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  1. Default September Austin -- Grand Canyon -- National Park frenzy - Durango road trip


    First time posting but I've been reading through various threads. I've found some trips that are taking a similar route and have gotten some ideas.

    I'm planning a September road trip from Austin, Texas to the Grand Canyon and other National Parks around. I would appreciate any advice. I'm still in the gooey planning stage.

    We tend to not want to drive more than 8 hours accept for at the beginning or end of a trip. 10 hours is doable but hopefully that is for only one day or so. I made the mistake of planning back to back long days on our drive to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons one year and I'll not make that mistake again.

    Here is the tentative plan:

    Day 1 Austin, Tx to Carlsbad, NM (Hotel stay)

    Day 2 Carlsbad Caverns in the morning
    Drive to Albuquerque late afternoon/evening (Hotel stay)

    Day 3 Albuquerque to Flagstaff (Hotel Stay)
    Lowell Observatory late afternoon/evening ?

    Day 4 Grand Canyon (camping) Hiking ourselves stupid
    Day 5 Grand Canyon (camping)
    Day 6 Grand Canyon (camping)

    Day 7 Drive to Zion NP (camping) More hiking
    Day 8 Zion NP (camping)

    Day 9 Drive to Bryce Canyon (camping) You got it, more hiking

    Day 10 Drive to Capitol Reef NP (camping) Ditto on the hiking

    Day 11 Drive to Arches NP (camping) Guess what we are doing - yep, more hiking!

    Day 12 Drive to Durango (Hotel) - Visit Mesa Verde
    Day 13 Durango area (Hotel) Train ride

    Day 15 Drive to Lubbock (Hotel)
    Day 16 Drive home

    We're more used to staying in one place for multiple days on our camping/hiking trips before moving to the next site. But there are so many parks I want to hit on this trip that this one is looking like more pack up, move, re-pitch the campsite than we have done in the past. We'll be hauling around our telescope with us for the evenings if we are just too wiped to do our planned hiking on any day.

    If anyone has any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Busy, but solid.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Your plan looks pretty solid to me, it's going to be quite busy with all that driving and hiking, but you already know that and if you are fine with it, that's good !

    You could consider driving to Zion on day 6 to give yourself a little more time in Arches. By the time you have spent a little time in Capitol Reef and arrived and set up, a big part of the day will be gone, plus next day you want to get to Durango and Mesa Verde, it's only going to leave you a few hours in this large and fascinating NP. Canyonlands is also nearby and worth consideration.

    With day 13 set aside for the 'Durango area', you could consider visiting Mesa Verde then, on day 12 you could leave Arches and drive through Castle valley on UT128/US6 to I 70 to Grand Junction and then US 50 to 550, which is a fantastic mountain drive on the 'Million dollar highway' through the wonderful mountain towns of Ouray and Silverton to Durango. I t'll add a hundred miles and 2-3 hours of driving but it's a fabulous drive worth consideration.

    I would book your National park campgrounds in advance when the booking window opens. Even though you are travelling towards seasons end, they can get busy. My recommendations would be, Grand canyon > Mather campground, Zion > Watchman campground, Bryce canyon in NP [not sure where?] or 'Ruby's Inn' campground at the top of the canyon with facilities, Arches > Devils garden campground.

  3. Default

    It sounds like Arches would be a good one to stay more than one night at. I was thinking we would want 3 days at Grand Canyon to have two nights on the South Rim and one night on the North Rim. That way we can have the middle day to go into the canyon.

    How about after our day and night at Bryce:

    Drive to Capitol Reef (3 hour drive - 7 am to 10ish) and spend about 3 hours on some shorter hikes there. We would probably leave by 2 pm. Then drive to Arches (Another 3 hours).

    I'm going to secure a campsite reservation for Arches so I don't have to worry about arrival time. That way I can do two nights at Arches, giving us a solid day and then a good chunk of the next day before driving to Durango.

    It's certainly hard to choose which parks to give more time. They all have such awesome sounding hiking.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You DO know it takes at least 5 hours to drive from the South rim to the North rim, right? At least it only takes 3 hours at the most to get from the North rim to Zion.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    You DO know it takes at least 5 hours to drive from the South rim to the North rim, right? At least it only takes 3 hours at the most to get from the North rim to Zion.
    Actually, thank you for pointing that out. I was thinking in terms of the distance from the south rim to Zion and completely forgetting the difference for getting to the North Rim vs just going to Zion.'s a good thing my plans are still very gooey. :)

  6. #6

    Default A "break day" from hiking.........

    Hello RoonieRoo,

    While I like hiking a great deal, I'd be sorely tempted to take a break day from it to drive to Dead Horse Point State Park overlooking the incised meanders in Canyonlands NP, near Moab. Look in to that and the nearby Shaefer Trail (a gravel road used by autos). One might be able to travel more of the White Rim Trail with an early start and late end to this "non hiking" day.

    And, I wouldn't dream of getting as close as Durango and not driving the Million Dollar Highway.


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