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Best advice on seeing parks in 7 Days

We will be in Utah for 8 days in May. Arrive and leave from Vegas and renting car. What is best advice for seeing as much as possible in the 5 National Parks. starting at zion ending at arches What NOT to miss and what to avoid? Reservations necessary for lodging?

12 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Minneapolis

First answer: yes, make reservations: it's shoulder season but the parks fill quickly in the shoulder and high seasons, and if your May dates include Memorial Day weekend, you may have a challenge finding rooms.

I've done all of Utah's "Big 5" and can pretty much tell you that only 7 days will not give you a lot of time - especially for a lot of hiking. It would help me to know what you intend to do in the parks? Are you only wanting to drive to overlooks/scenic spots or spend some time in the boots?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

Reservations are definitely needed for hotels. If you are camping you have other options. You can definitely see 5 national parks in 8 days but your not going to be able to do much. I just returned last week from from the exact route you are suggesting...only in reverse.

I suggest that you get all you big driving out of the way first. Drive from Las Vegas to Moab is 6-7 hours. There you can visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky District). I spent three nights in Arches and gives you an opportunity to do a hike in Canyonlands. In the short time you have I would suggest the Grandview trail. Moab has a lot to offer. Take some time to explore.

From Moab/Arches/Canyonlands start your drive back via route 70 and exit after Green River onto Route 24. If you have time, a nice side trip is Goblin State Park. If not continue on the Capitol Reef National Park. You can camp there for the night or continue onto Escalante by turning left onto Route 12, 10 miles after leaving Capitol Reef. You can find a hotel in Escalante.

Next day you can continue on Route 12 which will take you to Bryce National Park. I would spend the day there then continue on to Zion National Park. You can also look for a hotel in Springdale Utah, just outside the park entrance. (you have to drive through the park to the other side first.

The reason I recommend this route is that you only have a three hour drive back to Las Vegas. This is good especially if you have a late afternoon or evening flight. You can drive right back to the airport.

So that would be 5 National Parks, 1 National Monument and 1 State Park. It can be done.

Have a great time!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Minneapolis

Quick question: where are you flying out of? Are you going back to Vegas or continuing onto Colorado (we've flown in/out of Grand Junction) or another location? It will help me to plan a route if I know where you need to go from Moab. :O)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Paignton

You'll save money by buying an annual pass at the first park you visit - $80 for the car and up to 4 adults -

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

You will only save money if you plan on visiting more parks during the year. Arches is $10, Canyonlands is $10, Bryce is $25 and Zion is $25. No charge for Capitol Reef. That's $70.

You do not have to decide at your first park. Keep your receipts and you can purchase a national park annual pass anytime that week. Just present the receipts you already paid for and they will deduct that from the cost of the annual pass. This option is only good for the week your receipt are for, not months later. You do have to decide that week.

A good option though. Something to think about and good you do not have to decide at your first park.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

Two other possible additions on to your trip:

1. If it is open to visitors (clear of snow), drive down to see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is scheduled to open in mid-May, so it will depend upon which weeks you will be traveling in May.

2. Drive down south to visit Monument Valley. It is a park administered by one of the Native American tribes and has some great scenery.

In the Moab area, spend 1/2 day seeing the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park and spend a full day in Arches. There are some good easy hikes throughout the park. We did the hike to Delicate Arch, which is one of the most scenic arches.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Brisbane

Do not miss Bryce Canyon, it is outstanding. So many trails you can follow, and the hoodoo's change colour. I was on a tour, and none of us had seen anything like it, we were all walking around saying "look at this, isn't it beautiful!' wish we had more time, so leave time. You can go horse-riding on the trails too! My second favorite is Arches, once again, there is so much to see that in 7 days, I probably would see Bryce, Arches and Zion n/parks for a better look. Monument Valley is fantastic too, we now watch "Westerns" and can see we have been there!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Minneapolis

OK, so we haven't heard back yet, and as you want to end the trip at Arches, I'll maybe assume you're flying out of somewhere nearby. Best advice on what to see/do is still up in the air as it'll largely depend on if you're a hiker or not but here's my recommended route:

Day One, fly into Las Vegas and drive to Zion (I 15 to 9 east): stay one night in Springdale or try to get a reservation at the park lodge:

Day Two, drive to Bryce: east out of the park on 9 to 89: go north to 12 east, and 63 south into the park. Try to book a room at the lodge or at Ruby's Inn:

Lodge: Ruby’s Inn:

Day 3: Drive American Byway 12 east to 24 and into Torrey/Capitol Reef: this a fantastic drive with great overlooks along the way, and a really nice hike to Calf Creek Falls if you're interested. Kodachrome St Park - east of Tropic - is also a nice stop.

