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  1. #1

    Default road trip out west

    Recently retired,and would like to plan a road trip out west in the spring of 2020. Probably looking at 3 to 4 weeks as we have senior parents that we will need to get back to.I had thought about going South Dakota to the Badlands,Devils Tower,maybe Yellowstone, turn south thru Utah and see some of the National Parks as we start back thru New Mexico ,Arizona,some Route 66, Texas , Ok. We will be starting out from North Carolina so the surrounding states we have pretty much seen.The wife and I like to ride and look, not into hiking so we pretty much stick to short walks to see the sights. Four hundred mile days are o k going too and coming from the southwest but I don"t want to get too ambitous in cowboy country as that is what we want too really see. Any and all advice and suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Perhaps the Other Way 'Round?

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The thing about your proposed trip to spend early 'Spring' in the northern Rockies and later Spring (sometimes known as Summer) in the desert Southwest is that climate will be working against you. Without knowing your exact dates of travel, I can just guess at what the weather will be like, but 'Spring' comes very late to Yellowstone. May average daytime highs are only in the 50║F range. By June they're getting into the 60's, but then the summer crowds start showing up. On the other hand, typical daytime highs for June in St. George UT are in the mid-90s. St. George is the largest town around the 'Mighty Five' southern Utah national parks. So my first suggestion should be to do your trip clockwise, going to Utah first and enjoying it before it gets too bloody hot, and then head up to Yellowstone just before the crowds show up.

    My second suggestion would be to find a few places along your route where you might like to settle in for a few nights and explore an area at your leisure. Southern Utah, Yellowstone/Tetons, and the Rapid City area are probably three of the prime candidates. There are a few advantages to this. First off, it will give you a welcome break from having to get on down the road each and every day but rather let you take a break and sleep in the same bed for several nights in a row. Secondly, with a bit of shopping, you can usually find whole houses and apartments, with kitchen and laundry facilities included, for not much more than a decent motel room. And finally, of course, you will have time to check out a few of the smaller venues that most tourists in a rush never get to. Just as an example, besides Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower in the Rapid City area, there's also Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Badlands National Park.

    Finally, if the road's the thing on a RoadTrip, you have two great All-American roads that can form a big part of your trip. As you noted, old Route 66 runs from Oklahoma City to Flagstaff (for your purposes). However, note that US-66 has been decommissioned and no longer officially exists. The section you'll be driving has been replaced by I-40, but the old roadbed is still there, now marked variously as 'Historic Route 66', or state route 66, or some such. It will take some research and perhaps a few old maps, but you can find it and drive it. The other great road is the old Oregon Trail along the Platte River in Nebraska. That is now mainly I-80, but there are several interpretive centers along it as well as several national monuments at specific landmarks along it.

    So that's a few ideas to start with. Feel free to ask more detailed questions as your planning progresses.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I would say the same thing that Buck did ... reverse your trip and go in a clockwise motion for climate.

    Regarding Utah's Mighty Five, which I have just finished exploring three of them (and will be posting my trip report later), the climate between them is all different. Arches and Canyonlands can both be explored using Moab as a base, but both can be HOT in the summer. The Island in the Sky unit of Canyonlands is up at a higher elevation (6000') and a lot nicer than down in Moab at 4000' elevation, or the Needles District at 4200'. Capitol Reef can be HOT, once again at a lower elevation. Moving to Bryce Canyon, the rim is at 6000' in most places and was darned comfortable this past week, mid-July. Same with Grand Canyon North Rim, which is 7000'-8000' and darned comfortable. Zion is closer to St George, so if St George is hot, Zion will be as well. (We did that one a long time ago so did not repeat it on this trip.)

    Look for my Utah report in a few days.


  4. Default

    Worst Yellowstone vacation ever.

    Years ago, my wife and I headed West from Michigan around June 15. We ran into a lot of snow in the Rockies and Yellowstone was freezing, literally, on some mornings.

    My great joy at Yellowstone is to see the beautiful hot pools and also the geysers. Well, the pools were obscured by dense fog unless there was a good breeze, in which case the fog blew over you. Much the same experience with the geysers if I recall.

    I have never headed West (Northern West, that is) in late spring again.

  5. #5


    Thanks man, just in the beginning stages of planning and trying to figure out about when the weather will be right to start this and if i realisticaly can do what in my time frame. Thanks again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Yellowstone can be wonderful in June.

    Itr sounds as though travelingman had a bad experience, but I wouldn't let that put you off visiting Yellowstone altogether. June can be a pleasant month with the added bonus of less crowds, all you need to do is be prepared for it and pack some layered clothing. You have the makings of a wonderful trip to look forward to and if you use the best part of your 4 week window, a nice relaxed one. It would take you 4 days to get out to Badlands and similar back from the NM/TX border if you don't wander too far. That would leave somewhere around 20 days to explore the west, give or take. Yellowstone and the Tetons really need a minimum of 3 nights and 4 days to get around and do it some justice. As others have said, reversing the trip will likely be beneficial so I would be looking at Grand canyon south rim, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef (great drive on Utah scenic 12 and UT24) to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands. Then head north past Flaming Gorge Res to the Grand Tetons and into Yellowstone before heading for home via South Dakota.

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