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12 day road trip from Salt Lake City to Pheon

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
1 post
7 reviews
12 day road trip from Salt Lake City to Pheon

Need help figuring out our itinerary for 12 days in Utah and Arizona. 9/3 - 9/14 (get in on the 2nd, leaving the 15th)

Open to shorter hikes, no camping, no overnights in the parks.

So far here’s what I have...

Day 1 - Salt Lake City - aviary, gardens, wandering

Day 2 - Salt Lake City (husband is doing a racing school all day so I’ll be on my own)

Day 3 - park city

Day 4 - drive from park to Bryce

Day 5 - Bryce

Day 6 - Zion

Day 7 - page - antelope

Day 8 - page - horseshoe sunrise then something else?

Day 9 - Grand Canyon - thinking northern rim

Day 10 - Sedona

Day 11 - Sedona

Day 12 - pheonix

Questions -

Should we try to mix in Moab and arches? If so at what point?

Am I spending too little or too much time and any of these places?

What are the must see things/tours in any of these that we can’t live without?

3 replies to this topic
Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
Level Contributor
20,910 posts
41 reviews
1. Re: 12 day road trip from Salt Lake City to Pheon

Are you going to drop your husband off at the race track which is 35 miles west of SLC? That's a bit of driving back and forth for you. If he will be taking the car, then perhaps you should think about staying in Park City the first 3 nights. You'll be able to get around Park City on your own by the free bus that circulates in the area. You can get out to the Outlet Mall, movie theater and spend time on historic Main Street It would be a little over an hour drive for your husband. But it would be all freeway.

As for the rest of your itinerary. You don't need two nights for Bryce. But you do need at least two nights for Zion. Unless you are going to get in a boat out on Lake Powell, or some other water activity, you don't need two nights in Page.

If you haven't been to the Grand Canyon, it's recommended that first time visitors go to the South Rim. The North Rim is more remote and should have two overnights. You may have trouble finding a room at the North Rim because there's just one lodge there and it books up a year in advance.

You don't have time to go to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands unless you drop the Grand Canyon and Sedona and do a loop out of SLC. You would want at least 3 nights in Moab to visit those parks.

All that said, here's an itinerary to consider:

Day 1: Arrive SLC. Activities, etc. in town. Drive to Park City for the night

Day 2: Park City for you.

Day 3: Up early and drive to Torrey, Utah/Capitol Reef. 3.5 hour drive. Overnight

Day 4: Drive to Bryce via scenic byway highway 12. This can take 3 hours to most of the day depending on the stops along highway 12 Overnight Bryce

Day 5: Bryce AM. Drive to Springdale, Utah/Zion PM. 2.5 hour drive. Overnight

Day 6: Zion

Day 7: Drive to Page AZ. 3 hour drive. Book Antelope Canyon tour for this afternoon. Overnight

Day 8: Drive to South Rim Grand Canyon. Stop at Horseshoe Bend on the way. 3 hour drive Overnight

Day 9: Grand Canyon until mid afternoon. Drive to Sedona. 2 hour drive. Overnight

Day 10: Sedona

Day 11: Sedona

Day 12; Drive to Phoenix for flight home. 2 hour drive.

You need to research if there will be an additional fee for picking up a car in SLC and dropping it off in Phoenix.

You will want to make advance hotel reservations for this entire route. Don't be surprised if you find that a bit of a challenge. September is still prime tourist season in the area. You are a little late in organizing this trip.

You will want to make an advance reservation for a tour of Antelope Canyon.

Edited: 06 August 2018, 08:47
Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
Level Contributor
67,372 posts
250 reviews
2. Re: 12 day road trip from Salt Lake City to Pheon

Adding Moab would require 4 more days.

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.

Edited: 06 August 2018, 10:36
Kalispell, Montana
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park, Santa Fe, Sedona
Level Contributor
11,276 posts
817 reviews
3. Re: 12 day road trip from Salt Lake City to Pheon

Love and agree with Connie's route. The one thing I might do...if you want to visit the North Rim instead of the South rim of the GC...

Day 7...End up at the quieter and equally beautiful North Rim of GC....its in the park but you would barely know it. Or Stay at Jacob Lake Instead and drive in and back out. You don't really need both rims but do want to visit one of the rims.

http://www.jacoblake.com When you pass through Kanab Ut, stop at the Kanab Creek Bakery for goodies and yes, good coffee!

Day 8...Page via the 89A past Vermillion Cliffs, the huge roadside boulders and the famous Navajo Bridge and its rare condors. Afternoon Antelope Canyon tour. Sunset or just a wonderful overlook to visit...Wahweap Overlook. Dinner at Tapatilo if you like Mexican food. Do not access Wahweap overlook from the Wahweap Marina Road which takes off near the Dam overlook...drive out further along the 89 heading NW...you will come to a turnout for it. You will be high above the water/marina with great expansive views.

If you are not avid and fit hikers or are queazy about tight areas, choose the Upper Canyon tour and not the Lower. The lower has a LOT of stairs going down and then again coming back up. The Upper is still very stunning. If you are not avid hikers, the trail to Horseshoe bend is a tiring walk through Sugar Sand to get there and then back. Then no barriers along the edges of the cliffs. Unless you go at exactly the right time of day, the photos are better/prettier than reality.

