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Friday, February 10, 2012


Best Time to Visit: Fall- Spring, summer can be too hot and also too crowded. However, for those who may not like the cold, the winter can also be too cold and icy. Some trails last spring were still covered with snow and the temperature was still sub-freezing especially at night. However, comparing our spring 2009 hike with our summer 2007 hike, I prefer the cool, uncrowded and silent parks during off peak season, that is fall-spring, lodging is cheaper this time of the year too. :-) 
Grand Circle Wonders, AZ and UT
( you can click on the image to enlarge )
This post about Grand Circle will focus on three States only, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. If one probably has the luxury of time, one can complete the Grand Circle tour, which includes the deserts in Colorado, New Mexico and Eastern California.
The most ideal place to start the Grand Circle tour for those who need to fly in is Las Vegas. I will be sharing here our itinerary of the Grand Circle Tour that we did. The direction we did is counterclockwise with Grand Canyon as the first major stop. The order can be reversed and go clockwise with Zion National Park as the first major stop. We chose Zion to be our last stop, since this is the park where we will do a lot of hiking, and if ever we fall Angels Landing, at least, we saw majority of the Grand Circle already.

I. Las Vegas to Hoover Dam: 
Driving Distance: 33 miles (approximately 30 minutes drive )
Attraction: Hoover Dam, considered a civil engineering wonder.
Hoover Dam will not require you to make a long detour from your route to Grand Canyon, rather this recreation area is right there on the road going to Grand Canyon. If you are however pressed for time, you can skip this part since the traffic and crowd at Hoover Dam can be crazy, since that is  where more than 90% of the tourists at Las Vegas go, and no where else :(
II. Hoover Dam to Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Driving Distance: 244 miles ( approximately 4 hours driving )
Images from the South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Most tourists (about 98- 99 %) that visit Grand Canyon National Park simply look at the vastness of the Grand Canyon from the rim, thus, a few hours for them to see Grand Canyon is already enough. I must say that when I did that, I felt something was lacking. The connection with the depth of Grand Canyon came only after exploring what is down the rim by hiking some of its trails. Somehow, if I just stop, click and go like 99% of the tourists do, I feel a sense of dissatisfaction.  My first deeper connection with Grand Canyon only came when we hiked  the Hermit's Trail going down the canyon spring 2006.
Hiking Grand Canyon, Resting @ Hermit's Trail ( fall 2006)
When we did the Grand Circle Tour, we took a different trail, the South Kaibab Trail.
South Kaibab Trail, spring 2009

You should be able to reach Grand Canyon early enough if you left Las Vegas early. If you have some energy left after the drive, I recommend you take a trail and hike down. Remember however, what goes down must climb up the same steep trail. The feeling is different when you simply look down from the rim than when you are inside the canyon. For most rewarding scenery in every turn of your hike, though not the most popular trail because of its steepness, take the South Kaibab Trail. It is really magical in every turn, you need not go all the way down, you can just take it up to Ohh-Ahh point if you lack time and/or energy since remember, you do not want to run out of energy too early since you still have lots to explore and each day will be an ohh-ahh for you in this Grand Circle tour.

Lodging: Grand Canyon National Park has several hotels inside with rim view, but they get filled fast. There are also some hotels 10 miles or less from the South Entrance, at Tusayan, but the rooms can get filled fast too. After Tusayan, it will be a very long drive to Grand Canyon, though the rates can be cheaper. If you can reserve a place inside Grand Canyon, I must say, "go for it", it is nice to be able to walk along the rim at sunrise without having to drive, and if you plan to hike down Grand Canyon, it is best to start very early.

III. Grand Canyon National Park to Page, Arizona
Driving Distance: 138 miles ( approximately 2.5 hours of driving )
Wonders @ Page, Arizona

When you leave the South Rim of Grand Canyon going to Page, remember, you will be passing by the least visited park of the Grand Canyon, the Desert Rim. I advise you take that route, the Desert Rim is a lot quieter and deeper and I think more beautiful than the South Rim.

