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  1. #1

    Default South Carolina to Colorado/Utah and back

    Hello RTA,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a road trip this summer to celebrate us graduating college. This will be our first cross country trip/camping and I figured this would be the best place to begin and ask questions.

    We are planning for this trip to be around two weeks but I'm not sure that everything will be doable in that time. We would start off in Columbia SC and head to Nashville to stay the night with a friend, not doing any sight seeing just staying the night. Then head to Kansas City to stay the night, stopping in St Louis during the day. From Kansas City is where things get less clear. We will be mostly camping but might stay the night in Denver for the first night. We want to see all the national parks in Colorado and Utah (Rocky Mountain, Zion, Canyonlands, Moab, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Arches as well as other parks that we haven't figured out yet).

    On the way back we want to see the Grand Canyon before staying a night or two with family in El Paso, then going to Big Bend, possibly camping, staying the night in Austin TX, staying the night with family in Louisiana, and then heading back to Columbia.

    During the trip we also want to go to a lot of breweries and see other quirky attractions but my big question is would all this be able to be done in two weeks or would be have to condense what we want to do. Also with this being our very first road trip I would love some pointers, suggestions on what to see while out west, what to bring, things to leave home, etc.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,315

    Default Too Much

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The simple fact is that you would need almost eleven full days just to drive the route you've described above, leaving time for not much more than a meal with family and friends you 'visit' along the way and a quick snapshot or two at each of the parks you'll have spent so much time getting to. What to cut is up to you, but cut you must, significantly.

    AZBuck

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for the reply, that's what i figured. Do you have any suggestions on some must do places/hikes in those areas?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,982

    Default cart before horse

    As Buck mentioned, you've put out a list that is vastly farther than you could even come close to doing within 2 weeks. You also listed almost every National Park in the Mountain West as possible stops.

    In other words, you before even thinking about "must do places" or hikes, you need to first scale down your trip into something that even close to feasible before asking others do devote their time to help come up with information that might be helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,695

    Default

    The obvious choice would be to cut the things furthest west which add the most miles and have time to see a little of those places you do visit. In that case I would look at Moab as that point west and then head to Mesa Verde and El Paso, if visiting family is a must for you.

  6. #6

    Default

    Staying with family isn't a must but it would be a free bed and good midway points on the drive back. I'm very early in planning this but zion, arches, and atleast one park in Colorado would be a must. Also the time frame is flexible. I was thinking two weeks but could end up being 20 days. I'm just very unfamiliar with the area we will be traveling.

    Edit: also on the way out there instead of stopping in Nashville and Kansas city to rest we could cut those out and just stop in St Louis before heading to Denver.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,982

    Default

    One of the biggest mistakes rookie roadtrippers make is trying to do too much in too little time, and even worse, they try to build a plan where they fit more in by sacrificing stops for rest - which quickly becomes dangerous.

    550 miles should really be the upper limit of how far you plan to travel on any single day. To that end, Columbia to Denver is 1600 miles, and that drive alone needs to take you 3 days each way. (You also don't have to stop only in major cities - small and midsized places can be cheaper options) Trying to push harder than that will leave you exhausted, impair your ability to drive safely (even with multiple drivers), and seriously impact your ability to even enjoy yourself once you do get out west.

    Rest is at or near the top of the list when it comes to having a safe, enjoyable, and successful RoadTrip, so please don't think on sacrificing it to squeeze more into your trip.

    Just a loop out to Denver, through Arches, to Zion, and back to SC is already 4500 miles, so that alone just to cover the miles is a solid 8-9 days on the road, before you factor in any extra stops. El Paso really isn't a good midpoint - as it's about a 400 mile detour from your priority stops, which means you're driving almost a full day out of your way, just to get that free bed.

  8. #8

    Default

    In my case I find putting data out there helps me to move from the "I want to do it all!" to the "What can I really do on this trip?" What helps me move from the big dream to the real dream is by putting together a simple spreadsheet (see the attached JPG file). The illustrative planning scenario contains some bogus data and some real data -- it is an illustration. The small table at the bottom is a little tool for me to see the extreme ranges of "Google travel time lies" to "You are taking to many potty breaks," but is based on reality for me. The "AHr" column is your trade space... you can put any average mph in there that you want as the formula driver for the distance from point A to point B.

    As you can see, there is a basic Notes column for reminders of things to do that take additional time (buy camping provisions).

    For camping and tripping tips on items you might need or want to consider there are so good "helper" guides on the forum.

    The image displayed is rather small. You can PM me for the larger image.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by landmariner; 11-16-2016 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Note on the image file.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,315

    Default A Maximum Working Loop

    As I and others have pointed out, you need to cut back significantly from your initial plan, and even from your 'revised' plan. Yes, you could conceivably drive to all the places on your list, but that's pretty much all you'd be doing - driving. Experience has taught me that to be enjoyable and memorable (for the right reasons) a RoadTrip should be a fairly even mix of driving and out-of-car time. That means, even padding your trip with 'extra' days out to 20 in total, you should plan on no more than ten spent driving. Still, if you can adhere to both those parameters, 20 day trip - 10 days driving, you can have a great trip.

    So... You'd start out as originally planned: Drive to just east of Denver with overnight stops in Nashville and Kansas City. Then take a day to head up and through Rocky Mountain National Park. Next, take a full day to drive to Moab with a stop to hike a bit in Colorado National Monument outside Grand Junction. A day in Arches and a day to take the scenic drive (UT-24/UT-12) to Bryce Canyon completes the first week of your trip.

    Your second week would start with a day in Bryce Canyon and driving to Springdale to be in position to spend the next day exploring Zion National Park. The following day, you could drive down through St. George to Las Vegas where you could arrive early enough in the day to visit one or two of the red rock parks there and spend an evening walking the Strip before heading out the next day to Flagstaff for two nights. There is a ton of stuff to do in and around Flagstaff, but the main point of staying two nights would be to leave you plenty of time to do the complete circuit through Grand Canyon National Park along the (South) Rim Road. After that, you'd start your homeward leg by taking a short drive to and through Petrified Forest National Park and continuing on past the Very Large Array (famous from many Sci-Fi movies) and spending the night around Socorro NM. Next day, you'd head for El Paso by way of White Sands National Monument to complete your second week on the road.

    From El Paso back to Columbia is a full three day drive, leaving you a grand total of one day to spend visiting some final sights as you head for home. Some that are pretty much right along your route are The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, the Bonny and Clyde ambush site (and museums) in Gibbsland LA, Vicksburg National Military Park, and Stone Mountain in Georgia.

    Let me emphasize: The above is the MOST you can do, even with your extended time frame. Big Bend is out of the question as is "see[ing] all the national parks in Colorado and Utah". If you start adding to the above itinerary without making equivalent or greater cuts elsewhere in the plan, you are detracting from the overall experience. Despite the name, the best RoadTrips are not about being in the car for hour after hour day after day, but about where those hours and days get you to and enjoying those places once there.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 11-16-2016 at 01:02 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,212

    Default

    Between Moab and Bryce Canyon, you would have time for a quick drive-through at Capitol Reef. You might as well as you will be going right by it.

    You could also drive from Bryce Canyon to Springdale via Cedar Breaks - again, another quick drive-through. UT-143 between Panguitch and Cedar Breaks is very scenic. It's going to take you half a day to see Bryce without doing any hiking - that's watching the short movie at the visitor's center, driving down to the end, then stopping at all the viewpoints on the return. They are all on that side of the road.

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