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Utah and all the surroundings

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10 posts
14 reviews
Utah and all the surroundings

Hello everyone,

My wife and I are planning to visit Utah. We will absolutely be there February 27 Through March 2nd. My wife has a conference she is attending. We will be driving from Tallahassee, Florida (32 hours) and would like to turn this into an amazing trip. So what can we do in Utah? What about the surrounding states? Colorado, Wyoming, Montana? Ideally we will have around 19-10 days of exploring, this includes the convention days.

We enjoy authentic experiences and truly hate tourist traps. We lived in Japan for two years and not once visited Tokyo. To us the Tokyo experience is far removed from the Japan experience in the sense that it is an outlier of Japan and not the norm, but that is just our personal opinion. So on our trip we would like to experience local culture, enjoy unique or beautiful architecture, and explore nature. Our number one goal is to always be safe. As far as budget goes $2,000 to $3,000 for the entire trip. This has already taken into account gas for the car so no need to deduct that.

We can't wait to hear all the suggestions!

30 replies to this topic
Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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67,146 posts
250 reviews
1. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

Typos? Or just an unrealistic plan?

Level Contributor
10 posts
14 reviews
2. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

9-10 days. We don't need to visit all of those places but would like to know recommendations. We have toyed with the idea of passing by the Grand Canyon and the Hoover before Utah. Then possibly going to Colorado which seems to have a lot to offer as far as nature.

It only takes 4 days of Travel to and from Utah. I'm not really worried about that, I have done more than a handful of 16, 18 and even 20 hour drives. But yes the days was definitely a typo. 9-10 days already taking into consideration 4 days to and from Utah.

Eagle, Colorado
Level Contributor
1,562 posts
3. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

Are you comfortable with winter driving? If not you will need to have a flexible plan. Many of the areas can get a lot of snow and even at times close highways. It may be sunny and dry but you need to build in the possibility that you may need to park and wait for a day. At least in Colorado you are required to have proper winter tires on roads like 70 or you can get a hefty fine if you are stopped without them.

Places in the mountains will be full winter so if you want to enjoy them you need to be prepared to deal with cold and snow. The utah desert areas will be warmer and drier but still potentially wintery. Even the grand canyon is at high elevation.

You realize Hoover dam is past utah?

Edited: 02 August 2018, 07:06
Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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67,146 posts
250 reviews
4. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

Here’s a few generic tips. Winter is a concern. I think you’re underestimating drive times. I basic loop in southern Utah of the 5 NPs will need 10 days. Hoover Dam is in the opposite direction. Grand Canyon National Park would be another 2-3 day add on. You’d need advance reservations at hotels for every night.

Level Contributor
10 posts
14 reviews
5. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

That is good advise, we will check the tires to see if they meet the requirements. I'm not worried about driving in the snow. We did it in Japan with company cars, they were tiny and ancient. We might need new tires just to avoid issues with law enforcement so I'll check and buy some if need be.

My current route is leaving Tallahassee straight to Grand Canyon. We have one trial we want to do there and then it is on to Hoover. Once we finish at Hoover we drive on to Salt Lake City where our hotel is already set up. Maybe its a strange route but it lets us hit the points we want.

Level Contributor
10 posts
14 reviews
6. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

RedRox would you recommend doing all 5 parks? We though of Zion and Arches. Is it worth doing all 5? We are hoping to get some variety in what we see and do so after those two and the convention we figured head to either a specific city or town in Utah or head over to Colorado.

We would love to know about local towns and places that are worth checking out, even if they are a bit out of the way.

Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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67,146 posts
250 reviews
7. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

People who aren’t concerned about snow in the Southwest are asking for trouble. Your experience in Japan or New England, or Europe or Scandinavia or anywhere else in insufficient. Forget Colorado.

In Arizona and Utah, winter storms close everything. Rescues and recoveries happen a few days later when roads are cleared and reopened. Respect winter weather, or choose a different destination.

Here’s the link I failed to include in my last reply.

Southwest and Grand Circle Trip Planning

Everyone wants to visit the parks in the western USA. It's something that every family can and should do at some time. These vacations can be life changing and bonding experiences. Or they can be nightmares.

