I am a Trip Advisor junkie that previously has just been a lurker. Now that I joined, I would like to post a trip report to help anyone else planning a trip.
September is a beautiful time to visit southern Utah. We flew into Vegas in the morning, rented a car and headed to Springdale. We landed at 10:15 am, ate a fast food lunch in North Las Vegas, stopped at a Walmart for water and supplies in St. George and reached Quality Inn and RV Resort in Springdale at 4pm (Utah time-an hour later than Las Vegas). After you get out of the city, I-15 is 75 mph as are the interstates in Utah. The Quality Inn was one of the last places available when I booked in March so if you want more of a choice, make sure you book earlier. The Quality Inn was actually very nice, nothing fancy but clean…. good pancakes for the free breakfast and the town shuttle stopped right in front. After we checked in, we took the town shuttle to Pioneer Restaurant for dinner. It was ok but nothing to write home about. Then we took the shuttle to the park entrance, bought the $80 annual park pass and took the park shuttle to the end of the line (Temple of Sinawava). This was a good introduction to the park as our bus driver Chris talked about the geology of the park along the way. We strolled along the Riverside Walk until it started getting dark and then hustled back to the shuttle stop. My small flashlight came in handy to find our way from the park shuttle to the town shuttle as the dark comes fast in the canyon.
The next morning we got on the trails at 9am. It was actually on the cool side but perfect for hiking. We did Weeping Rock Trail (0.5 miles RT) and the Observation Point trail only to Echo Canyon (about 2.5 miles RT). Once you get up the switchbacks on the Observation Pt trail, it levels off. I wished that we had gone further but we didn’t want to push it the first day. It was one of my favorite hikes. After lunch at the lodge café (food was so-so but you couldn’t beat the scenery), we hiked the Emerald Pools trails to the upper pool. The last section to the upper pool is the hardest and the hottest in the afternoon sun. I wasn’t as impressed with this hike but the upper pool is the nicest spot. Dinner was at Oscar’s where the garlic hamburgers were great. We enjoyed eating on the patio. I would recommend this place.
After checking out at 8:30 the next morning, we went thru the tunnels and even tho we knew the Canyon Overlook Trailhead was right after the tunnels, we missed it and had to turn around. This 1 mile RT trail is not to be missed. It is a fun hike with a great view at the end. We met so many nice hikers on the trails with most of them being foreign visitors. German, Finnish, French and British…they added to the enjoyment of our trip.
It took us 2 and ½ hours to get to Bryce with a stop in Red Canyon for a geocache. Since we had hiked Bryce on a previous trip we just visited the viewpoints. Bryce Point was our favorite. We hiked Mossy Cave Trail (1 mile RT) which is off SR 12 to stretch our legs a little. The scenery doesn’t compare to the canyon but is nice if you didn’t hike the canyon. It took us 45 minutes to get to Escalante where we stayed at the Escalante B&B. I would highly recommend this place, clean, nicely decorated rooms, great host, new patio with hammock and wonderful breakfast. After talking with a fellow guest, I realized he was a Trip Advisor devotee, too. It is funny how easy it is to spot each other. (I am waiting for Al and Carol to post some pictures of their canyoneering adventure.) Cate, the innkeeper suggested Cowboy Blues restaurant at the south end of town for their Friday night prime rib special for dinner. According to my husband, it was one of the best prime ribs he has had. The homemade pies were good, too.
The next morning, after eating a wonderful breakfast, we headed up SR 12. Beautiful scenery. We made a quick spot at Kiva Koffeehouse for some iced coffee and to marvel at the unique building. It is near milepost 73. Burr Trail was our next destination. We drove about 20 miles down the road thru the awesome Long Canyon and back again to SR 12. The geocache along this road was one of the highlights of our trip. It was at a campsite a little ways off the road. We felt like we were on the top of the world with no one else around for miles. Actually, we felt like this a lot during our Utah trip. At 12:15pm we were back on SR 12 and by 1:45 we were at Capitol Reef Visitor Center. We stopped at Panorama Point first which was breathtaking if a little windy. The NP annual pass gets you onto the Scenic Drive. We went on two trails, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. Grand Wash was definitely our favorite. It was fairly level but it got progressively narrower and twist and turned so you were always wondering what was around the bend. It is 2.2 miles one way but we only went about 2.5 miles RT. Capitol Gorge trail (1.8 miles RT) was similar but not as cool IMO. We spent the night at Comfort Inn Torrey where the pillows and towels were thin but the room was clean. The free breakfast was kind of thin, too. We had dinner at the Capitol Reef Inn restaurant which was good but the service was very slow.
