Author Topic: Trip Advice, Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase, Zion, Bryce and Arches appreciated.  (Read 2783 times)

Fomerly known as something

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I'm looking for recommendations on places to see/hike and stay.  I'm going to average about 3 days per park.  On trail advice please let me know if advance permits are necessary to obtain.  I do know I will need one for a couple of the trails in Grand Staircase.

I'm planning a road trip to Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase, Zion, Bryce and Arches National parks.  I'm a trail runner/fast pack hiker more than a traditional hiker.  I consider myself to be of moderate experience so I feel I'm a mix of cautious and experienced enough to get myself into trouble.  I solo hike so that also leads to additional caution on my part if I feel the trail is isolated.  If it is a challenging trail where I think someone else will at least pass me tomorrow I'm all in.  I find in general I cover trails about 1.5-2x as fast as posted on "how long this trail" takes even with a pack I rarely take more than 20 minutes/mile when not accounting for stops.     

As far as lodging I'm good with a mix of camping and hotels/motels/airbnb/etc.  Mainly I'm looking for the more convenient to activities over price but in general I tend to cringe when hotel prices get above $100/night.  I will likely use some credit card points of offset hotels as well.

Mr. Green

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Camping below the rim of the Grand Canyon in one of the designated campgrounds requires a permit. Most of them need to be secured many months in advance (due to popularity) but the park does reserve a few per day for impromptu requests. You can still end up waiting a couple days in a queue to get a spur-of-the-moment permit depending on the time of year. The park's website has very thorough information on the process and how best to go about getting a permit if this is something you plan to do.

Fomerly known as something

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I likely won't camp below the rim but do a Rim to Rim hike.  Someone I'm close to (and knows my fast packing/trail running ability) said to go for South Kaibab to Bright Angle in a day which they feel would be completely doable for me.  I do have my calendar marked to get into the day use lotto for Coyote Buttes in Grand Staircase.

Kapiira

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Fiery Furnace at Arches is a fun hike.  You need a permit for it, but you get it the day of your hike.  If you're going to be in that area you might want to take a day to go to Canyonlands Needle District.  You should look into Chesler Park in the Needles District.  Bryce is really beautiful, but you might find that there's not quite enough to do to fill 3 days.

Milkshake

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Look into Dark Canyon Wilderness. Because it's a wilderness area, permits are advised but not required. Bonus, it's one of the darkest places in the continental US, which makes for amazing night views if the sky is clear. Very unpopulated if you like solitude. If I remember right the loop hike is pretty long though, and definitely no amenities.

Fomerly known as something

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Thanks all please keep it coming.  I'm a midwest girl and don't know about the lesser known areas, heck Grand Staircase and Arches got added on because while trying to decided how much time I'd need to request off from work I saw them on google maps when I started looking a couple of days ago.  I'm looking at driving in via Flagstaff and out via I-70.  Initially when I had the idea of making a trip out there I was going to fly into Vegas and rent a car but have been recently leaning toward the convenience of not having to pack for flight and having to argue with a rental car agency about what kind of car I want.  Plus this way I may or may not take my road bike depending. 

mm1970

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Two of my cousins did Rim to Rim (north to South) last year, at separate times.  One of them did it in a day with 2 friends.  Her older sister?  Hm...not sure if they camped or not.  Will need to make reservations for that.

We spent about a week in Utah 1.5 years ago and visited Bryce and Zion.  (Didn't make it to Grand Staircase or Arches, but have been to Arches long ago.)  A little different, because we traveled with kids - but I found that I could get an AirBNB 3 BR townhouse for cheaper than a hotel room that would be big enough for the 4 of us.

We stayed in Kanab, UT, which was close enough to both Zion and Bryce (1-2 hrs drive).

As far as hikes go, we were obviously doing hikes that were doable by a 10 year old and a 3 year old (who spent some of the time on our backs in the carrier).  But what you might want to do is ask the park rangers.  I had chosen a couple of hikes that I thought would be doable.  The park rangers recommended some that I had thought would be too hard for us, but they were actually perfect.

In the Grand Canyon, we have camped at the South Rim at Mather Campground.  It's quite nice.  I want to go back and do that again.  So many places to see, so little vacation time when on the school schedule.

