the middle of Sept. So availability of lodging, etc. due to the time of year might be a deciding factor. No issues with any of that around Moab and you are probably OK for RMNP as well.

Great decision to save Zion and Bryce Canyon for a trip using LV as the entry/exit.

Ohio, USA
Destination Expert
for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
posts: 7,037
reviews: 318
7. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

You might also want to post in the Road Trips forum, since you are planning a multi-state adventure:

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
posts: 1,255
reviews: 18
8. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

If you're looking to view elk, Jackson would be a better bet than Moab. Although you may be able to find some in the La Sal Mountains, just east of Moab.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
posts: 12,526
reviews: 86
9. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

I think even 11 days would be too short to do Yellowstone and the Utah parks. It is a full day drive between them no matter how you look at it. 8 days would just barely be enough for the Utah parks if you do all five, with one day to travel then you'd only have 2 days for Yellowstone which just isn't enough. If you left out the Moab area, then maybe you could do both Yellowstone/Tetons and Zion/Bryce justice in 11 days.

If you keep with your original plan then I agree that RMNP and southern Utah would be a better range of experiences rather than Yellowstone and RMNP. So for your original question I would head south from SLC.

We have seen the elk in both Yellowstone and RMNP during rutting season though and definitely enjoyed them more in Yellowstone. But I can't say it would be like that every year, or even every day. Maybe we just hit them right in Yellowstone.

Wellington, Florida
posts: 18
reviews: 1
10. Re: National Parks suggestions for 8 nights

Thanks again for your responses. After thinking through what my husband and I love to do, we have decided that we will reschedule our flights and do a round trip out of SLC. We are the type that love to take in the natural beauty that God has made and it would be crazy to rush through these beautiful parks at lightning speed. We love searching for wildlife, waterfalls, and beautiful scenery so we will dedicate this trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.

We are considering renting a mini van instead of tent camping in case the weather turns very cold or rainy. Also, this would allow us to move from one campground to another much easier if we choose. ( I also have to admit the idea of being inside a metal vehicle instead of a canvas tent gives me some comfort when it comes to bears!) What do you think about this idea?

I am finding car rentals in SLC quite expensive. Does anyone have any tips on finding lower rates? I've tried Hotwire, Costco, USAA, AAA, Ultimate Rewards, CarRentals.com, Expedia, and Priceline-even tried the name your own price route.

Thanks again for your willingness to help make our tip as good as it can be!

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