VACATION TO THE GRAND CANYON - May 12, 2016

After a coversation with my friend Bob from the gym he emailed me some specifics about a trip he planning around the Grand Canyon.  I told him I'd give him some advice on what to do.


Hey Nathan,

Been to busy....

We arrive late on Tuesday June 7th in Vegas, our plan is to get to the hotel as easy as possible and call it a night. We leave on June 15th(wednesday) at 11:15pm, so we have 8 days of vacation. We do plan to spend some time in Vegas, either at the front or back end of our trip.

Katie is 11 and Jesse is 15...they are more active than my wife and myself although Katie sometimes gripes on walks, we are not super active.

We have discussed getting a driving camper once we leave Vegas, that way we don't have to deal with all the hotels, etc. We also discussed seeing GC by air but it is a bit pricey and a helicopter would seem to be the way to go and that is quite expensive. We have looked at the National Parks in lower Utah, such as Zion, Arches...

I plan to make it to South Point later this afternoon...hope your work is "working out".

Bob

 

MY RESPONSE

Dear Bob

     First, I would spend the first two nights in Las Vegas and get yourself together after a four hour flight and also do some Vegas stuff.  Since you are arriving on a Tuesday it should not be that difficult to get a reasonable rate for decent hotel room on the Strip.

     Second, I don’t think getting a camper is all that great of an idea this late.  All the camping areas inside the parks are now already reserved and it may also hard to get spots in private campgrounds as well - and I am personally not a fan of private campgrounds, especially for a sight seeing trip.  If you did enough research perhaps you could find available and inexpensive places to camp in Forest Service and BLM lands but this would definitely add extra drive time and hassle to your vacation.  I think it would be easier, more comfortable, and only marginally more expensive to stay at motels.

     The overall plan I have is an abbreviated version of the “Grand Circle” national park trip around the Colorado Plateau.  It is more or less the same itinerary of the first vacation I took with my Dad and Uncle in 2011.

DAY 1:  Drive out of Vegas on Highway 93 & visit the Hoover Dam.  You may or may not want to do the tour but driving over it and also doing the short walk across the bridge is a must.  Continue to Kingman and then drive on historic Route 66 until you eventually return to I-40.  Go south on Highway 89 and then Highway 89A east over the mountains on a scenic drive to Sedona.  This is where you’ll want to spend the night.

 

 

DAY 2:  Find something to do in Sedona in the morning.  There is plenty of short hikes to choose from around the red sandstone formations, like Bell Rock and Cathedral Rocks.  By afternoon head out of town on Highway on 89A on the very steep Oak Creek Canyon Drive.  On the way stop by Slide Rock State Park for a fun swim.  Check in at Flagstaff for two nights.

 

 

DAY 3:  This is your day to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There is a free bus system that should make hiking carefree along the rim.  Try to reach Hermit’s Rest.  I don’t know if it’s a good idea to do any hiking down the canyon because of the effort involved.  I’d look into a mule ride on the Bright Angel Trail but it’s most likely booked by now.  It’s also probably worthwhile to drive to Desert View, although I haven’t been there yet myself.

 

 

DAY 4:  Leave Flagstaff early north on Highway 89.  Do the Sunset Crater & Wupatki National Monument Drive.  You will be able to see both a recent volcano and pueblo ruins up close with little effort.  Give yourself at least three hours for this drive.  Continue north on 89 & then take 89A to the Vermillion Cliffs.  Stop and take a walk over the Navajo Bridge for your best view of the Marble Canyon.  Continue driving on 89A until you reach Jacob Lake in the Kaibab National Forest and then drive south to spend an afternoon on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  After your time there return to 89A and head north into Utah.  I’d try to stay the night in Kanab, or maybe Orderville.

 

 

DAY 5:  This is your Bryce Canyon day.  Go north 89 and then turn on 12 towards the National Park.  Try to do a hike of moderate length, like the Queen’s Garden Trail or the Peek-a-Boo Loop in the amphitheater in the morning.  After lunch take the scenic drive up to Yovimpa Point.  I highly recommend hiking the short Bristlecone Loop Trail while up there.  Now you are going to have to backtrack somewhat to 89, go south, and head towards Zion on route 9.  After going through the tunnel & taking in the view of Zion Canyon for the first time continue to Springdale for a two night stay.

 

 

DAY 6:  Zion Canyon is shuttle bus only.  A bus stop should be within walking distance of your motel in Springdale.  I suggest doing the longest hike of the day early, which should be Angels Landing.  This hike will test your girl’s fear of heights at the end and is also somewhat strenuous.  However I think it is worth trying.  Also a must is walking up the Narrows at the end of the Zion Canyon road.  There are also quite a few shorter hikes like Emerald Pools to do if you have the time.  The good news is that Springdale is actually a nice little town, one the best gateway communities that the Park Service has, so take a few hours off in the middle of the hot day and relax.

 

 

LAST DAY:   Since you are leaving late at night you should be able to spend the morning in Zion’s less visited western end, the Kolob Canyons.  Take 9 west to 17, then north to I-15.  Continue north a little further to the park entrance off exit 40.  The best thing to do there, besides driving the short park road, is hiking the Taylor Creek Trail.  It’s five miles round trip to the Double Arch Alcove without much elevation gain so definitely give it a try.  Afterwards, head back to Vegas and you should have enough time to eat dinner and catch an early show before returning to the airport for your flight back home.

 

 

     Two items I recommend having is an All-Access Parks Pass and a Road Atlas.  You can find your way out west just find with a big highway map.  Only when you get close to town should you use your phone to pinpoint the location of the hotel you are going to be lodging at. 

     Have a good trip Bob.  I hope your family enjoys the desert canyon country but it’s magic is not for everyone.  I’ll see you at the gym sometime again when I get back from my work in West Virginia.


Nathan


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