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  1. Default First Time Road Trip: Boston to Zion

    So I am planning my first big road trip, all the way from Boston, MA to Zion National Park in Utah in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I'm going with my older brother (he's 21, i'm 20) and we are each bringing one friend of our choice, so 4 people total. The furthest trip me and my brother have done by road is the roughly 6 hours from Boston to Montreal, so this is quite a journey by comparison. We have just over a month before we depart on this trip.

    I have it planned for 14 days right now. I think we will be driving from Boston, to Niagara Falls, to Chicago, to Omaha, to Denver, to Arches and Canyonlands, to Zion, and back. Trying to stop at different spots on the way back and coming back from Chicago through Canada, spending the last night of the journey in Niagara Falls, Ontario for some gambling, drinking, and strip clubs (only half our group is of age to do that legally in the states). -Does this seem reasonable? Is it too much driving? 3 out of the 4 people going can drive and we do intend to switch it up quite frequently.

    The main things we are the most excited about are, in a sort of order of interest: camping/hiking for a couple of days in Zion, stopping at Arches and Canyonlands for a day on our way up and possibly camping there, exploring Denver and seeing the Rockies (And enjoying Colorado's legal recreational pot), Seeing Niagara Falls, exploring Chicago, and of course visiting Canada. - What else would you recommend for this trip? Is there anything I shouldn't miss along the way? Anything worth taking an extra day to go see/explore? we like adventurous things usually, not too into historical sites/museums.

    We are planning to do mostly camping on the way up (to save a little money and make sure we are all set for camping in Zion) and hotels on the way back, that way we have no reservations and a huge amount of leniency to spend extra days and adjust our pace as we see fit. I would just like to know if anyone has any helpful advice, suggestions on what to see/do/eat along the way, or constructive criticism of my current plan.
    Last edited by twilly123; 07-01-2015 at 01:57 PM.

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

    Default changing things up

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    2 weeks isn't a ton of time for this trip - it really is close to the minimum amount of time you'll need. It's about 2500 miles, which means you need about 5 days each way - especially if you're planning to camp. Even with multiple drivers, you shouldn't plan to drive more than about 600 miles each day, which works out to 10-12 hours on the road. Any more than that, and you'll quickly become exhausted, and even if you don't feel tired at that point, continuing farther sets you up to be both an unsafe driver, and be tired the following days. 4 tired people locked together in a car for 12 hours a day is a real recipe for disaster!

    I'd really look at finding two different routes for your trip. Since you want to hit Niagara Falls on your way home, I'd probably hit all of the places you listed on the way back. Perhaps take a more southern route on the way there - say across I-80 through PA, cutting down through Ohio and Indiana to St. Louis, and eventually to I-40. That would let you even swing by the Grand Canyon on your way up to Zion. Come back through Arches, Denver, Chicago, and onto Niagara Falls (via Michigan and across southern Ontario).

    Of course, you'll all need passports to visit Canada, and it's worth noting that Canadian DUI laws are even more strict than the US. Fines start at a BAC of .05, drivers under 21 can't have any alcohol in their system while driving.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Other Warning Bells

    Besides the problems Michael pointed out such as the need for passports and the strict DUI enforcement in Canada, there are a few other potentially serious obstacles in the way of having an enjoyable and safe trip. Perhaps the first is just the fact of all that enforced togetherness in the cramped confines of an SUV for two solid weeks. The newness and the 'adventure' aspect of this trip is going to wear off sometime during the second day, leaving you another dozen days to put up with each other. Do you have veto power over your brother's guest? Does he have veto power over yours? Have the two of you even talked in detail about what you expect to get out of this trip other than to get stoned or drunk and watch strippers? Have you talked about pacing? Where you'll eat? Where you'll stop along the way? Where you'll spend each night? All four in one room? Have you planned any time to yourselves? Have you discussed how that might affect your ability to complete the trip in a timely manner?

    Then there is a serious difficulty with your plan to 'recreate' in Colorado. First and foremost, you must be 21 to legally buy or consume THC products under state law. So you, and presumably your friend and possibly your brother's friend, are all planning on breaking the law. And your brother, who would be doing the buying, is planning on contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Then there's the fact that Colorado has zero tolerance for driving stoned. that means having as little as 5 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream makes it illegal to drive. THC is detectable in the bloodstream up to six weeks after ingestion, so you are planning to break even more laws.

    You might be able to pull this off, but at a cost of endangering your bank accounts and your freedom as well as the lives of those who have to share the road with you. Not a very mature attitude.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-01-2015 at 03:52 PM.

  4. Default

    wow thanks for the responses. I don't think we are going to do the go-down-south way because it seems to add quite a bit of distance and mileage to the trip, probably going to go up and back relatively the same route, just stopping at different places along the way and going through Canada back.

    As for DUI in Canada, we are fairly responsible and I don't think any of us would ever drink and drive, not trying to get in any legal trouble, nothing ruins a trip worse. As for recreational pot in Colorado, I should have known the age was 21, silly me, this changes things a bit, since only half our group would be legal age, and i assume the laws are similar to underage drinking and furnishing alcohol for minors, like i said: NOT trying to get in any legal trouble, especially all the way out in Colorado, and especially not for something as dumb as pot; i guess me and my friend will just have to go without, and be especially careful that none of us could be accused of DUI, fine by me i'm not too into it anyway. I also assume the cops in Utah are looking out for people who bought legal weed in Colorado and bring it to Utah, so ill have to make sure we all know how important it is to keep it all in Colorado. Also i know that since we are going to be a car full of college kids, we are more likely to be pulled over than most other cars on the road, and then more likely to be searched as well. We will be sure to keep it under the speed limit (or at least really really close) and not carry anything illegal with us.

