So I am on a leisurely roadtrip, where I have all the time, but limited funds. Right now I am near Zion and Bryce Canyon, then have reservations at the Grand Canyon, then plan to head to the Petrified Forest Nat'l Park in AZ, where I plan to do some backcountry camping (yes, I have the equipment and experience, plus you only have to hike about a mile in to camp). My eventual destination is Jackson, MS.
I've been playing it by ear, but now I'm stumped: should I go to ABQ and take 40 (more or less) across, or go south and take 10 or 20?
I am interested in the sights, but also availability of camping, as I have already spent too much on hotels. I have a tent, as well as backpacking gear; I also have an annual pass to National Parks/forest lands. If you could steer me to more national parks that allow wilderness access (for free camping) that'd be (extra) great. Or any good place to stop. Or just any advice on what I should see, whether I should stay more northerly or southernly? Besides just good hikes and natural beauty, I am interested in historical/native sites, but having difficulty deciding which ones are worth the sidetrips, especially when there are few camping options.
Thanks for your help!