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  1. Default Please help plan our five-day road trip from Denver to SF

    Hi,

    Me and my wife are planning to make a road trip from Denver to San Francisco. We are in our twenties and looking for a safe, economical and memorable trip. A bit of adventure is fine too. We have never been to Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Your suggestions regarding must see attractions, safe and economical stays/hotels through the journey are most appreciated. We enjoy the nature and we would like to keep our trip as scenic as possible with some good opportunities to take nice pictures.

    As of now, we are thinking of the following five day trip, around Oct 3rd-4th weeks.

    Day 1:
    Denver to Rocky Mountain NP
    (Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain NP)
    Night stay at Rocky Mountain NP or drive to Moab, UT for sleep.

    Day 2:
    Arches NP and Canyon Lands NP
    Night Stay at Moab

    Day 3, 4, and 5:
    To Capitol Reef NP through Hwy 24.
    To Bryce Canyon NP through Hwy 12
    Day 3 night stay at either Capitol Reef NP or Bryce Canyon NP
    Day 4 night stay at either Zion NP or Death Valley NP

    Day 5:
    Zion NP or Death Valley NP to San Francisco

    In total, we have four nights and five full days. I know that the schedule is bit tight, but this is more like road trip. Please suggest me: i) where to spend less time and where to spend more. We are ready to sacrifice some places.
    ii) some must see see attractions on the way,
    iii) scenic routes to drive on the way and in National parks. Since we are short of time, we would like to cover as much as possible from the car itself,
    iv) and most importantly, safe and economical places to stay during nights.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Tight schedule.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    It's hard to think of a better trip with 5 days at hand, you will see some amazing and diverse scenery ! The one flaw in your plan so far is that getting from Zion to San Fran in a day is just too much, so I think something has to give. It's possible that the Trail Ridge road might be closed when you travel, but you could still head to the Bear lake area near Estes Park and back down the Peak to Peak highway if that was the case.

    If it were I, I would stop in Lee Vining [possibly Tonopah] between Zion and SF and drive over the Tioga Pass [CA120] through Yosemite NP, therefor if you can't find another day, you need to make some time up. With an early start from Denver you could do a quick visit to RMNP and maybe head for Glenwood Springs, maybe as far as Grand Junction. Then to Moab and spend the rest of the day checking out Arches, it's gonna be tough to fit Canyonlands in. From I70 take exit 214 to US6 to Moab and drive through the canyon alongside the river in Castle Valley, a nice scenic drive that won't add any time to speak of. It will be another early start and make your way to Zion NP. It's a tough choice between taking scenic 12 and making a pit stop at Bryce canyon and going direct to Zion and having some time in this wonderful park, although niether choice is a poor one !

    The trip from Zion will take you to the 'ET Highway' [NV375] by way of Cedar City or heading south on I15 to NV168/US93/NV138/NV375/US6 through Tonpah to CA120.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by scoonian View Post
    As of now, we are thinking of the following five day trip, around Oct 3rd-4th weeks.

    Day 1:
    Denver to Rocky Mountain NP
    (Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain NP)
    Night stay at Rocky Mountain NP or drive to Moab, UT for sleep.
    Trail Ridge Road may very well be closed for the season by the 3rd week of Oct. At best it'll be open on a hit-or-miss basis as storms come and go. Try to find out if the road is open before you make your routing decision as you'll lose a lot of time getting from Estes Park to I-70 in order to go west if TRR is closed.

    RMNP doesn't have accomodations for sleeping other than campgrounds. Estes Park on the east has motels as does Granby on the west side. Rates might be pretty good except that you could be competing for rooms with hunters (not sure about seasons).

    Have fun!

  4. Default

    Hi,

    Thank you very much for the replies.

    Based on your suggestions, I decided to prepone my trip and is planning to start from Denver this weekend itself. And, from your comments I see that it's better to drop some of the places. We live in San Francisco Bay Area. So, if I have to choose, I would like to drop the places that are close by. We love driving, so if it is with in 10 hour drive from SF, that is well with in our long weekend trip. Thus, I am not worried much about Death Valley, Vegas, and Yosemite. Bryce and Zion are approx 14 hours from SF, and thus those two are on the border of my typical road trip durations. If possible, I would like to get a peak at those two places so that I could return at some other point of time if I like them.

