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  1. #1

    Default First big RV trip Ohio to West

    Hello all. this is my first day and i have to say i have spent the entire day reading this site! What we are doing is very exciting, and i am learning a lot, especially how much i have to learn! So here are a few questions to get me started.....

    We are first time RV'ers. (lots of previous camping/hiking/biking/watersports experience tho) We are in the planning stages for a summer trip from Ohio to see some of the sights of the West. We have 3 to 4 weeks to do this and have a good list of interesting places. What i am having trouble with is putting them in order and mapping out a workable route, especially in the middle of the trip near the Grand Canyon. I have not been to that area of the country at all. There is just so much of interest in that area! Our basic plan with the research we have done is to Head west from Ohio and make it to Rocky Mt National Park in 2 long or 3 shorter days. From there, the middle of this trip is hangin me up.... we want to see Mesa Verde, Zion, Glen and Bryce, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam/Las Vegas (probably a day trip just to "see" it and probably a show that night) How do you plan a course through all that which is so spread out? I think parts of the general itinerary are going to fall into place easily, because of the ability to spend 3 or 4 days in one area and use a park as a central hub, traveling to see the nearby parks/attractions. But this Southern Utah/Northern AZ part is not falling into place.

    And the next challenge is the next leg. We need to get up to Teton area. Is there enough interest in the Salt Lake area to do a day stay there or just do one long run straight up to Teton??? I'd love to Kayak in the Salt Lake if possible. From the Teton/Yellostone area, we plan to head back east making a few days venture of the Custer/Rushmore/Badlands area before heading back.

    I realize this is a full schedule. We may need to cut back some of the stays to make it all fit. I have a long list of smaller attractions and "off the beaten path" things we'd like to get in, too. It may be a bit too ambitious..... We dont want to shortcut too much for the sake of seeing more. I know we are going to hit some places we just want to spend a bit longer! But with college students and work schedules, we have to do this while we can. Making a quick run from Ohio to see what we missed is not an option!

    "We" is my 22 yo daughter and 19 yo son in a 32 ft Bounder towing a Ford Escape. We plan to take our Kayaks (somehow...) and possibly bikes. We are all pretty sporty and looking for a more adventurous than relaxing type trip. We want to ride the mules (are reservations even possible at this late date?) and white water raft somewhere in the Colorado River.

    As new Rvers, we also want to make sure we are not overdoing what the RV can do. (We've only taken a couple weekend trips to date with no heavy driving) So advice on roads, passes etc is especially important to me. I plan to get the Mountain Directory - if you all recommend that... It is tough, though, having never been to any of these parks or areas at all.... The other thing I am getting is that getting park reservations might be a problem due to the timing. We are leaving on June 21. How do i go about finding good campgrounds without having ever been there??? Oh, so much to figure out!

    Any help/advice/resources you all can give is much appreciated. Thanks for reading!
    Shelley from Ohio

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default To big perhaps ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You don't say where in Ohio you are starting from, but even from Dayton it is going to be a couple of hard days on the road in an RV to get to RMNP, finishing the journey on the morning of day 3 might make for a more comfortable start to a long road trip.

    From RMNP there are many possible routes towards Mesa Verde, US 50 through the Currecanti rec area and past Black canyon to Montrose and down US550 [the spectacular 'Million dollar Highway'] would be one popular choice. Heading along I70 to Moab [Arches/Canyonlands] would be another. From Mesa Verde you could head through Monument valley to Grand canyon South rim and over the Hoover dam to Vegas. From Vegas up I 15 to Zion NP and Bryce canyon from where you can start your journey north towards Yellowstone.

    To be honest I think you are being over ambitious and although you can cover the miles, having quality time at your great [and long] list of places to visit will be at a premium and would need a minimum of the 4 weeks. As first time RV'ers I would strongly recommend you sit down together and consider saving half of your trip for 'next time' and concentrate this trip to either the Four corners region and keep to the South of RMNP/I70 or keep a more northerly route from Denver to Yellowstone and Badlands etc with some of the Utah parks perhaps. [Arches/Canyonlands/Bryce.]

