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Old 02-04-2009, 11:35 AM   #1
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luckyva
Big Spring Trip - Need advice

Pee Wee is planning his big adventure for the second week in May through the second or third week in June! If anyone has any advice related to the following (campgrounds, must sees, time needed to see the sights, etc.), I would be grateful to have it.

I am traveling from VA to AZ. Here are my points of interest:

Petrified Forest

Grand Canyon - both rims

Zion

Bryce

Natural Bridges

Canyonlands - particularly intested in whether I should enter from the north or the south, of if I should do both!

Arches

Thank you!
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Old 02-04-2009, 04:52 PM   #2
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First, buy a NP pass, it will more than pay for itself.

If you're going through the Texas panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon is a really nice SP, just south of Amarillo.

There are lots of scenic and educational spots in NM. Pecos NP outside Santa Fe and Santa Fe itself has lots to see and do. Also Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands NM if you're going that far south. There's also a really scenic train ride (we've not been on this one yet) at Chama right on the CO border.

In AZ take a loop off the Interstate through Holbrook, a quintessential Route 66 town frozen in the 50's. Meteor Crater is an expensive privately owned attraction. I'm glad we went, and it is impressive, but somewhat overhyped. Walnut Canyon NM has some unusual cliff dwellings and your east coast lungs will get a real workout climbing the stairs back up to the parking lot. There are other cliff dwelling type NMs, but, except for Montezuma Castle, are not as impressive, never mind accessible, as Mesa Verde in CO.

Hwy 89 between Sedona and Flagstaff is a beautiful drive, but do it solo.
Dead Horse Ranch is a nice SP, but also very popular and there were no reservations when we were there about 7 years ago-- I didn't think it was that long! Sedona would not be my idea of a nice time. It is a classic example of desert development run amok. But there are lots of really nice hikes off from the road into the canyon--small parking lots though and heavily used. Drive a little further to see Montezuma Castle--quite spectacular with sun on it--E to SE I think.

Skip the north rim of the Grand Canyon--we did the north and south on two separate trips, but the north is undeveloped with lots of forest and minimal viewpoints--and the sun is usually in the wrong spot.

Your UT sites are good, but definitely go to Bryce Canyon NP. In Arches NP, the hike to Delicate Arch is an easy hike for early morning and well worth it.

I could write lots more about CO, but you're going to have to choose because you can't do it all on one trip and CO has some really steep long passes. We had a pop up when we toured through there twice, and also once with car so we've seem most of CO. PM me if you want more or just continue the thread with more directions and others will have more suggestions.

Henry
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Old 02-04-2009, 05:51 PM   #3
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WOW, I would love to be right on your bumper to repeat this trip. Below is a link to my webshots album, containing about 700 pics from my 2007 trip west, that covered a LOT of the places you mentioned.

If traveling RT 40, do go into OK City to see the memorial.
About 40 minutes west of Ok. City, OK is a state park in Hinton, OK called Red Rock State Park, 13 bux a night water electric and conctrete parking pad down in the red rocks. S/E of Amarillo, TX is Palo Duro Canyon SP, very nice, and it will test your tow vehicle

I followed a lot of RT 40/66 out west. Petrified Forest is amazing, it's better near the one end as for seeing the "logs". Left PF and took RT. 191 up into Canyon De Chelly (But, this would be quite a bit out of your way to the Grand Canyon) left there and headed to Zion NP (drove thru some of Grand Staircase-Escalante Nat. Monument, lots of "on the edge" driving going into Zion from the east, the tunnels are awesome. Exited Zion on the west, took I-15 up to Cedar City and then 14(beautiful drive) over to 89 to 12 to Bryce Canyon Nat. Prk, left Bryce via RT 12 and drove he Elcalante-Grand Staircase Canyons & "THE HOGBACK". from there I entered Capital Reef, then RT 24 up to I-70 to 191 into Canyonlands, then Arches Nat. Park, then 491 out of Monticello into Cortez (Mesa Verde, Durango, Silverton) left Durango on 160 East, crossed Wolf Creek Pass (10,850'), thru Alamosa to the Great White Sands Nat. Park & Preserve (This place has the most awesome white beach sand and sand dunes) stayed on 160 to Walsenburg, then took 10 LaJunta, and then 50/400 into Dodge City, then thru Greensburg, KS that had just been struck by a CAT 5 Tornado, then into Wichita (where I lost a wheel bearing ) then I cut down to Springfield, MO an onto Branson, MO, and after that I don't recall how I got home

