Recommendation Needed > XC Trip from VA to Bryce, Zion, Moab and Arches (1 Viewer)

Joined
Oct 19, 2019
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Oakland, CA
I'm doing this trip in reverse! We're in Springdale (right outside of Zion) right now (since Monday). Heading to Moab next, then slowly working my way to Virginia. The cool thing about Zion is that it doesn't close. I brought a mountain bike (there are also tons of rentals in town) and have been able to avoid the shuttle mess entirely and just take some nice rides through the canyon later in the evening when the light is super interesting and the crowds die down.

I stopped by White pocket on the way here though and it's been one of my favorite spots. Really remote, not many people at all, and it's like walking on another planet.

I would love to learn more about some of these back entrances to Arches if anyone has any more info about them!
 

1world1love

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+1 on Kanab being a decent option for airbnb lodging. Moab and St George are the other options. You can find airbnb in other areas, but the best selection is going to be in those spots. As you are coming from Virginia, you should absolutely reset your comprehension on driving distances. and the dearth of services out west (I am originally from TN and I still find it bewildering how far it is between places sometimes). Here are my thoughts:

- I agree with other posters who say to have some things scheduled, and leave some blocks completely open.
- Accept that you will have to miss something that you think you really want to see. Don't look at it as a disappointment, but rather an opportunity see something you have never heard of.
- Related to the above, it is not hard to find really amazing scenery. The stretch of I-70 between Denver to I-15 is full of drop dead scenery without ever leaving the interstate so don't over-focus on the high traffic areas.
- Related to the above, Yes, the NPs are popular for a reason, but there does come a point where the crowds and waiting kill any semblance of enjoyment.
- Consider less obvious options. Escalante, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and lots of areas in between all see less traffic than Arches, Bryce, and Zion. Since you are in a 200, it opens up a whole world of options. You don't need to go hardcore Offroad to find amazing places in those areas. You may not be able to escape the crowds completely, but it is amazing how a dirt road acts as a filter. A little research can go a long way.
- If you do consider Kanab, the North Rim of GCNP is within easy reach. It won't be empty by any stretch, but it is much better than the south rim.
- Consider renting a boat or kayaks or canoes and spending some time in Glen Canyon. The water isn't as high as it used to be but there are still great hikes you can only get to by water and that also filters out the crowds.
- Always, always, always carry extra gas and water. 20L of each. Don't underestimate this, even if you are always on paved roads.
- Go ahead and get a Benchmark atlas for Utah (and possibly CO, NV, and AZ), and consider something like a Garmin InReach. Paper maps are king as you will definitely spend most of your time without cell phone service.
 
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Fishinsea

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Durango, CO / Virginia Beach VA
You'd be crazy not to visit Durango Colorado being as close to it as you will be from Utah, Mountain town, mountain passes and the shear beauty of it there. do a bit of research i'm sure you can find the time and you can thank me later.
 

1world1love

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You'd be crazy not to visit Durango Colorado being as close to it as you will be from Utah, Mountain town, mountain passes and the shear beauty of it there. do a bit of research i'm sure you can find the time and you can thank me later.

I think you could say that about a lot of places, but you could make the argument that going 50/550 from GJ to Durango and then west from there is not a bad idea. Especially if you have a month.
 

Fishinsea

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+1 on Kanab being a decent option for airbnb lodging. Moab and St George are the other options. You can find airbnb in other areas, but the best selection is going to be in those spots. As you are coming from Virginia, you should absolutely reset your comprehension on driving distances. and the dearth of services out west (I am originally from TN and I still find it bewildering how far it is between places sometimes). Here are my thoughts:

- I agree with other posters who say to have some things scheduled, and leave some blocks completely open.
- Accept that you will have to miss something that you think you really want to see. Don't look at it as a disappointment, but rather an opportunity see something you have never heard of.
- Related to the above, it is not hard to find really amazing scenery. The stretch of I-70 between Denver to I-15 is full of drop dead scenery without ever leaving the interstate so don't over-focus on the high traffic areas.
- Related to the above, Yes, the NPs are popular for a reason, but there does come a point where the crowds and waiting kill any semblance of enjoyment.
- Consider less obvious options. Escalante, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and lots of areas in between all see less traffic than Arches, Bryce, and Zion. Since you are in a 200, it opens up a whole world of options. You don't need to go hardcore Offroad to find amazing places in those areas. You may not be able to escape the crowds completely, but it is amazing how a dirt road acts as a filter. A little research can go a long way.
- If you do consider Kanab, the North Rim of GCNP is within easy reach. It won't be empty by any stretch, but it is much better than the south rim.
- Consider renting a boat or kayaks or canoes and spending some time in Glen Canyon. The water isn't as high as it used to be but there are still great hikes you can only get to by water and that also filters out the crowds.
- Always, always, always carry extra gas and water. 20L of each. Don't underestimate this, even if you are always on paved roads.
- Go ahead and get a Benchmark atlas for Utah (and possibly CO, NV, and AZ), and consider something like a Garmin InReach. Paper maps are king as you will definitely spend most of your time without cell phone service.
This is Great advice and please heed the advice on long distances between service areas, especially based on the fuel consumption of a LC200
 

RET2

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Insane Diego
We are also planning on visiting Zion. What is the best strategy for visiting Zion this time of year on a weekday? Park somewhere like Springdale and take the shuttle? I just worry about leaving the truck somewhere unattended and risk getting broken into.
Just get there early to secure a spot in one of the small lots as they fill up quickly. That way you can take the shuttle in to enjoy the floor of the valley before the hordes and later take it easy driving the road up out of the valley thru the tunnel stopping at any of the many turnouts.
 
