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  1. #1

    Default Planning NM-UT-WY-SD road trip in July

    Hi all,

    Friend of mine and I are planning to go for a roadtrip coming July. We will have to go Albuquerque, NM for some business, and after that we want to take a week or a little longer off and drive.

    After leaving Albuquerque, I was thinking of driving around it, checking Santa Fe, and after taking a drive to Arizona, to Grand Canyon. Then, I was planning to drive up north through Utah, eventually ending up in Salt Lake City (maybe in two days or so). Further, a drive through Wyoming to South Dakota to check Badlands, etc. After that I was thinking of going down south to Nebraska, and after driving through Nebraska and either Kansas or Colorado, getting back to Albuquerque.

    I have some questions planning this trip.

    1) The approximate length of this trip according to google maps is a bit more than 3,000 miles. Do you think it is doable in a little more than a week? Again, there are two of us and both can drive. At the same time, we would like to see enough things on the way, and we want to take scenic routes, and stop often on the way.

    2) What are the scenic routes there and which landmarks/parks we should not miss?

    3) What would be the reasonable and the most interesting was to drive from SD back to Albuquerque, NM? It seems like NE is pretty interesting, but what about KS? Would it be more exciting to drive through Omaha, NE, KS and OK, or it would be better and more beautiful to drive west through NE, and then drive to Albuquerque through CO?

    4) Anything else we need to consider?

    Thank you!

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

    Default trimming down

    I think you are really overestimating how much you can do in a day.

    3000 miles is basically 6 full days of driving, so just covering the miles you've laid out, you're at most going to have a couple hours here and there to see everything you've listed so far. 2 drivers means you can cover a little more miles, but its not a magic pill that will let you drive non-stop all the time.

    For example, your thought to get to Salt Lake in 2 days is fine, but basically that means you're going to spend 8 hours driving directly to the Grand Canyon (skipping places like Petrified Forest/Painted Desert, Wupatki National Monument), leaving yourself only a couple hours at most to look around this huge park. Then the next day (assuming you're staying near the park, and not one of the less expensive lodging options back down in Flagstaff or Williams) you're going to have about an 11-12 hour drive to Salt Lake. That's not going to leave you any time to see the multitude of sights along the way (Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Capitol Reef, etc).

    I'd recommend you cut things back a bit. First of all, for a 3000 mile loop, it looks like you are planning to go all the way out towards Sioux Falls/Omaha? I really respect that you want to see some of the plains, but you really don't need to go that far east - adding almost a full extra day of driving to your trip. What I would look at doing to save some time is to head south on US-83 from Murdo SD, and take that south all the way to Liberal Kansas, cutting back over through Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle via US-54. That's going to save you quite a few miles, while giving you a nice feel for the plains, it will take you through lots of small towns and near several national forests/national grasslands that will provide a nice scenic break. That's still a whole lot of driving for a week, but that's one easy place you can save yourself at least a few miles.

  3. #3


    Dear Michael,

    thank you very much for your advice -- it seems like I really overestimated our abilities and underestimated number of beautiful places in that area. I tried to prepare a more detailed schedule of this roadtrip based on your suggestions, and that's what I came up with. Again, it's very possible that I'm overestimating our possibilities... What do you think about this schedule? Is it more realistic? Or there are still some inconsistencies/problems? Thanks for your answer in advance!

    Day 1. Leave Albuquerque, NM, in the morning, drive through Petrified Forest and up to Wupatki National Monument. Overnight stay around Flagstaff, AZ
    Day 2. Drive through Grand Canyon. Overnight stay somewhere around Tuba City, AZ.
    Day 3. Drive up to Utah through Monument Valley, to Arches National Park/Dead Horse Point State Park. Overnight stay around Moab, UT.
    Day 4. Drive through IS-70 to Rt. 24 and south to Scenic Rt. 12 through Bryce Canyon NP. Overnight stay as far north as possible, maybe Provo, UT.
    Day 5. Spend morning in Salt Lake City, UT. Drive north towards Jackson, WY, overnight stay south of Jackson, WY (some less expensive place).
    Day 6. Drive through Tetons and Yellowstone, overnight stay around Cody, WY.
    Day 7. Drive to Rapid City, SD. Visit Devils Tower on the way. Overnight stay in Rapid City, SD.
    Day 8. Badlands NP and Mount Rushmore. Evening drive to Murdo, SD. Overnight stay in Murdo, SD.
    Day 9. Drive south to Liberal, KS by Rt. 83. Overnight stay in Liberal, KS.
    Day 10. Drive back to Albuquerque, NM through Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle via Rt. 54. Overnight stay in Albuquerque, NM.
    Day 11. Flight back.

    There are certain parts of this trip which I still have to figure out in more details, for instance, the stretch between Cody, WY and Murdo, SD. I didn't quite check which routes there are more beautiful than others, and which particular parks are worth visiting. Any advice on that would also be greatly appreciated!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Day 2: You may want to make a reservation at the Cameron Trading Post. Rooms are about $100.
    Day 4: Provo may be pushing it - think about staying at Ruby's at Bryce or somewhere in Panguitch.
    Day 5 - Panguitch to Jackson is pushing it in one day, even if you don't stop in SLC.

    From there, you are going to get farther behind - you can't see both the Tetons and Yellowstone in one day AND drive any distance afterwards to spend the night.

    I think you still may need to cut something out or add more days. Consider a one way car rental, dropping it off in maybe Rapid City and flying out from there.

  5. #5


    Thank you very much for your help! It really seems like it would be the best for me to cut the trip even further and completely skip Yellowstone and Tetons -- I will probably save Wyoming for the next roadtrip. A few more questions, if I may :)

    1. Do you think it is possible to drive in one day from Salt Lake City to Rapid City, SD? The distance according to Google maps is 640 miles, so it should technically be possible for two people. But how are the roads there? Is it really doable in about 10-11 hours of driving? Also, is there anything interesting at all between Salt Lake and Rapid City?

    Another option for me would be to cut South Dakota out completely. Then I would have two options:

    2. From Salt Lake we would have an option of driving to Colorado, with overnight stay in Denver and some sightseeing around that area, with a drive back to Albuquerque after that a few nights in Colorado.

    3. Drive from Salt Lake to North Platter, NE, and from there take a Rt. 83 down to Liberal, KS.

    If I am to choose between options 2 and 3, are there any good arguments for one over the other? Any hard stretches of the road there?

    Thank you all,
    it's such a great forum!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I would not recommend trying to go from Salt Lake to Rapid City in one day. While the distance is doable, its going to be a brutally long day since a good portion of the trip is in mountains and non-interstate highways.

    In any case, the computer estimates of 11 hours are far beyond fantasy. With just basic stops, I'd say 13 hours is the bare minimum.

    If choosing between route 2 and 3, I'd go with number 2. There's just so much to see in Colorado and New Mexico that you could easily spend a few weeks here an just scratch the surface. The plains are an interesting experience, and its nice if you can work it in, but the Rocky Mountains are just one of those very special places where you really can't spend too much time.

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