North Rim, Southern Utah, and Colorado in 11 days (updated)

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jg45

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I'm planning a trip from my home in the Memphis, TN area for the 2nd and 3rd weeks of Sept to Grand Canyon, Utah, and Colorado. Since it takes two days each way to get there and back, that leaves me 11 days to explore. I have a pretty good route started, but am hoping those more familiar could take a look and make sure it makes sense and also help with drive times and other suggestions. I'll be travelling in my lifted Xterra Pro-4x and have a lifted M-416 trailer in tow that we will be camping out of. I really appreciate any guidance in planning this.

My tentative itinerary is:
Day 1: Memphis to Albuquerque area
Day 2: Albuquerque to Valley of the Gods/Gooseneck SP/Muley Point
Day 3: Valley of the Gods/Gooseneck SP/Muley Point to Alstrom Point
Day 4: Alstrom to Kanab Point on the North Rim (have a permit for that night)
Day 5: Kanab Point to Cottonwood Canyon
Day 6: Cottonwood Canyon to Bryce to Capital Reef Campground or just outside Temple of the Sun
Day 7: Capital Reef to Moab
Day 8-9: Moab
Day 10: Moab to Crystal Mill via John Brown to Gateway
Day 11: Crystal to Ouray
Day 12-13: Ouray area
Day 14-15: Ouray to Memphis
 
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justjames

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Too aggressive? My real concern is drive times. We want to be able to stop and enjoy the scenery.
In my opinion, yes. We spent 5 weeks in that area in June and July and it is phenomenal but I'm afraid your schedule won't allow for seeing much other than "out the window". The north rim has 2-3 busy days worth of sights to see. Most of it is in the NF, not the park which means you don't have to have a permit to camp. Tuweep/Toroweap is a must see but like Kanab Point, it takes a day to get in and out.

Zion is spectacular but EXTREMELY crowded so even just a drive thru takes forever.

You have to see Alstrom Point but the 25 miles in from Big Water will take about 2 hours each way unless you have no concern about vehicle damage. None of it is terribly difficult, just rough. You owe it to yourself to camp there.

A quick run thru Moab is difficult because it too is so incredibly scenic and different from the Grand Canyon. If you want to try it, I'd do the road into Island in the Sky to the Shafer Trail down to Potash Rd and back to Moab. Don't forget about Arches, it's right across the road.

Ouray is incredible and the Alpine Loop may or may not be open. Even if it's not, many of the passes in the area will be and none of them dissapoint.

Have fun!
 
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jg45

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Thanks. I know it's a lot and I'm certainly willing to cut some of needed. I should have stated that we have been to Moab and Ouray multiple times including two round trips on the white rim, once in the full Alpine loop, but up Engineer many times. We are trying to go to some new places in Utah and I've had a bucket list item of camping on the North Rim for years.
We do plan to camp at Alstrom and do not want vehicle damage for sure. I'm trying to add one extra day, but not sure yet if my traveling companion can get an extra day off.
Would cutting out Zion and Bryce be a good option? Crowds are not something I enjoy. I was also considering adding Goblin valley. Is it worthwhile as it is not really and the route?
 

Azdirtdemon

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I grew up on a family ranch near the north rim. Now I live just west of zion. @justjames is right to say that zion is EXTREMELY overcrowded. Depending on your rig, they will hold you at the tunnel and send you through in a one way road fashion. If your going to go, get into the park just before dawn to 1. Avoid paying to simply commute through and 2. Avoid the traffic. Avoid the angels landing hike. It's a nightmare and there's better views that are easier to reach. If the weather looks like monsoon rains, find a good place to park. Either on the switchback pullouts or the pull outs near canyon junction, and enjoy the rain. If it's wet enough, there will be waterfalls all through main canyon.

Bryce and cedar breaks are cool to look at but you don't need to give them much time.

As for the north rim, the south side has the better developed views. But the north has better views outside the park. Try Timp, locust, gooseneck, or some of the other points to the west of the park, and South of big Springs Ranger Station. There's loads of petroglyphs in snake gulch on the way out/in that you can see from the road, better with binoculars though.

Sorry if that complicates things for you, but I'm happy to answer what I can.
 