Joined
Jun 24, 2019
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CO Mountains
Not sure if staying in one location would be desirable as the distances between sights can be huge. For example there's one stretch of I-70 just west of Green River where there isn't any services for 120 miles. I would suggest perhaps 2 locations?
Yep. Zion and Moab are a long way apart from each other, with Bryce in the middle. I would stay in 2 or 3 different places.
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2017
Messages
29
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VA
+1 on Kanab being a decent option for airbnb lodging. Moab and St George are the other options. You can find airbnb in other areas, but the best selection is going to be in those spots. As you are coming from Virginia, you should absolutely reset your comprehension on driving distances. and the dearth of services out west (I am originally from TN and I still find it bewildering how far it is between places sometimes). Here are my thoughts:

- I agree with other posters who say to have some things scheduled, and leave some blocks completely open.
- Accept that you will have to miss something that you think you really want to see. Don't look at it as a disappointment, but rather an opportunity see something you have never heard of.
- Related to the above, it is not hard to find really amazing scenery. The stretch of I-70 between Denver to I-15 is full of drop dead scenery without ever leaving the interstate so don't over-focus on the high traffic areas.
- Related to the above, Yes, the NPs are popular for a reason, but there does come a point where the crowds and waiting kill any semblance of enjoyment.
- Consider less obvious options. Escalante, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and lots of areas in between all see less traffic than Arches, Bryce, and Zion. Since you are in a 200, it opens up a whole world of options. You don't need to go hardcore Offroad to find amazing places in those areas. You may not be able to escape the crowds completely, but it is amazing how a dirt road acts as a filter. A little research can go a long way.
- If you do consider Kanab, the North Rim of GCNP is within easy reach. It won't be empty by any stretch, but it is much better than the south rim.
- Consider renting a boat or kayaks or canoes and spending some time in Glen Canyon. The water isn't as high as it used to be but there are still great hikes you can only get to by water and that also filters out the crowds.
- Always, always, always carry extra gas and water. 20L of each. Don't underestimate this, even if you are always on paved roads.
- Go ahead and get a Benchmark atlas for Utah (and possibly CO, NV, and AZ), and consider something like a Garmin InReach. Paper maps are king as you will definitely spend most of your time without cell phone service.
This is super helpful, thank you! I agree 100% on the driving distances and lack of service stations - we are planning on getting extra water and having extra gas on board for the trip. We are also leaving room for being flexible to visit multiple areas. We will be working during the week but like the idea of afternoon hikes and doing a majority of the traveling on the weekends.
 
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Monument Valley is definitely worth the drive since you have a month. And while you're over there, hit up Comb Ridge Eat & Drink in Bluff. Best sandwiches we've ever had, I think. I would make sure to spend some time in Telluride, Ouray, Durango and Silverton, too. My favorite part of CO.
 

RET2

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This is super helpful, thank you! I agree 100% on the driving distances and lack of service stations - we are planning on getting extra water and having extra gas on board for the trip. We are also leaving room for being flexible to visit multiple areas. We will be working during the week but like the idea of afternoon hikes and doing a majority of the traveling on the weekends.
One thing I don't think that has been mentioned and will save you money is to get an annual National Parks pass. It's $80 and is good for 1 year from date of purchase and it lets you in to any of the National Parks for free as well as other amenities. You could go broke on a 30 day trip paying individual entry fees.
 

1world1love

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One thing I don't think that has been mentioned and will save you money is to get an annual National Parks pass. It's $80 and is good for 1 year from date of purchase and it lets you in to any of the National Parks for free as well as other amenities. You could go broke on a 30 day trip paying individual entry fees.

Good call. It also covers all manner of fees for NWR, NFS, BLM, BRM, etc. Day use fees, entrance fees, etc. In some places it will also get you a discount on camping fees and concessions.
 
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San Diego CA/Hawaii
One thing I don't think that has been mentioned and will save you money is to get an annual National Parks pass. It's $80 and is good for 1 year from date of purchase and it lets you in to any of the National Parks for free as well as other amenities. You could go broke on a 30 day trip paying individual entry fees.
Yep, park passes are available at REI now and will allow you to bypass lines at any NP. Always try to get to a NP early (before 10am) and use the pass line as this will save you many hours over the period of a vacation.

I have to agree with the others that it's a better strategy to do the nomad thing and move around, as opposed to staying in one place due to driving distances. St. George would be a good home base if you could only be in one place for a month, also be aware that southern Utah is HOT in the summer. St George is a great destination in and of itself, and some of the State parks and recreation areas are just fantastic - Snow Canyon SP, Gooseberry Mesa, etc...

