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Dog-Friendly Utah Road Trip: Part 1 - Intro, Zion + Wire Pass

We are getting close to warmer weather, and you know what that means… road-trips! If you’re anything like us, you love taking your pooches along for the ride.  Last September, we had one of the most amazing road-trips to incredible Utah with our two pups, Newton + Maya. I thought I’d do a little blog series (this is Part I of II) on our adventure and hopefully give you some helpful tips if you’re traveling there with your dogs, too.

When To Go?

Well, there are 2 main factors to consider with Utah: (1) weather + (2) crowds.  As a major tourist destination, it gets busy in the warm months, so take that into consideration.  Also, Utah gets HAWT in the summer.  For you and your pups, that might not be ideal.  We chose to go in mid-September, and it worked out for us.  The crowds were still somewhat there, but not as bad as say in June, July or August.  While it was still warm and did get hot at times, it wasn’t the dead heat of summer.  Could we have done October?  Probably.  But we also didn’t want it to be too cold, so maybe doing this trip at the end of September, early October is a nice compromise.

Preparing for Your Road-Trip

So you’re ready to do a road-trip with your dog?! Maybe you’ve done this before (KUDOS to YOU!) But maybe, this is your first, longer-drive, road-trip and you’re a little anxious. Here’s a little info that will hopefully help you prepare. First things first, make a list of things that your doggie(s) need on a daily basis….

And anything else they might use on a daily basis OR that will help make them more comfortable away from home.

Next, apportion the food and treats your pup gets every day, multiply by the number of days you’re away and put all of that in containers or plastic baggies to help make the transport easy. Count the number of pills / supplements you need for each day and multiply by the number of days and put them in baggies / containers for easy transport. Then, simply pack up the water bowl, toys, dog bed or blankies and whatever else your poochie might need and pack up the car!

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

Seeing Utah

Now, let’s get into the good stuff… where should you go in Utah?  Well, for us, it was really hard to just pick one area.  If you’ve ever researched Utah, you know that it has amazing parks and destinations all over the state.  You want to see Arches and Canyonlands in Moab in the east, but you also want to do Zion National Park and check out all the incredible slot canyons in the Utah Desert in the southwest/south central area.  Utah has so much to offer, and if you are traveling from either side of the country, you’re already traveling a long way, so you might as well honker down and take it all in at once!  [PS: We didn’t even get to fit in epic Monument Valley in Arizona, which is not far at all and would have been an easy add with one or two additional days, but alas… next time!]

We decided on a week-long trip (5 nights and 6 days to be exact) to see as much as possible.  It can be quite overwhelming to plan such an expansive trip, but with a little (actually, a lot of) research, planning, excitement and motivation you can do it!  And I hope this blog helps you with your planning.  So here is how we broke it down.

Since it’s home, Denver, CO was our starting point.  We decided we wanted to include Moab and Zion for our trip, even though they are 4+ hours apart and on the opposite ends of the state.  Doing Zion first made sense, because it’s the furthest (9.5+ hours from DEN) and on the way from Zion back to Moab are some of the incredible slot canyons, which we also wanted to see, so, that was the plan.  We started our week-long trip in Hurricane, UT, just 35 minutes from Zion.  We then spent 2 nights there and then started driving toward Moab.  On the way to Moab, we stopped in Kanab, the Utah Desert where you can find some incredible, dog-friendly, slot canyons.  The drive also took us through parts of Arizona including Lake Powell (which looks amazing and is DEFINITELY on our list for the next adventure).  Finally, we ended up in Moab where we stayed for the remainder of the trip and a total of 3 nights.  The drive home at the end of the vacation was an easy + beautiful 5-hour drive.  All in all, I really think the way we planned it out made the most sense for what we were doing.  You may want to adjust, add, delete and plan based on where you are coming from, how much time you have, and what you are most interested in seeing.  (If you are short on time, I highly recommend doing Moab for your entire stay).  Here’s a little bit about the first 2 legs of our trip: Zion and the slot canyons in the Utah Desert.  [We’ll be doing a separate blog on Moab, coming soon!]

Days 1 & 2: Hurricane / Zion National Park

After our grueling 9.5 hour drive from Denver to Hurricane (with plenty of snack and potty-breaks), we arrived at the most unique A-frame cabin in Hurricane, UT, just about an hour from Zion National Park.  Just look at the views from this place!  Day 1 was a wash, because we were tired and just wanted to chill and soak up the incredible views right from our Airbnb.  Hurricane is a tiny little town, but for some great grub, check out Main Street Café.