When we reached Page, we took an exciting and really fun adventure at Lower Antelope Canyon. 
Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona
you can click on the image to enlarge )
Please click here if you want to learn more about visiting Antelope Canyon, it is my more detailed description of the place, and tips how you can take time photographing this place. 
After Antelope Canyon, we took the short hike to Horseshoe Bend, another awe inspiring landscape at Page.

Lodging at Page: Page is another tourist town, thus, it is not difficult to find a place to stay here.

IV. Page, Arizona to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona/Utah
Driving Distance: 122 miles ( approximately 2+ hours )
Lake Powell at Wahweap Marina, Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area, Page
Before leaving Page, we took a short exploration of the Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area at Wahweap Marina. I forgot to mention that you will save a lot in this trip if you buy a National Park Pass at Grand Canyon since most of the parks have $20 entrance fee, and you will be visiting several National Parks here. You can use your $80 annual National Park Pass in Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area and all the other National Parks you will be visiting. 
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

After Page, we moved to Monument Valley, for more information on Monument Valley, please click here.

Lodging at Monument Valley: There is only one hotel at Monument Valley, which is The View, managed by the Navajo Tribal Park. Accommodations can run out really fast. There are however, some lodging, but quite a distance from the park. If you want to stay at Monument Valley, and run out of room at The View, and wanted to be at the park at sunrise and sunset, I guess the only option you have is to camp inside the park.
dawn at Monument Valley, taken from inside our room at The View Hotel

V. Monument Valley to Moab, Utah ( 2 nights/2 days in Moab )
Driving Distance: 146 miles ( approximately 2.5 hours )
What is in Moab? Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park
I. Arches National Park

Arches National Park contains the world's largest concentration of stone arches. This National Park is a red, arid desert, punctuated with oddly eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. - source: Arches National Park
Delicate Arch
Probably, the most popular arch at Arches National Park is the Delicate Arch. There is no viewpoint for Delicate Arch, one must at least exert an effort and hike to be able to see and experience this arch. For more information on the hike to Delicate Arch, please go to my post here.
- time your hike to Delicate Arch that you will be there at sunset, I've hiked to this place at other times, and I must say, the sunset hike gave the most dramatic light for the Arch.

Another hike you can do is Devil's Garden Trail, though a little bit longer and more strenuous than Delicate Arch, but definitely it is less crowded, more arches, and more scenic trail.
Double O Arch from Devil's Garden Trail
Lodging at Moab: There are not really a lot of hotels at Moab, reservation may run out fast in the summer but we didn't have trouble fall - spring.

II. Canyonlands National Park still @ Moab
Islands in The Sky District, Canyonlands National Park

Ever felt that you are one with the aliens? That was the feeling I got as I looked at the vast landscape that looks like an ancient ruin to me. Only that, it is a marvelously landscaped ancient ruins. I have not shared a lot of places we have hiked here, I guess, just too many places to share, so little time to type :( . I, however, had written about Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome. Please click Upheaval Dome or Mesa Arch to learn more. It is really amazing to be here, and Canyonlands is such a big park, we only visited the Island in The Sky District, and we still have two districts to Explore, the Needles, and The Maze. Definitely, this is another place we have to go back to someday for more adventures.
III. Dead Horse Point State Park

Lodging: @ Moab still

VI. Moab to Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Driving Distance: 146 miles ( approximately 2.5 hours )
you can click on the image to enlarge )
Capitol Reef is best known for the amazing Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile long wrinkle in the Earth's Crust. Sadly, because of snow storm warning, we were not able to explore this area, as we had to head fast to Bryce Canyon National Park, afraid of having road closures and getting stuck on the road. For more information on Capitol Reef National Park, please click here
VII. Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park
Driving Distance: 125 miles ( approximately 2.5 hours drive )
Bryce Canyon National Park

Actually, this is the park which has inspired me to start a blog, I remember my very first post in my Wordpress blog, "Hoodoos Keep on Haunting Me", which I now moved that post to my blogger's "The Joys of Simple Life: Hoodoos Keep on Haunting Me". However, I could not say this is my favorite park in the Grand Circle, for each one is different and each experience is unique. For more information on Bryce Canyon and the most scenic trail to take, please click on the link above to go to my previous post.

