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  1. Default Planning 22 day Road Trip in Summer 2015

    Hello there, newbie here!!! I am so glad I found this forum, its so helpful.

    So I am in the early stages of planning a 22 day road trip with my husband and two daughters (they will be 15 and 12) for June 2015. We will be renting a minivan and basically only have a rough outline of what we would like to accomplish. One thing important to us is that we don't try to do too much and make this experiance unpleasant and exhausting. We have been tweaking "routes and stops" and I'd like to see what thoughts you all have before I go any further with my planning. I would like to point out that I realize there are a couple days that have quite a bit of driving, we don't think this will be a problem because we are already used to making a long trip at least once a year to visit family. We have done 12, 14, and 18 hour drives in a one day trip at least every other year, and yes we do take precautions to make sure we are traveling safely (we always get plenty of sleep the day before the 18 hr drive, and always switch off driving every few hours - if we feel at all tired then we stop for the night). So here is my route and thoughts. If you would share yours that would be great.

    Day 1 - Start out after work from Houston area just to get a portion of the Texas driving out of the way (maybe as far as Abiline)
    Day 2-3 - Arrive in the Sante Fe, NM area and stay for 2 nights (maybe white river rafting, hiking, or taking a scenic drive)
    Day 4 - Leave NM around 7am drive west and pass through the 4 corners (my youngest picked this as her one must do), and then make as far as Flagstaff, AZ area (?) in late afternoon - we would like to get a hotel near a major freeway but also close enough so we can drive into the Grand Canyon for just a couple hours to watch the sun set and have a picnic then go back to hotel
    Day 5,6,7,8 - (long day - about 12 hours) Leave AZ and make it to Santa Cruz, CA area and stay a few nights. The kids want to do the boardwalk and a beach one day, the other days are flexible but some ideas are San Francisco, PCH drive, Muri Woods.
    Day 9 - arrive in Redwood National Park - a little hiking and picnic that evening.
    Day 10 - arrive in Portland and check into hotel and just relax. (ex - Pool, movie, dinner)
    Day 11 - take scenic route (Troutdale, Oregon to The Dalles: Oregon's Historic Columbia River Highway) get out along way and hike, site see. continue on our way and possible stay in Spokane, WA
    Day 12,13,14,15 leave Spokane and drive to Glacier National Park by way of Going to the Sun Road. (ideas hike, sitesee, and any adventures we can find)

    "this part of trip is still really rough"

    Day 16 - leave MT and head south Maybe stop for night in Jackson, WY area (could stay 2 nights and then visit one place for 3 in CO)
    Day 17,18 - Grand Junction, CO area ???
    Day 19, 20 - take scenic drive to telluride then cut over to Colorado Springs, CO area
    Day 21 to 22 make our way back to TX in two 8-9 hour days.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns? Did I get anything right, lol?

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

    Default not meeting your goals

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!
    One thing important to us is that we don't try to do too much and make this experiance unpleasant and exhausting.
    Right off the bat, I see a couple things that will very much make your trip "unpleasant and exhausting."

    The first is Santa Fe to Flagstaff via 4 corners and the Grand Canyon. You're looking at 600 miles of 2 lane driving - so 12 hours on the road, before you even think about starting to tour the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a very big place, and even half a day isn't much time to see this wonder - if you want to do more than take a quick look over the edge and continue on your way. Perhaps a better option would be to go up to 4 corners, check out Monument Valley, and then look for a place for the night, and then see the Grand Canyon the following morning.

    That also gets into your second big problem. There is absolutely no way you should try to go from Flagstaff to Santa Cruz in a day. A 725 mile drive (13+ Hours in real world conditions) is just not smart or safe, and it certainly would make a large part of your trip unpleasant and exhausting. Its one thing to do a one-time sprint, but doing a trip like that on a multi-day vacation will make you tired and cranky for days to come.

    One, if you follow my previous advice, you could spend the morning in the Grand Canyon, and then spend a half day making your way towards California, perhaps Kingman/Lake Havasu City/Laughlin, and then complete your drive the next day. However, I'd also point out that going to Santa Cruz means a lot of backtracking if you want to check out the PCH. It would make more sense to head over towards Cambria, and then head up the coast. You'd need another stop in there, but that would make more sense.

    Santa Cruz to Redwoods in a day is certainly possible, but it means you'll have to skip the coastal drive, and throw in that you're planning to drive onto Portland the next day, you're going to have very little time for hiking and exploring. Not impossible, but not very pleasant.

