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  1. #1

    Default Requesting comments and suggestions on my Southwest/Rocky Mts itinerary - 17 days

    Hi Folks

    I'm heading to the USA in just under three weeks' time. Apart from a week in San Francisco and New York, the major focus will be a roadtrip taking in some of the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains.

    I'll be hiring (have already booked) a car in Las Vegas on the morning of the 25th of June and will return it to Denver International Airport 18 days later on the morning of the 12th of July. I realise that with the drop-off fees this is quite an expensive way of doing it, but overall it seems a worthwhile compromise, to be able to maximise time spent in the desert and mountainous areas.

    I'm a keen flyfisherman and hiker, but also love long drives (provided there is some space between them). I'll mainly be doing short hikes except in the Snowy Range where I'll do longer hikes and concentrate on flyfishing.

    I work in the desert of Western Australia so am used to the heat.

    I would be grateful for some feedback on my proposed itinerary in relation to its practicality, any suggested changes/tweaks (e.g. would it be worth eliminating Farmington and trying to go straight through to Santa Fe that day, to give me an extra day to spend somewhere else?), and suggested accommodation. I realise that given the time of year of my trip, accommodation options may be limited. I don't have personal internet access where I work, which limits the ability to plan and book ahead. I did want to rely fairly heavily on camping, but NP campsites I've checked so far have been booked out, so I've mainly chosen hotels. I figured that given the reasonably long drives, I probably wouldn't get to campsites early enough in the day to find first-come-first-serve vacancies - although if I am wrong with that assumption, please let me know. I can afford hotels/B&Bs for the whole trip if necessary.

    I'd like to have got as far north as the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, but haven't included it in this iteration of the itinerary (I'd like to see Yellowstone one day, but will skip it at this time of year). However, if anyone has ideas or suggestions on what to cut out, amalgamate or change to allow me to reach the Grand Tetons, it would be appreciated. I guess I could leave out the Snowy Range, but as I've already booked accommodation there, I'm a bit reluctant to do so.

    Anyway, thanks in advance for any advice.

    • 25 June - Day 1: early a.m. Fly in to Las Vegas. Collect hire car. Practise driving on the right hand side of the road somewhere relatively free of potential casualties...er, I mean other drivers/pedestrians :-). Drive to St George - accommodation booked.
    • 26 June - Day 2: Hiking in Zion NP. Drive to Kanab - accommodation booked.
    • 27 June - Day 3: Hiking in Zion again, plus visit Bryce Canyon. Back to Kanab for the night - accommodation booked.
    • 28 June - Day 4: Drive from Kanab to Grand Canyon North Rim. Drive to Flagstaff and stay the night (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 29 June - Day 5: Drive Flagstaff - Sedona - Flagstaff; short hike in Coconino NF if time. Drive to Cameron, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 30 June - Day 6: Drive from Cameron to Monument Valley. O/N somewhere in the vicinity (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 01 July - Day 7: Drive from Monument Valley via Four Corners to Farmington, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 02 July - Day 8: Drive from Farmington to Santa Fe, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 03 July - Day 9: Drive from Santa Fe to Durango, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 04 July - Day 10: Drive from Durango, via Silverton, to Moab, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 05 July - Day 11: Short hike in Arches NP, then drive to Grand Junction, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 06 July - Day 12: Drive from Grand Junction to Rocky Mountains NP, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 07 July - Day 13: Short hike in RMNP, then drive to Snowy Range, WY , O/N there - accommodation booked.
    • 08 July - Day 14: Hiking and flyfishing in Snowy Range - accommodation booked.
    • 09 July - Day 15: Hiking and flyfishing in Snowy Range - accommodation booked.
    • 10 July - Day 16: Drive from Snowy Range, via Cheyenne, to RMNP, O/N there (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 11 July - Day 17: Short hike at RMNP, then drive to Denver - O/N there near airport (DIA) (accommodation not yet booked).
    • 12 July - Day 18: early a.m. return hire car; fly to NYC


    Regards
    Steve

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default a lot of extra miles

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Honestly, I see a whole lot of zig-zagging and backtracking that makes it look like you are adding a whole lot more miles than you need.