Try to book a room at Austin's Chuckwagon: [original VT link]

Day 4, drive to Moab: 24 over to to Hanksville, and then up to I 70, stopping at Goblin St. Park along the way. I 70 east to 128, and then south into Moab. 191 south is quicker but 128 is much more scenic.

Day 5: Moab - Arches

Day 6: Moab - Island in the Sky unit of Canyonlands and DeadHorse Point St. Park.

Day 7, flex day: I'm leaving this one open depending on what you want to do in the parks, or how late you arrive at Zion on your first day. If you are a hiker, there are several in the Moab area I'd love to recommend, and there are others at Zion, Bryce, etc that might appeal as well. In addition, if it's a sunny day, you could drive down to the Needles unit of Canyonlands and do the Chesler Park/Joint hike (one of my favorites) or the Little Wild Horse slots not far from Goblin on your way to Moab - another terrific hike on a dry day - although probably involve slogging through some pools.

Moab also has a nice road tour of petroglyphs.

Day 8: drive to airport

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

When chiefpo7 stated "Arriving and leaving from vegas" I took that to mean fly in and out if vegas. Hopefully the OP can clarify.

Here is my travel of the route I laid out if Las Vegas is the base:

[original VT link]

Great tips Kate!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Minneapolis

Spot on, John - I missed that. Thank you!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

No problem Kate. I just hope the OP signs back on to get all this great advice :-)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Salt Lake City

Good advice from everyone so far. Not sure what I can add. 7 days for all 5 Utah National Parks from Las Vegas is certainly the bare minimum for seeing them. I would definitely add highway 12 between Bryce and Capitol Reef in on the plan. Not sure how you could fit Monument Valley and/or Page and/or Grand Canyon into the mix timewise without leaving something else out.

The problem with beginning and ending in Las Vegas of course is the long distance between it and Moab. As John has recommended you can get that long drive out of the way first. OR as Kate has outlined you can leave it to the end. One other option is to kind of put it in the middle. Staying in Zion first to get your trip started. Then head to Moab via I-15 and I-70. Then come back via Capitol Reef and hwy 12 to Bryce. That way the first day drive is only about 3 hr and the last day drive is only about 5. (not counting the time switch).

day 1 arrive LV drive to Zion ( a 3 hr drive with an hour time change so plan 4 hr)
Day 2 Zion- enjoy the main canyon, hike Kayenta trail and Hidden Canyon. Unless you want to do Scout's lookout or continue on to Angel's Landing. Emerald Pools are nice in May also.
Day 3, Morning in Zion, maybe the Canyon Overlook trail on the east side of the tunnel. Then drive to Moab (about 5 hrs not counting for stops along I-70 through the San Rafael Swell.)
Day 4 Arches, the Windows section, Delicate Arch and Devils Garden at least to Landscape arch.
Day 5 Canyonlands ( Green River and GrandView Overlooks and Mesa Arch trail)/Dead Horse Point in the morning then drive to Capitol Reef (about 3 hrs no stops), stay in Torrey. An hour stop in Goblin Valley might be enjoyable. If you have time take the scenic drive to the Capitol Gorge hike.
Day 6 Drive to Bryce enjoy the scenery along the way (about 4 hrs with some stops), enjoy the evening in Bryce. Be sure to see the main amphitheater- Sunset, Sunrise and Inspiration Points
Day 7 Morning in Bryce (sunrise is great), then back to LV via Zion for the east side.... this could be a little longer drive than the main roads depending on traffic, but the east side is worth the time. (plan 6 hrs with stops, but you gain an hour back.)

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