27 hours in Utah-2 National Parks, 1 National Monument and 1 National Forest

We decided to book ourselves for 4 nights in Hurricane, Utah on the way to Las Vegas.  After 3 days here we wished we had booked 7.  We are staying at the St. George KOA for $10 per night using our RPI membership.  It looks like the “rack rate” is about $42 per night, so this is a great deal.  The campground is located across the street from Red Cliffs National Recreation area, something we would have explored if we had more time.

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Red Cliffs National Recreation area- the view from the KOA

John and I have been to most of the parks in this area and done tons of hiking, but it is always good to go back.  The scenery in these parks is breathtaking.  The one challenge is that there are limited things to do with Gizmo in these national parks.  

Our first stop was Zion National Park.  In order to see most of the valley of this park, you need to take the mandatory shuttle.  Dogs are not allowed on the shuttle.  The shuttle runs through October and then on weekends in November.  We are planning another trip up from Las Vegas once the shuttle stops running so we can take Gizmo all the way through the park.  There is one trail that dogs can go on, and that is the Pa’rus trail.  This is a multi use trail for bikes and pedestrians.  It is a paved trail that is about 1.7 miles in length.  It takes you along the Virgin River and through the beginning part of the park.  The scenery is spectacular and it is a great place to stretch your dogs legs.  Just be aware thatimg_5374

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Virgin River

the path is pretty much in the sun so on a hot day it might be a bit too hot to hike this.  The campground in the park looks like it is best suited to tent camping.  In fact, it would be a wonderful place to camp as you can take a chair and sit in the “beach sand” along the Virgin river.

We planned a long road trip in the car for day 2.  We decided to make the drive to Bryce by going through Zion.  This is not the quickest route but definitely the most scenic.  The drive up to the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel has awesome views and the colorful rocks once you leave the tunnel until the end of Zion are otherworldly.dsc_0071-9  We had an early start to the day, so we saw tons of wildlife along the day.  We saw a herd of bighorn sheep that we had to wait to clear the road in order for us to get through.  There must have been 15-20 of them.

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Bighorn Sheep

The mule deer are plentiful in the park, we even saw lots of them in the Zion campground.  Once you leave Zion the scenery is mostly of red rocks in the distance and the traveling is pretty easy. dsc_0093-6 It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Bryce with stops for pictures along the way.  You arrive in Red Rock Canyon (part of Dixie National Forest) just before getting to Bryce.  The red rocks in this area are very scenic and you drive through a few red rock arches.

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Red Rock Canyon

Bryce Canyon has a shuttle service as well, but it is not mandatory.  Dogs are not allowed on the shuttle but you can drive through the park if you brought your dog along.  Dogs are allowed at all scenic overlooks and all paved trails.  It is easy to spend the better part of the day in the park with your dog just looking at the canyon or walking the paved path between sunrise and sunset point.  We drove to the end of the park and then stopped at the overlooks on the way out.  It is easier to do it this way since all the stops are on the right.  If you are limited on time the scenic outlooks closest to the entrance are the most impressive.

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Bryce Canyon

If you are not traveling with a dog, or if you are staying close to enough to leave them at the RV I recommend getting out for a hike.  John and I have hiked all through Bryce Canyon and feel this is the best way to enjoy the park.  We decided to take “the long way” back. We opted to travel across Highway 14, another scenic byway.  We wanted to see Cedar Breaks National Monument on they way home.  We had never been to this area before and we were very impressed.  The drive in on Highway 14 is mostly through the Dixie National Forest and is a very pretty ride with the opportunity for wildlife sightings.

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Peregrine Falcon

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Pronghorn

Along the drive you will see lava beds on both sides of the road.

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lava flow

This lava is thought to be less than 2000 years old and much of the lava did not come from a central volcano but welled up from cracks and fissures in the earth’s surface.  You will see Navajo lake on your left, it was formed when lava dammed up the valley.

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Navajo Lake

There is no above ground outlet but rather lava tubes underground that drain the lake in two directions, to the Pacific and to the Great Basin drainages.   Be prepared to go up a long ways in elevation to Cedar Breaks since the park is at over 10,000 feet.  The views at the scenic overlooks are comparable to those you see at Bryce.

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Cedar Breaks

Dogs are allowed at all scenic overlooks that have paved paths to them and they are allowed on the campground trail.  When we left Cedar Breaks we were planning on driving back down to highway 14 and back out to I-15 but decided to continue on route 148 to the 143 and we were really glad we did.  Just as you exit Cedar Breaks and go back into the Dixie National Forest you come to a dirt road on your right leading to Brian’s Headdsc_0207 It is a 3 mile well maintained dirt road that brings you to the top of the mountain with far reaching views.

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View from Brian’s Head

This was just something we stumbled across and we are really glad we drove up it.  Any vehicle could drive up this road in about 20 minutes.  There is a building at top of the mountain that was built out of stone by the CCC in 1934.  The drive out toI-15 from this area is impressive.  Once you leave the ski area of Brian’s Head you start some of the steepest. curviest descents we have been on.  Not only is it a “thrilling” drive but there is great scenery the whole way down.  John says the scenery is just for the passenger he could only see the tops of his “white knuckles”.

The biggest take away from our long day of exploring is you may want to skip Bryce if you have already seen it and are traveling with a dog. This would allow you to spend more time along Highway 14 and take a hike in the Dixie National Forest.  Dogs are allowed to hike in most national forests.  There are hiking trails near Navajo Lake and Brian’s Head.  We found the views at Cedar Breaks to be nearly as impressive as those at Bryce without the crowds and with a lower entrance fee if you do not already have a national park pass (but you should it’s a great deal.)

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About gizmogoeswest

I just "pre-tired" from my job of nearly 30 years as a nurse. John, my husband and Gizmo our Shih Tzu are embarking on a cross country RV adventure. We are searching for awesome hikes and adventures
This entry was posted in Dog Friendly, National Parks and Monuments, Sightseeing, The journey west, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 27 hours in Utah-2 National Parks, 1 National Monument and 1 National Forest

  1. carlalynpierce says:

    Beautiful views! I cannot wait to see all this…a few more years.

    Like

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