After the “thin” breakfast, the next day we were off to Moab. On the way, we visited Goblin Valley State Park. It is near milepost 136 off of SR 24. What a strange landscape! It cost $6 to get in but we thought it was well worth it. Fortunately, it was overcast but I imagine it could get very hot here. We wandered around the goblins looking for a geocache hidden by the state park. They are celebrating their 50 year anniversary by hiding a cache in every state park. What fun! From Goblin, we headed to Moab. We went to the visitor’s center at Arches and then drove the park road to the Fiery Furnace overlook. It was a nice preview of the park but it did not prepare us for the wonderful sights along the trails. We checked into Moab Valley RV Park which is a fun inexpensive alternative to a motel room. We had a cottage with a bathroom, shower, microwave, fridge, coffeemaker, TV and AC. The RV Park has a pool, hot tub, playground, laundry facilities and security gate. Oh, and towels and bed linens were provided.
We spent 4 nights in Moab so I am going to lump all the days together.
Delicate Arches Trail: We did this one in the morning when it was cool, overcast and windy. We took our time, rested several times and drank a bottle of water each on the way up like everyone else was doing (except for those young Italians). Nothing prepares you for the sight at the top. This is one hike everyone has got to do. When we got to Delicate Arch, the sun was shining but the breeze made it pleasant. We talked for at least half an hour with other hikers and admired the arch. Great memories!
Landscape and Pine Tree Arches: We did these in the afternoon and it was a little bit hotter. Each arch was amazingly unique. We saw the same Italians that we met on the Delicate Arch hike and as my husband is Italian also, it was like long lost brothers. They talked American sports and Italian food all the way.
Double Arch and Windows: Another nice fairly easy morning hike. Like at Landscape Arch, the parking loop was crowded. Mornings are definitely better for weather and parking availability. The massiveness of these arches is amazing. You can’t get them completely in your camera viewfinder. They are something you just have to see in person to appreciate.
Red Rock Bakery and Café: great place for lunch. Big sandwiches on homemade bread and cream soda in a bottle. Yum.
Peace Tree Juice Bar: another great place for lunch. Interesting wraps and smoothies.
Pasta Jay’s: the best Italian place in town. The eggplant parmesan, mushroom raviolis and chicken in pesto cream sauce are great choices.
Sunset Hummer trip with Highpoint Hummer: We went up Hell’s Revenge for a 2 hour ride. Wow is all I can say. We were going up 45 degree inclines, sometimes the trail only hummer-wide. Just incredible! I admit I was a little apprehensive but Aaron, our driver kept us entertained. This is another must do and Highpoint Hummer was the best.
Canyonlands…Island in the Sky district: We drove the whole scenic drive stopping at all the overlooks (Buck Canyon was our favorite) and hiked to Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and Whale Rock. All relatively short hikes. Whale Rock was very cool...scrambling over slickrock and using a handrail to get to the final destination where you feel on top of the world. Yet it was only 1.2 miles RT. We highly recommend it. We saw a coyote walking down the road, one of our few wildlife sightings.
Stargazing: Amazing night sky. The Milky Way was clearly visible and many shooting stars.
After our fourth night in Moab, we drove 4 hours to Cedar City and took the road up to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The visitor’s center and Point Supreme overlook was at 10350 ft elevation and was a brisk 51 degrees. What a change from the 80 some degrees in Moab. The red rock amphitheater with the green juniper trees was beautiful. No trails go down into the canyon so we just took the scenic drive to several overlooks. This was a perfect ending to our longest driving day. Dinner was at Milt’s which was a local steak place. We tried some of Utah’s 3.2 beer….Evolution Amber Ale and Polygamy Porter (why have just one). Crystal Inn was where we spent the night. It was a decent place with a good complimentary hot breakfast in the morning.
On our last full day, we started heading toward Vegas. But first we stopped at Kolob Canyons of Zion. We drove to the end of the road to the Viewpoint. Another beautiful view. We took the Timber Creek Overlook trail but we really didn’t think it was worth it. The best views are from the parking lot. Then we headed to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Here it was the hottest and most uncomfortable for hiking. We took a short (.5 mile RT) trail to Mouse’s tank and I thought it would never end. There were a lot of petroglyphs, which were cool. It was only about an hour from there to Vegas where we checked into the Carriage House, a non-casino hotel just off the strip. I would definitely recommend this place. It had a mini kitchen in the room with security elevators, very clean and quiet. Just across the street, you can enter the Miracle Mile shops of Planet Hollywood so you are into the strip area right away. Unfortunately, the weather was cool, windy and rainy with thunder and lightening, the opposite of our afternoon walk in Valley of Fire. And after the wilds of Utah, the masses of humanity were a shock to our systems. So we ran from casino to casino but we did enjoy our dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. That was the last night of our vacation. The next morning we boarded the plane for home and I have already started making plans to go back. Thanks again to all the helpful people on Trip Advisor. You made our trip all the more enjoyable.