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Feedback Needed for Four Corners Road Trip, Please.

Feedback Needed for Four Corners Road Trip, Please.

Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 12:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 3
Feedback Needed for Four Corners Road Trip, Please.


I'm at the beginning stages of planning a road trip for next fall and I'm hoping to get some feedback on my itinerary.

Some Details:
4 women (30s and 40s), first long distance road trip, novice (but eager) hikers, moderate to high fitness level, love culture + wine + scenic beauty.

Tentative Dates: Sept 20 - Oct 3

DAY 1: Arrive Denver
DAY 2: Drive Independence Pass, pit-stop in Aspen, Grand Junction
DAY 3: Grand Junction
DAY 4: Moab, Canyonlands, Arches
DAYS 5-6: Bryce (departure late afternoon of day 6)
DAYS 7-8: Zion (departure late afternoon of day 8)
DAYS 9-10: Grand Canyon
DAY 11: Petrified National Forrest , Albuquerque
DAY 12: ABQ Balloon Fiesta

That's what I've got so far. My specific questions are:

--What are your thoughts on the length of time I've scheduled for the parks?
--Are there any must sees that I'm missing? I wanted to add Black Canyon and Mesa Verde, but couldn't find a place to fit them.
--If I needed to make the trip shorter, what would you recommend dropping/spending less time at?
--What's the weather really like during late September/early October? We're from Miami, so winter is about 59 degrees.

Thanks for any help you can offer.
jhem211 is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 50
That sounds like a great trip. I can't offer advice on all of it, but one day for Moab/Canyonlands/Arches is far too short. Arches is at least a whole day, especially if you like to hike. There are three parts to Canyonlands - Needles, Island in the Sky and Mazes. The first two are the most accessible. We spent a whole day just at Island in the Sky.

When you're at the Grand Canyon, stay in a Bright Angel rimside cabin if you can, but make your reservation soon as they go fast. You can't beat the views and the location.

I'm from the East Coast, too and I found the scenery in that part of the country just incredible. Have a great time!
emc is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 01:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,495
You might want to allow an extra day for Albuquerque in case what you want to do at the Balloon Fiesta is canceled due to weather. We're having a great fiesta so far, but sometimes it's too windy for the balloons to launch.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 02:02 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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What are you going to do in Grand Junction for a day?

IMOP, you need 3 or 4 days for Moab
Plus there is easily 1 or 2 days worth to see between Moab and Bryce.

I don't think you have near enough time planned for each spot.

I think you need only about 4 hours for Petrified Forest. You really only need one day for Grand Canyon, unless you are doing some serious hiking into it, or rafting it.

I have been to every single spot you mention multiple times, except the ABQ ballooning. My parents did it a couple of years ago and said they really enjoyed it.

there is actually a 4th part of Canyonlands. Horseshoe Canyon/Great Gallery---this is a detached section and the area where the hiker amputated his own leg. And another person walked out a couple of weeks ago by himself with severe injuries that should have killed him. It's an awesome place, but very isolated. The canyon both the hikers were in is called Blue John.
spirobulldog is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 02:03 PM
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BTW, don't miss Goblin Valley between Moab and Bryce. It is one of my favorite places.
spirobulldog is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 03:40 PM
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Your second day should end at Glenwood Springs. You could push on to Grand Junction but if you would spend anytime in Aspen or Leadville or anywhere else you are out of time. The alternative would be to drive into the mountains around Frisco for the first night.
fmpden is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 03:53 PM
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Thanks for the input!

The reason I put a day for Grand Junction is because I read they have a wine country. We wanted to tour the vineyards. Is anyone familiar with the CO Wine Country?

I think I can add another day for Moab, or leave Grand Junction late afternoon to get an early start in Moab. But if you had to choose between Canyonlands and Arches, which would it be?

I may take a day away from Grand Canyon as well.
jhem211 is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 04:10 PM
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On limited time Arches is a lot more accessible than Canyonlands. A relatively short drive combined with an easy hike/walk gets you to many of the iconic locations.
Nelson is online now  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 04:54 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,867
You are doing too much in too short a time period. Distances here seem way longer, the drives can be tough and you aren't leaving any wiggle room for bad weather in ABQ. As Lee Ann said, we have had many instances of cancellations of lift off due to winds and bad weather. It is too spectacular of a site to miss.

I also checked the calendar for 2012 and I don't think the fiesta will start until Oct 6th. The weekend before is Sept 29th and I don't remember it ever starting that early. I can't find the dates on their website for next year, so I am not 100% positive.
DebitNM is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 05:40 PM
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So another day in ABQ... If the fiesta starts later, it actually works out better for me because I'll be able to add up to two more days to the trip.

