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  1. Default San Diego to Chicago semi-leisure trip

    Hey all!

    I'll be moving back to Chicago in about 1 week from today, from San Diego. I don't have a super-tight deadline, but should make the trip in no more than probably 5 or 6 days (4-5 nights probably). That being said, I really want to be able to "take my time with a purpose" and enjoy the scenery and what the trip has to offer. I want to go the northern route (Utah and Colorado via 70/80), but so far the only planned night stop I have is in Denver... I would love to see the Grand Canyon, Zion, etc. I haven't done a great deal of research as to what good natural things there are to see/do on this route yet, but I know from word of mouth that both Utah and Colorado are beautiful and have a lot to offer. Camping is a potential option as well. I would appreciate any advice on any of the following:

    - Where are other good, logical places to stopover for the night?
    - What are some "must-sees" that I shouldn't miss? (both in terms of nature and cities)?

    Again, this doesn't have to be a perfectly executed trip in terms of practicality/convenience, but I don't want to go too far out of my way either.

    Any help or wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!


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

    Default a framework

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You need 4 days to make the trip from Chicago to San Diego, so you are going to need more in the "purpose" half of the spectrum than "take your time" but you still should be able to have a nice trip.

    You do need to plan for a stop before Denver, and Lincoln would be a bit more than halfway.

    It would be kind of tough to hit Zion on your timeline, as it starts to add more miles to what you've already got. Arches might be a better choice.

    After Denver, you could spend half a day driving to Moab, and the other half in Arches.

    Then, you could drive through Monument Valley, on your way to the Grand Canyon - which is another full day drive.

    Spend a day at the Grand Canyon, and then spend the following day heading to San Diego

    As it is that's 6 full days, and gives you time to check out 2 National Parks, and a drive that takes you through some great scenery. You probably could find a way to do Zion instead of Arches, but you'd be doing a very, very quick tour and hardly have enough time to make it worthwhile.

  3. Default

    Hey Michael,

    Thank you so much for the quick response. I'm not sure how much this matters, but I'm actually going FROM San Diego TO Chicago, instead of the other way around. How would you suggest taking the trip in the reverse order of what you originally planned?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Sorry, after a brisk 50 degree May day, I must have assumed anyone looking to move between Chicago and San Diego had to be heading west!

    But yes, just reverse everything I said.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    This is a route we have done a number of times over the past 35 years. From San Diego, your first stop is going to be no further than Richfield, UT, which is about 600 miles. Denver would be your 2nd night's stop, as it's way too far to drive from San Diego to Denver in one day. (It's almost 1100 miles from SD to Denver.) If you wanted to stop, you could take a bit of time and head to Arches (turn south at Green River, UT) National Park. But as Michael pointed out, it's 4 days to Chicago from SD. At Denver, you have the choice of turning northeast on I-76 up to I-80, or continuing on I-70 to St Louis then go up to Chicago via I-55. However, the latter is a little longer and also takes you on some of the busiest interstate highway in the US -- between Kansas City and St Louis.


  6. Default

    Hi and thanks, Donna.

    If I were to stay somewhere near/before Richfield for my first night, would it still be feasible time-wise to make the slight detour through the Grand Canyon? As for travelling East of Denver, I will probably opt for the I-80 route... any suggestions of things to see/places to stop at on that route?

    Thanks to all!


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Certainly, but this will take at least 5 days, more if you want to make ANY other sightseeing stops.

    Day 1 - SD-Flagstaff via I-8/AZ-85/I-10/Loop-101/I-17
    Day 2: Flagstaff-GC vis US-89/AZ-64, back out the same way and overnight at the Cameron Trading Post or Tuba City
    Day 3: US-160 to Kayenta, US-163 through Monument Valley, US-191 to Moab, UT-128 to I-70, overnight Glenwood Springs CO
    Day 4: I-70/I-76/I-80, overnight York NE - take the US-6 detour over Loveland Pass
    Day 5 - I-80 to Chicago

    Start adding days if you want to see Arches, Canyonlands, or Rocky Mountain NP, or spend the night in Denver.

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