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  1. Default San Diego to Durago San Juan National Forest

    Planning a road trip from San Diego to San Juan National Forest in first week of July.
    We will be 2 families driving together and will have kids between the age of 6-12.
    Would appreciate some guidance on how to plan the long single day drive to get the most out of it.

    - Which route to take to get at least some
    #: I15N - I40 E till flagstaff
    #2: I-8E - 17N till Flagstaff

    From Flagstaff which route to take
    #1: 89-160 to Durago
    #2: 40E and 491 to Durango

    Some scenic places in between where we can stop to straighten our backs and also which are not going to be too hot in first week of July

    Thanks for all the help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,543

    Default Unwise start.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    First off you need to start over again. This is not a single days drive by any standards and certainly not with two families with kids. You would need to stop more often because not everyone is going to need a toilet break at the same time, you will need two meal stops, add to that time to stretch the legs and all those other things a computer generated route will not allow time for like traffic congestion and possible construction and the fact that you can not drive every minute of the day at the posted speed limit. In reality you would be on the road for 15-16 hours with very little time to allow the kids to run around and let off steam. With 2 days it's doable but even that will feel like two full days on the road but at least you and the kids won't be killing each other before you even arrive !! Flagstaff should be about the limit for your first day of travel and although adding a little more time overall, I personally would consider Sedona. The next day would be fewer miles so you could consider driving through Monument valley and/or making a quick stop at Four corners NM so the kids can boast they stood in four states at the same time, the only place this can be done in the US.

    So just to be clear, this is NOT a one day drive and would be unsafe to even attempt.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,523

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    TWO days, or at least a day and a half. Here's the thoughts on how to get to Flagstaff (and my family and I have taken both of those routes):

    I-15 and I-40 will mean you go over Cajon Pass, which is in a constant state of construction and traffic. Then east on I-40 ... all desert until just past Kingman. As you start to climb into the mountains, it will get much cooler. Consider Flagstaff as a great place to stop overnight, as there are lots of hotels up there.

    I-8/17: This means desert from the time you drop into the Imperial Valley (just west of El Centro) until you get north of Phoenix. If you choose this route, get off I-8 at Gila Bend and take AZ-85 north. It dead-ends at I-10, which you take east for just a short time then head north on AZ-303. THEN get on I-17. The 303 will take you around Phoenix. It won't get rid of the heat, but at least gets you out of a lot of traffic. You'll lose the desert as you climb the mountains on the 17. Flagstaff, once again, will be a good overnight.

    Both are good routes. My husband and I actually prefer the 8/85/10/303/17 route because we dislike Cajon Pass with a passion. On the 40, you could see a lot of freight trains out the window.

    As for the other choice - Monument Valley and the Four Corners Monument (NOT a national monument) are both on the 160. For either of those routes, you may be in a situation where you are NOT allowed to stop. Both routes cross the Navajo Nation, which is currently suffering badly from CV-19. At one time, they'd even closed down Gallup, exits off the freeway were closed. I think it's been reopened now, but still...if it were me, I'd go Monument Valley/Four Corners route anyway.

    Added: Either way, you are going 800-840 miles, AND you lose an hour. Arizona may be on the same time as we are, but Colorado is on Mountain time.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-21-2020 at 07:53 AM. Reason: added info

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,543

    Default

    Monument Valley and the Four Corners Monument (NOT a national monument) are both on the 160.
    At Kayenta take US163 to see the spires and pinnacles that make Monument valley such a famous sight.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,971

    Default Make the Drive Part of the Vacation

    As others have pointed out, the 850 or so miles to San Juan National Forest (SJNF) is simply too much to do in a day. So rather than "plan[ning] the long single day drive to get the most out of it", and essentially wasting those two days (out and back) and setting yourselves up for a miserable/wasted first day at your vacation site and your first day back at home, plan instead on visiting a couple of sites each day as you make the drive at a far more reasonable and enjoyable pace. You can also make the drive more fun by taking different routes out and back, experiencing more of the regions you'll be driving through.