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks Dave. This is the kind of stuff i need to hear and it is what i expected to hear. I think we are going to have to accept the reality of whittling down our wish list to a manageable size so we arent trying to do it all at breakneck speed. We want to be able to enjoy it. But we are quite thinking that the travel days are going to be our restful days and the rest is going to be spent on activity of some sort. We arent really into planning into the vacation such things as movie nights in the RV. I can do that at home!

    So you think if we cut the Yellowstone/Teton loop out and kept the rest that it is doable? Maybe coming across 80 from SLC in a marathon day to the Custer area - kinda on our way back east? That pretty much keeps us south except for that one really long run.

    We are in the Columbus area so about 20 hours to RMNP. Gotta think we can do a marathon just out of the gate when we are all excited and ready to rock and roll. The good thing is we have 3 drivers. Maybe make it to just shy of Denver on Day 2 and then roll into the park early on Day 3.

    I do feel like i need to get some of these basic/large plans figured out soon so i can get down to the nitty gritty details AND Reservations!

    Thanks so much for your help!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Driving a big RV with a toad, I think trying to make Denver in 2 days is pushing it too much. I'd look at somewhere in the middle of MO for the first night and somewhere in western KS for the second night. Try to keep the daily point-to-point drive down to about 500 miles.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Half 'n Half

    Just looking at your initial wish list, I am in general agreement with Dave that this is a huge undertaking. But I also think that it's possible to do if you are comfortable with spending roughly as much time driving as you are enjoying the spots in between.

    The first thing you have to come to grips with is the speed of an RV as in 'not much'. You are not going to make it to RMNP in two days from Ohio. Having multiple drivers does not make the RV/tow go any faster, quite the opposite, as you will be lugging more weight and making more frequent and longer stops. You need to budget a full three days for this initial leg and similarly not plan on covering more than 400 miles or so on any single day. That's just the way it's going to be. That does leave you a little time each day to take some refreshing time-outs during each day's drive, but not for major sight-seeing stops.

    Your second leg is fairly straightforward: RMNP to Durango via US-285 to Del Norte and then US-160 over Wolf Creek Pass. Be aware that Wolf Creek Pass is 10,850' high and US-160 is a two lane road. This will be very slow going and you will need to pull over frequently to let other traffic pass you. Still at around 400 miles this is a doable leg.

    That middle leg that's causing you so much consternation would work most efficiently like this. Head west from Durango on US-160 and cut down through Four Corners and part of Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon and enjoy that, then double back along the Rim Road, thus getting to see any parts of the Canyon you might have missed and head north on US-89 through Hatch, UT to Bryce Canyon. Again retrace your tracks south on US-89 to UT-9 west through Zion to I-15 south to Las Vegas.

    Between Vegas and Salt Lake City (There were enough outdoor activity centers there to recently host an Olympics, after all!) enjoy the relative serenity of just muscling your rig down a safe and sane interstate. After SLC you can get back to a more adventurous drive by taking US-89 up to the Tetons. Your final run for home is basically along US-90, but if you really plan to explore some of the Black Hills sights, then you should leave 5 days or so for this last leg.

    Again, you can accomplish what you want, I think. It's just going to take a bit more hard-headed attitude about what you can safely and realistically accomplish in a sane day of driving with the rig you're going to be taking.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-13-2011 at 01:19 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Balancing act.

    Thanks Dave. This is the kind of stuff i need to hear and it is what i expected to hear. I think we are going to have to accept the reality of whittling down our wish list to a manageable size so we arent trying to do it all at breakneck speed. We want to be able to enjoy it. But we are quite thinking that the travel
    I wouldn't say 'breakneck speed', it's just a case of how long you want to spend biking and kayaking and general stops along the way. As Buck mentioned above and I did earlier, it's doable but you have to be comfortable with it, not us. The other thing I was trying to get across is how many other things you could include without quite so many miles, for instance if you didn't do a straight shot from RMNP to Durango.