One more day for Moab. One less day for GC. And one more in ABQ just in case the weather doesn't cooperate. If fiesta goes according to plan, we can probably take a day trip to Santa Fe. And I'll still have a bonus day to work with.

And I'll have to take the distances into consideration because we want to see as much as possible, but we also don't want to be completely exhausted while doing so.

Thanks again to everyone for all the input.
jhem211 is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 05:51 PM
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Arches over Canyonlands. Canyonlands is huge and vast. Arches is doable in a full day. I would for sure hike to Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch.
On your way to Bryce, stop at Goblin Valley state park. Also stop at Capitol Reef National Park and have pie at Gifford house/right in the orchard picnic area.

I don't know anything about wine, so can't help you. But, I did notice they had a winefest a couple of weeks ago. So, if you are going towards the end of Sept next year it might be something to check out.

You asked about perhaps dropping a couple of spot.

I love Arches, Bryce, and Zion.
I have been to 29 National Park. I would have to rank Petrified Forest(although certainly worth a stop if you are driving by it)at #28 on my list.
The Grand Canyon is just OK with me. It is very shock and awe, with the most initial wow factor. But, I really like the Utah parks far better to spend a few days at each one.
spirobulldog is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2011, 07:38 PM
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Most of the wineries and wine areas are located around Palisade and not Grand Junction. The Colorado Mountain Wine Festival is held around the 3rd weekend in Sept. It is the oldest and biggest in Colorado. Goggle it.

This is still reminds me of a drive by. I just want to say I have been there. Photograph the road sign and keep moving.
fmpden is offline  
Old Oct 4th, 2011, 03:06 PM
Join Date: Feb 2011
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Linda here in Grand Junction. Yes this is a large wine area. Many vineyards and wineries, many with great tasting rooms and none charging for tastings, as far as I know. We take our guests on winery visits. They all like it.
The wine festival was Sept. 17 this year and is quite an event. Lots of fun. Held in Palisade park along the Colorado River. Some feel it is too expensive. This year it was $40 or $50 . Not sure as we haven't been in a couple of years. Can't think of the website, but I'm sure you can find it online. Hotels fill up early with vendors and visitors.
lindagj is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2011, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Just a couple of notes for your trip. If you are driving from Grand Junction to Moab, make sure you exit I-70 and drive south to Moab on Hwy 128. That is a beautiful drive along the Colorado River with the red cliffs and lots of formations. We visited a winery which was on that road, I don't recall the name but it was a location where John Wayne made lots of movies and they had a very interesting John Wayne museum.

I would also suggest leaving time for Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument which is 55 NE of Albuquerque. There are two hikes that were open when we were there, one 3 miles and the other 2 miles. The scenery was spectacular. We enjoyed much more than Canyonlands.
espnga is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2011, 02:39 AM
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I agree with DebitNM that you are taking on way to much in such a short time.

You said you are adding another day to Moab. That would allow you to see Canyonlands on the day you arrive and Arches for the one full day. I agree with espnga that getting off I-70 at Cisco and taking Hwy 128 into Moab will a very scenic drive.

DAYS 5-6: Bryce (departure late afternoon of day 6)

Day 5 is going to be a mostly driving day. It's 4 1/2 to 5 hours of just driving time between Moab and Bryce depending on the route you take. The most scenic route will be 191 to I-70, then Hwy 24 though Capitol Reef and the scenic hwy 12 down to Bryce. Plan on the WHOLE day for this route.

You will get a lot of input on where to spend time. Everyone has their favorites. Like spirobulldog likes Goblin State Park....it's very low on my list. While I love Capitol Reef and I would choose it over Goblin if time was limited but it's very low on spirobulldog's list. I pretty much think that everyone will agree that Hwy 12 is worth the time.

Day 6 can be spend mostly at Bryce but make sure you give yourself plenty of time before sunset (remember it's going to be fairly early this time of the year) to get to Zion so you don't miss the scenic drive though Zion.

Day 8, you are going to have to leave around 1 -2 PM to make it to the S. Rim of the Grand Canyon before dark. This is a great drive and you don't want to do it in the dark. There are great overlooks as you enter the park. Plan on at least 4 hours of driving time. Longer if you stop at places like Lake Powell or the overlooks.

Day 10: From the Grand Canyon to ABQ is 440 miles and 7 hours of driving time. You will need a really early start. I think the Petrified Forest is well worth the extra 20 or so extra miles since you will be driving in the area. I realize others don't share my love of this park.