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justjames

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Thanks. I know it's a lot and I'm certainly willing to cut some of needed. I should have stated that we have been to Moab and Ouray multiple times including two round trips on the white rim, once in the full Alpine loop, but up Engineer many times. We are trying to go to some new places in Utah and I've had a bucket list item of camping on the North Rim for years.
We do plan to camp at Alstrom and do not want vehicle damage for sure. I'm trying to add one extra day, but not sure yet if my traveling companion can get an extra day off.
Would cutting out Zion and Bryce be a good option? Crowds are not something I enjoy. I was also considering adding Goblin valley. Is it worthwhile as it is not really and the route?
Considering your past experiences, I'd skip Zion and Bryce and maybe skimp a little on Moab and Ouray.

Go to the north rim and spent 3-4 days. The obligatory "in the park" stuff will take a day for all the touristy stuff. Then go back just outside the gate and turn east and find a dispersed site. On day 2, since you're on the east side of Hwy 67, I'd do Point Imperial and Cape Royal. That can all be done in a half day. Next I'd cross back to the west and go see Point Sublime and camp there if you can get a permit. If not, it's still worth the drive in and out. If you can't get a permit to camp at Point Sublime take the road north until you pass out of the NP and into the NF and disperse camp at any of the points as you're headed north. There are several to choose from. North Timp Point would be my favorite with Crazy Jug Point being a close second. If you go to Crazy Jug, take the road going west for about a mile past the actual point and there is a killer campsite right on the rim which would accommodate your truck and trailer. The next day you can haul it to Kanab Pt and Toroweap. Those two will be a drive and you will probably need extra gas so plan accordingly. Toroweap is off the scale for scenery but the campground is 15-20 minutes from the canyon and requires a permit so you decide on that one.

This puts you pretty far west and my plan would be to hit the asphalt back east and head up to Alstrom Point. There are really only two places to camp on the point so I'd try to arrive mid-afternoon. From there we went north on Smokey Mtn Rd up through Grand Staircase-Escalante to Left Hand Collet Rd all the way to Hwy 12 at Escalante. Hwy 12 is very scenic and you can decide on what to do next. This should give you a good four days before you have to book it east so you can enjoy Capital Reef, Moab and a little of Colorado on the way home.
 

Todd & Meg

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We are planning to be in the area on the third week also. We’ll be at the north rim next weekend so probably won’t spend much time there in Sept. I like @justjames idea. If you have been to Colorado a lot before I would check out other places. Zion is cool but the crowds get old. Remember on the west side of the park you have to take buses to see anything. You can’t drive to the popular spots. We liked Bryce better than Zion.

We did Muley Point and Valley of the Gods in the spring and both spots are great. The Dogway was a let down. It’s cool, views are great, but when you see a tractor trailer heading up you realize it’s just another road.

Alstrom Point is on the bucket list. Along with much in the Grand Staicase. We have been to Colorado quite a few times. Our plan is to go where the fall colors are best, Keeber Pass for the Aspen trees, I wanted to take my wife to Crystal Mill, we will be pulling a teardrop so will probably get there from Marble.

I’ll keep an eye on this thread to see what your plans are.

Todd
 

jg45

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Great information! Thank you all for the feedback. I appreciate the suggestions and any more that anyone cares to share. I need to talk with the other guy going with me as he was really wanting to go to Zion and to Bryce. I know we both really have the Alpine Loop, Imogene, and Yankee Boy on our lists for this trip. Are there any fall colors expected in Colorado the third week of Sept? I really wanted to be there for the colors, but schedules made us go a little earlier than what I think is prime time.
 

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Hey! just saw this post.. This is my backyard and I can answer and specific questions you have regarding the area/camping, etc. I also tow a trailer and can help advise you on best spots and trails you can and can't do with yours in tow.. Let me know how the planning is going and I'd be happy to answer questions of give you insite on camping in the areas you want to visit.
 