    We arent really into planning into the vacation such things as movie nights in the RV.
    Thank goodness ! LOL.

    So you think if we cut the Yellowstone/Teton loop out and kept the rest that it is doable? Maybe coming across 80 from SLC in a marathon day to the Custer area - kinda on our way back east? That pretty much keeps us south except for that one really long run.
    My initial thoughts were that you use 170 corridor as a line from Denver. The 'line' could include places like 'RMNP, Colorado NM, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion. Then from that 'line' add places to the South, Glen canyon, Grand canyon, Las Vegas, Monument valley, Mesa Verde, Black canyon, Currecanti Nat rec area and so on, or North from the 'line' Tetons, Yellowstone, Black hills, Mt Rushmore, Custer State park, Badlands etc. Either of these options, your one above or your original itinerary could work, so I have probably left you more confused than when you started, sorry !

    Why I said that your trip was 'doable but perhaps to big' was the fact that you mention biking, kayaking etc, and setting up camp for 3 and 4 days at a time in one area, and it's getting this balance right to suit you.

    Once you have figured it out, we can help to 'fine tune' your itinerary.

  7. #7

    Default

    OK, guys, i am working on a good itinerary, using all your wonderful advice, that will get as much as possible in without putting us over the edge on the driving. (Dang, this is HARD!) One question i have for you (before i make the final plan and put it out there for you to shoot full of holes!) is this..... We are going to be out on July 4. Depending on the order i put this stuff, we may be near Zion, the Grand Canyon, Vegas or SLC at that time. Anybody know of a super "not to be missed" July 4th celebration we can plan on? Or locations for fireworks, or whatever? Here in Ohio, we often see big stuff on July 3 as well, so anything good you know of on either day is appreciated. Thanks!!

  8. #8

    Default

    OK, Guys.... after much more research (our Library now has no books in it!), reading this site until all hours of the morning, and the purchase of some books of my own, I think i am ready to have a crack at a real working itinerary. I also spent a good portion of a day with my friend Suzy who just moved to Ohio after spending 17 years living in the Pike's Peak area. (WHY??) She had awesome tips and suggestions as she has hiked extensively in the area and was able to whip out pictures of some of the places we were thinking of including. I also took several really important parts off Dave's famous "Denver to Four Corners" trip and incorporated those (Thanks, Dave!)

    So, here goes:

    Day 1 - June 21, 2011 = Leave Columbus, OH via Rt 70 just after rush hour. 7 hours to St Louis. Stop in that area for dinner and longer stretch. Continue 2 hrs to Columbia, MO. Now, at this point, option B may include a continuation of 2 MORE hours on to Kansas City IF we are feeling up to it. (must remember here "we" consists of 2 college students who are regular night owls and are likely to get a big second wind)

    I'll put in my disclaimer here.... I really am heeding your warnings on keeping driving miles to about 550 per day max, except for this one optional additional 125. I just figure if there ever is a time to do it, it is right out of the chute when we are all psyched up and ready to "just do this!" We'll see, however. 10-11 hours IS a lot! Our good thing is we have 3 drivers and while the "kids" will probably only do highway driving, they will be a big help on our giant leg of I-70. We are planning to have a person drive, one person navigate and somebody totally "off duty" who can nap, eat, watch a movie, etc.

    Day 2 - IF we made it to Kansas City, then on to Aurora, CO. If not, as near as we can get in 500 miles or so.

    Day 3 - From "wherever" to Denver. Then up the Peak to Peak Byway to Estes Park, CO. Checkin at whatever time.....at campground to be determined...

    Day 4 - RMNP - hike, Kayak?, definitely see the sights/animals, etc

    Day 5 - Checkout and head to Fruita, CO/Grand Junction area (site to be determined)

    Day 6 - see Colorado National Monument - Rim drive and on to Arches NP.

