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Old 05-01-2013, 07:36 AM   #1
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Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rockies

With so many people on the forum having experience in the SW USA and Rockies, I'd love some input into our draft itinerary for our road trip this summer.

After much dithering, we've decided to take 3-4 weeks this summer and head out west from Philly in our SMB. We'll be leaving June 14 and coming back the first or second week of July. "We" is me, my wife, and our 8 year old son. I know there's a lot we won't be able to see, but we're hoping to hit many of the highlights and add in some places that we'd not likely visit again unless we do a similar trip. My wife and I have seen most of these sights before, as we've traveled a good bit out west and have done two road trips to Alaska and back and most states in between. This is mainly for our son to experience the Great American Roadtrip and see cool stuff. He's good in the car and doesn't mind long drives. My wife and I also know the reality of long days behind the wheel from our Alaska trips.

Here's our draft itinerary so far. Suggestions are most welcome! In the SW, we'd like to take in one good native American site. From past experience I thought Chaco Canyon was pretty cool and un-touristy, but maybe there is better? Bryce and Zion are both cool, but is it worth seeing both of them, or are we better off spending double the time in one park? We definitely want to invest a good bit of time in Yellowstone, as that will be the highlight of the trip. Really trying to get there before July 4 holiday and when it gets really crowded. I'd love to make it to the meetup in Jackson, but the dates just don't work. After YNP we will either start heading home via Badlands, Mt Rushmore, etc., or if we take the full four weeks may head up to Glacier. That's still TBD. While we love Colorado, we will probably skip it for this trip as it makes a good self-contained week vacation on its own.

Campground suggestions and ideas for little-known, don't miss sights would also be great. We have a 2WD EB SMB, so no off-road sites.

Here's what we have in the works:

Day Date Day Night Miles Hrs Notes

1 Friday 14 Drive Zanesville, Ohio 420 7 Hotel
2 Saturday 15 Drive Oklahoma 781 12 Twin Bridges State Park, OK
3 Sunday 16 Drive Sante Fe, NM 726 11 Hotel
4 Monday 17 Santa Fe/Chaco Canyon Chaco Canyon, NM 157 3.5 Camp
5 Tuesday 18 Chaco Canyon/Four Corners 4 corners area 133 3 Camp
6 Wednesday 19 Drive to Grand Canyon in AM Grand Canyon 222 4 Camp
7 Thursday 20 Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Camp
8 Friday 21 Grand Canyon/drive toward Bryce in PM En route to Bryce 281 5.5 Camp
9 Saturday 22 To Bryce Bryce Camp
10 Sunday 23 Bryce To Zion 85 2 Camp
11 Monday 24 Zion Salt Lake City, UT 310 4.5 Hotel
12 Tuesday 25 Drive Jackson, WY 280 5 Camp/hotel
13 Wednesday 26 Tetons Tetons Camp
14 Thursday 27 Yellowstone YNP Camp
15 Friday 28 YNP YNP Camp
16 Saturday 29 YNP YNP Camp
17 Sunday 30 YNP YNP Camp
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:25 AM   #2
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

Lots of miles but I guess that's the nature of your trip. Be aware that all roads into Chaco have significant washboard sections that can be rough on a heavy SMB. Besides that, Chaco is Chaco and you have to take one of the roads to get there so it's part of the price of admission.
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:35 AM   #3
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

Yeah, not much we can do about miles to get out west/get back, unfortunately. We thought about flying out and renting an RV, but kinda defeats the whole idea of having an SMB!
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:46 AM   #4
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

Bryce is higher elevation and cooler than Zion - and usually easier to get a campsite.

On the way home, I really like Theodore Roosevelt NP in ND, especially the North Unit. Remote and less visited.

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Old 05-01-2013, 10:35 AM   #5
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

Since you will be in Sante Fe, consider Bandelier. Nice campground; no hookups or shower unless they added these since our last visit. Tsankawi also is nearby and great to explore. The advantage is paved roads and no weather worries. The Gran Caldera area is a great drive over to Cuba and the route to Chaco.
Enjoy your trip.
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Old 05-01-2013, 04:24 PM   #6
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Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rockies

Quote:
Originally Posted by radin2son
Since you will be in Sante Fe, consider Bandelier. Nice campground; no hookups or shower unless they added these since our last visit. Tsankawi also is nearby and great to explore. The advantage is paved roads and no weather worries. The Gran Caldera area is a great drive over to Cuba and the route to Chaco.
Enjoy your trip.
I believe Bandelier is closed to private vehicles now. They run a shuttle from White Rock, IIRC. Best nearby Santa Fe camping is on the ski basin road. There's a state park and a USFS campground.


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Old 05-01-2013, 06:35 PM   #7
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

Thanks for all the great advice so far! Keep it coming!
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Old 05-01-2013, 07:04 PM   #8
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

The Bandelier web site shows Juniper campground is still open and private vehicles can get in. $12 a night with bathroom facilities if you are interested in an area you can easily walk to from your camp site. (Chaco requires driving/biking from the camp ground to the various sites, particularly if it is hot. I also remember having to bring in lots of water in our VW.) It would be a shame if they closed the campground and resorted to a shuttle bus. But then again, parking spaces are tight... Worth a visit particularly if you are 8 years old.
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Old 05-01-2013, 07:40 PM   #9
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Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rockies

That makes sense -- Juniper is above the canyon so private cars wouldn't need to go to the bottom.

It would be wise to see if Juniper or Chaco take reservations. Chaco esp. as that's solstice time, which draws folks interested in archeoastronomy.

My $.02, Brian: While I know the desires of a big family trip like this, I'd scale this one back and give yourselves some recovery time, not to mention time to appreciate the places you're visiting


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(If we'd bought the winch, we'd make a fortune pulling cars out of the snow.)
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:23 PM   #10
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Re: Advice request: planning roadtrip Philly to SW and Rocki

I've been to both Chaco and Bandelier, but it's been a while. Would you choose one over the other? Which allows you to more closely experience the ruins? It seems like Chaco has some nice opportunities for biking, which we like (more so than hiking, although that's good, too). From what I saw online, neither takes reservations for camping, but their websites suggest that they rarely are full.

Thanks Rionapo, and I hear ya about the driving. But, I think there is enough time in there for what we want to do. Sure, we could spend a week in Grand Canyon, but in two days we should be able to see the highlights and also do a hike or two. We're planning at least four days in Yellowstone, more likely five days. From past experience, a day in the Tetons will suffice for now as I'd rather put extra days in Yellowstone. We're working on the assumption that we will revisit certain areas with shorter fly-out and drive trips in the future (e.g., Arizona, Colorado, etc.).

I know for those of you who live out there it may seem to be sacrilege to only devote a short time to each of these amazing areas, but we have to pick and choose some, unfortunately.

There's no way around having to basically drive three days to get out west from the east coast. We thought about taking longer to drive out and doing more stops, but our thought is that we can more easily see stuff closer to home (east of the Mississippi) on future, shorter trips.

Our time will open up a good bit more if I'm able to take off four weeks vs. three weeks. Still "negotiating" that with my work. If that happens, we'll probably add some more time in the SW.
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