According to the ABQ International Balloon Festival web site, the dates are Oct. 6 - Oct. 14th, 2012. Check out the dates above the count down clock: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/event-info We haven't spent time in ABQ during the balloon fiesta but I hear you need to book your lodging very early!

utahtea is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2011, 06:54 AM
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It has gotten a bit easier to find rooms lately, due to economy being less than great and fewer folks traveling here for Fiesta.
DebitNM is offline  
Old Nov 25th, 2011, 05:42 PM
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A few others have mentioned my concerns.

It's a long drive from Moab to Bryce Canyon.

Also, it doesn't have to be a National Park to be worthy of a stop.

Capitol Reef isn't one of my favorite places.

I think Goblin Valley and Devil's Garden (Escalante, not Arches) are worthy of 1-3 hours each.

Nowehere in you trip do you have a slot canyon. There are a few.

I've been to Willis Creek that located just south of Cannonville just befor Bryce Canyon. Others may suggest one or two more.

The drive from Cannonville (ask for directions in the visitors center in Cannonville) to Willis Creek is an "adventure" but the hike thru 4-5 slots is very, very easy and extremely scenic.

For Bryce Canyon itself 1 day is definitely enough. Sleep inpark, get up very early to see sunrise at Bryce Point. After grabbing a bite for breakfast you can hike down Navajo Loop and then back up Queen's Garden.

After that stop at a couple of viewpoints (Natural Bridge is really the only one that's different).

Remember that Bryce canyon is in elevation. Over 8,000 feet. Take it easy, stop often and drink water.
Myer is offline  
Old Nov 25th, 2011, 06:03 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 140
Had you ever considered going to Monument Valley,Utah? (near the AZ border) It is high on the list of spectacular scenics,and if you drive there from the north (Capitol Reef) you could drive the hairpin-turn thrilling road known as "The Moki Dugway".It is truly awesome. (Just what you need...another suggestion!)
donnawho is offline  
Old Dec 8th, 2011, 11:44 AM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 73
Your plan is very ambitious, almost too ambitious as others have pointed out. Unfortunately I'm going to throw another wrench in the works: one destination that merits consideration for adding to your itinerary is Page/Lake Powell. The scenery is amazing (thing Grand Canyon with water in it) and there are lots of fun things to do there: smooth water rafting trips through Glen Canyon, boat tours, slot canyon 4x4 tours, easy but scenic hiking, just to name a few. You could definitely spend 2 days there at least and not run out of things to do. Check out video ->: http://youtu.be/sgA2TWxGir0

If you manage to work Page/Lake Powell into your itinerary - well, even if you don't - you could get by with just one night at the Grand Canyon (provided you're going to the South Rim). Reason: a large portion of your Grand Canyon sightseeing will actually occur on the drive from Zion, Bryce and/or Lake Powell to the South Rim. By necessity, you'll travel down Highway 89 South to Cameron AZ; be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post for some window shopping or a Navajo Taco. Then you'll get on Highway 64 traveling West to Grand Canyon Village aka the East Rim/Desert View Drive. There are over half a dozen named viewpoints you can stop at on this route. They're all different, they're all stunning, so take the opportunity to see as many as you can. Don't forget to stop at the Desert View Watchtower right after you enter the park.

Whatever you decide, be sure you pick up an America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. For just $80 this card grants you access to all the National Parks and Monuments in the US for 1 year's time. It would not apply to Monument Valley or Antelope Canyon as they are Navajo Indian Tribal Parks, but it would still pay for itself on the trip you'll probably end up taking. You can pre-order it online at http://store.usgs.gov or just buy it at the first National Park Service Entrance you encounter on your tour. (International visitors who happen to be reading this should just buy the pass stateside as international postage is quite expensive from what I've heard)

Good luck!
K_Bot is offline  
Old Dec 8th, 2011, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,474
Have you researched the drop off fee to rent in Denver and return the rental elsewhere?
When DW and I visited Arches etc. we rented the car in SLC.
You said "pit stop" in Aspen. Aspen is 42 miles SE of Glenwood Springs (I-70). If I were going to Aspen, I'd go when there was snow.
It's hard to say where you will get the best car rental but look at SLC and returning to SLC after Albuquerque. Or, fly to ABQ and do a very big loop returning to ABQ in time for the balloons. Make sure that each of you can drive the rental car to avoid getting one driver fatigued.
I wouldn't go any father east into Colorado than Grand Junction on this trip. Save Denver, RMNP, Aspen, Mesa Verde and Colorado Springs for a future trip.
There are several slot canyons in Arches. Walk through the slot canyon to get out to Landscape Arch. Make sure to take the time to hike out to Delicate Arch.
tomfuller is offline  

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