Having been to California in 2003 and not being able to fit in a look at the Grand Canyon, this trip was dedicated to touring the canyons and other natural sites of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. The itinerary fell into place quite easily when the map was studied, since a loop could take in some of the most spectacular vistas that can be encountered anywhere. The arrival airport could realistically have been either Phoenix or Las Vegas, but the circuit more naturally lent itself to the latter.
Following our arrival in Las Vegas, and an overnight stay there, we left the next morning to cover the following locations:
Flagstaff. Set at a relatively high altitude, this is a good central spot for various differing parks and also Sedona, which is a very picturesque town to the South. Early mornings here were cold (around 40°F);
Grand Canyon. It has to be done, and is every bit as spectacular as you have heard. The best direction to approach the National Park is from the East entrance, since the road from here passes many outlooks from the South rim. Within Grand Canyon Village itself, there is a worthwhile walk westwards along the rim. We found it was best to buy an annual pass to the National Parks, since this worked out better value than day passes when also visiting Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Capitol Reef;
Page. This is the town set up in the 1950's to service the building of the Glen Canyon dam. It is thus located only a couple of miles from Lake Powell, which is probably of most interest to water sports enthusiasts. However, there is a good 8 mile circular rim walk around Page, with some nice views of the lake and also one or two birds to be seen. In addition, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are well recommended;
Moab. Many people visit here for the water based activities on the Colorado River. For ourselves, the two main reasons for the visit were Arches NP, which is only 5 miles to the North, and Monument Valley, which is on route from Page;
Bryce Canyon. This is at a higher elevation than expected, which keeps the daytime temperatures down to a respectable level, and the composition of the canyon itself is astounding. Not only does Bryce offer stunning scenery, but the accompanying forest and sage brush land over the highway are good for both birds and mammals.
While a little bit of research into the birding sites of the area was conducted before leaving, the main object of the holiday was to see the sites, and staying 2-3 nights in each of the locations left little time for any other activities. That being said, the geology and interest from the natural wonders of the area are unbelievable, and should be enjoyed in their own right. Some birds can be seen at some of these locations, but lack of them is by no means a disappointment.
The timing of the trip was intended to fit in with our other holidays, so the fact that we were in the area during the driest month was a useful coincidence. Not only was there no rain during our stay, but even clouds were few and far between. Temperatures varied hugely from one location to another, with highs in Las Vegas being bring up to 109°C (even nights didn't drop out of the 80's), to the much more refreshing 70's - 80's of Flagstaff and Bryce Canyon. Car hire was booked via the internet and using Dollar, which was much cheaper than the counter prices. We treated ourselves to a convertible, which was a good investment given the weather.