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Back from our Trip

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
383 posts
7 reviews
Back from our Trip

First of all, Thank You to the TripAdvisor members who gave us some great advice for our trip. I have to mention that we didn’t follow all of the advice - we know what works for us - and our trip wouldn’t work for everyone… but it did for us. We had a great time!

It was just my husband and myself on this trip. Our plans were to run a marathon (just him!), see the beauty of Utah (including hiking in the parks), and end up in Las Vegas. We did it all in 10 days/9 nights and had long, wonderful days each day with little time for rest. We were discussing whether our children (now adults) would have enjoyed this trip - either as kids or adults… and decided they would not!

We started in Salt Lake City and rented a car for the duration of our trip. Since we dropped the car off in Las Vegas, we had a LARGE drop off fee - but we were expecting that and decided it was the best route for us anyway. We booked all of our Utah hotels ahead of time but saved the Las Vegas hotel for a “Hotel Tonight” last minute booking and it paid off. We had never tried that before and would only use that app in a large city with lots of hotels.

We knew we were going to have a lot of driving on the trip - but planned it well. We had a fairly detailed plan for when we’d be driving and had a general idea of which hikes would work for us.

Our overall itinerary was as follows:

Arrive SLC on Thursday (June 9th) and stay in Provo - 2 nights; Marathon on Saturday

Arches for Sunset Saturday

Arches/Canyonlands on Sunday

Driving Day on Monday ending up at Bryce

Bryce on Tuesday ending up in Zion on Tuesday night

Wednesday and Thursday at Zion

Las Vegas on Thursday night through Saturday afternoon

We hiked a total of 43 miles between Saturday night and Thursday. We probably “hiked” another 5 miles in Las Vegas but I didn’t count that!

The details are below.

16 replies to this topic
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
383 posts
7 reviews
1. Re: Back from our Trip

Thursday - Arrival in Salt Lake City

After picking up our rental car, we headed toward Temple Square. We were surprised there were so many wedding couples in the courtyard by the beautiful Temple. It was mid day on a Thursday and there must have been 10 couples. A Mormon friend tells me this is common for this time of year. It was fun to see so many happy young people. Which brings me to my next thought… everyone was so very nice, polite, helpful and well dressed in Salt Lake City and Provo. It was a pleasure to visit. I have to assume it was the Mormon influence. Back to SLC… we ended up having lunch from the Food Trucks at Food Truck Thursday which was walking distance from where we parked for the Temple at City Creek Center (mall). We explored Temple Square including going inside the Tabernacle but didn’t have time to stick around for the 7pm practice session. Of course, we couldn’t go inside the Temple, but we did go through the visitor center and saw the model of what kinds of rooms are inside. At one point (before the trip), we considered a drive to see Great Salt Lake, but had already decided not to by the time we arrived. We did see it from the sky on our way in. Fascinating, but not beautiful.

By mid afternoon, we headed to Provo which was where we were staying. My husband was running a marathon in Provo on Saturday morning and generally prefers to stay two nights in the hotel before a run. The hotel was nice - the Marriott Provo - and convenient to hotels and ice cream shops. (More on that later.) We checked out the area and saw the outside of the Provo Temple which was beautiful as well. We ended up having dinner at Oregano Italian Kitchen which was a block or two away from the hotel. We started our education on the different kinds of liquor licenses in Utah - and learned that we couldn’t get a “before dinner” glass of wine until we ordered our meals at a place with a restaurant liquor license (as opposed to one with a bar license). No big deal. We aren’t big drinkers but do like a beer or wine with our meals. We enjoyed the meal at Oregano but they gave us far too much food. We thought we might eat the leftovers another time, but ended up leaving them in the hotel fridge.

Ice cream and desserts are a big thing in Provo. There must have been 2 - 3 dessert and ice cream shops or bakeries per block. I’m assuming it’s because of the proximity to the University and a part of the Mormon culture. We stopped for “rolled” ice cream and stood in line next to a large group of college students. Most were talking about their mission trips and future plans. Again, very nice group of people. And the ice cream was very good!

