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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    College Station, TX
    Posts
    20

    Default Family trip on the southwest, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado

    Hi,

    We are planning a "long-ish" family trip for the summer (up to a month). The goal of the trip is to get to Grand Canyon but we want to use this trip, our fifth road trip but the first in three years, to also visit other national and state parks, towns, and cities. We haven't defined the route yet but we know that we want to visit, in addition to other locations you may suggest, Zion, Arches, San Juan and Carson National Forests. We are starting from College Station, TX and are planning on doing this during June next year. The group is composed of two adults and five kids, ages between 10 and 1, so we prefer to avoid long driving stretches, unless unavoidable, and prefer to break them down into smaller ones around other attractions and interesting places, even if these are not the most popular ones.

    In terms of logistics, we have learned that it is often difficult to find lodging inside the parks for families of this size, but we could stay in towns around the parks if these are not too far away. Do you have any recommendations of towns that could serve this purpose and that are worth staying there for a couple of days? Towns that we could use as center of operations for a longer period and visit different places from them? (don't need to be parks, but places that you would recommend visiting as well).

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,631

    Default Private rentals.

    Hi and welcome back to the forums !

    Avoiding long stretches won't be a problem, some folks like to do a long day or 2 just to get to an area they may want to spend more time exploring, but as you start to dig deeper into your planning you can soon work out whether that might work for you, or not.

    One option that be worth exploring, with the time you have available, is to look at private house/cabin rentals where you can set up a base for a few days and do out and back trips from that base, then move to another base and repeat. You could get one with a pool where you can take time out and chill as a family, cook and pack your own lunches and not have to live out of the suitcase each day. There would be plenty to keep you occupied in each of the areas of interest you have pointed out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,169

    Default More than two children......?

    Here's another site you may li9ke to check out, it lists accommodation which caters for those who travel with three, four, five or six children. Altough I notice that they have precious few listings for the south west.

    With our five children we always found it easier to tent camp in a central area, and explore the surroundings from there. I know that's not for everyone, but we found it ideal, both summer and winter, when we'd go skiing.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,610

    Default

    Welcome!

    Accommodations for a large family -- you've gotten 2 suggestions, one to rent a home (airbnb or similar) or look at a website that may have some listings. Camping was another suggestion.

    So here's some thoughts about the WHERE. For Arches, which could also include Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, you might want to settle into Moab.

    For Zion, you might want to think about Springdale.

    Another suggestion: There is a gorgeous drive, if you can work it into your plans, between Zion and Arches. It would allow you to stop at Bryce Canyon (easily seen in a half a day if you go early in the day) and Capitol Reef (easily seen in a half a day) National Parks, as well. To do that, from Zion, you take UT-9, US-89, UT-12 (a scenic highway designation) to Torrey, UT-24 to Hanksville. From there you could either continue the scenic drive by going south on UT-95 to Blanding then north on US-191. Or, you could go the quicker route by continuing on US-24 from Hanksville up to I-70 East, then US-191 south to Moab. The adults would appreciate the beauty of the route; the older kids just might, too. (If they don't this summer, it will be a memory to take with them as they leave the nest.)

    Are you planning on going to the South Rim, or the North Rim, of the Grand Canyon? The North Rim has less services, but it's not as crowded and just as gorgeous. Jacob Lake might be a home base there, or use Kanab as a home base for Zion, the North Rim, and Bryce Canyon.

    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Lots of Possibilities, But One Big Problem

    This is the type of trip, especially with wanting the kids to have some sort of new adventure each day, that calls for a 'loop' trip rather than one in which you go somewhere and take the same route back. I'll be describing such a loop in a clockwise direction, but you can always do it the other way round.

    We'll get to more details in a moment, but first... Since you've done this before, let's get the 'big problem' out of the way first. That problem is that there's a whole lot of nothing between College Station and, say, Phoenix AZ, using I-10 as your main artery. Now, that would be a full two days if you were to drive more or less straight through, but given your adopted travel style it's going to be more like three. So first, let's look for some smaller venues on that leg, remembering our motto "There are no boring places." A few stops where you could spend some significant and enjoyable time would be: the Caverns of Sonora, Fort Lancaster, Balmorhea State Park (SP), Socorro Mission,
    Rockhound SP
    and Shakespeare Ghost Town. In and around Tucson, there's Colossal Cave, the Pima Air and Space Museum, Kartchner Caverns, and Saguaro National Park (NP).

