Grand Canyon, Zion, Moab & More: 14 Days In The Grand Circle
By Vin Paitoon & Alley Keosheyan
Listen… Hear that? That’s the sound of angels singing your praises (in a lovely key of A♭flat augmented, no less) for landing the “holy grail” of vacations: 2 weeks in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. A fortnight in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Grand Circle. 14 days of fabulousness… and you have no clue what you’re going to do with them. HorseshoeBend.com to the rescue!
OK, first thing’s first: we’re going to assume that Las Vegas (LAS) is going to be your (pardon the expression) jumping off point. Statistically speaking, that’s the city that most Grand Canyon area visitors choose to fly into and out of, seconded closely by Phoenix (PHX), thirded (is that a real word? Guess it is now) by Salt Lake City (SLC). If you need help tweaking your itinerary for these or any other “secondary” staging cities, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. As you can see, we are happy to answer questions personally! So let’s get you planning.
Day 2 – Drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (3 hours), maybe stop in Mesquite, NV for lunch or 9 holes of golf. Upon arrival at Zion, buy an America The Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. Then hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, a short but breathtaking hike where the full panorama of this canyon of the Virgin River literally lays at your feet. Try and time it for sunset for some knock-out photos. Overnight in Zion National Park, or Springdale, Utah near the Western entrance to the park.
- For the ambitious: hike Angel’s Landing, or the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike up the Virgin River, so you’ll want appropriate shoes for walking in the water.
- For the mellow: just ride the park shuttle up and down Zion Canyon and get off at stops that interest you. Overnight again in Zion or Springdale, UT.
Day 4 – Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park (2 hours) and take the shuttle tour of the major viewpoints. Overnight at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon or at one of many fine hotels in the park’s gateway communities such as Ruby’s Inn, Tropic or Panguitch.
Day 5 – Bryce to Capitol Reef National Park (2 hours). Usher in the day at Sunrise Point, then hike the Navajo Loop Trail that goes down into the main amphitheater. Drive Scenic Byway 12 to Capitol Reef, stopping at sites along the way, such as:
There is no lodging within Capitol Reef itself, so overnight in Torrey, Richfield, or Loa, UT.
Day 6 – Capitol Reef to Arches/Canyonlands National Parks (2.5 hours). Take the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, an easy 8-mile out and back. Then start towards Moab, Utah, your lodging location for the next 3 nights.
Day 7 – Explore Arches National Park via the main scenic drive to The Windows Section. If desired take a 30-minute stroll beneath North Window and Double Arch. Continue to Delicate Arch Viewpoint and stop by historic Wolfe Ranch Homestead on your way back. In Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point and Islands in the Sky are must-see viewpoints that are easily accessible from the main park roads. Find a nice place to eat, turn in and get a good night’s sleep. You’re going to need it for the next day’s excitement!
Day 8 – Day 3 in Moab
- For the ambitious: Choice of a Hummer Safari tour, whitewater raft trip through Cataract Canyon, horseback ride or a mountain biking tour if you’re up for it. Ask your hotel front desk or concierge for recommendations or visit the Moab Adventure Center to make arrangements.
- For the mellow: go wine tasting. What, you didn’t know that Moab was “wine country in waiting?” Pick up a bottle or two from Castle Creek Winery at Red Cliffs Lodge or Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, just minutes from downtown Moab.
Day 9 – Moab to Page, AZ via Monument Valley (4.5 hours [2.5 hours Moab to MV, 2 hours MV to Page). Get an early start and drive from Moab to Monument Valley. Don’t forget to take your own “Run, Forrest, Run” shot as you approach Monument Valley from its “back side.” IF you have a vehicle with sufficient clearance and a beefy enough suspension that’s not a rental, drive the 17-mile scenic loop. If not, take a guided tour. Then, take the remaining 2-hour drive to Page, AZ and get to your hotel by nightfall.
