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Thread: Advice for Zion/Bryce/Arches/Moab Quick Trip

  1. #1
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Advice for Zion/Bryce/Arches/Moab Quick Trip

    I'm looking for advice on the two best hiking days I can plan in the Zion/Bryce/Arches/Canyonlands/Moab area given the following conditions:

    Day 1: Flying into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City (and possibly Moab) and will be leaving early and gaining time. Hiking in March/April. I can rent a car and drive from the airport but want to be in/near the park of choice that day.

    Day 2: Hiking day, staying at a lodge in park or cabin or motel (TBD)

    Day 3: Hiking day, staying at a lodge in park or cabin or motel (TBD)

    Day 4: Driving to airport and flying back to NH

    Here's the question: what are the two days hiking and lodging you would pick given these constraints if flying into these three places? Thanks in advance. I've never been hiking in the area and am looking forward to it. 8-12 mile days fine.

    1. Las Vegas
    2. Salt Lake City
    3. Moab/Canyonlands
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  2. #2
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    I've a similar trip, twice, to Zion/Bryce in April and July. Haven't been to Arches. Yet. I'll describe pretty much what I did and hope that gives you some ideas, although I had three days, not two.

    For the first trip in April, I flew into Vegas the previous night. My husband had a conference there, and since Vegas is not really my kind of town, I figured out an alternate itinerary for me for few days. The next morning I picked up a rental car and drove to Zion. I set up camp in the campground and hiked Angel's Landing, starting around 4pm or so. Bonus: I had the whole top to myself at that time of day. Day 2 was more hiking in Zion, a little Narrows, just the trail as it was too cold to be in the water at that time of year, and Observation Point. Day 3 was a day trip over to Bryce with some nice hiking loops around the hoodoos. Morning of day 4, I did a quick hike in Zion to the Emerald Pools and then drove back to Vegas. April was still nice and cool as far as weather. I had ice on my tent one morning, and there was a dusting of snow on the way up to Observation Point.

    The second trip, I was again in Vegas this time with my teenage son while my husband had business. We had a car, so we did one day trip to the Grand Canyon - long drive! Then we did a three day trip over to Zion/Bryce. Day 1, we left in the morning, got a hotel near Zion and drove the Zion-Carmel Tunnel portion so we could do a little sight-seeing. Day 2, we got up early to pick up rental gear for hiking the Narrows, but went over to Bryce for the morning to hike amongst the hoodoos. We then returned in the heat of the afternoon to enjoy the hiking in the Virgin River Narrows to cool off. Day 3, we got up really early and hiked Angel's Landing before the crowds got there - there were very few groups up top and we had a great hike before driving back to Vegas.

    Both trips and photos are on my blog.
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  3. #3
    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    SLC to Moab is about 4 hours, LV to Zion is about 2.5. The Zion Lodge is inside Zion National Park and well located for hiking. The Bryce Canyon Lodge in Bryce may or may not be open, the summer season starts in late March. There's no lodging or dining options inside Arches or Canyonlands besides camping, but there's gobs of lodging in Moab.

    March there will still be snow and road closures in some places, especially at higher elevation.
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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    About year and a half ago I did Trans-Zion Trek with friends. It was in late April, and almost all snow was gone save for some really shady spots along West Rim Trail. The temperatures during the day would reach low 80-ies while they would drop into low 30-ies at night. Water on the trail was very limited to few sources. We flew to Las Vegas as it was easier to find cheap flights there out of Newark, and the drive to Zion was relatively short. If you plan to spend only a day in Zion and you are ok with out-and-back hike then I would recommend West Rim Trail, maybe some 2-3 miles past Angel's Landing. I have some public photo albums on Facebook that I can share if anyone cares to see what views you can get from there. After we finished our hike we still had a day left, so we drove to Bryce which is at higher elevation and felt quite a bit cooler even with some snow falling. The thing about Bryce is that you can get almost all the views just by driving along the rim from one parking area to next. We topped it off with part of Navajo Loop (Wall Street section was closed)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    West Rim Trail in Zion: https://hiking.waymarkedtrails.org/#...2732!-112.9562
    Navajo Loop / Wall Street in Bryce: https://hiking.waymarkedtrails.org/#route?id=7758461

  5. #5
    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    For a first trip to the area, and with limited time to spend, I'd fly into Las Vegas and visit Zion -- spend less time driving and more time hiking. Don't bother with Moab, Canyonlands -- too much driving and not enough hiking for just two days. And don't bother with Bryce, either, even though it's in driving distance from Zion -- again, too much time driving and not enough time hiking.

    Stay in Springdale, right at the park entrance on the west side of the park. Not only is there plenty of lodging there now, but when we drove through a month ago, another hotel was being built.

