Trip to the Southwest (and California)

sarasphotossarasphotos Major grinsAugsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,088Registered Users Major grins

My partner and I are planning a trip from mid-April to the beginning of May next year. We're picking up our rental RV in the bay area and are driving down the coast as far as Paso Robles (my father's birthplace) and then are heading east towards Arizona, Utah and Nevada then back up Hwy. 395 (a road I've always wanted to take!) and over the Sierras via Hwy 50 and down to Yosemite. (It's pretty unlikely that Hwy. 120 will be open in early May...)

When we bought our plane tickets, 4 weeks sounded like a long time but after various visits to family and friends and other important stops on the itinerary, our "canyon time" will be limited to about 8 days. Definitely included in our current plans are Grand Canyon (south rim), Bryce and Zion. We are also considering visiting Horeshoe Bend and Lake Powell. Monument Valley and Arches have been (at least for now) regretfully omitted because of distance. We've decided against Antelope Canyon - I think ten years ago it was probably wonderful to visit but I am really put off by everyting I read about how crowded and commercial it is now. [Insert here my rant about the "Instagramization" and overpopulation of all beautiful places.] I have read about other slot canyons in the area and would appreciate any tips (even by pm if one doesn't want to advertise the place).

There are so many interesting places to see that we are a bit overwhelmed by the choices. I'd appreciate any personal recommendations of parks to visit in southern Utah - for us it's important to see and experience the area and not necessarily tick of the list of important sights we've visited. This of course begs the question; are Bryce and Zion a must or are there other, less overrun parks that would be as swell to see (swellness being subjective, of course :wink:)

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!



  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,395Administrators moderator

    Hi Sara,

    It really depends a lot on your goals. You've named an awful lot of places of interest. You might be able to drive to and stop at all of those places briefly, but that wouldn't be particularly satisfying for me. As a photographer, I always like to spend the night at each location so I'm able to catch both a sunset and sunrise.

    I'd consider the following groupings.

    1) Eastern Sierra, including Mono Lake, Bodie (if you like ghost towns), Ancient Bristlecone Forest, Alabama Hills, Death Valley and Yosemite. Keep in mind you could spend a week at either Death Valley or Yosemite alone.

    2) Southern UT, including Bryce, Zion, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, Canyon lands, etc.

    3) Northern AZ (Page), Horseshoe Bend, Toad Stools, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, South Rim of GC, Sedona, etc.

    Maybe you can combine parts of two of those general groupings, but probably not three of them unless you want to spend all of your time driving. Personally, if I were you and given your proximity to the Bay Area, I would stick with #1 this time around.

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,088Registered Users Major grins

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. Since we've already have plane tickets and RV and some campsites reserved we will be sticking to our basic planned itinerary. What will probably happen in the AZ/UT area is that we will visit fewer sites, thus spending more nights at each place. It's a lot of driving, but we have planned it so as not top be in the RV more that 4 hours at a time (with one or two exceptions) and we certainly won't be driving every day.

    As you can probably understand, it's been a difficult planning process. I have a european partner who has never visited the Western US, so he's anxious to see anything and everything. And of course, as much as we would love to be able to come back many times to the area, we have to be realistic about the fact that this may be our only oppostunity to visit the Southwest. We are both retired seniors and the list of places to visit is long and there are only so many years left. Reality sometimes sucks. :neutral:

    Thanks again for your input!


  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,395Administrators moderator

    Sara, I understand perfectly about planning trips like this. There are always trade-offs. Good luck with the rest of the planning and let us know if there's anything else we can do to help. Otherwise, have a great trip!

  • CornflakeCornflake Major grins Posts: 2,310Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 19, 2019

    Sara, many of the famous national parks have become very crowded. Tastes vary but I find it hard to enjoy them anymore. My wife and I vacationed in southern Utah last summer. We were at Zion shortly after it opened one day and it was so unpleasant that we left as soon as we could. We bypassed Bryce because we'd heard that Cedar Breaks National Monument had the same geology without the crowds. We were glad we'd made that decision.

    I've been to the Grand Canyon several times in recent years. It's a zoo pretty much all the time now. I'd still visit it if I were you, though, because it's unique. I've heard that Horseshoe Bend is also very crowded these days. I've skipped Antelope Canyon for the reasons you mention.

    I'd suggest getting a couple of travel guides for each area you'll be in and developing an itinerary based on what you read. One of the guides for Utah--I forget which-- even has a small section about where to go if you want to avoid the crowds. Except for the Grand Canyon, there's no place I can think of in the Southwest that is a must-see, and some of the less visited places are wonderful. A friend who has spent more time in southern Utah than I have says Capitol Reef is the best of the national parks and it gets far fewer visitors than Bryce or Zion. April and May should be a great time to visit in general but pay close attention to elevation and weather. Cedar Breaks would be very cold then if it's even open.

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,088Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 19, 2019

    Don, thanks so much for the information. At this point, with the departure date about 7 weeks away, all the reservations are made. In the end, weighing in many factors, we decided on Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. We are hoping that visiting in April will make it not QUITE so crowded as during summer vacation. Capitol Reef was seriously in consideration but just didn't quite work for us.

    I'll post a travel report in Journeys (but without GPS info!) and let everyone know how the trip turned out.

  • CornflakeCornflake Major grins Posts: 2,310Registered Users Major grins

    Enjoy yourself!

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