    What I would do is look at the drive in four segments, two on the San Diego (west) side and two on the San Juan (east) side. The two routes cross/meet at Flagstaff so you'd be free to combine either western leg with either eastern leg. Flag makes the logical overnight stopping point and you could book the same accommodations going and coming if there's a particular hotel, motel, inn or vacation rental that appeals to you. It's also close enough to the Grand Canyon and a few other sites such as Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and Walnut Canyon National Monuments that any 'extra' time you might have can be easily filled with adventures for the kids.

    So Let's look at the four legs and what's along them to entertain and inform your crew besides just letting you just get out and stretch. You've essentially laid out the four legs in your own post so...

    Leg 1) Northern route from SD to Flag: Mojave National Preserve (Kelbaker Center), Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Old Route 66 (now marked as AZ-66) through Peach Springs. (This is the section of road that was the visual inspiration for the movie Cars.)

    Leg 2) Southern route from SD to Flag: Yuma Territorial Prison, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Oak Creek Canyon

    Leg 3) Northern route from Flag to SJNF: Cameron Trading Post, Four Corners, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

    Leg 4) Southern route from Flag to SJNF: Petrified Forest National Park, Red Rock Park, Salmon Ruins Museum

    Now, you won't have time to visit all the sites I just listed and indeed there might be other places on these routes that appeal to you more, but the point is there are plenty of places on the way to do more than just "stop and straighten your backs." And making at least some stops and taking two full days for the dives from/to SJNF will make every part of this vacation enjoyable for your entire crew. I realize that you may have already booked accommodations near SJNF on the assumption that you could make the drive in a single day, but reservations can be changed and there's no point whatsoever in letting a mistake in early planning lead to a miserable vacation.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 06-21-2020 at 11:29 AM. Reason: Fixed Links

  6. Default

    Really really appreciate all the information. Sorry, i should have added little more details from my side.
    We plan to start at 4am in the morning and 2 of us would be splitting the drive. Our intention is to reach San Juan on the same day by 9pm, one reason being that we want to avoid staying in multiple places because of the Covid scare. Kids from the 2 families will have company and so hoping that they will remain sane, though yes i do agree with all the above comments and our ideal situation would have been to take one night break in Flagstaff.
    Being a normal weekday and with limited people traveling these days i am hoping traffic should be light on either route that we take.

    Will make use of the above information to plan the return trip with a one night stay in Flagstaff so that we can see Monument Valley on our way back.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,543

    Default

    . Our intention is to reach San Juan on the same day by 9pm, one reason being that we want to avoid staying in multiple places because of the Covid scare.
    Whereas I can understand your logic, if you take all the right precautions, stopping over night in a Motel will be a safer option for the families than driving while fatigued. It will also be healthier and more fun for everyone along the way. Even if the kids get sleep in a moving vehicle that will have them wide awake looking for fun and entertainment while the adults are totally exhausted. How long are you staying at your destination for ?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,971

    Default Time Shifting

    When I was younger, I used to work rotating shifts, sometimes during the day and sometimes overnight, and occasionally back-to-back. It was exhausting even though I was allowed to catch catnaps on the overnight shifts. I will tell you that your current plan of leaving at 4:00 AM will put you behind the 8-ball before you even start. Unless you are used to being up at 3:00 AM on a regular basis (It will take time to load up two families even if most of the luggage was taken care of the afternoon before.) you will be starting your drive weary and fatigued and it will only go down hill from there. Your driving partner may get a catnap during the first couple of hours of the trip, but that's not the same as solid shut-eye in a bed. Then the initial driver will not get caught up on sleep and you'll just be trading fatigued drivers for the next 16 hours. Is it possible? Yes. Will it be either safe or enjoyable? NO!

    Look, the final decision on what to do, how to trade off the risks, and how much you think you're endangering your children by driving-while-sleep-walking vs staying in a motel is up to you. But you asked for our advice and that advice has been and will be to get a solid night's sleep both going to SJNF and coming home.

    AZBuck

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