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Getting There Lodging Restaurants Hiking Backpacking Horseback Riding

From other areas of the country, the most efficient way to get to Bryce or Zion is to fly Delta or American into Salt Lake City, and rent a car. From back east, the flight into SLC arrives at 6 - 9 pm and costs $300-500 round trip depending on your city of origin. You'll change planes in Atlanta or Chicago, then either Phoenix or Denver, depending on where you start.

But "most efficient" isn't always best. The Amtrak trip from Chicago on the Zephyr is one of the world's great rail experiences. It also comes into Salt Lake City. And the drive out I-70 and down across rural Utah past three major national parks is one of the nation's most scenic road trips.

Since Bryce and Zion are so isolated, we recommend you combine them and add Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and/or Mesa Verde National Parks for at least a 3 park expedition.

Getting There Lodging Hiking Backpacking The Narrows The Subway Springdale

Amtrak's midnight arrival in Salt Lake City discourages many. The ones who do come that way usually stay overnight in the city, rent a car and drive to Bryce or Zion the next day. The best place to stay is the Hilton Homewood Suites, across the tracks from the Amtrak Station but because the tracks are fenced off you have to come around the block. Coming by Amtrak has its own appeal. The train trip is a vacation all to itself. If you're coming from back East, you take either the Cardinal, the Capitol or the Lakeshore to Chicago. Then you board the California Zephyr. You'll eat dinner watching Iowa farmland drift by your window. You'll sleep through Nebraska and northern Colorado and wake up as the train stops in Denver. Then for the next 14 hours you'll enjoy some of America's most stunning scenery as the Zephyr carves through deep Colorado canyons and gorges. You want to reserve a "roomette," which for this trip will include two dinners, breakfast and lunch in the dining car. You can shower. You can roam about the train, sitting in the observation car or stopping by the snack bar. Amtrak takes longer than flying but is a truly great way to travel. The roads from Salt Lake City to Bryce are I-15, State 20, US89 and Utah 12. The drive down takes about five hours. The roads on to Zion take about three hours.

Driving, the best route for most is to come across I-70. If you're camping, there are outstanding KOAs at Lawrence (Kansas), Strasberg (Colorado) and Glenwood Springs West (Colorado), as the top photo shows.

If you drive, you should seriously consider the stretch from Glenwood Springs to Bryce. You'll pass Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. It's an amazing collection of national parks, and if you haven't already seen them, you really should add at least one day and night to your trip and visit one or all of them.

Even if you don't stop at any of them, the drive iself is breathtaking. You see spectacular views around every bend. It should take about seven hours. Be sure to plan so that you do it all in day time. And remember you're going to be tempted to stop numerous times along the way to take photos or just gaze at the scenery.

If you're driving but not camping out, we highly recommend the Cyrus Hotel in Topeka (Kansas), the Best Western Carousel in Burlington (Colo.) and the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs (Colo.). These are all reasonable drives from each other (you're supposed to be on vacation, remember, so all night drives or marathon 12 hour drives dawn til dark are ridiculous). You could drive straight through from Topeka to Glenwood Springs, except I-70 passes through Denver, where you are guaranteed long traffic backups. Therefore, we recommend stopping in Burlington and hitting Denver in midmorning.

Only two blocks off I-70, the Cyrus is named after Cyrus Holliday, founder of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which we know 150 years later as the Santa Fe. He was also one of the founding fathers of the city of Topeka and donated the land for the state capitol building. The Cyrus Hotel was built early in the 1800s but was recently updated (room, below left) and is once again an elegant, cutting edge hotel with an outstanding restaurant (below right).

The hotel is on a modernistic main street, right around the corner from the capitol building (second row down, left). You can tour the capitol and walk around the rim of its large dome. The Brown vs. Board of Education National Monument is a few blocks away. You'll at least want to go for a stroll after dinner to enjoy the artwork, statues, architecture and unique stores (second row down, right). This is one of the nation's most artistic, eccentric and enjoyable main streets. The hotel restaurant is not open for breakfast but there's a great coffee shop just across the street.

There's free street parking as long as you park after 3:00 p.m. and depart by 10 a.m.

You could easily justify an extra day here. Topeka has a surprising number of attractions worth your time.

The Best Western Carousel is a new motel, just off I-70, and very nice. There's a truck stop just across the street that serves very good food, but the famous restaurant in town is The Dish Room, a mile away. People drive here from Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins just to eat at The Dish Room. It's pricier than the truck stop but has a creative menu. Before you leave town, you must drive two miles across town and stop at The Carousel. This is one of the greatest carousels in the world. Carousel enthusiasts from everywhere come here to see it, take photos and ride it. 100 years ago, the town bought it from Eylich Gardens Amusement Park in Denver. The love Burlington has lavished on this carousel is amazing. They built a building over it (below, left), with panels they lower and lock at night or in bad weather. Almost all the carousels remaining have been restored or rebuilt. This is one of the few remaining originals, officially Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #6 (below, right). You can ride it for 25 cents. There's a Carousel Museum, too.

For your third night, we recommend the historic and memorable Colorado Hotel (left and below left). One of the nation's grand old lodgings, the Colorado has hosted most of the famous politicians, executives, athletes, entertainers and foreign dignitaries of the last 150 years. It has high ceilinged rooms, a wonderful restaurant, lots of amenities, and, most importantly, right across the street, the famous Glenwood Hot Springs (below, right). The nation's largest mineral springs, these waters have been sought out since the early 1800s for their therapeutic powers. Arthritis and back pain sufferers in particular come here for relief, but it's also wonderful after a day or week of skiing or backpacking. You can schedule a 90 minute swim or soak in the Springs after arriving or the next morning before departing. Or you could schedule an extra day to relax in the Springs, plus enjoy hiking, biking, white water rafting, horseback riding, or just exploring this historic old town. Amtrak stops right across the street. Be sure to gas up and fill your water bottles before leaving Glenwood Springs. From here West, especially in Utah, towns and gas stations become few and very far between.

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