    Coming back, the route from Glacier to Jackson would take you right through Yellowstone, but you would have zero time to see it. That seems like a shame, although Yellowstone is a part that really needs 2-3 days just to see the highlights.

    So those are the issues I see. Nothing that can't be overcome, but certainly problematic if you want to have an pleasant and not-exhausting trip.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Not balanced.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I think that right off the bat you might be taking on to much by firstly driving over 350 miles after work followed by almost 500 miles the following day. It's then almost 5oo miles to Flagstaff via Four corners while hoping to see the GC for a couple of hours. After that it looks as though you propose to get from Flagstaff to Santa Cruz same day [?] which is 725 miles and really too far to do safely in a day, never mind enjoyably. It looks a sthough you have the time available but I would reconsider how you divide it. I think it would be a lot more fun if you break the journeys down differently and spend less time in one place, like Santa Cruz for example. It's either that or cut back the mileage of your trip as you will be racing by some great natural wonders to get little time in another.

  4. Default

    Thank you so much for offering up suggestions and "problems" with our current plan. We have tweaked and changed the outline of our trip so many times that I figured it was time for help. We were actually thinking the drive from AZ to Santa Cruz area would be too long so I will look into splitting that drive into 2 days. And really we aren't sold on staying in Santa Cruz specifically, the girls really want to do the boardwalk but other than that we are open to other suggestions. Where we are from its not unusual to have a "base" in one town and then take little side trips to other towns and cities then come back to your "base" so you aren't always checking in and out of hotels. Would this be possible for our stay in the CA coastal area (so that we can visit the boardwalk, PCH, San Francisco) or should we just stay a night and move on? We wanted to have a few places where we could have an extended stay. We really just want to take a peek in at Grand Canyon. We feel as though that is a place we can go back to later. We are really pretty flexible and want to enjoy this adventure. The only things we wouldn't want to miss out on are the 4 corners, PCH and beach/boarwalk in CA, Redwoods (even if it driving through them), Glacier National Park, and anything in Colorado. So I will gladly take any suggestions. I really just want this to be something special for our family to enjoy together. And honestly I am really not that knowledgable about all the great natural wonders that are out there for us to see.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default One outline of many possible options.

    To do a trip of this size means that you will need to spend half your days driving which realy means you need to break your nights up differently, but how you do that will depend on where you want to spend time. As Michael mentioned, going all the way to Santa Cruz and then driving back down the PCH just adds miles and time in the car and in my opinion would be more hassel then simply swaping hotels. However you work it, I think you should be looking at getting to around Bakersfield on day 5. Then on day 6 drive to Cambria and make your way up the coast to Monterey. Day 7 sight seeing and Santa Cruz and possibly move on to SF on day 8. I would then possibly use the next 3 days [9,10 and11] to see the Redwoods, Portland and the Columbia river gorge which is still going to be rushed without making it to Spokane. You may get to Kennewick or you could stop at the Dalles and still make it to Kallispell on day 12 for a visit to Glacier NP next day. You can then enter the park via West Glacier and then drive the Going to the sun road and visit the Many Glacier area of the park. Days 13 and 14, perhaps 15[?]. If you head to Jackson you could spend a couple of days getting there via Yellowstone and Grand tetons, although it's not really enough time for them. So one way or the other come day 17 or 18 you will be heading to Grand junction where nearby you will find the Colorado National monument. I would then decide between heading towards Telluride and home or Colorado Springs area and home, but maybe not both. If you took the Telluride option it might pay to visit Four corners and Santa Fe on the way home from here and head straight towards Flagstaff from home at the start. You could get there in 2 full days and instead of starting your trip at the end of a days work, you could set out early the following morning following a good nights sleep. You could leave Yellowstone and Jackson for another time and take a couple of days to get from Glacier to Rocky mountain NP to spend a couple of days and then down through Colorado Springs etc.

    Of course there are many ways to tweak and adjust this but hopefully it will give you something to work with. Get it somewhere close to what you are happy with and we can help you to 'fine tune' your trip and offer suggestions. Remember doing a 12/14 hour day as a one off is totally different to trying to do multiple long days and you want to try and keep each day to 500-600 miles and 9-10 hours for it to stay enjoyable and to feel fresh to do it all again the next day.

