A road trip from Bloomfield, MI to Grand Canyon via Las Vegas in Dec 2014 – The Roads have been paved all the way to West Rim now. Total miles 5500. Our total cost for 2 people ~ $1700 - This includes helicopter rides for two at the Grand canyon West Rim.
It was a great road trip in Dec 2014 - not too many visitors or even no snow in this 7-night 8-day fantastic trip in the winter. My wife and I started in a 2015 brand new leased Ford Fusion. Please read to learn the challenges encountered and good experience we enjoyed during this trip. We travelled on I-94, I-80, I-70, I-15 via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah to Las Vegas, NV. Then we came back on I-40, I-44, I55, I-80 and I-94 via Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.
Day 1- Started at 3.00am on Friday Dec 12th . My wife packed sandwich for two days and fruits (banana, apples, pears, grapes) for many days since it can be well preserved inside the car in the winter. We ate in the car and stopped only for gas and restroom. Our first night was in North Platte, NE after 1000+ miles.
Day 2- We started at 4.00 am and our first scenery stop was at Bryce canyon in Utah. We were on I-70 west and then to US-89. A deserted area and ynou do t many gas stations. We had about 60 miles of gas and thought we will see gas stations on the way. We ran all the way to last 5 miles and had to put on eon the down slope to preserve the gas. The Ford fusion itself conserved gas by automatically dropping engine rpm to 1000 with a sign on the dash display no matter how I press the gas pedal. So, that was a scary experience without gas to be stranded in the desert in a cold night. We bought a $80 annual pass that covers all national parks at the Bryce canyon. The Bryce is a fabulous scene. We booked our second night in Hurricane, UT and we were heading there at 80 mph speed limit on I-15. We encountered ~3" snow on I-15 for about 40 minutes and then rain on the downhill.
Day 3- We ate the breakfast at the hotel and went to Zion national park ( we used %$80 pass more than it's value in this trip). The 1.1 mile tunnel at a very high elevation through sandstone is marvelous and could appreciate the engineering skills in 1920's. The park has many colorful and beautiful canyons and mountains. We headed to another side of the Zion Park called Kolob canyon - again we used our $80 pass. We did not hike to see the arch because we had to be on the trail several our down and then up. Then we headed to Valley of Fire – another fantastic scenery. Our 3rd night was at The Strip in Las Vegas where MGM Grand, Hooters and other major casinos are located.
Day 4 - Started at 4.00 am on the road toward West Rim of the Grand Canyon via Hoover dam. We stopped at the Hoover dam and it was little dark still, the security asked us to get out of the car and then checked it w/o pulling any luggage out. The Hoover dam site was beautiful even at dark. We took some pictures and continued to West rim Grand Canyon. We stopped for gas at the last Chevron Gas Station on US-93 (~60 miles from Las Vegas) before turning to Pierce Ferry Rd. There is a Hualapai ticket and travel office at the Chevron Gas station. I bought package ticket Hualapai legacy entrance + meal + helicopter landing and pontoon boat ride on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The cost of the ticket is 259 each. That was a surprise to my wife and the heli and pontoon rides and the grand canyon itself were overwhelming.. We did not do the skywalk. All the roads from Vegas to West rim have been paved and very smooth ride from US-93 on Pierce Ferry Rd and Diamond Bar to West rim airport and main west rim canyon entrance. We spent ~ 4 hours at the west rim, ate lunch and travelled to the South rim. We saw the canyon at the south entrance and also from the east Desert View at south rim. We saw some Mule deer in the south rim side. We travelled on via Cameron. to Flagstaff, AZ to spend the night.
Day 5 – We ate breakfast at the hotel and went to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Arizona.
Impressive Totem Pole and the scenic drive but we did not see sand dunes. On the way we topped at Navajo national monument off US-160 – a prehistoric Puebloan Ancestal dwellings within the natural sandstone alcoves. We also stopped at the west side of Tuba City - Dinosaur Tracks site on US-160. We spend ~ 30 minutes and there was a Native American guide. Many dinosaur bones – some are in proper alignment were visible but too old and looked like rocks. Guide asked $15 but we gave$20 and did not buy anything. On the way back to Flagstaff we visited Prehistoric Wupatki pueblo ruins and Sunset Crater Volcano Nat Monument – another great place to visit. We spend our second night in Flagstaff, AZ.
Day 6 – We ate breakfast at the hotel and started early at 6.30am and went to Petrified Forest National Park off I-40 (used the $80 pass again). it opens at 8.00 during the winter. Many prehistoric large tree logs and stems all of them have turned into colorful fossils and rocks. It is an amazing site. Then on the way back towards Flagstaff we visited meteorite crater on I-40 – a must see site though each has to pay $18 fee. Kim was our guide – a lady with a lot of knowledge about the site. We also watched a small free video at the crater office. We ate lunch on the way and afternoon we went to Sedona and travelled along Red Rock Scenic Byway (SR 179). It is a scenery drive full of beautiful rocks and mountain formations. Then we visited Montezuma’s Castle in Sedona off I-15. On the way back we had to travel in the light snow and many sharp curves on slopes on SR 179 some are at 15 mph. We came back and spent the night (3rd) in Flagstaff.
Day 7 – Started early morning and heading back to Michigan. We just entered in to New Mexico on I-40 East and our car was hit from the back by two girls in a car. They were over speeding and not looking in front of their car for sure. Our 2015 Ford Fusion faced the impact beautifully and I managed not to hit anybody in the front or on the next lane and managed to stop my car on the left shoulder. Fusion just suffered minor bumper fascia popping up without tear and I managed to put it back. The car that hit me had airbags deployed, windshield cracked and frontal fascia broken with hood popped opened. The girls and the car was hauled away by a tow track. I was happy no one was injured and also I was happy they have to spend money to pair their car for their foolish driving. We spent the night in Oklahoma city in Oklahoma.
Day 8- came back home around 9.30 pm. Each way ~2000 miles and ~1500 miles to visit the sites and travel within sites.