Trips to Western National Parks for Less

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated December 24, 2018

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Money Saving Tips
October 24, 2018

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Driving across the West can be a great way to relax and unwind from your daily life, and as a benefit, can be more cost-effective than a fancy trip to Europe. If you are looking for a relaxing trip to the most beautiful parts of the west without spending too much, here are some tips on what to do.

Zion has some of the most incredible sites of any national park in the country, making it a most-go for many nature enthusiasts. This can drive up the price of a visit, but there are several ways to keep down the cost.

The most important thing to remember is the time of year you go. Zion is usually really busy from May until October, so prices will be higher then. Planning a trip in March, April or November would be smart, since the shuttle for the park doesn’t run in the winter months because of the snow.

Staying in Zion? There are several good hotels right at the mouth of the entrance to Zion (which is where we stayed), but because of the popularity, these can get really expensive. We found out from experienced travels, after the fact, that the best way to save a few bucks is to stay in nearby St. George, which offers a ton of great hotels without the jacked up prices. It is only a quick 45-minutes from the entrance of the park, and allows you the flexibility to explore the area around Zion.

The Arches features one of the greatest natural marvels, with stone arches that rise in the sky like skyscrapers. It’s only $10 per person if you are on foot or are riding a bike, and $25 per vehicle for those that are driving. (If you have multiple vehicles, it’s smart to cram everyone into one if you can, since you will save on admission.) These passes last for seven days, so you can go back as many times as you want. Pick up a free map at the admissions booth, and then park in the visitor’s center to plan your route through the many potential stops along the parks routes. (We suggest The Windows Section, which has many cools sights to see, and the Balanced Rock, which is a must-see for everyone.)

If you are looking for somewhere to eat around the park, we suggest the Atomic Grill and Lounge. It caters specifically to the Arches crowd and has some cool and interesting dishes related to the local culture. You can also wander into Moab, the closest town, which has great options for both eating and sight-seeing.

Leadville is not technically a national park, but we wanted to check it out because it is supposed to be beautiful with a rich history in from the mining industry. Leadville is a tiny mining town, so hotels are scarce, but many people rent out their beautiful Victorian houses on AirBnB, which is where we stayed.

Once in Leadville, you can wander around the adorable downtown with its historic buildings and wonderful local shops. Check out the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, which has interesting exhibits on the history of mining in Colorado, as well as old mining equipment and geological exhibits. On the top floor, there is the Mining Hall of Fame, with photos of the most famous names in Mining. You can also visit the Healy House Museum & Dexter Cabin, which was home to Baby Doe Tabor, one of the most famous and interesting names in mining history.

For a town this small, it actually has a vibrant food scene. Wild Bill’s offers classic, down-home cooking, offering guests a choice of beef or buffalo when it comes to meat in your burger. Quincy’s Steaks and Spirits is a small venue, but offers up traditional steak dinners with specials each day. And Treeline Kitchen gives you the high-end, hipster vibe that makes foodies flock to places like Chicago or San Francisco.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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