SW Road Trip AZ, UT, CO

Mar 24th, 2009, 07:46 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 3
SW Road Trip AZ, UT, CO

Last September my husband and I took our first road trip to the southwest and fell in love with the area. We flew into LV where we rented a car, spent 2 nights at El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, went on through Canyonlands (1 night) then to Moab for 2 nights to see Arches Nat'l Park, next stop for 2 nights was Bryce (stayed in the park) and 2 nights in Zion before heading back to LV. There were a few stops we couldn't squeeze in to our limited time so decided we'd go again this year. I'm having trouble putting together an itinerary. We have 10 days and I'd like to see Canyon de Chelley and/or Mesa Verde as well as the Sedona area. Photographs I've seen of Antelope Canyon also look spectacular. We would fly in from Seattle to a good starting area (Phoenix??) and rent a car. Any suggetions out there on a good driving loop to hit the highlights we missed last year? We are middle age, empty nesters that like to hike and are in pretty good physical condition...(if that helps).
karlabeezin is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 04:22 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
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Do go to Canyon de Chelley, it is fantastic. I would encourage you to get your own guide. We drove around the top and stayed at Thunderbird Lodge which is just an ok motel at the entrance to the canyon. In the am we went to the visitor's center and hired a guide from there. It was $15/hour at that time and well worth every penny. We had a 4 wheel drive so she drove and spent the day with us. We had a cooler with lunch and drinks that we bought in Chinle the night before. They do run "shake and bake" tours into there in open trucks but if you can arrange to go with a guide you get to go places and hear about history from a very personal point of view. You could fly into Phoenix and then up to Sedona with a stop at Montezuma's Castle/Well and then up to Flagstaff, east on 40 with a stop at Walnut Canyon and at Petrified Forest/Painted Desert then up to Canyon de Chelley and back over to Page (Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend and a half day raft trip from glen canyon dam to Lees ferry). then a stop at Grand Canyon and back to Phoenix We flew into Albuquerque and went to Window Rock (Navajo Tribal Headquarters small park with memorial to code talkers and of course window rock). You would have lots of options from there. You could go up 191 to 160 to Mesa Verde then over to Durango (I hear the railroad ride to Silverton is great but haven't taken it) down 550 for Aztec ruin then to Chaco Canyon. Then east to Bandelier NP. Bandelier has very different habitations carved into rock which is really hardened volcanic ash. There is a mainly undeveloped area called Tsankwai which is part of the park but 5 miles down the road that should not be missed. From there you could go to Santa Fe and then back to Albuquerque. Both loops have plenty to offer and both involve a bit of driving but we find that just driving and seeing such different vegitation and topography is really interesting. We don't camp so we've found out where we can find places to stay on both loops.
emalloy is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 06:24 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Do you really need to do a loop? How about flying into Phoenix and out from Albuquerque? Maybe consider Salt Lake City as either fly into or out of. You will probably have a "drop off charge" on a rental car but you will have more freedom on where you can go without spending a lot of time backtracking.

Leaving from Phoenix you can go through Sedona and take 89A to Flagstaff, east on I-40 to drive through Petrified Forest, then up 191 to Chinle for the tour of Canyon de Chelly. From there it is not far to Mesa Verde and Durango, then off toward Albuquerque with a stop at Chaco Canyon.
rm_mn is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 04:35 PM
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Thanks for the great suggestions. I like the idea of flying into one city and out another rather than a loop. How does this route sound:

Fly into Albuquerque - rent a car and stay the night (should we stay an extra day and visit Santa Fe?)
Drive north stopping at Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruin to Durango. Stay one or two nights and take the train ride to Silverton.
Drive to Mesa Verde for one night (not sure where to stay). Then to Canyon de Chelley (stay in Chinle one night).
From there to Page for the night and see Antelope Canyon and maybe Colorado float trip.
Drive to Sedona for 3 days where we can see the surrounding area such as Montezuma's Castle/Well, Pink Jeep ride??
Then to Phoenix for the flight back home.

I really don't know how much time to allow for each destination or of good places to stay. I'd appreciation any suggestions. We stayed at a couple of B&B's last year and enjoyed it. A mix between hotels (we like to stay in nice places but don't need luxury) and B&B's would be nice.
karlabeezin is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 03:28 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
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If you drive to Chaco early in the morning from Albuquerque, you will have time to drive in to it from Nageezi - five miles of pavement and about 15 miles of gravel then some pavement- so check conditions if there has been rain the gravel road won't be passable. You can camp there but the nearest motel we've found is a half hour north of Nageezi in Bloomfield. It will take at least 40 minutes in and out and you will need time there to explore. It is very interesting and you could spend lots of time there if you wanted to.You can go right by Aztec on the way to Durango and spend a couple of hours there but you would have to fly if you drove from Albuquerque and tried to do anything in Chaco and Aztec and then get up to Durango in one day. If you get into Albuquerque early enough, head towards Chaco and stay as far north as possible I know there are places in Bernalillo but am not sure how much farther you can go if you don't camp. Mesa Verde is 15 or 20 miles off the highway on a paved road up the mesa so if you can stay a night at Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde you will save yourself the drive in and out. It is a Xanterra run property so you can book on the nps site or take their number and call. There are plenty of places to stay in Chinle, Page, and Sedona, so finding places to stay there should not be difficult. Sounds like a great trip.
emalloy is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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If you are flying into ABQ I would definitely make time for Santa Fe. Spend the night there and then drive to Chaco Canyon. I have not used the south entrance but used the north entrance by Nageezi. Nageezi gives you lodging options which you can find here:


The south entrance is iffy during rainy times of year so call in advance for road conditions if you choose to take that route.


Your trip sounds wonderful.
BeachGirl247 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 05:07 PM
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Do you think seeing Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelley in one week will be overkill on the ruins or are they different enough to keep our interest? If I dropped one of the three from the trip, which would it be?
Thanks for all of your advise! I know very little about the area and getting ideas from other sources other than a book is very helpful.
karlabeezin is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 05:27 PM
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They are different in many ways. Canyon de Chelley is still inhabited by Navajos who were forced out in the late 1800s and then allowed to return a few years later and still grow crops and raise sheep there amid ruins of much older cultures. It is down in a canyon system and you drive through the canyon bottom, over the river that formed it in several places if there is water in it at the time you go. Our guide was one who was sent to boarding school in the 1950s and had a vast knowledge of the area and culture. Chaco was the center of culture for many years until the 1300s the park service runs it and you can more or less guide yourself or check for ranger led programs. It has pueblo style dwellings in a large open area with a river along one side. Mesa Verde is on the top of a mesa with pit dwellings and cliff dwellings most of which you travel into with a ranger led group. They all have petroglyphs and dwellings or ruins of dwellings. I found all three interesting. If you go to Bandelier you will also find dwellings and petroglyphs but there many of them were carved into the hardened ash that formed a soft rock in the side of a hill. I guess only you would know if it was overkill to see them all. The topography of the locations are very different and hiking in them also gives a different perspective.
emalloy is offline  
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