Utah National Park Tour – a Nice Detour

October 8, 2012 — Leave a comment

October 8, 2012

Sometimes it seems our goal in life is to eliminate all forms of detours.  Is there a river in the way?  Build a bridge over it.  Take too long to get through the city?  Build a highway around it.  In our haste to become “more efficient”, we bypass the things in life that used to make us slow down and enjoy it.  In turn, time seems to go by even faster.

One of the goals of our Route 66 road trip was to travel without a set schedule. Sure, we set a start and end date with things we wanted to do in between, but the “in between” parts were all flexible. This worked out perfectly all the way through Route 66.

Then we came to Utah. I had heard of the national parks in Utah such as Arches and Monument, but I wasn’t real familiar with the state. We had a couple of routes to choose from as we left Las Vegas on our way to Boulder, CO and one extra night which we planned to stay in Moab, UT.

Utah map

Here were our two options:

Option 1

Take the known highway route up north through central Utah and then cut east to Moab; Approximate time: 7 hrs

Option 2

Take the southern route past Lake Powell and visit Monument National Park before heading up to Moab; Approximate time: 10 hours

As we had already driven almost 2,000 miles, I was ready to take the quick route and get to Moab to relax the rest of the night. However, my wife really wanted to visit Monument National Park before we made it to Moab, which would require the long route. My mother-in-law who was also riding with us didn’t really care, but did think it’d be worth seeing some of the cool sites in Utah. I really didn’t want to drive an extra 3.5 hours.

Was there a third option? Of course, take the detour! My wife found a connection of roads that took us through central Utah and passed by and through many national parks. We figured it would take around 9-10 hours so it seemed like a good third option.

Shortly after we exited my highway of efficiency route that would’ve taken us to Moab quickly, we came upon Zion National Park. None of us had previously visited so we were pretty excited. The terrain was already getting pretty so we knew good things were to come. Before we got into the park, we passed the quaint little tourist town of Springdale which supplied housing for many of the Zion explorers.

As we began our drive into Zion National Park, we were quickly rewarded with awe-inspiring views of massive sandstone cliffs shooting above us. They were worn away by the elements into shapes only a master artists could create.

Zion National Park Utah

 Zion National Park Utah Checkerboard

As we left Zion National Park, we soon passed just north of Bryce Canyon. We were already running short on time, so we decided not to take the drive into the canyon. However, we did see some cool sites.

 Bryce Canyon Utah

We continued on the road which next took us through Escalante National Monument. It was free to drive through and well worth it! The landscapes were out of this world – they literally felt like a cross between the moon and Mars. We drove over a ridge with almost no shoulder that would have quickly introduced us to the craters if we made a wide turn!

 Escalante National Monument Utah

 Escalante National Monument Utah

 Escalante National Monument Utah

At this point, we realized our drive was going to be a long one and the sun was setting as we drove through Dixie National Forest. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. The best part of all of these parks is the little traffic – especially when compared to Grand Canyon. We felt like we were the only ones in the park as we pulled over to capture the sunset over the colored Aspen leaves and rolling meadows.

 Dixie National Forest Utah

By the time we made it through Dixie National Forest to Capitol Reef National Park, the sun had pretty well set so we had to use our imaginations. After about ten times, my wife promised to stop saying, “Wow, I bet that’d be really pretty”! We could see outlines of the mountains and cliffs near the road, but that was about it.

We’ve agreed Utah will be one of our next trips. Next time we’ll bring our camping and hiking gear so we can spend some quality time exploring off the roads. With it being so beautiful driving through, I can’t imagine how awesome it will be hiking.

In the end, it’s often the detours in life that make it most exciting. They introduce us to new lands, allow us to meet new people, and give us new experiences… even if it meant we didn’t get into Moab until after 10pm!

Have you ever had an unplanned detour that ended up positive?

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