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AZ-UT-NV parks trip

Boston, MA
Level Contributor
2,578 posts
60 reviews
AZ-UT-NV parks trip

Planning a trip mid-May for our family of four (2 daughters are 9 & 6 years old) for 1 week. No big hikes, nothing intense - just a taste of the parks as none of us have seen any of them before. I'd love suggestions and advice as nothing is booked EXCEPT our GC lodging. Trying to strike a balance between fun and sightseeing for our girls. They are reasonably active but my youngest definitely tires far quicker than the rest of us. My itinerary is taken from a trip my 75 year old dad took a few years ago with the thinking that my youngest and my dad have similar stamina ;)

Open to suggestions!

Tues - fly into PHX; stay in Scottsdale for pool & time change relaxation

Weds - drive to Sedona to overnight; pool, sight-see etc

Thurs - drive to GC; stay at Yavapai Lodge (already booked)

Fri - drive to Lake Powell - where to stay & what to see?

Sat - drive to Bryce Canyon - where to stay & what to see?

Sun - drive to Zion - where to stay & what to see?

Mon - drive to Vegas via Valley of Fire - no clue where to stay, but we don't gamble and don't like Vegas but don't want to drive back to PHX

Tues - fly back to BOS

We're trying to drive less than 4 hours in a day and we need direct flights back to Boston. We could change almost anything except our GC night. Kids get some motion sickness, so that limits us some. Thanks in advance for all your insight!

10 replies to this topic
Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
Level Contributor
67,102 posts
249 reviews
1. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

You’ll be pushing your limit with 4 hours per day of driving. But doing it everyday means that a small taste is all you’re going to get at any of the stops.

The order is fine. Now you need to nail down the rest of your hotel bookings. The success of your plan depends on getting places for each night. .

So Cal
Level Contributor
12,039 posts
75 reviews
2. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

I would try for a late night departure, and spend two nights at Zion. There's plenty to do there, and it's only about a three hour drive to Vegas.

For Zion, stay in the town of Springdale; it literally ends where the park begins.

Are you members of AAA? They have very good maps for this area.

Edited: 23 March 2018, 04:44
Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
1,258 posts
37 reviews
3. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

It's a nice introductory trip and you'll get a flavour of the various locations and their beauty.

To answer some of your questions:

Fri--are you visiting Lake Powell for water based activities? The nearby town to stay in is Page--lots of lodging in all price ranges there. Most people, when there, visit Antelope Canyon (book a tour), Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam.

Sat--stay in "Bryce Canyon City" at Ruby's Inn or Best Western Ruby's Inn. Drive to the end of the scenic drive in one go, then come back and stop at the various viewpoints. They will then all be on your right, so pulling off for parking is easy.

Sun--stay in Springdale--a wide variety of lodging there. Take the free shuttle from town to the Visitor Centre (or drive your car there), then take the free shuttle into Zion Canyon. It stops at numerous locations, and you can get off and on at your leisure. Buses run about every 5 to 10 minutes so you would never have to wait long for a ride.

Mon--Valley of Fire is a good choice to drive through on your way to Las Vegas. For some entertainment for the kids you could stay at Circus Circus or New York New York. Or at any of the mid-strip hotels (Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Venetian, Paris to name a few) for easy walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. Or at a downtown hotel to be close to Fremont Street. Or at a hotel near the airport that has a pool for some relaxation. It all depends on your preferences.

You'll need to get your lodgings booked soonest....Zion and Bryce should take top priority, after that start booking Page, Sedona, Scottsdale, Las Vegas.

Buy an America the Beautiful Parks Pass at the first park you get to. It's $80 and good for one year. It allows entry to all the national parks on your list, plus many other federal recreation sites.

Happy planning.

North Carolina
Level Contributor
1,907 posts
8 reviews
4. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

"Kids get some motion sickness" Current plan is 4 hours driving per day.

Here is a contrarian plan:

Consider you will be on Eastern time. You should take advantage of the time change and be motivated for morning travel.

Tue: Arrive PHX (if you arrive late in the day) spend night at Hampton Inn Anthem - pool time

Wen: Bearizona in Williams to the Grand Canyon - Stop at Mather Point Visitor Center to see Jr Ranger Program Activities; You are visiting near the new moon go out at night to see the stars and planets @ Mather Point parking lot

Thur: Grand Canyon Jr Ranger Program; Easy Hike Rim Trail; Dinner El Tovar Dining Room

Fri: Page via Desert View Drive stop @ Horseshoe Bend Overlook easy hike over sand; Antelope Canyon tour

Sat: Page: Antelope Canyon Boat Tour - pool time?

Sun: Sedona: Jeep tour; Sunset Bell Rock pathways easy hiking - pool time?

Monday: Sedona: Sunrise Airport Overlook; Sunset RR Crossing / Crescent Moon Day Use Park easy hiking - pool time?

