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Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Honolulu, Hawaii
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Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Husband and I are retired and in our later 60's. Thinking of landing in Vegas, travelling up to

Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Moab, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Flagstaff, and back to Vegas. Thinking of going in mid February, spending about 12 days travelling, stopping over at hotels for 1-2-3 days along the way. Is February too early to take a road trip to these areas? We love to visit National Parks in off-seasons, because it's less crowded and peaceful. Husband has driven in light snow before.

Park City, Utah
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for Utah, Winter Sports
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1. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

It's an OK time to travel. You'll find cooler temps, lower crowds, maybe snow in Bryce area but shouldn't be an issue. You will have a challenge in getting all this done comfortably in 12 days in a meaningful way. Is Flagstaff essential? Might also look at Salt Lake City as possibly a better gateway. Looks like a great trip.

Have fun.

Ohio, USA
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for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
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2. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Welcome to the forums, NateaBar.

I've not visited the region in February, so I will defer to Tumbleweed's expertise on that point.

I concur that 12 days will be tight for getting in all that you listed. Plus, I did not see the Grand Canyon on your list.

Here's something that may be useful in your planning:

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

This link will take you to a travel article on touring the Grand Circle. It was written as a primer for planning a trip such as yours. It also contains links to other TA resources, such as the Top Questions in the Utah forum, including the very useful "How can I see all the parks in southern UT?" topic that includes maps and sample itineraries.

Kipling. SK
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for Zion National Park
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3. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

I also did notice that the grand Canyon is absent from your list. So you have either been there before or simply forgot to add it to the list. If your wish is to see the grand canyon, then visiting Flagstaff before or after is a deviation from your route. Having said that, I have found Flagstaff to be a very nice place to visit, set in a forested region, with a couple of puebloan ruin type monuments nearby.

I have visited these regions in February, and have found the main, highly visited park features to be open and easily accessible. If you are a hiker, you will find some icy trails in spots, and some trails will be impassable, such as at at Bryce and the northern/high elevation areas of Zion. But with the time you have available, it is unlikely you will want to visit these areas anyways.

As is obvious, snow can alter a couple days of your plans. The roads normally have been plowed and reopened after a heavier snowfall as fast as economically possible in the parks. However with the recent heavy rains and government shutdown in the past couple of months, I would feel your plans would be safer travelling in Feb.

I am not too sure about Mesa Verde. While you can still visit in the Winter, I believe most of the park features are shut down. Normally the forum calls for two nights for Mesa Verde, but I feel your plans would/could call for one night in the Cortez area.

So 2 nights at Zion/Springdale, 1 night at Bryce/Bryce canyon City, 1 night possibly at Torrey/Capitol Reef, 2-3 nights at Moab(three is better), 1 night at Mesa verde/Cortez, 1 night for Monument Valley, and 1-2 nights for Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, or the combination. Better blueprints for the loop you are thinking of will be mentioned in the article provided by OH above.

Mannheim
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4. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

In principle, this should be no issue. But you have to expect blizzards and icy roads, including road closures. I've had closed roads in that area even in March or early April!

It all depends on the elevation. The north rim of the Grand Canyon, not too much higher than the south rim, usually opens not before May (there's only one road). The Brice Canyon is on the same elevation! Here, after a blizzard the road into the park could be impassable for hours or even days. So even when you are able to reach the park (there are several routes), there's no guarantee to see the highlights: the park entrance is at about 7.500 feet, but the road ascends up to 8,400 feet. I've experienced the same at the Grand Canyon south rim: due to too much snow, the scenic route between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Point was closed for several days (at the end of February, I think it was 1997). The road between Bryce and Canyonlands (via Escalante - for me, one of the most spectacular roads in the world) goes above 8,000 feet and is such not always passable at this time of the year.

On the main roads, the risk is lower (but existing). I twice hat to wait for hours on the I40 near William (between Kingman and Flagstaff) - more often than expected, cars or trucks with inproper tires block the road.

So, as summary: you should plan shorter than usual daily trips and expect road closures. Don't be too disappointed when parts of the parks are not accessable. Expect low temperatures (20°F or even below are not unrealistic in the mornings)!

We prefer the April for travelling in this area. Since we hike as often as possible, the February or even March is too critical for us. If you are early in the parks, there are almost no visitors even in May or early June. You should also consider the length of the days (in February, you loose hours of daylight)!

Honolulu, Hawaii
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5. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Thank you for the link. Wonderful information that we can use.

Honolulu, Hawaii
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6. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Appreciate your info on the weather factor and possible road and/or park closures.

Have decided to reschedule trip for a later date.

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

I believe tours at Mesa Verdes begin in April. We were in Zion April of 2011 and cancelled a day trip to Bryce because of snow. Have been already to Bryce a couple of times. I wouldn't go on this trip until April or May. We are planning on doing a similar trip next May if the parks are open for business. Don't want to cancel two years in a row. Last year my daughter hurt her knee just prior to leaving and had to cancel the day before we flew.

Mannheim
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8. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

In my eyes, a good decision - you will have much more fun! Enjoy...

Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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9. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

Later dates should include ease of travel with regard to weather and longer days. Your list is long though and fitting it all in might be tight. Consider fewer destinations for more quality time.

10. Re: Road Trip - Grand Circle Tour ( Utah, Arizona, etc.)

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