Day 9...Horseshoe Bend in the morning. Otherwise end up in Sedona that afternoon after visiting the Cameron Trading Post for lunch and then south of Cameron take the Wipatki Ruins/Sunset Crater National monuments loop. The ruins are so totally different from other areas you will be passing through before getting there. Sunset Crater is also different and very interesting...you can take short walks at both places and take photos.

After the loop, drive through Flagstaff later and then head to Sedona at the end of the day but before dark.

**If you want to save some hotel $$ that night stay in Flagstaff and not Sedona...lots of hotels and cafes and an interesting Uptown area across from the Train Depot visitor's Center. Drive into Sedona in the morning via the scenic Oak Creek Canyon.



Days/nights 10 & 11...Sedona. Where are you staying? Here is a basic description of where things are located in the Sedona area. It may help you plan the days you are there according to your own tastes.

There are 4/5 basic areas in/near Sedona to visit and you can group things together accordingly to avoid a lot of backtracking. How you do it depends on where you end up staying.

Coming from the north, I would recommend staying in West Sedona. There are quite a few hotels there. Courtyard Marriott, Sky Ranch Lodge up on Airport Mesa and the Best Western Plus (not Arroyo) come to mind.

1...Oak Creek Canyon: You will be driving this coming from GC or from Flagstaff.

The canyon drive is from the top viewpoint to Uptown. Coming from GC, You first come to the West Fork area for its famous canyon/creek-crossing hike....expect to get wet feet. If you can get parking, there will be a $10 fee. You will pass Slide Rock but will realistically not have time for that...its mostly for the kids anyway and is little messy for the 20 or 30$ free.

As you enter the area towards Sedona Uptown, and exit the canyon, the red rocks begin to appear all around you. You will come to Midgley Bridge...a scenic hiking/photogenic area with a small box canyon.


2...Uptown...for some more touristy, yet fun shops, the Cowboy Club Restaurant, Sedona Memories Bakery Cafe and other restaurants and the Pink Jeep Broken Arrow off-road or Magic Red Trolley on pavement tours. If you choose a Pink Jeep Broken Arrow tour...its fun and you see and learn a lot about the area. It takes 2 hours. I would do that the first thing, early in the morning if you choose to do that. The off road tours can be too rough for those with any orthopedic issues like, back, neck or knee. There is now an on-pavement tour as well.


3. The area west of West Sedona:

A....That includes Airport Mesa Drive with its Big Red Knoll, loop trail and overlooks. Best done in the morning and NOT at sunset. It gets crowded up along that narrow road and parking is limited. The views also have buildings and homes in the way of the red rock view. If you stay at Sky Ranch Lodge, you will have the advantage of a better view.

B...The Dry Creek Scenic byway, a right hand turn off of the 89A out along the red rock cliffs to the famous Enchantment Resort. You know how scenic it must be for that resort to be out there. Out there too are the very popular Devil's Bridge, Fay, Boynton and Long Canyon hikes plus others. Drinks or a meal at Enchantment would be a treat for views alone...no need to be guests.

C...It is also out there where you will find the renowned Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon Park along the Upper RR Loop drive. That is great for the creek-walk, Buddha Beach (rock cairns) and the **classic sunset or daylight views of Cathedral Rock with the creek in the foreground. It also has a nice picnic area and nice restrooms. Expect that to cost $10 as it is not included in the parking pass program. Great place to wade in the creek or sit on the big rocks along the creekside if its warm. The classic view is across the meadow, down by the creek behind the first restroom just after you pass through the entrance gate.


4...***This option is probably NOT for visitors with only a very short visit but a look at it might suggest something interesting for you. For a day trip west of West Sedona, you can include some or all of the following. The Verde Canyon railroad tour, seasonally, the Verde Valley wine trail, Toozigoot National Monument, Blazin'M Western Cookout and village, Out of Africa Wildlife Park, Cottonwood for antiquing, wine tasting and the quaint town of Jerome, now an arts and restored mining town up on a hillside. *Its easy to combine Toozigoot, Cottonwood and Jerome with sunset later at Red Rock Crossing.









5...To the south as you head down toward Phoenix:

The Red Rock Byway is the #179 from Uptown to the Village of Oak Creek to the I-17. This is the route you take to begin your trip back to Phoenix. If you stay in West Sedona, have breakfast at Coffee Pot first. Along the 179...coming first is the Tlaquepaque adobe-style gallery and dining village under the big trees. The Oak Creek Brewery and Grill there might be good for lunch if you hike out Dry Creek/Boynton Canyon first.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross comes next. It will be a left hand turn shortly after you leave or pass Tlaquepaque. Its a fabulous view of an architectural wonder even if you don't walk up to it. There are free golf cart shuttles running up and down from the parking all day long.

Finally, you will come to the stunning hiking area at Bell Rock just before arriving at the Village of Oak Creek. The pathway is a really nice stroll among the red rock mesas and it leads to many connecting trails. Nice places for Breakfast/lunch in VoC are Red Rock Cafe and Miley's. A local favorite for drinks and bar food PJ's Pub. Dinner at Cucina Rustica.

To get you started, I would go to the following website and have them send you the free Visitor's Guide magazine...its a great help for people who are unfamiliar with the area.

Sedona Arizona Free Visitors Guide visitsedona.com/visitors-guide

americansouthwest.net/arizona/sedona/map.html A nice map of the Sedona trails.


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