Stasher

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If you dabble in the Arches area you will be able to easily do the entire Devils Garden loop and is the biggest bang for the buck while on your feet. I ran it myself (with my camera on my back lol) All you need here is your park pass

For Bryce Canyon , limitless options for fun trails. I did Queens and Navajo trails here.

I would put Natural Arch National Monument on your radar as well, super long trail options through the bottom of the valley to link up.

Some images and ideas in an old blog post to help choose some spots to consider.
https://www.chrisistace.com/2016/01/02/going-for-it-a-solo-adventure/

Lance Hiruma

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When we visited Bryce and Zion, we stayed at Kanab as a base.
It turned out to be a great decision since it is pretty close to both parks.

bognish

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What time of year are you planning on?

If you are going from Zion to Arches its worth going through Capital Reef on the way. Not as crowded as the other main parks and some nice long trails. Just east of Capital Reef is Goblin Valley state park, fun to check out in a day and different from the other places. Close to Goblin in BLM land is Little Wildhorse Canyon. An easy slot canyon, I took my 4 year old so no technical issues, just watch the weather.

A good long hike in Zion is the West rim trail. You would need to figure a car shuttle.

Most Arches hikes are relatively short and flat, but you can do a few of them in a day if you are fit.

Canyonlands, needles south of Moab has some great longer hikes, chesler park to the joint trail. Its been a long time since i did this, but I think its doable in a long day.

There are yurts to rent in Goblin Valley & Deadhorse State parks if you don't have a tent, but want a close to camping experience. Close to Arches, Green River has cheaper hotels than Moab and isn't much farther away. There are not a ton of hotel options in southern Utah, so I have never had much luck using points. Also there is nothing on your list that you would have a hard time driving to with an economy renal car. Not sure where you are starting from, but flying into Vegas might be worth looking into.

If you are planning on doing lots of miles or trail running, a lot of the parks listed have lots of sand sections. Bring lots of socks. My shoes always fill up on long hikes, and it can rub them raw if you are not used to it. I keep meaning to find trail runner gaitors, but the sand would find a way in eventually.

Dee18

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One of my favorite experiences was hiking down into the Grand Canyon, spending the night in the bunkhouse, and hiking up the next day. It was 70 degrees at the bottom, and lightly snowing at the top, the last weekend of October.  There had been some cancellations in the bunkhouse so I got a reservation just a few weeks before going. I wish I had arranged even more time to explore the bottom.

LDoon

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I've done the South Kaibab to Bright Angel in a day.  Very doable and if you're a fast hiker, then an 8 hour round trip is possible (10 when you take lots of pictures).  However, since you have more time to spend, I second the other posters about inquiring for a campsite at the bottom and spend a day exploring. 

If that doesn't work, look into staying and hiking the north rim.  Everyone does south rim out of convenience, since it's closer to Phoenix.  Since you're heading to Utah anyway, great opportunity to see the less busy side of the Grand Canyon and get the views that very few people do.

JoJo

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For the parks centered around Moab, there's a hostel with beds for $12 a night.  You can also camp there for a few bucks and have access to kitchen, showers, etc.

http://www.lazylizardhostel.com/prices.php

Gone_Hiking

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Second vote for Canyonlands.  Less visited than Arches, Needles campground is open from March to November and it has water, something not always given in these parts.  The campground fills out every night from March to May and from September through October.  We camped there during monsoon season and it was less busy then, at a small price of occasional torrential downpour and canyon flash floods.  The scenery is amazing and night skies are awesome.   Many connecting trails criss-cross the Needles, good for half-day, full day or multi-day hikes; there are quite a few back country camp sites - permits needed at the visitor center.  Monticello and Blanding are economical alternatives to Moab.  Both small towns, good for staying the night but not for going out on town.  Blanding is the bigger of the two, with a few more options.

For Zion, Springdale is where 90% of visitors enter the park, half of them coming from Las Vegas, and lodging prices reflect that.  We visited in March and the town wasn't very busy then; prices rise in the summer with the increased influx of visitors.   There are several cross-park routes and the sheer height of vertical walls in the place is astounding.

Have fun!


Fomerly known as something

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Thanks all to answer bognish, I'm planning on an early May start.  I would love to do late April but work logistics make that harder.  (No I'm not in taxes, it's more of the fact that I'm likely to be "on call" during month and I normally leave April for the people in the office who have kids as they have spring break to work around and I don't.  Currently we are on a monthly system with our "on call" so in order to give others one week off the whole month is out.)