Lodging at Bryce: There is one hotel inside Bryce Canyon, and there are a few outside of the park.

DAY 7 AND DAY 8 (2 days at Zion National Park)
VIII. Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park, UT
Driving Distance: 115 miles ( approximately 2.5 hours driving )
Zion National Park, UT

Zion National Park is again another amazing landscape desert scenery in Utah. Zion is Utah's first National Park. Zion has massive and stunning stone canyon walls, quite different from the nearby National Parks of Utah. In this part of Utah, in short distances, you have 5 National Parks, even outside of the parks, driving from one park to the next, there are just stunning views everywhere you look. My favorite hike in Zion National Park is Angel's Landing.
  Hike to Angel's Landing

The hike to Angel's Landing is one of the most famous, challenging ( more on mental and emotional challenge) and thrilling hikes of the National Park System. The last half mile of the trail is not to be approached by someone who has fear of heights, as this last mile is on some narrow slick rock with vertical drop offs on both sides. However, if one does not panic, the trail is safe enough. But for someone who has fear of heights, and who may panic, one mistake can cost a life. Hiking this trail requires strength of presence of mind. However, for one with fear of heights, looking down below with only a chain to hold on to (some parts don't even have a chain ) can cause panic. I saw some who had to turn around trembling with fear, but most proceeded with caution and came down safely with a happy face. :) 

Another exciting hike at Zion National Park is The Narrows
The Narrows, Zion National Park
Hiking The Narrows was probably the most fun filled hike I had ever :) Unlike Angel's Landing which is more on mental and emotional challenge, this one is more on FUN and can be enjoyed by almost everyone! This hike is not about crossing a river, but hiking through the river. The trail is the river, and the hike zigzags in and out of the water. More than 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming on the river. 
The rocks under foot are very slippery, so one hikes with caution and wearing a good hiking shoes with excellent traction and ankle support is necessary as anyone can fall on this hike. Notice that despite my husband is used to hiking and hiked up Angels Landing without problem, yet, he struggled in The Narrows, often falling and ending up swimming :( It was his first time hiking where the trail is the river, and not used to the unfamiliar territory. :)

Some other easy hikes at Zion that we had taken include The Emerald Pool,
Hike to Emerald Pool
you can click on the image to enlarge )
The Weeping Rock, Riverside Walk ( where the Riverside Walk Ends, The Narrows hike begins ), and Pa'rus Trail.
Some moderate to strenuous trails we had taken at Zion are Hidden Canyon and Angels Landing. To go to my posts on these hikes, please click Hidden Canyon or Angels Landing to learn more.

Lodging at Zion: There is one hotel inside Zion, however, there are many lodging choices at Springdale ( West Entrance ) and at Mt. Carmel Junction ( East Entrance ). Springdale is as close to Zion you can get, as the town is right next to the West Entrance.

- note: if you do not intend to do a lot of hiking in Zion, you can probably just save a one day and one night here.

IX. Zion National Park to Las Vegas via Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada 
Driving Distance: from Zion to Valley of Fire - 141 miles, approximately 2.5 hours drive.
(3 sisters) Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire is only about an hour drive from Las Vegas, and is not much detour if you are driving from Zion National Park to Las Vegas. If however you are tired already after several days of exploring and hiking, you can skip this park and take your much needed rest at Las Vegas before you depart to your home city.

 from Valley of Fire to Las Vegas - 55 miles, approximately 1 hour drive
Since Las Vegas is a big city and not in wilderness, I do not feel there is a need to share information regarding hotel accommodations :)
At Las Vegas, my favorite activity is watching Cirque du Soleil, concerts or theater plays, sorry, I could not give you tips how to play casino, though we go to Las Vegas a lot, but more for a combination of nature, culture and music. Frankly, I could not stand the casino with all the smokes because I have asthma and I am very allergic to booze and drinks and noise pollution inside bars and casinos. Give me nature, and fine music and dance, and I shall be quiet. 

