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  1. #1
    CLEP101's Avatar
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    Default Western U.S. Road Trip Suggestions

    Hi everyone,
    When I get back from Afghanistan I'm taking 40 days of vacation and we are planning on doing a 15-25 day road trip, maybe more, to the Western part of the U.S. (west of Texas). Maybe north of Texas too. Just wanted to see if I can get some feedback on what are good travel/tourist spots out there. Planning on going to Grand Canyon, Yosemite Park, maybe Las Vegas, (don't know about California since I travel with a gun). But we want to hit as many of the states as we can and see as much as we can.
    Any suggestion from my fellow travelers in IC Forum land?
    Thanks in advance,
    Last edited by CLEP101; 09-11-2011 at 09:21 PM.
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  2. #2
    LaterBloomer's Avatar
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    Twenty-five years ago, the drive along Oak Creek Canyon from Flagstaff down toward Phoenix was beautiful. It's gotten WAY more congested, but still lovely. Of course, the Gran Canyon's southern rim is awesome.

    The coast between San Francisco and LA is lovely, too.

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    Lindagerr's Avatar
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    Arizona is a great place to visit I have driven from just south of Tuscon (great aircraft museum and a Nike missile silo museum) through Phoenix (great Cactus Museum) to Sedona (fantastic views) to the southerm rim of the grand canyon( I hear the North Rim is better). I have also driven around Salt lake and Sundance Utah and it was beautiful. I would have loved to see southern Utah too. I envy you your trip. I do think you and your family deserve a nice time together after your time over there. Have a great trip and enjoy.
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    What a great opportunity! It is a wonderful idea to go on a trip like that!

    This is the kind of question I love to answer, I live in the West and I love traveling and planning trips. Therefore let me warn you that this might get long!

    Great places to visit are: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Yosemite National Parks, and the Rocky Mountains, Sedona, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Tucson.

    Here is a possible trip:
    I suggest visiting Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico, then driving west to Arizona. There is much to see in Arizona (I have lived here 17 years and there still is more for me to see), but I would suggest driving along hwy 89A along Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona and visiting Sedona, and also visiting the Grand Canyon. From there, you could go north into Utah and visit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. I, personally, would skip Las Vegas, but if you want to visit Las Vegas, I suggest that you do so on your trip from Arizona to Utah or California and visit Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on the way. Las Vegas is a bit out of the way, though. From the Southern Utah national parks, you could drive east to Colorado or north to Salt Lake City. I've not been to Colorado yet, but there are a number of things to see there (maybe someone else can tell more about Colorado). Then, from either SLC or Colorado, I would drive north and visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. They are definitely worth it. If you don't plan to hike or boat, one or two days should be sufficient for Grand Teton, but set aside several days for Yellowstone, because it is large and there is much to see. From Yellowstone, I would go west through Idaho, visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument on the way, to Oregon (or northwest into Washington). Again, my knowledge of this area is quite limited, but I understand it is quite beautiful. Then I would go south through California and visit Yosemite, and maybe San Fransisco and Los Angeles. The entire western coast from Washington to Los Angeles is beautiful. Then you could go back through Arizona and New Mexico, this time taking I-10 and visiting Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Cruces. There are a number of things to see in each place, depending on interests (ancient ruins, museums, Old West, Biosphere 2, Titan Missile Museum). South of Tucson, near I-10, there are two amazing caves you can go into, Colossal Cave and Kartchner Caverns.

    If you want to avoid California, you can go north from New Mexico to Colorado, then Wyoming (Yellowstone and Grand Teton), then west to Idaho (or north to Montana, then west to Idaho), then either loop through Washington and Oregon or just go south. Then I would visit Utah and Arizona and go back. This is a trip I have planned (but beginning and ending in AZ and without Washington and Oregon) and the planned trip would take at least three weeks.

    It would be helpful to know what time of year you are going on this trip as some places that I suggested are only good to visit in certain seasons. New Mexico, Northern Arizona (Grand Canyon and Sedona), California and Utah should be fine all year but beware of snow or ice storms in the winter. In the summer, the temperatures generally are good but can climb into the 90s or even get as high as 100 sometimes. The beautiful rock formations of Sedona and southern Utah, and the Grand Canyon look different but still amazing with snow on them. Everywhere except southern and western AZ, Las Vegas and areas of New Mexico and southern California should be fine in the summer, spring, and fall. The exceptions mentioned are great from October to April (expect 100+ from mid May to mid September). The best time to visit Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons is summer (mid June to late August or early September).