We did pick up a styrofoam cooler from the Provo Walmart which turned out to be a disaster… it leaked all over the trunk and got a suitcase, a camera, and some loose clothes wet. The trunk was soaked and we thought we’d have to pay for it when we returned the rental car - but thankfully we had enough time for it to dry out. Ironically, when we were at Walmart, I wondered out loud if we would regret not spending $20 for a “plastic” cooler vs. $7 for the styrofoam one. We did. But we did use the water and food we picked up throughout the rest of the week.

On Friday, we registered my husband for the marathon and visited the BYU campus. We also drove the marathon route which was very scenic and included sites like Bridal Veil Falls. We took a side trip to the Sundance Resort for lunch and took a ride up the chairlift to the Peak which was beautiful as well. No Robert Redford sighting though…

We ended up in Park City for an early dinner at Buona Vita for some pre-marathon carb loading. It was decent but nothing special. We drove over to the Park City ski hill but I’d say we preferred Sundance’s hill and lodge.

Saturday was the marathon and my husband did great; he picked up 4th place in his age group! After shower and checkout, we got on the road. This worked well for us - he wouldn’t have been ready for any hiking in the afternoon in any case. We stopped at the Balanced Rock Eatery in Helper for lunch and it was very good. I’d highly recommend making the stop. We arrived at the Fairfield Hotel outside of Moab in the late afternoon and quickly checked in before heading to Arches National Park to get a quick look before sunset. The hotel was very convenient to the park. We saw the Balanced Rock and drove out to the parking for the Delicate Arch. We hiked to the arch for sunset and it was gorgeous. It was somewhat humorous to watch the “fight” between the photographers and those wanting to take pictures under the arch. The golden moment when the sun hits the arch is beautiful and quick so the photographers were screaming “get out” and other such things and most of the people taking pictures under the arch were either oblivious or had specifically timed their place in line to get the beautiful shot with them in it. Anyway, after sunset, we hiked back in the dark (with our flashlights!) and headed to Moab for a late dinner at Pasta Jays (the only place open after 10pm). Food there was quite tasty after a long day. We shared a meatball sandwich and a salad.

After that, we headed straight to bed since we set our alarms to be out at the park for sunrise!

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
Level Contributor
20,137 posts
36 reviews
2. Re: Back from our Trip

Thanks for your report. Come back again.

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
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32,854 posts
6,430 reviews
3. Re: Back from our Trip

Awesome 43 miles of hiking. Thanks for your trip report.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
383 posts
7 reviews
4. Re: Back from our Trip

Sunday - Arches and Canyonlands

Sunday morning, we decided to head to the Windows section for sunrise. There were a handful of people around but we were still able to get some great pictures of the light hitting the magnificent rocks. We climbed around the north and south windows and Turret Arch. After sunrise, we headed over to Double Arch. We wanted to go to the Devils Garden section, but it was closed so instead we hiked to Broken Arch and Sand Dune arch. On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Delicate Arch overlook to see it from afar. We probably spent a total of 8 hours at Arches (between Saturday night and Sunday morning) and although we could have easily spent more time, we felt we covered a lot of ground while we were there.

We exited the park when most people were starting to arrive (around 10am) and headed to Moab for breakfast. We had a wonderful breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe. It was probably the best breakfast of our trip. We had a delightful waiter who gave us great advice about what hikes to take in Canyonlands for our afternoon adventure.

We headed to Canyonlands and finally bought the National Parks Pass here. We entered Arches after and before hours so we didn’t have a chance to buy it there, We asked the ranger at the visitor center for advice on which sights to see. He recommended taking several shorter hikes to get a flavor of what the park has to offer so we started off by taking the path to Mesa Arch. We were initially disappointed/worried that the shorter trails would all be paved but that wasn’t the case for most of the trails. We had asked about the hike to False Kiva, but since that trail isn’t marked, we elected not to try it. Our longest hike was up Aztec Butte where we saw our first blooming cactus. We went almost to the top of the butte, but it was extremely windy so we stopped short. (Several other hikers did the same.) We also headed out for hikes at Grand Viewpoint and near Upheaval Dome. We made a quick stop at Green River Overlook as well. Initially, we thought about staying till sunset, but decided that we’d rather have dinner at a more normal hour. Instead, we made a short stop at Dead Horse State Park. (We were expecting to pay $10 for entry but the fee was $15.) We spent about an hour exploring and taking pictures. We are fans of Westworld and loved seeing the site where the man in black collected the skull with the map!