PS....if you will type in the places in google maps, in the same order I mentioned, you will see the parks form a circle, okay, not a perfect circle, but actually, kind of an oblong, but then, it's called The Grand Circle. Again, there are more to the Grand Circle that I still have not explored, will have to continue our exploring of this place again!


  1. bethchai girlfriend! it is mindblowing,your pictures are.someday when i have the chance to visit these places i have you to think and thank for..

    syempre i'll visit you first! miss you girlash!

  2. This is just incredible, betchai!

    Your adventure brought so many stunning photos of all the places that you've visited, and to share with us..Amazing!

  3. Beth, pwedeng-pwede ka na mag-launch ng travel book! Your photos are un-BEeTH-able and you always provide holistic informations about them. What more can we ask for? Go girl, i want to have one autographed copy before the book hits the market! ;)

  4. Betchai another great blog ! and the photos are just amazingly beautiful !

    I agree with Eng, Icy and Cher ! I second the motion with Cher - on the travel book - I will be there sa book signing hahahahaha

    Thanks for posting !

  5. I never made it to California, so all those Parks are unknown to me except through pictures, all of the others I have seen and walked and tho your pictures are wonderful, you can not capture the feelings of walking through these marvellous scenes!

  6. There's nothing I can say.I'm speechless.Inggit ako.Grrr!hehehe

  7. thanks a lot, everyone.

    thanks Eng, yes, visit me and Chay here :) then, let us take a tour together, it would be fun if we all can enjoy nature together.

    thanks Icy. actually, there are several queries in my blog for this itinerary, however, since we do not have travelogue entry for today here at salitype, i posted it here instead, glad you found this post here.

    Cher, thanks, un-beth-able, i like that. you are so good with that, like your cher-rific!

    thanks Chay. book signing, hmmmm, dunno when that would be, i am struggling with my time right now :(

    thanks again Whitemist and Rochelle. am glad that through the pictures, you were able to take a trip to the Grand Circle. Rochelle, if one day your travels will bring you here, at least you have an idea :)

  8. Bethchai, i love all your photos... they are all breathtaking! i also second the motion! for the travel book ;) go for it girl!

    maybe someday Kimchai, if God's will, maybe hubby and me we'll have the chance to visit those places... i'll be happy if you'll be our tour guide (teehee) ;) para libre ;) *winks*

  9. betchai, di ka naman na carried away sa post mo?

    hehe so much great shots! you should be named as adventurous betchai! lol

  10. I remember doing a trip from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to Hoover Dam - that was tiring but fun !

  11. as always, beth, reading your travel post made me feel like i was going with you on a tour of the grand circle:) your pictures are amazing! i specially love the one where you guys are standing amid those sorta orange, translucent-like rock formations. i so love that shade and the way the light reflects on the rock face. that's definitely a trip i hope rog, teyla and i can make someday. thanks for another inspiring travel post, beth!

  12. what do u mean by circle itinerary? pls answer asap if u dont mind.. :)

  13. the Grand Circle itinerary refers to the scheduled itinerary where the places or National Parks visited forms a circle or a loop, it is a strategic planning for travelers who wanted to cover and experience the most interesting places in shortest a time and distance.

    If you type in the google maps for directions from las vegas to grand circle national park to page, az to monument valley, to arches..... you will see they form a loop, thus this is called the Grand Circle. The Grand Circle is a circle of National Parks in US, having the most National Parks in such an area.

    hope this helps. thanks for visiting.

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