Southwestern USA Trip- feedback requested

Old May 8th, 2013, 01:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 8
Southwestern USA Trip- feedback requested

Hello fellow travelers,

I am planning a 9 day trip with my boyfriend across the Southwest (specifically Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico) in early October. We plan to fly into Phoenix and fly out of Albuquerque, driving a rental car to all the stops in between. Here's my tentative itinerary- can anyone give me feedback on whether this is doable in the time I've allotted, and whether the selected destinations are the best (and most efficient) use of our limited time? Any and all suggestions are appreciated- we have never been to this region of the country before.

Day 1:
AUS -> PHX (arrive 10am)
•pick up rental car (10:30-11am)
•drive to Flagstaff (11am-1pm))
•lunch, check into hotel (1pm-2pm)
•drive to Petrified Forest National Park (2pm-3:30pm)
•Enjoy Petrified Forest/Painted Desert (4pm-6pm), drive back to Flagstaff (6pm-8pm)
•Dinner, overnight in Flagstaff

DAY 2:
•Check out of hotel (4:30am)
•Sunrise balloon ride over Sedona Desert- breakfast included (5-10am)
•Lunch (11-12)
•Drive to Grand Canyon (12-1:30pm)
•Spend afternoon at Grand Canyon’s South Rim (2pm-7pm)
•Stargazing? any programs for this?
•Dinner, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim (lodging suggestions?)

DAY 3:
•Breakfast at South Rim
•Spend the day at the Grand Canyon South Rim
•Mule ride, hiking trails, scenic drive?
•Lunch, dinner, overnight at South Rim

DAY 4:
•Breakfast, check out of hotel (7-9am)
•Drive to Monument Valley (9am-1pm)
•Lunch at Monument Valley (1-2pm)
•Afternoon in Monument Valley (2-5pm)
•Dinner, check into nearby hotel (where?)

DAY 5:
•Breakfast, check out of hotel (9-10am)
•Drive to Four Corners Monument (10-12pm)
•Lunch at Four Corners (12-2pm)
•Drive to Cortez, CO, check into hotel (2-3pm)
•Afternoon, evening, dinner in Cortez

DAY 6:
•Breakfast, check out of hotel (7-8am)
•Drive to Mesa Verde National Park (8-9am)
•Day at Mesa Verde, lunch at Mesa Verde (9-6pm)
•Drive to Durango, CO (6-7:30pm)
•Check into hotel, dinner, overnight in Durango

DAY 7:
•Breakfast, check out of hotel (8-9am)
•Morning in Durango? (9am-11am)
•Drive to Pagosa Springs, CO (11am-12:30pm)
•Lunch in Pagosa Springs (12:30-2pm)
•Drive to Santa Fe, NM (2-5pm)
•Check into hotel, dinner, overnight in Santa Fe

DAY 8:
•All day in Santa Fe (spa, cultural activities, etc)
•Overnight in Santa Fe

DAY 9:
•Breakfast, check out of hotel (10-11am)
•Drive to Albuquerque, NM (11-12pm)
•Lunch in Albuquerque (12-1)
•Drive to airport, drop off car (1-2pm)

tiffanyjs1 is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 02:01 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
Day 1. You will probably be fine with 3 hours in Petrified Forest/Painted Desert(the painted Desert isn't that big of a deal, IMOP--Petrified Forest is worth doing)provided your airplane, etc is all on time.

Day 2. There is likely to be some sort of Stargazing Program.
I would vote for staying at Bright Angel and meal at El Tovar. Bright Angel Dining Room is good too though.

Day 3. Make your Mule Ride reservations ASAP!

Day 4
To me, if you are going to do Monument Valley, you need to do an Indian Guided Tour. I know some people don't think that's so, but your going to miss a ton of it if you just drive the main rd/loop rd. The experience depends on the quality of the guide. Stay at The View(expensive). You could stay at Valley of the Gods B&B(just north of Monument Valley-I'ts a mini Monument Valley)

Day 5. Check out Moki Dugway, Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park on your way to The Four Corners. I was glad to see the Four Corners, but there is really very little there. I don't remember a thing to eat there. I would take something in a cooler. I would go all the way and spend the night @ Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde

Day 6. A full day in Mesa Verde. Really you could use two days here, IMOP Overnight again at Far View Lodge located directly in the park.

Day 7. My favorite thing to do in Durango is its a combo train/zipline. Easily the best zipling in the US, IMOP. You just ride the train halfway, so you don't get bored. It is expensive, but is worth it. It includes meal, train ride, zipline, all tips.

You will want to make sure about car drop fees. You might be a lot better off to return the car to Phoenix.

Buy a National Park Pass to save some $$$
spirobulldog is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 02:27 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,905
I agree with most of what Sprio said.

For GC, I've stayed at Yavapai, Thunderbird, Bright Angel cabin and elTovar and elTovar was the nicest and not much more than the others for the room we got. Yavapai was farthest from the rim the others are right near it. Some of the rooms in Bright Angel share bathrooms, so if that bothers you (it would me) look elsewhere, our cabin had its own bathroom.

Do skip Cortez and spend night 5 in Mesa Verde at Far View Lodge, it is basic, but only an hour from Cortez and saves you the ride in. The Metate room has better food than most NPs.

Keep a cooler with snacks and drinks in the car and fill the gas tank when it gets down to a half as some of the places are far from open stations.
emalloy is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 03:14 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,867
There is no place at Four Corners to eat. 5 minutes is all you need at Four Corners.

