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  1. Default CO, AZ, UT Road Trip Loop, Advice needed

    I'm from Indiana and planning a road trip for my family in a few weeks. It will be me, my husband, 19year old son, and 15 year old daughter. My kids are good travelers and aren't whiny teenagers (on most days anyway). We plan to do some hiking and focus on natural places, not tourist traps. We can make it from home to Colorado Springs or Denver in one day so that is our starting point. Right now my plan is to leave Colorado Springs on Day 2 and head southwest on hwy 115 and then west on hwy 50 stopping at various scenic areas we come across until we get to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I'm thinking we will camp there for the night. Day 3 we will head south on 550 through the San Juan mountains making various stops along the way until we get to Mesa Verde and camp for the night. Will we have time to see much of Mesa Verde if we arrive there in the afternoon? Day 4 will be a mostly driving day to get to the Grand Canyon. I haven't decided yet if we will go to the north or south rim. I have been to the north rim, how much more crowded is the south rim? I think we will stay at the Grand Canyon for 2 days. This is where my plans get sketchy. My rough plan is to go to the Hoover Dam maybe (Is it worth it?) and then to Zion for a day. (I'm starting to think we should go to the North Rim and skip Hoover Dam. Thoughts?) Then back through Bryce and/or Arches National Park and maybe drive through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way back to Denver... We need to be back in the Denver area at the end of day 10 and we will drive home on day 11.
    I would appreciate any advice on the route I've planned, places to skip, less crowded alternatives, scenic routes to take, good/unusual places to eat, neat towns/places to visit, great campgrounds, things we shouldn't miss, etc.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO

    Default I don't think so........


    No, you can't drive from Indiana to COS in 1 day, and you can't drive back home from Denver in 1 day. You need to cut back your trip or add 2 days.

  3. Default

    From the western most part of Indiana to Colorado Springs is just under 1000 miles and even if you speed, you still have to stop for gas & pit stops. It would take 15 hours of driving with no stops what so ever. You are really looking at about 24 hours of travel time. No matter how good your children are, that's a lot to put them though for one day each way. You are really looking at two days traveling both ways so there goes 4 days of your 11. Is there any way to tack on some days to your trip in the beginning? Even leaving the night before after dinner could get in a couple of hundred miles.

    Hoover Dam is going to add 265 miles from S. Rim and 295 miles from N. Rim. Figure 4 - 5 hours of just driving time to see the Hoover Dam. I personally wouldn't do it. From the South Rim of the Grand Canyon you can pass right by Page, AZ and see the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. They have a dam tour there too.

    Mesa Verde really needs a full day to see and take one of the Ranger led hikes. You are just going to get to see small glimpses of Zion, Bryce, Arches, and the Rocky Mountains.

    Summer is a busy time to do camping and I'm not sure how busy the Black Canyon of the Gunnison campground gets in the summer, it's been a few years since we've been. The Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde hardly ever fills up so that night should be fine. You are going to want to make reservations at the Grand Canyon at either rim. The south rim reservations doesn't fill up as fast because there are more sites available. I'm pretty sure you have to have reservations at the North Rim to camp, so that might be your deciding factor.

    I hope your trip isn't over the 4th of the July weekend, the parks in the west get MOBBED. I would avoid the S. Rim if it was over the holiday weekend, otherwise it will be busy.

    Zion's Watchman campground takes reservations but you will probably have to keep checking for a cancellation to get in there. South campground is first come first serve but no telling how fast it can fill up on any certain day.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    It really can't be said enough, your first and last days must change. Trying to travel more than 1,000 miles a day isn't safe for one, as you simply won't be getting enough rest to be able to maintain a proper amount of focus on the road. That will be doubly true for your drive home, when you'll already be worn down from a busy couple weeks of travel, and you certainly will be a danger to both yourselves and everyone else on the road. If you wouldn't ever consider driving drunk with your family, please don't consider doing this, because there are plenty of studies that show that spending 20+ hours in a car makes a driver every bit as dangerous as a drunk driver.

    Even if you disregard the safety warnings, trying to do such a grueling trip at the start is also extremely counter productive. You'll be in no condition to have anything resembling fun for the first half of your trip. 20+ hours in a car in one sitting is not fun for anyone, and trying to do this on a family trip is going to make everyone cranky. No matter how good of travelers your kids are, everyone in the car will be snapping at each other (including the adults) for the first several days of the trip, because of how badly you're overdoing in on day one.

    There's lots you can do, and plenty of fun you can have, but this plan is a recipe to have a trip that you never forget - for all the wrong reasons.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Hoover (Suburb of Birmingham), AL


    I agree that 1000 miles is too much for one day. 750 miles is a long, hard 12-13 hour day even on interstates. Please refer to My Trip Journals for some actual travel times. Especially note the 2001 and 2006 trips that covered a lot of the area in which you will be traveling.
    Here is a list of sites and attractions that you might want to consider in Colorado, Utah and Arizona starting in Denver and looping back. Obviously, you could not do ALL of these in 11 days but you could pick and choose the ones that might appeal to you the most.
    Garden of the Gods (in Colorado Springs), Pikes Peak (you can drive up or take the railway), Royal Gorge (near Canon City), Great Sand Dunes NP (a bit out of the way, but nice), Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP (you mentioned this), US Hwy 550 (The Million Dollar Hwy), Mesa Verde NP (allow at least 1/2 day), Natural Bridges Nat'l Monument (good place to hike), UT Hwy 261 (driving down the 1100 ft Mokee Dugway!), Monument Valley (where Forrest Gump stopped running), Grand Canyon N. Rim (the south rim might be too far and too crowded), 5 Utah Nat'l Parks: Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches (allow at least 1/2 day for each one), Colorado Nat'l Monument (near Grand Junction) and finally Rocky Mountain NP (another 1/2 day).
    There is a lot to see in this list, and I'm sure others can add many more attractions to it. Hopefully this will help you in your planning.

  6. #6


    I agree with the other posts - don't drive too much in one day. It is no fun and will wear you out. I recommend a visit to the north rim of the grand canyon and then head up into Utah. Skip Hoover Dam. Zion National park is amazing. The Watchman campsite is ok. I don't think there are showers. The South campground fills up and the sites are on top of each other. Try overnighting in Springdale. Its a really nice little town with a shuttle into Zion. If you want to save money and camp, there are some hotels that have RV campsites in the back. They sites wont have much privacy or trees, but these places have hot showers and laundry facilities. At Zion hike the Riverside Walk and the Narrows - bring water shoes for that. Next stop, just about 2 hours away is Bryce Canyon, another amazing place in Utah. Camping inside the park is good if you can get a space, or stay at Ruby's complex (hotel or camping) outside the park. One night will be enough. Take in the Rodeo at night. Head over to Moab next. Your teenagers will love to take a rafting trip. I recommend Canyon Voyages. For hotels, I recommend the Comfort Suites (indoor pool and laundry) and for camping, try Devils campground in Arches national park. Plan on 2 nights in Moab so you have one full day to enjoy the outdoors.

    I hope this is helpful.

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