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Tips on a last minute trip to Grand Canyon and more

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by SVQuant, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    As usual we did not plan anything for the kids' spring break which starts this Saturday. None of my kids have seen the Grand Canyon so a it seems like a good destination for a last minute trip. We have a total of 8-9 days and will be driving out from the SF Bay Area. That gives us 6 nights and 5 days (and maybe 2 half days) in the area. I last traveled around in that area when I lived in Santa Fe in 2000 by myself. This time we will be traveling with 3 kids (14, 11 and 5), so I would love to get some input from folks.

    Current thoughts:
    • 2 nights in Grand Canyon
    • 2 nights open (Antelope Canyon/Bryce/Grand Staircase?)
    • 2 nights in Zion
    The plan is to do some easy to moderate hikes, take plenty of pictures and basically let the kids take in whole scenery of the southwest.

    We drove up to Teton/Yellowstone last summer and the kids had a lot of fun, so I think that this will work well if we can get a good mix of driving, hiking and leisure into the mix.

    What do people think? Any don't miss locations? Anything to keep in mind?
     
  2. MaK543

    MaK543 Mu-43 Regular

    139
    May 1, 2012
    MD USA
    If you are going to Antelope, I'd suggest stopping by Horseshoe Bend during sunset hours.
     
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  3. Bruce McL

    Bruce McL Mu-43 Veteran

    Zion has a range of hiking trails, some difficult, some easy. I only know of one moderately easy hike at the Grand Canyon, from the main village to Hermit's rest. Going down into the Canyon is steep and difficult. Canyon de Chelly is a bit out of the way, but is one of my favorite places in the Southwest. Being taken through by a guide is a good way to go.
     
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  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Arches is fantastic for kids if that isn't too much driving. Most of the hikes are short and the scenery is amazing. You can get to all of them from a main car loop that isn't very long. Dead Horse Point State park is close by, too, and that is as impressive as the Grand Canyon, IMO. There is a lot to see in Canyonlands and Goblin Valley isn't far away.

    In Zion, the Canyon Overlook is about an hour round trip and the view is amazing! Emerald Pools is another easy hike for the 5 year old. Angels landing would be fun with your older ones, but no way I'd take a 5 year old. There are some Ghost towns you can find in the area that is fun for kids

    St George, UT is pretty warm this time of year if you want somewhere to stay for some in-town days in between the Grand Canyon and the Utah Parks. It's a cool little city.

    Bryce Canon and Cedar Breaks are worth a visit, but there will likely still be a lot of snow, so keep that in mind. It's high in mountains.
     
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  5. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    Thanks for mentioning Horseshoe bend: definitely on the itinerary now.

    I figure that we are just going to drive around GC and stop at the vista points. I remember Canyon de Chelly as being really cool, but it may be a bit further than we want to go. Zion is definitely the hiking destination here.

    I wasn't thinking of Arches because it is a bit further away, but I have never been there so it will cool. It does add an extra 8-10 hours of driving, so it will need to be discussed. May have to wait for another trip. Emerald Pools were on our to-do list as well. Would you suggest 1 or 2 days in Zion? Also, do you think we need AWD? We are trying to decide which our cars to take. I last drove many of those roads in a Mazda 323 hatchback, but that was a different era :)
     
  6. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Read up on Antelope,

    Hoover Dam and the Bypass bridge is a fun stop if you are in that area (or Glen Canyon Dam and bridge if you are going to Antelope/Horseshoe)

    You should not need AWD unless you are venturing to Bryce Canyon and encounter a freak spring Blizzard, but the highway is usually clear this time of year. Zion and Arches areas should be dry and the roads are well paved. I have not been near the Grand Canyon in years so I cannot comment on conditions there.

    1 or 2 days in Zion, I think it depends how much hiking you want to do. You can get there early and do several shorter hikes before dark and see a lot. If you were a couple of 20 year olds and no kids I'd say spend a week and hike the Subway, Angel's Landing, etc, but that's hard with a family. We went there last year with kids age 2-12 and we had a lot of fun in 1 day. We also drove up to the Kolob area (30 mins up I-15 and different entrance) another evening and that's a well paved loop with great vistas.

