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Byrce, Zion, Page, and Grand Canyon

We are flying into Phoenix October 6 and renting a car- off to:

Page AZ our 2 nights- have reservations for Antelope Canyon and plan to visit Horseshoe Bend

Byrce Canyon 2 nights

Zion Canyon 3 nights

Grand Canyon 2 nights- reserved mule trip on ridge (was hoping to into canyon on mule but only overnight trips and they were sold out)

Any specific recommendations for us? We are easy hikers, nothing big, but enjoy nature. I love to hear your favorite activities or most beautiful sites.

Thank you!

Posted by
162 posts

Bryce Canyon is probably most famous for its Sunset Point and Rim Trail, but I really enjoyed exploring the floor of the canyon. The unusual rock formations soaring above your head make it feel like you're in Alice in Wonderland. Plus, there is usually less people on the floor than there is along the rim.

Navajo Loop is an incredible trail to really see the amphitheater from the canyon floor. Queen's Garden Trail is another one that has some great rock formations and is less crowded than Navajo Loop. Just remember, if you want to go down to the floor, you eventually have to climb all the way up!

I only did the more difficult hikes in Zion, so I don't have as many recommendations for you there. You could possibly do the Narrows as long as you have the proper gear to navigate the muddy river and large, slippery stones. It's an out-and-back, so be sure not to go too far upstream.

If you're driving up that way from Phoenix, it's worth detouring through Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff. Beautiful scenery as you transition from the desert of Southern Arizona to the pine forests of Northern Arizona!

Posted by
1462 posts

I agree with all the advice you got from nathanboley8. Especially recommend some time to see the Red Rocks around Sedona.

The main sights at Bryce are in what's referred to as the amphitheatre (Sunrise, Sunset, and Inspiration Points), but it's worthwhile to head further south toward Rainbow Point. Also, there's a completely separate area of the park, a short and easy hike called the Mossy Cave Trail. You'll find it on the official park map. When I went there was virtually no one there even though the amphitheatre was very crowded.

Also, on Route 12 as you are heading from Bryce to Zion you'll drive through an area called Red Canyon. It's well marked, with a large parking area. I spent a couple of hours hiking there and took some beautiful photos.

If you're early risers, try to get to Yaki Point for sunrise at the Grand Canyon. That time of year it should be about 6:30 am.

By the way, for next time (or for others reading this post and planning a similar trip), consider flying into and out of Las Vegas instead of Phoenix. It makes visiting all the spots on your itinerary a much shorter loop without backtracking.

You're going to a spectacularly beautiful part of the country. Enjoy!

Posted by
2225 posts

Though it might be a little out of your way, Rte 12 just east of Bryce is one of America's great scenic drives. Might want to Google it to see if it might be of interest. Kodachrome Basin State Park is worth a detour as well.

Posted by
5251 posts

The walk upstream from the Temple of Sinawawa, where the road ends, is very good and wheelchair accessible, just head up the trail from the until the river blocks your way. Some ford the river and keep going but I never have. Going way up the Narrows can be dangerous if it's rained recently or there's spring runoff, but October should be OK. If there's flooding there will be signs and rangers keeping you away.

There are several other Zion hikes, on both sides of the river, that take you up to benches above the valley floor, with views across the valley. One is to the Weeping Rock, another to the Emerald Pools. The spur trail to Upper Emerald Pool is closed now but might be open then, and the lower trail is still very good. There's a more strenuous trail up the west side of the canyon toward Angel's Landing, as it ascends the views improve and you can turn back whenever you've had enough.

I liked the Bryce trails the other poster recommended.

Posted by
2328 posts

Susan and Monte, maybe your lodging plans are already set, but a few years ago,I stayed at the very nice Arrowhead Country Inn in Mt. Carmel, Utah. They have rooms and cabins, and at least at that time, they were famous for their large and wonderful breakfasts. The inn is right in the middle of Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My stay was considerably shorter than yours, I stayed four nights and headed off to a park in a different direction each day. What a wonderful and gorgeous part of the country!

Posted by
794 posts

Be advised that it starts getting cool in October. Zion is down in the canyon and will get dark early. You're looking at a 4-5 hour drive (maybe more) up 17 and 89 to Page. I'm guessing your staying on the South Rim so that's another 5+ hours from Zion. You may want to pack a lunch and picnic along the way. There's some good views.