    Sorry for such a long post I get carried away!

    I hope it is helpful.
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    Dude, I totally just started planning a bus trip all over the US and was starting threads in all my internet circles to get suggestions on stuff to see... Then I saw your thread here Too bad, I'm starting another one Have fun on your trip!
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    Man you guys didnt say Meteor Crater!! its so cool. It only takes about an hour and is east of flagstaff. TOTAL MUST STOP.

    In New mexico you also have White Sands national monument (though the Trinity site where the first atomic bomb was detonated is only open I think once a year) but they have the white sand dunes and a space museum in alamogordo. Also Roswell where the 'aliens landed' heeh. Carlsbad caverns is unbelievable. You have all of the santa fe art and etc, northern NM is really like you'd imagine colorado to be. But they have acoma sky pueblo outside albuquerque, also bandolier national park is neat. In Southern Colorado, mesa verde is an interesting site, again Native American ruins and all that like bandolier.

    There are also a lot of old west things like billy the kid's grave, ghost towns, think of the movie young guns, that was shot in NM near santa fe. That place also does tours in addition to being a movie set.

    In AZ the Petrified forest is really need, as well as painted desert and the stuff mentioned here. Also Lake Havasu is a party lake but that is where they moved london bridge, so its neat to see how they did it and how all the stones were numbered. Also Death Valley, Utah arches national park, grand canyon north and south.

    If you like to gamble, dont go to Las Vegas just for that. Along any of these routes you probably will see 100+ casinos on the indian reservations. However if you want to see a show or hang out at the Rehab party, or see the Pawn Stars shop or something specific you will want to go to LV.
    Last edited by bkahuna; 09-13-2011 at 12:14 PM.
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  8. #8
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    I agree with the suggestions made so far, but my opinion varies a little bit.

    AZ and NM do have great sites, but other than the fun stuff to see, the drive is PAINFULLY boring. AZ is not horrible once you hit Flagstaff, but the only state more boring to drive through than New Mexico is Kansas. lol (sorry to any NM or Kansas people here! )

    In my totally biased opinion, the best driving state in the western US is Colorado. You can take any number of winding highways through the mountains, or take I-25 up the front range. You can see sand dunes here too along with Royal Gorge and then go further north to Rocky Mountain National Park. Then, if you were really ambitious, you could head up to Yellowstone in WY, which is seriously one of the coolest places I've ever been to. It's about a 10 hour drive from Denver, but totally worth it.

    Of course if you're going to be doing this trip after November or so, there could be some tough mountain conditions so you would likely be stuck in AZ, NV, and NM as the best winter options unless you're totally comfortable with mountain/snow conditions. Keep in mind that unless you're in the middle of a blizzard, I-25 through Colorado will never be bad. It's on the plains but has a mountain view almost the entire time.
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  9. #9
    mrs.b is offline Count / Countess
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    For west coast, I 2nd/3rd/10th spending some quality time at both the north and south ridges, and like Geezer said in the other travel thread, don't miss Supai Village (Havasupai Tribe - helicopter tours, nice hiking - see The Havasupai Tribe, Guardians of the Grand Canyon)

    If you'll be going north enough, Cour d'Alene, Idaho is gorgeous...or was. It's been a while since I've been there, but it had decent skiing nearby, fishing, mountains, golf, and fair shopping, and not far from Spokane.

  10. #10
    CLEP101's Avatar
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    Thank You guys so far for all the suggestions. My trip will hopefully start in June after my daughter gets out of school. I get back from Afghanistan in April. I might just skip Las Vegas. I forget that I have to take my two small dogs on my trip. I'm not to worried about the 90 plus temperatures, we're from South Texas so we are used to the 100-120 degree temperatures. The best part is that in the West there is no humidity like South Texas or the East. I will be getting all the destinations mentioned, googling them and plug them into a trip planner to see the best routes to take to get to each location. I'm glad my wife is saving all my hard earned money (for a trip) since I'm not home to stop her from spending it.
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