jg45

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Hey! just saw this post.. This is my backyard and I can answer and specific questions you have regarding the area/camping, etc. I also tow a trailer and can help advise you on best spots and trails you can and can't do with yours in tow.. Let me know how the planning is going and I'd be happy to answer questions of give you insite on camping in the areas you want to visit.
Thank you. Would appreciate any input and/or suggestions.
Current plans are as follows:
Day 1 - Leave Memphis
Night 1 - Santa Rosa, NM on way from Memphis
Day 2 - Santa Rosa to Valley of the Gods
Night 2 - Valley of the Gods or Muley Point
Day 3 - Valley of the Gods to Alstrom Point
Night 3 - Alstrom Point
Day 4 - Alstrom Point to Kanab Point (Stopping by the North Rim Visitors Center)
Night 4 - Kanab Point on North Rim
Day 5 - Kanab Point to boondock site on Cottonwood Canyon rd.
Night 5 - Boondock camp along Cottonwood Canyon rd
Day 6 - Cottonwood Canyon, Kodachrome S.P., Bryce, Cathedral Valley (via hwy 12)
Night 6 - Upper Cathedral Valley Campground or boondock just outside park near Temple of the Sun
Day 7 - Cathedral Valley to Moab via UT 1013 passing Goblin Valley SP and up through San Rafael Swell
Night 7 -9 - Camping somewhere around Moab (Fisher Valley, upper onion creek?), maybe a night at the KOA for showers
Day 8, 9 - Leave trailer and run some of the trails around Moab.
Day 10 - Moab to Gateway via dirt, to Crystal, CO
Night 10 - Crystal, CO
Day 11 - Crystal to Ouray area
Night 11-13 - Camping near Ouray or Lake City
Night 14 ??? somewhere on way home
Night 15 - Home
 

Jeff B

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It does look like you have a packed schedule. You will be spending long days driving from the looks of it. I just did a long trip like that at the beginning of the month. There were many 12+ hour driving days involved. I did not have a trailer, but did have everything to be self sufficient and many times got into areas late and just ended up at hotels. By the north rim the forest service was doing some controlled burns, just fyi, not sure when they were stopping. Here is a link to my trip: trip. I went through some of the areas you are looking at, although I did not camp much, but if you have any questions ask away.
 

jg45

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Looks like a great "30 day" trip, :).
I know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately, due to the distance and time just to get from Memphis to there, and the fact my friend and I only get to do this every 5 years, we tend to cram a lot in. There will be plenty of stops for photos, enjoying the scenery, etc. That's also why we are spending a few days in Moab and Ouray.
Is there somewhere specific you would recommend spending more time?
 

justjames

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I know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately, due to the distance and time just to get from Memphis to there, and the fact my friend and I only get to do this every 5 years, we tend to cram a lot in. There will be plenty of stops for photos, enjoying the scenery, etc. That's also why we are spending a few days in Moab and Ouray.
Is there somewhere specific you would recommend spending more time?
I'd spend at least a day, maybe two from the North Rim proper working my way over to Kanab Point. All the points starting at Point Sublime working north thru Crazy Jug are worth seeing. Cottonwood Canyon, Kodachrome Basin SP and Bryce were a disappointment to us. (Bryce due to the crowds, similar to Zion) Those would be sacrificed for more time at GC.
 

jg45

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A great alternative to Bryce is Cedar Breaks if you're going to Zion.
We dropped Zion from the itenerary. Recommended by others to drop because it was too crowded. And honestly, it was out of the way from the rest of what we wanted to see.
 

jg45

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The time has arrived! We depart tomorrow morning for points West. Any late minute suggestions or advice?
 

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The time has arrived! We depart tomorrow morning for points West. Any late minute suggestions or advice?
Have fun, see what you can, don't waste your trip "making the miles" there's too much to see in 10 trips, let alone one.. and reach out if you need anything, service will be spotting in a lot of the areas you are visiting.. welcome to the wild west!
Willow springs into Arches NP beats the crowds and is one of my favorite mild trails, there is a great trail from Goblin Valley SP to HWY 24 just east of Capitol Reef.. some of the best scenery in Utah IMO.. "Wild Horse Road"
 
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jg45

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Have fun, see what you can, don't waste your trip "making the miles" there's too much to see in 10 trips, let alone one.. and reach out if you need anything, service will be spotting in a lot of the areas you are visiting.. welcome to the wild west!
Willow springs into Arches NP beats the crowds and is one of my favorite mild trails, there is a great trail from Goblin Valley SP to HWY 24 just east of Capitol Reef.. some of the best scenery in Utah IMO.. "Wild Horse Road"
Thanks. I actually had Wild Horse Rd on the trip route already. Glad to hear it's worthwhile