Posted by
1839 posts

Very good information from all of you! Thank you very much. I'll start looking up suggestions to make better plans.

Funny, I did look at flying into Las Vegas but for some reason I decided not too. Can't remember why now.

Yes, we have all our accommodations planned.

We were originally going to fly to Salt Lake and not see the Grand Canyon but do Arches instead. But, then I had several people say we needed to see the Grand Canyon since we've never been there.

I'm hoping it isn't too cold yet but I'm sure it could be. I guess we'll see about that!

Thank you!

Posted by
247 posts

I really liked Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park just west of Kanab UT. Last time we were at Zion, I asked a ranger: "Where do you like to go on your days off?" His immediate answer "Long Canyon". Go east on Hwy 12 from Bryce Canyon, you'll eventually get to Boulder, UT. Turn off Hwy 12 to the east. Very scenic canyon that you can drive through, and nobody for miles. Bonus: you get to Boulder by driving past the town of Escalante on the "Million Dollar Hwy" with amazingly rugged scenery on both sides of the roadway to Boulder. Ponder how the road was even built. Double bonus: Escalante was named for Franciscan missionary Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. In 1776, he and 12 others attempted to find a route from Santa Fe NM to the mission at Monterey CA through the wilds of southern UT and northern AZ. Ponder that next time you are feeling a little bit hot and thirsty.

Posted by
162 posts

I went in October a couple of years ago.

The weather was, for the most part, very pleasant. Lots of sunshine and temperatures hovering in the mid 70s.

It did rain and hail rather hard when I was in Bryce Canyon. Also, because of the altitude, Bryce Canyon is usually much cooler than other destinations listed. Bryce is usually a good 10-15 degrees cooler than neighboring Zion.

One thing to be wary of are the crowds. Zion was especially packed, particularly the Narrows and Angel's Landing. Bryce Canyon can also be quite crowded along the rim as sunset approaches.

I have not been to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I have heard it is much less crowded than the South Rim (and just as beautiful)!

Posted by
695 posts

Hi. You don't say if you are photographers, but Lower Antelope Canyon just can't be beat for fantastic photo opportunities. If you want photos of the iconic light beams, make sure you check locally, or maybe someplace online, about the best time of day to capture those. Have a great trip.

Posted by
1839 posts

Due to weather I thought we'd go straight to Byrce rather than the end of our trip. Not sure that it will make that much difference, but hopefully we'll get good weather.

We are booked for Lower Antelope Canyon, but all the photography slots where sold out months ago when I was making reservations. I hear the best light is really in the summer, and our time period the sun won't come straight in, but I'm sure it will be gorgeous anytime!

Thanks for all the help!!

Posted by
13478 posts

Susan and Monte, flying into Las Vegas (much as I hate that city) might make better sense. In a perfect world - if you didn't have your accommodations set already - I would have done LV>Zion>Bryce>Page> NORTH RIM of the Grand Canyon and back to L.V. As you could have hit Zion earlier the day from there (shorter drive) than Page from Phoenix. The North Rim would also be closer to Page than Zion from the South Rim.

Yep, those mule trips to the bottom of the canyon from the South Rim are all overnighters and sell out very far in advance. They're also no picnic to do depending on how comfortable greenhorns are for hours in a saddle!

OK, easy hikes:
Page is a no-brainer: Antelope and Horseshoe. It may be very hot or at least uncomfortably warm at both. Horseshoe is not a long hike but a lot of it was a slog through sand. There really isn't much else to do there with the 1 day that you have. Not our favorite part of the Southwest, and we prefer doing our slots without a tour but I know Antelope appeals to many.

Bryce: The Queens Garden/ Navajo Loop is the classic hike there. We've done it from both directions and I don't know as it makes a huge difference which one you choose. You may start the loop at either the Queens (Sunrise Point) or Navajo (Sunset Point) trailheads although the latter is usually recommended for a tad easier puff back up to the rim. It's about a 3-miler, RT.
Otherwise, check out the various points (Fairyland, Bryce, Inspiration, etc) with your remaining time. Best time for photography from the points is earlier or later in the day: the landscape flattens and loses depth in overhead sun.

