Driving Tour of Canyon Country National Parks

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by grizzlymd, Jul 8, 2006.

  1. grizzlymd

    grizzlymd <a href="http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/" targ DIS Lifetime Sponsor

    Feb 7, 2001
    We are considering a two week vacation next summer visiting the Grand Canyon. I have been researching the area and was surprised to discover the number of National Parks within a reasonable driving distance. Now the question is which ones do we visit? The Grand Canyon is a must, of course.

    Our family is DH (44), me (41), DD (10) and DS (7). We are interested is hiking (nothing too strenuous), water rafting for beginners, and seeing some incredible sights. We plan on interspersing our days of exploration with days of relaxation at the hotel pool.

    Does anyone have a suggestions on where we should go, stay, and do in this area? What are your must-do's for this type of trip?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. DeeDeeDis

    DeeDeeDis DIS Veteran

    Sep 27, 2002
    I suggest you write or to arizona for an Arizona Visitors Guide. I recently received mine and there is a ton of information in there. Itinararies for week long visits,s topping here and there and even down to "if you only had a day" suggestions.

    The visitors guide has also has a lot of resources/websites you can visit for more indepth information.

    Its a great book.

    Our trip starts in Vegas on August 16, drving thru the canyon via the west senic route then down thru Flagstaff stopping at Red Canyon/Rock Slide and Montozaumas Castles, then on tru Phoenix stopping in Tucson. Staying in Tucson for three days, Tombstone, national Park, Hike thru the largest Cactus, Nostago - then on to san Deigo for two nites, then up to Anaheim for two nites, then LA, short coast drive then back to vegas, to see Penn & Teller. and an morning kayaking on the Colorado river then ending with a two hour tour at the hoover dam.

    Tons of great info in the travel guide - have a great trip
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  4. cabloom

    cabloom Earning My Ears

    Jan 5, 2005
    We first did a road trip of the southern Utah parks and the north rim of the Grand Canyon back in '93 and we loved it so much, we did practically the identical trip again in '04. Each park is magnificent in it's own way, but they are all very different.

    The north rim of the GC is much less crowded and just as scenic as the south rim (also a bit cooler, because of higher elevation). It is just awe-inspiring. If you haven't seen it before, it's hard to imagine the sheer size of it.

    Zion NP is also spectacular with several good day hikes. The hike up to Angel's Landing is amazing, but not for the faint of heart (and not for young children, unfortunately).

    Bryce Canyon is a very user friendly park with beautiful formations that change color depending on the light.

    Those are the 3 parks that most people combine into a trip, but if you have more time, the Moab area of Utah has lots to do. I highly recommend a Desert Highlights Canyoneering trip (suitable for all ages and a total blast!), and Arches NP and Canyonlands NP are right there. Arches is a must-see, Canyonlands is just so vast that it's difficult to see unless you hike in for a few days or have a 4WD. There is also Capitol Reef NP, kind of in the middle of everything else, but it's also a really neat park.

    http://www.pbase.com/smbloom/utah04 has some of our pics, to give you an idea.

    Hope this helps.
  5. grizzlymd

    grizzlymd <a href="http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/" targ DIS Lifetime Sponsor

    Feb 7, 2001
    Thanks for the replies (and the pictures)! They have given us a lot of info and things to think about. As much as we love Disney, we are looking forward to this non-Disney trip!
  6. heidimn

    heidimn Earning My Ears

    Jan 12, 2001
    Montozaumas Castle is small but very interesting park - will not take long to go through. If you can take a short side trip to Sedona (or is that Red Canyon?) that was also very beautiful! Your trip sounds great - though HOT - you will be glad to see the cooler weather usually in San Diego - there motto is 74 and sunny!
  7. eduk8r26

    eduk8r26 DIS Veteran

    Sep 23, 2005
    You can expect temps of 115 or so in Vegas and Phoenix. The humidity is pretty bad at that time of year, also. Unfortunately, because of the recent fires, Oak Creek Canyon may not be as green as it usually is. The fires came pretty close to Slide Rock, also.
  8. kuusimo

    kuusimo "I have a great idea mom- lets go to Disneyland to

    May 7, 2005
    I agree with what has been said- Zions has some great hikes for children and they are not too bad. As well Bryce has some. Staying someplace central like Cedar City is a good idea for the three parks- Zions, Bryce & Grand Canyon. The Utah tourism has a lot of great information as well. Zions also has an IMAX movie that is great. It shows you a lot about Zions.

    The north rim of the grand canyon is a lot less crowded. A great place for milk shakes and lunch is Jacob's lake. You can camp there as well. It is just right outside of the canyon. They have cabins for rent as well.

    Other things in AZ- Montazuma's castle is ok. I would not make a trip down just for that though. It is a 30 minute self-guided tour. Monument valley is not too far away. It is on the east side of the state. They also have north of Flagstaff where a meteor hit the ground. I have never been there because it cost money to go see. There is a ghost town just north of Sedona. But as was mentioned earlier- there was a huge fire this year and it burned quite a bit of Sedona.

    I know that Utah has more national parks than any other state. Arches are amazing. Getting a state map and info would be the best place to start though.

