June trip from White Sands, NM to Seattle, WA

Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 07:10 PM
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June trip from White Sands, NM to Seattle, WA

We are planning a driving trip the month of June (entire month) traveling through NM, CO (Mesa Verde only), UT, ID, OR, & WA. We are flying into El Paso & going straight to White Sands National Park. From there heading toward Carslbad/ Roswell/ Santa Fe/ Taos to 4 Corners area/ Mesa Verde. We are most interested in hiking in the national/ state parks & monuments, historic sites, and cool cities. We prefer to stay 2-3 nights (or more) in a location and use it as our home base so we are not constantly packing/ unpacking. Would love some recommendations for routes, must see sites, etc. Thanks!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 07:15 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's!

How many nights overall do you have?
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's! How many people are the "we"? Ages, interests? Would you consider my style of travel which is flying or taking the train to a destination and making a loop with a rental car? When I return the rental car I go onward either by Amtrak or flying to the next destination and then making another loop with a rental car.
Later this week I'm taking trains and buses from Oregon to Tucson and renting a car. I'll be returning the car next Tuesday and taking the trains back home.
Have you checked on what the drop fee is renting in El Paso and dropping in Seattle?
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by toedte View Post
We are planning a driving trip the month of June (entire month) traveling through NM, CO (Mesa Verde only), UT, ID, OR, & WA. We are flying into El Paso & going straight to White Sands National Park. From there heading toward Carslbad/ Roswell/ Santa Fe/ Taos to 4 Corners area/ Mesa Verde. We are most interested in hiking in the national/ state parks & monuments, historic sites, and cool cities. We prefer to stay 2-3 nights (or more) in a location and use it as our home base so we are not constantly packing/ unpacking. Would love some recommendations for routes, must see sites, etc. Thanks!
So, Santa Fe and Taos would take you out of the most direct route, which goes through Gallup. But if you have the time, after leaving Taos you could take the route up through Chama (Cumbres & Toltec Railroad would be a nice one-day activity - https://cumbrestoltec.com/) and then up into Pagosa Springs, on through Durango, on to Mesa Verde. Or, from Taos on up 285 and drive over the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass, continuing on to Pagosa Springs/Durango etc.

Then set aside time to stay in Moab, where you have Arches and Canyonlands national parks plus Dead Horse Point and a host of other sights.

If you can share a bit of detail about your interests, schedule, etc., that would help us make some more focused recommendations.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 09:23 AM
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Sorry, I see you already said you have a month (June). Do you have children traveling with you?
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 09:55 AM
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No, just my husband and me -- active 60ish year olds.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 09:58 AM
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We want to explore. My husband's key interest is 4 Corners, followed by White Sands. I have never been to the upper west, so am wanting to explore Oregon, Washington, and the western part of Idaho. Love hiking, being on the water, wine, arts, good food (pescatarian). Thanks for any and all advice...
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:00 AM
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2 of us -- active 60ish. We'll be flying in from Tennessee so not looking at flying when we're there, although not opposed to trains. But for us the journey is the thing, not the end destination -- we want to explore, to see the country, to feel the culture of the area.

And we know there are drop fees, but that's minor compared to the total cost of a one month trip...
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:20 AM
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That's an awful lot of ground to cover. Even with one month's time. I mean you could easily spend that in Oregon and Washington alone suze... in Seattle
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 12:12 PM
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Since you are interested in history, you could plan to pick up the Oregon Trail once it/you are in Idaho. That's something we'd find interesting, at any rate. Check out the NPS site: https://www.nps.gov/oreg/index.htm

I'm assuming you have National Park passes? If not, make sure you get one (one will work for the two of you), since you have plenty of exposure to national parks on this trip.

There are many, many threads dealing with Oregon and Washington. Do a search for those areas for "GardyLoo" - from whom you will get some excellent suggestions as well.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 12:49 PM
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By. The four corners area, do you mean the parks like Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, etc?

