Sunday, July 10, 2011

Choosing the right route

Hi everyone. Today’s post is about the route we’re taking to get the maximum sites seen. As you know from reading my last post – you did read it, right? – I chose a West to East route.  Let me include a map so we can all follow along.


This isn’t exactly the Google map I was using but I can’t figure out how to copy the Google map onto a document – or onto anywhere.  Anyone? Anyone? 

In a fairly close range, you can see Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches National Park and Glen Canyon (not pictured on this map but if you see Lake Powell in Utah, that whole lake/river area is part of Glen Canyon.) I figured we’d arrive in Las Vegas on a Saturday, spend the rest of the day there and the whole next day, then travel Monday with a full visit day the next day at our first stop and then travel the day after that.  So big driving days would only be every other day. This would make our vacation two weeks long.  Luckily we both get enough vacation time to make this work.  Quite frankly, if you’re taking a sightseeing vacation, two weeks is definitely the way to go.

Before I proceed I want to mention that there are very few main roads/highways through Southern Utah/Northern Arizona.  As the crow flies, getting to some of these places should be easy.  They’re not.  I wasn’t prepared for that.  I grew up in the Northeast where there are multiple highways to get to the same place.  You have but to choose the one with no accidents or traffic jams.  Although these days that task is far more challenging.  But I digress.  Keep this notion of few highways in mind as I explain the insanity of the first route I selected.

My so-called straight line was originally going to start at Las Vegas and then go northeast to Zion National Park.  I had been trying to decide whether to go to the Grand Canyon before Zion and then go up and across but I chose Zion first, then the Grand Canyon and then back up to Bryce.  More of a zig zag than a line.  My reasoning for this was because I’m trying to keep driving time to a minimum.  It’s only three hours from Las Vegas to Zion but about 6 hours to the Grand Canyon.  And the route from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is rather crazy.  I’m going to try and get that map for you from Google so you can see for yourselves.


I did it! 

Well this looks far more out of the way on the larger view. But it still takes 5 hours (for some reason I had written down 6 hours in my notes).  Look at the easy ride to Zion from Las Vegas:

Pretty straight forward, right? Therefore, I chose Zion first, then the Grand Canyon and then back up to Bryce.  And I continued all my planning, campground reservations, etc. based on that choice.  About a week ago, I started second guessing myself.  Was this really the best way to go?  Zion and Bryce are so close together I should really do them in a row, etc.  The deciding factor was when I took a look at the route from Zion to the Grand Canyon and back up to Bryce.  It was pretty much the same route coming and going:

This is Zion to the Grand Canyon. 

And this is the Grand Canyon back to Bryce.  It’s the exact same route to just north of Kanab.

If we’re going to be doing that much driving, I don’t want to take the same way twice. So after much deliberation and driving my husband completely nuts (what do you think, hon? Which way would be better?  Are you sure?  Do you think I should just leave everything the way it is? What do you think? Honey? Honey? Are those earplugs in your ears?) I changed our route.  As it turns out, we’ll have an extra sight to see.  By going south out of Las Vegas we’ll pass the Hoover Dam.

That wasn’t the last change I had to make in our route.  After Bryce I had us going to Capitol Reef which is an easy 2hr 45min drive. Next was a trip to Glen Canyon to Lake Powell, another 2 hr 45 min drive, or so I thought.  I had never heard of Glen Canyon before. I googled it, of course, and saw fabulous pictures of Lake Powell and beaches and a lodge.  Great, I thought.  We’ll be there on my birthday and by then we’ll have had enough of camping and hiking.  We can stay at the lodge and swim in the lake and in the pool. I’m in heaven and patting myself on the back for such a smart idea.  Ah the best laid plans……

The lodge was more than I wanted to spend so I decided we’d camp at the campgrounds across from the lodge. The lake is right there and I thought you could use the pool at the lodge but I can’t find it mentioned anywhere now. There are lots of water activities including boat rentals, jet skis, kayaks and cruises.  All I wanted to do was sit by the pool or on the beach and chill. I knew the kids would feel that way, too.

Weeks go by, the campsite is reserved, the restaurants are decided and I pay a visit to the Lake Powell site to look for an interesting boat tour.  I click on a map and notice that the Wahweap campground isn’t in Lake Powell, UT. It’s in Lake Powell, AZ, a 5 ½ drive. Not to mention there would be another 5 ½ drive up to Arches National Park after Glen Canyon.  Holy cow (that’s not even close to what I really said) what a ridiculous and stupid mistake.  I keep checking and rechecking with the fervent hope that if I do this enough, somehow this mistake will disappear and all will be right with the world. Once again I’m practically in tears, convinced I’ve ruined our vacation.  I could say that I’m not usually this dramatic but that would be a lie.

I needed a new option. I consulted my handy dandy Google map of Utah which I can now show you thanks to my husband showing me the “snipping tool” on my computer.  I highly recommend it.


Capitol Reef National Park, which is the previous sight before Glen Canyon, is only 4 hours from Salt Lake City and roughly the same back to Arches National Park.  That hour and a half savings is enough for me to consider rerouting us North for a change of scenery and a hotel.  It’s my birthday, dammit, and I want a hot shower and a comfy bed.  We also have friends who visit their parents every summer in Salt Lake City so I contacted them to see if they’ll be around to hang out with.  Not only will they be there, but their parents have invited us to stay with them. How cool is that? We’re very excited to visit, especially because the house we’ll be staying in is 11,000 square feet.  No, I did not misplace my comma.  I have no idea what a house that size looks like.  I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and post them!

We’re hoping they’ll show us the sights or at least recommend the best ones to see.  On the food front, this detour will send us through Salina, UT, home of Mom’s CafĂ© which is a Mecca for Road Foodies.  (more about that later)

So here’s a map of the whole trip:


A – Las Vegas
B – Grand Canyon
C – Zion National Park
D – Bryce Canyon National Park
E – Capitol Reef National Park
F – Salt Lake City/Heber
G – Arches National Park
H – Grand Junction, CO (last minute change to stay here instead of 2 nights at Arches)
I – Denver, CO

I look at this now and see so many other ways I could have done this but it’s 2 weeks until we leave and there’s just too much to do to consider making any changes.  The better, circular route would have been Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon to Glen Canyon to Arches to Capitol to Bryce to Zion and back to Vegas.  Oh well.  May others learn from my mistakes :).

Next – Las Vegas