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  1. Default 2014 Road trip for a first timer

    Me and some friends are planning out first roadtrip this summer, I've never been west of Wisconsin and everyone else hasn't been west of Indianapolis. Some background, There will be four of us, and we plan on taking my 1999 Mercedes. Our ages range from 20 to 23. We're considering bringing tents and camping most of the way unless we want to stay at a hotel in a major city to sight see, but we're more interested in seeing the Rocky Mountains, various national parks, and then the deserts of southern utah/arizona/New mexico.

    We will be leaving from Columbus, OH, sometime in the summer, probably late June or early July. The rough amount of days we plan on it taking is ten, but we could easily increase it by 2-3 if it helped to see more. I'll go over my basic plan, and please give any insight on what I'm doing right and wrong, thanks!

    The plan is to head west on I-70 and basically not stop until St. Louis and see the westward expansion museum and arch, and then either spend the night or drive a couple hours more and then stop. Then we'll head out and drive until Denver or eastern colorado (Depending on where we stayed the first night, probably only want to do 500-600 miles a day.) From here, things get fuzzy. We want to see Rocky Mountain National Park, and I really want to go through the Eisenhower tunnel haha, so that's probably 2 full days here. Then we want to make a "loop" and go through eastern Utah and down into Arizona and possibily hit the I40 and see things on the way back. I'd like to see the Hoover Dam while we're making the "loop" but I don't want to overplan and then have no time to see anything.

    Thanks for reading, and I appreciate any advise!

    Edit- And since none of this is set in stone, would you recommend RMNP or Yellow Stone NP for a first time "grand national park" visit? We want to camp most nights to save on costs, and I've heard Yellowstone can be a pain to find lodging, but I'm not sure on camping. Thanks!
    Last edited by brendan207; 03-10-2014 at 07:10 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    You might want to take a calendar and a pencil and see how this is going to work out.

    Columbus OH to St Louis in one day is quite "do-able". It's about 420 miles, or 7-8 hours, and you can get into the museum if you've started your day fairly early (like 7 am, since you will "gain" an hour in Indiana). Hopefully the line to go up into the Arch won't be too bad. I'd suggest either getting a hotel room outside of St Louis on the east side (to avoid rush hour traffic the next morning), or staying in one of the state parks east of STL on I-70.

    St Louis to Denver, or Rocky Mountain National Park, is a two-day drive along I-70. You could probably stay in the area of Colby, KS, which is just under 600 miles. There are motels there in Colby or a few miles further in Goodland. For camping, there are no state parks close to I-70, but you could get a tent spot at either the KOA at Wakeeny (it won't be really cheap) or at High Plains RV and Campgrounds at Oakley. Bear in mind that late June and early July in Kansas means lots of rain. We travel this route a lot between St Louis and Utah, and it inevitably rains or storms on us somewhere in Kansas or eastern Colorado!

    Rocky Mountain NP to Moab (Arches, Canyonlands) in eastern Utah is another 400 miles, but is some of the most gorgeous interstate driving in the US. Not only will you get your wish to go through the Eisenhower Tunnel, you will also go through a lot of beautiful ski towns like Vail, and on the special 'hanging highway' in the Glenwood Springs area. If you go from I-70 down to Moab on UT-128, be prepared for some spectacular scenery as well. But that's not a highway for the faint-hearted. Be prepared to spend another day seeing Arches and at least Dead Horse Point State Park, and a second day seeing Canyonlands. There are some great campsites in Arches as well as commercial sites in Moab as well as some national forest sites along UT-128. (Those would probably be the least expensive.)

    From there it's another day down to I-40, and at least 4 days home. So your time is quickly running out.


  3. Default

    Thanks so much for the help! I was messing around planning the destinations on Roadtrippers and I definitely think 12-13 days would be much more manageable than 10. Isn't it amazing how fast the days rack up? Could you give me any advise on I-40? I'm not too sure what there is close to it through New Mexico/Texas/Oklahoma. Another possibility we talked about, but not as serious, would be I-80 to Yellowstone and then the I-90 to Mt. Rushmore and back down, but it would be really interesting to get the Rocky Mountains/Desolate Desert difference that the I70/I40 route would provide

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Some alternatives.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    The first thing you and each of your friends might like to do is take this compatibility quiz. It will help you to check that you are all on the same page, as you go about planning your route. Even in the limited time you have, it would be advisable to plan for at least one day, or two half days, for each of you to go your own way, and have some *me* time. Spending the hours you will be, in a car each day can start to fray friendship at the edges.

    Be aware, should you go through the Eisenhower tunnel you will miss out on the spectacular route over Loveland Pass, something I would not want to miss. An alternative is to drive through RMNP over the highest paved road, The Trail Ridge Road. The views up there, well over 11000 ft, are spectacular. You would need to check at the visitor centre as to its status. At that elevation blizzards are a hazard all year.

    You might think about cutting the length of the trip, and spend a little more time in the places closer to home. If you do not get all the way to your final destination, it really is not a disaster. It will simply whet your appetite for a future roadtrip. The Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and all the other sights will still be there... will still be great.

    Sometimes, less is more.


  5. Default

    Oh I was under the impression that the loveland pass was a detour before the tunnel, and then you could get back on 70 before the tunnel, I definitely want to go on it. All of us are definitely more "outdoorsy" than we are "city night life", so the route we all more or less agree on, and I'm sure there's opportunities to go off on seperate trails and such at parks and scenic stops. Closer to home would be easier, but we've all been to a few places east, and there's just something about the Rocky Mountains that seems awesome to see. Only problem is we have to go through a good chunk of mid western plains to get there haha

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Thoughts.

    As for Yellowstone being an option, it is just that, an option that only you and your friends can decide upon, the good news is there is no bad choice. If you decided on Yellowstone then I would recommend that you think of that as the main destination, in my opinion it is not worth visiting unless you spend at least 3 days there, the park is huge and the going is slow. They do have first come -first served non reservable campgrounds, but booking would be recommended. [If there are any sites left] You should also visit the Grand Tetons just south of Yellowstone.

    You have some good options to check out in the replies above and with Colorado and Utah you will find some wonderful and diverse scenery, but the further you can stretch your time [and budget to stay on the road longer] the better. If you went to Moab [Arches and Canyonlands] instead of going down to I40 you could use US50 back through Colorado which goes past Black canyon of the Gunnison, through the Currecanti Nat Rec area and over Monarch Pass. Towards Colorado Springs there are Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak nearby.

  7. Default

    Yeah, we'll probably leave I-40 out with the time constraints, thanks for the advice! Do you know what an estimated cost of a tent lot would be in yellowstone NP (If I aquired reservations) vs. outside the park (I'm assuming theres a few private campground options besides yellowstone np?)


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The campgrounds in Yellowstone range from $15-25 a night. You can find much more information on Yellowstone's website.

    I'm sure there are private campgrounds outside the park, but I would be shocked if they are less expensive, and of course, you'd then lose the big advantage of being inside the park, and not having to commute even farther from destinations within this huge place.

  9. Default

    That's not bad at all, Do you think Yellow stone and the Grand Tetons can be done in 10-14 days from Columbus?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Sure - via fastest route it's 3 long days each way, so to be safe figure 7 days round trip, that would give you 3 to 7 days there. With 14 days you could break up the trip each way with some attractions.

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