I'd originally thought of going the fly into Vegas route but have switched to a road trip for now mainly because the cost of a flight + rental is not insignificant.  In addition, with a road trip I can basically pack whatever I want in whatever way I want vs having to make sure everything fits into 1 50lb bag.  The trade off on driving is that transportation takes 2 days each way and extra cost would be gas and 2 more nights of lodging.  I will look at the north rim vs south as for some reason I was thinking it was the more popular side as it is closer to Vegas.

canyonrider

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How much time do you have for this road trip?

If you truly want to see all of the locations in the subject line, you will be covering a lot of ground. Random tips, from someone who has spent significant time (front country and backcountry) in all of the places mentioned:

- Avoid Zion NP and Arches NP on the weekends. See today's NY Times article on Zion NP to understand why.

- Similarly, avoid camping close to Moab if it's a weekend. Mid-week should be ok, but likely still crowded that time of year.
 
- Despite your running/hiking experience, exercise particular caution and humility with routes in the Grand Canyon and Zion. Lots (lots) of vertical, cliffside exposure, little to no water, and huge weather changes from top to bottom.

- Grand Staircase- the most remote area on your list. Depending on where you're headed, a full tank of gas and plenty of water on board are usually good ideas. 4x4 is also preferred on many of the roads (and may be necessary to get out if you have any rain).

- North Rim of Grand Canyon is a good suggestion, but I believe that many of the facilities (and perhaps even some roads) on the North Rim don't open until mid-May at the earliest. Something to check before you go.

Edit to add: I would only spend a day in Bryce. Also, bognish's suggestions are all good ones.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 12:35:13 PM by canyonrider »

bognish

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It should be warm & dry by May with occasional storms well forecasted a few days out. Not a big time for flash flood thunderstorms or snow.  Plan well in advance if you will be around for memorial day. Arches usually stops allowing cars in by mid morning since all the parking lots are full. The rest of May is crowded by not insane.

Back in my pre-kid days I would rarely bring a tent for camping & backpacking trips to the region you are looking at. Its the desert, so rain, dew is unlikely and there are no bugs to annoy you at night (flys & mosquitoes). The mesh in season tent doesn't do much to block the sand sifting in during a wind storm either. Something to consider if space is tight.

South Rim of Grand Canyon is more popular. The North Rim is just out of the way to get to from most directions.

If you are going from Zion to Arches the scenic detour along Hwy 12 from Escalante to Boulder is worth trying to fit in. Calf Creek falls is a classic hike on the way and Kiva Coffee house is about as remote of a place for a good meal as you can get. This route lines you up for Capital Reef too.

Also plan on having a back up plan for food on Sundays. Lots of small towns in UT shut down:no groceries or restaurants. Moab, Page & Springdale will be fine, but in between can be a gamble.

Let me know if you have more questions. I am overdue for a trip down there and starting to day dream...

Telecaster

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For Zion, Springdale is where 90% of visitors enter the park, half of them coming from Las Vegas, and lodging prices reflect that.  We visited in March and the town wasn't very busy then; prices rise in the summer with the increased influx of visitors.   There are several cross-park routes and the sheer height of vertical walls in the place is astounding.

Have fun!

In addition to the main canyon, there is another section called Kolob Canyon that is almost as spectacular and has far fewer visitors.  There is a hike called the Subway that requires a permit, but well worth it. 

bognish

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Subway could be really cold with high water in May.

batemama

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I go to national parks to hike, camp, and get away from people.  Not sure if you're the same way, but if you hike the longer trails, you generally lose most of the crowds.  I also like variety on my hikes.  My recommended hikes from the parks I've visited:

Arches (I strongly recommend camping here if you can get a spot, but also we went a few years ago at the beginning of May and the temperature at night dropped to 34):
 *Devil's Garden Loop - take the primitive trail on the way out (so you're going downhill in the sand) and the normal trail on the way back in.  The primitive trail is well worth it!
 *Tower Arch - if you want to get away from people.  Seriously we passed 3 small groups of people.

Canyonlands Needles District (not on your list, but like others have said, you need to go):
 *The Confluence Trail - you climb ladders, jump over ravines, walk through fields of wild flowers, and end up at the confluence of the Green and Colorado River.

Bryce:
  A lot of the trails here connect and loop, so you get multiple hikes done at once. I don't really have a favorite. I loved them but hated that they were "backwards" in that you start off going downhill and then hike back out uphill.

