Planning a drive through 4 corners

Jun 14th, 2003, 02:05 PM
  #1  
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Planning a drive through 4 corners

I have read much valuable information on the website. We are planning a trip from Albuquerque and want to see Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly , Mesa Verde and go rafting in the Denver area before heading back to the Midwest. What route makes the most sense? What is "don't miss" in between the primary destinations? How much drive time will each segment take? Any help appreciated.
hopalong is offline  
Jun 15th, 2003, 12:23 PM
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IMO,the most scenic route to Denver is north from Durango on 550 to Montrose and east to Canon City (good place for rafting) then up to Denver.

You will be going up the Million Dollar Hwy through Ouray and Silverton (VERY scenic); by Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P. (which you can see in an hour or so); and, by the Royal Gorge (which you can also see in a short time).

Connie is offline  
Jun 15th, 2003, 12:57 PM
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There are a lot of don't miss sights in this area. It depends on your timeline. The space between these sights can be vast and shouldn't be rushed. Monument Valley is spectalar - but is off the beaten path.
Dutch is offline  
Jun 15th, 2003, 05:30 PM
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I would check out the Sand Dunes in Southern Colorado. They are amazing and well worth the stop. I think it is called Sand Dunes National Park..That is a great trip!
jroberts71 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2003, 06:51 AM
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I really enjoyed Mesa Verde; need to allow some time for that visit...at least a half day. The train ride from Durango to Silverton is fun & scenic, but long, especially (it seems) the ride back. If it would be possible to take the train there and get alternate transportation back, that would be my vote. Otherwise (and maybe anyway) the experience will take an entire day.
philsbert1 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2003, 11:56 AM
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Are you driving from the midwest, or flying into Albuquerque? If you're flying in and out of ABQ, then Denver's the odd man out, not Monument Valley. How long do you have and when are you traveling?
travellyn is offline  
Jun 17th, 2003, 06:26 AM
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We are driving from Wisconsin with a couple of stops until we arrive in the Santa Fe/Albuqueque area. From there we have seven days to explore Four Corners and plan to end up in Denver before heading back to Wisconsin through Omaha to see family...extended road trip with an Explorer. Any information on driving distances between Canyon De Chelly, Monument Valley and Mesa Verde appreciated. AAA mapped us on highways. Is that the way to go, or can we take the "shortcuts" I see on the map with the SUV? We are taking camping gear so can camp or stay in motels along the way. First time out that way. Thanks for any more advice. Advice so far is helpful.
hopalong is offline  
Jun 17th, 2003, 07:43 AM
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We did some of your route in April of this year. My trip report is on my website: www.mikehoneycutt.com

I'll share the concerns others have posted about the distances involved. Some people like to have vacations planned down to the minute, but I prefer to leave time for unplanned adventures, talking to the locals, and in the case of our most recent trip, waiting for a very large flock of sheep to cross the road.

We gave Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde a day and a half each and in both cases, we could have spent at least another day.

In general, we found the roads to be great, with most people driving about 10 mph above the speed limit (your mileage and speeding tickets may vary

We flew in to Albuquerque, got goughed (I mean rented - watch those taxes and fees) a SUV since part of our trip was to visit Chaco Canyon. I'm sure there are plenty of places a SUV is needed, but no where on our route was an SUV remotely required. If you suggest a route, people are generally very helpful on telling you the road conditions.

BTW, if you actually plan to visit the actually Four Corners, don't go out of your way - we thought it was much to do about nothing.

Hope this helps.

Mike Honeycutt
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Jun 17th, 2003, 01:47 PM
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I just got back 2 days ago from a similar trip: Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon, Moab, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. We drove a lot but we saw what we wanted to and our longest drive was about 5.5 hours from Bryce to Moab on Scenic Highway 12, which was well worth the extra driving effort. Moab to Mesa Verde was about 2.5 hours, Mesa Verde to Chinle, AZ (for Canyon de Chelly), including a quick stop at 4 Corners for pictures, was about 3 hours. Chinle to Monument Valley was maybe 2 or 2.5 hours. The stop at 4 Corners will cost you $3/person.