Zion: Definitely do the bottom-up Narrows day hike if conditions allow (check with rangers). I would recommend renting the footwear package from Zion Adventure Company in Springdale, and do it the day you get into town as their rentals are popular.

https://www.zionadventures.com
https://www.zionadventures.com/narrows-rentals-471276.html

https://www.zionadventures.com/plan-your-narrows-hike.html

The shoes will help you keep your footing on slippery rocks, and poles help you stay upright in swift current + test depth of pools in front of you. Neoprene socks insulate your feet during the hours they will be in the river. Wear clothes that can dry quickly: no heavy cottons.

And keep an eye on the Zion website for trail closures? Some are currently closed "until further notice" due to storm damage. Lower and Middle Emerald Pools are open but not Upper, and Kayenta Trail is closed as well, which is an easy but very pretty trail. All of Kolab Canyon is closed to construction.

https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

South Rim:
The easiest is the 13 miles of rim trail: 8 miles from the Village west to Hermits Rest, and 5 from Village to South Kaibab trailhead,

https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/RimTrail.pdf

There are some shuttle points along the way (no private vehicles are allowed on the road to Hermit's Rest most of the year) if wanting to catch a ride here and there but be aware that some of them along Hermit Road don't stop at every point on the return trip from Hermits Rest:

https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/shuttle-buses.htm

The trail through woods between Park Headquarters and the rim is not dramatic but pleasant (see map linked) and the Pioneer Cemetery (near Shrine of Ages/Headquarters) is an interesting ramble.

https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/news/upload/sr-pocket-map.pdf
http://www.grcahistory.org/sites_southrim_cemetery.html

Otherwise, you might hike a bit under the rim on South Kaibab or Bright Angel: just remember that every step DOWN is another back UP! And check the schedule for free ranger walks/talks or evening programs: always free and usually interesting! This is the current schedule but will change for fall:

https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/sr-programs.htm

Posted by
4249 posts

Cedar Breaks near Bryce is lovely. I second the walking up the river in Zion. We just brought our own water shoes/sandals with nonslip soles. We each had one walking stick. When we were there people finishing handed off their stick to someone starting but it would depend on how busy the day is. Definitely quick dry clothes, perhaps a long sleeved shirt. I wouldn't have needed neoprene socks, but we were there in August. I would talk to a ranger at visitor services or even call the day before for a suggestion/forecast on what day the hike would be safest so you can plan your visit. I brought a camera, it's very scenic. I purchased a waterproof bag. I've been to the Grand Canyon a few times. I feel like you don't get the feel for the canyon without doing a hike down at least partially into the canyon. I think that the 3 mile hike on South Kaibab is slightly easier and more enjoyable, but I'd get suggestions from a ranger.

Posted by
13478 posts

You can rent waterproof bags at Zion Adventure Company too (we did).
Yep, if you have sturdy boots/shoes that you don't mind getting soaked, use your own for the Narrows versus renting them but it was nice keeping our own dry for hiking later on.

As mentioned above: Zion will be very, very busy. You can't drive into the canyon on your own - shuttles are mandatory - and if you're staying in Springdale, let the car SIT and grab shuttles in from there. Parking at the Visitor Center fills up early in the morning.

Same thing can be true for parking at the Grand Canyon: find a spot and don't move the car unless you have to, although spots can more easily open up later in the day when some of the day-trippers leave.

Posted by
1839 posts

Wow!! Thank you so much for all the information! I'm really looking forward to our trip! It has been on my bucket list for a long time but Europe always wins out, so this will be different but wonderful this year.

Posted by
14891 posts

Hi Susan. I am sooo jealous - first because I never managed to get to Antelope Canyon and second because Zion is my favorite place on earth. Allow plenty of time for your drives - so much of it is scenic, you won't want to go too fast. I found myself stopping often at the side of the road to take "just one more" photo.

Weather - it's dry so you won't feel the cold as much. If you get up for sunrise (expecially in Bryce), you'll want lots of layers and hot coffee or cocoa in a thermos. Then you'll probably need to go back to your room to change into light clothes for hiking. Chances are it will be sunny and you won't even need a jacket. (Several of my visits were over Thanksgiving week and that's how it was.) Check at all the Visitor Centers for ranger programs. Sometimes there are guided hikes or evening programs that are well worth the time.