Zion (it's packed if you want to drive around or hit the hot spots. We just took the shuttle everywhere):
 *Angel's landing: Who doesn't love a hike that starts out warning you how many people have died attempting it?  The views and sense of accomplishment are worth it. It's also not that bad.  I am not very athletic or graceful and I packed the wrong shoes and survived.

NotJen

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Zion - hike the Narrows if it is open (might not be in May due to high flow rates after spring melt) - it is such a unique hike and definitely my favorite in the park!  Start early and you will have the river mostly to yourself on the way out - you'll dodge crowds on the way back.  The West Rim trail (top down) is a good option if you want something longer - you'll have the option of adding on Angel's Landing, but it will be during "peak" tourist time.  I shuttled to the trailhead with Zion Adventure Company.  Saw essentially NO ONE on the trail until we neared Angel's Landing - though there are backcountry sites along the route so a few people should have been around.  Observation Point is also a great hike, much less crowded than AL (and you get to look down on it at the end), especially if you start early.  I loved the views all along the hike.

Bryce - 3 days is probably too many, I'd add some of this time to Zion.  I spent 2.5 days earlier this year, and it was a little too much as the scenery everywhere started to look similar.  I think the Fairyland Loop was my favorite (no crowds), but I also did the "Figure 8", which was more popular.  The horse poop on the Peekaboo Loop section was not fun.

Arches - I really enjoyed Arches, though most of the hikes were of the shorter variety.  Delicate Arch for sunset was pretty neat - it was crowded but not annoyingly so.  My days usually consisted of getting out for sunrise in the morning, leaving and taking a nap mid-day, then returning before sunset.

Canyonlands - Needles - I loved the Chesler Park Loop - I don't think it would be too long of a day given your hiking speed.  I'm slow, started out with a morning "hike" at the Windows in Arches, and still finished way before sunset.

Natural Bridges - This was a great stop, too.  I had intended to do the full loop using the trail that connects all 3 bridges, but the trail was so overgrown at the bottom that I abandoned that idea, and just hiked down to each bridge individually.

Grand Canyon - No advice, since I'm doing it in a few weeks North-to-South (as noted above North Rim doesn't open until May 15 each year).  My plans started out trying to add a North Rim visit to my Zion/Bryce trip, but it's still pretty out of the way from there.  Somehow I just decided to make a separate trip and go all out with a rim-to-rim.  It sounds like you have the ability to do rim to river and back in a day - if that is the experience you want.  I'm personally spending 2 days at Phantom Ranch so (hopefully) I can enjoy spending some time at the bottom of the canyon.

FindingFI

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Zion (it's packed if you want to drive around or hit the hot spots. We just took the shuttle everywhere):
 *Angel's landing: Who doesn't love a hike that starts out warning you how many people have died attempting it?  The views and sense of accomplishment are worth it. It's also not that bad.  I am not very athletic or graceful and I packed the wrong shoes and survived.

Second Angel's Landing - by far our favorite hike of the Grand Canyon/ Bryce/Zion trip.  The trail summit is on the giant pillar in the center of canyon and you can see everything from there.  I didn't even make it all the way to the top due to an ankle injury (the last section seemed too risky with the crowds from the trail being closed the 3 days following our hike and less than awesome footing) and the views from there were impressive.  We unfortunately didn't get to do much hiking in the Grand Canyon because of the bum ankle though.

bognish

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There is another story in the UT news today of stranded drivers being found after following their GPS down a dirt road and getting stuck. This pair was found after 5 days by a local rancher checking on cows. They were somehow still alive after leaving the car day 1 and splitting up.

Take away is to use common sense in addition to a GPS. Not all roads are appropriate for every car. Not all roads are maintained in drive-able conditions year round. In December a family got stuck in snow trying to drive on a seasonal road to the Grand Canyon. It may be days, months or years before another car comes down a dirt road. It may be many miles before cell service works.

Keep plenty of water, food, warm clothes and shade in the car if you are going to remote places.
If you are sticking to paved roads and main areas of national parks in peak seasons none of this should be an issue and there will be other people around.
If you are going more than 2 miles from a trailhead do not expect to see others or to find water or shade until back at the car.
If it is hot you will sweat water faster during the day than your stomach can absorb from drinking in the heat.