    But first things first, I would strongly advise that you not try to drive from Vegas to St. George on the same day as you arrive on a flight from Australia. It's only a couple hours, but you'll already have been traveling for more than 24 hours at this point, and you'll certainly have a large amount of jetlag to deal with. Spend that first day in Vegas just relaxing and getting acclimated, then take off for Zion the next morning after you've gotten some rest and won't be a danger to yourself or others.

    After that is where you get into a lot of zigzagging and back-tracking. Kanab, for example is well to the south and east of Zion, so you'll be adding quite a bit of extra driving using that as a base for both Zion and Bryce. You'd be better off staying right in Springdale.

    From Kanab to the North Rim to Flagstaff is about 7 hours of driving, and won't leave you much time to see the Grand Canyon. It seems especially odd, since after Flagstaff you plan to head back north to Cameron (there's only one place to stay there).

    4 corners south to Santa Fe back northwest to Durango and eventually Moab is another spot where you are just adding a lot of miles.

    I think it might make more sense to do something like Zion/Bryce to Moab, then down to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon (south rim would be more efficent) down to Flagstaff, over to Santa Fe and then back up to New Mexico. Even if you didn't save many miles, at least you'd always be going over new ground instead of driving back and forth on the same roads.

  3. #3

    Default

    Hi Michael

    Thanks for your post and advice.

    Good advice regarding not driving with jetlag, for sure. However, I won't be flying straight from Australia to Las Vegas - I'll have almost a week in San Francisco to get over jetlag before flying to Vegas. I even changed the SF - LV flight so as to be able to start hiring the car in the morning. I just didn't include San Francisco details in the itinerary I posted, as it's not part of the road trip.

    I checked a few hotels online at Springfield and they were booked out, so I chose Kanab, but will reconsider that in light of your advice about it being too far from Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs. Perhaps I'll try lobbing up early at a campground at Zion NP on the second day of driving - any campers out there know if that would be a good move in late June, and if so, which campground would you recommend? A friend once told me that he stayed at one by a river which was great, but he couldn't remember the name - it was in May and not too full then (but obviously late June would be different).

    I'd decided on the North Rim as it seems less crowded and the higher altitude sounded appealing. However, I hadn't realised it was a 7-hour drive to Flagstaff, so will can that leg and work out an alternative.

    Yes - the 4 corners to Santa Fe to Durango leg sounds illogical, I admit. I changed the initial idea to go straight from Flagstaff to Santa Fe so as to fit in Monument Valley. But as you say, it would make more sense to head south via Monument Valley to Flagstaff.

    Thanks for throwing a bit of practical light on my itinerary, Michael! Your advice is very much appreciated.

    Cheers
    Steve

  4. Default

    I checked a few hotels online at Springfield and they were booked out, so I chose Kanab, but will reconsider that in light of your advice about it being too far from Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs. Perhaps I'll try lobbing up early at a campground at Zion NP on the second day of driving - any campers out there know if that would be a good move in late June, and if so, which campground would you recommend? A friend once told me that he stayed at one by a river which was great, but he couldn't remember the name - it was in May and not too full then (but obviously late June would be different).

    Just to make sure, it's Springdale, Utah just outside of Zion and not Springfield.

    There are two campgrounds in Zion and they are both on the Virgin river. South Campground is on a first come, first serve basis and if you get there early in the morning you should probably be able to get a campsite. Watchman campground is just across the road and on the other side of the Virgin River. Watchman takes reservations and has electrical hook ups but I will venture to guess that this campground is already booked for the summer BUT if you check recreational.gov daily, you might be able to get in on a cancellation for the day(s) you want to be there and then you wouldn't have to worry.

    I also wanted to mention that you will be here over our 4th of July weekend and places like Moab might be hard to find accommodations so make sure to get your dates settled soon and book your lodging!

    Utahtea

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default SF to LV ?

