There are 5 national parks in Utah, and we hit them all.
From the north rim of the Grand Canyon, we headed to Zion National Park.
We drove into the park via highway 9, driving through the tunnels. The kids thought it was pretty neat to be driving along, then go through a tunnel and on the other side is a totally different looking place. I believe I even heard the youngest ones saying ‘time tunnel approaching’, like on that dinosaur show on PBS.
Once again I was happy that a National Park has a bus system. We parked in the town on Springdale, and found a spot fairly close to the park, and a bus stop. We caught the bus in town and it took us to the national park station, where we actually entered the park and caught a bus that took us all the way to the end of the road and back.
We hopped on and off a couple times. Took a short hike to the lower emerald pool, which was a nice shady hike, with a slightly wet end, perfect for a hot summer day. We got some frozen lemonade at the Zion Lodge, saw wildlife, and had a great, funny, bus driver/tour guide for our longest ride.
After Zion, we actually left the park and stayed in a hotel in Cedar City. Partly because we wanted the laundry facilities, and partly because some of my family comes from there and I wanted to see the city. It also gave us a one night break from camping.
The next day we visited Bryce Canyon National Park. From Cedar City we drove through the Dixie National Forest. It is totally different from the forests we have at home, so that was cool.
After going to the visitor center, we drove all the way down to Rainbow Point. We made some stops along the way, each direction. The kids liked to get out and hike around a little, and even take some pictures (I think I’m rubbing off on them).
Having young kids, we don’t take hikes that are too long. One they did enjoy was going to Mossy Cave. The hike was easy and well marked. And it wasn’t too crowded, because it is outside the main road into the park. It also had a small waterfall along the way that people were playing in. It’s always fun to splash around in a waterfall on a hot day.
From Bryce we headed east on highway 12 through the Grand Staircase area. The kids were tired and hot, so we decided to stay in the air conditioned car instead of venturing out into the wild. We camped at Singletree Campground, near Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park doesn’t get as much attention as the others in Utah, which is a shame, because we thought it was pretty cool. After going to the visitor center, we drove down Scenic Drive. And it was pretty scenic. The kids liked the spiral-looking rocks and seeing all the different layers. They also have petroglyphs you can see, practically right along the road.
After Capitol Reef, we drove to Canyonlands National Park
We drove out to the Mesa Arch, and did the hike out to it. The kids liked climbing around on the rocks, and my husband liked dangling his feet over the edge of the cliff. There were other groups also at the arch, but everyone was so polite about taking turns and getting out of other people’s photos.
We also drove out to the grand viewpoint. The hike out to the point is not as well marked, but there were enough people walking along it that we found our way just fine. The view was, as advertised, grand.
We stayed the night in a cabin in Moab, at the Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground.. It was nice to have another break from setting up the tent every night, and getting a real mattress to sleep on. The kids liked that it had a tv and fridge.
We drove through Arches National Park, and only did a tiny bit of hiking. It was a super hot day. We saw the famous Delicate Arch, but the kids only wanted to go as far as the viewpoint of it, and not hike all the way up to it (again, it was a really hot day).
In exchange for not doing much hiking, we did stop at every single viewpoint and turnout. I wanted to see as much as they would let me. Sometimes one or two of the kids came out with me to see the views and take photos.
For example, the above photo is the entrance to Devils Garden. We did not go in, this is literally as close as we got. We also stopped to view the Fiery Furnace, the Salt Valley, Panorama Point, Balanced Rock, the Garden of Eden, and the Windows. I only got one of my kids to hike up, only part-way, to the windows. Well, I guess we aren’t used to the heat, being from the Seattle area. We’ll have to come back when they get older and are more willing to explore further than a parking lot.