The Best of the Grand Circle
Here’s a convenient 8 day itinerary of travel, allowing you to visit the very best the desert Southwest has to offer. You can drive this route in about a week or stay longer, if you choose. Below you’ll find some of the main sites you’ll want to see. Following that, you’ll see a suggested travel plan including places to stay in the area.
The eight-day Grand Circle itinerary includes eight National Parks and Monuments:
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Grand Escalante Staircase, Utah
- Capitol Reef, Utah
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Since you’ll be visiting so many National Parks and Monuments, the most economical way to pay for your entrance fees is to purchase a pass (see http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm) An annual pass is $80, but Seniors age 62 and over may purchase a Lifetime Pass for just $10. Each spring, there is a National Park Week offering free admittance. In 2013, National Park Week was April 20-28.
Additionally, on this itinerary, there are other sites to see, such as Monument Valley (in Utah and Arizona), as well as recommended tours and places to stay.
You will find detailed contact information on places to stay at the end of the 8-day itinerary.
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim. To stay in the Park you’ll have to make a reservation with the authorized concessionaire, Xanterra Parks and Resorts. In addition to Mather Campground for tents and RVs, Grand Canyon offers several lodges, including El Tovar, Bright Angel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Maswik Lodge and Yavapai Lodge. See their website here and be sure to book well in advance: http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/
Leave Grand Canyon’s South Rim and head east, stopping at the scenic overlooks on your way out. Don’t miss Desert View, the last overlook, on the East Entrance. From here you’ll travel by Hwy 89 into Utah, and arrive at Zion National Park. Check out Zion Rock and Mountain Guides (ZionRockGuides.com) for a jeep tour! Drive to Pinewood Resort, either by backtracking through Zion National Park to access Hwy 89 and then west on Hwy 14 or go to Interstate 15 and, from Cedar City, go east on Hwy 14. See their website here for details: http://www.pinewoodsresort.com
Take Hwy 89 North and then go East on Hwy 12 to arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. After Bryce Canyon, continue on Hwy 12, passing through Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument until you arrive on the outskirts of Escalante. You’ll want to spend two nights here. There are two B&Bs we recommend (for two nights total). Visit them in the order here or in reverse. You’ll want to spend one night at Escalante’s Grand Staircase B&B email@example.com
Leave Escalante and continue to travel in a northeasterly direction on Hwy 12, then east on Hwy 24 until you reach Capitol Reef National Park. After Capitol Reef, continue on Hwy 24 in a northeasterly direction until you reach Interstate 70. Go east until you reach Hwy 191. Take Hwy 191 south toward Moab. If you have time, visit Canyonlands National Park on this day or the following day. Two places to find lodging in Moab are Three Dogs and a Moose www.3dogsandamoosecottages.com and Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa www.sorrelriver.com (however Sorrel River may require 3 nights minimum stay). Be sure to dine at Sorrel River Ranch Restaurant.
Leave Moab and head south on Hwy 191. If you have time, take a slight detour on Hwy 163 and drive through Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona. From Monument Valley in Arizona, go east at Kayenta on Hwy 60, then south on Indian Road 59 (warning: there is no sign indicating this road. Take the first right you come to. It is a paved road.) From IR 59, head in a southeasterly direction back to Hwy 191 and continue south to Chinle. At Chinle, go East on India Road 7 to Thunderbird Lodge and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. If there is time, drive the South Rim of the Canyon and/or take a guided tour with Antelope House tours www.canyondechelly.net . Stay the evening at Thunderbird Lodge www.tbirdlodge.com
Here are the folks you’ll want to contact to set up your itinerary:
Zion Rock & Mountain Guides (ZRMG)
1458 Zion Park Blvd.
Springdale, UT 84767
Escalante’s Grand Staircase Bed & Breakfast
280 West Main Street
Escalante, Utah 84726
Slot Canyons Inn Bed & Breakfast
Three Dogs and a Moose
PO Box 548
Chinle, AZ 86503
Antelope House Tours
PO Box 459
Chinle, AZ 86503