I'm from Indiana and planning a road trip for my family in a few weeks. It will be me, my husband, 19year old son, and 15 year old daughter. My kids are good travelers and aren't whiny teenagers (on most days anyway). We plan to do some hiking and focus on natural places, not tourist traps. We can make it from home to Colorado Springs or Denver in one day so that is our starting point. Right now my plan is to leave Colorado Springs on Day 2 and head southwest on hwy 115 and then west on hwy 50 stopping at various scenic areas we come across until we get to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I'm thinking we will camp there for the night. Day 3 we will head south on 550 through the San Juan mountains making various stops along the way until we get to Mesa Verde and camp for the night. Will we have time to see much of Mesa Verde if we arrive there in the afternoon? Day 4 will be a mostly driving day to get to the Grand Canyon. I haven't decided yet if we will go to the north or south rim. I have been to the north rim, how much more crowded is the south rim? I think we will stay at the Grand Canyon for 2 days. This is where my plans get sketchy. My rough plan is to go to the Hoover Dam maybe (Is it worth it?) and then to Zion for a day. (I'm starting to think we should go to the North Rim and skip Hoover Dam. Thoughts?) Then back through Bryce and/or Arches National Park and maybe drive through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way back to Denver... We need to be back in the Denver area at the end of day 10 and we will drive home on day 11.
I would appreciate any advice on the route I've planned, places to skip, less crowded alternatives, scenic routes to take, good/unusual places to eat, neat towns/places to visit, great campgrounds, things we shouldn't miss, etc.