    Sorry to throw Arches in there, I just think that's the best NP in the west and so accessible for families.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  7. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Grand Canyon: take South Rim trail - it 's 15 miles, but it is flat, bus stops every mile, so you can cut it short any time and there is Village in the middle for lunch. Best views are west from Bright Angel trail head.
    Horseshoe Bend is must see.
    It's may be too early, but if weather is warm enough rent a speedboat on Lake Powell or get group boat tour to Rainbow Bridge.
    Bryce is definitely worth to visit and easy to hike - take Rim trail, Queen and Navajo loops and visit viewpoints.
    Zion is another great location - my favorites are Angels Landing and Narrows hikes. Rent watershoes, they worth every penny. Visit Kolob Canyons scenic drive on the sunset - great views and no crowds.
    Not sure if you have time to get to Arches, but if you're in the area then try to at least drive through Canyonlands and visit Dead Horse State park - its rim trail with all viewpoints is just spectacular.
    All of above can be reached by normal passenger car.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  8. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    Thanks for the all the great ideas.

    Yes, Hoover Dam was on our list. Funnily, I had not realized that there was a bypass until I mapped the route this morning. I was still thinking that we might drive on 93 over the dam. Good to know that AWD is not required so that we can travel with a bit more space and comfort. As regards time, I am thinking that we might try and cut GC down to a day which might allow to get up to Arches. I always wanted to go there, but somehow it has never worked out. This might be my chance.

    Anything in particular I should know about Antelope? I was thinking that we could do the Upper Canyon and it would be a great chance to do some photography. I remember the lower one as being somewhat challenging.
     
  9. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into the boat rentals and tours on Lake Powell. I looked at conditions in Bryce and it looks like the Navajo loop is closed due to snow so we might have to wait on that. I checked out pictures of the Dead Horse State Park after @tkbslc@tkbslc's suggestion earlier - very nice. I am not sure how the kids will feel about adding another 10 hours of driving, but if we do not make it on this trip, we will just have to go back next year.
     
  10. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    If you will drive from Bryce, then consider taking scenic Route 12. It also has couple parks/areas along the way - Escalante, Capitol Reef, Goblins Valley, San Rafael Swell, etc.
     
  11. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Hoover Dam and the bridge are worth a little short side excursion. The best way is that you exit off the main highway and proceed like you are going to drive across the dam. There is a marked parking lot a little down the road to stop at with a path and some stairs to get up to the new bridge. It has a very nice pedestrian walkway on the bridge (That is divided from traffic) so that you can walk across it. This gives you excellent views of the Hoover Dam from a thousand feet or so above, and there is also a state line marker towards the far end of the bridge. After that, you can drive down and explore the dam (maybe take the tour if it seems interesting to you). Then you've seen both the bridge and the dam and can take whichever route seems the best to proceed on your journey.

    Antelope canyon, I believe you must sign up with a Navajo guide to get into the canyon because it is on their land. It's not hard to get in, you just have to kind of read up on the rules so you know what to expect and who to pay.

    Grand Canyon is worth seeing, but many of the hikes are pretty technical and long for small children. There are a few shorter trails, but they all kind of just give the same kinds of views. There will be a lot more varied family friendly hikes in Zion and Arches. If you aren't going to hike down into the canyon, I think 1 day is probably enough. Just throwing this out there as I've thought about doing it - they have a train you can take from Williams,AZ to the South Rim for a day trip or overnighter. Seems pretty fun.
     
  12. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    My wife called and spoke to someone who runs a tour for Antelope Canyon and I think we have a reservation. Didn't get the Photo tour though because kids are no longer allowed on those.

    I have been looking at the train as that seems like a nice way to avoid the congestion in the park. Going to call Xanterra this morning to see if I can convert the hotel reservation into a train ticket. My boys are pretty excited about a train journey and it will break up the monotony of being in the car.
     
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