A 11-day/1600-mile road trip covering National Parks of Utah and Arizona – including Zion, Bryce, Arches and the Grand Canyon. Travelers included our family with 3 kids ages 6-13. Enjoyed hiking among and above hoodoos, canyons and arches. Stayed in a variety of accommodations. (Early April, 2016)
Day 1 – Late flight to Las Vegas / Rent car / Check into hotel (1 night)
Day 2 – Drive to Zion National Park (2.5 hours) / Check into AirBnB (2 nights)
Day 3 – Zion National Park
Day 4 – Drive to Bryce (2 hours) / Explore Bryce Canyon National Park / Check into hotel (1 night)
Day 5 – Drive to Moab via Route 12 (4.5 hours) / Detour to Peek a Boo Slot Canyon (allow minimum of 3 hours for drive + hike) / Check into glampsite (3 nights)
Days 6/7 – Explore Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park & Moab
Day 8 – Drive to Grand Canyon National Park (6 hours) / Check into lodge (1 night)
Day 9 – Grand Canyon sights / Drive to Sedona (2.5 hours) / Check into lodge (2 nights)
Day 10 – Enjoy Sedona
Day 11 – Drive to Phoenix (2 hours) / fly home
- Perfect Timing – If you hate heat and crowds, April is a perfect time to do this trip. I cannot imagine attempting some of these hikes in the blazing sun and heat. Most of Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce did not have any shade whatsoever. Parking in all of the parks – even in April – fills up early. Plan to be anywhere by 9:30am at the latest in order to get a parking spot. I’m assuming this is even earlier in the summer.
- Desert Weather – At this time of year, make sure to bring lots of layers. We wore everything from shorts to vests+hats+gloves. Elevation at Bryce is 8000 feet; there was still snow in some places. Evenings in the desert get really chilly and days can get HOT.
- Precarious Heights – There are cliffs and drop-offs EVERYWHERE. If you are even moderately afraid of heights, some of these hikes and activities will be tough for you. If you are a parent, be prepared to be a fun-killer and tell your kids 100+ times to not get so close to the edges or climb so high.
- Amazing Drives – I never thought I would say this, but you MUST drive these routes. 1) Leave (or enter) Zion on Highway 9 (via Orderville) on your way to Bryce for sweeping canyon views, multiple switchbacks and a chance to see Checkerboard Mesa. 2) Most of the drive from Escalante to Moab via Highways 12 and 24 are like nothing I’ve ever seen. The landscape changed several times as we drove through birch forest and Capitol Reef National Park.
- Other Activities – Our family prefers hiking (and it’s free!), but every area we went had opportunities for other adventures (usually at a price) if you want to vary your activities. We rafted in Moab and biked in the Grand Canyon to break up the time on our feet. Choose from Jeep tours, canyoneering, horseback riding, and more.
A few things we could not live without are pictured below – kids on the left; adults on the right.
- Kids – Invest in quality hiking shoes (and socks) for your kids. We hiked almost every single day of this trip and I did not hear one complaint about sore/tired feet. Bring a couple portable games for down-times in hotel rooms. Pack a couple books or maps for your kids to follow along and read about where you are headed. Have your kids carry their own water, if possible. That mini-camelbak pack was perfect for our 6 year old. Not pictured: Download podcasts about the parks or audio books for the long drives.
- Adults – The REI Flash 18 Pack was one of the best last-minute purchases before our trip. It is super comfortable and can incorporate a hydrating system (i.e. Camelbak bladder); with room for snacks and other day hike essentials. We brought a small dry-bag for our rafting trip and hike into the Narrows at Zion. Purchase at least one quality road/topographical map – cellular service was extremely limited in most areas so you can’t rely on your phone to get you places. Other essentials: camera, portable/rechargeable battery, reusable wine glasses (by Govino) and a corkscrew. Not pictured: Selfie stick (yes, you read that right) and a laundry bag.
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Have you done this trip? I would love to hear your comments!