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  1. #1
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest

    Default 8/9 to 8/16

    The basics of my summer road trip have been settled. Going from my former home Southeast Minnesota to my present one in Bakersfield, CA in early august. 3 to 4 guys all in our mid 20's driving a Subaru Wagon with AWD. Looking at stops in Rocky Mtn NP, Arches/Canyonland, Monument Valley, GC North Rim, Zion NP, and maybe Vegas since we'd be going through it anyway. Also up for consideration, Going south to Black Canyon and Durango instead of Arches.
    A couple of Questions now:
    1.) Which would you recommend: Going to Arches or Durango, or somewhere else?
    2.) Any other places that we should try to visit or avoid?
    3.) We will be tent camping every night in state or nat'l parks/forests. What places would you recommend and how fast do places fill up during the week? Also, showers are nice once and a while, so if you know of any places that have them I'd like to know.
    4.) How hard is it to find real beer (not 3.2%) in Utah?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2


    Check your route again. If you are going through Rocky Mountain NP, you will be traveling southwest through Colorado from there in order to get to Arches NP in southeast Utah. Along the way, if you fine tune your route accordingly, you will pass Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde NP's (not to mention COUNTLESS mountain passes, one better than the next).

    I highly recommend...well, FIRST OF ALL, you should definitely stop at Badlands NP and the Black Hills area in western South Dakota. Considering your starting point, it is simply too easy and too convenient to pass it up, especially if you are relocating from the midwest. I would plan to get to the Badlands area by the first night of your drive. You'll find it on I-90 West, literally within miles of the highway. Wake up VERY early the next day and get to the Pinnacles Overlook on the park grounds before sunrise. It's an amazing experience to see that place appear before your eyes. No joke.

    As for Colorado, a winding tour through the Rockies- a stop at both Black Canyon and Mesa Verde (both of which I believe are at a higher lattitude than Arches); a southern dip through Durango and Cortez, CO; a MANDATORY stop for gas and essentials in Monticello, UT before you go north into Moab (the town between Arches and Canyonlands NP's) There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING between the two towns. Think about it. No service stations, no bushes, no trees, won't find anything there at all until you're very close to Moab.

    Which brings me to Canyonlands. You say your wagon has all wheel drive. You should definitely look into the trails that lead deep into the canyons at what is perhaps the most accessible of the NP's and monuments in the area.

    For your camping question, check with informational sites like for contact info for the various parks and monuments. For showers, I am a big advocate of budget motel rooms (anything other than Motel 6) for a night rather than staying at a KOA or the like. I avoid Motel 6 because the accommodations are so basic that you might as well be outside for the night. Super 8's are a good value, though few motel chains in the sparsely populated areas you'll be traveling through have the nerve to charge you much more than $50 a night.

    As for your beer question. Utah is very strict about inebriation of any kind. You will be in Utah for only a few days. If you can help your partying elsewhere. I took great precaution while driving through Utah during my partying days. Consider yourselves forewarned.

    Good luck and safe driving.


  3. #3
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest

    Default Thanks

    Thanks for the tips, but do you think that hitting Durango, Moab, and the Grand Canyon are all do-able in a weeklong trip? I was thinking taking I-70 from Rocky Mtn. into Utah to get to Archs, or staying on US highways to wind through CO, and then running south out of Cortez and heading toward Monument Valley. From there going through northern AZ and over to the North Rim. I would think running back north after Cortez to Arches would pretty much put the Grand Canyon out of reach for this trip. Or would you suggest going to Arches/Canyonlands instead of the Grand Canyon?

    Have you been on many of the trails back into Canyonlands? If so which area of the park do you recommend? (I was thinking Needles looking most interesting)

    Thanks for the advice on Badlands, but we've been through them several times, and this time we'll be taking I-80 through NE to have more time in the mountains.

    As for showers, I haven't yet been able to find any state or national parks with them along our routes, so we may end up at a mom and pop motel a couple times. KOA is a four letter in my book, and despite your advice I've never been impressed by Super 8 (Always significantly more expensive and rarely better accomidations than cheaper chains including M6, IMHO). I was hoping to find a state or natl park with showers along our route, but I haven't found any yet. I'm guessing this has to do with the dry climate of the SW since many of the ones we've been at in the Northern US and Canada have them.

  4. #4


    I think a week is plenty of time.

    You might consider skipping the Grand Canyon on this trip. It is close enough to Bakersfield for a nice weekend trip.


  5. #5

    Default If it were me...

    I would choose Arches National Park over Black Canyon any day! If you are coming from Colorado on Interstate 70 take the Scenic Byway Highway 128 at Cisco, Utah into Moab, Utah. It's a fantastic drive! Just before you get to Moab you will find BLM campgrounds. Spend a night here and then move into Arches National Park the next MORNING. The campground is very small and fills up by 6 or 7 in the morning, but it's well worth the effort.

    August is going to be hot and you might want to go to a private campground in town and pay a couple of dollars for a shower. Also at the south end of town is a little swiming lake. I don't suggest swimming in the Colorado River for two reasons. It has really bad undertows and you will stink worse when you get out!

    Most of the other National Parks you mentioned don't have showers and they campgrounds fill up FAST! Monument Valley is a Tribal park and they still have pay showers....the last I heard. From Monument Valley to the N. Rim you will be real close to Glen Canyon National Recreational Area - Lake Powell. This is a beautiful lake and well worth some time. You will also be near Bryce Canyon National Park but I don't know if you will be running out of time. Like someone mentioned....Bakersfield is pretty close to these parks.

    One last thing. If you are going to be going to so many of the national parks you should buy the National Park Pass at the first park you come to. It's $50 and it's good for one full year from date of purchase. It will really pay for it'self on this trip!


  6. #6

    Default Reverse Trip

    Looks like we may pass each other on the road. I have an August trip planned from Tehachapi, CA (40 miles east of Bakersfield, CA) to Minnesota! I agree that you should skip the Grand Canyon for now. Not that it is that close to Bakersfield, but it just doesn't fit with the rest of your trip. Utah is an interesting state with both tremendous natural beauty and boring long stretches of highway. As for the inebriation, not a good idea on a "quick" trip anyway, especially since everyone will need to do their share of driving.

    I am traveling to Duluth, can you give me any insight on MN roads. We are likely taking the northern route as we plan to spend several days visiting friends in Montana. Happy trails!

  7. #7
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest


    Thanks everyone for the tips. We haven't made any decisions on exactly what route we'll be taking, and probably won't until we are actually on the road. I've already got a park pass: picked one when I visited Sequoia last month, figuring I'd be getting some use out of it this summer.

    PP - If you're headed to Duluth from I-94, the fastest way across MN is to take US 10 from Moorhead then take MN 210 just west of Brainerd. That will dump out on I-35 about 15 miles south of Duluth. We took it last year as part of a day and a half drive from Glaicer NP to Duluth.


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