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Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Sunshine Coast...
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Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

We (two seniors) have booked (for early October, 2016) five nights in each of Springdale and Bluff as bases to explore, primarily, Zion, Bryce, Grand Escalante/Highway 12 (from Springdale) and Monument Valley, Mesa Verde and the Arches (from Bluff). We don't mind the bit of extra driving involved to avoid changing accommodation often. We will not be hiking. Does this look to be a reasonable approach, providing 4.5 full days in each base? Of course, it is impossible to see everything so we're happy to take what comes after nailing the priorities in each of the parks noted above. Any corrective advice?

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Welcome to the forum. I know it may look attractive to have fewer bases and change hotels less, but given the vast scope of the region, it's really not a good idea. And it will be even more challenging given the lesser daylight hours in October.

Basing in Springdale to explore Bryce is bad enough, but to use it as a base to visit Escalante is even worse. As an example, to explore the Escalante area and scenic route 12, you really need to do the drive from Escalante to Boulder. From Springdale to Boulder is 3.5 hours driving. That's seven hours driving that day and you probably only have 9-10 hours of daylight. That will not be enjoyable. Bryce is closer, but it's still 1.5-2 hours, so 3-4 hours driving. And the best time to see Bryce is sunrise, which is not practical if you're not there.

It's similar over on the eastern side. If you stay in Moab, it's a simple 15-30 minute drive to be inside Arches or Canyonlands. Staying in Bluff will add four hours of driving every day you visit Arches/Canyonlands.

If you have 10 days, this is what I would recommend. You didn't say, but I'll build this around a SLC arrival, which makes the most sense given your target destinations.

Arrive SLC; drive to Torrey (Capitol Reef)

Drive scenic route 12 through Escalante region to Bryce

Drive to Zion - 2-3 nights

Drive to Monument Valley - 1 night

Drive to Mesa Verde - 1 night (do check to see what's open that time of year)

Drive to Moab - 3 nights

Return to SLC for departure

While this has more stops, it will be a much more memorable holiday.

Have fun.

WestSlope,CO
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2. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

My thoughts exactly. Think about how long it takes to vacate a hotel room and compare it to the extra hours and hours spent on the road each day with your plan. Early morning and sunset/dusk are beautiful times for viewing the red rocks and sunset colors, and with your plan you'd be on the road, with shorter fall daylight hours. In addition, those hours are often when wildlife are most active and you really up your risk of hitting a deer if you're driving in the evening, tired from a day of sightseeing and driving.

If you want to stay in fewer places, I'd cut some locations from the itinerary. Perhaps fly in to Grand Junction, Montrose, or Durango (or Salt Lake City or even Albuquerque) and visit Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and Arches/Canyonlands (and a drive through of the Black Canyon Natl Park and a piece of the San Juan Skyway scenic byway through Ridgway and Telluride to catch some fall colors.)

P.S. I noticed your post about San Gimignano...hope you enjoyed your visit. We were there in October a couple of years ago!

Edited: 19 November 2015, 10:35
Sunshine Coast...
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3. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Thank you to the two respondents, so far. Your arguments are compelling, although as Australians we are no strangers to distance driving and animals on the roads. I am revising the plan on the basis of your responses taking account that we arrive through Las Vegas and return that way. My new plan, tentatively, is: Day 1 (LAS to Springdale), Day 2 (Zion), Day 3 (to Bryce), Day 4 (Bryce), Day 5 (Drive H12 to Moab), Day 6/7 (Arches/Canyonlands), Day 8 (Moab to Bluff), Day 9 (Mesa Verde), Day 10 (Bluff to Page through Monument Va), Day 11 (Page to LV). We will have checked out the GC earlier. This still requires hours at the wheel although I am assuming these stretches have something to see!!x? Importantly, as you both say, there is an economy of time in not back-tracking. Many thanks! (Yes, Italy was great, our third time there in two years. San Gimminagno is becoming more of a shopping mall than a medieval settlement!)

Columbia, Maryland
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4. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

On day 8 why not go Moab to Cortez. Day 9 Mesa Verde. Day 10 Cortez to Page. This avoids covering the distance between Bluff and Mesa Verde twice.

I recommend Cortez as opposed to staying in the park because it will save you time on departure day. Its about 45 minutes from Cortez to the sites on Mesa Verde. To the park itself is less than 15 minutes.

WestSlope,CO
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5. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

So do the mountains and fall aspen color not interest you this trip? If you are fairly early in October it should still be gorgeous. You could go from Moab to the LaSal Junction intersection and loop into western Colorado to Placerville then Telluride/Mountain Village>Rico> Dolores> Cortez/Mesa Verde. This could be easily done on your Day 8. Moab to Bluff isn't my favorite as far as scenery.

Another Day 8 alternate would be Moab to Grand Junction, to Montrose (Black Canyon NP) and then on to Telluride and Cortez. And one more...Grand Junction to Whitewater to Gateway (Unaweep Tabeguache Byway) and then to Placerville, Telluride, Dolores, Cortez.

Edited: 19 November 2015, 20:31
Houston, TX
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6. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Hope you know that you don't actually drive "through" Monument Valley on your way to anywhere else. As you approach, you will see some of the formations from the road--if that's enough for you then you can keep going. Another option is to at least pay to enter and then drive to the visitor center, where you can park and see some of the formations up a bit closer. If you really want to see Monument Valley in depth, the best thing to do is pay for a tour on one of the open vehicles offered at the site. You can drive your own vehicle around the loop road, and many people do, but that's a really bad idea. The road is in terrible condition. Driving a rental car on it would violate the terms of the rental, and you would be responsible for paying for any damage to the vehicle.

Fruita, Colorado
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7. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

I always consider it to be a very easy thing to pack up and vacate a room because I pack light and don't unpack everything in a hotel room. I don't take things out of the car that I don't need that night or the next day and can be out of a room in minutes. When I travel I don't iron my clothes or take fussy things that need lots of attention.

I sure hate backtracking. There's so much new stuff to see and so many new places to go and very, very few hotels/motels worth staying at that would make me want to do a lot of extra driving just to be there one more night. Your new plan sounds much better.

Sunshine Coast...
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8. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Thank you all for great advice. I have adopted it all. Telluride it is, Missp. And, Dave, we'll base in Cortez eliminating Bluff. I take the point about Monument valley access. Can I assume that the drive to Page along Highways 160 or 163 (which is it?) will give us the classic views of Monument Valley that we are after rather than the more intimate and dangerous exploration you (TX) warn us of? Thanks again, folks, I've set this in concrete to avoid irritating Booking.com any more!

Columbia, Maryland
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9. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

You have 2 choices for a drive by of Monument Valley. 160 to CO 41 which becomes UT 162 to US 163

or

US 160 to US 191 to US 163.

Both are a lot of flat desert terrain.

The drive by view of Monument Valley is on the stretch of US 193 heading toward Kayenta.

Not sure which will be more interesting. Looking at Google maps earth view, it looks like the first route will give you a little more varied scenery.

We've driven 160 to Kayenta and beyond and the desert scenery with the wadis is interesting in parts. It reminds you to be aware of flash floods.

Fill up your tank in Cortez. Kayenta has a little civilization, but other than that - nothing. It'll remind you of driving across Australia a bit.

Sunshine Coast...
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10. Re: Using just two bases to tour Utah NPs/Monuments

Very helpful, Dave. Thanks a lot!

Bill.