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Need advice for family of 4 trip to SW (Sedona, GC, lake?)

5 posts
Need advice for family of 4 trip to SW (Sedona, GC, lake?)

Thinking of next April for a trip with 13-year old girl, 11 year old boy. We are considering doing the rent an RV for the week to make it fun for the kids rather than hotels. We are a camping family, so that won't feel out of the ordinary for us. To keep tweenagers active, I'd like to mix in some water activities if possible with hikes and camping out and maybe tubing or rafting. I have even hard about camping in the Canyon by the river and doing a rafting trip? What about Lake Powell or Mead? We have thought about the trip point-to-point, so maybe start in Vegas finish in Phoenix? Or other way around? Is Bryce possible or Zion? Just throwing out ideas, love this forum to brainstorm, thanks!

3 replies to this topic
Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
Level Contributor
67,354 posts
250 reviews
1. Re: Need advice for family of 4 trip to SW (Sedona, GC, lake?)

April can still be winter at the Grand Canyon National Park. Not ideal for RVs. River trips in the GC take a week or longer. Not an RV activity. You need to understand reality.

Consider this article.

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.

Kalispell, Montana
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park, Santa Fe, Sedona
Level Contributor
11,264 posts
817 reviews
2. Re: Need advice for family of 4 trip to SW (Sedona, GC, lake?)

How many full days, not counting flight days do you have for this trip? No school? Beginning, middle or end of April? It can make a difference. So far based on the tastes you have mentioned I would advise Zion/Bryce, possibly adding Page...based on the possibility of only having a week to work with...flying into and back out of Las Vegas. Rent a smaller RV and not one of the huge ones! Or choose nearby motels.

You will, I think have to research each area a little more to see which one or two appeal to you the most so you can spend more quality time in them rather than being on the road almost constantly

1...Arrival day/night....Stay Las Vegas or a nearby north side suburb if you arrive late afternoon or evening.

A...With an earlier arrival time, drive to Springdale/Zion for a minimum of 2 or 3 full days there and really visit and enjoy the Zion area. Its 166 miles and at least 3 hours 20 minutes from LV airport to Springdale/Zion.




B...Move to Bryce Canyon...maybe. 86 miles and 2 hours 45 minutes with brief stops. Some Aprils there can be snow on the ground in Bryce. There can be snow and mud on the hiking trails there. Accommodations can be less expensive because peak season there begins around Late May.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located at a relatively high elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, meaning that it is much cooler than at Utah’s other national parks such as Zion, Canyonlands, and Arches. There’s no “best” time to visit Bryce Canyon–summer daytime temperatures are comfortable, spring and fall will have cool nights, and winter is the chilliest time of year with the greatest chance of snow (although snow is a possibility at this elevation year-round). No matter what time of year you visit Bryce, it’s a good idea to bring warm clothes!

C...Maybe move to Page Instead. 117 miles and 2 hours 45 minutes. nobackhome.com/7-things-to-do-in-page-arizon… Springtime (March, April & May) can be very windy in Page and the water is still cold (you'll need a wetsuit for skiing). Spring weather is highly unpredictable and a cold snap is not uncommon. The advantage of travelling this time of year is that availability of accommodations and rentals are greater.

As the snowpack from the higher elevations melts, the water levels begin their seasonal rise on Lake Powell each spring. It’s a spectacular time to visit, while the air is still cool, the lake is still quiet, and the new fish are spawning. Whether you are a student on spring break, a senior who prefers cool and quiet, or anyone who loves to fish, springtime is your time at Lake Powell. Average high temp in April...72, Low 42. https:/…



Alternately you could fly into and out of Phoenix and spend most of the time in/near Sedona. There are a ton of things to do for families right there. The only thing is that camping/RVing is less handy there without a tow car. Places to visit are quite close together but the parking of the RV can be a headache if you have to actually drive it around to get from place to place.


If you decide on Sedona, we can give you more ideas later.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
48 posts
1 review
3. Re: Need advice for family of 4 trip to SW (Sedona, GC, lake?)

We will be traveling next April with our kids similar ages. We are staying in hotels along he way. This is he itinerary I finally decided on. Just finished booking our hotels!

Fly into Phoenix in the am and drive to Sedona

3 nights Sedona

1 night GC South Rim

1 nights Page

1 night Bryce

2 nights Zion

1 nights Las Vegas

Fly home to NYC early am.

Now I am working on figuring out what activities or tours we will book. I know the kids will love hiking and just seeing the sights, but its nice to have a few exciting things planned. So far it looks like we will do The Pink Jeep Broken Arrow tour in Sedona , Lower Antelope tour in Page, a stargazing program in Bryce. Some of the hotels we booked (In Sedona and Zion) have heated pools and hot tubs so that they can swim in the evening. We may not use the pool, but I could see them enjoying that after a day of driving and hiking!

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