Two of the most tireless travelers I know — Amanda Lobell and Neil Roach — just returned from a road trip through Southern Utah. They flew into Salt Lake City and out of Las Vegas. In just five days, they managed to visit Nine Mile Canyon, Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP and still have time to hit the Vegas strip before they caught the red eye back to Boston. Here, they explain how they packed it all in.
Itinerary: We arrived in Salt Lake City late Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, we drove southeast to Moab, stopping at Nine Mile Canyon along the way. We got to Moab at night, and then the next day (Friday) we visited Arches. We spent another night in Moab so that on Saturday morning we could drive to nearby Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands. After that we took scenic Highway 24 to Torrey, where we spent the night. On Sunday morning, we went to Capitol Reef and then drove on the even more scenic Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon. We spent the afternoon in Bryce and stayed in nearby Panguitch. Then on Monday, we drove two hours to Zion National Park, where we spent all day and even went back on Tuesday morning. We arrived in Vegas and walked around the strip. Then we took a 10:30 PM red eye home.
Most Memorable Sights: Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion were all amazing! If we had to pick one place, it would be Arches. We a nice hike up to Double O Arch, which let us walk along the top of one of the “fins” (geologic structures have yet to be modified by the wind and rain to become arches). But we also loved the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon (pictured at top). And Zion (pictured right) is just a beautiful place, with incredible views and a nice river. Plus it has the Weeping Rock — water entered this massive rock over 1,200 years ago, and it’s still dripping out.
Favorite Hotel: We were doing this as a budget trip, so all of our accommodations were motels costing less than $100 a night (some less than $60 a night). In most of the areas where we were, that was the only type of lodging available anyway. Zion Park Motel in Springdale, UT, stands out from the others because the owner gave us a great giftbag, with granola, granola bars, chocolate, toothbrush, toothpaste, and other stuff in it — all free samples she’d written away for.
Best Restaurants: Our favorite meals ended up being breakfasts at the Oasis Cafe in Salt Lake City and the Eklectic Cafe in Moab. For dinner in Moab, we tried the acclaimed Center Cafe, but didn’t feel that it lived up to its reputation — although the ribs were very good. We also had high hopes for our dinner at Cafe Diablo in Torrey, which is highly recommended by Fodors. It’s known for having creative Southwest cuisine, but we thought they got a little too creative.
Tips for Travelers: With so many big-name attractions, it’s easy to overlook the lesser-known sights. Not many people go to Nine Mile Canyon, but that ended up being one of our favorite experiences because we really enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs left over from the Freemont Indians. Also, try to rent a car with four-wheel drive. We were thankful we had rented an mini-SUV when we were driving over all the dirt roads.