It was a wonderful trip, I wish I had backed tracked a bit from Canyon De Chelly to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I didn't and I was at the South Rim in 1996. As for the North Rim, like what was stated, limited views, beautiful lodge, limited camping , I'd highly recommend reservations, and well, I don't like reservations, as I might want to stay less or longer in one place than I originally planned.

Capital Reef was a wonderful surprise, and I'm glad I didn't miss it.
The "Hogback" is right up on the top of a ridge, and not a lot of room on eaither side of the 2 lane road.

I wish I were headed west with you. Hope this info is helpful, and please enjoy the photos, lots of them

http://family.webshots.com/album/560039909ZPGaRD

Kitty & KD


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Old 02-07-2009, 04:23 AM   #4
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Sorry I have not been back to thank y'all for the advice.

Henry, I renew my NP pass every year! That is the best part of having a camper! Also, I went to CO a few years back. I didn't make it to the GC then because there is so much in CO. Really fond memories of that trip.

Kitty, thanks for the advice on OK City and Captial Reef. I'll see if I can get to them. Oh, and I am with you. Not much on reservations! That is why I ususally travel in September. I am hoping I don't have a problem early in the season, but I will just have to deal with it. I don't like the pressure of having the be somewhere. Another good reason to have a camper!

On another note, I am going to the Richmond RV Expo today. It will be interesting to see how many dealers show up. I have heard and read stories of other shows being canceled this year.

Thank you again for the advice and information! It is great to know you folks are there........or is it here?????
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:21 PM   #5
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Of all the places you mentioned, I'd probably say Petrified National Forest was the lamest.

Not that it is that bad, it's just that there really isnt much to do there and it's probably one of those parks you just drive through and check off the list. Unless you're really into Geology.

I think everyone else summed up the places pretty well. I'd agree with Kitty that Cayon de Chelly is amazing, but a little out of the way.

If you're pulling with a 4x4 and do go there, hire a guide and drive down into the canyon. So worth the views!!

This is from one of the many Look Outs on the Rim


Notice that white thing in the bottom right corner of the image? It's a single wide trailer where one of the Navajo live!!

But this if on the Canyon floor with 700' sandstone walls towering over us!!



Another great spot is Monument Valley!! Probably one of our favorites if you could include it into the vaca! You wont be dissapointed!

Here we are camped on the Rim of the Valley!!



Sorry, but I had to share a few pictures to get you excited!!
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:01 AM   #6
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Pat, Cindy.......

WHY did you have to post those pictures? It's been years since we've been in the southwest, and your photos have simply overwhelmed me. Now, I think we have to rethink our existing July-August camping plans!

Frank
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Old 02-09-2009, 08:16 AM   #7
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Sorry Frank, just thought I'd give them a little to get excited about. Didnt want to ruffle your feathers But I need to remind myself every now and then too!

Here is a few more just to change your mind for good!

Utah - Valley of the Gods



New Mexico - Tent Rocks - This is me looking over the edge almost faling over



Utah - Grand Staircase Escalante - Vermillion Cliffs Area



Arizona/Utah - Cindy standing in the middle of the road taking a picture of Wide open spaces - There is not a wide angle lens wide enough to get the horizon all in!



And for anyone who has seen the movie CARS - this is the Wig-Wam Hotel along Route 66

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Old 02-09-2009, 10:15 AM   #8
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Pat, Cindy...

That was some "apology". But it did work, and we are replanning. And of course, if I do resent it, why is this silly fixed grin on my face? LOL!

