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  1. Default Planning a trip to Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, etc.

    We're planning a family road trip from Minnesota to Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, etc. We will be towing our travel trailer. I need advice on where to stop, camp, etc and how much time to plan for. Most routes I've seen do a circle ending at the Grand Canyon. Is that always best and why? What shouldn't we miss? Any advice would be helpful. This is our first big trip!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,737

    Default Loops

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The basic rationale behind circle or loop trips is that almost always there are at least two completely different routes between your starting point and your destination (or farthest point from home on your journey) that are essentially equal in distance. Using one route outbound and a different one to get home means that you're always seeing new sights rather than just retracing your steps. Thus you get to see many more places and the entire trip is a new adventure.

    Your trip is a particularly good case-in-point. Assuming that you're starting from somewhere around Minneapolis/St. Paul, the "most efficient" route is (in outline) down I-35 to past Kansas City then US-400/US-54 to I-40 at Tucumcari NM, and then I-40 to Flagstaff. At around 1,550 miles that could be done is as little as three days in a family sedan, but you should plan of four days or more. More on that later. A return trip through Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks, I-70 to Denver, I-76/I-80 to Des Moines and a last bit of repeat on I-35 is about 1,850 miles. So maybe a day more to cover those extra 300 miles, but seeing a whole lot more of the country.

    As to what to see besides what you've mentioned, that is up to you and your traveling companions, but a few places that I'd suggest you look at for possible inclusion in your Roadtrip would be the old Oregon Trail (I-80/US-30 along the Platte River in Nebraska), Dodge City KS, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and Petrified Forest National Park as well as any number of National Monuments in the Flagstaff and northeastern Arizona area.

    Now to the time required. As a rule we give time estimates based on safe, sane driving in a family car and using motel accommodations. In such cases 550 miles is a good working, and repeatable, driving day. But if you're towing a travel trailer, you'll of course be moving a bit slower. If you have multiple people traveling together, you'll have to make more frequent stops and each stop will take longer, as timing will be governed by the slowest person at each stop. Setting up 'camp' and striking it in the morning will take additional time as well, not to mention the fact that motels tend to be right at Interstate exits while campgrounds are a bit more in the boonies. Under such circumstances, I wouldn't count on covering more than 400-450 miles in a day.

    Finally - where to camp. This will depend on which route(s) you ultimately decide to take, but your best bets are almost invariably in state parks which offer the best balance between price and rustic settings while still offering services either in the park or nearby.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-30-2018 at 05:40 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,264

    Default Getting a good balance.

    In my opinion you can't beat camping in the National parks you are visiting, but you will need to book well in advance for the summer months as they are so popular. The safest option is to check the nps.gov site and see when the booking window opens for each one and book as soon as you can after. Before we can help with more detail you need to do your own research and see what catches your interest and try to narrow down how much time you have available, rather than how much you need, then see how things may work for you and then adjust your itinerary accordingly. As said above, covering 400-500 miles a day is 'work like' and 550 miles is a maximum amount of miles we suggest for a safe and sane day on the road, but to put that into context while trying to have an enjoyable family holiday (and have time to see the sights along the way) we personally like to keep our 'average' daily mileage down to 200-250 miles over a 2-3 week trip, no matter how we divide it. Anything else just becomes a bit too rushed and too concentrated on getting to the next destination rather than enjoying the one we are at. It sounds relaxed and easy, but when you do the maths it isn't. For example a 3,600 mile round trip in 16 days means an average of 225 miles per day, but if you spend 2 days at the Grand canyon and Zion and a day at Bryce and Arches and spend another couple of days at attractions along the way, you have halved your travel days and doubled your mileage to 450 miles a day. So if you could take 3 weeks you could have a great trip and visit more places, but I have never had too much time on a road trip, there is always something else to see.

  4. Default

    Zion

    Allow a full day for the NARROWS WALK up the Virgin River. Start early and carry your lunch in (and your trash out).

    You'll walk IN the river as the 2000 foot tall canyon walls tower above and narrow ahead. There are a ton of videos out there but NONE of them can capture the splendor of what you'll see.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EwZQQ52fOOs

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