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Thread: Reality Check

  1. Default Reality Check

    I need advice and a good reality check. I am planning a lengthy trip beginning after Labor Day for myself and seven friends that I have invited from South America to show them some of the beauties of the American west. We plan to meet in Las Vegas, rent a van, see Cirque du Soleil if possible, and then head north. We will visit Zion NP and Bryce Canyon on the way north, spend a couple of days in Salt Lake City hopefully to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, tour the city, etc. From there we will travel via Hw. 89 past Bear Lake to Jackson Hole and spend a couple days at Grand Teton NP before continuing north to Yellowstone where we plan to spend four days before heading south again.

    It looks like the best route south to avoid retracing our steps will be from Yellowstone to Green River or Rock Springs in Wyoming, overnight, and pass Flaming Gorge to Vernal, Rangel and then down Hw. 139 to Grand Junction for the night. From there, we could take Hw. 550 to Ridgeway, CO and continue through Telluride and Dolores to Durango for two nights. In Durango we could take the old steam engine up to Silverton, returning by bus. Somewhere in there I want to show them Arches NM and Canyonlands NP possibly spending four days at Moab, but I am having a hard time fitting it in along with Durango and the train ride. I might have to skip Silverton, the train and Durango and head west to Moab from Telluride, spending maybe four days there. Undecided.

    From Durango, take Hw. 550 to Aztec, NM, turn west past Shipwreck and Mexican Water into Arizona and then south to Chinle for a couple of nights to visit Cannon de Chelly. After that,head to the Grand Canyon NP for a couple of days before returning to Las Vegas.

    None of us are spring chickens anymore. Some are good hikers, some more limited. I want to show my visitors the natural beauty of this region, but I don't want to tire them so much on this rather lengthy trip that they won't enjoy it or remember what they saw. I have visited this area extensively, but it was decades ago when there were far fewer visitors and I had lots more time and energy. Can anyone advise if this is a reasonable itinerary or if I should modify it some. Furthermore, some of you may well know of beautiful spots or fascinating events that I have missed, and I would appreciate any suggestions.

    Many thanks in advance for any advice.

    North Wind

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default At First Blush

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Having had a full read through your plans, what I was initially struck by was the total lack of 'Red Flags' that we normally see from first time posters: No 800 mile days; No 'seeing' Yellowstone in three hours; No day after day after day of driving. Indeed, the places you've listed are some of my favorite sites in the western US. So let me offer just a few additional hints and suggestions.

    At the first national park or monument you come to be sure to get a long-term pass, either an annual America the Beautiful pass ($80) or a lifetime Senior Pass ($10) if one of your group is over 62. Note that one pass is good for the holder and all occupants of his/her vehicle (although an 8-passanger van might be pushing it - ask). Also, be sure to check in with the rangers at each park's Visitors Center. They have a wealth of knowledge not only on which trails will be age and activity level appropriate, but on current conditions as well. They are an invaluable resource - use them.

    Secondly, I see you've got several places where you're going to be spending multiple days. Great! Not only will that give you a chance to actually explore those places, but it gives you a chance to break up your somewhat unwieldy group into smaller subsets that can be doing different things. Much as you all might like each other and enjoy each other's company, two or three weeks of enforced togetherness will ultimately wear everyone's nerves a bit thin. Plan on not only being in smaller groups from time to time, but mixing up the sleeping arrangements periodically as well. You should also give serious consideration to the desirability of signing up/paying for multiple drivers so that one or two people aren't doing all the driving and to give you more freedom on who gets to use the van when you are staying several days in a given town.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-11-2017 at 12:10 PM. Reason: Key letter added (marked)

  3. Default

    Thank you, AZBuck for your most welcome advice.

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

    Default The transport.

