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  1. Default Rockies-Arches-Zion-Vegas-DV?-Yosemite-SF

    Hello RTA forums!

    My girlfriend and I were planning on heading to all the destinations in the title from October 5 to October 15. We were making our plans and seem to have everything worked out but I wanted to see if we could squeeze maybe a little more out of it (even though there already seems to be a lot already!)

    Day 1 (Oct 5): Leave from Newark, NJ (EWR) and arrive at Denver, CO (DEN) @ 9PM, pick up rental car (small sedan) and head to our hotel for the night (Tivoli Lodge in Vail, CO)
    Day 2 (Oct 6): Spend day at Rocky Mountain National Park, back to Tivoli for the night
    Day 3 (Oct 7): Leave Colorado in the morning, Arrive in Arches National Park (Moab, UT) to Devil's Garden Campground, camp overnight
    Day 4 (Oct 8): Spend day at Arches National Park, leave Moab, UT in early evening and drive to Cedar City, UT. Stay in hotel in Cedar City overnight
    Day 5 (Oct 9): Leave Cedar City in the morning, Arrive at Zion National Park. Spend day in Zion, leave early evening to drive to Las Vegas, stay with relatives.
    Day 6 (Oct 10): Spend day in Vegas/time with relatives, stay with relatives again.
    Day 7 (Oct 11): Leave Vegas very early, drive through/stop by Death Valley National Park, head to and through Yosemite via Tioga Pass, arrive at Yosemite Gateway Inn hotel in Oakhurst, CA.
    Day 8 (Oct 12): Spend day in Yosemite National Park, back to hotel
    Day 9 (Oct 13): Leave Oakhurst, arrive in San Francisco, stay with relatives
    Day 10 (Oct 14): Spend day in San Francisco/time with relatives, stay with relatives again
    Day 11 (Oct 15): Drop off rental car, fly home to NJ :(

    We have all our flights, rental car, and hotels all set. The part in bold is one of the things I wanted to inquire about. I mapped out the route from Vegas to Yosemite via Death Valley, and google maps clocks it at about 9hrs and 33mins. Would anyone think this is a good idea to do if we're going to be spending the next day in Yosemite? We'll most likely be doing some hiking and walking around (nothing TOO strenuous, but we'd like to get some great views) so I don't want to feel super tired the night before.

    Another route I was trying to think of was driving from Vegas to DV, then from DV drive through Sequoia National Park. Downside is that drive is about 11hrs, not including stops/rests. Not a big deal if we don't see Sequoia or DV though, as it wasn't in our original plan. Sorry this is long winded, but if anyone can critique our trip and/or offer some assistance that'd be swell. Thanks all!
    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-25-2012 at 05:35 PM. Reason: Link to competing website removed.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default no more

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Trying to fit more into your plan is certainly not something I'd consider doing at this point. Your plan is already very aggressive. Not impossible, but I think your probably trying to fit in more than you really realize at this point.

    I mean, just to start, you're not getting into Denver until 9, which means you won't be on the road until at least 10, and then you've got more than a 2 hour drive to Vail, getting you there well after midnight (2am eastern). Not to mention that Vail is an odd place to use as a base to Rocky Mountain NP, as its about 2 hours away to the park.

    You're camping at Arches, but it doesn't seem like you're camping anywhere else. Are you going to bring camping gear just for one night? That doesn't seem to make much sense.

    Moab to Cedar City is a 5 hour drive. That's a long way to go, if you're not leaving until "early evening"

    Day 7 is a very long day, that is going to take much longer than the 9 hours that google is estimating. I'd guess 12 hours would be close to minimum - not to mention that oakhurst alone is an hour outside Yosemite. You might want to stop for the night before crossing Tioga, somewhere like Lee Vining.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the welcome and reply, Michael!

    Yes, we have a habit of cramming too many things into our vacations. We're just really greedy and want to see everything haha. The late arrival into Denver isn't much of a problem for us...our original plan was to fly in Saturday, the 6th which would've meant less time at the Rockies. The only reason we chose Vail as our base is because it would put us closer to Arches. I figured that the least amount of distance we could put between us and Arches would be better for the journey over there.

