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GRAND CIRCLE ROAD TRIP -- HELP!!!

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Hello all,

I'm planning a road trip with a few friends of mine this coming spring break and I'm in desperate need of some help from people who actually know the areas that we will be traveling in or have done the trip themselves.

Most of what were are doing involves the Grand Circle Road trip and we are planning to do it early March (March2-11, the 2nd and 11th are commuting days which leaves about 8 days of travel). There's a schedule list for a 9 day trip on grandcircle.org but were are gonna be coming from the opposite direction (Albuquerque). As for the actual travel days we plan to start on the 3rd in Albuquerque and end on the 10th there as well. We will be meeting in Dallas and driving to Albuquerque then starting from there.

Here's a picture/list of all the things we would like to cover.
https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/309957_2420979608982_1386186194_32955474_5574380_n.jpg

My main concerns are weather and time. I know were not gonna be able cover it all but where should I sacrifice the time? Less Canyon lands for more Grand Canyon? I've read/heard weather is a BIG issue that time of year.

ANY info aside from the basic info found online would be awesome - THANK YOU!!!!

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    You asked for advice, so permit me give it.
    Outside of ski areas, March is DEFINITELY in the low season for travel in this part of the country. You need not make firm plans to stay a set number of days at any one place; just spend as much time as you would like at any one place. The amount of time you decide you need can change due to interest, weather, etc. Then drive on to the next place and find a place to stay. EXCEPT for the Grand Canyon, this should result in no problem.

    Which is one reason I recommend making your first night's stay at The Canyon, for which you make reservations. Drive west on I-40 to Flagstaff, then north on US 180 into the GC.

    After that, drive east on Hiway 64, then north on US 89 into Utah. Enjoy Grand Staircase, Zion, Bryce, Cedar Breaks, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands -- then realize you've used up all your time and it's back to Albuquerque.

    With all the national park and monuments you'll be visiting, I highly recommend you purchase an "America the Beautiful" Pass as you enter the Grand Canyon. From that day till the end of March 2012, the legal owners (can be two people, who need NOT be related and need NOT live at the same address) are eligible for free entry into any site operated by the federal government.

    http://store.usgs.gov/pass/annual.html

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    The Plan that PaulRabe has given you is a good one except Cedar Breaks will probably not be open (it was not open at the end of April when we tried to visit last year). Your original plan left you with very little time to actually see/explore the areas. If there is time after Canyonlands, then stop in at Aztec ruin and Bandelier. There will very likely be snow at Bryce and Bandelier as they are at high elevation, which will limit hiking there but unless it is snowing, the roads will probably be fine.

    Don't bother with 4 corners monument, it is out of the way and not very inspiring.

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    It depends on what you want to do at each spot. I could easily spend a week in just the Moab are and then another in Bryce/Zion. Do you like to go off roading, hiking, are you adventurous? I have done several trips to Utah the past 4 or 5 years and still want to go back. My very favorite thing has been canyoneering in Moab with www.deserthighlights.com

    Everyone says that the 4 corners monument is not worth going to. It does make for a cool photo though. We were happy we went.

    Are you camping? Do you have a 4 wheel drive or a front wheel drive?

    Canyonlands NP is so vast. It has 4 sections. Yes, 4 not 3. One of them is a detached section near Goblin Valley. There is a cool hike there to Horseshoe Canyon/The Great Gallery. Horseshoe Canyon is where Aaron Rauls(the guy that amputated his own arm) was found. He was in a side canyon called Blue John. Horseshoe Canyon is not dangerous. Another cool hike near Goblin Valley is. Little Wildhorse Canyon. It's a great slot canyon that is a very easy hike that is awesome. So my point is, you could easily spend more than a day in just the Goblin Valley area. I don't like trips where I am just trying to check a bunch of stuff off. I think you would save money and be far happier cutting this trip in half or even more. All the places you mention are worth a stop for the most part. I like all the parks in Utah better than the GC. You will get a similar view of the GC in places like Deadhorse Point. Mesa verde is another totally cool place, but I bet you might have to deal with snow there. Snow would also be an issue at Bryce most likely. HWY 12 with snow could be a doozy of a ride.

    From Monument Valley to Moab, I would take the Moki Dugway and include a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument. There are 3 good Bridges there. Sipapu Bridge is just as cool as any Arch I have ever seen. You must walk down to it, to fully appreciate it. It is just massive.

    I'm kinda like Monument Valley like I am the GC. They are certainly worth doing, but it isn't my favorite. You really need to take a indian guide there to get the most out of it. You national park pass will not be good there, btw.

    Any way you do it you will have a great time.

    One more thing. Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe are not to far off your route. I really like both of those places. The wild cave tour(make reservations well in advance) is spectacular!! You already have to much on your plate, but you could do these sometime as they are fairly close to you. Guadalupe has some nice hikes and is one of those best kept secrets that very few go to.

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    Wow, that is ambitious. Looks like you just said lets see everything. Which is not a bad idea if you want to come back later to spend more time at the places that interested you most. But there is no real way you can visit all those places even briefly in nine days.

    Scratch Echo Canyon SP, Sand Hollow SP off - they are water based parks for fun and recreation (of which you won't have time). Echo Canyon is out of your way anyway.

    Also you can scratch Kodachrome SP off, this is a nice place, but not on par with the others you'll be seeing.

    I am not familiar with those in New Mexico so can't suggest others to take off there, (El Vado Lake looks like another rec lake not worth your time) but there are several more I'd wonder about. Try to decide which ones interest you most and take one or two more off the plan.

    I like 4 corners Monument, have been twice and felt it was an interesting side trip. But with your time frame not sure it would be worth it unless you are really interested in esoteric kind of things like that. It is after all just a made up landmark in the middle of the desert.

    Two days for Moab area would be bare minimum- One for Arches and one for Canyonlands/Dead Horse Point and something else like a jeep tour, or river drive or raft trip.

    You have listed Grand Staircase/Escalante, but this is a huge park/monument and most of the points of interest are off paved roads. I would probably recommend you also not keep this on your list of places. You should take the scenic hwy 12 between Torrey and Bryce though which skirts the monument and you could stop at the Escalante Vistors Center and ask for suggestions if you find you have time.

    Mid March is when we start getting cabin fever here in Salt Lake and a trip to Zion or Moab definitely helps. So I've been to the southern Utah area plenty of times that time of year. Weather will be iffy, but unless it is like it was last year not usually a problem on the roads. You would still find patches of snow, but trails are usually open and temps are nicer than in the summer heat. Jackets and gloves would be useful especially for morning and evening hours. (Last year the snow didn't stop coming till May though so who knows). Driving would not be a problem unless you are trying to do it during a heavy snowstorm. Then you really should stay off the roads till it passes and they are cleared.

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    Buy a pair of Yak Traks. They are cheap--around $12--and make footing much safer and you will feel more secure. They just slip easily on and off your shoes. I was at the Grand Canyon (hiked to bottom) in mid March and there was lots of snow and ice on the rim and a few miles down the trail. You may find that in many places you are heading.

    I've been to many of the places you are planning. I think I would concentrate on northern Arizona and southern Utah. That's enough for a week.

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