    Like I said before though- Cedar City is a good central point to stay. You are not driving everywhere. It will be hot too. Plan on at least 100 degree weather. Moab has some great river rafting, Grand Canyon has river rafting as well by Lake powell has some river rafting.
  9. MaryAnnDVC

    MaryAnnDVC "Mare", DISing since '99; prefers being tagless

    Feb 9, 2001
    We just got back a few hours ago from our first trip to the Vegas/Grand Canyon area (which is why I'm still up...the 3 hour time difference has me all screwed up). Our family consists of DH and I (both 48), DD (almost 18), DD (almost 16) and DS (13 1/2). Included in our trip was two nights at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina, with a 1/2 day smooth water raft trip down the Colorado River...a highlight of the trip. http://www.riveradventures.com/ Our tourguide was a really great 19 yr old college sophomore...funny and interesting...and it's the type of thing where you bond with your raftmates. (As a matter of fact, one family on our raft of 20 is from the next town from us in RI AND the grandfather was my boss years ago!)

    We also stayed at The Grand Canyon Railway and Resort hotel, and took the train to the Grand Canyon, spending a night at Maswik Lodge on the South Rim. Both accommodations were very charming. http://www.thetrain.com/ We also loved the train ride experience (we had dome accommodations)...singing cowboys, funny waitresses, beautiful scenery, and on the way back, masked cowboys taking over the train, which little kids on the train especially enjoyed!

    We drove through Zion National Park, heading from Lake Powell to Las Vegas, and it was gorgeous, but I have height issues, and it was a little nervewracking for me, as were parts of being at the Grand Canyon. Both absolutely breathtakingly beautiful tho.

    We took a ride through The Petrified Forest...not worth the detour we took, IMHO. Also took a quickie stop at Lake Mead on our daytrip to Hoover Dam.

    We were doing more sight-seeing than hiking, but I hope this helps a bit.

    Look into getting a National Park Pass. We didn't (we spontaneously made some of our detours to parks), until the end, when we managed to have $50 in park receipts. For ex, it was $5 to get into Lake Mead, $15 for Lake Powell, $10 for The Petrified Forest, and then we traded them in when we were entering Zion National Park because that cost $20...so we had $50 worth of park entrances. However, Hoover Dam had a fee (we couldn't find our receipts), as did Grand Canyon, altho it was included in a package...therefore, no receipt; if you get the pass, you might be able to have that portion of any Grand Canyon package excluded.


    I did NO planning for this trip, due to so many other family things going on this year, so the trip was planned by DH and a travel agent, but if I can answer any questions, I'd be happy to help. There were some things I would have liked to have done, but we did a lot of driving, and sometimes just wanted to get where we were going!
  10. exDS vet

    exDS vet "How in the world can the words that I said send s

    Aug 19, 2002
    We just returned from a great driving trip that started with two days in Moab, Utah. We spent a partial day at Arches National Park and really enjoyed. We drove to all of the main sights and then visited the visitor center to see the exhibits and a brief film about Arches and Canyonlands N.P.

    Arches is pretty incredible. The formations are awesome. One area is called Park Avenue. These HUGE rocks called fins rise high above the ground and they resemble skyscrapers. You can drive to the vista point where the view is great. From there you can hike down a trail that leads through the small canyon where the views of the formations are even more incredible.

    Lots of things to do and see in Moab. Nice motels and good restaurants too.

    I used to live in Phoenix and took several day trips to the Sedona area. Slide Rock park is not worth the admission price or the time spent there. Oak Creek is nice, but only if you park on the road and hike down the canyon to the creek itself, and find a nice picnic spot without too many people around.

    I was very impressed by the red rock formations around Sedona...That was until I went to Arches National Park.

    Of course the Grand Canyon speaks for itself. I would also NOT recommend the Meteor Crater north of Flagstaff. Dull and boring for sure.

    Happy Planning.
  11. QT Pooh

    QT Pooh DIS Veteran

    Jul 15, 2005
    We did the Colorado/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico Nat'l Park loop a few years ago and had a ball. We rented an RV in Denver and made a loop. We did a lot of things we would never, never do...but while we were near there we did them (the Roswell, NM Alien museum, laid on four states at the same time, etc.). A couple of National Parks stand out as my favorites...Arches National Park in Moab, UT (actually the drive from SLC to Moab was as beautiful as the park), Zion Nat'l Park in UT. We liked Canyon de Chelly in Eastern Arizona for the spirituality of it (it's on Navajo land). The Gila Cliff Dwellings in Eastern NM was also great although there's a treacherous access road - especially in an RV. The Grand Canyon is certainly a must do as is Carlsbad Caverns in NM. Most of these outside of Zion are probably too far a drive from the Grand Canyon area if you're staying at one hotel, though. At the Grand Canyon alone, you'll see some beautiful sites...AND make lots of memories with your family.
  12. donnier

    donnier Earning My Ears

    Jan 5, 2003
    We did a similar trip this last summer. Flew into Vegas, drove to just outside Zion NP - spent the early part of the day seeing the highlights of the park, then drove over to Moab and spent the night. Again, spent early part of day seeing Arches NP and then drove over to Durango, CO and spent the night. Did the Durango / Silverton RR on the 4th of July then drove to Mesa Verde and spent the night. Spent early part of day seeing Mesa Verde NP and then drove to Tuba City, AZ by way of four corners and Monument Valley and spent the night. Spent all day at Grand Canyon and then drove down to Williams, AZ and spent the night. Spent early part of last day driving the part of Route 66 between Williams and Hoover Dam. Did the Dam and then into Vegas to spend the night.

    Lots of driving, lots of fun.

    One word of advice - if your gas hand gets below 1/2 tank and you see a gas station, fill up. In that part of the country you will go for hours and see no towns.

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