    I did want to try and see if we could camp in another park...Yosemite maybe, but yes we were going to bring camping equipment (at least just a tent, sleeping bags, and some emergency stuff). It does sound a bit unnecessary to bring all that for one camping trip.

    Also, I don't believe the Moab to Cedar City journey should be a problem, because again, I wanted to minimize the distance from our stop to our next destination, Zion. Something to note though, is that we were just at Zion this past April, and we just loved it so much that we wanted to go again. We probably won't be spending as much time in there, just because we've seen it already. We could probably use this day/morning to sleep in or something.

    Day 7 would definitely be the killer, and more and more it seems like the drive to Death Valley would seem like a bit more than we could chew. Our original plan was to just drive from Vegas to Oakhurst, passing through Bakersfield and Fresno. Google clocks that route at about 7.5 hours, which seems more doable. If anyone else has any input too, it's much appreciated. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    If you want to cram in as much as possible into a trip, then being as efficient as possible really becomes key, and thats where I really see the flaws.

    Vail is a perfect example. Staying there because its closer to Moab, doesn't really make sense if it means you need to do an extra 4 hours of driving to visit your primary destination in the area - Rocky Mountain NP. Its the roadtrip version of stepping over a quarter to pick up a penny.

    Similarly, driving from Vegas to Oakhurst can easily be done in a day, but at that point, you are essentially skipping all of death valley, as well as Tioga Pass, which is huge part of Yosemite, just so you can stay at that particular hotel. Not a very good use of your time, imho.

    I love camping, and have done it on fly and drive trips, but these days you really have to factor in just how much it costs to bring that stuff on a plane.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    In your rush, you are missing some very scenic opportunities. One that stands out is your drive from Moab to Cedar City. This rates a full day in daylight - UT-12 is one of the greatest scenic highways anywhere, and all you are going to be doing is blasting down the Interstate in the dark, and you won't be seeing Bryce Canyon or Capitol Reef.

    Michael makes a real good point regarding efficiency. Why don't you cancel your first night in Vail, and stay the night in a hotel in Loveland? Also, doing that will allow you to enter the park via Big Thompson Canyon and Estes Park rather than going in and out via Grand Lake.

  6. Default

    Great analysis here, gurus! That's why I posted get some expert advice ;)

    I agree wholeheartedly about maximizing efficiency. Looks like my idea of staying in Vail wasn't really the best one. I will talk to the boss (gf) and see if we can stay in Loveland instead when we arrive.

    In regards to our drive from Moab to Cedar City, the main endpoints of that leg would be Arches and Zion, so what would you guys recommend in regards to route if we were trying to get the most efficient, but time-effective? I never knew UT-12 was a scenic byway ( jerseyian here) but I would love to see it if it is highly recommended.

    I spoke with my girlfriend earlier about the posts above, and we both agreed that maybe we'll cancel the first night of the hotel stay in Oakhurst and camp in Yosemite instead, spend the day there, and then head to the hotel for the 2nd night, still allowing us to get to Frisco in 3hrs. That sound like a good idea? At least then we'll have a couple of nights of using our camping gear.

    if it's not too much would you (either of you, or anyone else) do this trip? I want to make sure that we see as much as we can and also enjoy what we see as much as possible (i guess that's the idea of roadtripping right?). It'd be great to know the most efficient routes. Like I said earlier, we're willing to forego Death Valley just because it wasn't in our original plan (although it pains me to say so). Thanks again for all your sage advice

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    This would be my recommendation for the Denver -> LV segment of the trip, getting you into LV in the evening of Day 5. This will maximize the efficiency of you trying to cram a week's worth of sightseeing into 4 days.

    Day 1: Rent car, head to Loveland for the night. There are some chain hotels right at the US-34 exit off I-25.