I agree that you should spend the night at Far View instead of in Cortez.

What did you want/expect to do in Durango for 2 hours? I would stay 2 nights in Mesa Verde and see all that you can there.

How are you planning to drive to Santa Fe? I think your time estimate is low. There isn't much to see in Pagosa Springs.

I would leave Santa Fe as early as you can and stop off at Tent Rocks on the way into ABQ.
DebitNM is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 03:36 PM
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 11,375
On your way to the Petrified Forest - stop at the Crater (30 minutes from Flagstaff) - an amazing site - and watch the IMAX? movie and tour the small museum.

BTW - rather than stay in Flagstaff - why not nearby - much more scenic Sedona - about an hour south?

4 corners is worth about five minutes. On the way to Monument Valley - is the Navajo National Monument (10 miles up a side road - 20 miles west of Kayenta) - and it has a nice, friendly visitor center and easy access to look across the valley at Cliff Dwellings.
Tomsd is offline  
Old May 9th, 2013, 01:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 8
Thanks for everyone's help! These are GREAT suggestions. I've incorporated them into my new itinerary here:

Map link:

pick up rental car (10:30-11am)
Scenic drive to Sedona, AZ with lunch and stops at Montezuma Castle National Monument and Tuzigoot National Monument (11am-4pm)
Check into hotel (4pm)
Explore Red Rock State Park- optional (4-6pm)
Drive back to Sedona (6-6:30pm)
Dinner, overnight in Sedona

DAY 2:
Check out of hotel (4:30am)
Sunrise balloon ride over Sedona Desert- breakfast included (5-10am)
Lunch (11-12)
Drive to Grand Canyon, check into El Tovar/Bright Angel Lodge(12-1:30pm)
Spend afternoon at Grand Canyon’s South Rim (2pm-7pm)
Dinner, overnight at Grand Canyon South Rim

DAY 3:
All day at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Mule ride, hiking trails, scenic drive, stargazing?
Overnight at South Rim

DAY 4:
Breakfast, check out of hotel (7-9am)
Drive to Monument Valley (9am-1pm)
Lunch at Monument Valley (1-2pm)
Afternoon in Monument Valley, Indian Guided Tour (2-6pm)
Dinner, check into nearby hotel (Best Western Wetherill Inn? Holiday Inn Kayenta? The View Hotel?)

DAY 5:
Breakfast, check out of hotel (9-10am)
Drive to/explore Goosenecks State Park (10am-12pm)
Lunch somewhere on the road (12-1pm)
Drive to Natural Bridges National Monument (1-2:30pm)
Explore Natural Bridges (2:30-4pm)
Drive to Mesa Verde National Park, check into Far View Lodge (4pm-7pm)
Evening, dinner, overnight at Mesa Verde

DAY 6:
Full day at Mesa Verde, overnight at Mesa Verde

DAY 7:
Breakfast, check out of hotel (8-9am)
Drive to Pagosa Springs, CO for lunch (9am-12pm)
Stop at Georgia O’Keefe home & studio tour, 2pm tour (12pm-4pm)
Drive to Santa Fe, NM (4-5pm)
Check into hotel, dinner, overnight in Santa Fe (La Posada Inn and Spa?)

DAY 8:
All day in Santa Fe (spa, museums, etc)
Overnight in Santa Fe

DAY 9:
Breakfast, check out of hotel (10-11am)
Drive to Albuquerque, NM (11-12pm)
Lunch in Albuquerque (12-1)
Drive to airport, drop off car (1-2pm)
tiffanyjs1 is offline  
Old May 9th, 2013, 01:53 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 8
I forgot to ask, will renting an all terrain or 4wd vehicle be necessary for this route, or will a standard mid size sedan suffice?
tiffanyjs1 is offline  
Old May 9th, 2013, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,020
Book your GC lodging ASAP, and don't rule out Kachina and Thunderbird Lodge. They are also right at the rim.

On the way into Sedona, do stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is a special place, even if you are not at all religious. In Sedona, the first evening, go to Red Rock Crossing to watch sunset over Cathedral Rock. For dinner, try either the Cowboy Club Silver Saddle Room or, for Italian, Dahl & DiLuca.

At the GC, dinner for sure at El Tovar. Aslo, either during your full day their or on the way out, stop at viewpoints along the east rim drive. Definitely include Desert View, the last viewpoint before exiting the park. If you have had an early breakfast, stop for lunch at the Cameron Trading Post and have a Navajo Taco (and maybe browse a bit). Or, check out early and have a late breakfast there.

One comment -- your trip seems too regimented. A lot of the times you have listed do not allow for much leeway to stop and explore a bit.
MikePinTucson is offline  
Old May 9th, 2013, 02:09 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,020
Forgot -- a standard, mid-size sedan will do just fine.
MikePinTucson is offline  
Old May 9th, 2013, 02:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,441
RE checkin at the Grand Canyon lodges, you won't get a room key until after 4 pm. But you can get a parking pass and drop your luggage at the bell desk.

For a couple or single, I like the Bright Angel cabins (they are the ones with a private bath). Rooms now come with a mini refrigerator and coffee pot. I don't prefer the partial view cabins, too many people walking by. But it's really nice to be that close to the rim.

The food at Cameron is not very good. I'd stop in for a quick look at the gallery (not the tourist tat main part of the trading post) and keep moving.

If you can afford Goulding's it's the original lodge for Monument Valley. I would not stay in Kayenta if there is availability elsewhere. Not a very attractive town.
mlgb is offline  
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