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  1. #1

    Default First time roadtripper

    Hi all, been hanging around the forums for weeks now reading all the very helpful posts.

    I'm in the very early stages of planning a roadtrip for next year, and cannot for the life of me decide the scope of the drive. My original plan was cross country, but with the driving part not taking over until Denver basically. Then the usual suspects, Utah, Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite, San Fran, etc (honestly, I thought my route was unique until I found this site! :p)

    Now I'm having second thoughts about such a wide ranging trip on my first time - I spent a few weeks driving down through Scotland and England last year and enjoyed it, but I don't think it's comparable, and wonder if a west coast loop would be a better choice.

    My deepest fear is that the longer trip will feel rushed, hurried and stressful and may turn me off roadtripping for good. If I take the shorter loop, I can always come back next year and do west coast, etc.

    I've got 3-4 weeks to play with here, so maybe Denver -> SF is not the case 'biting off more than I can chew' that I think it is. Just looking for some sage advice from the old hands, I'll be putting up my itinerary and all that later, this is just the prelude. If you had to start from scratch again, would you jeep it short and sweet or go for the hail mary pass?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    Three to four weeks gives you a good amount of time to play with. There's always going to be a balancing act between the depth and breadth of any trip. You could choose to spend several days in one location, or try to fit in several. The determining factor is knowing what you are interested in. Do you think you would like to spend, say, 3 days in Yosemite or Las Vegas, or would you be content just passing through?

    As far as size comparisons, the UK is roughly the size of Oregon. Think about your trip through Scotland and England and then compare it to the sizes of the states you will see. Did you get to explore enough on that trip? Or did you feel that you wanted to slow it down a bit and get more detail on an area?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default A nice amount of time.

    As Tim mentioned, it's a bit of a trade off between seeing a lot of less places, or less of a lot of places. With 3 to 4 weeks you can certainly juggle things to suit your style and pace of travel, whether it be a large loop from Denver, a one way trip from Denver to San Fran or a smaller loop from Denver, Vegas, LA or San Fran for example.

    Compared to driving back here in the UK, you will be amazed at the enormity of the wide open spaces and lack of congestion away from the City. With the incredibly diverse and amazing scenery, the driving doesn't become a 'chore' at all, just part of the fun ! You can cover a lot more stress free miles and if you enjoy driving, you will love it out there.

    You mention the 'driving part' of the trip not starting until Denver. How much time you use up getting to the start of the road trip section will also have an effect on what is possible. Unless of course you have 3-4 weeks for the road trip itself ?

    I would put your outlined itinerary up and then we can 'talk' you through it, and you can adjust and 'tweak' it to suit.

  4. #4

    Default

    Thanks, both.

    Dave, if I go with plan A, I'll be visiting Washington, Chicago and of course Denver before I start driving, so I only get 2 weeks or so for the actual driving, although it would be a one-way trip (Denver to SF via all points). The 2 weeks was really just to take advantage of weekly car rental rates, but can be stretched to about 17 days really.

    If I go with plan B, it'd be a loop, but take far longer.

    From what you're both saying, it sounds like a personal preference, so let me go away and put together a rough itinerary for plan A, and see what it looks like.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default A rough guide.

    It is a personal choice and that's the great thing about creating your own road trip, the freedom to do what you want at the pace you want !

    To give you some idea to for planning purpose, this may be of some use as a starting point.

    Denver to San Fran, via some main attractions; Rocky mountain NP, Colorado National Monument, Arches and Canyonlands NP [Moab] Capitol Reef, Bryce canyon, Zion NP, Antelope canyon, Monument valley, Grand canyon, Las Vegas, Death valley, Yosemite NP, San Francisco.

    That's around 2000 miles and could be driven in 5/6 days, with only time to pop out the car and take a photo, [not recommended] equally you could spend 2 to 3 day's at most of these places and only scratch the surface, so you can see why it's a a bit of a 'juggling' act.

    This represents only one of many possible routes and attractions, so have a dig around the forums and use the Map centre above to play around with route ideas and locate attractions etc.

    Enjoy the planning !

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks, Dave, you're actually not that far off my original plan A

    Day 1-10, I'll be hanging around Washington, Chicago and Denver, my road trip starts on Day 10 in Denver when I hire a car
    10 Hire car in Denver. Day trip to Rocky Mountain NP
    11 Denver to Moab
    12 Day in Moab
    13 Moab to Springdale
    14 Zion National Park
    15 Springdale to Las Vegas
    15-19 Las Vegas
    20 LV through Death Valley National Park to Lone Pine
    21 Lone Pine to Yosemite
    22 Yosemite
    23 Yosemite to San Francisco (return rental)
    24-27 San Francisco (have family there, so need to make some time for this city)
    28 home

    I've also got the option of pulling one night off Las Vegas and taking the long way around to Yosemite, via Sequioa (and stay in 3 Lakes or somewhere?)