    Day 2: Head up into RMNP on US-34, if you don't already have one, buy an annual National Parks Pass ($80) at the entrance. See the park, go over the top on Trail Ridge Road, exit the park, and take US-40 over Berthoud Pass to I-70. Before you get to the tunnels, get off on US-6 and take that over Loveland Pass. Get back on I-70 to Vail. Allow 3 hours to get from Grand Lake to Vail.

    Day 3: Get on the road early, take I-70 into Utah, then UT-128 through Castle Valley into Moab. This is 250 miles, should take you less than 5 hours. See Arches THAT DAY, and spend the night.

    Day 4: Get another early start, take US-191 to I-70, and get off at UT-24. Take that through Hanksville to Capitol Reef. You should be able to make that in under 3 hours. Take an hour and go through the park - down to the end and back. If the weather has been dry and it's not muddy, the last few miles on the dirt road is spectacular. At Torrey, take UT-12 to Bryce Canyon. This segment should take you about 4 hours. Get a room in the area - I can recommend Ruby's Inn (Best Western) right at the entrance - and cancel your Cedar City reservations. If Ruby's is full, there are a few places in Panguitch and Tropic, nothing special. Head in to the visitor's center and watch the movie. Now, check your time. You can drive down to the end, then turn around and hit all the pullouts on the way back in a couple hours. You can do this in the evening or the next morning.

    Day 5: Head to Zion via US-89 and UT-9. Spend half a day there and head on to LV.

    The RMNP portion is all dependent on weather and whether Trail Ridge Road is still open! Have a contingency plan to exit the park to the east and go around to get to I-70.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Would have to endorse the itenary laid out above.

    When passing through Big Thompson Canyon, take a moment to stop at the roadside memorial of the big flood back in the 70s, and contemplate where you are, and what it would have been like.

    If the Trail Ridge Road is closed, and you have the time, I would still go up and back as far as you can. The views and road are spectacular. The road usually closes at a point when you are more than two miles above sea level. Make sure you visit the RMNP visitor centre in Estes Park first. If the road is closed, the rangers there will probably suggest you take route 7 (through Nederland) to I-70. Another magnificent scenic drive.

    If you want to make glc's time-line, be sure that you are not tempted to stop along I-70 and 128 to Moab and Arches. This area is just so spectacular and photogenic, you will be tempted to stop every couple of miles... and time can soon blow out.

    Savour every moment.


  9. #9

    Default Don't Miss The "Alluvial Fan"

    Just west of Estes Park is the Alluvial Fan. This is where the water came down when a dam high in the mountains broke in 1982. You can see the debris and huge boulders that were brought down from the mountains by the rushing water. You can still see the path the water took down the mountains. Because it has kind of been filled in and patially covered by vegetation, it is not as impressive as it was in 1982 but you can still imagine what it must have been like when these huge boulders came crashing down.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default since you asked...

    Quote Originally Posted by soapbox23 View Post
    still allowing us to get to Frisco in 3hrs.
    This is really one of the things that makes the think you are pretty seriously underestimating the distances involved in your trip. Oakhurst to SF is a minimum of 4 hours.

    Camping in Yosemite could work, however, it will likely be very cold overnight by october. Seeing temperatures drop below freezing would be quite possible, and you really would need to have 3-4 season gear with things like Zero Degree rated sleeping bags. Trust me, one of the only times I can say I was miserable camping was when I went camping in the Sierras in October with regular summer gear - forgetting that comfortable daytime temps drop off quickly at night.

    if it's not too much would you (either of you, or anyone else) do this trip?
    To be blunt, I probably wouldn't do this trip like you've laid it out. I'd probably do a loop trip out of Denver or Vegas to save money on car and airfare, and leave SF for another trip. I would focus my time on the many, many things in Colorado and Utah. Especially if you like Zion enough to want to go back, there is so much more in the area you could really explore, rather than just spend a couple hours zipping through.

    Alternatively, if Vegas and SF are priorities, then I'd probably skip Denver for now, spend some time around Zion and Bryce, head back across to Calfornia to explore Yosemite, and maybe also Sequoia and/or the coast, and finish in SF.

    But if you stick to the Denver to SF trip, GLC's idea looks pretty decent.

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