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  1. #1

    Default Denver, CO to Los Angeles, CA - May 2012

    Hi,

    I am planning a USA road trip next May from Denver to LA and wanted some advice before I go ahead and book anything.

    I've chosen this particular route as I want to see the following places: Arches National Park, Glen Canyon, Monument Valley (an absolute MUST) and of course The Grand Canyon and it seems the best route.

    I would also love to see Las Vegas but if there isn't time in my 2 week time scale then it'll be straight on to LA after The Grand Canyon.

    I guess I'd just like to know if anyone else has done this or a similar route and if it's worth it. Is 2 weeks long enough and is early May a good time to go? I realize that you could spend weeks touring the National Parks but I only have a limited amount of time. Ideally I'd also love to see Yosemite but as I really want to see LA too I doubt I'll have time. I've already done San Francisco and as much and I'd love to return, again time is not in my side.

    Any advice, hints and tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Tom.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Here's a start

    Hi Tom, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    You will be travelling through some of the most popular country, and many have done similar trips. You will find much in this forum, on those areas and the route. You might like to start of with reading these threads from one of your fellow countrymen, who has travelled extensively in the areas you mention. Two weeks seems like a nice bit of time to enjoy the places you mention.

    Lifey

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

    Default

    Hello and welcome to RTA from Sussex ! [Yep, that's me Lifey is referring to ! ^^^]

    With 2 weeks to play with you have time to do some exploring, after all you could drive from Denver to LA in 2 days by the quickest route. Rocky mountain NP would be a good place to start with a short journey from Denver, but as you plan your trip you will have to consider the possibility of some routes over high passes still being closed in May, depending on the winter snow pack. Trail ridge road across RMNP, the road to the North rim of the Grand canyon, and if you were considering Yosemite, the Tioga pass [CA120] across the Sierra Nevada which is a popular route from Vegas all could remain closed. You can see lovely spring weather at lower elevations, so don't worry ! Estes park and the Bear lake area of RMNP are still worth visiting and you can get to Yosemite by going around the southern edge of the mountains via Bakersfield. If the North rim is not open you can head to the South rim of the Grand canyon from Glen canyon, so keep a check on conditions.

    By searching around you should get plenty of ideas and once you have some more dots on the map we can help to 'fine tune' your trip and make suggestions. Although you have time to include a visit to Yosemite, with the possibility of Tioga being closed and no interest in SF this visit, you might be better off spending your time elsewhere and not adding so many miles. There are so many great National parks and other scenic wonders along your general route to enjoy. You could visit Vegas from either of the GC points and possibly head across Death valley, before heading into LA, or down through the Mojave preserve and Joshua tree NP.

    Enjoy the planning !

  4. #4

    Default

    Hi Lifey,

    Thanks for your reply. I will certainly check out those threads and start planning my trip!

    Tom.

  5. #5

    Default

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for replying. I didn't realize there would still be snow in May! I'll remember that when planning the trip. Now that you've told me you can actually drive from Denver to LA in 2 days (!) that has put things into perspective and made me realize that 2 weeks should be plenty of time to see everything and perhaps even a little more than first thought. I was looking on Google maps yesterday and then looking up locations on Google images and I got quite excited at what's out there. The landscape is incredible! In your experience though, is it better to book accommodation in advance or en route? I will book the main locations in advance but I'm no sure about the 'in between' places. If I love somewhere and want to explore more I don't want to have to leave because I have to get to a pre booked hotel. But on the flip side I also like the reassurance that I do actually have somewhere booked and won't have to sleep in the car!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default A bit of each

    The chances of having to sleep in your car are virtually nill, especially in May. There will always be a bed available.... somewhere. Guess it all depends on how fussy you are. Many, myself included, rarely ever book anything. Others would not set out on a trip without having every night booked.

    That said... if you want to stay inside any of the National Parks you will need to book well in advance. And over holiday weekends I would not take a chance. At the end of May there is a holiday weekend, so keep that in mind.

