I am thinking about taking my three kids (ages 11, 13, and 16) on a trip to see the Utah Parks in July. I thnk that we would have ten full days for exploring. (I am not including the travel days from the east coast in that total.) We would most likely fly into Las Vegas. I have looked at the "loop" suggestions, but would like to get some more guidance as to how to plan out the trip and what to include as far as destinations for the amount of time we will have and what our interests are.
As far as our interests ... My kids are experienced hikers (can do up-to 12 mile moderate to strenuous hikes.) So I would like to do some good hikes, but probably would try to limit hiking to earlier or later in the day to minimize how much time we are in the heat. I would also like to hire a guide to do a half- or full-day of canyoneering, though I am not sure which park would be the best to do that in.
My kids are very interested in Native American sites as well as fossils so I would like to include something related to that if possible. Personally, I have always wanted to go to Mesa Verde, but I am not sure if that would be feasible on a trip of this length.
In addition, my 13-year old daughter is very interested in photography so good spots for that, espeically sunsets would be places we would want to check out.
I have made reservations for the time when we would be there at Bryce Lodge and Zion Lodge, but there is a gap in time between them. A few years ago on a trip in Arizona we visited the Grand Canyon South Rim, Page, and Monument Valley (great jeep tour with a Navaho guide), so those locations would not be high on our list to see.
So, which parks would be best to focus on? I was thinking three nights in Zion, 1 in Bryce and then I'm not sure how much time in the others. Where would be the best places to get in some good hiking (mindful that it will be July) and possibly get away from some of the crowds?
Also, it seems like a lot of people include the north rim of the Grand Canyon in this type of trip, but it looks like quite a detour from the other parks. Is it a place I should include even if I have been to the South Rim? and if I didn't do the North Rim, would I be able to comfortably go to Mesa Verde or would that be jamming too much in? or in this time frame would it make more sense to focus on just a few of the Utah parks?