You should spend at least a day at Mesa Verde. This was the only place I wish we had planned more time as we had allotted only a few hours. The park is huge and if you want to see both major sections you'll need at least a full day. We stayed within the park at the Far View Lodge so we were able to get to the visitor's center early enough to get the times we wanted for the Cliff House and Balcony House tours. I recommend both tours. Balcony House can be a little scary with the ladders and toeholds you have to climb, but well worth it in my opinion. Of course, the ranger that led our group was excellent and that obviously added to the enjoyment. I believe his name was Don Lindsey.

We also thoroughly enjoyed Canyon de Chelly and there were almost no tourists there in the middle of June. It's too bad more people don't visit this apparently hidden gem.

Since you asked, these are the roads we took to the areas you mentioned: From Moab, UT we took Hwy 191 S to Hwy 666 E to Hwy 160 E to Mesa Verde. From Mesa Verde to Chinle, AZ we took Hwy 160 W to Hwy 191 S. Then from Chinle to Monument Valley we took Hwy 191 N to Hwy 163 S.

Just a small warning: from Chinle to Monument Valley Hwy 191 N intersects for a couple of miles with Hwy 160 E and then you take a left turn to continue on 191. That 5-mile stretch of highway to the Utah border has a 55 mph speed limit, unlike the rest of Hwy 191 where the speed limit is 65 unless you go through a town. How do I know? We were stopped by a state trooper while traveling at 67 mph. Luckily, we got off with a warning but not one of the 4 people in the car noted a speed limit sign of 55 when we made the turn to continue on Hwy 191 N. I suspect it's a speed trap since there is no discernible reason for the speed limit to be 55 in that section when it is 65 the rest of the highway.

Feel free to contact me directly ([email protected]) if you have questions, since, as I said, I'm just back and everything is still fresh in my mind.
sharona is offline  
Jun 17th, 2003, 01:52 PM
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In regard to your question about route, it's most efficient to leave ABQ on I-40, then head up to Canyon de Chelly at about Gallup (no map in front of me). It takes about 2 hours on the interstate to drive from ABQ to Gallup. Monument Valley would be your next stop after Canyon de Chelly. You might want to take a short (30-40 minute) detour to Goosenecks of the San Juan, just north of Monument Valley.

I'd recommend a stop at Hovenweep NM, as well. You can get there by staying on the same highway that goes north from Monument Valley, then curves around to the east. I think you then turn north at Montezuma Creek toward Hovenweep. The drive from Monument Valley takes around 2 hours if you don't stop. You'll be driving up McElmo Canyon, famous for remoteness and great Anasazi ruins. At Hovenweep, the Ruins Trail takes you by about 20 separate small ruins in about 1-2 miles. It's an easy trail in terms of fitness level required, but rough and rocky in places as you cross a small drainage. Even 2-3 hours is long enough to get a feel for Hovenweep.

From Hovenweep, you can continue up McElmo Canyon on G Road, to just south of Cortez. I think that Hovenweep might be about 1 1/2 hours from the Mesa Verde entrance station. If you have time, there is also a place called Sand Canyon just off G Road. I've never stopped there, but people tell me it's fascinating - good ruins and a popular mountain biking spot.

From Mesa Verde, you can stop by Durango (less than one hour drive from entrance station), then drive north up the Million Dollar Highway (550) to Ouray (takes 2 hours). You can visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, then up to near Salida and Buena Vista for rafting, if the Arkansas River is still running. That would bring you to within about 3 hours of Denver.

A beautiful detour between Mesa Verde and Durango would be a drive up La Plata Canyon to an alpine saddle lush with wildflowers in summer, at about 11,000 feet. It's about a 3 hour round trip, and requires 4WD for the last 1-2 miles. We always hang out for a few hours enjoying the view and taking easy hikes from there. There's a nice restaurant called Kennebec Cafe where the La Plata Canyon road meets 160.
travellyn is offline  
Jun 17th, 2003, 02:20 PM
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I forgot to add that we liked our coffee stop at the Kayenta Burger King to see the Navajo Code Talkers display. It was very interesting and meaningful.
travellyn is offline  
Jun 19th, 2003, 04:54 PM
  #12  
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Thanks to all who responded with such helpful information. We leave tomorrow, and have a basic route planned with lots of ideas!
hopalong is offline  
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