Was it worth all the effort? Let’s put it this way: A half-hour after we stumbled over the sun-baked rim, I was floating in a hotel swimming pool, marveling at the oversized escapade we’d stuffed into 7 short days. Four hours later, I was getting misted as I savored a Sierra Nevada on a Vegas lounge chair. And one interminable hour after that, I was bellied up to the most outrageous buffet in town, loading up platters with baby green salad, Peking duck, seafood risotto, and crab legs. I kept at it until I was in pain. A few deep breaths later, I staggered back for a Swedish meatball the size of a nectarine. Sure I was full, but as any student of physics can tell you, it’s all relative.
Permits Backcountry reservations are essential at the Grand Canyon (www.nps.gov/grca/backcountry) and a wise idea in Canyonlands (www.nps.gov/cany/reserve) and Zion (www.nps.gov/cany/reserve). The other 4 parks do not accept advance reservations and issue same-day permits. In Arches and Petrified Forest, backcountry camping is extremely limited. Buy a Golden Eagle Pass ($50) rather than pay an entrance fee at each park.