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Bryce and Zion National Park Trip Planning

Discussion in 'US - Western States Timesharing' started by mpumilia, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Thinking of maybe a 2019 trip to see these two national parks. Probably will be just a 7 day trip (6 nights) with 2 needed to travel from home and back, leaving 5 for the actual vacation.

    I would love to see Moab and Monument Valley, and a ton of other places out that way, but I realize it is not realistic, so I narrowed it down to these 2 parks in Utah.

    What is the best time of year- weather wise and less crowds?

    I am thinking flying direct-non stop- into Las Vegas is the best from NY? Will not do connecting flights. Salt Lake is further from these parks I assume? Which park to do first- would that make a difference as to where we fly into?

    We really like staying at a resort and at once place and also for use of a kitchen to limit eating out- but is this doable? We will be renting a car.

    St George or Springdale near Zion?

    How far time wise from St. George or Springdale to Bryce?

    Or, should we just accept having to book 2 hotels? In the parks or out?

    I will mention that we are not planning on doing major hiking or anything like that. We just want to sight see at the parks and the surrounding area.

    Thanks ahead of time for your input.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  2. VacationForever

    VacationForever Tug Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    We stayed at Worldmark at St. George 2 years ago in early October. Room was very spacious and we booked a 3BR for the 2 of us. Separate story. Early fall and late Spring temperature is ideal and you want to stay away during summer/monsoon season. You also should not go late or early in the years as services like buses within the parks are suspended.

    We just sold our Worldmark but you can reach out to WM owners to book for you. I do not know if they sell rentals directlly.

    We drove from Las Vegas area to St. George and it was a smooth drive of about 1.5 hours. We love Bryce very much. Zion reminds us of Yosemite. Bryce is maybe another hour and a half from St. George and an easy drive. Note that temperature varies between St. George (warmer) and the parks due to elevation. There are a couple of local canyons that is less than 30 min from St George that are worth visiting. Do not forget to check out Tuacahn theatre. It is an open air theatre with Shakespeare and Broadway plays surrounded by red rocks.

    Enjoy!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  3. DaveNW

    DaveNW TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    I've done this trip several times. Southern Utah is my favorite place to vacation, right after Hawaii. :)

    It's smart to not try and pack in too much on one trip, as there is SO much to see, if you try to do it all, you can easily miss some great things. Save Moab (Arches and Canyonlands National Parks), and Monument Valley for another trip.

    Flying into Las Vegas is best, as it's only about two hours' drive north on I-15 to St. George. A very easy drive. (Salt Lake is at least a half-day's drive from St. George, much too far to use it as a base for your exploration.) For the Zion end of things, staying in St. George will give you the most lodging and dining options, a big grocery store, Costco (if you're so inclined), and SG is where the timeshares are, if you'll be doing that. Springdale is a lovely, "artsy" town right outside the west entrance to Zion, but there isn't a lot to do there once you've seen the Park and spent an afternoon exploring the area. It's only about a 45 minute drive from St. George to Springdale, and the entrance to Zion.

    Bryce is a couple of hours' drive from St. George. My recommendation is to book a hotel there, so you can see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. Staying inside the park is a great way to do it, if you can book a room at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Otherwise, there are motels right outside the Park entrance. Ruby's Inn is a name to investigate. They've been there in one form or another for many years.

    It's easy to drive through Bryce and see the highlights without hiking. That's why sunrise there is so nice. Drive up from St. George one day, see the sunset over the Park, have a nice dinner, stay overnight, see the sunrise in the Park, have breakfast at Bryce Canyon Lodge dining room, then drive around some more, then make your way back to St. George and Zion.

    Weather varies throughout the year. In my opinion, late Spring is the best time to visit. Temperatures are mild, crowds are down before school lets out, and things are green from Spring rains. Summers can be very hot and dry, and Fall temperatures can drop considerably. We once tried to visit Zion during Thanksgiving week, but were snowed out.

    There is much more to discuss, but this will give you some ideas of where to start.

    Dave
     
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  4. cowboy

    cowboy Tug Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    Don't go to Zion on Memorial Day weekend as it is really crowded. We went to Zion and Bryce the same day and had plenty of time to see them both, but we left Mesquite, Nv before dawn. Both parks are beautiful but I preferred Zion.
     