We were spending the night about an hour away in Green River. Our hotel, the River Terrace Inn, we right next door to one of the restaurants that I’d made note of - Tamarisk so we decided to eat there. We were surprised that there was a 45 minute wait to get a table (on a Sunday night around 8pm) so we checked in first. The hotel was nice - but our room was decorated like a 1980’s formal dining room. Not sure why we needed all of that furniture (and chandelier), but I won’t complain. If we were able to have dinner right away, we would have used the pool (which overlooked the Green River) but it was getting dark by the time we were finished. Overall, we had a very full and fulfilling day.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
Level Contributor
5,190 posts
33 reviews
5. Re: Back from our Trip

Thanks for the reports. Congrats to hubby on finishing fourth in the marathon for his age group. Mad respect to anyone that does a marathon, let alone a top five finish. Wow!!!

Funny about the photographers at Delicate Arch. I had a similar experience one morning at Mesa Arch between photographers. It's so obnoxious.

Overall, sounds like a great time.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
383 posts
7 reviews
6. Re: Back from our Trip

Monday - Road Trip

Monday was our planned “Road Trip” day. We left after a nice breakfast (included in our stay) at the River Terrace Inn in Green River. Our first stop was Goblin Valley State Park. We knew this wasn’t covered on the National Park Pass and were expecting to pay $10, but I think the actual cost was $13. We were excited to see the surreal landscape that was featured on the movie “Galaxy Quest”. We were alone in the valley with the hoodoos for the first 10 minutes until a busload of tourists came… but honestly, the valley is large enough that we still felt alone even after they came. We explored for about an hour staying within the First Valley of the Goblins. We contemplated heading to Molly’s Castle as well but needed to get on the road for our very full day.

We headed toward Scenic Byway 12 and made stops at several overlooks. We saw tall pine trees for the first time in days. We did make a midday stop at Capitol Reef National Park. We checked out the petroglyphs on the east drive in and stopped at the visitor center for some suggestions on how to spend a couple of hours. We ended up heading first to Fruita for some fresh apple pie ala mode (yum) and then took the Scenic Drive into Capitol Gorge. We did continue on the dirt road part of the drive and were quite glad we did. The gorge is beautiful and the views of the Waterpocket fold along the entire drive were spectacular. On our way out, we stopped at Panorama Point and Sunset Point. We know we weren’t able to give this park the time it deserved but were glad we were able to see it.

After a quick tasty lunch at La Cueva, we continued our drive on Scenic Byway 12 through the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument which was also very beautiful. I would have liked to spend some more time here as well.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon after 5pm and checked into the Lodge. The room was very nice and had a western flair. The porch was very “log cabin” like as well. We headed for dinner in the lodge which was very good as well. We headed out to see sunset a little too late - but did catch the tail end of it. We have every intention of seeing the night stars but ended up having a relatively early night instead as we were planning another sunrise hike.

We were up by 5am and saw a spectacular sunset in the Bryce Amphitheater followed by a nice, but cold hike into the Queens Garden, Navajo Loop and Wall Street areas. The morning temperature was 29 degrees (much colder than normal) but we were prepared with gloves and lots of layers of clothing. By mid morning, it warmed up to decent temperature and we went off to see more of Bryce. We took the car to Bryce Point and hiked the rim trail to Inspiration Point. We caught the shuttle back to Bryce Point so we could try to get in some different hikes vs. repeating the same route. We drove all the way to Rainbow Point and took the Bristlecone Pines trail and then took the short route to Yovimpa Point as well. On the way back toward the visitor center, we made several stops along the way including seeing the Natural Bridge and Fairview Point amongst others.

We were on the road again by 2:30 as we had a planned sunset jeep tour near Zion at 6pm. I’ll include that trip in the Zion update which is up next.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
383 posts
7 reviews
7. Re: Back from our Trip

Tuesday through Thursday - Zion

We arrived in the Springdale area about a half hour before our private jeep tour with Zion Outback Safaris. Lura, our guide, took us on rugged roads around the south end of Zion and gave us a great adventure. It was a wonderful introduction to the area. We had a late dinner at Bit N Spur which we enjoyed.