Zion is beautiful but a complete mess with crowds except in the off season. I usually stay in Springdale (right outside the park entrance) and either catch the shuttle or ride a bike to get around as there is really just one main road up and down the canyon. It is an option to come in from the top via the tunnel, but then you will still get traffic and need to park somewhere so it's generally not worth it. Oscar's has good food and they have takeout if you prefer to go sit by the river and avoid people.

Bryce is great and it's sort of in the middle of nowhere and not that large. You can do the hike to the bottom and back up in a half day and see pretty much everything. Ruby's is the defacto spot when in Bryce and has good food and lots of accommodations.

Moab and Arches NP tend to be less crowded and well worth it. Horseshoe Bend is relatively close to Arches NP and you could do that as a day trip. Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, etc.. are great but not quite as centralized and iconic as Zion/Bryce. Worth it if time allows but not mandatory if you've already done the others.

You should definitely check out nearby areas such as Salt Lake City (Ogden, Park City and the Land Cruiser museum for example) and also Colorado since it will be cooler in the summer. Durango, Ouray, Boulder, Colorado Springs, RMNP, and so on. If I were me, I'd probably spend more time in CO than UT due to the heat and crowds in summer. Coming from VA, I'd go through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho on the way to Utah as each of those are their own thing and you have a fair amount of time.

Really can't go wrong, have a great trip!
 
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Joined
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VA
One thing I don't think that has been mentioned and will save you money is to get an annual National Parks pass. It's $80 and is good for 1 year from date of purchase and it lets you in to any of the National Parks for free as well as other amenities. You could go broke on a 30 day trip paying individual entry fees.
Absolutely - I live near the Shenandoah National Park so I'll be picking up the NP pass from there ahead of the trip.
 
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Charlotte, NC
Great intel on this thread, this has been on my list for a while too, following. We will wait a summer or three though, I agree Covid Cabin Fever is gonna be ridiculous this summer (already is!).

I'm torn on this but feels like we're headed toward a ticketing system for the NPs. Lottery for passes, or something similar to cut down on crowds. I think Outside Magazine has covered this topic . . .

Edit to add: "Loving our National Parks to Death" seemed to start 2015-2016 and ERRBODY in media covered it. Then came the 'stop doing that' stories. Sigh.
 
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Boise, ID
Lots of good suggestions here. What part of summer will you be going? Right now is prime time to go to all of those places you listed (Zion, Moab, Bryce, Arches, etc) because the weather is amazing right now. I was in Moab last week and it was sunny, 70's, and beautiful albeit pretty crowded. As you could imagine there was a long ass line to even get into the town of Moab and an even longer line to get into Arches NP. We avoided both and camped mostly outside of the busy trails.

However, in the summer it gets HOT AF and could be pretty unbearable depending on if you plan to do hikes. Summer heat in those places offer zero vehicle and human sympathy and you will want to bring a lot of water. Not saying you should avoid those places if that's what you really wanna see but if I were you and it was a summer trip I'd plan an alternative route and head for the mountains. I prefer the higher elevation, cooler weather, and tree cover that time of year over exposed hot deserts. The San Juans would be perfect and honestly most mountain towns or ski resort towns have a lot of things to do and see with much cooler weather. If you still wanted to see Moab after exploring the San Juans a great trail would be the Rimrocker Trail from Montrose to Moab. I agree with the other recommendation of seeing ID, WY, or MT during that time of of year too. Southern Utah is definitely more of a spring and fall activity. Also don't sleep on Capitol Reef NP. Way way less crowded, more remote and plenty of off-road trails. Nearby check out Cathedral Valley trail and there's also a trail inside Cap Reef called South Draw Rd that takes you out to Hwy 12 near Fish Lake NF. I've done the Cathedral Valley loop twice and I think I've seen one other vehicle in total both times I was there.
 
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Joined
Jan 12, 2019
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Atlanta
I'm doing this trip in reverse! We're in Springdale (right outside of Zion) right now (since Monday). Heading to Moab next, then slowly working my way to Virginia. The cool thing about Zion is that it doesn't close. I brought a mountain bike (there are also tons of rentals in town) and have been able to avoid the shuttle mess entirely and just take some nice rides through the canyon later in the evening when the light is super interesting and the crowds die down.

I stopped by White pocket on the way here though and it's been one of my favorite spots. Really remote, not many people at all, and it's like walking on another planet.

I would love to learn more about some of these back entrances to Arches if anyone has any more info about them!
Grab a map. They are laid out fairly well... I used the Nat Geo printed and Gaia app. Others probably have their preferences.
 
Joined
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Atlanta
So much fun ahead!!!

Since you will be out there for a month during summer and highly mobile, I would suggest you research camping at Lake Powell; we did similar trip to what you described and the lake was our favorite. clear night sky’s, fun in the truck, beautiful lake, slot canyons, boating... you can rent kayaks and paddle to the slot canyons and will likely have them to yourselves, in doing so...
 

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