Tue: Fly out PHX

Your original Plan: 809 miles @ ~ 16 hrs driving

Revised Plan: 667 miles @ ~ 12 hrs driving

The driving is "slightly" less but more importantly you stay in one location longer to enjoy the parks more. If the girls do get motion sickness I would consider not moving them each day. It may not be the vacation you had hoped to enjoy. Not sure how many different geographic experiences they want compared to staying a couple days at one location to enjoy? Anyway, just a suggestion.

Edited: 23 March 2018, 11:33
Boston, MA
Level Contributor
2,578 posts
60 reviews
5. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

To help answer some questions:

Our flights both to and from the west are day flights. We have found from experience that overnight flights make the situation much worse for our kids, as they don't really sleep. Looking at flight options, we would fly into PHX around noon and fly out of LAS around 8am.

My 9 year old already has her Junior Ranger badge (thanks Girl Scouts!) and her free 4th grade pass to all the NPs - it was actually the motivation to do the trip. The cost isn't a factor, but it helped us decide to just do it already. Will likely do the west coast NPs when my younger one hits 4th grade.

Lake Powell - Not sure what there is to do for the age range of our kids. Looking for advise! We will do all things as a family, so must be appropriate for a 6 year old. Suggestions welcome!

Bryce Canyon - Ruby's Inn is booked for our date, any other accommodation suggestions?

Regarding the motion sickness - we do weekly 3 hour (each way) drives to ski every weekend and my oldest takes Dramamine and is typically fine. The issue is more stop & go traffic of which we have a lot of around Boston. I'm hoping this will be less of an issue on our trip, but have no sense of the road quality. Would love insight here.

Do any of the places I'm intending to do offer short (1-2 hour) trail rides on horseback for beginners? My youngest is dying to get on a horse and my oldest is starting some intro to horseback riding this spring, so this would be a fun option.

Thank you for all the advise. I realize we are not doing these parks justice and we intend to come back when our kids are older. Just trying to get a flavor of the area as they have never been out west at all. Thank you!!!

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
Level Contributor
20,443 posts
41 reviews
6. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

With just one night in Page, the town close to Lake Powell, you won’t have time for water activities on Lake Powell. You’d need to two nights there. The typical activities for the area would be the hike to Horseshoe Bend, a tour of Antelope Canyon, possible tour of Glen Canyon Dam and a look/see of Lake Powell either from the Dam or Wahweap Overlook. You will need advance reservations for an Antelope Canyon tour.

It would be a long shot, it try the lodge inside the park. While not ideal, the town of Tropic would be a possibility. Tropic is about 20 minutes from Bryce.

You will be traveling on good, well maintained two lane highways for the majority of this trip. Once you get away from Phoenix, it will be highway driving at highway speeds except within the national parks. Drive times between these destinations are from a couple of hours to about four hours. Bring the Dramamine.

There’s horseback riding at Bryce and Zion. Bryce would be the better option. There may be age and weight restrictions,

Bastrop, Texas
Level Contributor
941 posts
27 reviews
7. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

I think you have too much planned, but that is up to you. We have traveled a lot in this area and would be exhausted trying to cover this ground/changing locations every day. With the schedule you have planned, you really don't have time for other activities. Personally I think this would be a much better trip if you cut out the number of locations and focused on the quality of each visit.

My recommendation...

Tue - Scottsdale

Wed - GC

Thu - GC

Fri - Page

Sat - Springdale

Sun - Springdale

One night in Sedona is not really worth it in my opinion. You can do the scenic drive through the area on the way to the grand canyon and cover basically what you could with 1 night. Bryce Canyon can easily be added to another trip for Moab and Capitol Reef.

As far as road conditions, if you stick to the main highways, they are good. Don't plan to drive at night. It's really, really dark in this area.

BTW...Each national park and most national monuments have a park specific junior ranger badge that is different than the generic one you can get online.

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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67,102 posts
249 reviews
8. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

You don’t have time for anything on Lake Powell. A short time viewing the southern end of the lake near the Dam is all you’ll do. There are other attractions at Page. Pick one.

Doubtful that your 6 yo will qualify for a horseback ride. Perhaps a walk in the corral at Bryce.

SwimFan’s proposal makes more sense IMO for a memorable vacation that won’t require as much driving every day.

So Cal
Level Contributor
12,039 posts
75 reviews
9. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

Did you look at the other motels near Ruby's? There are several. If they're all full, then as well as Tropic, consider Bryce Canyon Pines about 10 minutes west on highway 12.

Boston, MA
Level Contributor
2,578 posts
60 reviews
10. Re: AZ-UT-NV parks trip

I hear everyone on their suggestions to not try to do so much. I'm still trying to mull it over since my dad already did this exact trip and didn't mention it being too rushed. He's not that type of traveler and his wife hates spending time in the car, so I figured it wouldn't be too much.

Spending more time in GC - I'm not seeing availability for staying another night, so I think we have to move on from that idea.

As far as driving at night - no worries there! Sunset is about 7:30pm and our kids are in bed by 8 at the latest, so we will be done with driving on any given day by 6pm.

The Scottsdale and Sedona parts of the trip are the only ones that will be a repeat for me. We really do want that time to relax with our kids, so I think we will keep it.

Thanks for all the food for thought...

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