This Blog covering our 9 days road trip (start/end at San Francisco) to the large National Parks in southern Utah.
The trip was at Christmas of 2019.
This is our family road trip and I'm sure that with some modification it can fit everyone (i.e. not extreme 😊), you may decide to do it faster or slower, modify it or combine it with other places (like northern part of Arizona).
The trip day by day itinerary is below.
Few takeaways points from the trip:
1. Utah is far from San Francisco, it is always advisable to make early start day before, 4-5 hours drive at the afternoon, usually we are stopping at Bakersfield. On the way back, Mogas usually go straight back home.
2. We used to live in Phoenix AZ, so we have been multiple times in all the places. This time we chose to dedicate one day to each park and complete the trip in a relatively short time. Each large national park visit can be for two to three days of activity and there is plenty more to see.
3. The Valley of Fire Park is highly recommended, few hours detour on the way to Zion (located an hour north of Vegas).
4. At Christmas there are a lot of tourists, mostly in the main parks but also in less touristy places. Today with the Kovid it can be an even more difficult to do restaurants reservation and they are getting full at night (not just on Christmas night when most restorant are closed but also other nights).
5. Weather and snow:
We had 2-3 snow blizzards, on our way to Bryce at night and when arriving Moab UT, + heavy snow in Page AZ. Usually the storm itself passes relatively quickly after one night and the day after weather is better and we travel normally (including hikes)
It is winter so the day is short and get dark early. Usually at the end of every park visit it was already completely dark so you are driving your next destination at night.
It is possible to hike even at snow if you have proper clothe, the hikes are not so long and you returning back to the car, bring umbrellas for the rain.
6. Zion: Must arrive early for parking near the visitor center, try to order tickets for the shuttle, from November the park goes into winter format so find out about arrangements (the 3 weeks of Christmas are considered busy and has special arrangements)
9. It is highly recommended to do check on each park website before the visit, check what is open and what is not, and the effects of corona
10. In most parks there is no good option to eat, come with food for the day.
11. This area is not less than Amazing !!!
We visit it many times in the past, there is a lot to see from the car or hike over there, you can set the difficult level for kids, just need to know what you want to do.
12. Acknowledge the fact that you simply can’t do/see it all in one trip.
(follow the link to each blog-post for a lot more information)
4 hr drive at the afternoon from our bay home to sleep at Bakersfield.
At night we went to see the first show of the movie: Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker
Drive from Bakersfield to Valley of Fire (SP NV)
Short stop on the way at Seven Magic Mountains
Sleep at the town of Springdale just before Zion entrance
Zion: We did Angels Landing and Canyon Overlook hikes (many other viewpoint stops), a winter snow start at the afternoon, we drove to sleep at Bryce park entrance
Bryce: After the night snowstorm, we hike the rim trail and went down to the valley for 3-4 hr hike (highly recommended)
Kodachrome State Park: We went to the park to see the interesting rock formation; we were the only one there
Drive to sleep at Kanab UT
Toadstool Hoodoos: Short stop on the road and hike to the hoodoos
LoneRock Beach NRA: Nice place to stop at Lake Powell
Antelope canyon: it was closed because of snow, they cancel the trip (to visit Antelope canyon you must make a reservation many weeks in advance)
Horseshoe Bend: A must stop viewing point above the Colorado river
Sleeping at Page, snow at night
Monument Valley NP: This is the best “westerns movies” view in the west (+Forrest Gump picture)
Mexican Hat and Goosenecks SP: Nice places on the way north, viewpoint at Goosenecks park
Valley of the Gods: Driving through a nice desert, we just drove by without any stop
Natural Bridges NM: It was already late, so we just did the drive loop and stopped at viewpoints.
Keep driving at snowstorm to our sleeping location at Moab UT (2 nights at the same place)
Arches NP – One full day at the Arches park doing many hiking trails and staying at Delicate Arch for sunset
Sleeping at Moab UT
Canyonlands NP: Island in the Sky section: Early morning trip to catch sunrise from the famous Mesa Arch + visiting some viewpoints that are near the road on the desert below.
Goblin Valley SP: We stopped on the way at this very recommended small park with interesting standing rock formation, short hike.
Capitol Reef NP: Nice remote park, many hiking options, it was raining and dark, so we just drive through the park.
Sleeping after long drive at Vegas
Last day 8:
Driving 9 hr, Vegas to San Francisco
Few more pictures: