Party of 5: Southern Utah family planning advise

mr45

Observer
Background:
Trip planning for around mid to late Sept with about a 10 days
family of 5- 5,7,10 year old (my daughter is prone to migraines so long rides can be difficult)
100 series rig, AT tires and sliders other wise stock
Will be pulling an adventure trailer.
I'm not looking to rock crawl with kids in tow.

I prefer disperse camping and being away from crowds but my wife was hoping for more popular areas like Zion.

There is so much I want to see but so little time. It seems I have to rule some stuff out to make it family friendly without making the trip all in the rig driving.

Places want to go to:
Zion
Bryce Canyon
Grand stair case/Escalante- (seems it would take a lot of time and probably the least favorite of the kids I just don't know where to go)
Lone Rock Lake Powell camping playing in the lake.
Valley of the Gods- Moki Dugway
Arches
Horse shoe bend

We are coming from San Diego and I'm thinking about just going up the 15 and make my way to Zion, then Bryce then Lone Rock and some how going across to the Valley of the Gods. I've researched some spots to camp, mostly primative or dispersed but I'm also looking for recommendations to keep the kids entertained. How would you divide your time in the areas? Hiking recommendations or just where to explore. What are some must sees that would appeal to kids as well?
 

Kerensky97

Xterra101
Already sounds like a good plan and a good time of year for it.
Zion will probably be a zoo, The Narrows, Angels Landing, and Emerald Pools are always the most crowded. Anything else will be a bit better, but the kids would probably like the Narrows anyway so it may be worth the crowd. You might find dispersed spots in the area south of Grafton, I'd be amazed if you can get a site in the park.
Bryce is crowded but it's much more accessible since the crowd focuses on the main overlooks. Fairyland Point, Paria View, and Bryce Point are best and have less people to boot.
GSENM will be empty by comparison. I'd recommend driving down Cottonwood Canyon if it's dry, it's a fast easy road. Stop at the North entrance to the Cottonwood Narrows, it drops you right into a slot canyon right there. Very easy for kids. On the south side the Toadstool Hoodoos hike is short and sees some cool areas (but no shade).
The south end of Lone Rock Beach is where they killed the Doctor in Doctor Who (spoiler) https://youtu.be/j_Z-8FKN_lw.
The only way I know from Wahweap to Valley of the Gods is south through Arizona. It a pretty drive. Goes past Monument Valley, but you pay a big entrance fee to monument valley to see the same view everybody takes pictures of, not much else there.
If you have time a side trip to Natural Bridges is nice, the three hikes each aren't too long but doing all three would burn the whole day. Owachomo is the shortest hike, but Sipapu is the 4th largest natural span in the world which is kind of cool.
The drive through Comb Ridge is pretty, do the short side hike to the Butler Wash Ruins.
Arches is undergoing massive road overhauls this year and whole sections may be off limits. People are expected to completely clear the park by sundown on weekdays; check at the visitor center to see what's open. Check out Landscape Arch, it looks too impossibly big and thin to exist.
If Arches is crowded or too may places are closed Canyonlands is only about 30 mins away and has amazing overlooks.
I'd head back to I-15 through I-70 and the San Rafael Swell. It's not a National or State park but it should be, it's gorgeous up there and not many people know about it.

There is tons of dispersed camping everywhere except the Moab area (where there are restrictions due to high use); just about any dirt road will lead to already established spots. Moab has tons of camping so it's not really a problem finding an official site, Kane Creek Canyon to the west and Horsethief Campground by Canyonlands almost always have sites.
Learn about the black microbial soil crush covering everything and how do avoid it. It's really important to stay on the trails or slickrock, if you leave a footprint it will last decades messing up the landscape for everybody else https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/nature/soils.htm. But kids usually have fun boulder hopping on the rocks anyway.
 

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daPitbull

Adventurer
If you can swing it, do White Rim in Canyonlands. Pretty secluded campsites. Pretty epic, did it in 2015 with my then 1,3,5 yr olds + wife. We've been doing a summer overland trip every year since. Ive found that stopping at random playgrounds along the way helped with the long car rides. Although your kids are bit older.
 

mr45

Observer
Great shot! The White rim trail is definitely on my bucket list. I'll have to plan ahead to get the over night permits. Good idea to stop. I usually like to mash out the mileage. I've seen your awesome past trip threads. Inspiring.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
I did a very similar trip a few years back with my family. I'll go through my notes and past back when I have a bit more time. With photos.
 
Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and San Rafael Swell are my favorite areas of Southern Utah. They are less busy than Zion, Bryce and Arches. There is a cool route from Goblin Valley (also busy but super fun for the kids) to Capitol Reef and Cathedral Valley. Which you can then follow up the Burr Trail and into Escalante National Monument. I know that's not exactly what you were thinking but would all be doable with your rig and less busy than some of the busier areas.




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Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and San Rafael Swell are my favorite areas of Southern Utah. They are less busy than Zion, Bryce and Arches. There is a cool route from Goblin Valley (also busy but super fun for the kids) to Capitol Reef and Cathedral Valley. Which you can then follow up the Burr Trail and into Escalante National Monument. I know that's not exactly what you were thinking but would all be doable with your rig and less busy than some of the busier areas.

Goblin Valley To Cathedral Valley

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rcharrette

Adventurer
We spend a fair bit of time in Moab. I highly suggest taking the "back way" into Arches NP. Head North out of Moab and stay on the Hwy past the main entrance for Arches NP. Go past a campground then look for Willow Springs Rd, turn right. Look up directions to Eye of the Whale. Head there. After eye of the whale continue down this track towards Tower Arch. This is located within the NP but it's a bit remote so usually not to crowded. Just do a google search for Eye Of the Whale Tower Arch 4X4. The first time I did it was in My Land Rover LR3 fully stock. We made it no problems at all and never hit or scraped anywhere. I now have lift rods an and can make the trip without any concern.
We also disperse camp on Willow Springs Rd when there. Lot's of room out there to camp. Good luck and have fun!
 
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ottsville

Observer
Yes, thank you all for the knowledge.

We are heading to Grand Canyon/Zion/Bryce in a few weeks also. Have some campgrounds booked(towing a 18' TT) but also looking for dispersed camping that is easy to access.
 

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mr45

Observer
Well my plan was foiled from the beginning and was cut 2 days short. My wife was starting to get sick and we almost cancelled but she decided she'd hack it out. All of my plans were thrown out and we just made plans on the fly.
We made it to Virgin, Ut Sat evening and made our way to Zion. It was packed. I can't imagine summer. We headed to some BLM camping and got a decent spot. We ended up spending 2 nights here as my wife had no energy to do anything. I knew all my plans had to be adjusted. None of the things I wanted to do would be possible to do.
I woke up early to wait in line to get a spot at the South campground in Zion. We managed to get a great spot. Near access to the Virgin river and a tolerable proximity to neighbors. We stayed 2 nights here. My wife ended up going to the small local clinic and got prescription antibiotics. She got strong enough we walked to the narrows.
We made it to slightly warmer temps at lone rock. And spent just 1 night here. I wish it had been longer but by this time the kids were more then tired and my wife was still hanging on. We got to see horseshoe bend and the lower antelope canyon.
Instead of heading north we headed south to flagstaff. We stayed a night here to get a decent shower in and relax. I wanted to camp more but everyone was done. I was thinking of doing some trails in Sedona but with a 8.5hr ride home it wouldn't be appealing to everyone but me. So this trip was more for them than me. I had fun and glad we didn't stay home.


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