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  1. Default Two Week Trip in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona

    Hi all,

    I'm currently a senior in college with a job lined up after graduation but I want to take a few months to travel before I start. Here's my situation. My sister lives in Denver (I live in Maryland) and she would let me borrow her SUV in June, as she won't be working then. Furthermore, my girlfriend, who lives in Germany, wants to visit me and take a road trip with me. She prefers seeing "nature" rather than places like NYC, Boston, DC, etc. and this would be her first time visiting the US. She can only take two weeks off of school to visit me so I need to plan a trip that takes two weeks or less. Surprisingly flights from Amsterdam to Denver are pretty cheap so having my girlfriend flying directly to Denver would work out.

    I have researched a bit and developed a rough draft of our plan. Denver will be our home base.

    Denver, CO
    Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (2 days)
    Arches National Park, UT (2 days )
    Canyonlands National Park, UT (1 day)
    Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (1 day)
    Zion National Park, UT (2 days)
    Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (2 days)
    Four Corners Monument, ... (an hour)
    Mesa Verde National Park, CO (1 day)
    Bridal Veil Falls, CO (1/2 day)
    Black Canyon of the Gunnision National Park, CO (1 day)
    Aspen, CO (1/2 day)
    Denver, CO

    How does this list look? Is it doable within two weeks or is that too much? Total driving time would be around 29 hours. Also, are there any other cool places on the way that are worth seeing? I would absolutely appreciate any and all advice. I have just discovered this site and I find it very interesting and useful. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default A nice loop trip.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    Your plan looks doable even though you have to allow for travel time which will eat into your time at the places you wish to visit. It sounds as though you have taken your '29 hour travel time' straight from a computer program and if so you will need to allow about 20% more time for 'real world' travel and consider that you can add quite a few [slow] miles entering, exploring and exiting the parks. The other thing I am not clear on is when you say you will "Use Denver as your home base". The trip laid out makes a nice loop trip but you won't want to be going out and back to Denver numerous times. You certainly wouldn't want to add much more to your trip as it will be busy enough as it is, but you will get to see some amazing parks and enjoy spectacular drives. Between Canyonlands and Bryce you could take UT24 to scenic 12 which is a great drive, and along the way visit parts of Capitol Reef NP

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    Denver, CO Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (2 days)
    Denver up to Estes Park is about a 1-1/2 to 2 hour drive - only about 72 miles, but you can run into traffic issues.

    Arches National Park, UT (2 days ) Canyonlands National Park, UT (1 day)
    Rocky Mountain National Park to Moab, UT, is about 400 miles -- give it about 8 hours to travel from one to another. From I-70, head south on UT-128 for an absolutely gorgeous trip. Oh - one caveat - in many places, southbound is on the edge of the mountain with little to no guardrail.

    Arches will take the better part of a day to see. Canyonlands as well. So you're going to have to build in a day to travel, somewhere.

    Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (1 day) Zion National Park, UT (2 days)
    Moab to Bryce is 275 miles, and Zion is about 120 miles from there. Once again, build in travel time. You can see Bryce in a half day unless you want to do some hiking.

    Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (2 days)
    It's about 250 miles from Zion down to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon NP, so allow about 5-6 hours of travel time.

    Four Corners Monument, ... (an hour) Mesa Verde National Park, CO (1 day)
    Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde is about 300 miles -- call it 6 hours plus the hour you think you'll spend at Four Corners (I doubt that you'll use that much time). The only problem with Mesa Verde is the need to take scheduled tours to see any of the cliff dwellings up close.

    Bridal Veil Falls, CO (1/2 day) Black Canyon of the Gunnision National Park, CO (1 day) Aspen, CO (1/2 day) Denver, CO
    I'm not sure that you're going to be able to see it all in two weeks. I count 14 days about the time you're starting the drive to Mesa Verde.


    Donna

  4. Default

    Thanks for the replies. Definitely gave me more to think about. Should we only allocate 1 day maximum for each park? Or does that not allow us to "see" these parks?

    Furthermore, how are the camping situations at these places? Can we find somewhere to park and camp pretty easily or should we book hotels/lodges (which seems pretty expensive)? Are there any places I should remove, as they are not really worth going out of the way for?

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    Camping at each of these places can be hard to procure. Most (but not all) of them are reserve-able, so as soon as you get dates settled, you can start trying to get a spot. Otherwise you need to get there early. I will defer to other regulars here who are more familiar with camping in the parks these days. (I haven't camped in Mesa Verde in almost 50 years, and it's been at least 20 years since I camped in Grand Canyon.)

    A little hint about camping in Arches: I'm not sure it's able to be reserved. If you get there and can't get a spot, there are some lovely spots out along UT-128, not far from Moab, which could be used as a base for both Arches and Canyonlands. I noticed these BLM campgrounds when we went into Arches a few years ago, and how underused they were, even for July!

    I wouldn't go out of my way for Four Corners, but if it's along your route anyway, why not? It's kitschy. Black Canyon of the Gunnison won't seem extremely spectacular after the Grand Canyon and Zion, but it's worth a look-see (IMHO).


    Donna

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