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Old 01-22-2011, 01:18 AM   #1
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Utah Grand Circle Tour-Route Advice

I'm planning a 3 week trip around the Grand Circle late April-mid May starting clockwise from Zion NP and need some route advice from those who have driven it. I have a 2010 Ford V10 truck and a 31' trailer and climbing hills is not a problem. However, I'm more concerned about sharp curves, lack of turnouts, basically the routes that are safest for towing in the event I have a flat tire or other mechanical breakdown. I don't want to be on a road like Lucy & Desi in the Long Long Trailer.. I'd like advice on the following segments:
  • Zion NP to Bryce Canyon NP - UT 9 and UT 89 or should I take I-15?
  • Bryce Canyon to Torrey UT - UT 22 & 24 or UT 12 scenic byway? After reading forum posts about UT 12, I'm a little nervous about taking it.
  • My plan is to go from Torrey to Moab to see Arches NP and take a day trip from Moab to Canyonlands NP. Is this the best way to access Canyonlands NP? Google maps says its a 3 hour drive from Moab to Canyonlands but only 60 miles. It must be one windy route.
  • From where can I best access the north rim of the Grand Canyon? I was planning on driving from Monument Valley to Page to see the slot canyons and Lake Powell and take a day trip to the north rim weather permitting. However, it looks like a 2-3 hour drive to the canyon from Page. If the weather is bad, I plan to go from Monument Valley to Williams AZ and go to the south rim.
Thanks in advance for any advice from those who have made the trip.
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Old 01-22-2011, 02:52 AM   #2
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Dougsale, great trip; and good that you can take three weeks to take your time.

The route from Zion to Bryce on Hiways 9 and 12 are good, two-lane, scenic roads. I-15 is boring. No need to take the Interstate, most of Utah's highways are pretty well maintained. We haven't seen any in bad repair in quite a few trips around and through the state, and we try to stay off of Interstates unless time requires it. Since we can't drive 75 when towing, it is just more enjoyable to take the less traveled back highways. Also, the Scenic Byways are always a great way to travel; usually well maintained and trailer friendly. So, slow down, roll your window down and enjoy the fresh air.

Highways 12 and 24 are good routes; we have not driven on 22. As I recall there are some narrows in Capital Reef NP, but you shouldn't have any problem. It just winds around a little for a few miles, near the Visitor Center, I think. Great campgounds in the National Park. We stayed overnight, and wish we could have stayed longer; but we were on the way home from Yellowstone NP.

We haven't been to Canyonlands NP, but it's on our list. I would think you might want to stay more than a day, but don't know for sure. Check the National Parks Web site for what's there: http://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm

The north rim of the Grand Canyon is accessible from Kanab, UT. You might want to go there from either Zion or Bryce, as it is closer. It's a long drive from Monument Valley to the north rim, probably an all-day drive. Also, you'll want to stay at least one night in the north rim area. It's a long drive through the desert to get there, and a long drive back out. If the campground at the rim is full, there is one a few miles north of the Ranger Station about 1/4 mile off the west side of the road. It's not near the rim, but it's cool, and a good place for one night; and you can make your day trip to the north rim from there.
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Old 01-22-2011, 03:34 AM   #3
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Utah Grand Circle

(Timed out on the previous post)

Personally, I'd reduce the number of day trips and plan on staying longer at some of the places you've chosen. Utah and Arizona are spreadout alot, and you will be driving across almost the entire width of these states. So, you might want to consider staying at the places you enjoy and saving some of the rest for next year.

I have attached the map that shows the highways we traveled on our Yellowstone trip a couple of summers ago. All of these roads were fine for towing, although our Bambi is only 19-feet long. However, I am sure you won't have any problems.

In the late spring, weather will be variable, so you might want to plan on both warm and cool temperatures. Some areas might even be quite cold, especially the northern parts (you are covering a lot of ground). Also, just noticed that the NPS site says that both campgrounds at Bryce will be closed this summer for renovation. Not sure if this is a leftover note from 2010, but I'd verify this if you plan to camp in the NP. However, Ruby Inn and RV Park has nice KOA-type facilities just north of the park entrance.

One more note: If you haven't traveled in National Parks much, you should seriously consider buying the NPS annual pass. You will be traveling through so many NPs that it will pay for itself on this trip alone, and it's good for the next 12 months.

Happy trails -- Hope you enjoy this area as much as we do!
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:57 AM   #4
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Dougsale,

Phoenix gave you a lot of great info. I thought of two more items if I may chime in here. The North Rim may/will be probably still closed at the time you take your trip because of snowfall. The slot canyons in Page are awesome, don't miss them. I definitely think the North Rim is too far from Page for a day trip. There is a bunch of things to see on the way to the rim from Page like the bridge crossing at the Little Colorado River and Lee's Ferry and his Lonely Dell Ranch. A bunch of history and spectacular scenery. Enjoy!
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:01 AM   #5
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DougSale,

I got to thinking, if you hit the North Rim right at the very end of your trip you may get there right after they open up for the season.