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  5. Bunk

    Bunk TUG Member

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    We spent a week in St George several years ago. If you are going to stay at a time share in St George I suggest you spend two days touring Bryce (If you are staying at a timeshare, I don't think it's necessary to spend more money to spend the night at Bryce.) When at Zion, try to visit Kolob Canyons, and if you feel up to driving a little extra, go to Cedar Breaks. There is also a state park called Snow Canyon near St. George that was worth visiting.

    If you want to spend a night away from the time share or if you are staying at hotels, I recommend going to Antelope Canyon, which is near Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon is spectacular. If you have time, you can take a raft ride south of Lake Powell or visit Grand Staircase, but I am confident that Antelope Canyon will be a highlight of your trip. https://www.antelopecanyon.com/
     
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  6. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Thanks.

    How many hours drive is it from St. George to Bryce?

    How far is Antelope Canyon from St. George? That has always been on my list of a million things I might not ever get to see. LOL!

    Also- do your recommend mid June or mid Sept.- maybe the week after Labor Day week?
     
  7. VacationForever

    VacationForever Tug Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    No June... monsoon and very hot.
     
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  8. Karen G

    Karen G Moderator

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    St. George to Page, AZ, for Antelope Canyon is about 2 hr. 38 min (153.8 mi) via US-89 S. Be sure to go there since you'll be so close!
    St. George to Bryce Canyon 2 h 14 min (141.1 mi) via I-15 N
    I think the week after Labor Day would be a good time to go.

    You might plan to go to Bryce Canyon and maybe spend the night there. Then go to Page, AZ 2 h 37 min (150.6 mi) via US-89 S. Then go back to St. George. It's cool that there are so many beautiful sites that are close to each other.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  9. Bunk

    Bunk TUG Member

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    Per google maps: Worldmark St George to:
    1. Snow Canyon State Park. about 20 minutes
    2. Zion South entrance: About an hour
    3. Kolob Entrance of Zion: About 40 minutes and then another hour to go on to Cedar Break
    4. Bryce Canyon Natl Park: About 2 hours 20 minutes (I don't remember it being that long)
    5. Page Arizona: About 2 3/4 hours. Then about 15 minutes to Slot Canyon.
    Also drive to Horseshoe Bend Parking Lot.
    I don't know what the weather is like in June and September. We went in early July (and also spent a few days in Moab nearly July on another trip)
    and it was hot. I expect that mid September will be less crowded than Mid June.
     
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  10. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    I am going to plan for Sept. I have to see if I can get a rental. I already sent an email to a Worldmark owner I rented from years ago at West Yellowstone. Not sure if she is still doing the rentals or not. Will see...

    Then my only decision will be how to handle Bryce in terms of staying over night or not and/or if going to Antelope Canyon is too much driving. That one for sure would have to be overnight. Again, we only have 5 days really and I like a little breathing room and to see some other local sites as Bunk suggested that aren't too far from the resort.

    These suggestions are great. Keep them coming.
     
  11. VacationForever

    VacationForever Tug Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    We used St George as our base to visit Bryce, especially when using a timeshare. I don't really see the need to rent an overnight near Bryce as much as we love Bryce. Since you really only have 5 nights, I think spending 1 day at Bryce is sufficient.
     
  12. DaveNW

    DaveNW TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Mary Ann,

    The issue I have with going to Antelope Canyon from St. George is you need to have a native guide to escort you into the canyon itself. Those tours are by appointment. I'm not sure how far in advance, or even if, you can reserve ahead of time. You could find yourself driving a long way for an experience that may be less than you might want it to be. The return trip in the dark may not be something you may want to do. Staying overnight is a better option, but then you're cutting into the five days you'll have for your vacation. Due diligence is important. (Also, Antelope Canyon isn't too far from Monument Valley, which is a drive-through experience on the way from Moab to somewhere else. So you could save it for that Moab trip you want to do.)

    As long as you're thinking about "what if" options, consider this:

    In late September 2009, we flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove up to St. George. We had an exchange into Villas at Southgate timeshare for a week. We stayed two nights there, saw Zion and the St. George area, then we drove up to Bryce Canyon. We detoured through Kolob Canyon on the way. We did Bryce as I described before (sunset, dinner, stayed overnight, sunrise in the canyon, breakfast, then we headed out.) But instead of heading back to St. George, we toured Kodachrome Basin State Park, then headed east on Scenic Highway 12. We drove the "Hogsback" along Highway 12, past blowing golden leaves from Aspen trees, past the Grand Staircase of the Escalante, and ended in Torrey, Utah. We stayed overnight there, but drove through Capitol Reef National Park. (Amazing scenery!) The next day we went west again, and detoured down to do the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Overnighted in a canyon-side rustic cabin, did sunset and sunrise over Grand Canyon. Indescribable!) The next day we got back to St. George, and stayed the last two nights at the time share. Then we made our way back to Las Vegas, turned in the rental car, and flew home. So it only required one night each in three motel/lodge settings, and bookended with two nights at the beginning of the week, and two at the end at the timeshare. It was a lot of driving (about 1500 miles by the time we were done), but it was incredible scenery.

    This picture is one we took on that trip, along Highway 12.

    Dave

    Aspens.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  13. Karen G

    Karen G Moderator

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    When we went to Antelope Canyon, we just showed up at the site. A Native guide did take us in with several other people, but we didn't need an appointment. They just sold tickets at the site and took all ticket holders inside.
     
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  14. sue1947

    sue1947 TUG Member

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    I was just there in Oct. The increase in the crowds since I was last there in Oct just a few years ago is unbelievable. Everybody and their brother (and cousins) want to go to the National Parks and Bryce and Zion are 2 of the better known ones. I am a WM owner and was unable to get a 2 or 3 BR unit at St George until the third week in Oct. Capitol Reef NP up by Torrey used to be unknown with lodging in Oct no problem; no more. I had to book the last of the cabins up a year in advance before they were all gone. It used to be that the Kolob Canyon section was uncrowded; not any more. Moral of this story; do your planning well in advance and have back up options.
    As a result of the crowds (the ranger at Zion told us visitation increased 300% after Ken Burns NP series), Zion's shuttle bus runs all year long and is the only way to get into the main valley. It's a great thing so just plan around it. You park at the Visitor Center or one of the lots in Springdale and then hop a shuttle bus the rest of the way. You can hop off at one spot and walk a trail to another stop etc. It is very convenient not to have to constantly find a parking space. If you are driving through to the east side, you can go past the Visitor center but then have to head east through the tunnel rather than down the valley. The east side is higher and cuts through different rock layers so definitely at least drive through that part of the park.
    Bryce also has a shuttle but it isn't mandatory; but is a good idea. You can take the shuttle to one spot along the rim and hike down and hop the bus at the other end. There is also a shuttle that does the longer option out to the further end (the main trails/views are along a subsection of the canyon) with a Ranger which might fit your non-hiking desires. If you aren't going to hike, then you can hit the various viewpoints, have lunch at the lodge all in an easy day and maybe have time to stop at Cedar Breaks for a sunset. Having said that, if you are going to stay at any NP lodge, Bryce is the one to do. Walking out from your cabin for a sunrise or sunset is fabulous.
    I have stayed in the parks and prefer (like you) to stay in one spot with a kitchen etc and do longer drives. It's 2.5 hours to Bryce and about an hour to Zion so both are doable. Cedar Breaks is worth a half day and makes a good combination with Kolob Canyons.
    Given your short time frame, I'd eliminate Antelope Canyon. That's just too many hours in a car through pretty desolate country for too short of a time spent at your destination. Save it for a trip from Flagstaff that takes in Navajo NM, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Hovenweep etc. There are a lot of national park sites in the Four Corners that can make a wonderful loop trip. If you decide to do it, you should stop at Pipe Springs NM on the way.

    Vegas is the closest airport but SLC works if the costs of flights and rental cars are better.
    Sept is still pretty hot in St George. Cedar Breaks is at 10000' and will be substantially colder so plan accordingly. You can be in shorts and T shirt in Zion one day sweating and hyperthermic in the shade and altitude at either Kolob Canyon or Cedar Breaks so make sure you bring clothes for both.

    Sue
     
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  15. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    The aspens are gorgeous! Thanks, Dave. I kind of like the idea you had about staying at Bryce overnight. Being either way it is doable from St. George, I am not too concerned.

    I agree, that as amazing as Antelope Canyon is, it just might be too much to include on this short trip. Then again, I am not sure if I will ever be coming back out- don't think there are any nonstop flights to Moab and we all know I only do nonstop flights! LOL! Unless can do it from Salt Lake. But that's another story...

