Accommodations Around Utah National Parks
We started our two week tour of the National Parks of Utah in Durango, Colorado by way of the Denver Airport. This itinerary with my reviews and recommendations is long, so I have the full itinerary (which you can read with photos in the blog or under Full Itinerary ), but these sections also have shorter summaries of where we ate, stayed and what activities we did along with my notes on what worked well and what didn’t with details on things that worked best with our boys.
Here is a summary of where we stayed as we traveled in a counter-clockwise loop startin in Durango and visited the Utah National Parks during a two week trip in June 2018.
Strater Hotel – For our first night in Durango, Colorado on route to the Utah National Parks, we booked the Strater Hotel, which is a wonderful historic hotel in the heart of Durango. It is a great location to stay for seeing Durango and for getting a sense for the town when it was an old western town during gold and silver prospecting times. The lobby is fancy with dark, carved wood and wall paper and is full of wooden furniture. There is a bar/lounge on one side and a restaurant on the other, which is great for breakfast. The staff was very friendly and helpful when we checked in and out. There are stairs to all floors and also an elevator. Our first night at the Strater Hotel, our room was in the 240s on the back side of the hotel which looks out on the roof and is sunny in the afternoon. It is in the back of the hotel. It is one of the rooms with two double beds in the room. Our room was very stuffy and hot due to the sun on it all afternoon. I had a hard time sleeping. Our view was also only of the roof, which was not great. When we returned two weeks later, we were in the 330s, which was much larger and had a better view. It was still over the roof, but was higher and so we could see more. I also like that the old windows still open and you can get fresh air, if you would like to. One small annoyance which I think they could easily fix is that the bathroom sink drained very slowly. Otherwise, the bathroom was modern and clean. The hotel has parking advice, so you can park in front to unload and then they give you a map to follow to park your car, which is very helpful. Durango is busy and parking is difficult. If you visit with kids, make sure to ask the lobby staff to show them the secret cubby holes where hotel staff and special guests could stash their valuables in case of a hotel robbery in the old West. Our boys really liked those and they remembered all of them when we returned two weeks later.
While visiting Canyonlands and then Arches, we stayed east of Moab in the valley near the La Sal Mountains.
Mt Peale Animal Sanctuary/Moab Mountain Cabin #1 – We really loved our huge cabin, Moab Mountain Cabin #1 at the end of the line off the La Sal Mountain Road (Route 46). It was quiet, big and open around us. The cabin was well equipped with two large separate bedrooms. Each bedroom had a sink in it and the bathroom had another sink and shower. The kitchen was huge with another futon. Everyone was comfortable. The cabin has a wrap-around porch which made shady outdoor seating easy. At night with no outdoor lighting for miles, the stars were amazing. The drive back to the main Moab highway was only 20 minutes and 30 minutes to Moab. The cabins are convenient and beautiful for Canyonlands (Northern entrance) and Arches National Parks. Our boys also really enjoyed being able to help with the rescue animals. When we were there, they had a number of rescue horses, cats and dogs. The boys got to help with morning chores for the horses. They were able to say hello to the dogs. The two women there talked through the animals’ stories which were great for our boys to hear. Humane treatment to animals and thinking about that is a wonderful for visiting kids to be exposed to. It is a nice extra to being a guest there.
To be close to Arches, we moved to a tiny cabin a bit north of of the park.
Arch View Cabin – Staying here was a “mixed bag”. The web direction information for its location was confusing. Once or twice when we looked up the directions to it, Maps showed it six miles north of Arches National Park near highway 313. This is the correct location. When we looked for its location from its website, Maps showed it six miles south of Moab and that information was incorrect. There is an “Arch- something else” in Moab which is not the same place and the Arch View reservation office is south of Moab, but that is also not the cabin or RV camp location. The location of Arch View Cabins and RV camping is north of Arches National Park, just north of the 313 turn-off. Once here, there are two reservation agents in the store building and checking in went quickly. Our cabin was a “deluxe cabin”, but it was tiny. We had two twin bunk beds on one side of the cabin and a double bed on the other side of the cabin and there was a small corridor between them. The “kitchenette” is only a mini-fridge and a sink and a microwave. There is not a chair or a table or anywhere to sit down in the cabin. You cannot cook or eat in the cabin. You can go outside and there is a grill which takes BBQ charcoal outside with a picnic table. The bathroom is right next to the double bed and has a toilet on one side and a shower stall on the other. There is no extra room anywhere. We could not even bring our luggage into the cabin; we had to unpack what we needed from the car and just bring that into the cabin each day and night. It is the smallest space I have ever slept and tried to move around in. On the plus side, there is a very small pool near the RV spaces and our boys enjoyed cooling off in that. It is about ten to twelve feet long and about five kids can play in it at a time. Also, the park is very close to Arches National Park and the entrance to Dead Horse State Park and the Islands in the Sky entrance (north entrance) of Canyonlands National Park. It is about six miles north of Moab. There are very few trees in the park and so the cabin got very hot and stuffy and we needed to run our AC most of the time. It was hot to sit outside. The parking for our car was directly to one side of the cabin and there was another cabin right next door to us. I would not stay here again unless we could not find larger accommodation in Moab.