Tim
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:14 AM   #6
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We did that trip same time last summer excepting the North rim which we plan to do this summer. Couldn't do Zion as they were doing road maintainance and we didn't want to chance waiting in line for two or more hours to get over the pass. At the turn off to Zion is a Best Western Motel that has a small shaded full hook-up campground along side a stream. $15/night including swimming pool. We had no problems getting anwhere except Zion.
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:34 AM   #7
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We did part of the loop this summer and instead of posting a thread, we did a blog...day 11 starts the section you may be interested in.

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Old 01-22-2011, 10:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougsale View Post
I'm planning a 3 week trip around the Grand Circle late April-mid May starting clockwise from Zion NP and need some route advice from those who have driven it. I have a 2010 Ford V10 truck and a 31' trailer and climbing hills is not a problem. However, I'm more concerned about sharp curves, lack of turnouts, basically the routes that are safest for towing in the event I have a flat tire or other mechanical breakdown. I don't want to be on a road like Lucy & Desi in the Long Long Trailer.. I'd like advice on the following segments:

My wife and I took the Zion to Moab route in late October. They were all worth seeing and experiencing. On the way to Zion on hwy 9, at mile marker 23 or 24, there's a short road leading down to a stand of trees next to the Merced River. This is BLM land and the camping is free. It was our favorite boondocking site on our 9000 mile trip. The road is a little rough.
  • Zion NP to Bryce Canyon NP - UT 9 and UT 89 or should I take I-15?
Utah 9 leading towards Bryce has a tunnel and length or width restrictions. Our trailer was too long or wide to be allowed. We drove back to I15 and headed north to Cedar City where we picked up 14 to 89 to 12. Very scenic.
  • Bryce Canyon to Torrey UT - UT 22 & 24 or UT 12 scenic byway? After reading forum posts about UT 12, I'm a little nervous about taking it.
We took 12 to Torrey and was well worth the drive. It will give you a workout, but there were always places to pull over, as I remember it.
  • My plan is to go from Torrey to Moab to see Arches NP and take a day trip from Moab to Canyonlands NP. Is this the best way to access Canyonlands NP? Google maps says its a 3 hour drive from Moab to Canyonlands but only 60 miles. It must be one windy route.
I don't remember The drive to Canyonlands taking three hours, an hour or so would be more like it. The roads were good and not twisty or windy. Once in the park, the speed limits are a little pokey.
  • From where can I best access the north rim of the Grand Canyon? I was planning on driving from Monument Valley to Page to see the slot canyons and Lake Powell and take a day trip to the north rim weather permitting. However, it looks like a 2-3 hour drive to the canyon from Page. If the weather is bad, I plan to go from Monument Valley to Williams AZ and go to the south rim.
Thanks in advance for any advice from those who have made the trip.
Sounds like a great trip, have fun!

Jim
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Old 01-22-2011, 10:33 AM   #9
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This is a great trip, we did it last March. I would plan on 2 nights minimum at each park so you have a day to explore. Highway 12 does have a serious grade in the Dixie NF and there are some curves and downhills that will keep both hands on the wheel but you can take it slow and there are a few pullouts to let traffic pass though there isn't that much. Bryce has a great little hike called the Navajo Loop. Capital Reef has the Grand Wash trail. You can stay in Moab and spend a day in Arches. Hike to Delicate. Canyonlands has some great views, you can also camp at Dead Horse SP. At Monument Valley, you can camp at Gouldings or just drop the trailer and do your own drive through. We've had a mild winter so far so the North Rim may be open sooner. The CG there is close to the rim and worth a night or two. Not really a day trip from Page. Wahweap marina CG is nice if you want to do Antelope Canyon, but between there and Kanab is a place called Buckskin Gulch in the Paria Canyon. It's a great slot canyon hike without all the crowds of Antelope. There is a place called Paria Canyon Guest Ranch that has 2 spots with hookups.

Have fun, this trip is loaded with spectacular scenery!
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Old 01-22-2011, 11:03 AM   #10
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If you stop at the southern end of Lake Powell near Page, you can camp at Lone Rock beach. It's dry camping, but you can park right on the water; and it shouldn't be crowded when you are there. It's a zoo in the summer, because it's so popular; but that's usually between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There usually aren't many people there up through mid-May, except the weekend locals.

CAUTION: Don't just take off across the sand! Stay on the main gravel roads that head straight towards the lake from where the pavement ends. Then, drive parallel to the lake as close to the water as is practical. The sand is wet underneath closer to the water and firmer. On the main roads, the gravel keeps vehicles from sinking in. If you have doubts about sand, park where it's firm and walk your intended route first. A few minutes of walking in deep sand can save you hours of shoveling and frustration. However, with a little caution, you can camp right on the water.
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Old 01-22-2011, 11:39 AM   #11
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Here are a couple of photos taken in the fall. It might be a little more crowded as you get closer to Memorial Day. That's Lone Rock out in the middle of the lake. That's Hal (our old pickup) and our Bambi, second from the right.