Best,

Frank
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Old 02-09-2009, 05:56 PM   #9
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Pat & Cindy, your pictures are amazing--keep 'em coming. Will my pictures look like yours if I get a bigger lens like you got for Christmas?

Henry
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:42 PM   #10
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OH I wanna go back out there, I wanna go, I wanna go. Guess I need to hit the lottery OH wait, I have to start playing the lottery first

I just love being out west, and I sure do hope I can get back out there but next time without time constraints.

Kitty & KD
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Old 02-10-2009, 03:42 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the great pictures! I am getting excitied thinking about all the sights I will see!

Kitty, one thing about the lottery. You can't win unless you play! Get a number today!
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Old 02-10-2009, 06:14 AM   #12
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Youíre in for a treat.

We spend every other summer in the desert southwest and know pretty well most of the areas youíre interested in.

Arches NP
Very busy during the tourist season. The campground fills up fast. There are lots of spectacular things to see in the park, most of them just off the main drag. We like visiting the park early in the morning or later in the evening when the light can be dramatic and the crowds are smaller.

Moab, Utah
Arches is just north of Moab. I believe the town originally was the center of uranium mining in the area, but this petered out (but itís now making a comeback which is generating controversey). Moab is now a major destination for mountain biking, four-wheeling, a river rafting. Itís a very cool place. Things to see: Hogan Trading Company (high qualityóand expensiveó Native American art and crafts), Jailhouse Cafť (breakfast only, but what a breakfast they serve), Moab Diner (super malteds and their Kokopelle Chicken is pretty good, too), Back of Beyond Bookstore (western authors a specialty), Tom Tillís photo gallery. Thereís tons of RV parks in the area. If youíre into mountain biking, try out the training loop of the Slickrock Trail (donít even think of doing the trail itself unless youíre a pro). I thought I knew what I was doing on a mountain bike until I tried the loop.

Canyonlands NP
Our absolutely favorite national park is the southern (Needles) unit of Canyonlands. The campground is small and fills up fast so get there early. In some of the spots you might drag your skids backing into them. Nights are spectacular here: no light pollution and no urban noise. This unit requires hiking to see most of the interesting stuff, but because itís so remote you rarely run into crowds. Plan ahead if you visit here: itís a long way from anywhere and thereís no gas stations for miles except for one just outside the park but itís very expensive. I think Monticello is the next nearest gas.

The northern (Island in the Sky) unit of Canyonlands is closer to civilization (Moab), but itís still a drive. Like the southern unit, thereís plenty to see. The Green River overlook is one of the more spectacular vistas and itís one youíll probably recognize because itís photographed so much. We havenít stayed at the campground there in years, but when we did it was pretty much a standard NP primitive campground. You pass Dead Horse State Park on the way to Canyonlands. Itís got gorgeous scenery and worth a visit.

Capitol Reef NP
You didnít mention this park, but it might be worth a visit. Itís a creek-fed oasis in the middle of the desert. Amazingly, they sprinkle the grass in the campground, which is a pretty nice one. Weíve never had a problem finding a site there (thereís a dump station). While Capitol Reef doesnít have the spectacular vistas found elsewhere, thereís still plenty of amazing things to see. Put out a hummingbird feeder and youíll have loads of them flitting about in no time. Just down the road is the town of Torrey. If you visit Torrey youíll have to eat at the Cafť Diablo. Take a very good upscale eatery and plunk it down in pretty much in the middle of nowhere and you have the Cafť Diablo.

Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon
Busy parks with lots of visitors. Of these, Bryce is our favorite. Most everything you see youíll recognize from pictures in National Geographic and elsewhere. If you want good photographs youíll usually have to get up early to beat the rush (although youíll always run into other photographers doing the same thing). We prefer the north rim of Grand Canyon to avoid the ungodly crowds at the south rim, but getting to the north rim is a long trip.