    I would think seriously about renting 2 vehicles as eight people plus luggage in one vehicle is going to be cramped, if at all possible. As Buck touched on, it also gives you the chance to switch people around into different groups which can help ease any tensions that might arise between members of the group and give more flexibility in following different interests. You don't have to follow each other all day as you can stay in touch when needed and arrange rendezvous points along the way.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Canyon de Chelly

    Quote Originally Posted by North Wind View Post

    From Durango, take Hw. 550 to Aztec, NM, turn west past Shipwreck and Mexican Water into Arizona and then south to Chinle for a couple of nights to visit Cannon de Chelly. After that,head to the Grand Canyon NP for a couple of days before returning to Las Vegas.
    I have a couple of suggestions you might want to consider for this leg of your trip. When you pass through Aztec, make a stop at Aztec Ruins National Monument, where you can see the remains of an Anasazi Great House (a structure which once had 400 rooms), and a Great Kiva that was artfully reconstructed back in the 1930s (an amazing space, as solemn as a cathedral). If ruins and the like are of interest, the Chaco Culture National Historical Park is just 70 miles south; Chaco is the largest concentration of prehistoric ruins in North America, and it's impressive!

    Are you guys just a little bit adventurous? If you'd like to try a really amazing back road, consider this one: (it's going to sound a little complicated, but really, it's not): When you leave Farmington headed west, you'll be on US 64. Just past the town of Shiprock (not Shipwreck;-), you'll reach an intersection with US 491. Turn south, and drive 6 miles to the intersection with Navajo Route 13. This is a fabulous road, paved the entire distance, that will take you past the back side of the rock formation (actually it's an ancient lava plug) known as Shiprock. The road passes very close, and you get an amazing view! (see photo, below) After 20 miles or so, Navajo Route 13 crosses the Arizona State line, then passes through Red Valley before curving south, and then heading east, up and over the Lukachukai Mountains. Buffalo Pass, the high point of the road, is at a cool 8,000 feet, in a forest of Ponderosa pines. Coming down the other side you'll pass through beautiful red rock country reminiscent of Sedona--but here, you'll be the only car on the road. After about 30 miles you will have crossed the whole mountain range.

    Just past the town of Lukachukai, Navajo Route 13 intersects Navajo Route 12. Turn left (south) and drive 8 miles to Tsaili, where Route 12 intersects Navajo Route 64, which will take you to Chinle; in fact, the last 12 miles of Navajo Route 64 doubles as the North Rim Drive in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and you'll pass right by the 3 overlooks that provide spectacular views into Canyon del Muerto.

    Believe it or not, this route is a shortcut between Shiprock and Chinle that saves almost 40 miles. Start to finish, Shiprock to Chinle by way of Buffalo Pass only takes about 90 minutes; on the larger highway through Mexican Water it's closer to 2 hours. Of course, the point is not to save time, or miles; this is also one of the prettiest drives in the four corners region.


    Photo of Shiprock from Navajo Route 13

  6. Default

    Thank you all very much for great advice. I had considered two vehicles, but some of my colleagues were concerned about keeping in touch with each other. Personally I think it is a great idea and would also give us the chance to divide occasionally and see different things if we wish.

    Rick, your directions are a treasure. I had heard about that route past Shiprock and was trying to reconstruct it from directions the other way around. I am out of the country and my maps leave something to be desired, so I sincerely thank you. That is the way we will go.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Since your trip isn't until September, why not order a new atlas from the RTA store? The Rand McNally will arrive in a few weeks and then you'll have a better way to plan this trip.

    Having traveled with a large group a number of times, I second the motion to get yourself two vehicles. For communication, you can either use cell phones or pick yourself up some family radios, which generally have a radius of up to 2 miles. Cell phones are more reliable and newer technology, however.


  8. Default

    With your extensive travel experience, I'm sure you're familiar with Zion and the Narrows Walk. If the flash flood danger was low, it could be a great experience for everyone. Some could hike a long way while others might want a shorter walk. Those who leave early could take the free shuttle to see other Zion attractions.

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