    First day: spend some time doing the regular hikes in the park that are popular but you should do: Angel's Landing (after which you can, as iAmKrzys indicated, do some of the West Rim Trail); Weeping Rock/Hidden Canyon (nice hanging slot canyon!); and Observation Point (nice view overlooking Angel's Landing)

    Second day: any of the stuff you didn't do the first day but would like to -- OR -- I'd recommend driving out of Springdale on Route 9 a short distance to Virgin, and picking up Kolob Terrace Road and doing the Left Fork of North Creek, aka the Subway, from the bottom. We didn't do this until our third or fourth trip to that area, and I wish we had done it sooner.

    (Full disclosure: we've been to Utah many times and to each of these parks several times for extended periods of time.)

    I'd use site, too, for reference: great pictures, nice maps, good information.

    The nice thing about staying near Zion is that, although it's full-on winter still at higher elevations and further north, at lower elevation you're dealing mainly with some ice here and there but no snow pack.

    Also, PM me if you want any other detailed information on any hikes.
    Last edited by Barkingcat; 01-15-2018 at 06:22 AM.

  6. #6
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    We flew to Las Vegas from JFK in NYC, drove to Springdale, stayed at Zion Canyon Campground which was cheap and decent (we got site F3 on the Virgin River) and had showers. Did Observation Point and Weeping Rock the first day, Angels Landing the next, sandwiched around events for the wedding we were attending. Unless you're staying at the lodge, between March and November you have to take the park bus to trailheads. This affects your start times.

    Obviously check conditions first but we brought sneakers, not hiking boots, as the trails were not demanding.

  7. #7
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Just repeating what Metsky said about snow. In March 2016 we borrowed a car in Vegas, went to visit Zion and Bryce. Got rained on in Zion (notably turning the dusty chains on Angels Landing to slime). Caught lovely light flurries on the rim trail of Bryce. Wished for microspikes on the canyon trails in Bryce due to solidly packed snow and plenty of fall potential. (I do recommend hiking down, you get great views from the rim but it's a different experience when you're down in the middle of these formations.) Then wished for tire chains on the drive back to Vegas from Bryce. Altitude makes a big difference - Vegas stayed hot and dry this whole time.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Amicus's Avatar
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    The Utah parks we've been to, including Monuments such as Escalante/Grand Staircase and State Parks such as Kodachrome, have all been wonderful. If you had a week or two, a great clockwise circuit from Vegas would be Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches/Canyonlands, Monument Valley/Navajo Nation, Grand Canyon from the east. September, when we did that, was ideal - later would risk snow at higher elevations. I would not omit Bryce even if you have just two days. Taste is subjective, but my wife and I both thought Bryce was the only Park to rival Grand Canyon for breathtaking views - the "ooh aah" factor - especially if you can be there for a dawn or sunset. it is also a bit less crowded than Zion. I second nartreb's recommendation that you take some of the trails down from the rim if you go to Bryce. The NPS materials describe some excellent loops.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great info folks. Much appreciated.

    It's looking like this trip is taking shape for about mid to late April, same schedule. Here's what I'm putting in place based on your comments and my research:

    Fly into Las Vegas and head to Zion for the two days. We'll stay at the lodge if we can get space before it fills. Otherwise, we'll stay in Springdale. I figured Angel's Landing would be on the short list. So, now it's a matter of planning the two days based on this. Based on the commentary on Bryce, I'll look into the idea of spending one of the two days there as well, but most likely we will stay put and day hike Zion since it's a relatively quick trip out there. But at 70 miles away, I'll look into Bryce too. (All other parks are out of the picture now as is Moab and Salt Lake).

    I'll have more questions as I plan and we actually get flights. Thanks!

    How's the petrified forest trail in Zion? This stuff took on a mystical quality in elementary school science class.
    Humankind has not woven the web of life.
    We are but one thread within it.
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    All things are bound together.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raven View Post
    How's the petrified forest trail in Zion? This stuff took on a mystical quality in elementary school science class.
    You're referencing the Chinle Trail, correct, on the southwestern section of the park near Rockville Bench, away from the main section of the park?

    It's definitely worth the trek. If you do this, though, you'll probably want to spend the day out there and just do the loop (with short road walk) of Huber, Scoggins, and Coal Pits washes, along with the Chinle Trail. And yes, there's quite a bit of petrified wood on view on that loop (as well as some dinosaur bones) in the section that cuts through the chinle formation. If I recall correctly, it's only 7-8 miles, but you may want the extra time and make it an all-day hike because of the shorter day length and also the route-finding through the washes.

    Here's a link to some decent information about the loop. Let me know if you need more information about it -- we've done the loop a few times, and it doesn't get old.
    Last edited by Barkingcat; 01-20-2018 at 06:55 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Depending upon water levels and temperature, a hike up the Virgin River into the canyon is a signature trail in Zion. There is a short season in which it can be done because the canyon is so narrow that it is easy to get trapped by flash floods during frequent storms that occur out of sight and hearing of the trail. The trail itself incorporates some wading where the canyon narrows.

