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  1. #1

    Default December Four Corners Road Trip - NM, CO, AZ, UT

    I had planned years ago to go on a long 40 day road trip. I have my doubts that's going to happen anytime in the near future because of time restraints and money. While California is the state I really want to visit, I don't think 2 weeks is really enough time to get to California and back unless I power though the drive to and from CA from TX which doesn't make for a great road trip.

    That being said I do have a month off for Christmas break from college and I'd like to take a solo 2 week road trip before I graduate college in the following Spring and (hopefully) get a real job. Assuming I have the money saved by the time December rolls around, I'm wondering if this would even be a good idea because it is in the Winter and so close to Christmas. I'm not real sure what the weather is like up there at that time of the year. I'll be driving my 2003 Ford Escort ZX2 with summer tires and I don't have any experience in snow driving. I don't like the cold but I can live with it, but if there's going to be snow all over the roads it's a deal breaker.

    Time frame (roughly): December 7th 2013 (Sat) - December 20th (Friday)

    My starting point is Waco, TX. From there I'd drive up to Amarillo and over towards Santa Fe, NM. Head up to Durango, CO and go to Mesa Verde. As much as I'd love to drive the Million Dollar Highway I don't think this would be a good idea because of snow (correct me if I'm wrong because I'd love to add this drive). From there, Four Corners to Moab, UT. Canyonlands and/or Arches NP, possibly some nice driving roads in the area (La Sal Mountains). Probably detour through the Moki Dugway on my way to Monument Valley. From there to Page, AZ for Antelope Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam. Add Zion NP here if time allows. Then head back down to the Grand Canyon. From the Grand Canyon head back down "Route 66". Probably stop by the Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ if time allows. Head down towards Lubbock for a different route back home.

    Map for easier understanding: https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=W...a=6,12&t=m&z=6

    Does this seem doable in 14 days in December before Christmas? Or would SoCal be the better idea for that time of year? Suggestions to add and/or change? Side stops along the route? I already have a couple ideas that I didn't outline.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Expect Cold and Snow

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The thing you need to keep in mind is that the entire Four Corners area sits high on the Colorado Plateau. Base elevations are roughly one mile above sea level and the mountains rise from there. Average December temperatures are just about freezing (colder at night of course!) and there are several ski resorts in the area which rely on a good supply of snow. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon sits at nearly 8,000 feet and I can almost guarantee you that, even though the roads are plowed, the rim itself will be snow covered. The North Rim is snowbound and inaccessible the entire winter. While there won't be "snow all over the roads" every minute of every day, you will have to deal with snow on the roads for at least part of your trip.

    If the cold and snow put you off, then southern California would be a better all-around destination. There's still the possibility that you could see snow and/or ice along I-10, but it is less of a certainty than in the Four Corners area. Realistically, you'd be looking at a three day drive to San Diego or Los Angeles, and then a three day drive back, leaving you about a week in SoCal. But those three day drives needn't be "powered through". Taking even that much time would allow you several hours each day to visit sites along the way, breaking up the trip into several shorter segments, and resulting in a relatively relaxed RoadTrip.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-22-2013 at 09:40 AM. Reason: Typos

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    If you do want to try to do the 4 Corners thing, you can take it as it comes, checking on weather and road conditions as you go. There is a good chance the roads will be in good shape, you just won't know till you get there. Bring a wifi-equipped laptop with 2 sites bookmarked - weather.com and safetravelusa.com. A smartphone with a data plan is also a plus.

    When you say "summer tires", are they at least all-season rated? No matter, if they are well-worn, I'd get new ones for the trip.

  4. #4

    Default

    That's what I was afraid of. I don't mind seeing snow on the side of the road up to a couple inches (that probably won't be bad for pictures) so long as the roads are free of snow or plowed daily or more, and I can skip less traveled roads that aren't plowed. But if it's gonna snow a couple feet by that time I'll probably go ahead and skip that idea because I won't really be able to see the scenery I wanted to see. I was just hoping that would be early enough in the winter that I wouldn't see much or any snow by then.

    I'll plan out a trip for SoCal as well and see. San Francisco is really my destination city, but with only 2 weeks that doesn't seem possible. So what is there to see in SoCal along the lines of what I had outlined in the four corners trip? I don't really care for theme parks. To be honest, most of what I want to see in California is North of LA... :P So this idea may overall just be a bust.

    My tires really are all season, but they are low profile on my 17" wheels, so I just call them summer tires; especially since Texas doesn't really have any more than mild Winters. These are the ones I have. http://www.bridgestonetire.com/tire/potenza-g019-grid They do well in rain and I never had a problem in the cold w/o ice. We had a couple inches of snow fall here in Waco in 2011 and I had to drive home from work in it. By that time the snow had kinda compacted on the roads to make a nice slick surface and my tires didn't have much traction if I needed to stop or start very quickly. The 15 minute drive home turned into 30 or more minutes. I couldn't do that on a several hour long trip. The tires now have about 25,000 miles on them. I think they still have plenty of life left in them and if I replaced all my tires for the trip I don't know if I'd have enough money to go on the trip.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,749

    Default Whatever will be, will be.

    As mentioned previously, there is just no way of knowing what the weather will have in store for you right up until near to the point of travel. The good thing about travelling out of season is that there should be no need to book anything in advance and with plenty of time to research all your options, you could just wait and see which path to follow.

    Interstates and main highways are always a priority to keep clear and traffic moving, it's more a case of how much time you will be able to spend exploring away from them. In the event of a storm, it's a case of pulling off the road for a couple of hours or a night and let the weather pass and the road crews do their job of clearing.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    9,358

    Default Natural Beauty Along I-10

    Since most of what you were planning to see in the Four Corners area was natural scenic wonders, you'll need suitable replacements for your new route. You can start by going fairly directly west from Waco and hitting places like Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks, then picking up I-10 in El Paso. Outside of Benson AZ there's another great cave in Kartchner Caverns State Park. In the Tucson area there's natural desert scenery in Saguaro National Park and a desert 'zoo' at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Since San Francisco is your objective, you'd head for the L.A. Basin staying on I-10 which would take you past Joshua Tree National Park. Then, of course, you could follow the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco. Now, you could drive that in about three or four days with no sight-seeing, or you could take your time and visit some of those natural wonders on your trip west, taking something more like five or six days to get to San Francisco, have a few days there, and turn around and make a similar scenic trip home hitting any places you missed on the westbound leg - all in two weeks.

    AZBuck

  7. #7

    Default

    Well another idea...

    I have from August 17th thru August 25th off school between Summer and Fall semesters. It's not two weeks, but it's a little over a week. I can take on part of my four corners trip at that time, financially allowing of course. That way I can actually drive the Million Dollar Highway. I'll figure out a general route later.

    And if I still have money the December trip can be to Cali. For that trip I might try and avoid most of IH-10. It's fast, but I've taken that drive more than a couple times from San Antonio to near Phoenix and it's not terribly exciting. A different route would be better. I've been to Carlsbad Caverns 3 times; most recently August 2011. As awesome as it is, I'd like to explore some new places. I'll do some more research later to see what route I want to take and see what is on the way. As for hitting San Francisco, can it be done in two weeks? I suppose it can be, but it might almost feel slightly rushed. The coastal highway between LA and SF is a must drive at least one way if I drive up to SF. A day at the South Rim Grand Canyon would possibly try to be worked in as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    9,271

    Default

    The LA-SF coast highway is best driven from north to south, the scenic pullouts will be on your side of the road. You need to allow at least 2 days for that.

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