Trip to the Southwest (and California)

sarasphotossarasphotos Major grinsAugsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,233Registered 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!

Sara

Comments

  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,480Administrators 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: 2,233Registered 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!

    Sara

  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,480Administrators 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: 2,448Registered 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: 2,233Registered 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: 2,448Registered Users Major grins

    Enjoy yourself!

  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Posts: 1,060Registered Users Major grins

    I hope you enjoy your trip. We made a trip to Utah several summers ago to visit 'the big 5' Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. We spent 2 or 3 days at each park during July. It was crowded, but not unmanageable. Arches had the worst crowds. Zion was crowded, but didn't feel it as much because there is no traffic to muddle through. We were able to move around and do everything we wanted to do. I am glad we visited each place, but I long for the day I can go back to Zion. Zion has so much to offer and it is so beautiful. We feel like we barely got to experience Zion and it was time to go. I never have to see Bryce, Capital Reef, or Canyonlands again. It's not that I didn't enjoy those three parks (Canyonlands is amazing, btw), but I just feel that I saw all I could see and don't need to go back. I'd love to have one more day in Arches to see the one thing of interest that I missed the first time

    If you have the time in your schedule, spend more time at Zion and less time at Bryce. You can see everything you need to see at Bryce in a day. It's a cool place, Zion just have so much more to offer.

    Also, I read an article this week where the author made the suggestion that you not skip scenic wonders because they are crowded or already photographed to death. They are crowded because they are wonders that you should experience yourself in person. His point was not to let crowds or the abundance of IG photos on the same subject keep you from experiencing these natural wonders. Since I have also avoided certain locations because of crowds, I'll admit this gave me something to think about.

    Have a wonderful time and post lots of pics!!

    Sherry P.

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,233Registered Users Major grins

    Thanks so much Sherry - I really appreciate your reflections on your experiences. It sounds like we have made somewhat similar decisions time-wise. We are spending 3 nights at Grand Canyon and two each at Bryce and Zion with a stop at Lake Powell on the way to Bryce. Since we are going in April we are hoping that the crowds will be slightly less that in the peak summer season.

    @slpollett said:
    Also, I read an article this week where the author made the suggestion that you not skip scenic wonders because they are crowded or already photographed to death. They are crowded because they are wonders that you should experience yourself in person. His point was not to let crowds or the abundance of IG photos on the same subject keep you from experiencing
    these natural wonders. Since I have also avoided certain locations because of crowds, I'll admit this gave me something to think about.

    This is an interesting point and in a certain way I agree - I also really want to see these wonders and photograph them myself and not be put off by the masses of cell-phone yielding visitors. One goal I have set for myself for this trip is to look, consider and think more before pressing the shutter button.

  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,480Administrators moderator

    How was the trip, Sara?

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,233Registered Users Major grins

    Hi kdog, the trip was fantastic - we got back last week and we are both still working through the many vivid memories. For me the two biggest takeaways were how exceptionally GREEN it was in coastal California this year and the magnificent variety of desert flora in all of the different types of desert, from the Mojave (with which I was familiar) then into the Joshua Tree area then Arizona, Utah, Nevada and back into California. And it being April the desert blossoms were FABULOUS! Nearly every road was lined with color. ...and the fields of poppies along Highway 138!!! Wow.

    Needless to say, I'm still in the process of sorting through, culling and editing the 3000 photos I took and helping my parther sort through and edit several hundred videos from his new action cam. As soon as I put together a good subset I'll make a post in "Journeys".

    One thing I see in my photos (even as I was taking the photographs) is that I've captured nothing spetacular or earth-shattering. What I have captured are some lovely memories, some of which are pretty good photographs. We didn't make it to too many "iconic spots" at the perfect time of day - some we avoided because of the crowds and others the timing was just not photo perfect. That's the way it goes in real life. Ya gotta make the best of what you're dealt. I also became an expert in shooting through the bug-spotted window of our rental RV. :smiley:

    Here are three good memories:

  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,480Administrators moderator

    That's great, Sara. I'm so glad your trip was a success. You really did come at a great time and that first picture really drives home the point.

    Keep the pics coming!!

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