The National Parks here in the U.S. are our natural treasures and are cared for by the National Park Service. If you have not traveled to places like Bryce, Zion, the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone perhaps you should consider these “wonders” for this summer’s vacation.
Gas prices are high, but they may go higher in the coming years so perhaps this is the year to see some of the USA. I have talked to people in Arizona who have never seen the Grand Canyon. Well, you can take in the majesty of some of the National Parks in one big sweep in the West in a two-week period.
Departing central Arizona travel to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and enjoy the sights of this special wonder on earth. Stay at least one night allowing you to see the shadows change the coloring of the Canyon at different times of day. Sunrise is a time many photographers choose to capture the pristine beauty of the Canyon. Each morning is different. I suggest staying in the historic El Tovar hotel, which is located on the south rim and now over 100 years old. The hotel is perfectly preserved and maintained. Try and get a large room. The standard rooms are very small.
Enjoy at least one dinner in the main dining room. The food is wonderful and service is high-end.
Plan to park you car near the hotel and then take the free shuttle busses to the various lookout locations. Also, take in the IMAX film showing of the Grand Canyon. Spectacular!
From the Grand Canyon journey on to Lake Powell to enjoy a cruise on the lake and another overnight. Drive to the Carl Hayden Visitors Center and look out over Glen Canyon Dam and see the end of Lake Powell.
Head north into Utah for visits to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
Bryce is truly one of the most spectacular scenic wonders of the world. The formations within Bryce Canyon National Park, called Hoodoos, are the creation of wind and water erosion over eons of time. Iron oxidizing within the rock causes the natural orange and red hues that color these formations.
On now to the red and white sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park. In sheer magnitude and color, Zion is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring national parks in the world.
Perhaps now head to Salt Lake City, the “City of the Saints” for a two-night stay. Here, plan to take a Temple Square tour, which is a beautifully landscaped 10-acre plot of ground in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. And, step inside the famed Tabernacle, home of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and its great Organ. You can literally hear a pin drop from one end to the other in this great auditorium.
In the City are the State capitol, Brigham Young’s personal residence and beautiful neighborhoods.
Next, Wyoming and a stop at Jackson Hole. The area is famous for the Teton Range, an active fault-block mountain front, 40 miles long, 7 – 9 miles wide. The highest peak-Grand Teton, with an elevation of 13,770 feet and with it are featured 12 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation.
Jackson Hole is a mountain valley, 55 miles long, 13 miles wide at an average elevation of 6,800 feet. Here is a great location to stay a night or two to drink in the natural beauty of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. I was once on a commuter plane traveling from Denver to Salt Lake City when we made an intermediate stop at Jackson Hole. I was so amazed at the mountain beauty that I told the airline representative that I wished to get off and stay a night before moving on. They off-loaded my luggage and I traveled into town for a two nights stay. Sometime I want to return to this magnificent mountain area for another visit.
The Snake River is headwaters of the Columbia River system, which is 1,056 miles long and roughly 50 miles within the Grand Teton National Park.
Seven Morainal lakes are at the base of the Teton Range with over 100 alpine and backcountry lakes. Do you need any more reasons to convince you to travel to the Grand Tetons?
There are very nice lodges, motels and hotels to stay at while enjoying the area.
The big prize now is Yellowstone National Park not far away located at the northwest portion of Wyoming. It is spread across 3,472 square miles. It’s well spaced entrances each lead to the Grand Loop, the main road, which traces a figure eight as it runs past the major attractions: Old Faithful and neighboring geyser basins, Yellowstone Lake, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, all accessible via short walkways. It takes at least three hours to drive from the forested south end, near Grand Teton National Park, to the range-filled plains of the north, on the Wyoming-Montana border.
Plan to stay at the Old Faithful Inn, which was constructed in 1904 and made of logs. Doubles with bath begin at $126 per night. Have a sandwich at the Bear Paw Deli within the hotel. Yellowstone is very popular during the summer months so you need to book as far ahead as possible.
Things to do in the Park include attending a Ranger-led program, taking a day hike, arranging for a private guided tour and simply enjoying the calm peace of the area. You can also horseback ride and fish to your hearts content. Old Faithful itself is amazing and the entire area is great for photography.
If you are an RV’er or camper, there is plenty of space and facilities for the outdoor traveler. You can go online for information. The bicycle is also a wonderful method of transportation within Yellowstone.
As you drive along the plains you just might spot a heard of buffalo. If the meat is served in one of the lodges or restaurants, try some, it’s good.
Upon your return home, I suggest venturing into South Dakota with a visit to Mount Rushmore. Now, you can’t actually climb over the presidents’ heads as Cary Grant did in the film North by Northwest, but the 500-foot-tall Mount Rushmore and surrounding national forest still pack plenty of cinematic punch, thanks to the spiraling bridges, rock tunnels, and pinnacles of the granite that line scenic Highway 89 north of Custer. And while you’re in the area, check out Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest cliff carving, just 15 miles away.
On this trip you will want your camera ready in the front car seat. Beauty is everywhere! You will never forget this one!
State Parks ready for Memorial Day Weekend
Looking for an economical idea to start the summer vacation season? Camping at State Parks in the cool country is a good option for hiking and fishing, but you can also head west for the three State Parks on the Colorado River to spend your entire vacation camping, swimming and boating. Remember on the river the air temperatures range around 100 degrees and the water is 80 degrees, making water sports wildly popular in the summer.
Arizona’s State Parks provide more than 1,000 campsites for Memorial Day campers. Parks such as Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area in Show Low are booking quickly and Roper Lake in Safford is popular since it is next to Mount Graham. Lyman Lake near Springerville will be open June 17-Oct. 17 and the park has cabins, yurts, a swimming beach and hot showers. If you choose the yurts and cabins your family can stay for $35-$50 a night. The campsites in the parks also offer many amenities, with the most important being hot showers!
Daytrippers can head out to the historic parks or environmental parks such as Kartchner Caverns State Park, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Red Rock State Park.
No matter where you camp, there will be some campfire restrictions so always check with rangers before you build a fire. Remember if you cause a fire under fire restrictions it may result in substantial fines and jail time. To keep your family and public lands safe it is best to use a propane stove and only smoke in vehicles.
Reservations can be made on the Internet at www.AZStateParks.com.