If, so there are lots of threads here that have information about lodgi g,pace, trails, etc that might be helpful with planning.

That said, l will give my input. Some parks it is worth spending the money and staying inside the park. Mesa Verde is one, since it takes a while to get up on the Mesa and driving down that steep,curvy road after dark would give me the shakes. Grand Canyon is another, because it is much nicer before and after the day trippers leave and there are elk,mule deer, etc.all over that think the road is nice to walk in. If the sites on line say they are full, take the phone numbers and call frequently as they get cancellations from those folks who made a res a year ago and now cannot make the trip.

have a fantastic trip!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 03:08 PM
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Do you have a great deal flying to El Paso or would Albuquerque work just as well for seeing New Mexico? The Southwest Chief is in ABQ every afternoon. The Sunset Limited only runs 3 days a week through ELP.
If you want to see a National Park in Texas visit Big Bend.
I would spend 12 days or so in the Southwest and then either fly or take trains to Seattle (or Portland). Any nights that you spend sleeping on a train are nights you are not paying for a motel room.
The "End of the Oregon Trail" museum is in Oregon City Oregon not far outside Portland.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by tomfuller View Post
Do you have a great deal flying to El Paso or would Albuquerque work just as well for seeing New Mexico? The Southwest Chief is in ABQ every afternoon. The Sunset Limited only runs 3 days a week through ELP.
If you want to see a National Park in Texas visit Big Bend.
I would spend 12 days or so in the Southwest and then either fly or take trains to Seattle (or Portland). Any nights that you spend sleeping on a train are nights you are not paying for a motel room.
The "End of the Oregon Trail" museum is in Oregon City Oregon not far outside Portland.
I have to disagree with this advice. Rent a car, pay the drop fee.

I wouldn't obsess about staying true to the Oregon Trail theme. The Baker City Interpretive Center is probably a better choice if you are going that way and want to learn about the trail. There are also several places you can see actual wagon ruts, including a spot right off I-84.

We need to know what you want to see in the Northwest, particularly if you want to go to Idaho as well. You are dealing with multiple mountain ranges-- Rockies, the Blue, the Wallowas, the Bitterroot (I think) and the Cascades. Plus the rivers and canyons. If you belong to AAA, pick up some maps and lay them out on your table.

Finally, while National Parks are special places, there are many places in the Northwest that are great, even stellar, but did not get made into National Parks. The San Juans, the Wallowas, and Mt Hood and Mt St Helens are examples you might consider. For me, the one "must" in Oregon would be seeing the Columbia Gorge, from Troutdale to The Dalles. Incidentally, the Gorge is designated a National Scenic Area.

I would recommend picking up a couple of guide books and letting us know your priorities.

You can also Google Map your route. This can help you see the mileages. The times suggested may be more hopeful than reality.



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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:02 AM
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Thanks all for the advice. I know I'm biting off a lot with this trip, and it may get pared down. Currently trying to put together a potential itinerary considering mileage/ time since we don't want to spend all the time in the car. Will update with our plan and see what you (those who know the area well and have already offered some great advice) think so we can tweak it.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:25 AM
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Well, heck, I'll start off with an imaginary route. Google the places shown on this map - https://binged.it/380NLLf

This swings west into Arizona in order to pick up Canyon de Chelly, then zooms across Utah and up to the surprise of Bruneau Canyon not far from Boise. It then includes Joseph and the Wallowas, which ought to still be in their green phase, then across central Oregon to the John Day Fossil Beds' painted hills area. It includes remarkable Smith Rock State Park, then up to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood, where there will be summer skiing on the permanent ice fields. You'd then travel north through the gorgeous Hood Rive Valley to the Columbia River at Hood River, then west past all the waterfalls and vista points of the Columbia River Gorge to Portland, then out to the coast. You'd finish by looping the Olympic Peninsula with stops at some Olympic National Park beaches, the Hoh rain forest (amazing in June) and Hurricane Ridge, then into Seattle via Bainbridge Island.