    I suggest making Lodge reservations ASAP as it books up fast, maybe not so much so in early spring but it is a terrific base camp and across the road from Angels Landing trailhead. It might be wise to start early as the hot sun can make this short but steep hike uncomfortable. In general, we've often ended up doing 2 or 3 short hikes to vistas, unique geology or nature trails and these add up to a full day hiking. The food back at the Lodge is good ... maybe a tad expensive but location, location, location.

    I think I'd spend the whole time in Zion. It is too short a trip to try to spread out to other parks and there is plenty to do and see at each. The Colorado Plateau is one of my favorite destinations ... one of many.

  12. #12
    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raven View Post
    Fly into Las Vegas and head to Zion for the two days. We'll stay at the lodge if we can get space before it fills.
    We're staying at the lodge April 18-20, maybe we'll see you there.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

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    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barkingcat View Post
    You're referencing the Chinle Trail, correct, on the southwestern section of the park near Rockville Bench, away from the main section of the park?

    It's definitely worth the trek. If you do this, though, you'll probably want to spend the day out there and just do the loop (with short road walk) of Huber, Scoggins, and Coal Pits washes, along with the Chinle Trail. And yes, there's quite a bit of petrified wood on view on that loop (as well as some dinosaur bones) in the section that cuts through the chinle formation. If I recall correctly, it's only 7-8 miles, but you may want the extra time and make it an all-day hike because of the shorter day length and also the route-finding through the washes.

    Here's a link to some decent information about the loop. Let me know if you need more information about it -- we've done the loop a few times, and it doesn't get old.
    Yes, that seems to be the one. It's still called by the old name in the book I have. Thanks for that link. Good reference to have. I have the Moon guide that has general info about 5 or 6 different parks in the area so it's a good starting place and for accommodations and plans, but it probably lacks some trail specific detail found in a more park-specific guide book.

    Sounds good but after looking it over, we'll probably skip it this trip. Enough to see in the rest of the park.

    Stan - I'll check out the canyon hike thanks. And I think we will stay there the while time. I'll go out another trip to see a different park, but no need to spend the time driving.

    Dave - you very well may see us there!
    Humankind has not woven the web of life.
    We are but one thread within it.
    Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
    All things are bound together.
    All things connect.
    ~ Chief Seattle, 1854 ~

  14. #14
    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    I created an album from the photos I took descending eastern section of West Rim Trail: https://photos.app.goo.gl/HMVwaoOsKImwDpSH3. The first picture is Cabin Spring which is a really small source at a side of the mountain roughly 50 yards north of the intersection of West Rim Trail & Telephone Canyon trail, see here https://hiking.waymarkedtrails.org/#....287!-112.9685

  15. #15
    Senior Member roadtripper's Avatar
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    Are you sure you can only hack 4 days? The southwest is amazing and has a lifetime of world-class hikes (I'm not exaggerating).

    If you only have 4 days, here is what I would recommend
    ~ fly into Las Vegas
    ~ head straight to Valley of Fire State Park, which is pretty much on the way to Zion anyway, and do all the day hikes in the park, especially Fire Wave (do this near sunset) and White Domes. Also go off-trail and visit Crazy Hill (let me know if you want directions) and maybe even Nike Rock.
    ~ from Valley of Fire, head to Zion National Park and hike Angel's Landing and/or Observation Point. Start Angel's Landing super early to beat the crowds (500+ people on spring weekends).
    ~ after Zion, head to Kanab and stay there. The next day, head out and do the following: drive 1 hour east and hike Wire Pass to a T-junction with Buckskin Gulch. Go up and down Buckskin Gulch until you get sick of it (there may be some cold pools to step/wade through though). On the way back, hike to the Toadstools off US 89 (making sure to go off-trail 0.25 mile to the left when you reach the main toadstool for some amazing views and also some hidden white hoodoos).

    Between Valley Fire State Park and Zion National Park is the city of St. George, Utah. It's a great place to stay and nearby Snow Canyon State Park has some fantastic views and hikes. Mid-afternoon is best for Snow Canyon in terms of dramatic lighting/colors.

    Also near St. George is Yant Flat (there's an east and west side to this...the east is best and way off the beaten track), the Red Reef Trail and the Red Mountain Trail. All of those hikes are incredible.

    Save Moab for later and spend a full week there at some point. Heck, spend a month in the Moab area if you can.

    Whatever you end up picking will be great. It's all mind-blowing out there. I've been out there 10 or 12 times and I'll probably go 20+ more times.

    JetBlue has a gazillion nonstop flights to Vegas from Boston FYI.
    Last edited by roadtripper; 01-20-2018 at 08:09 PM.

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