Most travelers equate being in the parks and outdoor environments with hiking. It's important to understand that hiking is not a requirement for enjoying the wilderness. Time is. This cannot be understated. One cannot begin to appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the national parks unless and until they spend time there. It can be as simple as sitting at a single view point for hours, or as elaborate as day long hikes or extended back country camping trips. But arriving at a view point, snapping a picture, and driving on (a la Clark Griswold) is simply not going to do it. At the very least, most of the national parks in the southwest need a day or longer, just to self tour the many attractions and view points therein. Sunset and sunrise are generally the most peaceful and stunning times of day in the sun's rapidly changing light. So overnight stays at, or as close as possible, will enhance a visit to any park.

Logistically, it takes about a half day or longer to travel between most of the parks in the 4 corners states. Often, the scenic drives are enticing enough to warrant additional stops and detours along the way. Regardless, it takes at least two nights at any park or destination to have just one full day there. Many trip planners fail to understand this.

Driving at night in the high desert region is strongly discouraged. Roads are desolate. Ambient lighting is non existent meaning highways are very dark. Wildlife of all sorts and sizes populate the roads from dusk until dawn. Even domestic farm animals like cattle and sheep wander on the pavement.

When trip planners are also expressing a specific desire to include hiking as a regular activity at the parks, and asking for advice on which trails to focus on, they need to realize that they will probably need multiple days and nights at the stop in order to do the hiking or whatever other activities, beyond quick snapshots, they have in mind.

Everyone wants to 'see as much as they can'. What they fail to realize is that by adding more places and activities to a list, without increasing available time, they wind up seeing less and reducing the quality of their vacation time. It's far better to plan more time at fewer parks and destinations, than to rush around and do little more than touch all the bases.

Everyone wants to stay 'off the beaten path' and avoid the places that are 'touristy'. The path that's well worn is that way because it includes the best places already. If you're planning to tour the parks, you are by definition, a tourist. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. If you insist on avoiding the most popular sites and activities, you'll be planning a second tier, inferior, vacation. Do the top tier first, then come back to explore more in depth.

So when planning your family vacation in the 4 corners region keep a few points in mind.

0. Less is more. Fewer parks and destinations will mean more quality time at the places you choose. Odds are, if you do a proper vacation at just one or two places, you'll return again to focus on different parks in the future.

0. Advance planning and reservations will save you time and money. Park lodges book up as much as a year in advance. The most sought after accommodations go to those who plan and commit the earliest.

0. Traveling by RV is slower and usually more costly than using a car and traditional hotels and lodging. Even campsites book months in advance.

0. Information found on the Internet is helpful, but needs to be verified. Add 30% to most map app drive time estimates. Use park websites along with traveler review and forum sites like TripAdvisor. You aren't the first, and you won't be the last. But there is much you can learn from folks who have been there and done that.

Eagle, Colorado
Level Contributor
1,562 posts
8. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

You don't have near enough time to meaningfully see all 5 parks. Normally in a trip the length of yours it is recommended to pick either arches and canyonlands or Zion and Bryce as they are close to each other. Ideally you could spend time in Zion on the way from Hoover to slc as you go by it on the way. Otherwise you will have to backtrack. Bryce is at 8000 feet so it can be wintery. Zion arches and canyonlands are lower elevation so you can get better weather and less snow to deal with.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
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16,548 posts
170 reviews
9. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

You could visit Zions, Bryce, and Capitol Reef on your way to SLC. Use 2days for Zions, 1 for Bryce, take Hwy 12 to Torrey and 1 day for Capitol Reef. Most likely the roads will be clear and not an issue. But of course it will be snow season and there is always a possibility the roads would be affected. So have a plan B.

Then after the convention head to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands. Spend 3 days there at least.

That is 7-8 days. Which doesn't give you much time for Colorado. But you could spend a couple days driving through- maybe to Vail for some late ski season, or head south and go to Pagosa Springs for some hot springs and then south through New Mexico? Lots of options.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
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20,483 posts
41 reviews
10. Re: Utah and all the surroundings

While snow and bad road conditions may not be an issue when you are traveling in February and March, you certainly need to have some flexibility in your schedule in case you have to wait out a storm or change your plans completely. Your driving experience in Japan does not translate to driving on mountain roads in possible white out conditions.

I 15 between Cedar City Utah and on to SLC is notorious for having bad snow storms that impacts travel. You may encounter snow at Bryce and driving highway 12 to Torrey, Utah and on and on. You will need to stay informed daily of the weather and road conditions as you travel. And you need to pay serious attention to travel warnings . Do not drive in an active snowstorm.

Kbecjeans provided a decent plan for traveling between Las Vegas and SLC and on to Moab.

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