Day 10 – Page, Arizona – Tour Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon (or one of several alternate slot canyons if the aforementioned are sold out), and Horseshoe Bend, then take a Lake Powell Boat Tour, kayak or SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) tour. Go back to your hotel and collapse, or go have a drink and do some dancing.
Day 11 – Day trip from Page, AZ to Kanab, UT (1 hour). Get there before 9:00 AM local time (remember Utah is one
hour ahead of Arizona during Daylight Saving Time!) and apply for a Wave Permit. The maximum number of people who can apply for one permit is 6. Plan on not getting it because hundreds of people will show up for the lottery and they only give out 10 permits in person a day.* If you get a permit via the in-person lottery, it is valid for the NEXT day so your itinerary will change, but it is SO worth it.
After you don’t win the lottery (which is likely to be the case, statistically speaking), call Paria Outpost (between Page and Kanab at Mile Marker 22 of US89), Dreamland Safari Tours (Kanab, UT) or Antelope Canyon Tours (Page, AZ) and see if you can join a tour to White Pocket either that day or the next day. This area boasts some eye-poppingly amazing scenery, and at the present time is permit-free, but does require some very difficult off-roading through deep sand, which is why we don’t recommend attempting this activity with a rental vehicle.
If you don’t do White Pocket, take the 90-minute drive south from Kanab and visit Grand Canyon North Rim. Eat dinner at the lodge, try and get seating overlooking the Canyon (reservations suggested).
Back to your hotel in Page, AZ.
* If you’re really serious about hiking The Wave, you can apply for the online lottery 4 months in advance.
Day 12 – If you won the permit for the Wave, wake up super early, do the happy dance, then go hike it. Be prepared for high temps, start before sunrise.
If you don’t get it, you can:
- Rent some kayaks or personal watercraft and play on the lake
- Take the all-day boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which is 50 miles uplake
- Take a 30-minute fixed-wing airplane flight over Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend and Rainbow Bridge
- Take a helicopter to the top of Tower Butte
- Float the Colorado River from the base of Glen Canyon Dam through Horseshoe Bend to Lees Ferry
- Overnight in Page, Arizona again
Or skip all that and get a head start on the 2.5-hour drive to Grand Canyon South and overnight in Grand Canyon Park Village or Tusayan/Grand Canyon Village South.
Day 13 – Page to Grand Canyon South Rim (2.5 hours) – Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim, coming in from the Desert View/East Rim Drive. Stop at the Cameron Trading Post at the junction of AZ64 and US89 for a late breakfast/early lunch of Navajo Tacos. Visit the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park if you want. Hopefully, you hung onto your Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park Fee receipt – it will get you into this area, too!). Upon entering Grand Canyon National Park, stop at any of the Grand Canyon viewpoints that strike your fancy, including:
- Desert View Point and Watchtower
- Navajo Point
- Lipan Point
- Tusayan Ruins and Museum
- Moran Point
- Grandview Point
- Pipe Creek Vista
- Yavapai Point
- Canyon View Information Plaza
Park your vehicle in Grand Canyon Village, hop on the Village Loop Shuttle and get off at Bright Angel Lodge. From there, walk the easy, paved Rim Trail, or just a little ways down Bright Angel Trail. For the latter, remember 1 hour down = 2 hours up. Or forget hiking altogether and take the hop-on/hop-off Hermit’s Rest/West Rim Shuttle and just stop at whichever viewpoints catch your eye. Hopi Point is particular good for sunset viewing.
Find an open bar, raise a glass to a grand conclusion to an unforgettable adventure, then overnight at the Grand Canyon.
Day 14 – Grand Canyon South Rim to Las Vegas (4.5 hours), return rental car, evening flight back home.
Day 15, 16, 17, 18 and so on (optional):
- Upload your amazing photos
- Post detailed trip reports on TripAdvisor
- Post reviews of the hotels, restaurants and tour companies you patronized on your trip on:
- YellowPages.com, etc. etc. etc.
- Blow up Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.
- Tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone within earshot that the American Southwest is the bomb and that their lives won’t be complete without a vacation here!