    Day 7 - more Arches in AM then on to Mesa Verde/Durango area

    Day 8 - Tour Mesa Verde, etc

    Day 9 - Whitewater raft the Lower Piedra - 1/2 day, then chill

    Day 10 - Leave Durango area and drive to Grand Canyon - North Rim (we arent much for insane crowds...) with good part of day left to see some stuff/hike. Pitstop at "Four Corners"

    Day 11 - Grand Canyon all day

    Day 12 - Leave GC and Drive to Las Vegas, with pitstop at Hoover Dam

    Day 13 - Tour Las Vegas, go up in Eiffel Tower, ride roller coaster - go see Blue Man Group in evening.

    Day 14 - Leave LV and drive to Zion - July 4 activities??

    Day 15 - Zion all day

    Day 16 - Leave Zion and drive to Bryce Canyon

    Day 17 - Bryce Canyon all day

    Day 18 - Leave Bryce and do Long haul up through Salt Lake City to Flaming Gorge (should we possibly shorten Bryce by a day (or a half day) and make this long haul better? Then we could maybe do something in Salt Lake???) Right now i have 2 full days at both

    Day 19 - Flaming Gorge Area

    Day 20 - Drive to Custer, SD

    Day 21 - Custer, possibly Jewel Cave, Rushmore, Crazy Horse

    Day 22 - Badlands (prob just drive through) to DeSmet, SD area for "Little House" museum, etc

    Day 23 - DeSmet, SD to Cedar Falls, IA -5 hrs- dinner with friends

    Day 24 - Cedar Falls to Mokena, IL (South of Chicago) 5 hours - dinner with more friends

    Day 25 - Mokena, IL back to Columbus - approx 6 hr - possible lunch with friends near Indy.

    As you can see, we scrapped all thoughts of getting to the Teton/Yellowstone area in favor of spending more time in the others.... it will have to remain on the "list"..... (i really want to see Glacier, so maybe next year???) We also added a couple days to max it out at 3 wks + 4 days. That is absolutely all we can get. :(

    Now once i get some feedback on this, making sure it is doable, i am about to set out to find good RV parks in all these areas and book stuff like the rafting, the Vegas show, and possible mule or horse ride in GC, Bryce or Zion- if we are really lucky at this late date. I need to get on it - we leave in 4 weeks!! I have lots of ideas and tentative plans/RV parks, just need to make sure these days work in sensible fashion first.

    So..... see any glaring mistakes?? Anything we are driving right by and ought to include? THANKS so much for the help and tips!! This site and you experienced ones have helped sooooo much!!

    Shelley and gang

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default recommended RV parks

    Hi, Shelley - - we are former RV'ers - -that's quite an undertaking you are planning! Be aware that it's much harder to make a 500 mile day in an RV than it is in a car - - take it from my experience! You can't do the same speed limits as a car, and often times the weather won't allow you to go faster than 55 even if the speed limit would say it was okay!

    If you make it to Columbia, MO, there's Cottonwood RV Park just off Rt. 63 north of town. It will take you a bit north of Columbia but it's well worth it. If you think you can make Kansas City, try Trailside RV in Grain Valley. We were there a few years back and it was fine.

    In Kansas there's a KOA at Wakeeny that's pretty decent. We also have stayed at a place called Camp Inn out of Oakley, but last time we were through there (in a car) we noticed that the place had changed names. I don't know how that has changed the RV park, but the pool was lovely.

    Bear in mind that at MOST national parks, the campgrounds do not have hookups. You'll be relying either on your 12-volt battery power or your generator (if you brought one). Still, they are really beautiful places to camp. If you end up at Zion, there is a lovely RV park in Springvale just outside of the park. It's every bit as pretty as the national park, though a wee bit more expensive, but the good thing: SHOWERS. After a day of hiking in Zion, or even kayaking down the river, you'll appreciate the showers.

    Hope this is helpful!

