When we were talking about our PCS (aka move) earlier this year, we at first thought that we’d go through California and see some new sites, but then we looked into going through Utah for a whole new route (we did California when we moved to Washington). As we did our research and talked to friends we realized that we definitely should do Utah. It would take a few extra days to see everything, but it would be epic. So we got to planning.
In total we were in 6 states on the drive, stopped at 5 National Parks, 1 National Historic Site, 3 state parks, 1 operating dam, and a lot of areas with little to no cell phone service.
Our rote was JBLM, WA to Boise, ID (via Oregon) to Park City, UT to all those National Parks to Las Vegas, NV to Fort Huachuca, AZ (obviously this is the short version of our itinerary).
Day 1: From WA to Idaho we didn’t really stop except for lunch and bathroom breaks, there were a few viewpoints here and there that we stopped at, but this was our longest day of driving so we spent it driving. In Boise we did not do much aside from going to a local brewery for dinner. It seemed like a lovely city that I hope we can get back to one day.
Day 2: Boise, Idaho to Park City, UT. I have family in Park City so on day two we did another long-ish day to make it to their house. Along the way though we made a few stops that we couldn’t resist. The first was Golden Spike National Historic Site. This, yes, is the location where the trans-continental railroad was completed back in 1869 with the hammering in of the last spike, that was made of gold. Anyway, being the history buffs that we are, we took this detour.
The spike is no longer there, a replica is in the small museum inside (the actual spike is at Stanford). It is set up as it was for the ceremony and while you can’t go into the trains, you can look at them closely via a platform next to the trains. We skipped the movie and the reenactors as we were in a bit of a rush, but it’s worth a quick stop if you’re in the area.
The next stop we made was to the Salt Lake City Mormon (or LDS) Temple. We are not Mormon but the building is a landmark and quite beautiful. While we couldn’t go inside the temple itself (you must be in a good-standing LDS member to do so), you can see a replica with a cut-away and learn about the building in the visitor center. You can also walk around the beautiful grounds and go into a few other buildings including the Tabernacle. This was also a bit of a detour for us, but we wanted to learn a bit more about it, so it was a fun side trip for us as well.
Day 3: We spent the day exploring Park City and spending time with my family. Park City is best known for skiing and hosting a lot of the Olympic events (ski and snowboard related, as well as bobsledding and similar events) in 2002 when the Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City. We walked around downtown, which has a lot of art galleries, stores, and restaurants. Then we headed to the Utah Olympic Park. At the Olympic Park you can partake in bobsledding, ziplining, and tours of the facility. It is also an Olympic training facility. We opted to check out the museum, which features memorabilia from the games, including costumes from the Opening Ceremony, a curling stone, photos, and more. It was fun to relive the Olympics there!
Day 4: We headed to Moab, UT on this day to embark on the beginning of our National Park excursion. On our way down we didn’t make any side stops and once we got to Moab we jumped right into the parks.
Day 5: We spent this day in Arches National Park.
Day 6: We started this day with a stop to Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse Point State Park is on the road to the entrance of Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, so it’s a pretty quick detour. This park overlooks some spectacular canyons, and we had a great time looking out at the various overlooks.
After that we headed into Canyonlands for a few hours. Then we were off to Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way we had decided to make a stop at Goblin Valley State Park. This was a really cool place. Tucked into a valley are the coolest and strangest rock formations. They look a bit like mushrooms to me, but they’ve also been described as goblins, hence the name. You can walk on paths next to the goblins and get right next to them. It was a lot of fun.
We got to Capitol Reef National Park that night, after a drive along some fascinating rock formations that looked more like the remnant of mining than natural occurrence.
Day 7: We explored Capitol Reef National Park in the morning and then headed towards Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove to Bryce along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. It starts near Capitol Reef and goes through the Dixie National Forest into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to just past Bryce Canyon. It is a beautiful drive. We stopped at the highest point in the national forest for some great views and then for lunch in Boulder, UT. We ate at Hell’s Backbone Grill – which had fantastic food.
Then we went to the Anasazi State Park Museum and saw some ruins of an old Anasazi village and learned about the people that used to live there. From there we continued our drive through The Hogback – a stretch of road that has steep hills and turns and that I was glad not to drive myself. It had some great views that I enjoyed while James drove.
We stopped at a place called Kiva Koffeehouse which came at the perfect time in the drive for a cup of coffee (or in my case lemonade). It had spectacular views and tasty coffee. We continued on and stopped at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park because we thought that there may be dinosaur fossils, there were but not many. Then we stopped at Upper Valley Graineries to see high up in the cliffs where Native Americans once stored grain and other foods. The next viewpoint was at an overlook of Powell Point – it was a nice spot.
Our next main stop on the road was Kodachrome Basin State Park. This small park is a bit off the main road but is full of cylinder rock formations. We did a short nature hike to see some more of the rocks and plants.
Then we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. We got a park map and information then drove to the lodge to check out one of the viewpoints. Then we went to our campground to get set up, eat dinner, and sleep. Phew, that was a day.
Day 8: We spent the day at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Day 9: We woke up early and spent the day at Zion National Park. When we were done at Zion we went to our campground for the night at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This park is mainly an area for offroad vehicles, I never really felt like riding sand dunes before this trip – it looked fun. Anyway, they have a nice campground and a small viewpoint to look out at the dunes that no one is allowed to ride on. It was pretty, but to be honest at this point in the trip we were very park fatigued. Lucky for us, this was the last park we stopped at.
Day 10: Utah to Nevada! We were staying the night in Vegas but seeing as we had been camping and were waking up crazy early with the sun, we got an early start to our day and went straight to the Hoover Dam. We were hoping to take the longer of the two tours but the next one was 3 hours away, we took the next possible shorter tour. The tour includes a video about how they built the dam and stops in two rooms within the dam. At the end there is a small exhibit and a spot with great views of the dam and newly finished bridge.
Then we went to VEGAS! We stayed at The Linq, which is a newly remodeled hotel that is very nice and in the middle of the strip. (Full disclosure we got a deal on one of those hotels.com or expedia sites, not sure which one.) We did a bit of gambling (and did not do well sadly) and then went to Caesar’s Palace for their buffet. The buffet is expensive, but delicious! We decided to take a bit from each station (there was Asian food, Italian, Mexican, seafood, meat, dessert, and probably a few others) and share. Oh man was it a lot of food, but I think we got our money’s worth.
Day 11: We drove straight to Phoenix to visit my family for the evening. In Vegas and Phoenix the heat really hit us. It was over 100 and yes it’s a dry heat but we are so not used to that.
Day 12: Drove to Fort Huachuca and got the keys to our new home. It was exciting to say the least! Fortunately we had an address so our household goods showed up the next day and we were able to settle in pretty quickly. We also caught up with friends that we are very lucky were here with us for a bit, and more are coming soon!
Phew, that was a lot of stuff we did. Anyone else ever done an epic PCS or vacation? Where’d you go and what did you do?