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Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

Seattle, Washington
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Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

Hi everyone,

We'll be flying into Vegas on a Wednesday in early May, then spending the night in St George with family, and heading out very early Thursday AM towards Bryce Canyon NP. Any suggestions for things to see on the way? I read that Cedar Breaks will likely still be snow covered, but as a National parks passport enthusiast, I'm always looking for sites and monuments where I can add to my collection. I'm batting around stopping in Zion for awhile on Thursday, esp since its so close to St George and we can knock out a hike. I've been there briefly once before, and will be going again within the year to do a full trip at Zion, but I kind of want to do a hike that AM just cuz I'll be passing it. Then we plan to camp at BCNP for 2-3 nights. My main question is I'm wondering what everyone thinks about what are the best places to see in Grand Staircase Escalante National monument--ones that are accessible from the direction of Bryce? is it worth it to break camp at BCNP to then camp somewhere like Kodachrome while we explore Grand Staircase on our final day, or should we just save time and stay another night at Bryce and explore Kodachrome and Grand Staircase by car on our final day and just head back to Bryce for our final night of camping, then head back to St George the next day.

A few other random questions:

How about those reservoirs in St George? Would love to do a little swimming on our first and last days.

Favorite state parks? There seems to be a lot of good ones in the St George to Grand Staircase area.

If not Kodachrome for potential camping on the night we see GSENM, any other suggestions?

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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1. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

Cedar Breaks is nice. Sort of like a mini-Bryce Canyon. I don't have any info on road conditions regarding snow, by May seems doable.

Another side trip you could do is check out the Kolob Section of Zion. It isn't accessed from Zion Canyon and if you are going there later for a full trip, this might be a good time to explore Kolob for a while. Snow Canyon in St. George is fantastic as well. Lots of options.

Red Canyon is another one before Bryce.

Regarding Kodachrome, it has a very nice camping ground with excellent bathrooms. Better than Zion's, in fact, because there are showers. There are a few hiking trails to occupy a day.

Into GSENM, you could also stay in Escalante or camp at Calf Creek Falls, which is a great hike. Some fun slot canyons in the area are Peekaboo and Spooky, about an hour down Hole in the Rock Road. 4WD is needed for the last mile before the trailhead, but you could walk it too. You'll also pass Devils Garden on this road, which would make for a nice stop. Escalante Petrified Forest is nearby too.

I would opt to leave Bryce and camp closer to the hiking in the area, so you're not driving an hour or longer when you're already tired. There is enough to do in the area to keep you plenty busy.

Edited: 22 April 2014, 21:35
Kipling. SK
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2. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

The quick route from St George to Bryce tends to be I-15 to SR 20 to US 89. A more scenic route would be I-15 to SR 14, up to Cedar Breaks or past it, and then over to US89. If you are returning to Las Vegas after your Bryce visit(seems that you are), I would leave SR 9 through East Zion and Springdale for the later portion of your trip.

Having said that, I also recommend visiting the Kolob Canyons section of Zion en route to Bryce. The scenic drive in that portion is about an hour long. A nice hike in the Kolob finger canyons is Middle Fork. The trail follows a creek. It is about an hour RT to the first historic cabin, about 2.5 hrs to the second cabin, and roughly three hrs RT to complete the hike to Double Arch Alcove.

When visiting Kolob Canyons, you will likely need to stop off at the Visitor Center to purchase(show) your park pass. Best bet is to buy the annual park pass if you do not already have one. It is 25$ without the annual pass to get into Zion(good for seven days, which you likely know). Another 25$ for Bryce as well later on.

After Kolob, you can swing by Cedar Breaks via SR 14. Closer to your travels, you can check the website to see if it is open. With there being little snow over the Markagunt plateau this year, I would bet it would be open.

Kodachrome is a neat park to visit in my opinion. You can hike the short nature trail, or one of the longer trails like the Panorama Loop.

When visiting Kodachrome, make sure to stop off at the VC in Cannonville for the GSENM BLM in that area. There you can get road conditions for Cottonwood and Skutumpah. Hopefully if your lucky enough, the roads will have been recently maintained, and you can visit Grosvenor Arch and the easy Willis Creek slot.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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3. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

Good answers, I'll probably restate them in my own way.

First, I agree, head to the Kolob Canyons section of Zion off I-15 just south of Cedar City. If you don't have time for the Taylor Creek/Middle Fork hike you can take the Timber Creek Overlook. It is a short trail at the end of the road.

Then head up Cedar Canyon and take 148, it might be open or at least close enough to the park to take a peak. Hwy 14 is scenic anyway.

BUT, if you decide to do the drive through the main section of Zions a couple hikes might be possible. The Par'us or Watchman are close to the road and fairly easy and short. Or the Canyon Overlook just past the long tunnel.

If you are only going to take one day to see some of the Escalante NM, then I'm not sure it would be needed to change locations. You'll have a bit more driving to do, but not so much it wouldn't be good.

For sure you could explore Kodachrome, Grosvenor Arch and Willis Creek from Bryce. That would be a good day trip. Maybe even head to the Cottonwood Wash Narrows if the road is good. We actually did all those in a day last year end of May from even further afield than Bryce.

Another day trip would be to drive north to Boulder and back, It is a great scenic drive. Take the Calf Creek Falls hike. Maybe you'd have time to drive to Devil's Garden down Hole in the Rock Road.

If you are taking 2-3 days for Escalante area then you probably should change camp sites- Escalante State Park is a great one to explore both down the Hole in the Road and further north.

Edited: 23 April 2014, 01:19
Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

thanks for the great responses and advice, everyone! im gonna do some research into these areas and campgrounds, and i'll probably be back with a few more questions. but seriously, these responses are so helpful--i hadnt even thought of checking out the kolob section of ZNP.

also, do you guys think we'll have any problems getting a campsite at BCNP on a thursday afternoon in early may? its too early to reserve, or else i would have. also, if we stay at BCNP for 2 nights then try to move and camp at escalante SP or calf creek, it would be us trying to find a site on a saturday. im thinking that might be hard at a first come first serve campground. thoughts?

Steamboat Springs...
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5. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

Finding vacant campsites (at popular spots) in the afternoon is hit or miss. Mostly miss. You can reserve a site at the State Parks. So Escalante might work if you book it ahead. Calf cr would be a lucky shot in the dark on a Saturday afternoon.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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6. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

What I have found is that they don't do the reservations because the demand isn't high enough yet. But as that time frame gets closer to the high season the campgrounds do tend to fill up each night. So though arriving on Thursday will help, you'll be arriving later in the day which could make it more chancy.

You can reserve at Ruby's Campground, I thought. Not as nice as the parks,,,, I might be willing to lose some money and pay for a reservation at Ruby's and then check out the park campgrounds when I arrive and if there is something there take it and just chalk up the lost money to Ruby's as worth having a backup.

Calf Creek is a small and highly sought after campground. I have no idea how anyone gets a spot in there.

But Escalante SP is also reservable and is my go to spot when in the area.

7. Re: Early May trip to Southern UT/Bryce/Grand Staircase

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