Hurricane is also just 50 minutes from a totally unexpected and (for us) unplanned natural wonder… Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park!  We didn’t even know about this park until we were in Hurricane, and since it was so close, we ended up taking the drive there.  Boy oh boy was it worth it… I have never seen pink sand, and this place was just incredible!  Also, as a state park, it’s dog friendly, which to us obviously was the best part!  Plus, because it’s not really that famous, you won’t have to fight all the crowds.  Coral Pink Sand Dunes is located between Mount Carmel Junction and Kanab, south and west of U.S. Highway 89 in Kane County.

For Day 2, we drove about 35 minutes and headed up to Zion National Park.  Zion, like all national parks, restricts dogs in the park.  But, unlike many other national parks, it does have 1 dog-friendly hike in the park, the Pa’rus Trail. The Pa’rus is an almost completely flat, 3.4 mile (in and out) paved trail with gorgeous scenery all around it and leashed dogs are allowed. It’s the only pet friendly trail in the whole park.  In addition to the Pa-rus Trail, you can also enjoy the park by driving along Route 9 (the Zion-Mt. Carmel Hwy) with your pups in the car and stop at various pull-off points that have incredible views. Unfortunately, during tourist season, private cars are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is reserved for shuttles only.  You could also potentially do Bryce Canyon the same day, it’s just another hour from Zion.  For lunch, we stopped in the cute little town of Springdale right outside of Zion, where apparently a lot of travelers stay when they visit Zion and then take a shuttle into the park. We ate at Cafe Soleil, which has dog-friendly outdoor seating and delicious sandwiches.  In retrospect, Springdale would probably have been a great option for us to stay in since we were traveling with a dog, because you can leave your pup in your hotel/airbnb on days you want to do the non-dog-friendly hikes at Zion, like the famous Angel’s Landing!  Springdale is just minutes outside the park with lots of fabulous restaurants. 

Day 3: The Slot Canyons in Kanab, UT (The Utah Desert) On The Way To Moab

On Day 3, we said goodbye to Hurricane and headed for the slot canyons in Kanab, UT and ultimately for Moab.  The particular slot canyon hike we chose (after doing lots of research) was Wire Pass Trail in Buckskin Gulch. This hike was perfect for us, because (1) it was dog-friendly and (2) way less crowded than the other more known slot canyons, like the famous Wave in Arizona (which requires you to enter a lottery to even have a chance at hiking). Fair warning, the drive to the trailhead for Wire Pass is not easy.  It is out in the middle of nowhere, with tons of rough terrain and requires 4-wheel drive.  You also have to make sure there is no rain in the forecast.  This is no joke – the area is prone to dangerous flash flooding and you do NOT want to get stuck in that area when it floods.  So, definitely make sure you plan for a dry day.   But, the payoff is so worth it!  The trail to the beginning of the slot canyons is not difficult or too long.  But it is quite open and exposed to the elements, so if it’s sunny, you will feel it and so will your pup.  Make sure you bring tons of water for them and yourselves.  Wire Pass is extremely scenic if you want to experience the narrow canyons of Buckskin Gulch, but not take a more difficult hike by way of the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead. The Wire Pass Trailhead is 8.3 miles south of Highway 89 on House Rock Valley Road – a rough and tumble dirt road. Plenty of parking is available near the trailhead.

For more info on the Wire Pass Trail and surrounding area check here:
https://www.visitutah.com/places-to-go/parks-outdoors/grand-staircase-escalante/grand-staircase-section/family/wire-pass-buckskin-gulch

The main trail is a 3.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail that is rated “moderate”, but really isn’t that bad.  Once you get to the slot canyons, you can easily start walking through them, explore for a while and then head back to the parking area.  If you and your pup are more adventurous and up for the challenge, you can continue the hike further.  With our two 12 year old pups and needing to get back on the road, we just turned around after exploring the initial canyons for a bit and taking lots of photos.  You may have to wait a few minutes for a professional photo shoot to pass by (like we did), but everyone was super nice and understood that they couldn’t “hog” the area for too long.

After returning to our car from our Wire Pass hike, we headed back on the road and toward Moab.  The drive is STUNNING.  You truly feel like you are in a John Wayne Western film.  Insider tip + something we didn’t realize, on your drive from one side of Utah to the other, you tend to dip down into Arizona a few times.  We drove right by Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, which looked truly amazing and we’ll definitely be doing a separate trip there!

After a 4-hour drive, we finally arrived in Moab.  For all our adventures on days 4, 5 and 6 in Moab, you’ll have to wait for Part II of this blog, coming soon + complete with all the details on our epic dog-friendly stay in incredible Moab.  Until then!

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