    I have to agree with Michael about going back and forth which has you spending a lot more time in the car and less time at all the great places you want to visit. Some times, less is more. I wouldn't be considering adding the Tetons to your current itinerary and if you are visiting the North rim would consider cutting out Flagstaff and Sedona and perhaps Santa Fe and have more time in other places. [Arches/Canyonlands] Have you considered adding the drive from San Fran to Vegas in place of other options ? By flying you are missing a great drive and the amazing National parks of Yosemite and Death valley.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default good ideas

    I think Dave's suggestions are spot on. I'd absolutely drive from SF to Vegas.

    I'd also agree that you should look at skipping Flagstaff/Sedona. (BTW, North Rim to Flagstaff is about 5-6 hours, but you'd have another 1 to 2 hours driving from Kanab to the North Rim at the start, that's where the 7 hour number comes from.) I think I'd also look at skipping Santa Fe.

    Instead, I'd spend more time in SW Colorado and Eastern Utah. You could certainly add in Mesa Verde, which is worth a day. And if you have more time around Moab, that's more time you can explore Canyonlands in addition to Arches.

  7. #7

    Default Thanks guys

    Utahtea wrote:
    Just to make sure, it's Springdale, Utah just outside of Zion and not Springfield.
    Yep - correct! I checked the right town but typed the wrong name!

    There are two campgrounds in Zion and they are both on the Virgin river. South Campground is on a first come, first serve basis and if you get there early in the morning you should probably be able to get a campsite.
    I reckon I'll take a punt on the South Campground. I always rise at 0430h, so after the short drive from St George I'm likely to be one of the first to book in that day. If it's full, I'll wing it.

    I also wanted to mention that you will be here over our 4th of July weekend and places like Moab might be hard to find accommodations so make sure to get your dates settled soon and book your lodging!
    Agreed...am working on it!

    Dave wrote:
    ...and if you are visiting the North rim would consider cutting out Flagstaff and Sedona and perhaps Santa Fe and have more time in other places. [Arches/Canyonlands]
    Good suggestion, Dave - I'm now reworking the itinerary on this basis.

    Have you considered adding the drive from San Fran to Vegas in place of other options ? By flying you are missing a great drive and the amazing National parks of Yosemite and Death valley.
    Yes - I considered the drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas and decided to give it a miss this time. I'll visit Yosemite and other parts of California another year, outside the holiday season. It also slices 960km of driving off this trip, and doesn't have me trying to learn to drive on the right in the USA's most populous State.

    Michael wrote:
    Instead, I'd spend more time in SW Colorado and Eastern Utah. You could certainly add in Mesa Verde, which is worth a day. And if you have more time around Moab, that's more time you can explore Canyonlands in addition to Arches.
    Yep - agreed - I'm now thinking of changing this segment of the itinerary to something like Monument Valley - 4 Corners - Mesa Verde - Durango.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    If South CG and Watchman don't work out for you in Zion, there's a private park alternative in Springdale. It's called Zion Canyon Campground and RV Park, and it's right on the other side of the Virgin River. We were in tents at the time, and they put us right next to the river. It was a lovely site, though not nearly as rustic as Watchman. OTOH, we had access to showers and the water was right at the site. I just checked online and the place is still there (this was a few years back for us, before RV).


    Donna

  9. Default

    I reckon I'll take a punt on the South Campground. I always rise at 0430h, so after the short drive from St George I'm likely to be one of the first to book in that day. If it's full, I'll wing it.
    If you get there to early, many people won't have packed up and left yet. Check out isn't until 11:30 am. You might have to wait around a little to get a site, but at least the scenery will be beautiful!

    Utahtea

  10. #10

    Default

    Donna wrote:
    If South CG and Watchman don't work out for you in Zion, there's a private park alternative in Springdale. It's called Zion Canyon Campground and RV Park...
    Thanks Donna - great info.

    Utahtea wrote:
    Check out isn't until 11:30 am. You might have to wait around a little to get a site, but at least the scenery will be beautiful!
    No worries! Does that checkout time generally apply to camping grounds in National Parks in the USA?

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