The best of Bryce for me was hiking among the hoodoos. It's incredibly different that what you expect from the rim views.

My favorite part of Zion is the drive in from Bryce, but do it early in the day when the sun is either behind or above you, since you'll be going west.

AT the Grand Canyon, the south rim is divided into the west rim and the east rim. The west rim is where the lodges and all the other tourist stuff is. The viewpoints can be pretty crowded. It may be worthwhile to drive to the east rim where there are equally good viewpoints and many fewer visitors.

If you have the time, driving back from Flagstaff to Phoenix, take the detour through Oak Creek Canyon - it will be slow since it's all switchbacks but so lovely. Then spend half an hour driving around Sedona for the interesting rock formations. If you have a little more time, it's worth stopping at Montezuma's Castle, especially if you've never seen any of the cliff dwellings.

Posted by
1839 posts

Thanks Chani!! I remember you saying in the past that it was your favorite place on earth, so I'm happy you saw my post. I had planned to PM you if not :-)

Good info! I'm really looking forward to seeing/experiencing what people love so much about the area!

Yay!! I can't wait to go!

Posted by
13478 posts

I'm with Chani; the Southwest is our favorite part of the U.S! You cannot beat the scenery (FABULOUS hiking!) and the parks are outstanding. We'll have to send you to Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches next time, eh? Kodachrome Basin - not far from Bryce - has some nice day hiking too. :O)

Posted by
1839 posts

We were originally going to start in Salt Lake and loop around and return there, but then I had many people tell me to drop Arches and go to Grand Canyon instead since we have never been there.

There is just too much to see in the area!

Seems as though we could add Kodachrome Basin State Park, and I'd love to drive Rt 12, but how far up Rt 12 is worth the time since we will need to come back to Byrce? We will have 1 full day plus the major portion of another day in Bryce.

Posted by
2225 posts

If you're interested in Rte 12 this map may help https://scenicbyway12.com/the-byway/map/.
It's about 77 miles from Bryce to Boulder, and takes about 1+45 if you just drive straight thru ... which you won't want to do. With stops along the way it could take you most of a day to do it justice.

Posted by
14891 posts

Hi Susan,

I'm so glad I saw your post too. Today is my first day back on RS. I got home 3-4 days ago from a 7-week trip to the US (but I didn't get to the Bay Area or I would have contacted you).

As Cathy said, there's tons more to see. Next time, Denver to Las Vegas. That's where Priscilla is now - I saw her while I was in LA (I love meeting the wonderful forum folks) and she and her daughter are driving through Utah on the way to Boulder for grad school. Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico are also part of the Colorado Plateau with so many beautiful and interesting places to see. There's Mesa Verde, Taos, San Juan Skyway, Canyon de Chelley, Monument Valley, Santa Fe. You may never get back to Europe after you've been to the Southwest !!!

Posted by
1764 posts

Another vote for both Kodachrome and Coral Pink Sands. Between the main entrance to Bryce and Tropic there is a trailhead for a nice short hike to Mossy Cave

Posted by
13478 posts

There's Mesa Verde, Taos, San Juan Skyway, Canyon de Chelly, Monument
Valley, Santa Fe. You may never get back to Europe after you've been
to the Southwest !!!

YES!!! And Dead Horse Point, Calf Creek Falls, Corona Arch, Fisher Towers (one of my faves) and too many more! Santa Fe is also our #1 U.S. city for a good time. The Hwy 12 drive from Bryce to Capitol Reef is a real beaut. Oh yeah, done Coral Pink too.

Blimey, you're making me homesick for red-rock country! :O(

Posted by
1217 posts

Cedar Breaks is an easy detour from I-15 (and you're there before snow usually closes the road for the winter) , but it's also something of a duplication of Bryce Canyon. If you've got a spare 2 hours, it's fun, but it can also be edited out. I'd follow the Zion NP on twitter and check their web page regularly for trail updates but it doesn't sound like the major trail repairs from the July storm will be completed any time soon.

Do stay in Springdale if budget allows. Zion is currently being loved to death much of the year and it's infinitely easier to catch a free town shuttle bus from just outside your hotel than to try to deal with a really awful parking situation, even during what's allegedly shoulder season. For quick and healthy food, we love Cafe Soleil just outside the main gate.

