[Las Vegas; Hoover Dam; Grand Canyon; Monument Valley; Mesa Verde; Durango, Black Canyon of the Gunnison; Grand Mesa; Arches National Park; Canyonlands National Park; Natural Bridges; Capitol Reef National Park; Bryce Canyon National Park]; Glen Canyon Dam; Vermillion Cliffs National Monument; Grand Canyon North Rim; Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park; Zion National Park; Cedar Breaks National Monument; Las Vegas
As noted in Part 5, if you do not have time to spend on the entire route, you might consider going directly to Zion National Park from Bryce Canyon.
Continue west on 12 from Bryce and then south on US 89 through Kanab towards Page, Arizona. Take US 89, not US 89A (Alternate 89).
Kanab is an interesting little town. We once stopped in a main street restaurant that catered food for forest fire crews all over the west.
The town also hosted a number of movie stars in the early years of the industry who were there to make movies “on location” outside the town.
As you drive east about ten miles toward Page, keep an eye out for Paria, a.k.a, Pahreah, an old movie sight used to film The Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood and Sergeants 3 with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. There was not much left (with a vague plan to restore it) when we were there, but you might be able to recognize the countryside.
Page is the site of the Glen Canyon Dam. The huge lake behind it offers many opportunities for recreation, but for this purpose, we suggest you take another dam tour; it is really interesting.
Continuing south on US 89 from Page, turn right onto a scenic byway, US 89A back to Kanab. This road will take you to Marble Canyon and through the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.
Marble Canyon, at the western edge of Navajo lands, was a National Monument until 1975 when it was added to Grand Canyon National Park. It is the entrance of the Colorado River into the park. Stop at the Navajo Bridge and look 464 feet down to the river where you easily might see some rafters.
A little over two miles beyond the bridge, you will come to a road down to Lee’s Ferry on the river. John D. Lee, a participant in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, opened a settlement and ferry at the site in 1873. Lee was tried and executed for the massacre in 1877. The ferry continued to operate until 1928, just before the first Navajo Bridge was built in 1929.
Turn south on Arizona 67 at the very small community of Jacob’s Lake (the restaurant there had beautiful Navajo rugs on display) in order to visit the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
At an average elevation of 8000 feet, the North Rim is a couple thousand feet higher than the South Rim, and it is different. The forest is thicker, the trails shorter and the views are not the same. Because it is not easy to access, it has far few visitors. But it also has far fewer facilities, so if you plan to stay, make your reservations well in advance. Also be aware that due to heavy snow, it is only open in the summer months, generally after mid-May. Nonetheless, it is not a long drive from Page, and you can easily go on to Kanab or Zion for the night.
Go back up 67 and 89A to Kanab and then north to County Road 43 which will take you back to Coral Pink Sands State Park. The name says it all. Throughout this part of the Southwest, you will have seen red sandstone rock. Wind erodes red sand off those rocks. At this location, a notch in the mountains funnels the wind into a valley, and the sand is piled into high dunes thousands of years-old.
Getting back to US 89, one turns on Utah 9 into Zion National Park. With relatively easy access from Las Vegas, Zion has many visitors. In fact, there are so many visitors that for most of the year you are required to park your car at the Visitors’ Center and take a free shuttle into the park.
Over about 12,000 years, Anasazi, Paiute and people of European descent sought to make their home in this difficult area. Relics of their stay remain, but it is the beautiful valleys and their current inhabitants
that attract us. There are mountain goats in abundance, deer, turkeys and even mountain lions (although you are unlikely to see one). Including full time residents and transients, there are 291 species of birds. There are 78 types of animals and 8 kinds of fish.
As in the other national parks, there are lots of things to do. At minimum, take a walk back one of the many trails.
Again, if you are short on time, you can continue west on 9 to I-15 into Las Vegas. But if you have the time, backtrack to US 89 and go north to Utah 14 at Long Valley Junction. 14 is a scenic mountain road that takes you past Cedar Breaks National Monument. Generally, snow closes Cedar Breaks in all but the summer months. Nonetheless, the drive is lovely and takes you past dramatic lava beds.
Cedar City is at the junction of 14 and I-15. Stop in at the Cedar City Iron Mission State Park, which is less like most state parks and more like a museum than anything else you will see. They have preserved many pioneer vehicles including an Overland Stage purported to have an outlaw’s bullet still lodged in its side. There is a tiny 1851 Mormon cabin which saw the birth of 24 children. There is a very early “snowmobile.”
Take I-15 to Las Vegas.
If you have followed this full itinerary, you will have visited:
8 National Parks — Grand Canyon; Mesa Verde; Black Canyon of the Gunnison; Arches; two or three districts in Canyonlands; Capitol Reef; Bryce; Zion
5 National Monuments — Hovenweep; Natural Bridges; Grand Staircase-Escalante; Vermillion Cliffs; Cedar Breaks.
3 National Forests — Kibab; Grand Mesa; Dixie
and 15 Personal Highlights — Hoover Dam; Gouldings Trading Post; Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park; Ismay Trading Post; Million Dollar Highway; Silverton; Grand Mesa; Castle Canyon; Moab jet boat; Deadhorse State Park; Bears Ears; Glen Canyon Dam; “Pahreah”; Coral Pink Sands State Park; and Iron Mission State Park.