    If I do not stay over at Bryce I suppose the stay over could be at Antelope Canyon. I will have to research it further. I don't want to put too much on our plate.

    I really don't want to cram things in and overdo it on driving. My husband and I do enough driving everyday for work as it is. Also, we find it exhausting just getting to and from airports and all that stuff and we like being out of a car as much as possible on vacation. We do not want to rush or put pressure on ourselves. Our day to day lives have enough of that.

    On some of our last fly to vacations, which were the same length as this one will be, we even allotted a "do nothing" day- usually the last day before flying out. This way we could regroup for the trip home, pack, maybe lounge a bit by the pool, browse little shops in town, go to dinner, maybe a last minute close by sightseeing outing, etc.

    My husband and I are homebody types- we like hunkering in even when we travel. That is why staying at one place for a week is our preferred way and definitely in a condo. We did it in Yellowstone/Teton and in Rocky Mountain NP. We did it in Acadia- staying several hours away at The Samoset. We do it most everywhere we go, including our home resorts. Not to say we do not like exploring because we most certainly do. We travel out a ways- but we always come back.

    I can be a maniac when it comes to sightseeing. I have endless lists of things to see and do everywhere I go. I want to do everything. There's always one more thing that is "not too far". Then I have to smack myself and tell myself to snap out of it. LOL!

    Anyway, thank you for that great itinerary! I have to get my map out to get a better idea of what you described.

    On another note, has anyone ever heard of a resort called Coral Springs in St. George? I do not think it is a timeshare, but it is a condo resort with reasonable rates and good reviews on Trip Advisor for the most part.

    I have also been looking on Home Away and there are some pretty decent looking condos for rent at very reasonable rates.

    One more thing, being I am not a very experienced flyer, does it matter airfare- wise, if you fly out- let's say on a Sunday, but then fly back on a Saturday? That is how I want to set up my lodging so I can have the day before we fly out to pack and have the day after we get back to get organized and ready for the work week.

    Damn work gets in the way of my life.....(but not the paycheck! LOL!)
     
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  16. DaveNW

    DaveNW TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Your points are all well taken. Don't let those of us who want to dump everything in your lap change your mind. ;) It's a great area, and I never tire of seeing it.

    Your initial idea of seeing just Zion and Bryce will work well with your desire to stay in one spot, and "hunker down." Get any accommodations you like for the week, plan one overnight at/near Bryce Canyon, and do the rest in and around St. George. Spend a day or two to get your bearings, seeing SG and Zion, do the overnight at Bryce, than back to SG for the rest of your time. Plan your flight home late enough in the day to give you time to drive down to Las Vegas without being rushed.

    There is much to explore in the SG area, as previously mentioned. Snow Canyon is beautiful, and not far away. There is lot of "red rock" scenery in and around St. George, so a side trip while on your way to the grocery store is not out of the question. There is a dinosaur museum there, with dinosaur tracks from the riverbank that used to flow though the area. Pretty cool to see. Much more to do than I can recall. This website may have some ideas: https://www.visitutah.com/places-to...MIzceIzfu32AIVCMZkCh2rSwvHEAAYASAAEgJbT_D_BwE

    Planning is half the fun. :)

    Interesting about Coral Springs Resort. It's located right on the same property as a condo I looked into buying a few years ago. I wondered what the rest of the construction was all about. It's a convenient area, close to everything, but be advised: The town of Hurricane (locals pronounce it "hurri-CUN") can be kind of windy - hence the name. There is less to do there than in St. George, but you're only a few miles north. Drive down Telegraph Road into Washington, Utah, and you're at the north end of St. George proper. You don't even need to get on the freeway.) There isn't anything much within walking distance of Coral Springs Resort, so you'd need to get in the car to get to anything you might want to do. Not a biggie, but it's not so much of an "urban" setting.

    Dave
     
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  17. geoand

    geoand TUG Review Crew: Rookie TUG Member

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    All I can tell you is that the crowds may be unbelievable. We were there in March 2015. Crowds were unbelievable. We asked a waitress at lunch about the crowds and is it always this bad. She told us that on Presidents day they had to close the park to incoming cars at noon because there were no parking spots available anywhere in the park. So that day they were metered in as cars left. On our visit that day, we did have difficulty finding a parking spot. We stayed at Bryce Canyon for our visit to both parks.
     