Posted by
1839 posts

Thanks for the info! Yes, we are staying in Springdale at a nice B & B with the shuttle right outside!

Posted by
532 posts

Thanks also for the wonderful replies? We head there next week and this gives some great ideas.

Posted by
13478 posts

Susan and Monte, I'm reviving this thread as I think you're back from your trip and I'd love to know how it played out for you! Favorite things? Not-so favorite things?

Posted by
1839 posts

Hi Kathy,

Yes, just got back. We had an amazing trip! We loved the southwest and all the places we went.

Our favorite: Page AZ and the slot canyons. We were rained out twice but we were able to stop through the area at the end of our trip and go to Waterhole Slot Canyon. It was a 2 mile hike through several slots. It was amazing. If we had the time I'd love to have done all the slots in the area. We also loved Horseshoe Bend and the Dam and Lake Powell. So many things to do in Page. Surprisingly, we were very much the minority speaking English. We met people from all over the world, so that made it really fun since we are such big fans of Europeans.

Our second favorite was Byrce: We hiked into the canyon floor hiking the Navajo trail and Queens Garden. Plus, the rim and drove to other areas. It was snowing there on our first afternoon, but the following day was clear and warmed up after starting off very cold. We loved the hoo doos and the whole area was beautiful. We also went to Kodachrome Basin State Park, which was also awesome.

Our next favorite was Zion: We stayed in Springdale to used the bus to get around. It was very easy. We hiked the Narrows (and rented our gear), which was awesome, started up Angels Landing, but didn't get as high as climbing with the chains across the top! Went to Lower Emerald pond, middle and upper were closed. Also did Weeping Rock hike. We loved it. Reminded us of Switzerland with such high mountains.

Lastly, we went to the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful! We went to different view points, we saw the sunset at two different points and a sunset, plus did a mule trip on the rim. Between those sites we didn't have time to do any hiking down into the canyon, although I thought we would after our mule trip. As interesting and fun as that was, we were pretty sore!

The only thing we wanted to do but didn't get to was the drive through Sedona or Oak Creek Canyon. We were just too tired of driving by that point. Also, we did do Montezuma Castle on our drive up, and that was a nice stop.

Overall, a fabulous trip!! The weather was cloudy, rainy, snowy, clear and cold and warm! But, we seemed to hit everything just right. Honestly, the photos were much more spectacular with the different weather conditions. We were dressed for cold ( and I hate cold!) but we were pretty comfy. All great! Now I want to go back and see other areas!

Thanks for all the advice! I took most of it and it made for a great vacation.

Posted by
14891 posts

Hi Susan,

I'm so glad you and Monte took the trip and saw my favorite places in the world. Thanks for coming back and writing a lovely report which brings back many happy memories.

Posted by
8766 posts

I've seen some of the photos they took and they are outstanding!

Posted by
13478 posts

S and M, thank you SO much for your terrific report! I'm just tickled that you saw so much of my favorite part of world and had such a good time doing it. The many visitors from abroad we've met on the trails has been such a fun part of our trips too, and it IS interesting how many days you hear more foreign languages than English, isn't it?

Kodachrome Basin State Park: happy to hear that you discovered that one as it has some really nice hiking!

The mule trip along the rim? LOL, as sore as you were, aren't you glad that you didn't have to sit on one all the way to the bottom and back in 24 hours? :O)

There are many other fascinating corners to explore (ooh, the Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon slots!) so hope this was not your last trip to the Southwest!

Posted by
1839 posts

It really was wonderful, and we would love to go back and discover more. It is so hard to decide when time and resources are not free flowing, and our hearts are always drawn to Europe. But, it does make me reconsider seeing more of the US. I guess I always thought we'd wait until we were older to see more US, with the thought that Europe is more physically demanding, but this was physical too, and I don't want to miss out on these areas either. I think I took 1500 pictures in 9 days!

Thanks for all the help! It was fabulous!

Posted by
13478 posts

You're very welcome, and thank YOU for putting up with my nattering on about red-rock country! Honestly, it's "American the Beautiful" at its best, which is probably why it draws so many tourists from all over the world. While I've fallen bottom-over-teakettle for Italy, so one over the other can be a tough choice, we've yet to become jaded about the scenery over 9-10 trips or so.