With a month you'd have plenty of time to spend a couple of days here and there; some places like Joseph, Oregon, the Columbia Gorge, the northern Oregon coast and Cape Disappointment, and the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula merit the extra time.

It's just a first draft, of course, but might help get the ball rolling.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:34 AM
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Wow! Thank you Gardyloo -- this is awesome and sooooo helpful!!
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by suze View Post
That's an awful lot of ground to cover. Even with one month's time. I mean you could easily spend that in Oregon and Washington alone suze... in Seattle
Ha ha... Sometimes I think that Fodorites will say "X is not enough time" even if X=1 year, 10 years, a millennium.

(no offense to you specifically, Suze; it's just such a common refrain in these forums)

This road trip is totally doable in a month.

Last edited by RaymondLuxuryYacht; Feb 5th, 2020 at 12:28 PM.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 12:21 PM
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Four Corners, if you mean the literal four corners, is a bit underwhelming. Not saying you shouldn't do it—there's something a bit magical about standing on the spot where four states meet, and we did it too—but the spot itself is surrounded by a bunch of stalls of mostly kitschy Native American goods and not a lot else. And the admission price is a bit steep (I can't recall how much, but the internets will tell you). You won't need more than an hour for this, I'd say.

It's not terribly far out of your way from there to drive through Monument Valley, if you've never done that. And this would then set you on a northward route to Moab, a recommendation from sludick that I totally agree with. Could be a good overnight stop, followed by a visit to Arches the next morning. The trail to the iconic Delicate Arch is pretty easy, and the rest of the park is equally stunning.

If you really want to meander, or if you decide to skip Four Corners, consider the "Million Dollar Highway," Hwy. 550 north from Durango through Silverton, Ouray, etc. (so named because locals say "you'd have to pay me a million dollars to drive it during the winter"). We moved to Colorado six years ago and still haven't been, but it's allegedly one of the most scenic drives in the state). From there you could still work your way over to Moab/Arches, though it'd be more roundabout (but hey, you're road trippin', which is all about meandering on back roads).

Back in New Mexico, glad to hear Carlsbad is on your plan, because that place definitely lives up to the hype. Same with White Sands, your first stop. Roswell isn't much to see, though there's the extraterrestrial museum that could be fun (was closed when I went through).

You might be interested in some additional thoughts from the blog of my "southwestern sojourn," though note that it was almost 20 years ago....
Travels to Distant [Strick]Lands - Michael Strickland

That's all I've got time for right now, hope this helps!
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by RaymondLuxuryYacht View Post
If you really want to meander, or if you decide to skip Four Corners, consider the "Million Dollar Highway," Hwy. 550 north from Durango through Silverton, Ouray, etc. (so named because locals say "you'd have to pay me a million dollars to drive it during the winter"). We moved to Colorado six years ago and still haven't been, but it's allegedly one of the most scenic drives in the state). From there you could still work your way over to Moab/Arches, though it'd be more roundabout (but hey, you're road trippin', which is all about meandering on back roads).
We've driven that in September. It was so beautiful with the "quakies" (quaking aspens) all orangey-golden and trembling in the fall breeze. Of course you would want to stop in Silverton, Ouray, etc., so make sure you plan on that extra time. One thing I would note, however, is that there are hairpin curves and steep drop-offs with no guardrails in places that some people find unnerving on a road. It's a fun drive and the views are spectacular, and I recommend it if you can. We did this drive on a day trip from Durango, so you could stay there for a couple of days and still include Four Corners in your plans that way.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:40 PM
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A few places in southern and central Idaho that might be of interest are City of Rocks https://www.nps.gov/ciro/index.htm Craters of the Moon https://www.nps.gov/crmo/index.htm and the Sawtooth mountains anywhere between Ketchum and Stanley. We like staying on Redfish Lake https://redfishlake.com/ Ketchum is a nice small town too.
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