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  18. geist1223

    geist1223 Guest

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    In June 2015 we did Bryce Canyon and Zion while staying at the Worldmark in St. George. The weather was gorgeous and dry. We did not do sunrise or sunset at Bryce. The Folks at the Visitor Center recommended (we were not going to do any hiking) that we drive to the end of the road and spend a lot of time there. Then stop at every View Point on the way back.

    We were mainly staying at Park City for birth of 1st Granddaughter. We drove the long route from Park City to St George via Capitol Reef. We could spend days just driving around southern Utah and stopping to see the scenery. We got delayed between Capitol Reef and St George by a Cattle Drive. They were moving herd to summer pasture using the State Highway
     
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  19. Karen G

    Karen G Moderator

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    An extra beautiful spot you'll pass through on your drive on I-15 from and to Las Vegas (if you fly into LV) is the Virgin River Gorge. It's quite amazing.
     
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  20. MuranoJo

    MuranoJo TUG Member

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    Reading your note and Sue1947's post, I'm disheartened to hear how crowded things have gotten, but it doesn't surprise me.
    I had just been thinking about checking all those areas out again as it's been quite a few years since visiting, but maybe I should just be thankful we saw the parks back before all the crowds and let it go. Even one of my favorites, Capitol Reef, wow.
     
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  21. klpca

    klpca TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    We just did a 5 day trip last November. We visited Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef. We drove from San Diego. Obviously not enough time, but we ticked off some bucket list items - the Narrows, sunrise at Bryce (at 8 am lol), and seeing the fall colors in CR. While you could stay in St. George and use it as a base, (personally) I would not - just because of the driving time involved on such a short trip. We stayed in Springdale for the Zion portion of the trip and because it was a last minute trip, couldn't get into our first choice, the Cable Mountain Lodge http://cablemountainlodge.com/ but it is an amazing location, walking distance from the entrance. You can walk out your door and be in the park. While in Zion, you will be relying on the buses, so being right there instead of commuting makes a lot of sense. In Bryce we stayed at the Lodge. We loved the colors at both sunset and sunrise, so if you are commuting, both drives will be done in the dark. You are coming such a long way - it's not that much extra money to stay right in the parks and maximize your sightseeing time. Not criticizing anyone else's opinion - just thinking outside the timeshare box for this particular trip.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
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  22. klpca

    klpca TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Btw, they were closing the entrance to Zion about 9:30am this week because of overcrowding. It helps to follow the facebook pages of the individual parks for information. We had few issues in early November. You couldn't pay me to visit during the summer. There are other great state parks nearby with very few visitors. We really enjoyed Kodachrome Basin State Park. https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/kodachrome-basin/ It was a ghost town when we visited. Go where the people don't go. There is plenty to see.

    FYI, we just returned from Yosemite. It was a zoo getting in and out and we were thankful to be staying in Yosemite West instead of commuting in from outside the park every day. There was a line to get in to the southern gate (via Oakhurst) this morning of about 50 cars minimum. Once in the park, we checked out hikes that were very clearly indicated on the map but were not the "main attractions". We had the trails to ourselves. Our kids hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls with hordes of people. So you have a choice.
     
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  23. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    All this talk of crowds is making me nervous. If you see my post on Daves' thread about hating crowds you will know why..

    We haven't had to deal with crowds at national parks ever in the past- maybe we were lucky- I don't know- but we did get to the parks' entrances as soon as they opened.

    I can't believe these parks are so crowded even in winter. Crazy..
     
  24. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    That Cable Mountain Lodge looks wonderful. Right now it doesn't look like they are taking reservations this far ahead. My main concern with that is the distance from and to the airport in Vegas 2 1/2 hours after a long traveling day from NY is a bit much. Then again it only seems to be an extra half hour. (there I go again- "only an extra half hour". LOL!). Certainly an option I am considering.

    Meanwhile, a Worldmark owner I rented from a long while ago said she could book me into St. George.
    I sent an email also to Cable Mountain Lodge also just to see. A lot to think about.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  25. WalnutBaron

    WalnutBaron TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Great thread, Mary Ann...thanks for starting it! I've been to Bryce and Zion, but it was ages ago and I'd love to take my DW to see these amazing places. So I am an admitted "lurker" on this thread and enjoying, like you are, all of the great comments and ideas generated by your post. Now if I can only figure out how to hire NW Dave to be my tour guide whenever we decide to make this trip...;):cheer:
     
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