We stayed at the Majestic View Lodge which was the furthest shuttle stop from the park. It suited us well. We had no problem getting on the shuttle (as it was empty at our stop) and the hotel itself was very nice. We never got a chance to eat there but did enjoy the pool. We were glad to finally be at a place for two nights in a row after having three “one night only” hotels.

Early on Wednesday, we stopped for breakfast at MeMe cafe which one of the only places open before 8am. This breakfast was right up there with the Jailhouse Cafe. They served delicious French food and I thoroughly enjoyed the crepes!

Once inside the park, we got our first introductions to the crowds… We hadn’t really seen many people in the other parks but there were long lines to get on the shuttle. Once in the park (and off the shuttle), it really wasn’t too bad. We did wonder if the weekends would be worse.

Our hikes on Wednesday included the Kayenta Trail on the West Rim to the Emerald Pools, the Weeping Rock and then the East Rim trail past the Hidden Canyon trail (which was closed for repair) to a slot canyon on the way to Observation Point. We decided that the 8 mile round trip to Observation Point was too far for us but we're very glad we at least went to the slot canyon. There was a lot of climbing on this trial. We broke for lunch at the Zion Canyon Brewhouse just outside of the park. Although my salmon salad was decent, my husband’s chicken sandwich was awful and he didn’t finish it. It was some kind of pressed chicken meat. (This was our only “bad” meal - although we also didn’t like the Forscher Bakery where we stopped for lunch between Bryce and Zion. We felt it was extremely overpriced and nothing special.)

We stopped at Zion Outfitters to rent gear for the Narrows hike which we planned to do on Thursday. We headed back to the hotel to drop off the gear and for an afternoon swim in the middle of the day. (You are able to pick up gear for the next day after 3pm.) I neglected to mention earlier that it was hot when we were in Utah… and temperatures were close to 100 degrees on this day. A dip was welcome.

After swimming, we headed back to the park for a sunset hike, although my timing wasn’t that great and we didn’t find a great spot until after the sun was almost down already. We ended up taking the Pa’rus Trail from Canyon Junction back to Park Headquarters which was a nice walk on a paved trail. It was empty of people by this time which was just fine with us.

For dinner, we stopped at Zion Pizza Noodle and the ice cream show across the street for dessert. Both the pizza and the ice cream hit the spot after another long day.

On Thursday morning, after a quick breakfast at the Sundail Cafe (also very good), we headed into the park for our Narrows hike. We did drive to the park this time as we thought it would be easier when we departed and early enough to get a nearby parking spot. We wore our regular hiking shoes on the Riverside Trail and left them and a backpack as we went on our hike. The rented socks, shoes and hiking stick were wonderful and frankly, I wouldn’t do that hike without them. The neoprene socks kept our feet warm (as the water temperature was around 55 degrees) and the shoes and pole kept us steady in the water. The hike itself was wonderful, unique and will alway be the one we remember most from this trip. We didn’t go all the way to the “end” but rather turned around when we thought we needed to head back to get on the road by 3pm. I think we hiked for about 4 hours on the Narrows/Riverside Trail.

We grabbed sandwiches to go from the Sundial Cafe and got on the road to Las Vegas. I had noted several potential places to stop but we just drove straight there. I will say the contrast between family friendly Utah and the state of Nevada was apparent right at the border where casinos, drinking, etc where on gaudy display!

We had a wonderful time and Utah and hope to return some day!

Destination Expert
for Fountain Hills
Level Contributor
5,402 posts
449 reviews
8. Re: Back from our Trip

Thanks for a wonderful trip report. You did and saw a lot and you planned well. I was reliving most of the trip with you as we have done all those places.So glad it worked out well for you.

Park City, Utah
Level Contributor
1,419 posts
34 reviews
9. Re: Back from our Trip

Glad you had a good time and packed so much in. Congrats to hubby on the marathon! I sense you will return for more of Utah soon.....

Level Contributor
12 posts
25 reviews
10. Re: Back from our Trip

Thanks for a great report! My husband and I are planning a similar trip (withOUT the marathon!) coming up next month, although we will start in Denver and head to Dinosaur Monument before Moab. We've booked rooms already, but have been pondering our best hiking approach in the parks. I appreciated your restaurant comments, too. Thanks for some very useful tips!

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