After visiting Arches and driving to Capital Reef for a day, we drove south to Escalante on route to Bryce Canyon.
Canyon Country Lodge – We stayed in this new lodge for two nights to visit the Grand Staircase area as well as our first day in Bryce Canyon National Park. We had a two bed double on the second floor. The lodge opened in September 2017 and is family run. On the positive side, our kids enjoyed the pool and we used the guest laundry while we were there. It was nice to wash our clothes midway through our two week travels. Everything was very new and clean, which we appreciated. One oversight in the new build, however, is that there is not an elevator. We are a young and athletic family, however, we had been hiking all day and each of us had a piece of luggage and a backpack. We had to haul our stuff up the stairs to the second floor. The person who checked us in volunteered to help us, which was nice, however, it would be best to have a simple one floor elevator for folks with luggage. I can imagine an older couple or anyone with physical issues would find this very difficult. We appreciated the complimentary morning breakfasts with egg options, waffles, cereals and fruit each morning. The only challenge there was that they closed the food down at 9 am, which is a challenge for us. Perhaps this is setup for business travelers, but I would think that the majority of their guests are on vacation and we tend to get up around 8 am and would like to eat at 9 am, not be done by 9 am. It would be great if breakfast could start later and go later. We appreciated the guest laundry on the first floor and large guest pool off the lobby to cool off after hiking in the parks. A good start for the hotel, but some tweeks would make it better.
Bryce Cabins – We stayed in a Bryce cabin of the Bryce Canyon National Park for one night right near the Rim Trail. It was a treat. The cabin was just the right size for a family of four with two double beds, lovely rustic furniture and Native Indian inspired blankets and hangings. There is a nice porch for sitting and staying cool. I spent an afternoon sitting there and just reading, which was such a treat. The cabins are incredibly close to the Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise. In the morning, we were able to wake at 6 am, walk out our door and be at the best spot for seeing the sunrise to the left of Sunset point in two to five minutes. No driving and no fuss. I stayed in my PJs. Once you park, you don’t have to worry about your car or moving it after you hike for the day; you are staying in the park! It was super convenient for hiking and for dining. You need to book six or more months in advance to secure a cabin for your dates.
While at Zion National Park, we stayed overnight at the Zion Lodge. We were in the Watchman Building which is not in the lodge building, but over to the side on the lower floor. The rooms were not cabin like, but hotel like and stuffy. We had two standard double beds and a bath. We also had a balcony and windows, which were nice to open once the night air cooled off enough, but because we were in a small hotel room without cross ventilation, there really wasn’t any breeze. There was an ice machine on our floor and it was good to get ice into our cooler for our food and water bottles. Please see the full itinerary for more information about the Lodge, dining and the hikes of the park.
From Zion, we made our way to Page, AZ.
Red Rock Motel – We stayed at this motel on our way from Zion to Monument Valley because we thought it might be a throw-back for our kids, something out of the Cars movie or from Route 66. On the positive side, it is one block off the main street, which made it quieter. Each room was more like a small apartment and has space for parking in front of it. The rooms were large, more cabin like than hotel room like. There were two separate bedrooms with a bath between and a separate living area, dining area and kitchen. The shower in the bathroom was modern and clean. The A/C and other details of the rooms, trim, painting and outside, however have seen better days. The motel is a period piece. It is locally owned and it is nice to support a non-corporate owner. It was comfortable for our stop-over, but it is not polished or pristine.
From Page, AZ, we drove to Monument Valley.
Gouldings Lodge – We stayed in one of the new cabins at Gouldings. We loved it. They are spacious with two double beds and fit our family of four well. They had a view out to Monument Valley. We ate dinner and breakfast at the restaurant, enjoying their Navajo Fry Bread meals and the Navajo Tea. We also used the pool. The history of the lodge and the land being established by the Gouldings was interesting to us. My kids were intrigued by the early settlers and how they worked with the Indians of the region. This is a cool place to stay while in this area.
Far View Lodge in the Mesa Verde National Park – We stayed at the Far View Lodge for two nights while enjoying Mesa Verde Park. It was nice to be able to book ranger-lead tours a day in advance at the main cliff dwellings and still have time to relax and see the museum, stores and some of the hikes along the road. Our room was a hotel room, but since one door opened onto a balcony and the front door opened to our parked car, we were able to get the most wonderful full open breezes and blasts of air. The lodge is in wind swept country on the top of a hill and contrary to other national parks it does not feel crowded at all. The lodge has three dining options: Terrace is cafeteria style and we ate breakfast at the buffet there every morning. The Lounge upstairs had burgers and other options, but it was very slow. Metate is upscale dining and very nice, but also very slow. We enjoyed our stay and would stay in the park again.