Hope this helps.
Don
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Old 02-16-2009, 09:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryj
If you're going through the Texas panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon is a really nice SP, just south of Amarillo.
Also Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands NM Meteor Crater is an expensive privately owned attraction. I'm glad we went, and it is impressive, but somewhat overhyped. Skip the north rim of the Grand Canyon--we did the north and south on two separate trips, but the north is undeveloped with lots of forest and minimal viewpoints--and the sun is usually in the wrong spot.Henry
I can 2nd the Palo Duro Canyon park. We very much enjoyed it. Be aware, when we used the water hookup, it turned all our white or clear pipes a nice rusty red.
Carlsbad Caverns is very good, but Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is way better. Depending on how far south your route takes you, the Texas Rangers museum in Waco is very interesting (to me, anyway).
We tried for the North Rim on our trip, but got turned back by a wildfire. Ended up staying at a camp ground directly south of the south rim, just a mile or two outside the park. Wild elk wandered through the campground three or four days in a row while we were there.
BIG WARNING: Take LOTS and LOTS of water with you. Once you hit New Mexico and Arizona, water is scarce. There's NO outside faucets at the gas station where you can fill your tanks or drinking jugs. Most of the water seemed to be highly chlorinated (like twice public swimming pool levels) and/or very heavy with iron and minerals.
Have fun. We did.
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Old 02-17-2009, 04:50 AM   #14
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Thanks for the info, Don. I definately want to go the the North Rim and have been trying to decide it I can do both rims in one trip. I hear that getting from one to the other takes time. Do you or anyone else on this tread have any advice as to the feasibility of doing both rims?

Thank you all for the EXCELLENT photos and advice! I am so looking forward to this trip!
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Old 02-17-2009, 01:23 PM   #15
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I dont know what kind of shape your in, but I know there is a hike that you can hike down from one rim, and back up the other rim for one of the best of the best of both sides.

Sat talking with a father and sun who were hiking past us while we were in Yosemite, and he was telling us about the time they did just that hike. He said they tried to do it in a few days time, and if he had to do it over again, he would have made it a bit longer because of how rough it was.
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Old 02-17-2009, 01:40 PM   #16
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We actually got to the CG we planned to stay at on the North Rim very late at night. The Forest Service asked us to turn back because of the wildfire, but we were too tired to drive anymore. We spent the night and left first thing the next morning. It took us most of the day to get back around to the South Rim, but there were several stops for shopping at the various Navajo roadside stands. Without the stops, maybe half a day.
Meteor Crater is WAY over-priced. I almost didn't go in, but we were already there. I was a little disappointed. They don't allow you to go out and walk around the rim or down into the crater itself, unless you are on a tour (more $$$, not included in the price of admission).
All of the CG's we stayed at had water hookups, but most did NOT allow you to fill your fresh water tank unless you paid an extra charge.
At the Grand Canyon, plan to do a LOT of walking. I hope y'all are getting in condition for going up and down a lot of hills. Even if you rent a mule ride (make reservations now), there's still a lot of walking to be done along the rim. Make sure you have a pair of good, really comfortable hiking boots. If you walk down over the rim, one or two of those collapsable hiking poles will come in handy.
If you go to Carlsbad, you can watch the thousands of bats flying out in the evening. It's pretty cool, but keeps you at the cave until dark.
When driving through the hilly areas of New Mexico, we saw dozens of elk and deer out in the road, almost always as we came around a sharp, blind curve (after dark). It was a little tense.
El Paso has the largest Harley dealership in America. I wandered through that until DW dragged me back out. Lots of antique bikes.
We really enjoyed our trip. We'll do it again one day.
Mule
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:23 PM   #17
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Luckyva, regarding your question about visiting both rims of the Grand Canyon, there's so much to see in the desert southwest, spending a lot of your limited time in one place (as impressive as it is) means you won't get to see the incredible variety of awesome beauty it has to offer. Personallly, I find the crowds at the south rim to be a turnoff. It's hard for me to appreciate the stunning beauty of the place when fighting crowds--but that's just me. Instead of doing both rims, I'd just do the north rim and use the extra time to visit Capitol Reef or spend a couple extra days exploring Canyonlands--places with their own kind of beauty and you won't have to fight crowds.
Good luck.
Don
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