The Grand Circle Tour
Yabba dabba doo Wilma! We are headed on the Grand Circle Tour.
Yes sir the Flintstones would have loved this trip through the rocks. Covering nearly 1500 miles of the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Circle Tour comprises a variety of canyons spreading across Utah and Arizona. It has been an American Destination for almost 100 years. If you Google The Grand Circle Tour, you will find plenty of offerings of itineraries and highlights for this region. It is truly a journey worthy of anyone’s travel bucket list. With this year being the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park System, American’s and their global guests flocked to the parks.
I am going to add my version of this iconic adventure to the mix in hopes that it will aid someone else’s planning process.
Planning the Itinerary
It was hard initially to sort out how many parks we could see and how much time we would need for our version of the Grand Circle Tour. As I have stated before, I am an over zealous travel planner and typically exhaust my companions. Since this was travel and vacation I tried hard to build in downtime and realistic goals. We had 10 days and 9 nights scheduled. We flew in and out of Las Vegas and planned on hitting 5 parks,Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and Glen Canyon NRA staying in each area 2 nights.We had seen the Grand Canyon on a previous trip to Sedona, AZ so it was not on our itinerary.
It was an amazing trip but if I had it to do again, my recommendation would be that 12 days are the very least you should consider if you want to make the circle. We felt we wanted more time in Zion NP, and we didn’t even get to Canyonlands NP. A full 2 weeks would be optimal. Here is how I would break it down:
Day 1: Fly into Vegas and drive to Zion NP ( 2.5 hours)
Day 2 Zion
Day 3 Zion
Day 4 Drive to Bryce Canyon NP(2.5 hours)
Day 5 Bryce
Day 6 Drive thru Capitol Reef NP to Arches NP( 4.5 hours)
Day 7 Arches NP
Day 8 Moab Adventure
Day 9 Canyonlands NP
Day 10 Drive to Glen Canyon NRA/Lake Powell (4 hours)
Day 11 Lake Powell/Antelope Canyon
Day 12 Grand Canyon NP North Rim
Day 13 Drive back to Vegas 4 hours)
Day 14 Fly home.
I realize that 2 week vacations are hard to come by. So if you have only 7 days I would leave the swing to Arches and Canyonlands out of the itinerary. These parks are wonderful but a long drive out there. Together these parks make up an area that would be great for their own 7 day trip, especially if you are a more extreme adventurer.
Every Park a Gem
Within the Grand Circle Tour each park and its region are unique and stunning. Just when you think you have seen all the rock formations imaginable the terrain starts to change before your eyes and a new geologic wonder spreads across the horizon. Every day the sky was an impressive deep and bold blue that the array of rock colors played against beautifully. The geologic names of Limestone, Sandstone,Siltstone, Mudstone, Shale, bring back very vague memories from middle school science class. The wind, water and volcanic forces have left different effects on each rock formation, creating the monuments, hoodoos, slot canyons and arches. The color words of alabaster, ash, clay, sage, wheat, coral and brick come to mind. Whether you can spend a week or a month you should make a visit to this region a priority.
I will be highlighting each park in following posts, so watch for more Grand Circle installments.