    Donna

  10. Default

    Day 6 - see Colorado National Monument - Rim drive and on to Arches NP.
    Exit Interstate I-70 at Cisco, exit 214 and drive the scenic Hwy 128 into Moab, Utah. It's a good road. Moab is going to be hot this time of the year. You would need reservations if you wanted to camp at Devils Garden campground in Arches. The Willow Flats Campground at Canyonlands, Island in the Sky district is very primitive and only has 12 spots and fills up early. There are plenty of private campgrounds in the town of Moab or there are BLM campgrounds along the Colorado River on Hwy 128 and the Potash Road Hwy 279.


    Day 7 - more Arches in AM then on to Mesa Verde/Durango area
    Durango is not really a good place to stay to see Mesa Verde. Lots of driving back and forth. The Morefield campground in Mesa Verde hardly ever fills up. There are showers nearby at the store. There is also a private campground called Mesa Verde RV Resort (don't let the name fool you...I wouldn't call it a resort!) but it was very close to the entrance to Mesa Verde.

    Day 10 - Leave Durango area and drive to Grand Canyon - North Rim (we arent much for insane crowds...) with good part of day left to see some stuff/hike. Pitstop at "Four Corners"
    I calculate this will be over the 4th of July weekend so you are smart to avoid the S. Rim. The campground at the North Rim is by reservations so you better check to see if you can get in. If you can't get a spot, keep checking at least daily for a cancellation. I'm not that familiar with other camping in the area.

    Day 12 - Leave GC and Drive to Las Vegas, with pitstop at Hoover Dam
    The only campground on the Las Vegas strip is Circus Circus and it is a parking lot with hook ups! Oasis is a resort but you will either have to walk 1/2 a mile to the bus stop, take a taxi to the strip or if you have a tow vehicle, you will be fine.

    Day 14 - Leave LV and drive to Zion - July 4 activities??
    I wouldn't take the shuttle into Zion canyon that day! Talk about CROWDS! Watchman campground in Zion has electrical hook ups but it's pretty much booked for the summer. Keep checking for cancellations if you want to camp there. South campground is first come first serve, but over a holiday weekend, I'm sure it will be full early in the day. The campground in Springdale is just across the river from Watchman but the spot they put us in we were camped right on top of another camper and I didn't like it. They do have some nicer sites, but have no idea which ones to tell you to ask for. There is a resort ($$)campground in Virgin, Utah. It's about 10 miles or so down the road but you don't see Zion Canyon from there.

    Day 16 - Leave Zion and drive to Bryce Canyon
    You will have to pay the tunnel fee of $15 to go though the Zion Tunnel to Bryce.
    There are two campgrounds in Bryce. One takes reservations and the other is first come first serve. There is a shower nearby to both campgrounds. If you want a private campground Ruby's Inn and Campground is just outside the Bryce park entrance. You can even pick up the Bryce free shuttles at the private campground.

    Day 18 - Leave Bryce and do Long haul up through Salt Lake City to Flaming Gorge (should we possibly shorten Bryce by a day (or a half day) and make this long haul better? Then we could maybe do something in Salt Lake???) Right now i have 2 full days at both
    If you decide against going to Salt Lake City, then I'd drive Hwy 12 to Torrey, Utah and possibly stay a night at the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park.

    Flaming Gorge is a boaters recreational area and not sure it's worth a full day. You would be better off going to Vernal and spending a day at Dinosaur National Monument and just drive though Flaming Gorge. The campground at Dinosaur National Monument is very nice.

    As DonnaR57 mentioned, most of the campgrounds in National Parks do not have hook ups. Watchman in Zion is the exception in my list. All of them have dump stations and fresh water. You will be driving at least every other day so you shouldn't have to worry about your batteries, but many of the areas you are visiting get HOT in the summer and you won't be able to run the air conditioning all night because most national park campgrounds have generator hours.

    I've only listed the camping areas I'm most familiar with.

    Utahtea

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