Utah National Parks Tour

For spring break, the kids and I went to Zion, with short visits to Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Arches National Parks along the way. The weather was colder than I had hoped, but thankfully we only had one day of rain. Here is a short, illustrated trip summary.

The first day was mostly driving. We drove through Capitol Reef National Park, stopping at a few of the easily-accessible park features and eating some homemade ice-cream at the Gifford Homestead. We camped that night in Escalante at the Petrified Forest State Park and had an awesome pizza at the restaurant attached to Escalante Outfitters. I highly recommend this small restaurant with nice outdoor seating.

(Note: Hover over pictures to see a short title, click on them to see them full size.)

The next morning, we drove down to Bryce Canyon (50 miles) and spent the day hiking the Navajo Loop and the Queens Garden Trail. The weather was nice and the scenery spectacular. I had not been to Bryce before, so hiking through the hoodoos was a new experience for us all. The kids absolutely loved it — especially the “garden” of carins including one that looked like a coyote.

We drove back to our campsite in Escalante that night for burgers and dogs on the grill and a pretty sunset by the resevoir. The next morning we packed up and drove to Zion. We made it to the Watchman Campground just in time to check in and set up our tent before the rain let loose. We had sandwiches for lunch in the campground, then put on our rain gear and headed to the Zion Canyon shuttle for short, wet hikes to Weeping Rock and the Riverside Walk. The rain was cold, and it was still raining when we got back to the campgound. So we went into Springdale for dinner and walked around town a bit. The kids really liked the spinning, silver wind art.

Later that night, our friends arrived at Watchman. The rain stopped, and we had a nice campfire. The next morning we cooked a real breakfast and set out to explore the central Zion canyon further. We did the Emerald Pools Trail, had lunch by the big tree at the lodge, and then did the Riverside Walk again. it was a chilly day, but the sun came out in the afternoon.

The next day was a bit warmer, and we headed up to Lava Point, intending to part of the West Rim Trail. But at 8,000 feet, it was still winter up there. We opted to go back down to the canyon and hike the Hidden Canyon Trail, which was beautiful and the kids loved exploring the hanging canyon.

The next day we went to the East side of Zion, through the famous Mt. Carmel tunnel. We drove up a ways to a pull-off where one of the boys wanted to stop and hike up to a set of three spires. It was steep and challenging, but we went slow and stayed together. It was nice to be away from the crowds and on our own path. We found a small arch up high and were able to get to the spires we saw from the road, where we had a snack. We chose a different way down, and had to crab-walk or slide on our bottoms for one very steep section. This turned out to be my daughter’s favorite hike of the whole trip!

On the way back to Watchman Campground, we stopped and hiked the Overlook Trail for a great view of the central Zion canyon. Several families gathered for a fun campfire later that night.

The next morning our friends headed for home and we headed toward Arches National Park. We stopped on the north side of Zion and hiked up Taylor Creek in the Kolob Canyons area. It was a pretty hike, but the kids were really tired from the week so we didn’t go more than four miles and returned to the car to drive to Moab. The Arches campground was full and we had no reservation, so we camped on Kane Creek Rd. at the Kane Springs Campground near a BIG red rock wall. It was sparse, but we had a nice evening and my son did a great job building a fire with just one match!

The next morning we went to Arches and hiked to Delicate Arch. I wanted to hike to the arches in Devil’s Garden too, but he kids were exhausted from the full week, the weather was changing quickly, and the parking lot was full. By the time I drove back to the Arches entrance, the kids were asleep in the back seat, which is how they stayed for much of the six-hour drive home.

It was a great trip. Utah is definitely a stunning part of the country. Even driving through it is interesting because it changes a lot every few miles. If you have never been to Utah, I highly recommend it, but I’ll stick to Colorado for the hottest part of the summer!

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2 Responses to Utah National Parks Tour

  1. I’m headed to Zion and Bryce Canyon next week and can’t wait! I love the Utah parks.

  2. AlisaG says:

    great trip! we just had three glorious days backpacking in Canyonlands with the 4 and 9 year old. it’s utah time!

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