    Then, once you're past Phoenix, you'll be getting into some pretty serious national parks and monuments as well as other scenic and kid-friendly sites, including Montezuma Castle National Monument (NM), Tuzigoot NM, and Oak Creek Canyon. Flagstaff AZ would be a good place to settle down for a few days while you visit Grand Canyon NP (South Rim), Walnut Canyon NM, Sunset Crater Volcano NM, Wupatki NM, the Museum of Northern Arizona and others. Indeed, Flagstaff is one place where renting a house for a week would make some sense. You'll have been on the road for a while; there's lots to see and do; and you'll get a chance to relax and get caught up on a few things.

    Next up would be southern Utah, dominated by the Mighty Five: Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Capitol Reef NP, Canyonlands NP and Arches NP. These make a nice turn around point for your trip since just following them from one to the other in the order above (or in reverse) moves you between north-south and east-west driving. And there are other attractions along this general routing including Cedar Breaks NM, Batty Caves near Escalante and the Sego Canyon Petroglyphs.

    Actually, eastern Utah and western Colorado is another place where you might want to settle down for a few days before the final drive home. Within an hour-and-a-half drive of Grand Junction CO, there's Colorado NM, the Million Dollar Highway, Highline Lake SP, the Dinosaur Journey Museum, McInnis Canyons NCA, and Grand Mesa NF. Dinosaur NM is two hours away via the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway, so it might make a nice day trip out of Grand Junction.

    Finally, you'd need to close the loop by getting back to College Station, so if you're starting (or ending) that leg around Grand Junction, your drive would take you past Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Curecanti NRA, Capulin Volcano NM, Kiowa NG, Cadillac Ranch, Lake Arrowhead SP, and LBJ NG.

    You'll note that I haven't mentioned a whole lot of route numbers. I think at this stage of your planning you should be, as you are, concentrating on what to see and how to apportion your time. Once you and your family have a basic outline of those two elements, determining the routes should be relatively simple.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-29-2020 at 08:15 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    College Station, TX
    Posts
    20

    Default

    Southwest Dave, Lifemagician, DonnaR57, AZBuck, thank you so much for all the details and suggestions. We are very much still figuring out the locations we want to see and identifying "clusters" that could be visited from a temporal central location, so all your suggestions are really helpful.

    @DonnaR57, we were planning on South Rim but this was more by default than anything else. Your comment got me thinking so I'm doing my research right now!

    @AZBuck, I absolutely agree with the big problem. Our kids handle longer drives better early in the trip rather than later, so we try to plan the driving taking this into consideration. Thanks also for the very detailed loop.

    Thanks again! Once we have narrowed down the locations, you'll have me back here with paper (map) and pencil asking advice regarding routes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    649

    Default

    Hello!

    I'm a little late chiming in, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my book, RoadTrip America's Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips. It's specifically written for folks who are trying to make the most out of a cross country drive, by offering scenic detours (side trips) that lead you off the Interstate into all the best places. There are actually lots of possibilities off I-10 between El Paso and the Grand Canyon.

    Here's a link to a review on this site: An Insider's Insight into Memorable Drives Through the Desert Southwest

    And here's a link to the listing on Amazon, where there are more reviews and a "Look Inside" feature that lets you check out some of the content, which includes hundreds of color photos and some great custom maps: RoadTrip America's Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips

    Take a look; you might find it useful!

    Rick
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-01-2021 at 08:12 AM. Reason: typo

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    College Station, TX
    Posts
    20

    Default

    Thanks Rick. The book looks great, I just ordered it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    College Station, TX
    Posts
    20

    Default

    Rick, I have been studying your book. It is great. Lots of details and great pictures. I have really enjoyed it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    649

    Default

    Glad to hear it! I hope it proves useful to you on your road trip. Like everybody else on this Forum, I can hardly wait to get back out there, and next summer is showing some promise!

    Rick

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