    What I really want to get from this trip is a feel of Utah and Colorado. Also, we have never seen fall colors in its full swing, other than watching few shades on Bay Area streets. Would love to choose the routes which would give us best chance to see some colors.

    As of now, I am thinking of the following:

    Day 1: Denver to Rocky Mountain NP
    Sleep at either close by RMNP or close by Moab

    Day 2 : Arches NP
    Sleep at ? (Please suggest)

    Day 3: Canyon Lands NP and drive to wards Capitol Reef
    Sleep at ? (Please suggest)

    Day 4: Capitol Reef

    At this point we would like to decide if we want to extend the trip to cover bryce and/or zion.

    If we extend, it would be a total 8-9 day trip covering Bryce and Zion.

    If we don't extend:
    Would like to drive as much as possible on Hwy 12 and return to SF by late night of day 5.

    Please provide me with your suggestions regarding places to stay, routes to take in order to cover best fall colors, and any modifications to my trip that makes more sense given your local knowledge or prior experience.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    If you don't extend this trip, I think you still have to pick up the pace a bit.

    You really can't be close to Capitol Reef at the end of day 4, and still reasonably make it back to SF by the night of day 5. Its about 850 miles, mostly using 2 lane roads, which will make for a drive that will take 17-18 hours.

    I'd say your first night could be spent somewhere along I-70, perhaps Glenwood Springs, and night 2 needs to be in Moab if you're planning to see Canyonlands on day 3.

    But I think by the night of day 3 you need to be in Torrey, so you can make it to at least St. George. I think you need to be at least that far on night 4 to have a reasonable drive back to SF on day 5. Even that is about 700 miles, and will require a solid 13-14 hours on the road.

    The various tourist agency's in Utah have lots of resources to find fall color, including the Cedar City Tourism Bureau, and Utah's state dept. of tourism.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default More leaf-peeping resources

    And don't forget to look over the RTA Foilage reports -- not much posted yet for 2012, but past years might be more helpful. And this page is very helpful as well.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    For the record - Trail Ridge Road across Rocky Mountain National Park closed for the year on Wed Oct 17. So the original plan of 3rd or 4th week of October and going over the top of RMNP would not have worked out.

  8. Default

    Hi,

    Thanks again for your inputs and suggestions.

    Finally we started the trip on last Saturday. Covered Grand Lake, RMNP, and Colorado Springs so far. Planning to start early tomorrow from Colorado Springs and cover Aspen on the way to Arches.

    We have until Sunday night to reach SF. In these six days following is the plan.

    Day 1:

    Aspen through independence pass (not sure if it is still open, please suggest where can we check, CO DOT website doesn't have the info). Stay some where close by Arches.

    Day 2:

    Arches and Canyon Lands

    Day 3:

    Arches and Canyon Lands during the sun rise time and heading to Capitol Reef and possibly reach some where close to Bryce by the night

    Day 4: Bryce and Zion

    Day 5: Bryce and Zion and heading to Vegas/Death Valley by night

    Bay 6: To SF

    You guys have given some great suggestions so far and I am planning my trip based on your suggestions. Based on my slightly changed schedule, please let me know if you have any thing to add. Mainly, some information related to scenic drives in between and places to stay at night would be most helpful.

    Thanks again for your help.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    209

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by scoonian
    Day 1:

    Aspen through independence pass (not sure if it is still open, please suggest where can we check, CO DOT website doesn't have the info).
    Just looked at COTrip.org a little while ago. It doesn’t show anything about Independence Pass being closed, just that they don’t have any data for the current road conditions. Everything close by is dry, so it should be fine.

    You could call Colorado 511 just to make sure.

    I also found this number for Colorado on a Federal Highway Administration website, but I'm not sure if this is up-to-date information:

    "Backdoor" Numbers: 1-877-315-7623 (in-State only), or 1-303-639-1111 (out-of-State)

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

    Default

    Pleased to hear you are on the road and having a good time !

    Cotrip will have any travel alerts that may impact your journey. This is the page specific to CO82 and Independance pass. Use common sense as the road can be open but hazardous with icey conditions, particuarly in the morning following a cold night. If you are travelling today the weather looks quite settled with temps not dropping below freezing, but that changing over the next couple of days.

    Colorado Springs to Moab via Independance will be a long day on the road as will Vegas to SF but both are doable. I would try to be in Bryce on the day you leave Arches to give yourself time at Bryce and Zion, or at least as far as Tropic.

    Have a great trip and please update us !

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