    My brother and I have wanted to do this trip for a very long time and put a lot of planning and consideration into it so far. Everyone has very similar expectations and goals, our largest being to explore, camp, and hike in Zion National Park (My brother and I have been there twice, but due to our unadventurous parents, experienced it only through the car window, and through short walks we took while our parent's waited for us at the car; thus giving me a super strong urge to go back and explore the american southwest on my own trips). I'm doing most of the planning, as it's kind of my trip, but my brother and the friends who are coming with us, are very much in the loop, avid hikers/campers and well traveled, all comfortable sharing vehicle tent and hotel rooms for the whole trip, and iv'e been communicating with them quite a bit about it.

    That aside, thanks for the advice. More about the attractions along the route would be sweet.
    Last edited by twilly123; 07-01-2015 at 05:57 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Compatibility.

    Before your planning goes much further, you all best take this Quiz, then get together after having written your responses individually. Discuss all the responses, and see where each member stands.

    Do you have your reservations for camping in Zion and other national parks? Or the back country permits if you are planning on doing that. You will be travelling at peak season.


  6. Default

    wow that's the quiz? this makes me optimistic about this road trip, as we would all have very very similar answers. We all have been on pretty intense hiking and backpacking trips in the northern appalachians, so camping at real campsites and staying at hotels is way more comfortable than that, as is riding in an SUV as opposed to hiking up and down huge mountains for days on end. I don't think we will have any social, difference of interest, or being too needy problems on this trip.

    As for reservations, we are planning to stay at this campsite at Zion which has 126 first come first served campsites. Coming from arches/canyonlands, some 6 hours away, we may stay in a hotel that night if we cant find a site available when we get there. if we do stay in a hotel near Zion that night, we go to Zion as soon as the park opens and get a site as soon as they open when people depart. This sounds ok right? I cant see us not getting one of the first come first serve sites when we are literally like the first people in the park that day, i mean, a lot of people have to leave the campground every day. and worst case scenario, we stay in a hotel and sleep there, visiting the park for a few days instead of camping right in the park.

    Although it seems to be already too late to actually reserve camping spots in the park, all the reserved ones were taken for the dates i wanted last i checked, which makes me a bit worried about how packed the park is going to be. it's going be early-mid august. It's probably going to be pretty hot weather, but i doubt hot enough to deter us from our hikes and camping. Id rather be in 100 degree utah than 85 degree boston any day, that dry heat is more manageable, less sticky.

    I'm concerned about the park being too filled with people, But i'm sure they can't take too much away from our experience. We plan to be hiking the narrows, Angel's landing, and other challenging hikes if possible, which i think most of the summer tourists in the park are deterred from the challenge, but that's what we are there for.
    Last edited by twilly123; 07-01-2015 at 08:48 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You won't be able to drive to the Narrows, but the park has a good shuttle bus system, which also runs out into Springdale. The only place you can drive in the summer is on Route 9 itself.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default National parks.

    The parks are very popular, especially in peak season but you shouldn't have to much trouble finding quiet spots off the beaten path away from the crowds. If you have no luck with camping look for lodgings in Springdale, it's a lovely town and the free NP shuttle bus runs from town into the canyon, which is the only way to get to the canyon area.

    Between Arches and Zion you have could take a very scenic drive along UT24/scenic 12 and make quick stops at two more incredible parks, Capitol Reef and Bryce canyon with time permitting. [??] If you end up visiting 4 or more National parks this trip, or in the coming year including this trip, the you will find the annual parks pass for $80 good value.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    There's a privately-owned campground/RV park in Springdale, right on the edge of the Zion NP property, called Zion Canyon Campground/RV. You could try for a spot there. It has river-side tent spots *and* shower facilities.


  10. Default

    oh wow so we cant even drive on the main road through the park? which would mean we would have to leave the car in Springdale and bring all our camping gear via shuttle to the campground within the park, then still possibly not find an available spot? Camping right in Springdale definitely seems to be the best bet if that is the case. It is such a beautiful area i don't think any of us would really mind camping/lodging there instead, especially if it were that much easier.

    as for Capitol Reef and Bryce, i was going to do that, but we had sort of a vote as to what was the priority and we chose Canyonlands and arches, especially due to their rather close proximity to each other and the route to Zion, and it seems like Canyonlands has some pretty awesome day hiking routes. Our return plans are so lenient that we may decide to take an extra day or 2 to see Bryce canyon and Capitol Reef, but it will prob depend on how we feel when we are actually down there.

    After talking to my parents about the trip they said it would be really dumb to take my own jeep on such a long journey, because if it breaks down we will be screwed, so we are renting an SUV instead, should have better mileage, be much less likely to run into problems, and if it does, the rental place will just give us another one. Rental car is the way to go right?

    Thanks for the advice so far it's been very helpful
    Last edited by twilly123; 07-02-2015 at 10:32 AM.

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