    Bryce, Antelope and Monument Valley were all on my list, but will probably fall to optionals or drive-thrus by the time I'm done. Since it takes me 10 days to get to Denver, I have a feeling that my trip is unbalanced, 10 days of sitting around followed by 14 days of mad driving, but maybe it's not as bad as I fear?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    I'd say your trip looks a little unbalanced, simply because you are spending so much time in cities. In addition to your first 10 days, you're also spending 5 more in Vegas and then 5 more in SF, so only about a week of your 4 week trip is actually spent on the road. That long break in Vegas certainly keeps even the roadtrip portion from being what I'd call mad driving. Its not that anything is wrong with that, but if you've mentioned you've got a lot of things you want to see in the west, it seems like you might not be matching your plans with your priorities.

    I think you could do more with the time you've got. You've got 3 days to get from Moab to Vegas, stopping at Zion, and it would be very easy to also work in most of a day in Bryce without being at all rushed.

    I'll also throw out that it is a little surprising that you've completely left off the Grand Canyon from your planning.

  8. #8

    Default

    Hi Michael, still very early, but I'd say I'll visit GC only on a flying (literally) visit, I'm looking at the various heicopter and airplane excursions from Vegas. I don't want to spend the night there, and the consensus seems to be that driving there and back in one day is foolish as you spend 10 hours driving for some short quality time at the canyon.

    For Bryce though, you're right, I definitely could spend a few hours there on the way from Moab to Zion, that makes sense, and also means I can definitely take advantage of the America the Beautiful pass, cheers. Any more suggestions like that would be gratefully received

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    if you've mentioned you've got a lot of things you want to see in the west, it seems like you might not be matching your plans with your priorities.
    Not sure I follow this bit, Michael. Are you suggesting getting to Denver a bit earlier in the trip and spending more time on the Denver to San Francisco drive, stopping more often?

    If it's any help, this is the planned start of the trip:

    day 1 fly to washington
    day 2-5 washington
    day 5 overnight train from washington to chicago, arriving day 6
    day 6-8 chicago
    day 8 overnight train from chicago to denver, arriving day 9
    day 9-10 denver

    I don't think this section of the journey lends itself to driving at all, too much boring landscape, too many small towns, and I'm doing 2 sides of a triangle. I also like the idea of the train for this part.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Thoughts.

    I would recommend either visiting the North rim of the Grand canyon or driving down through Page to the Grand canyon South rim. The North rim is in closer proximity between Bryce and Zion. Flights from Vegas generally go to the West rim which is not part of the National parks and won't offer the famous views seen the world over through Photography.

    Now for my other thoughts.

    Day trip to Rocky mountains from Denver ? Don't make it a day trip, head to Estes park and look around the Bear Lake area. Then drive over the very scenic Trail ridge Rd [which happens to be the highest continuous Highway in the US] to Grand lake or down to Georgetown. That takes right through the heart of the Rockies and your starting point next day will be nearer to Moab.

    I would do pretty much what Michael suggested, take extra time towards Vegas and less time there, and enjoy the Grand canyon on route. A couple of day's is what I would recommend, but it's your trip and your choice.

    Taking the 'long way round' to Yosemite to visit Sequoia is a viable option, but you would be missing a spectacular drive across the Sierra's into Yosemite on the Tioga pass [CA120]. Near to the South entrance of Yosemite is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia's that would give you a 'Big tree fix'.

    What I am thinking [and what I think Michael is suggesting] is that to "see the West" you need to slow down a bit in between the City's and spend a little less time in them. That might not fit with what you want to do, but if it does only you can decide whether that be before Denver or after, or a little of each for that matter.

    Good start though, well done !

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Not sure I follow this bit, Michael. Are you suggesting getting to Denver a bit earlier in the trip and spending more time on the Denver to San Francisco drive, stopping more often?
    I'm simply saying that you are spending a lot of time in cities. You've got 4 days in DC, 3 days in Chicago, 5 days in Vegas, and 5 days in San Francisco. It works out that about 3/4 of your trip will be in cities. There is nothing wrong with that at all, if that's what you want, but it does limit your time on the road. When you have so many things you say want to see in the west that you are considering doing a loop, I would think you'd look at doing more of a middle ground, cutting a few days from each of the cities, so you're closer to 50/50 in your city to roadtrip/nature time.

    I don't think this section of the journey lends itself to driving at all, too much boring landscape, too many small towns, and I'm doing 2 sides of a triangle. I also like the idea of the train for this part.
    There's nothing wrong with the train as it is a good way to maximize your time based on what you want to see. I just would strongly disagree that this area doesn't lend itself to roadtripping. Those small towns you're looking to avoid are the backbone of America and a roadtrip is really the only way you can get that part of the american experience.
    I'm looking at the various heicopter and airplane excursions from Vegas. I don't want to spend the night there, and the consensus seems to be that driving there and back in one day is foolish as you spend 10 hours driving for some short quality time at the canyon.
    First of all, I don't quite understand why you would be strongly against spending the night there. But there is another big flaw in your thinking. The Grand Canyon is a 10+ hour round trip from Vegas, but you wouldn't be starting from Vegas, you'd be starting from Utah and you could easily include it as part of your drive without doing the backtracking of a Vegas Loop.

    As Dave mentioned, flights are an option, but it is not nearly the same experience as actually standing on the rim in the National Park. If it were me, losing some time in Vegas for what works out to be a pretty short detour to GC would be an obvious choice. But again, that's me, you'll have to figure out what's right for you.

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