The campground has hookups, but we prefer camping right on the beach. The only bad thing about this spot is that we always kick ourselves for not bringing the boat instead of the Airstream, but that's a completely different vacation experience. Let me know if you want more details on how to get to the turnoff, or check Google Earth. It's only a few miles west of Wahweap, but a completely different camping experience.
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Old 01-22-2011, 12:51 PM   #12
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Doug,

Coming from Sacramento, I don't know where you intend to enter the "loop." If it were me, I'd start at St George and go around clockwise. It would be helpful for you to review this whole thread--post #35 has additional details about topics covered below.

Here's what I've found in 20 or so trips through the area:

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1. This shows the roads I've taken. Highway 12 is fine, but there is a short stretch south of Boulder where you're sure you're on top of the edge of a razor--straight down on both sides. The first post here gives you an idea. On the north side of Boulder you climb into the forest and have great views to the SE and East into Capitol Reef.

2. I'd suggest two detours, in blue and purple. The blue road, Utah 72, is an unexpected wonder. Very high and terrfic views. In the northern part of 72, just south of I-70, there are a number of dirt roads into suitable boon docking spots. Be warned, it is difficult to find the road at the I-70 end. It's just west of the exit and unmarked, but it's paved all the way. The blue detour gives you a chance to get up on top of the San Rafael Swell, an area that ought to be a NP. I like boon docking at exit 129 (Google says it's 108). Great place to camp on the north side, about 1/4 mile into the junipers. This area is rich in rock formations and rock art. On the down side, you'd miss Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley.

The purple detour, which follows the "Trail of the Ancients," will take you to Bridges NP and past Grand Gulch Wilderness. You can also take a dirt side road to the Goosenecks of the San Jaun overlook at Mulley point. Then you go down a cliff (the signs say trailers not advised, but I've done it several times with no problem, going up) and you're on your way to Monument Valley (you can see Monument Valley from Mulley Point).

3. The tunnel on 9 through Zion is restricted. Call to get the details. My recollection is that trailers have to go through during the day, like 7AM to 6PM. The width restriction is 94". If you don't have an awning you're about an inch under. If you have one, you're over (the rangers are very informed--I forgot I had added an awning between trips and got in a "discussion"). If you're over 94" you pay an additional fee and get "escorted" through the tunnel--they make it one-way for you.

4. I concur with the Lone Rock camping recommendation. There is also a more formal camp with paved sites down in Marble Canyon, west side of the Colorado River, just north of US 89.

5. If you are thinking of driving I-80 to Salt Lake, I recommend taking US 50. I've really enjoyed that route every time I've taken it.


You can't do this in one trip, no matter how long. You'll discover too many side trips that you'll have to bypass the first time!

Zep
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Old 01-22-2011, 01:00 PM   #13
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Canyonlands N P

" Moab to see Arches NP and take a day trip from Moab to Canyonlands NP. Is this the best way to access Canyonlands NP? Google maps says its a 3 hour drive from Moab to Canyonlands but only 60 miles. It must be one windy route."

We visited Moab, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP last May. Canyon- has three units. The three hour drive section I've never seen. The one we visited last May is near Dead Horse St Park. Follow the directions to the SP and instead of turning go straight to the Canyon- NP. The unit that is south of Moab is about an hour drive +/- and the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. All of it is beautiful with plenty of photo ops.
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Old 01-23-2011, 12:19 AM   #14
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Thanks to all for your input and recommendations. I really appreciate it. I am starting the loop clockwise from St. George UT. My tentative itinerary is below. I'm going to have to spend a few long days towing to get to and from Utah but other than that, I have tried to keep the mileage distances between destinations reasonable to account for the road terrain (no more than 4 hours). This itinerary might be a bit too ambitious, even though I factored in a couple of rest days. I probably could do without the day drive to Natural Bridges and also decided not to go to 4 Corners once I saw there is no real direct way to get there from Monument Valley. I really do want to see Antelope Canyons, hence my plan to try to make it to Page. I guess I could bypass Page and go straight through to Tusayan if I'm running behind schedule or am tiring.

I'm not quite ready for boondocking yet. While I have a generator and good AGM batteries, the holding tanks on my rig are small (15 grey and 25 black) and we prefer the full hookups if we can get them.

Regarding the elevation changes on the loop, I see elevations ranging from 5000' up to 9000.' Can I expect to encounter a 4000' foot climb anywhere on this route or are the climbs pretty much around 1000-2000'? I shouldn't be worried as my V10 so far has climbed every mountain (Cajon Pass most notably) without having to go into 2nd gear and my coolant and tranny temp guages have never moved. I expect to get full benefit of the 47 gallon replacement tank I had installed earlier this year.

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