  6. Default

    Thank you for the suggestions. I will start making some adjustments to our route and stops. I'll be posting again once that is done. It seems I need all the help I can get. I'm slightly out of my comfort zone planning a trip like this.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Quote Originally Posted by THIGGINSON View Post
    The only things we wouldn't want to miss out on are the 4 corners, PCH and beach/boarwalk in CA, Redwoods (even if it driving through them), Glacier National Park, and anything in Colorado.
    What strikes me most about your plan, especially with this list of "must sees," is that it pretty much guarantees you're going to have a fairly rushed trip. As Dave mentioned, with 3 weeks, you are going to have to spend about half of your days driving just to cover the ground. On top of that, the number of things you'll be driving right past, without having time to stop is pretty amazing.

    Take the redwoods, it's a must see, and you've already accepted that you're just going to be driving by them. If you're interested in the Redwoods, then I'd think you'd also be interested in the Giant Sequoias, and quite possibly Yosemite, but despite being in California, you're not going to have time for either of them.

    Similarly, while you are driving hundreds upon hundreds of miles to get to Glacier National Park, you won't really have any time for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, despite driving right past them. Even Colorado is somewhat of an afterthought with this trip.

    If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't treat this like it is the only opportunity I'll ever have to see these places - because there is always next year - and I would not even try to hit everything. Personally, I would say do either California, or Glacier, but not both.

    If you did California, you could actually take time to see the Grand Canyon, take the time to drive up the Pacific Coast, and take time to see the Redwoods. There are also lots of other things you could add, like Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, Lassen Volcanic NP, the previously mentioned Yosemite and/or Sequoia, and then hit some of Utah's amazing parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands, as you head back through Colorado.

    Or if you want to head to Glacier, you could fit in Yellowstone and the Tetons, you could still do some things in Colorado, and you might also be able to fit in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota into a loop.

    If you still have your heart set on doing California and Glacier, it's by no means impossible, but I think if you look at options that would significantly reduce the miles you need to drive, it will let you see significantly more things, and have all in all, a much more enjoyable and less stressful trip.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good maps and other points.

    Quote Originally Posted by THIGGINSON View Post
    We really just want to take a peek in at Grand Canyon.
    You might be better off, turning up 89 at Flagstaff then take 64 into and through the GC. This route would allow you to stop at some of the many turnouts and view points. Doing this at sunset or sunrise would be quite something.

    Quote Originally Posted by THIGGINSON View Post
    The only things we wouldn't want to miss out on ----- Glacier National Park ...
    Depending on the severity of the winter and snowfall, it is by no means certain that the GTTS road will be open. I have been there in July when it was still not open.

    Quote Originally Posted by THIGGINSON View Post
    ... I am really not that knowledgable about all the great natural wonders that are out there for us to see.
    These are all marked on good maps. Do you have maps to plan this trip? Good maps like those produced by AAA (free to members) and Rand McNally (their 2015 atlas is available now) will be essential when you are on the road. Those maps have National Parks and State Parks as well as Forests and Scenic Routes and other attractions clearly marked on them.

    You may also like to check out


  9. #9


    One of the biggest issues I see is the miles and days - with close to 6,000 miles to cover, you have 22 days - or an average 300 miles per day (5 to 6 hours driving each day) to see it all. Some of your stretches are more than reasonable in a day. I reserve the crazy-long-hauls to one shot deals in a two or longer week trip - you just can't habitually drive long distances and not grow weary of the road.

    Your route is also somewhat convaluted - you don't want to do, for example, Four Corners on your way out (it's out of the way), when you want to do Telluride on your way back - you can go to Four Corners on your way back via Durango since you'll be heading south on the million dollar highway anyway.

    Glacier in June is going to be an iffy prospect for Going to the Sun Road - it's often closed even into July with snow! Not that you can't go and enjoy the park, just that part won't be accessible and if it's why you want to go, you may be disappointed.

    You have some options - fly to a starting point to eliminate the long Texas drive out of the equation and rent your car starting where you land (ie. Alburquerque) and start your loop more west (doing that can cut 2,000 miles round-trip off your drive) could eliminate the coastal CA and OR parts and opt to start heading north through UT to Glacier.....or you could do a loop, fly to next region, loop, fly, loop, fly home. The last option gets pricey fast though.

    If I had to do your above itinerary, I'd make the following changes:

    Houston --> Fort Stockton --> Carlsbad --> Almogordo
    --> Globe --> Flagstaff (through Tonto) --> Grand Canyon
    --> Las Vegas --> Santa Cruz --> San Fran --> Redwoods
    ---> Portland --> Glacier --> Yellowstone --> Salt Lake
    --> Moab --> Ridgeway --> Telluride --> Durango (Four Corners)
    --> Albuquerque --> Lake Meredith (by Amarillo) --> Houston

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