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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Chandler, Arizona, United States

    Default Phoenix - Utah (ish) - Yellowstone - Custer SD - Houston - Phoenix

    Hi everyone. I've been reading the boards and this is so much information that I now have analysis paralysis ;)

    My husband and I will be purchasing an RV and taking a long road trip (~month) starting in mid June with 2 grandkids ages 8 and 5. I want to travel from Phoenix to Utah (and/or Colorado) to Yellow Stone to Custer SD to Houston and back to Phoenix in approximately 1 month. FYI - the Houston portion of the trip is for a wedding....

    At any rate, I've been reading the threads about the Utah/Colorado area and now have analysis paralysis.

    I'm going to ask for help, but I should first lay out my 'wish list':
    -Places that are interesting to typical 5 and 8 year kid
    -Want to stay under 6 hours of driving in a single day for most of the travel days (if possible)
    -There are a ton of red rock parks (Bryce, Escalante, Capitol Reef, Canyonland, Arches, Vermillion Cliffs, Antelop Canyon, etc.) but I want to add variety into the trip so I only want to go to 2 or 3.
    -Do not want to go to the Grand Canyon on this trip.
    -The locations are accessible for an RV to get to (meaning I don't want to roll down a cliff)
    -To provide context to my time spent in each area, I feel 1.5 full days at the Grand Canyon are enough to get an idea of what is there. But I think that Custer would be 2 or 3 days (badlands, mount rushmore, etc.)
    -It doesn't matter to me whether I go east or north first - I'll simply shift my dates of travel to arrive in Houston on the appropriate date :)

    I know it is a tall order... please help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA (AKA Information Overload, grin)!

    Any of the parks you mentioned will be of interest to your grandchildren. Enroll them in the Junior Ranger program at each park. They can do activities, look for certain things, and when the program is completed, they can each get a patch or a badge.

    Red rock parks -- you're right, there are a bunch! You even left out one of them, and that's Zion. Zion, Bryce and Arches were always more interesting to me when I was a kid traveling with my parents. Zion is worth a full day, Bryce is about a half day, and Arches is a good 5-6 hours.

    If you are staying in Custer, SD, then Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore are easily accessible from there. Your grandkids might also enjoy Wind Cave, which would diversify your trip quite a bit! Badlands is still another 2+ hours from Custer -- we toured through Badlands and the Black Hills this past summer. This is how we divided our time in Custer: Day 1 was to see Mount Rushmore in the morning. (You will want to do so, too, in order to have ease of parking issues at Mount Rushmore with an RV. They'll give you rooftop parking with no low ceiling problems getting there, but it will set you back $15.) We walked the Presidential Trail, took lots of pictures. In the afternoon, we drove Iron Mountain Drive in Custer State Park and the Needles area. Day 2: we saw Wind Cave in the morning, doing the Fairgrounds tour. Then in the afternoon, we drove the Wildlife Loop. I would inquire at the Custer State Park visitor center about the limits for motorhomes on Iron Mountain Drive and the Wildlife Loop. (We were in a pickup truck and didn't pay attention, though I know we saw a small Class C motorhome ahead of us on Iron Mountain Dr.) We didn't spend any time in Deadwood or Sturgis, though either of those would add another day to the time needed in the Black Hills. I did notice that there is both a KOA and a Jellystone RV park in the immediate Custer area, along with a mom-and-pop RV park.

    Staying under 6 hours a day driving will limit you to about 250-miles per day to drive. Motorhomes are usually slower, and they take a little longer to fill the fuel tank.

    If you don't already have one, you should pick up a national park annual pass. If you're 62 or over, you'll qualify for the senior pass. Otherwise, it's $80 for the year which will get you into any national park that requires an entrance fee. With entrance prices between $10 and $30, depending on the park, a few parks can add up.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default First: A Framework

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    With a RoadTrip of this magnitude, it is usually best to establish a modestly precise outline of where you'll be when, a rough itinerary, so that you can start filling in details for various sections of it one at a time. You've already got a decent start with fairly certain ideas of what you want to see, a pace that will allow you to travel in comfort, and an overall time budget. The next step is to work out blocks of time for each portion: Utah, Yellowstone, South Dakota, Houston, and getting between them all. A quick check of your routing indicates that you'll need about eleven to twelve days of driving at your preferred pace of only six hours a day. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for each of the areas you want to visit, maybe three days or so each, but at least you can start your planning with those timeframes in mind.

    With all that in mind, let's try to answer some of your current questions. For Red Rock Country, I think you'd be hard pressed to do better than Zion and Arches, so those are the ones I'd recommend. The other Utah destination I'd suggest would be Dinosaur National Monument. All national parks have roads and parking lots that can handle RVs, as well as campsites. But the campsites fill up early, figure out your itinerary and start making reservations as soon as possible. The other thing to know about our national parks and monuments is a program called Junior Rangers. This is perfect for children of your grandsons' ages. Be sure to sign them up at each park you come to. Not only will they get activities to help them make the most of their time in the parks, but upon completion of those activities they'll get some neat (free!) souvenirs,

    Between Yellowstone and southwestern South Dakota, most mapping software will suggest US-14, but I think you might be better off by leaving Yellowstone to the north through Livingston. US-14 is steep and twisty in places and besides, I-90 will take you past the Little Bighorn Battlefield. In addition to the South Dakota sites you've listed, also check out Devils Tower in nearby Wyoming, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind and Jewel Caves for a little variety.

    And don't overlook some great sites in between your (so far) listed destinations. For example, give thought to the sites along the old Oregon Trail in Nebraska (US-30 along the Platte River), sites in Texas such as the Alamo and LBJ Ranch, and sites in Baja Arizona such as Tombstone, Kartchner Caverns and the Pima Air and Space Museum.

    So the next steps are up to you, choosing a direction of travel and more importantly how to apportion your time amongst all the possibilities. Once you've got that level of planning we can offer some further thoughts that might be of help. It's what we're here for.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Worth ?

    Red rock parks -- you're right, there are a bunch! You even left out one of them, and that's Zion. Zion, Bryce and Arches were always more interesting to me when I was a kid traveling with my parents. Zion is worth a full day, Bryce is about a half day, and Arches is a good 5-6 hours.
    I would argue that each of the parks demand the above times as a minimum and are "worth" so much more. You could easily spend a couple of days at Zion and I'm sure the Kids will love strolling along the Virgin river while enjoying the wildlife. Bryce is more about the views over the canyon and agree half a day actually there would do. Arches is a big park to drive through and to get to the various viewpoints. I would spend a couple of days in the area and if you feel you have had enough of Arches you can go visit Deadhorse State park and Canyonlands.

    After visiting the parks of Utah, from Zion to Arches you could drive up 191 towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and then perhaps detour into Colorado [Rocky mountain NP, Garden of the Gods etc] on the way to Houston. If you took 191 north you could visit Dinosaur NM and Flaming gorge Res. As Buck mentioned, getting sites booked for the RV should be a priority for the National parks and may be too late in some instances where you will have to look outside. Watchman fo Zion, Morefield for Bryce, Devils Garden for Arches and Morriane for RMNP are all good campgrounds for an RV.

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