    Other than that, I'm with you... if you want to stay a little longer (or shorter)... it is nice to have the freedom to do so.

    And whereas Tioga Pass can be late opening, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is usually well and truly open by then.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Perspective.

    Thanks for replying. I didn't realize there would still be snow in May! I'll remember that when planning the trip. Now that you've told me you can actually drive from Denver to LA in 2 days (!) that has put things into perspective and made me realize that 2 weeks should be plenty of time to see everything and perhaps even a little more than first thought.
    As I mentioned, it's at high elevation where the snow would be about. Trail ridge road for instance goes above 12000ft in elevation. You have nothing to worry about, it's just a case of being aware.

    Just to get things back into perspective, you could travel for 2 months and not see everything ! Yes, you can do the journey in two long days on Interstate, but just as easily you could spend a week or more just getting out of Colorado. That said, you have enough time to pick and choose some of the highlights along the way. Those 'Highlights' come down to individual taste and that's why it is important that you do your research.

    In your experience though, is it better to book accommodation in advance or en route?
    As above really, I mix it up a bit. I book the popular places that I really want to stay at and leave a little sway room in between. I find it also helps to keep me on track to get to my destination in time, when that time is limited. Let us know as you move forward with your plans and maybe we can help to 'tweak' it a little.

    Originally posted by Lifemagician] And whereas Tioga Pass can be late opening, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is usually well and truly open by then.
    Interesting. I though AZ67 to the North rim opened on May 15 this year and that was around the normal time. Perhaps I got it wrong, but as this trip is scheduled for early May, It would surely be worth checking before heading that way..

  8. #8

    Default

    Hi,

    I think my start point may now have become Phoenix. I've looked at the map again and it seems a more interesting route. So I won't be entering Colorado at all and sticking to just Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. I've also been told that my original plan of staying 2 nights at Monument Valley may actually be too long and that it only really needs a day to appreciate it. The principle reason for my trip is photography and of course light means everything so I am quite keen to see these sights during the 'golden hours' of sunrise and sunset so that's why I originally thought of staying a couple of days at each main 'wonder'. I also think that Yosemite may still be an option if doable on this trip.

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

    Default Some thoughts.

    You might want to check out the photography led tours through Antelope canyon. You can only visit via a tour, but the photography tour is designed to be at a slower pace and to give priority for taking pictures without crowds in the way and when the light is at it's best.

    One night in Monument valley should be OK, you just have to work your itinerary out so that you are not arriving too late or need to hit the road to early next day.

    Yosemite is definitely "doable", you just have to keep an eye on the status of Tioga pass and route accordingly. It will be Spring in the valley, but you may have to drive around the mountains to get there.

    Another couple of places of interest that haven't already been mentioned would be Bryce canyon and Zion NP in Southern Utah. If you headed towards SF [or Monterey] from Yosemite you could take a scenic drive down the coast around Big Sur on route to LA.

    You might find that it will be cheaper to fly direct into Las Vegas and the one way drop off fee on your car rental will be less than from Phoenix, with the possibility of no charge to LA.

    As you get dots on the maps and new questions come up, just ask. We will be able to 'fine tune' your trip and possibly make other suggestions.

  10. #10

    Default

    Hi,

    Ok, so flights are now booked as is the accommodation at Mon. Valley, Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
    The plan is to fly to Phoenix and then stay overnight near the airport. Next day pick up the car really early and drive to Monument Valley but with a stop at Sedona on the way. One night in Mon. Valley and then next day head off to Grand Canyon where we will stay for 2 nights. After that we head to Vegas and stay there just one night (just to see it) before the VERY long drive to Yosemite. It looks like its roughly an 8 hour drive (without stops) so again we'll be rising very early and planning a few stops to break up the driving before hopefully arriving at around 6.00pm at Yosemite. We have 3 nights booked here to see as much as possible. After that we head across to San Francisco for 2 nights and then to Monterey/Carmel where we will stay just one night before finally driving down the coast to LA where we will spend our final 4 nights. Phew!

    What do you think? Its that a good plan?

    Tom.

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