Utah National Parks

Table of Contents

This trip was loosely based on the Grand Circle, a tour of national parks that includes Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon. We didn’t have the time to do all of those the way we would want to, so we skipped the last four. We’ve been to the Grand Canyon and we’ll try to hit the others on a future trip. I dubbed this trip “Our Golden Circlet” because it’s not quite grand and not quite a circle.

Since we planned a lot of hiking on this trip, we kept track of how many miles we walked each day. We didn’t keep track of driving miles. 

Food & Beverage $50 per day

Average per person per day. We sourced most breakfasts and lunches from the grocery store and ate dinner out.

Lodging $90-$156 per night

Panguitch (for Bryce Canyon National Park) was our least expensive and Springdale (for Zion National Park) was our most expensive. Communities near the parks are small. Plan ahead; things fill up.

Transportation $715

Our rental car was $345; the rest was gas. Driving from park to park was entertaining in itself. We didn't track mileage, but the point-to-point route is 1,056 miles. We rented from Budget in Las Vegas and dropped the car off when we got back to town.

Entertainment $80 per person

We bought an annual national parks pass. We visited enough parks for it to make sense (and we were also able to use it in Puerto Rico the following spring). There were also fees for Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley which are on tribal lands.

Days 1-3: Zion National Park

The Plan: Zion was all about hiking in the park. We bought dry bags and other gear to do The Narrows hike in the river.

The Reality: We did everything we planned but most of our hikes were abbreviated by weather. Even if we didn’t get rained on, rain in the area caused dangerous flash flooding.  

  • Angel’s Landing hike
  • The Narrows hike
  • Canyon Overlook hike
  • Emerald Pools hike

Related Posts: The first post describes daily activities and the destination. Other posts cover anything that generated lots of photos!

Days 4-5: Bryce Canyon National Park

The Plan: Bryce Canyon was also going to be about the hiking.

The Reality: Again the weather influenced our activities. We drove the rim rather than hiking because it rained that day, and the threat of rain had us not try the longer loop with the Navajo Trail. Red Canyon was a surprising bonus. It looked interesting driving by so we stopped. 

  • Queen’s Garden and Navajo Trail loop hike
  • Rim Trail hike
  • Scenic drive
  • Red Canyon hike

Related Posts: The first post describes daily activities and the destination. Other posts cover anything that generated lots of photos!

Days 6-10: Moab (Arches and Canyonlands National Parks)

The Plan: Lots of hiking, with one longer or two shorter hikes planned per day. We’d have liked to visit a couple of nearby state parks but couldn’t fit them in. 

The Reality: This was a good example of our half-day planning technique working. We’d planned different activities for each morning or afternoon and while we didn’t do things on the dates we’d planned, the days fit together well. We drove by way of Capitol Reef National Park.

  • Devil’s Garden hike
  • Mesa Arch hike
  • Upheaval Dome hike
  • Grand View Point hike
  • Slickrock hike
  • Delicate Arch hike
  • The Windows hike

Related Posts: The first post describes daily activities and the destination. Other posts cover anything that generated lots of photos!

Days 11-12: Page, Arizona

The Plan: Page was a late add when I recalled seeing amazing photos of Antelope Canyon online. And Lake Powell was a nice extra. 

The Reality: We also managed to fit in Horseshoe Bend which is nearby. 

  • Antelope Canyon
  • Lake Powell
  • Horseshoe Bend +

Related Posts: The first post describes daily activities and the destination. Other posts cover anything that generated lots of photos!

Days 13-15: Las Vegas

The Plan: Each of us had been to Vegas before, Steve in 1976 and me much more recently. We thought we ought to go at least once, and knew a long weekend would be all we needed. It’s also pretty cheap to fly to, so we used that as the jumping-off point for our tour. 

The Reality: It went a lot like we expected, although it was so hot while we were there — over 100° — that we did a lot of walking inside the air-conditioned casinos when we needed to cool off.

  • Walking the strip
  • Hanging out by the pool
  • Sampling the restaurants

Resources

  • Key resources for this trip were the websites for the various national parks.
  • We may have used a guidebook but I can’t recall which one. I know I didn’t buy one!
arch ornament

A Christmas ornament with an arch on it seemed the obvious choice.