If the Grand Canyon isn't on your itinerary, then using SLC is the logical airport for the Utah National Parks. Be sure you have plenty of time for a trip to the Utah National Parks. Suggested night stays for this itinerary are as follows:
Moab (base for Arches and Canyonlands NP) - 3 to 4 nights
Torrey (base for Capitol Reef NP) - 1 to 2 nights
Bryce Canyon - 1 to 2 nights
Zion - 2 to 3 nights
You will need most of a day at the beginning of your trip for the check/provisions process with the RV. You will need to be close to SLC (within a hour or less) the night before you drop off the RV to allow for cleaning the unit and getting it back to the drop off point on time.
It's advisable to have advance campsite/RV park reservations. I don't want to count on getting first come first serve sites. During the peak tourist season in this area (now thru mid October), the RV parks and other suitable campgrounds will be full every single night. There isn't enough campgrounds to meet the demand.
Have you traveled long distances by RV before? Do you understand what is involved with RV travel when it comes to the routine housekeeping stuff like emptying the grey and black water tanks? If you haven't, a trip like this may not be the best way for a first experience.
If you’ve never traveled by RV before, it would be a good idea to do a 3 or 4 day road trip close to your home to see if you even like it. It would be no fun to find out a couple of days in to a trip like this that RV travel isn’t for you. You’ll be stuck with it for the next 10 days or so.
How many people are in your traveling party? If it’s more than two, the people riding in the main cabin of the RV will have poor visabilty out the windows and will miss a lot of great scenery. RVs are a little inconvenient within the parks themselves. Again, folks in the cabin will miss scenery. It may be difficult finding a parking spot at viewpoints etc.
And finally, traveling by RV isn’t necessarily cheaper. Gas will be a huge expense. You will have to pay for a campsite every night. You’ll have greater flexibility traveling by car and staying in hotels.
I strongly second Connie's suggestion of doing a local weekend RV test run for two reasons:
1) Learn the ropes. There is a bit of a learning curve with an RV, and it would be much better for you to deal with that ahead of time - setting up - dealing with water, gas, power, etc. Dealing with gray water and black water, etc.
2) Make sure you like it. People tend to love or hate RVing. There are significant pros and cons. If RVing isn't your thing a 2 week trip is the wrong time to find out. Some of the cons: high cost (hotels and car rental is typically cheaper), limited locations to park in some areas in UT, decreased maneuverability, the hassle of setup, dealing with black water - ick. (I guess I'm giving away whether I'm in the love or hate RVing group.) My point is not to say RVing is terrible - many people love it. My point is that a long UT is not conducive to a first time RV experience.
With that said, I highly recommend you go with a big name brand. Don't go with an off brand or a personal rental to save some money. This example is a big extreme, but read these article to understand why I say this: https://www.ksl.com/?sid=44031576&nid=148 and https://www.ksl.com/index.php…
As far as Vegas vs. Salt Lake, your instincts are right that with 2 weeks either is a good place to start - go with wherever you find a better price on rental and flight.Edited: 12 June 2018, 04:48
When are you planning this trip? If it’s this summer, you will probably have a problem finding reservable campsites anywhere near the parks. Even getting hotel reservations could be a problem.
Southwest and Grand Circle Trip Planning
Everyone wants to visit the parks in the western USA. It's something that every family can and should do at some time. These vacations can be life changing and bonding experiences. Or they can be nightmares.
Most travelers equate being in the parks and outdoor environments with hiking. It's important to understand that hiking is not a requirement for enjoying the wilderness. Time is. This cannot be understated. One cannot begin to appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the national parks unless and until they spend time there. It can be as simple as sitting at a single view point for hours, or as elaborate as day long hikes or extended back country camping trips. But arriving at a view point, snapping a picture, and driving on (a la Clark Griswold) is simply not going to do it. At the very least, most of the national parks in the southwest need a day or longer, just to self tour the many attractions and view points therein. Sunset and sunrise are generally the most peaceful and stunning times of day in the sun's rapidly changing light. So overnight stays at, or as close as possible, will enhance a visit to any park.
Logistically, it takes about a half day or longer to travel between most of the parks in the 4 corners states. Often, the scenic drives are enticing enough to warrant additional stops and detours along the way. Regardless, it takes at least two nights at any park or destination to have just one full day there. Many trip planners fail to understand this.
Driving at night in the high desert region is strongly discouraged. Roads are desolate. Ambient lighting is non existent meaning highways are very dark. Wildlife of all sorts and sizes populate the roads from dusk until dawn. Even domestic farm animals like cattle and sheep wander on the pavement.
When trip planners are also expressing a specific desire to include hiking as a regular activity at the parks, and asking for advice on which trails to focus on, they need to realize that they will probably need multiple days and nights at the stop in order to do the hiking or whatever other activities, beyond quick snapshots, they have in mind.
Everyone wants to 'see as much as they can'. What they fail to realize is that by adding more places and activities to a list, without increasing available time, they wind up seeing less and reducing the quality of their vacation time. It's far better to plan more time at fewer parks and destinations, than to rush around and do little more than touch all the bases.
Everyone wants to stay 'off the beaten path' and avoid the places that are 'touristy'. The path that's well worn is that way because it includes the best places already. If you're planning to tour the parks, you are by definition, a tourist. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. If you insist on avoiding the most popular sites and activities, you'll be planning a second tier, inferior, vacation. Do the top tier first, then come back to explore more in depth.
So when planning your family vacation in the 4 corners region keep a few points in mind.
0. Less is more. Fewer parks and destinations will mean more quality time at the places you choose. Odds are, if you do a proper vacation at just one or two places, you'll return again to focus on different parks in the future.
0. Advance planning and reservations will save you time and money. Park lodges book up as much as a year in advance. The most sought after accommodations go to those who plan and commit the earliest.
0. Traveling by RV is slower and usually more costly than using a car and traditional hotels and lodging. Even campsites book months in advance.
0. Information found on the Internet is helpful, but needs to be verified. Add 30% to most map app drive time estimates. Use park websites along with traveler review and forum sites like TripAdvisor. You aren't the first, and you won't be the last. But there is much you can learn from folks who have been there and done that.