1,200 miles driven. Seven days. Four national parks. One state. Zero liquor.
Our most recent trip to Utah was intense and physically demanding. Southern Utah is as beautiful as Utah’s liquor laws are strict and confusing. Utah’s Mighty 5 [national parks] include:
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Zion National Park
Prior to the trip, we purchased an America the Beautiful pass for $80 from REI (the pass can also be purchased online but I wanted a physical card for the trip and we bought the pass at the last minute). The pass grants entry to 2,000 federal recreation sites, including all national parks for one year (or 13 months in our case since we purchased it on June 2, 2018 and it expires one year effective the last day of the month of purchase, so June 30, 2019).
As a bonus to those residing (or visiting) in Washington and Oregon, the pass also dubs as a Northwest Forest Pass. It was more convenient and less costly for us to purchase the America the Beautiful pass than to purchase individual passes for each of the four parks we visited. So, do your maths prior to your trip.
Our adventure began at 4:30am last Sunday morning when we woke for our early morning flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City. I was seated in a window seat on our flight to Salt Lake City which was a rarity for me as my long legs like to stretch out in the aisle. As we approached Salt Lake City, I glanced out the window and saw a landscape filled with circular farms.A few minutes later, the southern shore of Great Salt Lake came into my window view. It reminded me of the Dead Sea with its wide, dry and white shoreline and I learned during the writing of this post that Great Salt Lake is known as “America’s Dead Sea”. Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and because the lake’s only outlet is evaporation, it is more salty than sea water and it’s mineral content level is on the rise.
I patiently waited for what was to come into my window view next. A few minutes later, colorful rectangles appeared and my suspicion was that they were salt plants/farms. I confirmed during the writing of this post via Google Earth what I’d seen was indeed a salt plant owned by Cargill.
From the Salt Lake City airport, we drove 240 miles to Moab, Utah, arriving at 2:30pm. We did not have a plan for the day so we decided to head over to Arches National Park for a few hours to start ticking things off our “must see” list. More to come on this and the other three national parks in later posts.
We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Moab for two nights which allowed us up to three cumulative days to explore Arches National Park. This is enough time though in an ideal photographic world, we would have had one more day.
The morning of our departure from Moab, we swung by Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park to catch the sun rise before driving four-and-a-half hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. We stayed at the Best Western Grand Hotel in Bryce City for one night which gave us one cumulative day to hike through Bryce Canyon: This was an adequate amount of time.
There is very little infrastructure in Bryce City and the infrastructure that does exist (restaurants, etc.) is undesirable, so spending more than a day in Bryce City is too much in my opinion. As Peter so eloquently stated, “Bryce Canyon is the Iguazu Falls of Utah”.
Our fourth and final leg of our trip was Zion National Park. Zion is a two-hour drive from Bryce Canyon and the route unexpectedly took us through the park on our way to the Springhill Suites in Springdale. We spent two nights at the Springhill Suites and decided to use some of our time there to relax poolside. The Springhill Suites in Springdale is one of my favorite hotels because the landscape surrounding the hotel and pool is breathtaking.
For those of you into bulleted lists, our itinerary was as follows:
- Day 1: Fly to Salt Lake City in the morning. Drive to Moab, arriving mid-day. Spend the early evening exploring Arches. Stay in Moab for the night.
- Day 2: Do three exploration “shifts” in Arches; morning, afternoon and early evening. Stay in Moab for the night.
- Day 3: Catch the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. Drive to Bryce Canyon. Explore Bryce Canyon in the late-afternoon. Stay in Bryce City for the night.
- Day 4: Explore Bryce Canyon in the morning. Drive to Zion. Relax at the pool. Stay in Springdale for the night.
- Day 5: Explore Zion in the morning. Relax at the pool in the afternoon. Stay in Springdale for the night.
- Day 6: Explore Zion in the morning. Drive to Salt Lake City. Attempt to drink liquor. Fail at drinking liquor. Stay in Salt Lake City for the night.
- Day 7: Fly to Seattle in the morning.