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Grand circle trip

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Grand circle trip

My husband and I are planning to hire a camper vehicle in Los Angeles late April this year for a 2 week trip around the Grand Circle parks. Basic itinerary so far

Day 1 San Diego to Joshua Tree NP

Day 2 Joshua Tree to Las Vegas (via Mojave NP)

Day 3 Las Vegas

Day 4 Las Vegas to Zion NP, 2 nights in Zion

Day 6 Zion NP to Bryce Canyon NP

Day 7 Bryce Canyon NP to Capitol Reef

Day 8 Capitol Reef via Moab to Arches and Canyonlands NP

Day 9 Monument Valley

Day 10 Monument Valley to Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge

Day 11 and 12 South rim Grand Canyon

Day 13 Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

Day 14 Las Vegas to Los Angeles

Are there any adjustments to make in the itinerary that would improve the trip? Too long in one place or not enough time in others? We are not able to do lots of hiking though I like to do some walks my husband is not able to walk more than 3-5 miles/ day due to an old injury. The main goal is to see as much as we can in the short time whilst there.

Will there be any concerns taking a 19 foot campervan on the roads there?

Ohio, USA
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for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
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1. Re: Grand circle trip

Welcome to the forum, Ruth.

Well, your plan is a little rushed in my opinion, but since you are not doing any serious hiking you may be OK with it.

I think the biggest pinch point is Moab. If I read your plan correctly, you have really less than a day in Moab. You really need at least 2 full days (one for Arches and one for Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point). To get more time for Moab, perhaps spend just one night in LV or just one night at Grand Canyon. Page/Lake Powell is another place that you may need another day.

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2. Re: Grand circle trip

Thanks for that. I forgot to mention we are from New Zealand and are doing 2 months around western US, 2 weeks in the above mentioned NP's, then driving from LA to Seattle, then train to Vancouver, across to see friends in Saskatoon, Canada, back to Vancouver for an Alaskan cruise. Any other tips for travel would be appreciated. Not sure if we should continue with campervan up to Seattle, or drop the campervan off in LA after the Utah trip and collect a hire car for the trip from LA to Seattle. We have travelled through the US in a trailer for 2 months about 10 yrs ago and always said it was our best holiday ever! We love nature and wildlife and like to see some of the cities too.

Edited: 04 January 2014, 03:25
Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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3. Re: Grand circle trip

Accept that you'll be mostly just driving from place to place with very little actual time at the destinations. Agreeing with OH that Moab is the biggest problem in your plan. You need to give it a minimum of two nights, since it's distant and there's so much to see there. 3-4 nights would not be unreasonable.

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4. Re: Grand circle trip

Thanks, we will try to alter a few things. If we had to miss one thing what should we ditch?

Salt Lake City, Utah
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5. Re: Grand circle trip

It's hard to say what to miss. Talk with ten people and you might get ten different answers on what the favorite and least favorite places were. I definitely think you'll want more time in the Moab area. If you like river rafting, the Colorado River is right there. I think two nights is the minimum.

Monument Valley and Bryce are both small parks that can be seen much quicker than the others. As always, the best time to view the formations is at dusk and dawn, warranting an overnight stay. You could take a lot from a half day visit and continue, if wanted. It would make for some long driving days though and rushing through some areas like Scenic Byway 12. If there is a way to add a couple of days to this portion of the trip, it might be more enjoyable and not as rushed. Add a night or two to Moab and maybe one to Page, AZ for Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Otherwise, you may just come away with driving a lot and seeing a bunch of rocks.

The roads should all by fine for a camper in late April. All of the main roads are paved and should have no problems.

I love NZ, by the way. Reminded me of northern Utah in some ways. Can't wait to get back there soon.

Ohio, USA
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6. Re: Grand circle trip

Honestly, I would not drop any of the stops from your route once you are into UT and AZ. I would skip a night in Las Vegas (spend one night to see the lights and the opulence of the casinos, but for me, one night is enough). As add as it seems, another place to trim a night could be the Grand Canyon, if you are not planning on any serious hiking (anything below the rim). That would give you two nights to redistribute to other locations.

As shake mentioned Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley are places that can be explored in less time due to their size. I would still keep the overnight stops at these locations as then provide good break points and since the sunset and sunrise are prime times for these places. In Bryce Canyon walk the rim trail and at least take a short hike below the rim to gain a completely different perspective of the hoodoos. Also drive the scenic road and stop at as many of the overlooks as you like. At Monument Valley, take a back country tour as this the best way to see the valley (and you will not want to drive a camper van on that road!).

All that said, if you still had to drop a night at one of the parks, then I would the night at Monument Valley. It would make for a long drive from Moab to Page, but could be done. And you could still make a quick stop at MV and take in the vista from Photographers Point at The View hotel.

Kipling. SK
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7. Re: Grand circle trip

Yes, drop a night at Monument Valley, but when en route from Moab to Page, make sure to stop in at the visitor center. You can see a sweeping view of the valley from the observation deck. Shouldn't take more than an hour. Stick the night you robbed from MV to an extra night at Moab, which will give you at least one full day for this area.

It is possible to rob a night from Torrey/Capitol Reef. As stated before, favorites among the parks in the grand circle does come down to personal opinion. My personal opinion is that while it is a shame to rush through the area between Bryce and Moab, it is possible. Bryce to Moab(more specifically Bryce through Capitol Reef to Hanksville) is and can be treated as a scenic route. You can plan on spending the majority of the day travelling this route. Make stops as there are plenty of places to do so both along www.scenicbyway12.com itself, and the stretch through Capitol Reef(including the visitor center and Fruita district). There is nothing of real importance between Hanksville and Moab, so you can make up time there. Taking a night off Torrey/Capitol Reef can give you extra time somewhere else.

Rainbow Bridge is an iconic landmark for Lake Powell/Page. Just to make a note, I am sure you realize visiting this spot takes time as it is several miles worth of journey over water. make sure to plan for this adequately.

8. Re: Grand circle trip

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9. Re: Grand circle trip

Thanks everyone, this has been really helpful. Have managed to convince my knight in shining armour that we only need one night in Las Vegas (I've been before but he hasn't and I know it's not really us at all!) and have trimmed another day off some of our other leg and maybe will only spend 1 night at Grand Canyon as suggested giving more time to enjoy short walks and do a rafting trip. Those links and the books will be really helpful. We have watched some National Geographic DVDs on the parks so already have a little understanding of which parks we really wanted to see. Will check out YouTube today. Thanks again everyone! Just to make you laugh, the whole idea of visiting this area came after we watched an "Amazing Race" episode where families were travelling through Utah, we thought what a beautiful place it was. Then one of the families made a comment saying something like "God seemed to have forgotten Utah when He created the world,it was the most boring place on earth". We thought they couldn't have been more wrong! It looks stunning. Can't wait for our trip.

Ohio, USA
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10. Re: Grand circle trip

"God seemed to have forgotten Utah when He created the world,it was the most boring place on earth". Whoever said that was obviously not paying attention. Personally, I think that God out did Himself with southern UT and northern AZ. The natural wonders of the Grand Circle are truly amazing.